Places I have Breastfed my Baby

Klimt

My daughter is exclusively breastfed, and she asks to eat about every 2-3 hours.  Sometimes it is just not practical to rush back to your house to feed the baby.  My liberty of movement is important to me, and as such has led me to feed my little girl in various different places that I would never have expected throughout her first 3 months of life.

 

Places I have breastfed my baby:

  • On the side of the highway at a park-n-ride overlooking the St. Lawrence River
  • My father-in-law’s bedroom (uh…it was way less sketchy than this sounds)
  • In a yoga studio
  • At a CLSC (community health clinic)
  • In the parking lot outside my office (in the car)
  • Ikea Boucherville (they have a sweet set-up for nursing!)
  • Waterbury, Vermont
  • Promenades Saint-Bruno (top of the line “salle d’allaitement”, but a bummer men aren’t allowed.  Papa waited outside.)
  • US Consulate in Montreal (security cleared!)
  • On a movie set (no joke, but no, we’re not stage parents, it was a favour for a friend who is a filmmaker)
  • In the bathtub, in bed, on the couch, in front of the TV, in the kitchen…
  • All over my house!

I’m looking forward to feeding her:

  • At the office on lunch break when Papa brings her to visit
  • In the garden on lazy sunny summer days
  • Anywhere, every day!

Some general observations about feeding your baby on the go:

  • What you wear makes a difference.  Whether you are a fan of the tank top underneath tactic or the draw-back v-neck thing, there are two major comfort/practical considerations: 1) you need a good nursing bra no matter what and 2) make sure you are comfortable with the various states of undress you may find yourself in.  For instance, if you are wearing a dress that zips up the back that you need help getting in and out of – that may not be your most pragmatic choice.
  • If you ask, “Are you comfortable with me feeding my daughter here?”, people either say “No problem, go ahead!” and actually mean it or they say “No problem, go ahead!” with a terrified and freaked out look on their face.  And then they proceed to either frantically avert their eyes, stare at my breast, or make intense I’m-not-looking-at-your-breast eye contact with me.  Either way, I appreciate every effort made to make me feel comfortable while I care for my baby.  It is very endearing.
  • Nursing covers or hoods are crap.  At least in my experience.  My baby doesn’t like having the hood over her and she gets all hot and agitated.  When she starts squirming around, the hood gets all displaced and I end up flashing people anyway.  Also, it’s not true that you can see your baby while nursing with the hood unless you position it perfectly and then neither of you move!  Like that is going to happen!

My advice to new nursing mothers:

No matter where or when you end up feeding your baby, like other parts of parenting, go with what feel right and comfortable for you.  Your baby and its health comes before anyone else’s breast issues.

My feminist rant:

I never intended for this post to be about public breastfeeding as a cause.  I am not even terribly comfortable feeding my baby in all of the wacky places I’ve done it so far.  Sometimes, though, duty calls.  Baby gets hungry.  And when you are a mother, your baby’s needs just surge ahead of anything and everything else.  I am physically incapable of letting my child cry or stuffing a pacifier in her mouth when she is hungry.  And babies can get hungry any time!  Even when you just fed before leaving and hoped to be back in time for the next one.  Parenting is a lot of gray area – things don’t always work out the way you planned!

Nonetheless, I had never really considered my feelings about what I considered a battle that I felt concerned others willing to take up the fight, not me.  My thoughts on the issue started to gel for me when reading this fabulous blog post by the Feminist Breeder.  I realized that if you are a nursing mother, you automatically have to deal with the nursing in public issue unless you plan to hole up in your house for 6-12 months and never invite anyone over.  If that’s your plan, great.  If not, there will likely be a time in which you’ll have to breastfeed in front of relatives (some of whom can be the most freaked out!), strangers, medical professionals, men, children and pets.

I now firmly believe that it is good for everyone to observe breastfeeding.  Not ALL the time.  Don’t get me wrong, I cherish my sweet, intimate feedings with my little girl with her beautiful eyes looking up at me as we snuggle and feed.  But, it should not be treated as something that is secret or shameful that must be closeted and put out of sight, either.  In fact, I believe that public exposure to breastfeeding would go a long way in the battle against they hypersexualization of women and girls.  If we demonstrated and accepted the breast as something other than an object of sexual arousal and desire, but rather as a life-giving resource, perhaps the way women’s bodies are viewed in general would be more balanced.  The more we saw it, the more comfortable everyone would be!  Youth would grow up respecting the power of a woman’s body to create and carry life for 40 weeks and then provide nourishment for that little being into toddlerhood.

