About the Author

Peg Tittle

Peg Tittle, feminist, writer, philosopher, is the author of What If...Collected Thought Experiments in Philosophy (2004) and Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason (2011). She is also the editor of Should Parents be Licensed? Debating the Issues (2004). Her articles and essays have been published in a number of North American magazines and journals and she has been a columnist for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, The Philosophers' Magazine, and Philosophy Now. She is also the author of six screenplays. What Happened to Tom? is her first novel. She lives in Sundridge, Ontario.

Books by this Author
Gender Fraud: a fiction
Excerpt

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Gender Fraud: a fiction

 

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span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Peg Tittle

 

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span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">You can do this, she told herself as she sprinted—well, as she ran as fast as she could—along the road toward the curve in the distance. Heart thundering, lungs heaving, she made it to the curve, rounded it, and saw an intersection in the distance. You can do this, she kept telling herself, as she kept moving, getting closer and closer to the intersection … Yes, she was over sixty, just a tad over sixty, but she’d been running since she was thirteen, since she’d entered high school and discovered something called ‘cross-country’. She’d done track in grades seven and eight, but— They ran through the forest! Or at least through the wooded parks on the edge of the city, which was, back then, the closest thing to forest she knew. She fell in love with it. The beauty. The quiet. The solitude. The rhythm. The distance. Between practices, she ran through her neighbourhood. Every day, further.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">So she could do this. She’d been surprised to discover there wasn’t a women’s team at university, so she joined the men’s team. But then discovered that women weren’t allowed to run the long distances. It was the 70s. At all the cross-country meets, women did just three miles. Men did five. At the track meets, women couldn’t run even the 5,000, let alone the 10,000; the longest event for them was the 3,000. But she kept running further, and further. On her own. She didn’t know she was ready for a marathon in her late twenties. There was no internet. She couldn’t just google. She’d thought she’d have to be running twenty miles several times a week. Which is what she did. Which is why she was always tearing this or that.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Even so, she told herself, now trotting along a sidewalk, you can do this. It wasn’t until her forties that she’d discovered that a total of fifty miles a week was sufficient preparation as long as she ran something over ten miles once a week. And by her forties, she’d been doing that for almost twenty years. So she ran her first marathon. At forty-five. Finished in under four hours.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">As she approached the intersection, she could feel her heart still pounding, her lungs still straining. Okay, so you don’t have the cardiovascular anymore, and you definitely don’t have the flexibility, you’ll be the tin man for days, but you’ve still got the strength. And the stamina. Because even at sixty, she’d been walking ten to fifteen miles every day, through the forest behind her cabin. You just have to get to forest, she told herself, you just have to lose whatever vehicles will be following you, and then you can walk. She stopped briefly to read the street signs, got her bearings, and was relieved to find herself at the south end of the city. She headed left. She could cut through the Walmart parking lot, then it was just a short bit to Seymour, which was the first exit, if you were coming from the south. She was jogging now. Limping, actually. It had been years since she’d run on sidewalk, on pavement. She was going to have shin splints. For the rest of her life if she didn’t get into forest soon. Scrub bush, at least.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">But she would be. Soon. There was forest on both sides of the highway all the way from her cabin to North Bay. Ergo, she grinned, all the way from North Bay to her cabin. It was 80km by highway. Probably more if she stuck to the forested edges. She could do 20km a day. She’d be home in four days. She could find safe places to sleep along the way … Thank god it wasn’t winter. The bear would be hibernating, but there would be wolves, and coyotes had moved up from the south … Though, now that she thought about it, they were unlikely to live, or hunt, this close to the highway.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">A year ago, she would’ve just hitch-hiked. A year ago, she was stupid. Out of step. Behind the times. Now, she understood that there was a good chance that anyone who stopped to pick her up would report her. Unless it was a woman who stopped. But, she grimaced, it could be illegal for women to drive now. It suddenly occurred to her that an unescorted woman might attract attention. Especially a sixty-year-old woman who was running. Even if she had been dressed for it. She abruptly slowed to a walk, her knees screaming.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">And then it occurred to her that she couldn’t go home. That would be the first place they looked. Well, she could set up some sort of alarm system, prepare an escape route … into the crawl space, maybe. No, wait! Sam had turned his little cottage into a year-round rental, then decided it was too much trouble, to manage the renting of it. She still had the key he’d given her when she’d confessed that she often stopped at his place on her way back, having paddled the ten mile stretch of river past the end of the lake, to sit and watch the sunset. “Have a beer while you’re here,” he’d said. “Make yourself at home.” Okay, she would, yes. She ventured a small smile.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">You can do this, she told herself again.

