Storify Post: I’m Not Having Any of Your Oppression in the Academy – Law School Edition

Getting really tired of this ableist academic fuckery, over here.

I’m Not Having Any of Your Oppression in the Academy – Law School Edition.

I’m Not Having Any of your Oppression in the Academy.

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Story from the Chronic Pain Chronicles (Vol. 4).

August 16th was the one year anniversary of my eighth surgery.

It has made me introspective, but also a little bit sad. Chronic pain is hard to manage, both physically and mentally. I would argue it’s even worse when the reasons for the pain lack medical explanation, which is what I’m dealing with still/again.

So I ranted about it: I needed to get a few things ‘out there’ as I’ve been thinking a bit too much about them lately.

Here is the storify link that archived them.

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Today I found a Neo-Nazi Poster

I don’t have much else to say that I haven’t said already on social media. One thing I didn’t say, and should have, is important: I am not surprised I saw this poster.

Neo-Nazis have existed in Canada (and in Alberta, and in Edmonton) for decades; they just have not felt like they could act in the bold, public way in the manner they did in the past.  The same holds true with the Ku Klux Klan: they’ve always been around, but they did not feel they could publicly express their bigotry, as they have done recently. (The Klan has a presence in Alberta as well, with Edmonton being a particularly active spot, historically, for the record.)

I’m struggling to embed my Storify story, so for the time being, you can access it by clicking on this link.

You can also check on how tumblr famous I’m becoming by clicking here.

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Story from the Chronic Pain Chronicles (Vol. 3)

It has been six or seven days since I sprained my ankle.

I wish I knew when it happened, or how, but this seems to be a thing I do: when I broke my wrist in 2010, for example, I thought it was a sprain. That time I know what I did (I tripped over a curb in the Square One parking lot), and even had a witness (Courtney T.), but I’ve had a lot of injuries over the years that a) I’m not sure how I got, and b) I didn’t recognize the severity of.

My being stubborn and wanting to explore the UBC campus while I was at NAISA, I definitely did not adhere to the RICE method very well. I taped it and hobbled along, but I definitely did not ice my ankle (where do I get ice and something to put it in on a campus I’m unfamiliar with?), rest enough, or elevate it as much as I should have. I also didn’t go to a doctor.

Part of the reason I didn’t seek out a doctor is that other than confirming an injury that I’ve already had on this ankle a few times (thanks, soccer) there aren’t many options for mobility aids for me.

  • I can’t use axillary (underarm) crutches because a) I can’t properly grasp the hand hold, and b) the hand hold puts pressure on my wrist.
  • I can’t use forearm (Lofstrand) crutches because the hand hold puts pressure on my wrist.
  • I can’t use a wheelchair because one of my wrists are fused and as a result I can’t make the wheels turn.

Those are some of the more common, and thus readily available, options.

Knowing those are my choices, I decided I did not want to go to the doctor. Simply put, I didn’t want to have to explain the entirety of my medical history to a doctor treating my foot/ankle, especially since I have had many healthcare practitioners treat me as a curiosity rather than a person.

There are three other alternatives available to my knowledge: knee scooters, the iwalk 2.0, and platform crutches.

  • Knee scooters are great for being outdoors, but would not be helpful at all for stairs – and I live in a three-story walkup. I don’t think they would be terribly good for moving around in my apartment either. They cost $110 to rent for a few weeks or $500 to buy according to a local store.
  • The iwalk 2.0 makes you look like a steampunk pirate of sorts. They seem to be great for getting around most places. I do wonder how uncomfortable it would be to have your leg bent out all the time, and how that would impact sitting.  I’ve only found American websites that allow you to buy them; they cost about $170USD.
  • Platform crutches appear to be similar to other types of crutches in terms of mobility.  I’m not sure if they would end up fitting my arms as my left arm is a) smaller than my right, and b) shorter. It looks as though you can buy platform attachments to fit on axillary crutches, but I’m not sure how widespread that option is. Platform crutches cost about $160USD from what I’ve been able to find.

The first concern here is the cost: I don’t have $100-200 to spare these days, and I don’t want to buy or rent something that may not work. I would feel silly using any of these three items because of my internalized ableism. These apparatuses signify difference in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Normally, I hide the fact I’m physically different wherever possible since so many of my experiences have been negative. Using any one of these (if I could even find them where I live; the internet has yielded no results) would illustrate to me, yet again, that I am different and that difference is problematic. Specifically, my difference and dis/ability makes something as common as a sprained ankle hard to accommodate.

