Category Archives: Soapbox

Microblog Mondays: My Field’s Harvey Weinstein?

TW: Sexual assault and child abuse mentioned.

Last week I was wasting time on a jobs wiki  when I stumbled across a couple of links to articles about a sexual harassment lawsuit that had been filed by a graduate student against an EXTREMELY PROMINENT academic in my field. The lawsuit alleged not only that said famous professor had harassed her repeatedly for years, but also that the university had turned a blind eye to his behaviour, even when she had complained.

Quite recently, about a month after the original articles were published, another one came out indicating that the famous professor has stood done from all teaching, advising, and other student-related activities. The anonymous comments on the job wiki have made it clear that this professor’s reputation for sexually harassing women was well known, even outside his own university.

Assuming the allegations prove to be true, and if it was also true that “everyone knew and nobody said anything”, it sparks a number of interesting moral issues. Were you complicit if you sent high-flying female graduate students to work with this individual, knowing his history? Were you complicit if you sent high-flying male graduate students to work with this individual but warned off your female students, knowing that your male students would then reap the benefits of being associated with such an academic superstar (including very high placement rates in tenure-track positions)? Were you complicit if you knew his history and still invited this individual to your campus to give a lecture, or asked him to write a chapter for an edited volume, or to review a manuscript, or any of the myriad duties that fall on established academics when it’s “business as usual”?

Are we complicit if, going forward, the allegations are proven and we still cite this individual’s articles and books in our own research?

While reading up on this I also discovered that last year another professor in our field pleaded guilty to trading child pornography over the internet. Q. has a very famous and influential article by this individual on the syllabus for one of his courses. It seems a no-brainer to strike that off, but (as my rabbit hole of Googling quickly proved) this is a thorny issue and one that a lot of academics are now wrestling with.

Can you separate the scholarship from the scholar?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.



Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Microblog Mondays, Soapbox

Not Just Mittens

A couple of weeks ago we were in Walmart to print photos for E’s assignment at school. I ended up trolling the aisles with E. and P. in tow because we needed various things, including waterproof mittens for both kids. E. has for years worn the same style of mitten from MEC but he needed the next size up and when I looked on the website I saw that MEC has changed the style and the new version is not getting good reviews. I also live in fear of E. losing expensive mittens at school, so I figured there wasn’t any harm in trying out a cheaper pair.

We poked around for a while and found one pair that E. liked. I was worried they were a touch too small.

Then I spied another section across the aisle.

“E., come and look at these. Tell me if you see anything you like.”

E. came over, took one look and stopped short.

“Mummy, I can’t wear these. These are for girls.”

Inwardly, my reaction went something like this: OH FUCKITY FUCK FUCK. WE’VE WORKED SO HARD ON THIS!

Outwardly, I said to E. that even though the store wanted people to think that there were girl clothes and boy clothes, because that meant they could sell more clothes, the truth was it didn’t matter.

“No one is allowed to say that only girls can wear purple and pink and only boys can wear blue and red,” I finished, pulling a pair of black mittens off the rack. “I bet they had the same mittens on the other rack and they’ve just sold out.”

E. picked the black mittens and a purple pair of waterproof gloves.

Before we left we gathered up a bunch of purple and pink mittens and gloves and put them on the empty racks in the “boy” section.

That would be the end of the story except that it quickly became apparent that these mittens and gloves were still a little too big for E., so on Monday I took him to the dollar store.

E. very quickly picked out two pairs of waterproof mittens (red and purple), one pair of purple and black wooly mittens and one pair of lightweight turquoise gloves with snowflakes on them.

“Look, Mummy,” he said happily about halfway through the process. “I can pick whatever I want because there’s not a girl or a boy section.”

I stopped dead. I’d been in that store earlier that morning (buying mittens for P. because there had been nothing appropriate for her at Walmart). I’d observed there were loads of mittens in E’s size but had completely failed to notice that they hadn’t been in any way segregated.

The dollar store has fairly minimal outdoor gear (and I might still come to regret buying mittens from it, but we’ll see) and even less by way of clothing, so it makes sense that everything would be confined to one big aisle.

I hadn’t noticed when I’d been collecting purple mittens and a purple baby balaclava for P. (because she kept picking the purple options when I put several in front of her) that the purple and the pink and the red and the black and the blue and the green mittens were all on the same hooks.

