Profs out of Context, Round 3

If you’ve followed me on Twitter for a while, you probably noticed that last year I would post tweets that started with “Prof out of context.” They were just little tidbits of what I was hearing in class on a daily basis, minus the context completely. And in or out of context, they’re hilarious, because my professors are very funny people.

The first couple of times I did this, I got a really good response, so I thought I’d continue the tradition with a collection of random statements made by profs, guest lecturers, and even students in class for the Fall 2013 semester. As a guide, anything that was said by a student, or any multi-person dialogues will be labelled “class out of context.” Anything said by a teacher or a guest lecturer will not have a label, it will just be the quote. So enjoy all of the profs and none of the context below the jump!

(P.S.: I know I said I wasn’t going to release this until I got caught up with reviews, but clearly reviews are taking longer than I anticipated. I decided to put this up so there was at least some new content on the blog. )

Names have been withheld to protect the fabulous.

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Feature: Profs out of Context, Round 2

If you follow my Twitter, you know that sometimes I’ll post tweets that start with “prof out of context.” They’re just little tidbits of what I’m hearing in class on a daily basis, minus the context completely. And in or out of context, they’re hilarious, because my professors are very funny people.

The first time I did this, I got a really good response, so I thought I’d continue the tradition with a collection of random statements made by profs, guest lecturers, and even students in class for the Winter 2013 semester. As a guide, anything that was said by a student or just someone not in a teaching role will be labelled “class out of context.” Anything said by a teacher or a guest lecturer will not have a label, it will just be the quote. So enjoy all of the profs and none of the context below the jump!

Names have been withheld to protect the fabulous.

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Profile: Stephanie Guthrie, WITOPOLI founder

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The recent spate of sexual assaults in Toronto left many women nervous, and Stephanie Guthrie wasn’t immune to the fear. The 28-year-old founder of Women in Toronto Politics admits that she even had trouble convincing herself to leave her house.

To her dismay, when she did peel herself off the bed and go outside on a warm evening in early September, she encountered just the type of situation she’d worried about. On the way to her favourite local bar, she and her boyfriend passed a group of eight men in their early twenties. Over the din of their collective conversation, Guthrie heard two of them joking with each other, one suggesting that the other needed to “stop raping women.” The comment, delivered like a punchline, prompted uproarious laughter.

“I said to them, ‘You know, guys, there are a lot of women being sexually assaulted in the city right now, I don’t know if you’ve seen it in the paper,’” Guthrie recalls. Their response was outright misogyny, yelling back at her “shut up, bitch!” and “suck my dick!” For Guthrie, that was the last straw.

“I lost it,” she says, “and I screamed ‘fuck you!’ at the absolute top of my lungs.”

When she recounts the incident months later, Guthrie wells up. “It was an expression of the frustration I was feeling with the fact that there are people who not only never have to think about that and worry about those things,” she explains, with a shaky voice, “but people who have no compassion for the people who do.”

This wasn’t the first time Guthrie unabashedly called someone out on his beliefs, and it probably won’t be the last. In the last year Guthrie has made a name for herself as an outspoken feminist who is determined to promote awareness of injustices.  She attracted media interest last July when she drew attention to a “beat up Anita Sarkeesian” video game, which involved punching Sarkeesian in the face until she was bruised and bloodied.

“It was a really eye-opening experience,” Guthrie says of having “sic’d the internet” on Bendilin Spurr, a 25-year-old man from Sault St. Marie, Ontario. Guthrie questioned Spurr’s actions over Twitter, and contacted his hometown newspaper to make sure they picked up the story. “In having those conversations I learned a lot about misogyny, and I learned a lot about the Internet. How, unfortunately, they seem to go hand-in-hand.”

The Internet misogyny she’s referring to is often recognized as “trolling,” but is definitely not harmless: it’s vicious, and the focus of its vitriol is women. Women who speak out on the Internet, usually about sexism and gaming, see a flood of hateful comments and tweets, and the not-so-occasional death threat.