This also speaks to how normalized certain bodies and types of bodies are in a society. In this case, these types of bodies are able bodies. They are bodies that can walk.* Moreover, it also suggests that if you don’t have a ‘normal body’ that you are trying to navigate in a society that was not built for you.

As much as I am used to existing in a society that does not cater to my female body and my dis/abled body, and have adapted in a number of ways, the lack of accessibility that exists for other dis/abled bodies is affecting me a lot at the moment. I’m even more tired than normal: pain makes you tired and now I have pain in two places instead of one. The medication I need for my chronic pain is no longer enough,** which means more pills, and more sleepiness. It’s harder to get around and do regular, day-to-day things, like washing my dishes or doing my laundry (three flights of stairs…). I can’t reach things that are in high cupboards for fear of falling off the chair or step ladder. I can’t exercise because what doesn’t put pressure on my foot puts pressure on my wrist. And I only have a sprain! It’s not even a serious injury.

If this experience has taught me anything, it has solidified the fact that living with disabilities is hard, and harder still when they are compounded in multiple conditions. Sometimes able-bodied people will have an epiphany of how hard it can be when they face something like an injury or an acute illness – but that empathy is often short-lived. Many of us spoonies have to live as if we aren’t ill – and it feels to me that a lot of people don’t understand how hard that can be on us.

As little of a platform this is, I hope it can inform you, reader, about how hard being chronically ill and dis/abled can be. Though my experiences aren’t necessarily representative of all other spoonies, there are certainly parallels in our experiences. If nothing else, I want you to think about these things, and advocate for us when and where we need it. Our societies need to change. At the micro level, our family groups, social circles, and work cultures need to recognize that sometimes we are fighting our bodies tooth and nail and we really can’t [fill in the blank]. At the macro level, we need better disability-related policies. What exists at the provincial levels is not consistent from province to province, which is probably related to the fact that we do not have a federal disability policy in Canada. Having a dis/ability is hard. Having a chronic illness is hard. Help us make it less hard.

As to where this leaves me for the next few days, I’m not sure. I think I have to go back to taping as the brace I’m wearing (thanks, soccer) doesn’t fit quite right when I’m not wearing heavy socks. In terms of meandering around, I guess that’s going to be limited for the next little while unless I can make up my mind about mobility aids. Unfortunately, I have outgrown my preferred choice, the Power Wheels Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Jeep Wrangler. I’m rather upset about that, to be honest. In terms of being in my apartment, I’m content to hop around like a one-footed kangaroo, but I need to remember to wear a sports bra lest my breasts smack me in the face.


* These bodies are also white, straight, and cismale.
** If you’re in pain in more than one place the medication can’t target the pain as well as the medication is ‘divided’ among two areas.

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An Open to Supporters of the Conservative Party of Canada from Someone with a ‘Lobster Claw’

Dear supporters of the Conservative Party of Canada,

You have a lot of work to do.

In the recent vote for party leadership, Andrew Scheer was declared the winner. Scheer has an association with The Rebel–a pseudo-“news” site that champions right-wing views–that is extremely problematic. The political and social commentary posted on The Rebel is racist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist: it’s egregious and hateful against those who aren’t white, straight, cis, Christian, able-bodied men.* Since November 2016 Scheer has been interviewed by The Rebel three times, suggesting a particular favouritism to the company.

Hamish Marshall, Scheer’s campaign manager, is one of three directors of The Rebel. Though Marshall, according to Global News has said, ‘not involved at all in the content production and editorial side of things. My involvement is on the business side.’ This is not entirely true: in 2015 he was one of The Rebel’s election night analysts. So yes, Marshall may not be publically involved with The Rebel any longer, but that does not mean as one of the directors of the company his viewpoints and opinions are dismissed.

So what does this mean?

Well, although Scheer may not be going on the record as a supporter of The Rebel, it is pretty likely that he does support it–and it’s messages and viewpoints–considering the position of his campaign manager. Moreover, his voting history suggests a connection: “He is an opponent of abortion, equal marriage, trans rights and euthanasia. He voted against Bill C-16, which adds ‘gender expression or identity’ as a protected ground to the Canadian Human Rights Act.” Of course, many of Scheer’s supporters will think the same way as him on issues related to the rights of Othered and/or marginalized peoples.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…it’s likely that it’s a (racist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist) duck.

