The dirtiest word I know

During my first stint at university, I worked over my summer and winter breaks at a pulp mill in my hometown. I was a heavy duty labourer, a heavy duty equipment operator, and overall grunt. I can’t start to explain some of the messes I found myself in – black liquor, lime dust, hog, wood chips. I was on the business end of a shovel often, and usually in a place disgusting and dirty. The smell of fart was impossible to wash out of my clothes. I was generally surrounded by men, usually my father’s age (hey, it is my father’s workplace – he got me the job). In that time (4 summers and winter breaks, and 6 months after my university convocation), I heard a lot of colourful, descriptive language. Like, a lot a lot. Used in all kinds of circumstances. Examples include such fun (and non-fictional) times like:

  • Standing over a frozen chain as wide as a tire on a truck with a dude with an awesome handlebar moustache and a crazy temper, each of us holding crow bars trying to get it back on track, in -40 degrees Celsius.
  • Standing tank watch – 12 hours of staring at a hole in a tank. No newspaper, no one to talk to, minus the dudes doing the work in the empty tank. Which echoed. We weren’t allowed to look INTO the hole. Just at the hole.
  • Watching a man tip over a forklift into cable spools each worth thousands of dollars. Each.
  • Helping a fellow student and friend undress, so we could brush the lime dust off of him before it got wet (potential helpful life tool – lime is caustic when you add water).
  • Helping a man get kneepads and Vaseline for a job I didn’t understand (and was quickly given an insane excuse for the use of said knee pads and lubricant).
  • Sitting in a darkened room, watching millions of dollars’ worth of equipment shut down immediately, for no noticeable reason (someone pulled a cord in a different department – it took us 5 hours to figure that out).
  • Being sent into “The Tunnel” with another student and a shovel, with someone hiding under a fast-moving, unprotected conveyor belt, waiting to scare us.
  • Being stuck in a forklift, and having to be rescued by a 16 tonne front end loader. At midnight. With only a teeny horn to get anyone’s attention.
  • Having a book I was reading torn in half in the lunchroom (it was my friend’s deceased father’s copy, to boot) because it was the Devil’s work and I should be ashamed of myself

I have heard things I never wanted to hear. Swear words. Sexual expressions. And yet, with all of these curse words, these creative slurs used to describe chains and people and wives and tools, there is a dirtier word. Imagine that – the dirtiest word I know, I learned outside of my heavy duty labour background. Even worse, I identify with that word now, more than I ever have before in my life.

I am a feminist.

There. I said it. The dirtiest F-word in North America. Maybe even the world.

The longer I sit on this post (draft 1 happened in July 2015), the more I feel like I should be ashamed of this. I have friends who I respect who disagree with me, who will engage with me about equality and reverse feminism, and I find myself saying “I’m sorry – I’m not trying to offend you. It’s not misandry.” I have been told that “I don’t understand” and that my feelings are wrong. That “Yes, your life is so hard cause you r female give me a break.” So, here’s a non-exhaustive list as to why I’m a feminist.

I’m a feminist because when a woman is raped, we ask what she was wearing, or asked why we didn’t close our knees.

Because the United States Republican frontrunner for president wants to punish women for abortions, and he’s still in the running for the presidential nomination.

Because last week, (my formerly beloved) radio show host Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted on four counts of sexual assault. So, not enough evidence to be guilty, but not innocent either. The women who testified were torn apart for speaking to him afterwards, for not remembering every single detail of the attacks (a decade later), for telling parts of their stories. This article sums up my full feelings on this trial.

Because earlier this year, a pop star was told that she couldn’t break her contact with a man who is accused of drugging and raping her – she can’t do her job, because their mutual success is more important than her sexual and mental well-being.

Because men are often ridiculed for reporting domestic violence and rape – after all, men want it all the time, right? How can you rape the willing?

Because I don’t feel safe walking down Whyte Avenue alone from about twilight on – even though I have two black belts.

Because there is huge controversy about LGBTQ policies in Alberta schools, and I honestly don’t get why anyone would disagree with such a policy. Really? Not supporting every kid just blows my little mind.