It really is a beautiful and amazing thing.  We should all revel.

Namasté!

Feel free to comment: Where are some notable places you’ve breastfed your baby?

Introducing: The Pregnant Feminist Series

The Pregnant Feminist at Work!

The Pregnant Feminist at Work!

On January 20, 2013 my life changed forever – I was blessed by the birth of my first child, a precious daughter.  During my pregnancy I faced challenges regarding my identity as a feminist, which resulted in a three-part missive, The Pregnant Feminist Series.  I didn’t publish the posts right away (I wanted to be sure that I still agreed with my assertions post-pregnancy hormones haha), but have chosen to share them now.  Hopefully this series will eventually give birth (hoho, pun intended) to a series on feminism and motherhood.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, please enjoy The Pregnant Feminist Series:

  1. Part 1: The Feminist’s Pregnant Body and The Public
  2. Part 2: The Pregnant Feminist and her Social Life
  3. Part 3: The Postpartum Feminist and the New Normal

The Pregnant Feminist Series: Part 3

My daughter at 2 months

My daughter at 2 months

I am now 8.5 weeks postpartum (with a 2 month old baby)!  I am making this post Part 3 of The Pregnant Feminist Series, although I no longer pregnant (obviously).  Perhaps I will become one of those “mommy bloggers” and do my next series on diapers or something (that was a joke…sort of).  Meanwhile, I invite you to see also Part 1: The Feminist’s Pregnant Body and The Public and Part 2: The Pregnant Feminist and her Social Life.

Part 3: The Postpartum Feminist and the New Normal

I said it in Part 1, but there is no better time then when you actually have a baby in hand to reaffirm that motherhood is feminism’s final frontier.  The gender-typing started when I was pregnant, which I mistakenly assumed was a transient state, like the pregnancy.  Oh, was I disheartened to find that it was greatly exacerbated once my little bundle of joy graced us with her presence.  The New Normal.

I had taken it badly when I was told that the men in my family weren’t going to be interested in coming to the baby shower.  It’s a woman thing, I was told.  I protested and insisted that if calling it a baby shower meant that the men wouldn’t come, let’s call it a family baby party or something – find a way to make the arrival of a new member of the family something that would actually concern the whole family and not just its female representatives.  I was thrilled when the men showed up!  Well, most of them at least (all the ones that counted, for sure).

I had managed to break free from the shackles of gender roles!  Temporarily…

While pregnant, my partner and I had often lamented the fact that it had to be me that was pregnant.  Not that I didn’t want to be pregnant – in fact, I ended up loving the experience and can’t wait to do it again – but rather the frustration stemmed from the lack of choice in the matter.  Silly, I know, but feminists are big on choice, you see.

Now that our daughter has been born, traditional gender roles have been sneaking up and tackling us, in spite of ourselves.  

The first visit to the pediatrician felt strange until we realized that every time my husband asked a question, the doctor looked at me and answered.  I thought she was going to report me to the DPJ (Child Protective Services here in Quebec) when I mentioned that I was not taking the full year of maternity leave that we have the right to in Canada.  In fact, I am going back to work 2 days after my daughter turns 3 months old.  WHY, she asked me emphatically, to which I found myself frantically attempting to justify reasons that are personal, individual, and frankly, none of her business!  And she has not been the only one to have this visceral response at what I feel is a private family matter.  I have explained over and over that…*gasp*… my husband is the one who will be staying home with the baby.

One could claim that taking a “short” mat leave is a cultural thing, or merely a matter of perspective.  Millions of women in the USA go back to work mere weeks after giving birth – although it could be said they have no choice.  Since I have the choice, it must be because I don’t want to spend time with my baby.  My maternal mechanism must be somehow skewed or altogether broken.

But that’s not the only new-baby-ism that has confounded my couple’s feminist values.  Do breastfeeding and feminism have anything to do with one another?

I asked this question to my husband just the other day.  His reply was categorical: “No!”