As much as I have never been a fan of the CPC (or its provincial equivalents, and especially the even-more-Right-Wing Wild Rose Party in Alberta) or The Rebel, I’ve noticed in the last year or so that increasingly bigoted people (including those running for CPC leadership) no longer fear repercussions if they state something that denies someone their human rights. Kevin O’Leary and Kellie Leitch are excellent examples of this. For Canadians, these kinds of comments are antithetical to  the Canadian Human Rights Act:

For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

In short, the logic coming from the mouths or fingers of bigots is that ‘if you don’t look like me, speak with accented English (or French), or in some way different than me, it is okay for me to make discriminatory comments against you.’ But as George Takei noted, “Let me try to clear something up. ‘Freedom of speech’ does not mean you get to say whatever you want without consequences. It simply means the government can’t stop you from saying it. It also means OTHERS get to say what THEY think about your words.” In short, if you’re going to be an asshole it doesn’t mean you are free from consequences: The Criminal Code of Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Act mean there is a legal limitation on what you can and cannot say according to law.

This now brings me to Gavin McInnis, one of the commentators at The Rebel.

On twitter, NDP MLA for St. Albert, Marie Renauld alerted me to some of  McInnis’ thoughts on people with disabilities.** Recently in a video, he was recorded mocking Chelsie Hill’s performance on the Ellen show. Hill, a paraplegic, dances with the aid of her chair. McInnis said, according to the National Post (because I sure as hell won’t watch the video he’s in), ‘Who doesn’t want to know a handicapped person? That’s cooler than a black friend. I want to at least have a friend with, like, a lobster claw. You need that in your repertoire. Friends are baseball cards. You need some freaks in the mix.’

First of all, McInnis’ casual anti-blackness here is completely inappropriate. The ‘I have a black friend so I can’t be racist‘ trope he is perpetuating here is unequivocably racist. This, however, proves my point once again about The Rebel being racist.

Second, handicapped is no longer an acceptable term to use when describing persons with disabilities. This demonstrates his ignorance towards others, and frankly the fact that he does not care about perpetuating harm.

Third, by McInnis’ definition, I am a freak: I was born with a congenital malformation called syndactyly. The condition is not the same as ectrodactyly, which is commonly called “lobster claw hand,” but nonetheless it has altered my physical appearance so I don’t look “normal.”

Not surprisingly, I think McInnis’ words are abhorrent. They are unnecessarily cruel and said in a flippant way to make a point about difference: “ha ha ha people with disabilities  (and people of colour) are oddities that I can ‘collect.'”

Do you know who collected peoples who were Othered? Slavemasters and Nazis. I’m not speaking with hyperbole here: slavemasters bought and collected black folks to do their labour (farming, cooking, cleaning, childcare), while Nazis rounded up people–including people with disabilities–to kill them as part of Aktion T4. The parallel McInnis is making between collecting people like cards and people with disabilities is chilling, and for me personally, nauseating.

On a related note: everything I have ever seen reported on The Rebel I have also found disgusting. It is bigoted opinions that Levant and friends try and parrot as legitimate news. Opinions are what you find in the editorials section, not in the main news content. As much as it masquerades itself as news, The Rebel is not news.

I don’t think I want to know how many CPC voters support the viewpoints of McInnis et. al., but considering that Scheer was voted as party leader, I would assume it is fairly large. These are, inadvertently, people who are advocating for my dehumanization as something that can be “collected.”

For CPC party members that didn’t vote for Scheer and don’t support his socially (very) conservative right-wing values, you need to do something. At this point in time, your support of the CPC party puts you into a position that is anti-human rights and anti-human dignity. It is also, inherently, pro-The Rebel.

“But not all Conservative Party Voters,” you might say. Sure, not all of you who are registered members may have voted for Scheer. But that doesn’t mean anything because Scheer is the head of the Party now: at some point in the game, your votes ceased to matter. So I ask you, how are you going to make sure other CPC party members currently serving right now don’t vote and think the same way as Scheer? That is something you need to think about and take action on.

As we get closer to the fall 2019 election date, will the CPC speak for you and what you want for Canada? Does The Rebel represent your vision of Canada?

Considering the outcome of the 2016 United States election, I am truly and personally scared for Canada and what it means for marginalized peoples moving forward.


* Yes, I know there are women commentators on The Rebel. This doesn’t mean they’re not misogynists.
** Yes, I completely stand by my point of punching him in the face.

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Congress 2017 – The Next 150, On Indigenous Lands: A Settler Colonial Reconciliatory Facade

Congress 2017: An Introduction

Once a year, straddling the end of May and beginning of June, the majority of social sciences and humanities discipline associations converge on a Canadian university for their annual meetings. This year, there were 70 associations and approximately 9,000 academics attending Congress 2017 at Ryerson University in Toronto.

I don’t like Congress. It’s too big; there are far too many things going on and I. often end up pushing my body a little bit too hard due to FOMO.