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span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">It had happened so quickly. One day, she was walking along the dirt lane, as she did every day, along the fifty metres from her cabin to the path that led deep into the forest, dressed as she always was, sweatshirt over a tshirt, baggy cotton cargo pants, thick socks, and track shoes. She had a small pack belted around her waist, that held her ID, a small pad of paper and a pen, an alarm and, in case that didn’t work, bear spray, and a flashlight if she did something stupid and took longer to get out. Bug spray in season. Earplugs for Thursdays when the gun club had their get-togethers, a shot every six seconds, echoing for miles and miles. Once when they’d started early, it had been sheer hell for the hour it took to get back inside her cabin, windows closed, music on.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">She hadn’t had to use the bear spray. A bear did catch her by surprise one day, as she no doubt did it, but it just growled and took off running. She’d also come across a momma bear and its two cubs, but they were far enough away that she noticed in time to stop. They were on the path ahead of her, the only way out, so she just stood there, patiently, to let them go where and when they wanted. Tassi had been so good, content to be held in her arms—they must’ve been upwind and too far away for her canine nose and eyes to notice them. After a while, she carried on, talking in a singsong voice to let Momma know where she was and, hopefully, to convey her harmlessness. That had always worked with the dogs who’d come charging at her on her long-distance runs. Back when.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">She’d also met a wolf one day. A juvenile by the way it was moving, so easily. It had been trotting along the path toward her, oh what a wonderful day—she’d been thinking pretty much the same thing—and when they rounded the curve to find themselves suddenly face to face, they both came to a sudden and complete halt. Astonished. As for her, also delighted. The creature was absolutely gorgeous, its coat a mix of cream, tan, and chestnut. It considered her, then simply turned around and trotted back the way it had come.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">The only other animal she’d come across—aside from the numerous, though decreasing numbers of, squirrels, rabbits, and grouse—was a young moose. Like the bear, it too had just taken off when it heard her.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">The day it happened, she was a few feet from the path when a car coming down the hill pulled up next to her. Was a time she’d’ve waited, ready to be helpful, to offer directions, to tell the driver ‘No, you can’t get to the highway from here, it’s a dead end, you have to go back—’

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Are you Kat Jones?” The uniformed man in the passenger seat had quickly gotten out to stand before her, blocking her way onto the path. He was young—that is to say, under forty—and clean-cut.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Yes.” So?

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Would you come with us, please?”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">What? “Why?”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">The uniformed man in the driver’s seat was also out. And standing behind her.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“We’ve received reports.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">This wasn’t making any sense. “Reports of what?”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">He flashed a badge. “You are hereby under arrest for Fraudulent Identity.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Under arrest? For what?”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Fraudulent Identity. Section 380(1) of the Criminal Code. Subsection 4(a). Gender Fraud.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">The second one reached for her arm before she had time to process— Certainly before she had time to get out her bear spray.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“You’re presenting as male,” the first one explained, “when, in fact, you’re female. That’s fraud. And a criminal offence.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">The second one pulled her arms behind her, bound her hands together with one of those black plastic zip ties she’d often used around her cabin, then forced her into the back seat. Just like that. Her world ended.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">It hadn’t even occurred to her to make a run for it.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">She never did find out who had reported her. It could have been Chuck, who lived down the lane. Nancy’s husband. When she’d left a print-out in their mailbox, informing them of the toxicity of the smoke that blew her way every time they burned their leaves—something they often did, forcing her inside—and there was no reason they couldn’t simply rake them into a corner of their one-acre lot and leave them to decompose—which was actually better, ecologically, than burning them—he’d been enraged. He’d knocked on her door and when she’d opened it—foolish, yes—he’d stepped inside without invitation and proceeded to yell at her, thrusting out his massive ex-footballer chest and punctuating his words with a jabbing finger. When she’d tried to respond, to engage in a civil conversation, he’d screamed at her to “Just Shut Up and Listen!” and a few moments later concluded his tantrum by calling her a cunt.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Or it could have been Mike, the guy who owned the property across the cove. When he started cutting down the trees along the shoreline, she’d called the Ministry to ask whether there were any by-laws against that. So the next time he saw her, he too screamed at her. Gave her a shove and called her a bitch. And kicked Tassi.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Or it could have been Alfred. He’d wanted to hire her to clean his house; she’d declined. She already had a job, with a company in Princeton, writing logical reasoning and critical reading questions for the GRE. He hadn’t known that. And why would he? It’s not like she walked around proclaiming it to the ‘hood, and no one had ever invited her to dinner or whatever. She didn’t … fit. He’d just assumed: she was a middle-aged woman, ergo.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Or it could have been Don, who owned the cottage two lots down from her and the empty lot next to her. She’d told him, thirty years ago, when she’d bought her cabin—a cabin on a lake in a forest!—that if he ever wanted to sell the empty lot, she’d buy it. The previous summer, she’d had occasion to speak to him because he kept letting his dog crash his way through her fence—admittedly a sorry affair of chicken wire strung from tree to tree—but it did the job, which was to keep Tassi safe inside—with the added bonus of being virtually invisible. His dog was big and young and unruly, whereas Tassi was relatively small and, by then, elderly. And although the dog’s intent was to play, Tassi would’ve been hurt if Kat hadn’t intervened. Three days after she’d asked Don—yes, with some vehemence—to keep his dog on his own property, a ‘For Sale’ appeared on the empty lot, and when she’d called to make an offer, he said he had no intention of ever selling it to her. She’d been anxious for weeks, knowing that she’d have to move, give up her little paradise, if someone bought the lot for a permanent residence. They’d be too close: her solitude would be forever ruined. Even if they’d bought it just for seasonal use … If they had screaming kids or ATVs or snowmobiles or late night parties or used a generator instead of paying for an electrical hook-up … The sign eventually disappeared, and a year later someone told her he’d had no intention of selling it; he’d just wanted to upset her.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Or it could have been the guy who’d called out at her from his fume-belching ATV, when she was picking up the litter along the trail—as she often did, partly just to do her bit to keep the trails clean, but, eventually, mainly because she liked it better without the beer cans and the fast food containers and the cigarette butts—that it was ‘Good to see she was good for somethin’!’ She hadn’t understood the comment until it was explained it to her: the man had probably thought she was a lesbian and so, since she wasn’t any good for sex …