Guthrie’s friend Karen Ho, an organizer of the Eaton Centre shooting vigil, admired Guthrie’s strength during the period when she was receiving hordes of hate-tweets from Internet gamers. “Steph made the issue hard to ignore,” Ho says. “She just pushed until she thought that people were paying significant enough attention to understand that this is not acceptable.”

During the Sarkeesian controversy, Guthrie was bombarded with hate tweets —and even a death threat— but she kept her responses measured, cool, and smartly written: instead of blowing off the messages, she systematically shut down the arguments of her “trolls.” She carries these characteristics into her life outside of the Internet. Everything she says during media interviews seems to have gone through a rigorous filter. Her words are slow to come, but deliberately chosen and delivered with authority and tact. Her goal is to change perceptions, and she does it by hearing people out — “feeding the trolls.”

“If you want to get people onside with something that you’re doing, beating the drum is not the best way to go about it,” says Guthrie, who grew up in (generally quite conservative) Peterborough, Ontario. “Engaging people in discussions about issues that matter is essential if you want to change the way that people think about things.”

Though she’s best known for holding Bendilin Spurr accountable for his game, which was taken down a day after he posted it to newsground.com, Guthrie’s determination and drive has other outlets, namely Women in Toronto Politics (WITOPOLI).

WITOPOLI grew out of a discussion with Neville Park, a regular #TOPOLI tweeter who goes by an online pseudonym, about how few women are considered influential in the discussion about Toronto politics. “The ones who get retweeted the most, who have the most followers, and who tend to have the greatest influence over the discussion are mostly men,” Guthrie says. In the course of their conversation, the idea of staging a panel on women and their role in the political discussion came up. Guthrie decided to organize it, and include Park as one of the speakers.

Guthrie’s pet project is off to a slow but steady start. It has received a lot of support from prominent Toronto tweeters, as well as a couple of big-name panelists like ward 27 councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam. In 2012, the organization hosted two panel discussions and a workshop focused on how to get women talking about ways to make the city better. They turned those recommendations into deputations at their November deputation party, and in December four women from the workshops presented their recommendations during the budget deliberations.

“I want to empower women to join the discussion about politics,” she says. “I want them to be aware that even if they don’t know the whole history of politics in the City of Toronto, and even if they find the language of the motions difficult to decipher, I want them to know that it doesn’t mean they don’t have something to contribute.”-KR

(Exciting news! The Spring 2013 issue of McClung’s Magazine is out, which I wrote this profile for. You can find copies on newsstands around Ryerson.)

Feature: “Nice guys” and the infamous friend zone

Since it’s inception, I’ve been an avid fan of the Nice Guys of OKCupid tumblr blog. (I’d link to it, but recently it disappeared, which some believe is due OKC threatening legal action for violating their terms of service.) It brought to attention something that I don’t think is talked about enough — the “nice guy” phenomenon, and the infamous, griped-about “friend zone.” I wanted to take a moment to write about it.

In the interest of bringing everyone up to speed (since most of the people who read The Independent Review are here for the books, and not the feminism), the friend zone is an invisible place that exists only in the minds of men who don’t know how to move on after they’ve expressed interest in women, and have been turned down. They’ve been banished to a barren wasteland where they’re doomed never to have sex with the women they’ve lusted over for weeks, months, even years. And they are angry. They feel slighted. They missed the train to the holy land, the Bone Zone, and are now the one-man population of a lonely little western town named Sexual Frustration, where the local walk is the blue balls shuffle.

The friend zone exists almost exclusively in the minds of “Nice Guys.” I’m sure you’ve heard of them. They’ve coined and popularized the phrase “nice guys finish last,” sometimes with the pathetic addition of “so their women can finish first.” Nice Guys are positively despondent, having spent their whole lives watching the women around them fall into the arms of “assholes,” “jerks,” and “douchebags.” Sound familiar? If you’re still fuzzy, here’s their collective favourite assertion:

“I’m the guy who you’ll complain about your boyfriend to, but never the one you’ll date. I’m such a nice guy, but all the girls I’ve ever liked have put me in the friend zone, and then come crying to me when they date douche bags.”

