Why I Can’t Be Silent About #CorneredInOttawa

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When I heard about Luke Howard harassing and secretly video taping women in Ottawa, and the Twitter response on #CorneredInOttawa, I had to jump in.

“Pickup artist” videos are all over YouTube and easy to find. Most are sad attempts by men to out-peacock each other and dominate as many female victims as possible to prove how much of a “player” they are. Like Luke Howard, they often use the excuse that it’s to help teach guys how to get over social anxiety. They secretly film women, try to get their phone numbers, and try to “score” as much physical contact as they can by whatever means necessary including coercion and harassment. They call it things like “Day Game” and brag about doing these things “in broad daylight.”

I was never approached by Luke Howard, but I can relate to what being harassed and intimidated feels like. And I know how important it is to hear, validate, and support the women who he’s preyed upon.

This goes beyond one creepy guy in one city.

“Pickup artist” type harassment is just one example of what many women deal with throughout their lives whether it’s recorded on video or not.

It’s a difficult thing to explain. So, to illustrate, here are a few examples of things I’ve personally experienced throughout my pretty average life.

When I was a little kid, someone standing behind me touched and stroked my head and body in a crowded room during a public meeting. I was too afraid to turn around to find out who was touching me.

When I was in elementary school, an older boy I didn’t recognize stalked me on his bike as I walked home from school one day. He kept riding around the block to pass me again and again, glaring at me. As I finally approached my street (1 km away from my school), I could see through a patch in the trees that he was sitting on his bike waiting. As I got closer he spotted me and rode past me one last time, muttering something at me. I couldn’t make out what he said, but I could tell it wasn’t friendly.

When I was a university student, a drunk guy I didn’t know put his arms around me as I was trying to let myself into my apartment building. His friend pulled him back and apologized for his behaviour, even as the guy continued to try to reach out and grab me. Both guys came into the building with me and as they got in the elevator the drunk guy tried to convince me to come over for drinks. I declined and took the stairs so they wouldn’t find out what floor I lived on.

When I was in my 20’s, a man I worked for sexually harassed me. He found excuses for us to be alone in the office together so he could say and do things he wouldn’t have, had there been others to witness it. At the same job, another male coworker asked me in front of other staff if I would clean his house for him. He was serious, and offered to pay me.

When I was in my 20’s, a man I was sitting across from on a crowded commuter train touched his toe against mine. I pulled my foot back. He touched my foot again with his. I moved my feet as far away as I could, but he would move his foot closer to keep touching my foot. I sat there, uncomfortable, questioning whether it was really on purpose, or if I should say something. And then it went from a touch to a stroke. He was stroking my toe with his shoe. I was horrified, but paralyzed. I didn’t want to cause a scene because – by all outside appearances – he had simply touched my foot on a crowded train. I wanted to scream and punch him in the face, but I just stared out the window. By then we were almost at my stop. I got up to leave and said “excuse me” – he let me pass and I said “thank you” to him. I felt angry at myself that I had not only failed to confront him, but that I had actually thanked him.

When I was in my 20’s, I left a friend’s house late at night to walk home. The clocks had just changed, so instead of leaving her house at at 2:00am, it was now 3:00am. I felt a bit nervous, but it was a safe neighborhood and I didn’t have too far to go. About 1/4 of the way home a cab slowly crawled up to me on a quiet side street. The window came down and the driver asked if I wanted a ride. I said no thanks, I’m fine. He insisted, and eventually offered to give me a ride free of charge because he said he was worried about me walking alone at night. I thanked him and got in. After I told him where I was going, he hit the lock door button and I heard all four of the door locks click closed at once. I suddenly felt uneasy. He drove very slowly, and started asking me personal questions. He asked me if I was single. He asked me if I liked to party. He asked me if I wanted to “party” with him. I wondered if I’d just made the biggest mistake of my life. I told him to stop the cab and let me out. He did.

When I was in my 20’s, a drunk man got on the bus and stood next to my seat even though the bus was mostly empty. He reeked of alcohol. He rubbed his fat belly against my shoulder, pretending that it was the movement of the bus that was pushing him into me. I told him to stop touching me and he moved away.