E. had.

He is a boy who has always loved pink, a boy who happily wears leggings from the “girl” section to school, a boy who can sit and flip through the pages of a cake decorating book from the 1980s and criticize its gender assumptions (“Mummy, look- there is a rocket cake but they say it is for boys! That is inappropriate because everyone likes rockets. What do they think girls like?” *turns pages in ever-increasing horror. “A princess castle? Well I like pink and I like princesses and I like castles. A sewing machine?! Well if a boy doesn’t know how to make his own clothes he would have to go to the store. An oven?! That’s ridiculous! Everyone needs to know how to cook!”).

But even he, at age six, knows that he is somehow not supposed to shop in the section for girls.

There’s starting (finally!) to be a serious movement to stop the practice of segregating toys in stores and making assumptions about which kids should want (or be allowed) to play with them.

Toys aren’t going to be enough.

We need to do clothes too.

And if the dollar stores mittens actually turn out to be waterproof, we will be buying more of them in future.

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Filed under 21st Century Parenting Politics, E.- the seventh year, Soapbox

Helicopter Parents

One of the books I’ve read this month was How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising at Stanford.

It wasn’t one of my favourite books for the year. In general I felt there were too many quotes from authors of other parenting books (or anecdotes from the author’s own experience), too little hard data, and (above all) an extremely restricted demographic for the expected audience (even with her disclaimer that what she’s discussing largely applies to children growing up in upper/upper middle class households).

I am curious about how to raise independent children, who will be ready and able to go out into the world, to have adventures and make mistakes.

I want P. and E. to be resilient.

I want them to have growth mindsets, rather than a fixed mindset like their mother.

I want them to be able to explore, even though I’m not sure how to give them the same freedoms I had when I was a child. It’s a lot harder to send your children outside to play “until the streetlights come on” when no one else’s kids are out unsupervised. One of the things I love about our area is that I do see kids walking to school without a parent. They’re older than E. is, of course, and they’re usually walking with a friend, but they’re still doing it free of adult supervision.

There were useful nuggets of information in the book I tucked away, and I will freely admit that the common parental problem of equating your child’s success or failure with your own is one that I still struggle with at times (especially when it comes to school since I was an extreme overachiever and rule follower). A large section of the book is devoted to the problems with the current college admissions process and the overscheduling of children that results, and I don’t think the system is nearly as cut-throat in Canada (although E. is only six- maybe I’ll feel differently about this in ten years’ time). That section was an interesting read, especially since I’m in academia, but I didn’t feel it was particularly relevant to my parenting (although it did align with what my instincts have always been- it’s more important to find a good fit for your undergraduate degree than to attend the most prestigious school, and there can be advantages to being a big fish in a little pond if you later apply for a very competitive graduate program).

Honestly, I thought she was laying it on a bit thick. Students who get to college and don’t know how to ask someone to help them move their boxes into their dorm room? Young adults who get momentarily disoriented in a new city and have to call their parents (who are in business meetings in a DIFFERENT city) to get directions? Parents who stick around to watch or, worse, join in the welcoming rituals of frosh week? Kids who text or call their parents multiple times a day and ask them what they should do for any situation, and parents who tell them what they should do rather than asking the kids how they plan on handling it?

When I was almost finished the book, I was reading it during one of my office hours. A couple of my students happened to come by, and one of them asked me what I was reading. This sparked a long, intense discussion for the rest of the office hour. My three students are all in their first year at university. Two of them are living in residence and the third lives with a cousin “near my Mom, but I’m not actually living with my Mom.” (his phone rang as soon as he finished that sentence- he looked at it and said sheepishly, “Actually, that’s my Mom now” and disappeared to talk to her for a few minutes).

The two who live in residence both had childhoods that very much resembled my own, with plenty of freedom to roam and explore, and high expectations about developing independence and the necessary life skills to function in society as an adult. This is exactly the kind of childhood that Lythcott-Haims says has been eroded for the Millennials (according to her the rot set in during the 1980s, which is when I was a child, which I found quite puzzling since I’ve always felt like I had one of those “good ol’ days” childhoods that people these days are always bemoaning the loss of). Even if I can’t classify myself (or my childhood) as a Millennial (I’m apparently right on the border between Gen X and the Millennials), my students, who are now a full twenty (!) years younger than I am, certainly are.