I can guarantee you that everyone knows, or at one point has known, a guy like this. He proclaims to anyone who will listen that he’s just a genuinely good guy, and doesn’t understand why the world has chosen to take a big, heaping, diarrhetic shit on his head. All he wants is to get to the Bone Zone. Is that too much to ask, for just one girl not to think he’s “too nice” to sleep with?

The Nice Guy, you see, is put upon by the world.

The myth that Nice Guys perpetuate among themselves is that they are, in fact, “too nice” for girls to take them seriously. Pretty soon, every nice guy starts to ask his friends, “Should I just start practicing my asshole routine? Will that get this fucking slut’s attention?”

See, the Nice Guys aren’t so nice any more — but, the reality is, they never really were. The Nice Guy is, at his very core, a petulant, entitled little baby, who doesn’t like to be told no. He has been led to believe that he is entitled to a woman’s attention. Entitled, just by being alive, and by being “nice.” If he shows her how “nice” he is, by being her friend for a while, by letting her cry on his shoulder, she will in turn see how dateable he is.

When she doesn’t, the Nice Guy is shattered. He did everything right — he was a friend, he was nice! Why wasn’t that enough? A lady’s gentleman friends should naturally be upgraded to a relationship status. Why has he been unceremoniously dumped into the friend zone? The friend zone isn’t where he wants to be — he never wanted to be a friend, he just wanted to have sex. The Nice Guy doesn’t think a woman’s friendship is worth having.

You’d think the Nice Guy parable and the friend zone could be applied to women, that it could work both ways — a Nice Girl confesses her feelings to her guy friend, is denied, and finds herself in the friend zone. Weirdly, there is no backwards scenario. Because, and I can attest to this from personal experience, women are not socialized the same way as men.

Each time that I’ve been turned down by a crush, I’ve heard the same platitudes. There are other fish in the sea. That’s the one you hear right away. He wasn’t the right guy, but there are plenty of other guys out there. Just move on. 

The second platitude isn’t really a platitude, but an insidious little question, something that you mull over when you’re drifting off to sleep at night. What did I do wrong? 

Ask any woman, and I can almost guarantee she’ll say the same thing. We grow up believing that when the object of our affections doesn’t feel the same, it’s something that we did. It doesn’t matter that we were nice girls. We must have tried too hard, or not tried enough, or wore too much make up, or not worn enough make up, or flirted too much, or not flirted enough, or laughed too much, or laughed not enough, or acted too smart, or acted too dumb. Never mind that in reality, some people will like you and some people won’t. It’s a matter of fate and chemistry. Women have been socialized to believe that it’s something they did, something that prevented their crush from seeing them as worthy of girlfriend status. We’re lucky to have their attention bestowed on us at all. We should feel honoured just to be able to remain friends.

There’s also enormous pressure, as a woman, not to act like the devastating blow to your self esteem actually affected you at all. Keep being his friend, because friendship is worth having. You can be upset about being in your own version of the friend zone, if you really want to, but don’t you dare say it out loud. Don’t, for God’s sake, in any way indicate that you are hurt or that you still like him. You have to be the cool girl, the one who’s above it all, lest you become clingy, or — God forbid — the crazy bitch who just won’t leave him alone.

How does that play out if the wounded party is our hero, the Nice Guy? Well, he gets to keep being “nice.” This time, he’s the hurt nice guy, the nice guy who was spurned by a dirty little whore who had the nerve not to realize how nice he was. He’s a well-meaning nice guy who a growing number of selfish, shallow cunts thought was “too nice” to date. And believe me, he will make people hate and judge those women for it.

Winding back to the Nice Guys of OKCupid, it’s pretty clear at this point that they’re not particularly sympathetic characters, nor are they as benign as most people would like to think. They aren’t harmless. A lifetime of entitlement coupled with a lifetime of rejection (I’m inclined to think that the women who rejected these men were justified) has created a large group of hateful, sometimes misogynistic, cry babies, which you see over and over again on Nice Guys of OKCupid.