When I was in my 20’s, a construction worker hollered down at me from the side of a building he was working on. He called me baby and made kissy noises at me while his friends laughed. I gave him the finger and told him to fuck off. Later that evening I was walking back and I saw the same worker coming towards me on the sidewalk. I confronted him. Once he realized I was angry and disgusted, and not trying to get his number, he became embarrassed and quickly crossed the street to get away from me.

When I was in my 20’s, I passed a dirt construction area surrounded by sidewalk. Two giant dumptrucks were parked next to each other and the guys inside were chatting. When they saw me passing by one driver honked the horn and it startled me. They saw me react. Then both trucks laid on the horn full blast for about 20-30 seconds as I walked past them. The noise was deafening but I did my best to ignore them. When they finally stopped I heard them laughing and hollering at me.

When I was in my 20’s, I walked through a short alleyway me and my coworkers often used as a shortcut. I’d walked through 100s of times on my way to work. It was bright and sunny and about 8:45am. As usual, just to be extra careful, I looked ahead to make sure the path was clear and it was. Not even halfway through, a man with some kind of accent (I couldn’t place it) caught up with me from behind and said “Hi” and started a conversation with something like “How are you?” I replied that I was fine, kind of wary but trying to be polite. I can’t remember what else he said but he kept chatting and asking me questions. As we reached the end of the alleyway, I turned the corner to walk up to the front door of my office’s building. There were a few people around the doorway and I met the eyes of a coworker. We exchanged hellos, and in that moment when I was distracted the creepy guy grabbed me around my ribcage for a moment before running away at top speed. It happened so fast I barely had time to process what had happened, and it didn’t fully sink in until later in the day that I was really upset by it. I downplayed the incident, and didn’t report it, and then wrestled with guilt later when I realized that he was likely practicing. It’s probable that this guy escalated to a full sexual assault with someone else.

 

This isn’t an exhaustive record of all of the harassment I’ve experienced throughout my life, just a few of the more memorable moments.

It doesn’t matter whether all of these violations were legal or illegal. It matters that the guys involved felt comfortable, even justified, in their actions. And that my experiences are not extraordinary – they are to be expected.

I hope this helps to shed some light on why street harassment and “pickup artist” intimidation tactics are so harmful. They represent a small piece of a much larger issue.

Guys. Listen. Being shy can be terrible, yes, but fearing for your personal safety because of your lived experiences as a woman is something else entirely.

Harassing, intimidating, or forcing yourself into a woman’s personal space is never your right. If you’ve been led you to believe that you’re entitled to dominate conversations, physical spaces, or women’s bodies because you are a guy, it’s time to question that assumption. If anything, bullying women just proves you’re desperate.

If you’ve been harassed and want to share your story, check out Hollaback. This organization is working in 92 cities around the world, including Ottawa, to end street harassment. Look up your city and share your story – it might help someone in your neighborhood.

Soundtrack To My Weekend

It’s been a busy couple of weeks with back to back visits from 3 of my favourite people and some Canada Day hijinks. Check out my new-ish Instagram account for cute piccies. And now it’s time to kick back for a low-key weekend.


Here are a few chillax songs I’ve been enjoying lately:

Hún Jörð by Sigur Rós (Recycled by Hassbræður)




I’ve liked this one for a while but only recently looked up the translation of the original song. Hún Jörð means “Mother Earth” in Icelandic. The lyrics translate into the Lord’s Prayer, but rewritten as a prayer to Mother Earth.


Now I like it even more.

Flight Facilities – Clair De Lune feat. Christine Hoberg




This video reminds me of good times in high school. Must be all the smoking cigarettes in suburban parking lots… Who knew we’d ever get nostalgic for teenaged boredom.

The Rainbow by Pith and the Parenchymas

Just heard of this local Ottawa band. This is my favourite track of theirs right now. It’s effed up and completely awesome.


Whatever you’re up to, have a great weekend!

Rachel Dolezal vs. Caitlyn Jenner – Messing Up Our Ideas About The True Self

TrueSelfFalseSelf-ByPatriciaJanuszkiewiczTrue Self . False Self by Patricia Januszkiewicz (Credit)

This is where things get really complex.

I was super pumped when Caitlyn Jenner came out. It meant a lot for such a famous person to identify themselves as trans, and to me it was an encouraging sign of the times when one of the biggest reactions on Twitter the day she appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair was “why did she spell her name with a C and not a K?” That was just wonderful and priceless and inspiring.