Because I think that sex education should be sex positive – that both sexes should be taught that consent is absolutely mandatory and that sex should feel good for EVERYONE INVOLVED and that kink is normal and nothing something to be mocked.

Because I think that we shouldn’t ridicule women for enjoying sex however they want to enjoy it, but somehow if you’re female and like sex, you’re a slut. Case in point (I won’t link to anything about this story because it bothers me so much) is Alexis Frulling – the woman who was filming having public group sex at Stampede last year. She lost her job and her home as fallout from that video being released and then going viral, and then had to turn to sex work (i.e. stripping) because no one else would hire her. To the best of my knowledge (and research skills), the men in the video suffered none of the same fallout. Which, to me, is utter and complete bullshit.

Because this year, in the wake of one of the most anticipated films since The Avengers, Disney decided not to release a Rey action figure initially (don’t worry – massive outcry changed their tune quickly). That said – they didn’t release a Black Widow action figure for Avengers: The Age of Ultron, either. Because you know. Girls don’t count.

Because in 2015, news broke that Alberta has the largest wage gap in Canada. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen – women make (on average) 42% less than men do.

Listen, I could make a list all day – hell, I could likely list reasons as to why I’m a feminist for a full time job. I’m not great at feminism – I don’t understand intersectionality or gender fluidity, and I’m still learning in a major way. It’s the dirtiest word in my vocabulary – and I urge you to look into it. A fun starter (fact check it. I dare you.)


Oh, and also – I’m not arguing any of these points with anyone. Cool, you’re not a feminist. If you don’t want to believe in equality (and fighting for it), that’s your battle. I’m not nearly as skilled at verbal discourse in this subject as I’d like to be.

Vulnerability

In the summer of 2015, I met a man.

This man (let’s call him the Brit) checked a lot of boxes for me. He loved Shakespeare, knew who Mr. Darcy was, loved the Marvel movies and the Walking Dead, was taller than I was, had blue eyes – and he had an accent. Swoon! We clicked on our first date, and it was one of the only first dates where I actually let him walk me to my door, and kiss me goodnight. Maybe it was the posh British accent, or maybe it was the radical similarities, but I immediately liked him. For the first time in a very long time, I had the butterflies. I couldn’t wait to see the Brit again, and the feeling was reciprocated.

True to form, though, I was wrong. Despite checking the boxes of being handsome, nerdy, and a good kisser, the Brit had a secret. I knew he had been married, but during our second (or third) date, he told me the extent of his relationship. He wasn’t divorced – in truth, he couldn’t even leave their house, because they were going for permanent residency and needed to share a residence until they received their PR status. Oh, and his children were two years old, and two months old but he was sleeping on the couch. So. Married. Living with his wife. And did I want to be his girlfriend anyways?

That was a rough truth bomb. I appreciated the strength it must have taken to be that honest, but holy crap. My butterflies died almost instantly, and then died a little harder any time that he would text me after that (especially when it was a “let’s be friends” and I started getting messages about his very public, very kinky sexual escapades). Since then, as documented, I don’t get the butterflies. I get the creeps, and the stalkers, and the looney bins. Sometimes I get twidderpated (like the time I had a crush on a local MMA fighter. I don’t even like MMA.) or attracted. But not the butterflies.

For me, butterflies equates being vulnerable. And, anyone who knows me at all, knows that I’m not a fan of being vulnerable.

Oh, if I know you, there are glimpses of it. You’ll see pieces, maybe I’ll choke up telling you a sad tale. Maybe you’ll hear me rave about Ford Canada and how much I HATE FORD CANADA. But the real parts? The parts where I cry, or tell you that I’m angry or hurting, or confess that I’m anxious and close to having a breakdown – those are rare. And, with the butterflies especially, I find I have to be in a good place about myself before I can let that guard down. I met the Brit following my yoga challenge – I was in a very good place.

I’m finding, though, that this theme – the theme of vulnerability, and trusting yourself to be vulnerable – is popping up in my life in a major way. Dear Sugar is back with a podcast (and I’m so happy – both Sugars, no longer anonymous, but Sugar nevertheless) and the theme of being vulnerable is major. You need to trust the people around you, and yourself, to be this way. In order to foster true intimacy and trust, be vulnerable. Since I’ve made no secret about being a major Sugar fan, I’m trying to take this advice. Not well, mind you. I handle vulnerable the same way that Kylo Ren handles anger – poorly. But, I’m trying. That’s the key, right?