The blog itself was pretty well-liked in the feminist community for that reason — lining up the incongruous statements of “nice guys,” just to show how much of a misnomer that designation really is. Not only are they unduly filled with rage, but they’re often racist, sexist, and homophobic to boot. They’re “true, chivalrous gentlemen” who think there are times when it’s acceptable to force a woman to have sex when she doesn’t want to. They just want someone to see the nice guys they really are, but think gay people are gross and icky. They truly care about women, but all women are sluts and whores who have always rejected them, and those bitches should rot in the fiery pits of hell with their leader, Jezebel.

And they truly believe that for being nice — or, rather, for being their own warped definition of nice — they deserve a medal. At their very core they believe that being nice should open doors for them, should make the world stand up and take notice of them, and should make women love and respect them unconditionally. The same Nice Guys who are just as likely to write “no fatties” on their dating profiles as they are to say “I just want girls to see past my flawed exterior and love me for me” think that being nice, and nothing else, should win them the hearts of all the girls they’ve ever desired.

Newsflash: it won’t. Being a good person is literally the most basic requirement that women put on their list of attractive qualities. It’s so obvious that it doesn’t even register as an earmarked character trait. Saying you’re a “nice guy” is like, to steal an example from David Wong of Cracked.com, a movie called “This Movie is in English,” whose major selling point is that the actors are clearly visible. Nice Guys whose only major “selling point,” (if you can call it that) is their so-called niceness, and who systematically write off all the women that reject them as “shallow bitches,” will never have meaningful relationships until they can drop the woe-is-me act and grow up.

So, do you identify as a “Nice Guy?” Do you feel like you are unable to score a ticket on the train to the Bone Zone? Do you find yourself watching girls ride off into the sunset with Prince Douchebag McJerk? Do you hear the world’s tiniest violin playing for you? Lucky for you, I have some advice.

If you want to see results with the ladies, it’s time for a major personality overhaul. In order to truthfully call yourself a nice guy, and not a “Nice Guy,” you have to earn that right. Don’t just tell people you’re nice — prove it. Start by acknowledging that you were not born with the god-given right to a woman’s attention, and really internalize that. Someone’s attention — be it male or female — is another thing you have to earn, because you are not the Queen of England, or George Clooney.

Stop treating a friendship with a woman as a way to eventually enter a sexual relationship with that woman. Be a good friend, a true friend, who is legitimately there for her without an agenda. Don’t be opportunistic with your friendship, and  don’t treat it as disposable if or when she does not express romantic interest in you. When you’re rejected, understand that it’s not because you’re “too nice,” or because she’s a “shallow bitch.” Sometimes things just don’t work out.

And, for God’s sake, have a real personality that can be described without using the word “nice.” Have hobbies and interests and a job you care about, take pride in yourself. One of the best things David Wong writes in the article I linked to earlier is that being “nice” simply isn’t enough:

[Women] won’t put it as bluntly as [Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross] does — society has trained us not to be this honest with people — but the equation is the same. “Nice guy? Who gives a shit? If you want to work here, close.”

Women don’t care if you’re nice (well, they care, but not that much). There’s a guy down the street from the woman you like who’s just as nice, and he doesn’t whine all the time. She works with a guy who’s nice and, get this, funny, and who loves dogs, to boot. At the laundromat she runs into a nice guy who’s an avid jogger, takes his mom to brunch on Sundays, and has travelled across Europe and Asia. Expecting “niceness” to set you apart will never work, because it’s the lowest rung on the ladder of dateability.

Be a real person — stop hiding behind the term “nice guy.” It’s a flimsy facade to mask your outdated and frankly dangerous misogynistic attitude. Accept responsibility for your life, your biases, and your problems, and drop the put-upon act. Whiners are weiners. And so are “Nice Guys.”

– Kelsey

(A final note: the term “nice guy” as used in here does not represent all men, and I want to make clear that I have never pretended that it does. I know a large group of truly wonderful men, who genuinely deserve to be called nice guys. Too bad that term has been really sullied.)