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The positive feedback and support she received was reassuring. I had really resented the way Diane Sawyer questioned Bruce before the big reveal, overtly contrasting his former athletic prowess with his new found femininity. She even threw in the phrase “raw masculine power” to describe the Olympic decathlon. As if being a star athlete and being a woman were opposites. Really??


At 3:04 watch Diane Sawyer almost give herself an aneurysm trying to comprehend that an American athletic hero could possibly also be a woman.

So just when we thought most of society had started to get really cool and comfortable with complex ideas about identity, the Rachel Dolezal scandal comes along.

DolezalCaucasianI admit I’ve found this whole fiasco fascinating but also very confusing. Like a lot of people, I’m scratching my head and kind of don’t know what to think. How did this even happen?

I completely understand why a white woman pretending to be black is wrong. I get that a white person appropriating a culture that they don’t belong to is very problematic, and that using this identity to leverage positions of power and authority, denying access to ACTUAL women of colour, is so SO wrong. Dolezal’s sense of entitlement is colossal.  She has a lot to answer for.

On the other hand, on a gut level I feel a bit disappointed. We were making such good progress on getting around rigid ideas about gender. Why can’t we also start questioning rigid constraints around the idea of race, which is itself another social construct used to put people in boxes?

The reality is, we’re not there yet. And even if we were, Dolezal wouldn’t exactly be celebrated as a pioneer in this area.

Kat Blaque’s video below is great and discusses all the reasons why it’s not right to dismiss Dolezal as “transracial” and compare changing your racial identity to changing your gender identity.

I respect her viewpoint as a black trans woman speaking from experience, and I acknowledge that her words should carry a lot more weight than my cis-white ones on this topic.

Having said that, I can’t let go of this strong hunch that we are on the verge of a dramatic shift in the way we form and express identity. I’ve written about the fluidity of identity before, and I still think that thanks to online communications and the advent of social media, this kind of identity-morphing is only going to become more common.

Whether it’s politically comfortable or not, Dolezal did something we all do now – she edited her identity to better reflect her opinion about herself. She just took it to its extreme and manipulated it to her advantage. When it comes down to it, who you are in the in the internet age is up to you – identity is mostly a matter of opinion.

Kat argues in her video that an African American can’t change her race the way Dolezal did, but it’s no secret that some Indian women are bleaching their skin and some Asian women are having surgery on their eyelids to appear more caucasian. Anyone can purchase colour contact lenses that hide your real eye colour.

Let me be really clear – I’m not trying to equate a person who gets plastic surgery to look more white because they’ve been shamed into hating their features due to racist, manufactured ideas about beauty, with a person who undergoes sex reassignment because they feel that they are innately a different gender. I agree with Kat that this is not an accurate comparison. But both situations rely on the same basic principle that people have the choice to change their bodies to suit their own ideas about their identity, rather than relying on genetics to dictate it.

As multi-ethnic, blended and non-traditional family models become more prevalent, I predict that people are going to get less and less hung up on what race your parents happen to be.

Did your parents adopt you from another country? Did they go to the sperm bank? Did they get a friend to surrogate? Is your race totally ambiguous? That’s nice. Why did they decide to spell your name with a C instead of a K?

Maybe that would be a nicer question to ask than constantly demanding, “Where are you really from?

So you see I can’t be totally 100% mad at Rachel Dolezal, because despite the fact that her choices were in extremely bad taste and judgement, harmful, deceitful and self-serving, and I don’t condone her behaviour, she also just successfully demonstrated the extreme plasticity of identity. For ten years.

In a weird way, it’s kind of exciting to think that these race boxes we’re stuffed in maybe aren’t as sturdy as we think. Our identities, like our physical selves, are becoming more changeable – for better or for worse.

metamorphosis_detail_by_optiknervemetamorphosis 002DETAIL by optiknerve-gr on deviantart

How I Fell In Love With Prince Vladimir

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Tea is definitely a kind of comfort food for me.

My British parents guzzle Tetley orange pekoe the way other people smoke cigarettes, and have for as long as I can remember. The kettle was never cold in our house while I was growing up. But even though it’s an every day thing, brewing myself a cup of tea still feels like treating myself to something luxurious.