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Yes, she lived in what she privately called ‘a hostile neighbourhood.’ But to be honest, she wasn’t convinced it was just her neighbourhood. Men everywhere seemed to take offense when a woman spoke up, challenged them in some way. Or when she didn’t at least pretend to be sexually available to them. Women weren’t much better, either treating her like a kid, presumably because she wasn’t married with kids of her own, or treating her like she was, in some way, off-putting. She didn’t understand it. And yes, she was hurt by it.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">So yes, she’d become a hermit. At sixty, she’d had enough, quite enough, of her uneducated, thick-skulled, and downright dangerous neighbours. And as for the world beyond, she found kin online. Sites like I Blame the Patriarchy and Feminist Current became her community. They were frequented by intelligent women who offered insightful discussion. Women much like her, she imagined. Radfem, for the most part. Probably over forty, for the most part.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">And she was content. To live so alone. Though, actually, she didn’t live alone. Well, hadn’t lived alone until just recently. Tassi, her sole and constant companion, the love of her life, had died after fourteen years of happy, fourteen years of … sheer joy. A tumour had developed in her urethra. Malignant, aggressive, inoperable. Two months later, at the end of an absolutely wonderful day together, Kat had had her euthanized, to spare her the last stages of transitional cell carcinoma. And she was still … convalescing.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Maybe that’s why she hadn’t really noticed the car until it had pulled up beside her.

 

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Impact
Excerpt

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">A woman in her mid-twenties, wearing a simple blouse, skirt, and heels, waits in a room. A room that looks much like a cell, with its concrete floor, its concrete walls. She sits at a bare table. In an uncomfortable chair. She pulls a folder from her bag and lays it onto the table in front of her.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Two young men, both in their early twenties, both in prison garb—pity it’s not bright pink instead of bright orange—are brought in by guards who sit them in the two chairs opposite her, then cuff their hands to the heavy rings set into the table. They stare at her.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Who are you?” the first one finally asks.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">She stares back. Disbelief on her face. “Who am I?”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Yeah. Are you our new lawyer? Figures.” He snorts with disgust.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">He doesn’t recognize her. She looks at the second one. He too—   Do we really all look the same to you? Was it that simple? That horrible?