While pregnant, my partner and I had discussed at great length our plans for feeding our daughter once she would be born.  I wanted to try nursing for a variety of reasons.  Research-based evidence in hand, I easily convinced him that breastfeeding is the best possible option for our child’s health (with health benefits for Mom, too! – I will post a feminist-approved resource list one day).  The decision was an intellectual one, based primarily on health.  My husband was concerned about the bonding part of things, and so we agreed that I would express my milk some of the time so that he could participate in feeding and connecting with our child as well.  It all made so much sense.

Nursing my daughter has been one of the biggest challenges and most rewarding experiences of my life.  It blows my mind.

It blows my mind because it came as a big surprise to me – that it would be challenging…or rewarding…or anything, really.  I’m not sure why, but I hadn’t really even thought about how I would feel about it.  It was just an action that I was going to perform, for health reasons.  Well, it turns out that I have a LOT of feelings about nursing.  In fact, I feel that it has changed me as a person.

My nursing relationship with my daughter started out with a lot of difficulty.  I have since learned that this is an experience common to many women.  In spite of the fact that there is a ton of information out there, the majority of what you find is anecdotal.  In my frustration while googling about one day, I exclaimed, “Why is there no good information on the internet about breastfeeding other than all these grammatically offensive forums!”  My husband noted that we live in a “mother knows best” culture.  I’m supposed to know everything I need to know by instinct.  Which is the hugest motherhood myth ever.

My body and spirit were ravaged by our initial attempts at nursing.  My morale was seriously flagging as I dealt with the discomfort of recovering from a vaginal birth, and the blinding pain of bruised and bleeding nipples during the relentless feedings every 2-3 hours around the clock, day in and day out.  I hadn’t slept longer than an hour or two at a time for weeks on end.  I felt so isolated and exhausted in the middle of the night all alone with this little being that was losing too much weight and just wanted to eat – causing me toe curling pain – and I was the only one who could do it.  What’s worse, I was starting to feel terrified of my baby, when everyone around me was saying, “How are you enjoying being a new mother?  She’s such a joy!”  When feeding time came around, I wanted to run and hide!  Mixing up some formula and having my husband get up in the frightening wee hours seemed like a brilliant idea.  Feedings turned into a team effort.  My husband would accompany me with each feeding, cheering me on and offering support.

Fortunately, in Quebec, free access to a lactation consultant is included in your health care coverage.  Without the guidance provided by the wonderful nurses and LCs at my local CLSC (community medical clinic), I am nearly positive that I would have given up on breastfeeding within a few weeks of my daughter’s birth.  In fact, I’m not sure what kept me from preparing that bottle of formula.  Sheer stubbornness, I guess, that did eventually pay off.  We devised strategies to enable us to keep at it – using an electric pump to increase my milk supply, feeding her with a cup or spoon or finger-feeding when I was too painful or exhausted to nurse, introducing a bottle with Papa and my expressed milk one feeding per day so that I could recover.

It worked.  Nursing has since become a pleasurable experience for everyone involved; a great source of love, tenderness and intimacy.  We have even revised our objectives to try to continue breastfeeding for a year + instead of the initial let’s give it a whack for six months and see how it goes.  Right now I can’t imagine not nursing my daughter!  I plan on expressing my milk after going back to work and hope to continue our nursing relationship and providing her with the best possible nutrition for as long as possible.

At first blush, I thought that my husband was right: breastfeeding and feminism have nothing to do with one another.  It does force us into certain roles in the eyes of society and certain members of our entourage.  Also, formula is often seen as a way of “liberating” the woman from her traditional role as primary caregiver of the child.  Anyone can prepare a bottle of formula and thus provide for one of the most important basic needs of baby.  In fact, Mom isn’t even required at all in the formula-fed baby’s life structure.  

But is simply removing the mother from the picture really liberating her?

Perhaps for some women having the ability to not be required for baby’s care is empowering.  To me, breastfeeding is incredibly empowering.  I alone have the power to nourish my child with my amazing body.  It is a way to assert control over my body and reclaim my breasts, sexualized by the patriarchy, and render them purposeful and essential.  I feel powerful in the face of a consumer culture that wants me to believe that a commercial preparation could be anywhere near as healthy and appropriate for my baby as my own perfect free amazing milk.  Going back to work and continuing to nurse is also an inherently feminist act, and not simply by virtue of role-switching with my husband: I can have the career that I want and care for my child the way that I want.