Take one look in my kitchen pantry and you will figure out that I like all kinds of teas. Herbal teas, green teas, floral teas like jasmine and rose, but especially black teas.

I love the kind of teas that you curl up with, like warm spicy Chai teas and fragrant Earl Greys. I am also a total sugar fiend and am easily tempted by sweet stuff like vanilla or toffee flavoured teas.

Whittard’s Christmas Tea is the best. It’s like mulling spice tea, so is heavy on the clove and citrus.

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Source: Poppytails & Trails

Actually I have a feeling it’s really their Spice Imperial tea, just repackaged for the holidays. Whatever, I love it. My friend sent me a couple of boxes from England and I was hooked.

When I started to run out of the Whittard’s Christmas Tea I looked around to find something similar. I visited the •teastore• in the Byward Market during a visit to Ottawa back before I lived here.

The staff in the tea store are very helpful and knowledgeable, and the selection is huge. It’s not like some other popular tea stores where everything is behind the counter and you have to ask just to get a whiff of the stuff.

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Source: Ottawa Isn’t Dead

Here, the jars of tea are all out in the open for you to smell and sample. There’s also seating so you can enjoy tea by the cup with a friend if you need a break from the coffee shop scene.

With some help from the tea store staff, I found a blend that was very similar to the Christmas tea I loved. It’s called Prince Vladimir by Kusmi Teas and it’s basically a citrus-y twist on Earl Grey balanced with warm vanilla. I left with a small sample and, back home in Toronto, wished I had bought more.

So then one beautiful day, during my amazing trip the UK, I was wandering the streets of Paris with my Brit Bestie – the same friend who sent me the Whittard tea. We were actually on a mission to visit the only gluten-free bakery in town (that’s a whole other story), and it was quite a trek from our hotel, but we were loving every minute. Paris is just gorgeous.

Completely by accident, we walked right up to a Kusmi Tea store.


I’m not sure if this is the actual location we found, but wouldn’t you go in?
It’s so pretty!

Kusmi tea stores are all over Paris of course but it was still an exciting find and totally unexpected. We oohed and ahhed our way through the shop sticking our noses in all the samples like kids in a candy store. I bought myself a nice big tin of Prince Vladimir to bring back home with me, and I am still enjoying it two years later.

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Now I’m all nostalgic for Paris. Was that really two whole years ago?

 ParisSnapOne of my many photos of beautiful Paris, taken May 2013.

Movie Quotes That Make Great Ringtones

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Ever heard a line and immediately thought, “That would make a great ringtone!” Here are a few I’ve heard recently. In fact, a couple of these are already available on Zedge.

SPOILER ALERT. This post might give away some important plot points.

“Put that cookie down. NOW!” – Jingle All The Way

Everybody loves to see Arnold Schwarzenegger with his speedos in a bunch. This clip from Jingle All The Way is pretty classic.

“Eat it! Eat the cookie!” – Flowers in the Attic

Speaking of cookies, this clip from Flowers in the Attic (1987) is another great one. Play 0:11-0:15 and ignore the rest. Priceless!

“What are you doing with a cellular phone, son?” – Scream

Unfortunately I can’t find a clip for this one from the first Scream movie.

After Sidney (Neve Campbell) is harassed on the phone and then attacked by the killer, her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) is questioned as a suspect. The sheriff asks him, “What are you doing with a cellular phone, son?” with great suspicion.

Back in 1996 most people didn’t have cell phones, so this was a valid question. Now it just sounds very silly.

scream-drew“My cell phone bill is HOW MUCH?!”

“Somebody call somebody.” – Se7en

Okay so a serial killer cons two detectives into taking him out into the middle of nowhere, albeit under heavy security and police surveillance.

When things go bad and one of the main characters gets shot, an officer gets on his radio and says, “Holy Christ. Somebody call somebody!” (At 4:38 at the very end of this clip below.)

Really? Who should this somebody call…the police perhaps? Dude, #youhadonejob.

“Mom! Mom! Mom!” – Family Guy

Okay this isn’t a movie quote but it’s such a good one. This is the one for mothers who need a perfectly annoying ringtone for when their ungrateful children call.

