I Am Not A Babe: Sexism, Women & Careers

“See you later, babe!”

I was recently in a situation where I was frequently interacting with journalists, and, in all seriousness, a man said this to me as he departed the room.

I actually felt shocked. Calling a woman “babe” seems reminiscent of 1950s greyscale detectives smoking cigars, not modern-day 2013. Although the journalist probably meant no harm,  it just made me feel like I was being patronized. Using “babe’ as a nickname might seem innocent, but it just detracts from my identity as an individual. “Babe” often connotes images of infants or children. This just helps perpetuate the stereotype women should be  dependent upon men.

I know this might seem strange, but it has been a while since I have experienced such a blatant form of sexism. I read about it frequently in the news. I  studied it in depth in university. I’ve sometimes felt my opinions weren’t respected in mostly-male working environments.

Yet sometimes I honestly forget that I am a women, in the sense that I  am often perceived as different. Inferior. Less intelligent. Less capable. Too emotional. The list goes on.

The experience made me think about my future career, and how this archaic view towards women might hinder it. Although our North American society has greatly improved, gender gaps in salaries unfortunately still do exist. According to recent Statistics Canada data, a woman, on average, earn 72 cents for every dollar a man earns.

It has been argued that this is because women don’t know how to negotiate for their wages. Yet often when women ask for something like a raise, they are seen as too demanding.  Or that these statistics don’t account for the fact that women apparently often choose to work in lower-paying fields.

However, starting salaries also often have a major discrepancy between wages. As well, even in the same job position, sometimes women still make less money.

I feel comforted slightly since women absolutely dominate my current chosen field, public relations. Selfish, I know.  I can’t imagine one good excuse for this gap, which should be completely unacceptable in 2013. Whether it be with women, visible minorities or other groups, we should be past a time where people are discriminating in their hiring practices.

Now for something completely different: Aliens, Earth and Philosophy

The Earth’s alien twin has been discovered! Well, kind of. NASA scientists have claimed that one of their telescopes has found a planet that exhibits similar characteristics to earth, making it an excellent candidate for hosting possible life forms.

I’m not an astronomer, so I don’t feel I can speak knowledgeably about this pretty fascinating subject. However, news pieces like this always make me think philosophically about life, and the possibility that it exists outside our planet. I’m not a crazy alien conspirator, but I do think that there must be  some form of “alien” out there- we can’t be the only living creatures in this universe!

Reading this article, it reminded me of a piece of writing I wrote a few months back, but did nothing with. I figured this was a good opportunity to share it with you, dear friends!

Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts on the subject!

The other day, I was sitting on the bus, gazing out the window. While staring at fields and small towns, I spotted a distant airplane. 

 I played the stupid , half-joking game I always do when I see an airborne vehicle: “Plane or UFO?”

 This brought me to a strange and silly question: What would a UFO or an alien really look like?

 Certainly, not how they are represented in film or in old cartoons. UFOs always conjure up certain images. Circular disks with flashing lights. Rayguns. Light beams, waiting to suck you up to be poked and prodded. Tall, gangly, skinny, bug-eyed creatures. Short little Marvin the Martians that are much too intimidating, considering their stature.

 I decided to try to picture what a real UFO could look like. Something truly alien, from a place completely unaffected by the human experience. Complex, meaningless phrases popped into my head like “organic machinery”.

I then experienced a strange sensation when I attempted to picture what colour a UFO would be.

Could colours exist somewhere in the universe, that are outside the rainbow spectrum on earth? Could there be an additional colour in the rainbow? What would it be called? What would it look like?

I felt dizzy. I realized it was impossible to picture another colour. Anything I imagined was an amalgmation of all other colours I already knew.

I began to feel sinking sensation. I started to feel sick with the knowledge that my world was terribly small. I would never and could never know anything outside of it.

I Love My Parents: China’s New Law and the Debate on Nursing Homes

My good friends could tell you that I am highly affectionate. There is no one who would know this better than my parents, to whom I probably say “I love you” multiple times a day, if not an hour.

Because I love my parents greatly, I would not hesitate to say that, given a particular situation, I would definitely place them in a nursing home one day.

This statement might sound bold, but the topic has been on my mind lately. Recently, I had a lengthy discussion with friends, sparked after reading an unusual news story one morning during breakfast.

The Chinese government recently updated a law regarding the elderly, to stipulate that adult children need to visit their aged parents “often” or face getting sued. The reasoning? In China, there have been many elderly abuse/neglect cases surfacing, mostly credited to financial burdens related to China’s rapidly expanding population.

The word “neglect” often surfaces in discussions about nursing homes. This negative imagery might originate from the concept of almshouses. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, most elderly people ended up in these houses, particularly if they were from a lower class.  Almshouses were notorious for their less-than-ideal conditions, and were seen as “symbols of despair and failure.”

Many people feel that adult children should do their best to personally care for their aging parents, including bringing them into their own homes. Some suggestions often include hiring a private nurse for feeding and giving medication, or having one spouse remain at home to care for the parent. This is a noble argument and one that deserves respect. If a family has the financial resources to manage it, it would be a great way to thank their parents. Parents not only raise, clothe and feed us, but also guide us to enter into the world independently.

However, this situation should not be viewed in such a black and white manner.

Nursing homes are designed to provide safe and adequate care 24/7. They are designed specifically to help older people who cannot safely perform basic daily functions necessary for their health and survival (eating, bathing, taking medication, etc). Good-quality nursing homes provide nutritious meals, entertainment, and best of all- companionship.