The Postpartum New Normal

It is no lie when they say that having a baby changes everything.  You formulate an entirely new identity in relationship to all of the newness.  Now to just keep reminding myself that the new normal does not have to mean abandoning all of the old normal.  You just try things, go with what feels right, and trust yourself!

Namasté!

The Pregnant Feminist Series: Part 2

She’s sucking her thumb!

I am now 23 weeks pregnant (5.28964 months)!  My thoughts continue to abound here in Part 2 of The Pregnant Feminist Series.  I invite you to see also Part 1: The Feminist’s Pregnant Body and The Public and Part 3: The Postpartum Feminist and the New Normal.

Part 2: The Pregnant Feminist and her Social Life

I have 491 friends on Facebook.  84 of those friends “liked” the picture of our ultrasound when I posted it as a means of announcing my pregnancy to the internet (it is the cutest ultrasound picture ever taken, you gotta admit).  I am still going out to coffee with people, dinner parties and picnics, staying up past my new pregnancy bedtime of 7:30pm, and making “plans” for abstract things that we’ll just have to do sometime.

But the truth of the matter is that I have been feeling increasingly isolated as my pregnancy advances.  It was kind of like, bam! – I hit 30, found out I was going to have a baby – and all of a sudden my life flipped inside-out and upside-down.  I started having thoughts that I had literally never had before in my life (hmm, maybe being a housewife wouldn’t be that bad after all…), followed by not being able to relate to people that were once my kindred spirits.  And I’m pretty sure that they don’t know what the heck to do with me either.

In my feminist entourage (in what I affectionately refer to as Vagina Land), I have a diversity of men and women that I admire and love.  None of whom happen to have children or even plans to have children (happenstance – lots of feminists have or want children!).  I have always wanted kids, which was no secret, but it was never even a thought as to whether my friends would want them – it simply was not a factor in my friendship!  I believe in personal choices and leading the life you dream of for yourself.  If that includes kids for some, great, if not, great.  None of my business!  As a good friend, I also believe in supporting your friends’ life choices and encouraging them to do what they believe in for themselves.  No matter what those choices are.  I thought my friends felt the same about me and my choices.

Well…we’ll get to that later.

Yet here I am, pregnant up to the hilt, and finding myself wanting in emotional support and lacking in understanding.  How did I get myself into this situation?

It’s not like I hadn’t reached out.  Around month 3, I started contacting my friends to tell them my good news.  I’m an emailer – always have been – and it’s how I stay in touch with many of my closest friends.  I sent off a volley of  excited messages calling my friends “future aunties” and including pictures of work we’ve been doing around the house in preparation…but I ended up feeling surprised, hurt and confused by the cookie-cutter responses.  I kept emailing.  Ultrasound photos, pictures of the belly growing, rants and missives about my changing body, feelings, work and relationships.  Everyone seemed happy for me…but happy in the way you’re “supposed” to.  Some of my best friends on the planet, the people who know me the best, were using lines on me fit for hallmark cards.  I expect that from my coworkers, but from my very best friends??

I figured that my expectations must have been a bit off-kilter to start feeling so upset that my friends weren’t reacting how I was assuming they would.  Except the disappointment just kept getting stronger and stronger.  A failed attempt at a phone date.  A brush-off at a party.  And then the clincher – a friend visiting from out of town that missed our rendez-vous leaving me 5 months pregnant waiting on a street curb alone in an unknown part of town in the cold fall rain for over an hour.  I was so hurt that our meet-up was not more important to her that by the time she got there I was nauseous, sore and uncomfortable, burst into tears and said that I was leaving.  And she just let me go.  I haven’t heard from her since.

My heart broke as I cried for hours that evening.

I came to the bitter conclusion: My life is changing.  I should expect my relationships to change as well.  I realized the big expectation that I had was that my friends would care about my life changing and want to be a part of it.

My life on paper resembles something that many people in Vagina Land have a hard time relating to or not judging – the house in the suburbs, the husband, the dog, the kid on the way (the hetero-normative portrait of conformity).  I can guarantee that my life choices were ones rooted in a great deal of self-determined feminist reflection, but the result is the same.  I think it is still possible to be a feminist and choose a life that looks like a product of the patriarchy to outsiders.  My friends should be the first people to understand that.