5 Songs For Your Pop-Free Running Playlist

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Hate Pop Music? Try adding these 5 songs to your running playlist

There are tons of mainstream playlists out there that are supposed to get you pumped up on your runs. But sometimes you need a bit of random in your life to keep things interesting.

Here are a few non-pop songs that will get you moving.

Love Lost – The Temper Trap

This is a great warmup song. Doesn’t this video just make you want to hit the track? I love that it takes all your bad memories of high school gym class and makes them FABULOUS.

The Power is On – The Go! Team

Speaking of high school, this song is like having your own personal cheerleading squad. GO!

Satan – Orbital feat. Kirk Hammett (Spawn version)

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This song is as ridiculous as it is badass. The version you want is on the soundtrack to Spawn (1997). It’s basically a slight remix of Satan by Orbital, a track featuring Kirk Hammet of Metallica yelling “SATAN” over and over.

This remix is arguably the best thing to come of what was a practically unwatchable super hero film, and if you can listen to it without cracking up it might just get you over that hill.

You can sample of clip of the song on AllMusic’s Spawn Soundtrack album review.

And It Rained All Night – Thom Yorke


You’ve got to love The Eraser. Even if the Radiohead front man’s music doesn’t move you, his sombre lyrics about the inevitability of climate change will have you preparing to run for your life from deadly storms, floods, and tidal waves:

“And it rained all night and then all day
The drops were the size of your hands and face
The worms come out to see what’s up
We pull the cars up from the river”

Findaway – Silverchair


So it’s official, Frogstomp came out 20 years ago. And this song still puts me in a good mood!

Have any song suggestions for my running playlist? Please leave a comment!

Spring is “In The Air” – Let’s Throw Knives!

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Clint offering me some advice at my first knife throwing meetup. (Source: Bruce Deachman / Ottawa Citizen)

A while ago, Clint (my partner in life and crime) and I decided it would be fun to take up knife throwing. We got ourselves some sweet Gil Hibben throwing knives from a local shop that specializes in that kind of thing and looked for opportunities to try out our new hobby.

Unfortunately, our 1-bedroom highrise apartment wasn’t a great place to practice. Despite our best efforts to muffle the noise of clanging knives hitting the floor, we didn’t feel right disturbing the neighbors, and we certainly didn’t want to accidentally cause damage.

We soon realized that there wasn’t much opportunity to throw in Ottawa, and no available spaces where we could (legally) get in some practice. Clint had created a gorgeous home-made end grain wood target and we had nowhere to set it up but our bedroom. We decided throwing knives a couple feet away from my wedding dress was an especially bad idea.

Here are the Gil Hibben knives we both bought. (Source)

Here are the Gil Hibben knives we both bought. (Source)

Clint decided to start a new group on Meetup.com and find out if there were any other people in town interested in knife throwing. We figured we couldn’t be the only ones. It turns out there are LOTS of knife throwers around, and a lot of people curious to try it.

Within four months of starting In The Air on Meetup.com, the group had about 80 members. A core group of regulars offered outdoor space for practices, brought their own targets and collections of knives, and those with more experience offered tips, tricks and advice.

Then the Ottawa Citizen got in touch to do a news story about the group. Who knew there would be so much interest in a random wacky idea we had?

Ottawa Citizen reporter Bruce Deachman braved freezing rain on an icy cold day to document an In The Air knife throw. Click here to watch the video.

The Ottawa Citizen’s Bruce Deachman braved freezing rain and icy cold to document our knife throw. Click here to watch the video.

The group is now up to almost 100 members. We’ve heard from a few people that they already throw knives at home, but they really enjoy meeting other people and practicing their hobby in a social atmosphere.

I’ve only made it out to a couple of throws so far, but have already learned a lot. We’ve met some great people from all walks of life. Everyone is very supportive and welcoming regardless of your experience or skill level. We’ve also been pleased to note that the group members are roughly 50% female, 50% male.

Here’s a video from yesterday’s throw. Not my best performance of the day but not bad!


Later in the day I improved my technique a bit by adding in a step forward as I threw, and I started to land 3 in a row more often. I’ll try to get that on video next time.

I’m super proud of Clint for all the work he’s put into the group. He’s put so much passion into it, and I think it shows with all of the interest the group has received.

If you’re in the Ottawa area and want to check out the group, join In the Air on Meetup.com and maybe we’ll see you at the next event.