I gave them some examples of the over-parenting and the failure to grow up that Lythcott-Haims argues results from it and asked them whether they thought this was a fair assessment of their generation.

And the floodgates opened.

They have friends who don’t know how to make a phone call to book a doctor’s appointment; friends who don’t feel comfortable ordering for themselves in a restaurant; friends who don’t know how to organize or manage their time because their parents always told them where they had to go and when they had to be there.

They were unanimous in their assessment that most of the students they lived with in residence were lacking some of the basic skills they needed to be able to function as adults. And what’s more, both of my students said that their friends repeatedly came to them and asked them to help them do these things, because their friends had recognized that these two did come to university prepared to be independent from their parents.

They had lots of advice for me: Make sure my kids order for themselves at restaurants. Let my kids make mistakes with money. Teach them how to cook. Encourage them to work a service job, like a cashier at a grocery store or a barista at a coffee shop, so that they have to make small talk, engage with other people, and learn to let other people’s bad moods not affect their own.

I’m still not convinced we’re in a full-scale parenting crisis, but it was an eye-opening conversation, that’s for sure.



Filed under Books, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Soapbox

Weather Patterns

Yesterday I spent most of the morning in the park with P., who had a wonderful time despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that I had both forgotten to bring a towel to wipe down the equipment and neglected to put her in her rain suit. She ended up completely soaked, but it wasn’t a total #momfail as I had packed spare clothes in her diaper bag and I still had the cozy sleeping bag on the stroller even though it was probably too warm outside for it. So she had fun getting soaking wet and dirty and then I was able to wrestle her into new clothes to keep her warm and dry long enough to get home.

What was interesting about the outing (other than the fact that I learned to keep spare mittens in the diaper bag because P. will always opt to play with puddles) was that during the whole time we were at the park we saw a total of twelve other people.

Every single one of them was an adult walking a dog.

When I think about the winter that E. was this age, some of my clearest memories are of the two of us at the various neighbourhood parks, without another soul around. (I can remember taking multiple photos to illustrate this point because I just couldn’t get my head around it.)

I don’t understand why it seems to be accepted practice here that once the temperature drops below about 8 degrees Celsius, or it’s a bit wet, the dogs have to go outside but the children don’t.

I get that if you don’t take dogs outside for walks they will pee on the floor and eat your furniture, but if I don’t take my kids outside they may not pee on the floor (ok, P. would if given the chance) but they will certainly destroy the house (or make it feel like that’s what they’re doing) and drive me absolutely up the wall.

We had an extremely wet Sunday a couple of weeks ago and after P had woken up from her nap I stuffed her and E. into their rain gear (under mighty protests from E.) and took them outside to jump in puddles. We ended up finding a massive puddle in a nearby laneway and they spent a happy forty minutes playing in it (E. jumped in it and ran through it; P. did everything short of lying down in it face first). When they were both soaked (despite the rain gear) and starting to look cold, I brought them back inside for a bath.

They were SO MUCH happier for the rest of the afternoon and the evening, which meant that I was happier too.

There was no whining.

No meltdowns.

No tears.

No shouting.

Admittedly I will keep them inside in extreme weather conditions (massive thunderstorms or temperatures below -30 degrees Celsius), and there are days when we don’t go out for long, but even fifteen or twenty minutes mucking around in the yard does wonders.

E’s school has just started a pilot project where the children go outside for recess no matter what the weather is (unless it is dangerous). It won’t be fully in place for another year or two, but I was so pleased to hear about the initiative. I can’t imagine what it is like for the teachers on the days where the kids don’t go out.

As for my two, P. loves to go outside, so it’s never a hard sell with her. E. is very much a homebody and thinks he would be happy to stay inside all day long, except that by the late afternoon he’s crabby and combative and bouncing off the furniture (literally- he will run around the main floor telling a story while ricocheting off of the couches).

I sympathize, because I’m a homebody too at heart, but I’ve learned that I need to get out of the house as much as they do. I’ve had to take a hard look at my wardrobe to make sure that I’m not making it easier to keep them inside because I don’t have the right clothes to be outside with them.

Most of the time, there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing.