And yet here I am, doing the ultimate submissive act for a woman by carrying a child, which in every way resembles that which we have railed against.  So I repeat, what are my friends supposed to do with me?  I imagine they must feel like they don’t even know me anymore.  I can’t blame them, I am changing – I’m not even sure I can confidently say that I know myself these days.  I am disturbed by the fact that I have taken more comfort in talking to women that have a much more cookie-cutter view of society than those in Vagina Land.  I am unnerved by the fear of bringing this female child into the world.  I feel extremely vulnerable and fragile whereas the women of Vagina Land are supposed to be invincible.  I am having thoughts and feelings that would be enough to confound any proper feminist.

So should my friends care that my life is changing and want to be a part of it?  There will be some that will care and some that will choose rather to just let me go.

I’m not saying that this isn’t extremely painful or sad, but at the same time, I have a new priority coming into my life in just a few more short months.  I want my daughter to see what healthy female friendships are like – ones that are the right balance of acceptance, love, caring and support.  Anything short of that hardly seems worthwhile.

The Pregnant Feminist Series: Part 1

5 months

As I write these words, I am 22 weeks pregnant, which is 5.05966 months pregnant for those who are not week-literate.  It’s my first pregnancy: with every passing week, new sensations and social phenomena blow my mind; I am becoming increasingly convinced that pregnancy is the feminist’s final frontier.  In fact, I have had so many hormone-fueled thoughts on the matter, that I decided that I would need to break this down into a series of blog entries.  Aside from Part 1: The Feminist’s Pregnant Body and The Public, please see also Part 2: The Pregnant Feminist and her Social Life and Part 3: The Postpartum Feminist and the New Normal.

Part 1: The Feminist’s Pregnant Body and The Public

I find it horribly unfair that I have to be the one that is pregnant.  My partner and I have often bemoaned that fact that he is in a far better position physically, professionally and geographically than I am to support a pregnancy.  An avid runner, he is in the best shape of his life.  I gobble down sachets of instant oatmeal as I run from meetings to networking events.  He is an entrepreneur that works from home and can self-manage his time and workload.  I am just beginning year two of a two year contract that keeps me hopping days, nights and weekends (not to mention jobhunting at the end of the contract).  We live 10 minutes walk from his family.  I am separated from my family by an international border.  But alas, I am the one with a uterus in this couple, and so tag – I’m it!

It hasn’t kept me from grumbling to myself – Equality is a feminist illusion.  And we will never truly gain equity until we can reconcile this whole child-bearing thing.

But that, my dear readers, is another rant.  Today, I make the grim observation that in North America, the pregnant body is public property.  Oh yes.

And we all know how people treat public property.

It’s not so much the belly touching for me.  Although the belly touching does make me uncomfortable (thoughts that run through my head – is my belly too soft?  Were they expecting a firmer baby bump?  That’s not where the baby even is, but please don’t go poking around 4 inches lower…), I have accepted it as something that people can’t seem to control themselves from doing.  It started at the dawn of month 4 when I was just barely starting to show and hadn’t even come to terms with my own changing body yet.  And it’s not just your old Aunt Matilda that does it – I have had my belly stroked, patted or poked at family barbecues, yes, but also at networking events and at the office, at restaurants by waitstaff, and at the locker room at a public pool.  It’s like I have this giant magnet strapped to the front of me and people run from all directions to put their hands on it.  Ok, I shouldn’t say people – women!  The day a strange man puts his hand on my belly without my consent will be a very unpleasant day for him, I can guarantee it.

Like I said, though, it’s not so much the belly groping that I take issue with.  I have been far more put off by some of the insensitive comments, observations and questions.  My body is now a point of speculation for the self-appointed pregnancy experts, the uninitiated in the wonders of child-bearing and the curious.  I’m not to say that all comments, observations or questions are unwelcome.  I have encountered very many kind, gentle and tactful people in the past several months and I heartily welcome their insight, shared experiences and well-meaning queries.  In fact, one question I love to hear is “How are you feeling?” – when asked sincerely by someone who really wants to know, it is a relief for me to be able to vent about the variety of new sensations, physical and emotional, that I am experiencing.  But when I am asked, “How much weight are you allowed to gain?” or told, “You don’t look very pregnant”, I have to wonder what planet these people are on.