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“I’m the waitress at Bud’s Bar.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Oh yeah,” the first one says, after a moment, “you do look a little familiar.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“I’m the woman you assaulted. Sexually.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“No,” he says. Casually.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“What do you mean ‘No’?”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“We didn’t sexually assault anyone. Don’t know what you’re talking about,” he adds. Then looks at the second one. “Do you know what she’s talking about?”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">The second one shakes his head, grinning slightly. He’d like to cross his arms on his chest, but the shackles prevent it. Instead, he leans back as far as possible and spreads his legs far apart.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“That night, after closing,” she—reminds? No, can’t be. Insists.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“That was you? Okay, yeah …” The first one smiles. As if remembering a rather pleasant day at the beach.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“But,” he leans forward slightly and expresses genuine confusion, “you wanted it. Didn’t she?” He turns to his buddy for confirmation. Because it wasn’t really a question. “You remembered it wrong,” he turns back to her, then leans back. “As we said in court.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">No doubt. Victims were no longer required, forced, to face their assailants. In a public courtroom, no less. It was finally understood that the shame and intimidation could be too strong, too influential, span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">especially in cases of domestic abuse—a misnomer if ever, since there was nothing domestic about having your body beaten beyond recognition by the man you (thought you) loved, the man you married by choice.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Some had objected to the change, reasoning that if the victim didn’t have to look her or his assailant in the eye, she or he would feel free to embellish and fabricate.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">But other arguments had prevailed, and now victims presented their testimony in closed chambers with only the judge, the prosecuting attorney, and the defendants’ lawyers present. In some circumstances, span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">a friend or family member was allowed to be present for emotional support. span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">A recording was made and, if applicable, shown to the jury during deliberation. Testimony seemed as honest, as accurate, and not nearly as reluctantly given. There was talk of extending the change to all crimes.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“I didn’t remember it wrong!” she says with some vehemence. “It was raining. You offered me a ride.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“And you said ‘Yes,’” he says. Smugly. She is so naïve.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“To the ride! Not to sex!” Did they really think that consent to the one meant consent to the other? That when a woman accepted a ride—or an invitation to a party, or a drink, or dinner … Perhaps. After all, men defined … everything. She sighed.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“As I recall,” the first one continues, “you said ‘Yes, please’.” He grins. Case closed.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">And yet, here they were.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Did you hear me say ‘Yes’?” she asks. “To the sex.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Didn’t hear you say ‘No,’“ the first one snickers.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“But I did. Say ‘No.’ Several times. Loudly. Clearly.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Didn’t hear you,” he says. Cheerfully. Definitively.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Besides which,” she ignores that, tries to ignore that, “it’s not like the default is consent. You don’t assume ‘Yes’ unless otherwise indicated. You assume ‘No’ unless otherwise indicated.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Well, maybe we can just agree to disagree about that,” he smiles. It’s such a patronizing smile.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">She tries to ignore that as well.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Do you figure you have the right to just walk into someone’s house without an invitation? Walk down their halls, into their rooms … “ She shuddered. Every time—   She’d have to move.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">He doesn’t respond. It was a stupid question. That was break and enter.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Do you think the rules are ‘It’s okay unless the person says it’s not’?” she persists.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Again, he doesn’t respond.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Then what makes you think you have the right to come into my body without an invitation?”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">They refuse to accept the analogy. She knew they would. A woman’s body isn’t a house. It’s public property. That was part of why contraception and abortion were … issues.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Of course, she doesn’t accept the analogy either. Her body wasn’t her house. It was her. And after such a … violation, she couldn’t just move.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“So, what, we have to ask now?” He stares at her in disbelief.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">What? She stares at him in disbelief. “Yes!” Why was that so … objectionable?

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Ah. To ask for permission is a sign of weakness.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Then again,” she reconsiders, “no. Because if you have to ask whether a woman wants you, she probably doesn’t. If she wants you, she’ll move toward you, rather than away from you. For starters.” How clueless were these guys?

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">And then it occurs to her. Neither one of them had probably ever made love. Or even made like. They had never engaged in simple, mutual pleasuring.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">So they honestly didn’t know. They genuinely thought this was the way it was supposed to be. Because it was all they’d ever seen. In the porn they no doubt watched. It was all they’d ever heard about. From their bragging buddies.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Why is rape something to brag about?

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Even if they’d gone to a prostitute—   Most are raped while on the job.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">What these guys needed were a few sessions with a sex therapist.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Absent love, or even friendship, genuine friendship, between young men and women, that might lead to affectionate sexual interaction …

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">But the male-female divide was so great now—walk into any toy store—it was nearly impossible to cross over and just talk to someone on the other side. Surely a prerequisite. What would they talk about? All they knew about the other, all they’d been told, by television, by advertisements …

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Worse, all they knew about the other’s sexuality, informed not just by porn, but also, even, by the ubiquitous pop music saturating their lives, pumping them full of sexualized energy—it was a far cry from the Pointer Sisters singing about a slow hand …

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">’Course even back then, did men listen to the Pointer Sisters? They laughed at Barry White.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“We didn’t mean to hurt you,” the second one speaks up. “We just meant to have a little fun.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">What? She stares at him. Surely they’ve seen the photographs. (Though even absent physical injury …) Their lawyer must have presented that evidence during a pre-trial meeting. The prosecutor would surely have presented that evidence during the trial. Maybe they had their eyes closed. Their heads stuck in the sand.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">She opens the folder and spreads the eight-by-tens onto the table in front of them. Like tarot cards.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Does that look like fun? For me?” she has to add.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">The first one glances at the photographs, then looks up at her. He shrugs. He has no idea what she considers fun. It’s not really his concern, is it.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">The second one’s eyes widen before he looks away.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">She repeats her question. “Does that look like I’m having fun?”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">No, of course not. When people, almost always men, said ‘We were just having fun,’ what they meant was ‘We don’t want to be held responsible for what we did’ or ‘We didn’t think it through.’