Feature: Profs out of context

If you follow my Twitter, you know that sometimes I’ll post tweets that start with “prof out of context.” They’re just little tidbits of what I’m hearing in class on a daily basis, minus the context completely. And in or out of context, they’re hilarious, because my professors are very funny people. In the classes where I had access to a computer I could transcribe them directly onto Twitter, but in classes where I didn’t, I wrote them down in my notebook and saved them  for later. So I decided that I would do a master-post here on the blog for everyone to enjoy, along with some general “class out of context” quotes (all of those will be labelled accordingly; anything without a label is a professor or a guest lecturer.) So enjoy all the profs and none of the context below the jump!

Names have been withheld to protect the fabulous. 

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Feature: the Rona Ambrose vote, and why it mattered

I meant to write about Rona Ambrose’s vote shortly after it happened, but then life happened so I didn’t get a chance. Anyway…

On September 26 (last Wednesday), a private member’s motion to study when life begins was defeated in the House of Commons. That wasn’t shocking — it was clear that it would go nowhere, especially since the prime minister himself said he had no plans to re-open the abortion debate. What was shocking was that Status of Women minister Rona Ambrose voted in favour of the motion.

In case that wasn’t clear, the minister for the status of women voted to re-examine when life begins. I, and many others, found that to be a huge affront to women.

In the resulting outrage, two columnists I do usually respect — Jon Kay and Andrew Coyne, both of the National Post — continued to assert that Rona Ambrose was not obliged to vote for “the feminist dogma;” she was allowed to vote based on her personal beliefs.

Kay followed up with a column entitled “Canada’s pro-choice culture warriors have lost their sanity,” which elaborated on the same argument.

I would not say they were wrong, in theory. Members of parliament are completely entitled to vote based on their personal views. But when Rona Ambrose voted yea to re-examine where life begins — AKA voting to re-open the abortion debate, something that has been blessedly closed for years — she, to borrow a phrase, sucker-punched women.

I, personally, felt sucker-punched.

I’m fortunate enough to have grown up in a country that respects my right to decide what I want to do with my body. It’s even written into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as “freedom of the person.” Coming from my place of privilege, seeing what women in the USA are going through — a constant threat on their right to choose what’s right for their bodies — is frightening to me. I couldn’t imagine having to live in constant fear like that. I couldn’t imagine having to worry that the results of an election could determine what basic human rights I was allowed to keep.

And then this motion came along, and suddenly I was a little bit more fearful. Especially when the minister who is supposed to represent me, and my interests, and my rights — and the rights of all women, for that matter — voted in a way that did not represent me at all. It’s scary to see another woman vote in favour of a motion that could take fundamental human rights from women.

It’s easy for Andrew Coyne and Jon Kay and others to say that Rona Ambrose was entitled to vote based on her conscience. It’s easy for them to say that because they’re among a fortunate group of people whose bodies will never be politicized. They’re lucky, in that respect, that their fundamental right to make the choices that are right for them will never be threatened by their government. They’re lucky. I don’t hold that against them. But I do hold it against them that, being privileged, they forget that some people aren’t as lucky.

If Rona Ambrose wanted to properly represent women, she should have voted nay. A pro-choice vote benefits all women, because, bottom line, no one forces abortions on anyone. But being forced to have a baby in the name of the “sanctity of life” because apparently a cluster of cells is more important than a living, breathing woman — that has happened before. For hundreds of thousands of women, all over the world.

A pro-choice vote acknowledges that every woman has license to her own body, and that she has the option to make a choice that’s right for her — whether it’s having a baby, or aborting it. It acknowledges that she is more than just a womb.

Contrary to what this may sound like, I don’t dislike pro-lifers. I don’t think they should all convert to pro-choice or perish. I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion — even Rona Ambrose. If you choose to believe that life starts at conception, that’s okay. You’re entitled to. If you’re a woman who believes life starts at conception, that’s still okay — it’s not “threatening feminism,” like some people believe. But what’s not okay is pushing those beliefs on other women. The world is not obliged to live according to your moral code. So please keep it out of my uterus.