Do the kids vanish from your neighbourhood as soon as the weather shifts?



Filed under E.- the seventh year, P.- the second year, Soapbox

Microblog Mondays: 21st century parenting

On Friday, I had a stranger turn up, not unexpectedly, on my doorstep.

Why was he there?

Because he was one half of a gay couple who had just had a baby via surrogate, and I had 150 oz of breast milk in my chest freezer that P would never be able to drink as I pumped it before I realized she had MSPI and cut dairy and soy out of my diet.

The other father had posted a message looking for potential milk donations on a Fakebook page dedicated to facilitating the sharing of breast milk. I’d seen the message and responded and, about eighteen hours later, there we were.

I sent him off with the milk and a box of 0-3 and 3-6 month clothes that P had long outgrown but were too seasonally inappropriate for my nephew, Spud.

We were both thrilled. I didn’t have to pour that milk (the product of pumping sessions at 3 or 4 a.m. back when P. was sleeping so well as a newborn I had to protect my supply) down the drain, and he had a few days of free food for his baby plus clothes for the warmer weather (when it comes).

We’ll probably never meet again.

But that brief encounter reminded me, amidst all the doom and gloom, that many of us, most of us (I hope), just want to do what we can to help each other out.

Do you have a good news story for the week? I want to hear it!

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.


Filed under Microblog Mondays, Nursing, Soapbox

Speechless but not silent

Microblog_MondaysI have these Microblog Mondays posts I want to write about books, but they keep getting derailed by the unfolding political crisis south of the border. It’s unseemly to post on mundane matters.

A friend on Fakebook apologized this morning for posting yet another link to a political story. I commented that no apology was necessary. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing” and all that.

Yesterday Q. and I took both kids to get their passport photos taken. E. has one working passport and one expired passport. P. still needs both.

The driving force behind this expedition wasn’t the chaos in the U.S. but something more practical: we bought tickets a couple of weeks ago for our trip Down Under this northern summer and we realized we really needed to start getting their documents in order.

Still, there’s a steady refrain underlying my thoughts these days.

Get the documents.

Keep all of our options open.

Have an exit strategy for Q. and the kids if it comes to that.

I keep seeing posts calling for Gen X women to rise up. I straddle the border between generations- some articles put me at the very end of Gen X and others consider me to be among the first of the Millennials. Either way, it’s clear that we’ve been spoiled and pampered (we being white Gen X/Millennial women of privilege- the situation is not at all the same for POC). Maybe we thought that the big battles were won.

It might take us a while to get organized and find our voices.

But then I hope we roar.

And I hope it’s not too late.

How are you balancing mundane matters with the state of the world today?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.


Filed under Microblog Mondays, Soapbox

Microblog Mondays: “Alternative Facts”


I didn’t march on Saturday.

I feel a whole host of different emotions about this. Shame, guilt, embarrassment, envy, frustration, etc.

I wish I had marched.

I wish I had put P. in the carrier and pinned a “Future Nasty Woman” to the front of the panel and taken her downtown to join the thousands of others who cared enough to turn up and protest even though he really is #notourpresident because we don’t have a president.

My Mum was visiting and I wish I’d taken her downtown too, three generations of Nasty Women, ready to roar. I would have left E. at home with Q., not because there was no room for men at the march but because E. wouldn’t have been able to handle the crowd and the noise.

I wish I’d turned up, just like I did at the giant “No” rally before the 1995 Quebec referendum. That protest felt like it really mattered. It felt like it was important that I was there.

I think Saturday would have been the same.

Here’s the truth: I didn’t actually know there was a march in my city.

I’ve been dealing with a couple of issues with P. in the last week or so and it’s led me to stay offline as much as possible, far away from Dr. Google and the scary scary answers you can always find with any search inquiry. I’ve been off social media. I haven’t been reading the newspaper.

I have been, as I belatedly realized late Saturday afternoon, almost scarily ill-informed.

I had my reasons.

But in a world where White House representatives refer to “alternative facts” when confronted with the deliberate falsehoods they’ve put forward, my reasons aren’t good enough.

From now on, I am paying attention.

And when the next time comes, I will march.

What about you? Did you march, even if you don’t live in the U.S.A.?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.


Filed under Microblog Mondays, Soapbox