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Sorry,” the first one shrugs. “Is that what you want to hear? Is this one of those victims’ rights things? Are you here to tell us what bad boys we are?” He laughs and grins at his friend. Who grins back.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“No, I’m here to ask why.” It was another change. These meetings, these confrontations, between victim and perpetrator, were permitted as part of the process. Any recommendations, by the victim, regarding sentencing, would be taken into consideration.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Why did you rape me?” She asks the question.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Because we could,” the first one says. The second one giggles. Sort of.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">This is all just a big joke to them. She is just a big joke to them.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">One of the guards happens to pass by the door, so she signals to him. She needs a break.

 

 

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It Wasn't Enough
Excerpt

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">It Wasn't Enough

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;"> 

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Peg Tittle

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;"> 

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;"> 

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;"> 

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;"> 

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">One day, the women were gone.
It was … an opportunity.

 

span style="font-size: 14pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">1

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Timmy’s crying woke him up. Or maybe it was Tommy’s crying. Diane could always tell which one it was, but he never could. Even though there were two years between them.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Diane!” he called out to her. With annoyance. She must already be up, he thought, because she wasn’t in the bed beside him. Though, since they’d had an argument the night before—correction, another argument—that didn’t surprise him. She was spending more nights in the boys’ room these days. He’d told her that’s why she couldn’t leave. Because of the boys. He hadn’t meant it to come out like they were holding her hostage. But it did. He sometimes wondered if that’s why he’d pushed her to have kids. To make sure she didn’t leave. Because, truthfully, he didn’t really—oh he loved them, of course, they were his kids, but …

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Diane!” he called out again, more loudly. The other one had started crying as well.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Mommy …”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Mommy!

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">He groaned, then got up. It was time anyway. He glanced at the clock on the night table. Shit! Past time! No, no, no, he muttered as he raced to the shower, he couldn’t be late today, he was presenting his report to the Board at ten. He’d been working on it all week … Diane usually woke him—where the hell was she?

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">On his way to the bathroom, he saw that she wasn’t in the boys’ room. Timmy and Tommy were there, wailing away, but Diane was nowhere to be seen.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Diane!” he yelled. Damn it! He went into the room, picked Timmy up out of his crib, and started jostling him, trying to make him stop crying.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Shh, it’s okay, Daddy’s here …”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Where’s Mommy?” Tommy whined. “I want Mommy!

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">He carried Timmy out with him, Tommy close on his heels, glanced in the bathroom, then went downstairs. No Diane. Had she left after all? She would’ve gone to her parents’ place. He didn’t see a note, but he was sure there would be one. A long, scathing analysis of each of his many faults. A protracted description about how she was unhappy, unfulfilled, and—

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">At the moment, he had more pressing concerns. He’d have to get the boys ready and take them to daycare.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">He returned to the boys’ room, and started to—truthfully, he didn’t know their routine. He changed Timmy’s diaper. He helped Tommy go potty. He dressed them. He fed them. He dressed them again. It was all very difficult. Apparently he wasn’t doing anything right.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Juice!” Timmy had insisted.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Okay, here you go,” Andrew poured some juice into Timmy’s sippy cup and gave it to him. Timmy threw the cup onto the floor, and the juice seeped out.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Timmy!” He yelled at him then reached for a tea towel to wipe it up. Timmy started crying. Again.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Sorry, Daddy’s sorry,” he said, taking a cursory swipe at the spill, then lifting him out of his chair. Where the hell was Diane?

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Why isn’t Mommy here?” Tommy asked.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“I don’t know.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Why?”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Andrew ignored him.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“When’s Mommy coming home?” Tommy tried a different approach. And then, for good measure, wandered over to the stove.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“I don’t know, Tommy. Please sit and eat your cereal,” Andrew said. He’d put Timmy back in his chair and was wrestling with the coffee maker.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Don’t want to.” He ran his little fingers over the knobs. Andrew pulled him away and forced him into his chair. How was he supposed to take a shower let alone make a cup of coffee? He couldn’t turn his back on them for a minute …