Private nurses are much more costly. Additionally, many elderly patients (particularly with different forms of dementia) need constant supervision. Some families often cannot afford financially to provide this constant care, (either by hiring a nurse or staying home) particularly if they need to work full-time to help pay for their parent’s medical bills. Additionally, most people do not have the training or knowledge necessary for dealing with patients with dementia or other illnesses, and may not be equipped to properly treat them on a daily basis.

Of course, nursing homes vary in the quality of care provided, and families should always take time when choosing. Also, regular visits will help the parent feel loved and secure in their new home.

Some people have argued that if you truly love your parents, you would do your best to make sure they can stay in your care. I personally feel that choosing to put a parent into a home should not be viewed as a sign of neglect, but as a demonstration of love.

This is pretty cool. Interesting to think about the possibilities these innovations would provide. But I’m also worried to enter into a new era where our society is even more reliant on technology- I don’t want to live to see a real-life WALL-E situation.


IBM released its annual “5 in 5” list yesterday, the seventh year in a row whereby IBM scientists identify a list of innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and interact during the next five years.

The IBM 5 in 5 is based on market and societal trends, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s R&D labs around the world. This year, the 5 explores innovations that will be underpinnings of the next era of computing, what IBM has described as “the era of cognitive systems.”

This next generation of machines will learn, adapt, sense, and begin to experience the world as it really is, and this year’s predictions focus on one element of the this new era: The ability of computers to mimic the human senses — in their own manner, to see, smell, touch, taste and hear.

But before you try and spoon-feed…

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No More Normal: Gun Control, Mental Health & Stigma

The NRA’s solution to reducing gun violence? The USA should consider a national database for the mentally ill!

Last Friday, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said, in the response to the Newtown shootings:

“How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?”

In his speech, LaPierre stresses that without a national database, our society won’t know about all the potentially killers hiding in the shadows.

With the latest highly-publicized shooting happening only a few days ago in Rochester, gun control has become a hot topic within our current public discourse.

Putting my personal feelings towards stricter gun control aside,  I want to discuss instead how problematic a “national database of the mentally ill” would be.

LaPierre’s words are disgusting and appalling. His statement treats people suffering from mental illnesses as an “other”. They are framed as a large, homogenous group that “normal” people need to monitor. Reading his words, I honestly feel as if LaPierre sees people with mental illnesses as a lower class of human or even a separate species.

LaPierre is clearly out of touch with reality.

A database would only serve to further stigmatize mental illness in our society. We need to support those living with mental illnesses, not shut them out.

Currently, our society often treats people with mental illnesses as weak, inferior or even like “monsters“.  If the American government imposed a national database, people with mental illnesses might fear judgment or public humiliation. Mental health stigma often results in inequality when seeking employment, housing or educational opportunities.

The database would only serve to inhibit those who have problems from seeking help or getting adequate treatment.

I do feel that background checks are certainly necessary for when purchasing guns. However, not everyone with a mental illness should be considered dangerous.  According to the American Psychiatric Association, only 4 to 5 percent of violent crimes are committed by people with mental illnesses.

Mental illness is extremely common, encompassing a diverse range of disorders. Looking closer to home, approximately one fifth of Canadians suffer from some form of mental illness.

What does pointing out the commonality of mental illness prove? That there is no “normal”.

Most of you probably have multiple family members and friends who suffer from some form of mental illness. They are not monsters. They are regular people, who, with help and support, are able to function and often make significant contributions to society.

Please, let us not disrespect ourselves, our family, our friends and our neighbours, in thinking otherwise.

STM Philosophy: Margaret Wente & University Degrees

“A university degree is no longer an automatic ticket to a decent job and a pleasant living.”

This is a quote from Globe and Mail columnist’s Margaret Wente’s piece  Quebec’s university students are in for a shock, written during a time when massive student protests were rocking Quebec society. It’s been months since I read this column, so it’s a bit funny that I recalled it this afternoon.

Today, on the long commute from downtown Montreal to lovely Dollard-des-Ormeaux, I took out a well-loved book to distract myself from my cold fingers: Haruki Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood.”

After a mere fifteen pages, I read a passage that piqued my interest:

“Yup. When I graduate, I’m going to work for the Geographical Survey Institute and make muh-muh-maps.”

“I was impressed anew by the variety of dreams and goals that life could offer….The thought struck me that society needed a few people – just a few – who were interested in and even passionate about map-making.”

After reading Murakami’s words, Wente’s column immediately came to mind. Juxtapose the previous passage with a quote from Wente:

(speaking about the student protesters) “They’re the sociology, anthropology, philosophy, arts, and victim-studies students, whose degrees are increasingly worthless in a world that increasingly demands hard skills. The world will not be kind to them. They’re the baristas of tomorrow and they don’t even know it, because the adults in their lives have sheltered them and encouraged their mass flight from reality.”

This line of thinking seems so narrow-minded- calling whole disciplines worthless. We need all kinds of people for our society to function. I also believe  that these so-called “soft subjects” are important for our progression into a more tolerable, equal society.

It has often been said that having culture distinguishes humans from animals. I think this is completely accurate. Fields such as medicine or engineering address our basic needs. Yet, humans also need culture and social relationships in order to thrive.

I don’t think a university degree should just be viewed as a means to an end- getting a job. However, it becomes complicated when looking at the current tough economic situation.  Some people might not have the luxury to spend time studying subjects that don’t have a clear-cut path to a steady career.

Which is why I have ended up taking a post-graduate degree in Public Relations at Humber College- I wanted to improve my hard skills for the workplace.

This first blog post has been rather introspective. This comes during a break after a short but hectic (and fun!) few months. Also after a crazy period doing something completely different and beginning to live in a new city. I need to think a lot about where I am headed after I graduate in April.

This blog should help with this journey- it will function as an outlet to practice my developing writing skills and also to vent my opinions on current events.

Leave a comment to start a conversation!