– Kelsey

(As an end note, I do respect Jon Kay and Andrew Coyne as writers. Just not on this issue. I firmly believe they were patently wrong.)

Photos: San Francisco, California

Last Wednesday I flew down to San Francisco for the Online News Association’s annual conference — I was part of their student newsroom, which was responsible for covering the conference. (You can see said coverage here — and don’t just look at my stuff; check out everyone’s entries, because I worked with a bunch of amazingly talented, creative journos who came up with awesome videos and interactives.)

Anyway, while I was there I didn’t see much outside of the hotel, but there are a few choice photos from my trip under the jump, which I thought I’d share in lieu of book reviews.

You know. Because I’m still terribly behind.

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Feature: BBAW Interview with myself


Photo courtesy of the Ryersonian. Yes, this is me. Yes, I am this glamorous.

Hey all! It’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and so I thought I’d sign myself up and do a little interview. (I know what you’re all thinking: is it really fair to call me a book blogger right now? And the answer is yes. I’m offended that you would even question it!)

Anyway, here’s everything you (n)ever wanted to know about me!

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
Sometimes, but not if the book I’m reading is a real page turner (need my paws free for reading). If I’m snacking, it’s usually an iced chai tea latte from Starbucks and some chocolate, or sometimes I just want to have cheesies. Varies day-to-day.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I don’t write in them, but if something strikes me I do mark it with a post-it note, or dog-ear the page to the point where the quote/scene occurs.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
Dog-ears all the way, man. Sometimes I use bookmarks to mark my place, but only if I leave off at the beginning of a new chapter. Otherwise it would be too confusing. If I take a temporary break (like 5-10 minutes), I’ll lay the book flat open.

Fiction, non-fiction, or both?
Mostly fiction, but I’ve read some really compelling non-fiction. It’s just not typically my genre of choice unless it’s an (auto)biography or memoir.

Hard copy or audiobooks?
Hard copy all the way! I can’t listen to my books. It’d just be too weird, and wouldn’t feel as rewarding to finish.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
I need to finish the chapter before I put it down. The only time I can stray from that is if I have to get up mid-read — i.e. on transit.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
I put it in the context of the sentence to guide me for meaning, and if the word is confusing/interesting enough I’ll look it up later.

What are you currently reading?
The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly. It’s really good…when I get to actually sit down and read it!

What is the last book you bought?
The Last Coyote, The Closers, and 9 Dragons, all by Michael Connelly. I was in the bookstore with my sister and happened to see them, and since I’m trying to finish the Harry Bosch series I just had to buy them all.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?
I used to be able to do more than one at a time (not that it was a preference), but now I just can’t do it. I can’t keep the plots straight, and with all the stuff outside of reading that I have going on, it’s tough enough to remember where I am in the first book I’m reading. Forget about trying to read two!

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
Not really, but I find that my job at the call centre is pretty conducive to good reading; often it’s sitting for long periods of time with only a dial tone to keep you company. Otherwise, I can read pretty much anywhere/time.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
I have no preference really. I like stand-alone books probably just as much as series fiction. But there’s something great about a series, either waiting for the next book to come out or seeing set of characters progress over the years.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
I often recommend Daniel Kalla’s The Far Side of the Sky, Nina Sankovitch’s Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, Hillary Jordan’s When She Woke, and Stephen King’s 11/22/63. I’ll also recommend the Stieg Larsson trilogy, and almost anything by Michael Connelly.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
I organize them kind of peculiarly: by size. I line them up and then order them based on height and spine width, because I have to see what I will be able to easily get through in a short period of time. If I have a shorter, smaller book waiting for me beside a taller, fatter one, I’ll choose the tinier one every time to shave off some reading time on this challenge.

Hope you enjoyed the interview! And hopefully I’ll be able to post a new review relatively soonish. I might be coming into some reading time in the next couple of days!