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Eat!” He’d had enough. It was eight-thirty already.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“No!” Tommy threw his spoon onto the floor. And then his bowl of cereal.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">By nine o’clock, Andrew was finally ready to leave the apartment. He’d managed a two-minute shower, but not a shave. And not a cup of coffee. He put Timmy into the stroller, grabbed his laptop case, then went out the door to the elevator, making sure that Tommy was following. He bumped the door in his rush, and Timmy started crying again. Down the hallway, into the elevator—no, Tommy refused to get in. He seemed to have developed a fear of elevators that Andrew knew nothing about. So Andrew pushed the button to keep the doors open, set his laptop case onto the elevator floor beside the stroller, then went back out to pick him up.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">At the parking lot level, he managed to push the stroller out of the elevator without setting Tommy down. As soon as the doors closed, he realized he’d forgotten his laptop. Shit! He pressed the button immediately, but someone else must’ve beaten him to it. He waited anxiously, watching the floor indicators light up as the elevator ascended, stopped at the sixth floor, then started re-descending. It stopped again, at the lobby level—damn it, was some good Samaritan taking his laptop to the ‘Lost and Found’? Better that than stealing it, but—   When the doors opened, he was relieved to see that it was exactly where he’d left it.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">After putting the two boys into their car seats—almost a five-minute ordeal—Andrew drove out and into the street.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">At the first stoplight, he called Sharon, his assistant, to let her know he was running late. There was no answer.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">At the second stoplight, he called her again. Still no answer. Where the hell was she? He called general reception instead. Brittany or Brianna or whatever could get a message to Sharon. Again, no answer. What the hell? Was she too busy sitting there filing her nails? Actually, he thought a little shamefacedly, he’d never seen her sitting there filing her nails … He tossed the phone onto the passenger seat in disgust, then saw it slide off the seat and out of reach. Damn it!

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Where’s Mommy?” Tommy asked again.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“I don’t know!” Andrew said, again. “She went to Grammy’s.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Why?”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Andrew ignored him. Again.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">He was surprised to see some sort of traffic jam in the daycare parking lot. Since he was so late, he’d expected an empty lot. He figured all the moms would have been there and gone already. But no, the lot was a mess, with cars haphazardly pulled up around the door. And all he saw were dads.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Andrew slapped the steering wheel in frustration as he pulled up behind the part that most looked like a line. He didn’t have time for this today! He had An Important Meeting to get to!

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">He watched with some confusion as men got out of their cars, stomped to the door, kids in tow, only to stomp back to their cars, gesticulating and shouting at other men. After a few minutes, during which the car in front of him hadn’t moved at all, hadn’t been able to move, Andrew got out to see what the trouble was.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Fucking bitches musta gone on strike or something!” a man with a huge belly said. It occurred to Andrew, for the first time, to wonder whose kids his kids were playing with every day …

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Hey!” another one said sharply. “I’ll thank you for watching your language in front of my three-year old!” He put his arms protectively around a little red-haired boy.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“I’m jus’ sayin’—”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“I heard what you were jus’ sayin’,” the other man mocked, “and I doubt that’s true. I doubt the women even know each other.”

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Was everyone’s wife gone? Is that what had happened? Or was the guy just talking about the daycare staff—

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Wouldn’t they though?” a bearded man spoke up. “Know each other? I mean, if it’s always our wives who drop off our kids …” he trailed off. A strike didn’t seem plausible, but …

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“My wife has no reason to go on strike,” the watch-your-language man said. Smugly, Andrew thought. And, given that, probably incorrectly.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“Is there no one here?” Andrew asked then, walking up to try the door. As if he was the only one with brains enough to have thought to do that.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">The door was locked. Of course.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Andrew stood around for another minute, trying to figure it out, but then decided there was no more information to be had, so he went back to his car. He’d have to take the boys to work with him.

 

 

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Just Think about It
Excerpt

span style="font-size: 14pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Canada Day – Are you sure you want to celebrate?span style="font-size: 14pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;"> 

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Before you get all patriotic and fly your little Canadian flags in celebration of Canada Day and, presumably, of being Canadian, think about it. Are you really proud to be:

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">• the second worst of all the industrialized countries when it comes to sulfur dioxide emissions

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">• the second worst when it comes to carbon monoxide emissions

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">• the third worst when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions (we pump out 48% more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than the OECD average, up about 13% since 1990, in violation of our international commitments)

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">• the fourth worst when it comes to producing ozone-depleting stuff

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">• the second worst with regard to per capita water consumption

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">• the third worst when it comes to per capita energy consumption

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">• the second worst when it comes to energy efficiency

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">• not even in the top ten with regard to garbage production per person (we’re 18th out of 27) (and we’re 24th out of 25 for glass recycling, 21st out of 28 for paper and cardboard recycling)

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">• when it comes to producing nuclear waste, we’re #1!! Yay!! We produce more nuclear waste per person than any other OECD country!!

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">In short, we are hogs. We are stupid, don’t-give-a-damn pigs. We’re the ones to blame for so much of this climate change – the heat waves, the floods, the droughts, the high food prices. Our fault. Yup, fly your little flag. That’s it, wave it, smile … Ya stupid idiot.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;"> 

 

*****

span style="font-size: 14pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">“I killed you. Killed you too. Got you.”

 

span style="font-size: 14pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">In the Library.