What is of a greater concern is the fact that it’s far too expensive: early bird registration for students was $79.10 (including HST) while registration after April 1 was $101.70 (faculty was $203.40 and 242.95 respectively). But on top of that is your association’s conference fees: this year mine would have been $64 for the student rate. Had I presented outside of my association, I would have had to pay for those rates as well, ranging from $10.00 to $120.00. On top of that, you have to be a Member of the association(s) you’re presenting at, which for me meant the general association membership ($50.00) plus at least one of the other associations in the umbrella (here the range was $5.00-31.50). In total, the privilege of going to Congress would have cost me $198.10. This was in addition to flight, ground transportation, hotel, and food.

That’s not the point of this post, but I wanted to reiterate how difficult it is to be expected to participate in academic activities when you’re more or less working the Ivory Tower equivalent of the gig economy.

Congress 2017: Months Leading Up

In June of 2016–shortly after that years’ Congress–the Congress 2017 website went live. The theme, the June 2016 newsletter from the Federation of the Social Sciences and the Humanities was “The Next 150.”

In February, one of the associations I follow indicated that the Congress theme had recently been changed. It had become “The Next 150, On Indigenous Lands.” Most of the associations attending Congress would have had their calls for papers closed for several months already at that point. It seemed very odd to me to change the theme four months before Congress was to start when Ryerson had been announced as hosting the 2017 Congress in 2015.

I checked the Federation’s newsletters from July 2016 to January 2017 and none of them indicated that there had indeed been a change in theme – something I thought would have been mentioned somewhere. Finding no information in the newsletters,  I checked the Congress 2017 website and saw that, yes, the new theme was up.

Congress 2017: The Website 

Congress

Looking at the design aesthetics of the website, “On Indigenous Lands” looks like an add-on. Not only is it written in a different font than “The Next 150,” it is also different than that of the 2017 Congress logo. As best as I can tell (I am not a graphic designer nor do I know a lot about fonts and their names), “On Indigenous Lands” looks like it’s written in Times New Roman that his been bolded and italicized. In addition, there is a rather large space (on my laptop, the space is the width of my pinky) that separates “The Next 150” from “On Indigenous Lands.” Considering that the punctuation is a comma and not a colon (which is what I had assumed) this spacing seems even more strange. Speaking solely about aesthetics here, it looks like the website design was hastily done. Aesthetically, I’ve said my piece (it’s ugly): but I think there are greater implications here than website design alone.

My interdisciplinary academic training (sorrynotsorry) interprets both the large space and the different fonts as a way to continue constructing Indigenous peoples as Other. First, Indigenous peoples are established as dissimilar to “us” (that is settlers) because the stylistic difference in the fonts acts as a signifier of cultural difference, maintaining a binary opposition between Indigenous peoples and settlers. In short, they look different than us, therefore their differences make them deficient in comparison to us (and our Eurocentric standards of knowledge, beauty, governance, etc). Though “The Next 150” and the Congress logo are also different fonts, they are paired together in a complementary style and design. “On Indigenous Lands,” as said above, just seems out of place.

Second, the physical (graphical? website-y?) space between “The Next 150” and “On Indigenous Lands” functions as a reminder that Indigenous peoples should be kept out of settler spaces. Donald discusses the separation of Indigenous peoples and settlers using the analogy of the fort, where walls were used to keep Indigeneity out. This separation of peoples also manifested through the forced removal of First Nations on to reserves (among other examples) as part of Canada’s nation-building practices: Indigenous peoples were removed by law from their territories and forced to live on government-allocated sections of land in order to make way for settlers.

Third and finally, the combination of differences mentioned in (1) and (2) illustrate that Indigenous peoples do not have a place in the Ivory Tower alongside and/or equal to settlers. There is too much of a difference, too much of a divide; decolonization and/or reconciliation are academic buzzwords more than they are something the academy, and a great number of academics really, truly, wants to change.  This becomes pretty clear when examining the “On Indigenous Lands” theme in more detail.

Congress 2017: Reconciliation

Considering the Federation had featured Indigenous speakers in some of their larger events at Congress 2016 at the University of Calgary, and had made a media release the year prior (May 31 2015) about being committed to reconciliation in the academy, the move seemed somewhat peculiar to me at the time.

However, later, I recalled that despite there being overlap between Congress 2015 in Ottawa and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Closing Events, Congress did not actively promote any of the TRC’s events on their website. For example, the delivery of the TRC’s Final Report on June 2, 2015, at the Delta Hotel in Ottawa is not mentioned on the Congress 2015 event page. To my knowledge, there was nowhere on the University of Ottawa campus that was livestreaming the event for a large group of Congress attendees to watch. Simply put, it was an appalling oversight by both the host institution and the Federation. This is especially so since the TRC Final Report event had been scheduled ahead of time: it was something that had been in development for months at that point, not something announced weeks or even days before that would be hard for organizers to accommodate. This lack of inclusion–which borderlines on erasure–speaks volumes to me about the Federations priorities.

