This is not a think piece


As many of you know, I’m pretty much always at work, trying to figure out just how to incorporate concepts of consent into the world.

I parent my kids through that lens.
I incorporate as much as I can into my teaching – a challenge, as my position of substitute teacher doesn’t lend itself well to the relationship-building required to make these conversations meaningful.
I just started a PhD a couple of months ago, with research interests in how the school is a site which perpetuates rape culture, and how consent-encouraging practices can be effectively used in classrooms.
I speak about consent at conferences when I can.
I curate a Facebook page, posting links to resources and offering lesson plan ideas (sometimes broad, sometimes extremely specific) that correspond with Ontario curriculum expectations.

I’m pretty well-known in some circles as someone who does this work, so I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised when people turn to me for my opinion on this rape case, or that think piece on reporting.

Here’s the thing, though:

On top of all of those things I listed above, I’m a survivor of sexual violence myself. And while I willingly participate in all of the above, I make choices about how much of myself I can invest in any given moment. I can set up therapy and massage appointments to correspond with times when I know I’ll be focusing more than usual on rape culture. I can mediate the triggering harm this causes me (and it does cause me harm) by having some control over how it enters my consciousness at any given moment.

I understand why people have come to me, asking, “You must have SO MUCH to say about (insert name of person who doesn’t need me to continue naming him), and the denials, shaming women for not reporting, the lack of belief.”

I do have lots to say, and, when I feel okay about it (and sometimes when I need to get it out of me), I’ve shared this and that. But that’s again something within my control. Walking into meetings and being asked what I think, having this happen over and over throughout the last week-and-a-half both in person and online, has been exhausting. It’s made it much harder for me to stay on track with parenting, school, and work. It’s made it much harder to stay on top of my physical health, as my sleep is disrupted. My mood is… complicated.

This kinda sucks, and I’m not the only person experiencing this. Not everyone has the self-care resources I’ve developed to keep me well. There are so many women (and, yes, men too) who have been in a constant state of alert since the story broke. The internet can be a dangerous place at the best of times, but it’s also a social lifeline for many. We expose ourselves repeatedly, torn between not being able to resist reading as the train wreck gets bigger, and the social isolation that would arise from enforcing a self-ban.

I’m not going to tell you what to say or write. We all have to get this shit out of us somehow. What I am asking is that you consider the impact of how you seek information or opinion.

Post an article? Okay. I can choose to not read it.

Ask me a direct question and expect me to respond? Right now? That’s a lot. Too much, maybe. I’m going to (gently) suggest that you model consent when you talk to people.

“I would like to talk to you about X, because I’m curious about what you think. Is right now a good time, or can we talk about it at another time?” I would welcome this approach.

Please note: if you’re a survivor and you’re struggling and you just need to talk to someone else who might get it, that’s different. I’ll find the spoons for that.

If you just want to have a conversation, though? Proceed with caution and care.


Musings on Music and Ableism (Inspired by Kanye West)

There are several adjectives which come to mind when the topic of the hour is Kanye West, and this week, media reports have added a new one: ableist. During a concert in Melbourne, Australia on Friday, West refused to perform until everyone in the stadium stood. He reportedly went as far as to check ID to verify that those not standing were actually disabled. Now, there are many things wrong with this situation.

1) It’s none of his business why a given person chooses to not stand during his concert. If someone has paid for A SEAT, they have the right to sit in it.

2) Not everyone who has a disabling medical condition is considered “disabled” on paper, and wouldn’t have “proof” to show anyone. My chronic pain means that sometimes I’m exhausted and just can’t stand for long periods of time. Do I have documentation saying I benefit from sitting to regain some energy? Nope. And neither do many others.

3) It is obscenely invasive to assume that people need to prove anything to attend a music performance.

The thing is, though, that even though this latest demonstration of insensitivity is pretty awful (and it really is, no question), we’re absolutely fooling ourselves if we believe Kanye West is the first and last (or even the worst) example of ableism in live shows.

I mean, for the audience member who uses a wheelchair to enter the Qantas Credit Union Arena at all implies that it’s at least wheelchair accessible in the first place. How many performers or their promoters book gigs in spaces that aren’t accessible at all to people in chairs? How many small-scale music venues can we name, without even thinking about it, which are basement or second-floor establishments, with no elevator? Even if a space has ground-floor access, where are the washrooms located? Are we telling physically disabled/chronically ill people that only those who can make it into these spaces, only people who never have to pee, have the privilege of enjoying live music?

Yeah, we totally are.

Every time someone opens a new club and doesn’t insist on ground-floor washrooms and a slight ramp to get over the lip at the door, they’re telling disabled people that they’re not welcome.

I get it. Space is at a premium, and there are many factors that go into renting venues for long-term occupancy and for one-off events. Sometimes, in older buildings, increasing accessibility is cost-prohibitive. It can cause serious hardship for event promoters who are doing their best to provide what they can for as low a cost as they can offer. But it’s still a problem, no matter the justification.

Kanye West was 100% in the wrong. But before you jump on the accusatory bandwagon, take a minute to think about who else is doing exactly the same sort of thing. Then ask if you’ve thought to call them out as loudly as you do West.