 

span style="font-size: 14pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;"> 

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">So I was working in my local public library the other day – well, trying to work. I was distracted by the kid on the computer next to me who was playing a computer game. My first point. Is it appropriate for kids to be allowed to play computer games on the computers in public libraries? I suggest that libraries are repositories of knowledge that people peruse to borrow or access on-site. Given that, playing computer games should not occur in a public library. Libraries aren’t entertainment centers. [1] Yes, perusing and accessing knowledge can be fun. But that doesn’t mean that that which is fun is necessarily perusing or accessing knowledge.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Furthermore, the kid was continuously commenting, not in a particularly loud voice, but certainly loud enough for me, sitting next to him, to hear. My second point. Goes along with the intense irritation I experienced while in the university library a few weeks ago, unable to search the stacks for what I was seeking (books containing arguments) because someone in one of the nearby carrels was talking on her cellphone. Not an emergency conversation, mind you, but a mundane hi-yeah-so-like-whatever one. Given that libraries are repositories of knowledge that one either peruses to borrow or accesses on site – both of which often require mental effort, requiring concentration, which is inhibited by the distraction of talking aloud – both the kid’s running commentary and the cellphone conversation should not have occurred.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;">Further still, the kid’s comments were “I killed you. Killed you too. Got you. Killed you.” and so on. Not only distracting, but disturbing. My third point? Given that the library is indeed a public library, and not withstanding what I’ve said elsewhere, I think there may be grounds for censorship – could that be considered “hate speech” or “disturbing the peace”? It’s bad enough that the kids’ parents are irresponsibly unaware of the damage being done to their kids, not to mention to the rest of us, by allowing such activity (it desensitizes the kid to death, and it forms an association between killing and fun/entertainment), but there is no excuse for public librarians to be so unaware. And, given the public status (and funding) of the library, they have grounds for acting on their awareness.

 

span style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;"> 

 

 

 

span style="font-size: 9pt; font-family: "Times New Roman", serif;"> 

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More Shit that Pisses Me Off
Excerpt

Whose Violence?

I read the other day that “Violence in our society continues to be a problem.” One, duh. Two, no wonder. We haven't even got it named right yet.

“Violence in our society.” It sounds so—inclusive. So gender-inclusive. But about 85% of all violent crime is committed by men. The gangs are made up of men, the bar brawls are fought by men, the corner stores are held up by men, the rapists are men, the muggers are men, the drive-by shooters are men. This is sex-specific. The problem is male violence.

So it does no good to look at ‘society', to look at our schools, our workplaces, our televisions. We need to look at our boys. We need to look at how we raise them—to become men. Because our girls don't grow up to commit assault and homicide on a regular basis.

For starters, let's admit that we stunt their emotional growth. From day one, we encourage outright denial: big boys don't cry. They don't cuddle and hug either. So hurt, pain, love, and affection are—not cards in the deck they're playing with.

And then there's the development of empathy. A grade eleven male student once told me that I'd wrecked hunting for him, because I'd described in some detail the awful last few hours of a wolf that'd been shot. The boy said he'd never thought about it before. Seventeen years old, carrying a loaded gun, and he's never thought about it? I guess Bambi's become a chick flick, has it? (It's no wonder, of course—you can't imagine in another what you can't even see, won’t even see, in yourself.)

As any reflective human being will know, hurt and anger reside pretty close to each other. So if you're blind to the hurt, all you'll recognize is the anger. And anger seems to need explosive expression—if not verbal, then physical. Which brings us to communication skills. As any teacher will tell you, boys lag behind girls in language skills. Why is this? Even if it is innate (a boys-are-better-at-spatial-tasks-girls-are-better-at-verbal-tasks thing), well, that's just a reason for doing more, not less, with boys and communication skills. Because if they can't talk about, they will fight about it.

And let's look at nature. What if male violence isn't the result of a double standard in nurture? What if it's the testosterone? Or the Y chromosome itself? Then maybe it's the men we should be over-tranquillizing. If we can manipulate estrogen levels, surely we can control testosterone levels.

Of course, you're horrified at the thought of such chemical castration. Well, hell, I'm horrified at the fact that we have an epidemic of violence that's clearly sex-linked and everyone seems to be busy oohing and aahing at the emperor's new clothes. The truth is masculinity (as we seem to have defined it) kills.

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No End to the Shit that Pisses Me Off
Excerpt

To the Morons who wear Make-up

First, there's the ageism you're perpetuating: make-up is intended, to a large degree, to make one look younger. In many respects, younger is better, but in many respects, it isn't (and anyway, make-up merely gives one the appearance of being younger). True, at some point in time, being old is completely the pits, but hey, that's life, deal with it—without delusion or deception (or implied insult).