Last year, the Canadian University Association of Teachers developed a brief guide that outlines the traditional territories of the Indigenous peoples on which each university in Canada stands. As Métis academic Chelsea Vowel points out, territorial acknowledgments are not the solution needed to achieve reconciliation, but rather one small step in the right direction. With “On Indigenous Lands” being purported as the theme for Congress 2017, one would hope that territorial acknowledgments would be an important aspect of Congress 2017, not only for the Federation but also all of the attending associations as well.

On Indigenous Lands: The Associations

As mentioned prior, there were 70 associations that were scheduled to be attending Congress 2017. Of those, 13 (18.57%) had a territorial mention on their website and/or their conference program. These associations were

Sixteen associations, despite having panels on colonization and/or Indigenous peoples, did not include a territorial acknowledgment in their program or website:

Those that made no mention or I could not find a mention ( n = 41) included

On Indigenous Lands: The Federation

On the Congress 2017 website, the theme is described as follows

The Next 150, On Indigenous Lands

Canada’s sesquicentennial offers an important opportunity to critically reflect on the nation’s past and seek to build a better, more inclusive and just future. Congress 2017 invites participants to acknowledge the country’s colonial past and present practices, and forge new relationships towards positive change and reconciliation. Building upon the insights, contributions[,] and recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Congress 2017 theme “The Next 150, On Indigenous Lands” aims to mark the achievements and character of all peoples in Canada. Toronto is a vibrant microcosm of Canada’s diversity — and Ryerson University is a metropolitan university within that microcosm, committed to promoting equity, diversity and inclusive programming.

“The Next 150, On Indigenous lands” honours Canada’s rich history, a history that predates 150 years, and is inclusive of different ideas, geographies, cultures, countries, schools of thought and disciplines. The theme encourages reflection on our national identities, as well as cross-collaboration and an interdisciplinary approach to the social sciences and humanities.

As we celebrate the history, legacy and achievements of Canada in the last 150 years and those of the peoples and territories, we anticipate the next 150: a time of changing demographics, urban challenges, social justice and equality, new beginnings and boundless opportunities.

You will see that not once does the Federation make mention of Tkaronto, a meeting place where Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples met within the shared Dish With One Spoon territory. Moreover, the Federation does not mention the Mississaugas of New Credit: this band filed a specific claim over the unlawful signing of the Toronto Purchase (1787) in 1986, which the government of Ontario agreed to pay compensation for in 2010.  The Federation also failed to (as did Ryerson University) problematize the work of Egerton Ryerson, the University’s namesake –  Ryerson was also instrumental in the development of the Indian Residential School system.

This isn’t reconciliation: this is “reconciliation.” This is what people do when they want a pat on the back for trying. This is contrary to the 94 Calls to Action released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This is wearing a pink t-shirt to stop bullying: it acknowledges there is a problem but does nothing to acknowledge why there is a problem, how the problem came to be, what the implications of the problem are, or how to stop it.

I am by no means saying that territorial acknowledgements will bring settlers into a space where restitution can begin to happen. But Congress this year was a big hot (white settler colonial clusterfuck of a) mess. And this is just judging by the Congress website: this does not even begin to account for any of the issues that happened to Indigenous peoples who were there.

Next year, Congress will be held at the University of Regina, and I hope that the issues I’ve pointed out above are not repeated. The Federation especially has a lot of work to do to improve.

 

* This acknowledgment only mentions one nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Seneca, whose traditional territory is in New York state. Moreover, it mentions the Petun First Nation, whose traditional territory was the Georgian Bay area until they merged with the Wyendot. In short, it is HIGHLY problematic. It appears to be from U of T.
** Again the Petun are named.

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Story from the Chronic Pain Chronicles (Vol. 2)

I haven’t taken any painkillers since the morning of May 9th.

For someone who takes two Tylenol Arthritis* three times a day THIS IS HUGE. I’m sure my liver is jumping for joy at this moment in time.

The last time I was able to do this was in September, where the limited pain (level below a 4/10) lasted about a week. The time prior was possibly in 2015: it might have also been 2013. I really can’t remember anymore.

This is all to say, cherish your health, kids.

Hopefully this lasts a little while…


*Hey, so Tylenol, do you want to sponsor me? Graduate school pays terribly and requires a lot of typing…and my grant is about to run out. Please?

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