– Kelsey

Feature: What women want

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I’m sure we’re all aware I’m far behind in this challenge. I suspect I’ll continue to be for the next month, because my life is about to become crazy-town banana-pants, but I’ll try my best to reach 100 books by the time the year’s out. Regardless, this blog has been looking a little lonely so I thought I’d write something for you all.

Today I had a conversation with two of my guy friends about sports. I said that I felt pretty ambivalently about watching organized sporting events, and neither could believe it. Finally, Friend Y said, “Women hate sports. You know why? Because men love sports, and it pulls their attention away from their girlfriends. Women just want their men to pay attention to them, and not sports. You know it’s true!”

This was stated as if it was a proven, scientific fact. I believe some people in the feminist community call that “mansplaining.”

To my two friends, this seemed to explain my disinterest in sports completely — never mind that I’m a single woman with nary a romantic prospect in sight. Sports aren’t deflecting anyone’s attention from me. (And to be honest, I bet I could talk right over a sports broadcast and maintain most of the attention in the room…we all know I’m a loud, chatty Cathy!)

They also didn’t account for the fancy notion that maybe I, Kelsey, the individual woman, just don’t like, or don’t care about, sports.

Though I am usually pretty outspoken about stereotypes, especially those that pigeonhole women into simplistic little boxes, I decided to let that one go. I said, “Well, I don’t really go for sports-loving, jocky guys anyway. I’m kind of into the lit nerd type.” (Lit nerds, take note.)

“You don’t want that,” Friend X said. “You want a guy who’s into sports. Women want guys who like sports.” I think there were reasons behind his assertion — something about traditional manliness and that being the one and only turn on — but I couldn’t get past the fact that he’d totally contradicted himself. Women hate that men watch sports, but they want to date men who watch sports? Um…

Aside from the mind-bending contradiction, I was struck by the certainty in his comment, “women want guys who like sports.” Just where did he get his data?

I asked Friend X to explain his logic, and Friend Y, infinitely more cautious, told him that to do so would be to dig himself into a hole. I’m not going to lie: Friend Y was right. While I think both of these guys are personable, funny, genuinely kind gentlemen, neither was painting himself in a very flattering light.

For me, it comes down to the idea that men think they know what women want. It’s the concept of “mansplaining” that I hinted at before: as a man, you’re raised in a culture that tells you your opinions are right and valid and fair, whatever they are, and you should be outspoken about them. Women are taught to be quieter about their ideas and their knowledge, to defer to men, and to make men feel good about themselves. (It’s a little more complicated than that, but for our purposes this definition will suffice.) It leads to men (jerks and nice guys alike) making broad, assumptive statements about women because they think they know.

“Women want guys who like sports” isn’t, on the grand scale of things, a statement that should shock or outrage anyone, and it won’t cause much damage. But the certainty behind that statement is a problem: that Friend X firmly believes that he knows what women want, and he won’t hesitate to tell me what I, as a woman, want. It’s part of the same culture that allows privileged white men (I’m looking at you Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan) to talk with authority about the rights women should have to their own bodies, without ever having walked a day in any one woman’s shoes.

“Oh, you know what women want?” I asked Friend X, more amused than annoyed. “Tell me, then. Convince me. How do you, a man, know what I want, as a woman?”

He dug himself into a hole.

I wasn’t surprised.

– Kelsey

(Disclaimer: Friend X and Friend Y are lovely gentlemen. They are good men. But even good men should have their beliefs challenged every now and then! ;])

Book humour

The following discussion was taken out of context, but is still hilarious.

Dad: “So if eight guys commit suicide in one neighbourhood in a short period of time, what does that give you?”

Me: “Well, if eight guys commit suicide and it’s proven to be suicide, then maybe you have a story about the societal or environmental effects that lead to their suicides — like if the neighbourhood is bad, or they’re living in abject poverty. That could be a good story. But if you’ve got eight suicides in the same neighbourhood over a short period of time, and there’s some doubt cast on whether they’re suicides or not, then you’ve got a Michael Connelly novel.”

– Kelsey