I haven’t gained very much weight at all, mostly due to the fact that I was vomiting multiple times a day for the first 4 months and just desperately trying to get nutrients into my body.  It was really worrisome to not be able to keep down every attempt at providing a balance of vitamins and minerals, proteins and carbohydrates.  And hard to not count pounds and calories and to focus on how I feel.  I talked about it with my doctor, read some books on the matter, developed game plans with my partner – things are going better now, and we have things under control.  So then to hear from some random acquaintance that “you really should try harder to gain some weight”, I feel like killing them.  Like I want to have to explain my concerns and strategies to this person I barely know so that they can feel like I’m not intentionally trying to not gain weight.

I’m not the type of person that needs other people’s approval – but then again, I’m not used to be confronted so directly on issues that I am already feeling vulnerable about.

I gave a presentation to a room full of regional managers at work.  At the end of the presentation, I announced my pregnancy and intentions regarding leave and the continuation of my project.  One of them shouts out, “Where are you hiding it?”, and they all laugh.  Yeah, yeah, it’s really funny that I am 5 months along and just look like I’ve had a few too many beers.

Like a lot of women, I have always had a difficult relationship with my body image and weight (see: Having a Positive Body Image: A Feminist Devoir).  When the morning sickness subsided and I started to put weight back on instead of shed the pounds, it was the first time in my life that I have been happy to gain weight.  Relieved, even.  And it has taken nerves of steel to reaffirm to myself everything that I believe about my body, and owning my experience, and believing in myself in the face of criticism.

So here is my advice to other first-time pregnant feminists out there:

  1. Focus on intention.  When some awkward dope in your entourage says something that makes you want to unfriend them from Facebook, just try to remember that 99% of the time it is well-intended (believe it or not).
  2. Rally the troops.  Bring your confidantes in closer and build a network of allies.  If you’re finding social situations hard to handle, check out Part 2: The Pregnant Feminist and her Social Life.
  3. Make self-care community-care.  You are not alone.  No, seriously, remember – you are not alone.  All of that public property awkwardness stems from the fact that in North American culture, having a baby is a community event.  Work that to your advantage.
  4. Stay true.  Just because you are the pregnant version of you and are probably not feeling quite like yourself these days, don’t forget that you are still you – all of the boundaries and beliefs that you held pre-pregnancy may be evolving, but they are still your own.  Don’t give them up or hand them over to anyone else.
  5. Take the time to fall in love.  You are going to be a mother!  If you are a gen-y feminist like me, that probably scares the crap out of you as much as it energizes you.  Take the time to marvel at the wonderful weirdness of your body and the life that you are creating.  This is what’s important – the rest of what’s going on outside of you and your body right now, it all takes the backseat to this.

Namasté!

Elle se prononce enfin : « Ce soir je porte le carré rouge »

I had originally started writing this blog post in French – for some reason the words that represent this movement for me came more easily to my French brain, the one that is connected and bound by love to Québec and its people.  That being said, I am becoming increasingly convinced that by applying English words to these strong and complex feelings that I am having, I would reach an audience that better needs to hear them. 

Better late than never

It has taken me quite some time to speak out about the student movement in Québec.  For starters, a lot of what I feel has already been captured very eloquently in various different media – what could I have to add to the conversation?  And yet, I have been increasingly unconformable going about my daily life skirting the issue and trying to focus on things that seemed to matter less and less comparatively.  Another reason that I have been keeping quiet is the selfish fear of what the personal and professional repercussions could be if I positioned myself – I have recently applied for Canadian citizenship; getting arrested at a protest could be devastating.  I work in Public Relations for a non-profit that does not have an official position.  When I asked recently, “Where do we stand?”, the answer was “We encourage our members to speak out about issues that they take to heart and would not be surprised to see people active on both sides of the issue”.  This sits well with me, and is a position that I can respect.  And it was the green light that I was waiting for to let my heart pour forth.  The echo in my head, “Il faut être conséquent [walk the talk]” has been urging me to write.

Last night, I casseroled.