So, with that, let’s get open, shall we?

It’s lots of good things in my life right now – it feels like there was a massive cleansing in my life, like a river in spring washing away the last of winter’s ice. The New Job, that I loved so much, that was full of amazing smart creative people, took a fast turn into Hell Job. Literally, almost overnight it went from being my dream to my nightmare. It became full of drama and backstabbing and fear – I had (and still have) my core group of humans there, but I hated every single day I had to get out of bed. I started flirting with the idea of leaving, and all of a sudden, my dream job slipped into my lap. Out of nowhere, I hadn’t applied for it or anything like it, and I had the opportunity to step out of hell overnight.

So, New Job is no longer a thing. I miss my New Job humans all of the time – I found amazing friends there. There is D, who teaches me every time that I see her that faith is such a key thing – her faith intimidates and inspires me, and every visit with her makes my faith in God and people stronger. There is BS, and his wife AH – nerds to the core, but patient, powerful, intelligent humans, and amazing party planners. A, who lets me be me and loves me for it – whether I’m being a yogi or dancing around my kitchen with wine. My curling team – R, RB (and his amazing other half JO), and M, who cheer me on and laugh with/at me, and who embrace the power of education. G, who is everyone’s mom, whether you want it or not – someone who supports you when you can’t support yourself. I miss them all every day.

Dream Job is the biggest thing at the moment. Dream Job is busy and intensely complicated – I have to learn a brand new structure and this structure, lemme tell you, is a beast. I have to learn the ropes, and I have to be present in every moment. I have 12 months’ worth of probation, and I’ve been assured that I’m going to feel dumb every single day for that year. There are moments, even a month in, where I’m convinced that they have made a mistake. They wanted an expert, somehow they hired me – I’m convinced that someone is going to tap me on the shoulder and say “Sorry, we made a mistake. We need you to go now. Good luck!” But, then, I’ll be in a meeting and be asked about a communications strategy – and when I open my mouth, the expert is in the room. It’s been stressful and busy and oh-so-damn-amazing. What’s even cooler about this place is that we are asked to be vulnerable – we are asked to be open with things, and taught to trust our colleagues to be vulnerable too. I’m actually taking a course about it – it’s so amazing.

Pulling this all back to the Brit and the butterflies – I have, as documented, been trying to date for about 3 years on and off. I’ve been very single for that amount of time, with one ironworker mistake (that Facebook is bringing up in my memories right now, ugh), and I’ve laid out my struggles with it – whether it’s games, sexism, or just plain balance. I went through a point where I was trying too hard, and I complained to my mom. My mother is a force to be reckoned with, and when I complained to her about the car being broken and my job sucking and being single, she constantly reassured me that it would all work out, and likely within a short time frame. She always kept this up – through my struggle with my vehicle, through the switching of jobs – and when I bought my new condo, I told her that I was lonely.

“He’s coming”, she’d assure me. “Stop worrying, and be you. Just keep moving forward.” And I have. I have (mostly) overcome the loneliness – now, I find myself relieved that I have the place to myself, that I can take my shoes off where I please, and make coffee in my Batman pajamas without judgement (not that my roomie would have judged me at all). I have a life that I’m in love with – one full of a Board I’m crazy about (hello, Shakespeare!), a yoga practice that is strong, one full of friendships that I am proud of, one where my family is so supportive, one where I love my job and my home, one where I’m finally starting my novel – and I’m constantly busy with my loved ones – friends and family. I have wine and piecaken dates, board game dates, curling bonspiels, wedding websites, walks, laughs, drinks, and movies. This life I have is one that I am proud of. I’m proud to stand in front of it, I’m proud to have it, I’m proud of how far I’ve come. As the wise philosopher Drake once said – we started from the bottom, now we here.

And now, as I’m standing here with this life, a life full of people I love enough to be vulnerable with, and I’m finally allowing that vulnerability to shine through… the butterflies have returned….