I didn’t just casserole.  I wore red and made a sign that I pinned to the back of my shirt that said “Américaine, endettée et solidaire [American, in debt and in solidarity]”.  I banged an old pan on a street corner until my wrists hurt and the skies opened up and drenched us to the bone.  It felt amazing.  What got me there?  The night before, my husband and I took a walk around old Longueuil after dinner and happened upon the casseroles.  The scene that we witnessed moved me to tears – strollers with young children and pregnant mothers, elderly couples wearing red squares, students and taxi drivers and municipal employees – people were running out of houses, pots and wooden spoons in hand, to join the movement, smiling and singing, dancing and laughing.  It was the type of display of community that I thought that I would only dream of.

I immigrated here.  I am a permanent resident, speak both official languages fluently (and an unofficial language, but that’s neither here nor there), pay my taxes and work for a non-profit.  I believe in Québec with every fibre of my being – but I had always felt that I would never truly feel that I belong.  In many ways I am still and will always be an American, and of course I wouldn’t want it any other way.  But last night, I felt that not only was I an American, but that I belong to this community.  I knew who the journalist that interviewed me was, I know exactly which dispositions of the Law 78 I find unconstitutional, and I recognized my neighbours.

I felt overwhelming amounts of love for these people –

and pride to be standing with them, banging away for a better society.

For me, the most shocking thing about the whole crisis is the way that the government has handled it.  Initially, I was for some sort of tuition increase in one form or another, but opposed the dramatic increase being strong-armed by the government.  I was mad at the students the day they blocked Pont Champlain and forced me to take Jacques Cartier.  I hate the breaking of windows and throwing rocks and billiard balls at police officers.  I truly thought that a few were going to ruin things for everyone else.  But my anger soon turned towards the government.  My rage has been mounting, and the Law 78 was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  La Commission Bastarache, le gaz de schiste, la Commission Charbonneau, la crise étudiante, la loi 78 – ceci est un gouvernement en perte de légitimité!  Sorry, that just came out in French.  The government is no longer legitimate in my eyes.

Has anyone else noticed the sexist nature of Charest’s strategic manipulations?  Why is it that he always throws women to the wolves?  Me Suzanne Côté defending him in the Commission Bastarache, Nathalie Normandeau taking the heat for the gaz de schist file (and then quitting politics altogether), la juge France Charbonneau heading the commission on corruption in the construction industry, (former) Education Minister Line Beauchamp, and now Michelle Courchesne – does nobody else see this?

Une crise sociale

It’s official – what started as a student movement has now become a social crisis in Québec.  Et tant mieux!  Instead of talking about tuition increases, we’re talking about how we feel about education and its role in Québec society and how we want to approach it!  Instead of talking about Law 78, we’re talking about governance and our social contract!  Instead of talking about the generation gap or anglos/francos, we are talking about the Québec population as a whole!  Now is the time for a leader to emerge and galvanize the hope that we are feeling at last, translate it into a projet de société commun.

I love you, Québec and Québécois(es).  I am in this with you for the long haul.  I believe.

Note: There will be more to come on this topic as I focus my thoughts, so stay tuned.

“Social Media, YEEHAW”: A Cowgirl’s Take on the Final Frontier

This cowgirl and "Sarah Palin". It's a long story.

This cowgirl and “Sarah Palin”. It’s a long story.

I say “God, I love social media” at least once a day.  Even after all these years there is still something mysterious and intriguing about the net, and that just downright tickles this little lady.  My partner says I am “abnormally curious”.

I consider myself a social media “newbie”, although that’s not really accurate.  I joined Facebook in 2005, was on MySpace for like a day (omg is my profile still out there??), have been blogging in various different forms since 2003, and if we include AIM, MSN, ICQ, and all those chat do-hickeys, yes, I have been social media-ing for over 10 years.  I now know just enough to get myself in real trouble in just about all of the ways you can social network.  But, it just sounds better to say “newbie” than “has over 10 years of experience but still has only a vague idea of what she’s doing”.  It’s hard to admit, right?  With the appearance of the term Social Media Guru, it makes it sound like there are actually people out there that have reached social media enlightenment, whereas I contend that the Social Media/Online Community Managers/Digital Specialists/etc. out there are more often people like me – students of the practice.  I am humbled frequently by all that I have yet to learn.

For this seeker of the avant-garde/amusée of the unknown/innovation aficionado, it’s enough to get me hot and bothered – and this past week has been practically orgasmic!

Rush Limbaugh vs. Sandra Fluke

In what is purported by his own website to be “the most listened to radio talk show in America”, Rush Limbaugh described “Susan” Fluke (her actual name is Sandra) as a “slut”, “prostitute”, “whore”.  Who is Sandra Fluke?  A 3rd-year student at Georgetown Law School, Ms. Fluke testified at the House of Representatives hearing on women’s health and contraceptives in favour of insured coverage for contraception.

10 years ago, what would have happened?  Heck, even 5 years ago.  The outrage would have been the same, but the response, very different.  Perhaps we would have written letters or taken out an ad in a paper like this one:

"Traditional" media still has an impact. Ad seen in the New York Times (March 4, 2012).

“Traditional” media still has an impact. Ad seen in the New York Times (March 4, 2012).

I am not saying that this doesn’t have an impact, what I am saying is that its impact is compounded by it getting immediately posted on Facebook and Twitter, and then going viral.  Even the fact that I can link to the original footage at the heart of the controversy thanks to YouTube is pretty amazing.

But the real magic in all of this is as small as a click.  Numbers.

We can now measure outrage in hits, views, retweets and shares – for all the world to see.  When you start adding  everything up, you start to have a real impact.  Rush Limbaugh, despite his apology-that-is-hardly-an-apology, lost TWELVE advertisers and two broadcasters!  There are economic consequences to blatant sexism and degradation in the age of social media!  At last!  And what’s even better, we can now THANK those businesses that chose to part ways with Limbaugh to confirm that their interpretation of those numbers are correct.  This is indeed what the people want.

Kony 2012

Do you know who Joseph Kony is?  If you don’t, you obviously haven’t been connected to the internet in the past 72 hours!  The rise of Kony and the fall of Invisible Children were swift and global.

I checked my email early Monday morning to find this video (Kony 2012, 29:52, by Invisible Children), which I promptly watched.  Then checking my FB and Twitter, holy crap it was everywhere filling up my newsfeeds.  The hashtags #StopKony, #MakeKonyFamous, #Kony2012 were trending GLOBALLY on Twitter.  Within 2 hours, events were organized to take to the streets on April 20th (as the video instructs).  Within 3 hours, harsh critiques started cropping up, giving the whole thing the allure of a scam.

Now, the content may not have all been published in that short of a time span, but that is how the virality was hitting my online communities.  Bing, bang, boom!  Wildfire on the prairies!  YEEHAW!

International Women’s Day

March 8th rocked my socks this year.  There were a ton of really inspired events taking place, and I wish I could have attended all of them!  A quick shout-out to the social media mistresses that organized the Tweet-up Féministe, when I am awesomer (and wealthier) and have a phone that can handle social medias (gasp, yes, I admit it, I have an antique Blackberry that does email, that’s it that’s all) I will be a very enthusiastic live-tweeter.  Which I could turn into a conversation about social media and privilege, socio-economic status, etc, but let’s stay focused here.

One of the events I did end up attending was a screening of Miss Representation followed by a powerhouse panel of amazing women.  One of the panelists remarked that there is a lack of girl news in the media.  Which got me thinking – that’s another noteworthy impact that social media has had on us – we now get to choose our news…to a highly refined extent.  When she made that comment, I couldn’t help but thinking that I see girl news everywhere, all the time.  But then I remembered that I live in Vagina Land, that magical wonderful place in which I am surrounded by like-minded individuals (or at least ones that don’t shock and offend me), girl news is omnipresent and positive messaging abounds.

When I leave Vagina Land, like watching television for example, my husband and I play games like “point it out when a commercial does NOT offend you”.  It’s hard leaving Vagina Land.  I worry sometimes that in my social media bubble where I alone choose who I follow, like or subscribe to, I am missing out on a more objective view of the whole.  Where do my values stand in relationship to the rest of society?  Is Vagina Land just as isolationist and extreme as Tea Party Land?

Another panelist noted a fact that I deem essential in navigating the social media jungle.  While yes, clicking, viewing, retweeting and sharing does have an impact, sometimes you need to get off your computer and speak to real people and take action as well.

The cowgirl’s take: Social media this International Women’s Week was about rompin’ and stompin’ the bad guys.  What are you posting?