Second, if make-up were merely intended to (attempt to) make one beautiful, well, I suppose there's no harm in that—the world can always use a little more beauty. However, I despair at the pathetically low aesthetic standards in use if a blue eyelid is considered beautiful—let's at least see a glittering rainbow under that eyebrow arch! Further, I despair at the attention to beauty of skin if at the expense of beauty of character.

However, make-up is intended as much, if not more, to (attempt to) make one sexually attractive. (To some extent, I suppose physical beauty is sexually attractive, but that suggests a very narrow definition of beauty: a dog running full-out is beautiful but not, at least to me, sexually attractive.) (It also suggests a very narrow definition of sexual attractiveness, for its emphasis on appearance.) I'm thinking, for example, of reddened (and puckered) lips—what is that but an advertisement for fellatio? Consider too the perfume (especially if it's musk rather than floral), and the earrings (earlobes as erogenous zones), and the bras that push up and pad—all are part of the woman's morning grooming routine, her 'getting ready' (that phrase itself begs the question 'Ready for what?') ('Sex!').

Now there's nothing wrong with being sexually attractive per se. But there is something wrong—something sick—about wanting to be bait (sexually attract-ive) all day long. Especially when those same women complain about the attention they receive for their sexual attractiveness—the looks, the comments, the invitations (can you say 'sexual harassment'?) Not only is there a serious self-esteem problem here, there's a serious consistency of thought problem here.

Third, combine the first point with the first part of the second point and we see another problem: make-up endorses the '(only) young is beautiful' attitude.

Combine the first point with the second part of the second point: make-up endorses the '(only) young is sexually attractive' attitude.

Add the shaved legs and armpits (and eyeliner, for that big baby doe-eyed look?), and we see we're not just talking 'young' as in twenty years old but 'young' as in pre-pubescent (only pre-pubescents are hairless, only pre-pubescents have such smooth skin). And that's really disturbing—to establish/reinforce the sexual attractiveness of pre-pubescents.

Why is it (we think) men find young women, girls, sexually attractive? I doubt it's just the 'heathy for childbearing' thing. Because actually, it's not healthy for girls to bear children, and it's not even possible for pre-pubescents to do so. (And it's not like the men follow up in nine months to claim their progeny.) (But then I'm assuming rational behaviour here.)

I suspect it's the power thing. Men can have power over, feel superior to, children more easily than adults. So in addition to encouraging child sexual abuse, women who shave their legs and otherwise appear/act prepubescent are reinforcing the 'sex as power' instead of 'sex as pleasure' attitude (though of course I guess for many men power is pleasure).

Last, compounding all of this is the custom that only women wear make-up. Which reinforces the whole patriarchy thing: the women are sexual objects while the men are sexual subjects. ('Course, without make-up, the loss of about 20 pounds, and, well, major surgery, most men couldn't cut it as sexual objects anyway.)

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Sexist Shit that Pisses Me Off
Excerpt

Mr. and Ms.

I'm in this world, okay, and the people identify each other by sex. All the time. It's like 'Female Person Smith' and 'Male Person Brown' or 'Person-with-Uterus Smith' and 'Person-with-Penis Brown' – I don't know the exact translation. But sex-identity is a mandatory prefix. They distinguish males from females. Before they do everything else. Before they do anything else.

It bothers me. It irritates me. It pisses me off. What's so damned special about my sex that it has to be part of my name? Surely my values, my interests, my abilities, my character – these aspects define my self more than my sex does.

And anyway, shouldn't I be the one to decide what parts of my self are important enough to be part of my name? Maybe I want to be identified by my ovaries, but maybe I want to be identified by my occupation. Hell, maybe I want to identified by my blood type.

The thing is, they consider it polite. Polite! To draw such relentless attention to details of my anatomy! In fact, they think that to call someone by just their name, without the penis/uterus prefix, is rude. So it's really hard to say anything. And it's even harder to do anything. I tried just saying "Dave" one time and everybody turned and stared at me. No kidding. I tried to hold my ground, but I heard myself say "Sorry, I mean, 'Mr. Brown'." And everybody smiled with relief.

I even tried variations once. I thought if I loosened up the custom a bit, it'd be easier to get rid of it altogether. Sort of like food that's dried onto dishes you haven't washed in a week.

So next time, I put on my best smile and said "Dickhead Brown". Everybody turned and stared. Worse than last time. Again, I found myself saying "Sorry, I meant 'Penis Person, Male Person, Mr. Brown'."

Surely this can't be good, this obsessive marking of sex, this insistent separating of human beings into male and female. Talk about paving the superhighway to sex discrimination. I wanted to shout "Look, it's not like it has to be this way!" Why not just call people by their names, 'Dave' or 'Mary'? Too familiar for the formality-prone. Then how about using their surname, 'Brown' or 'Smith'? Too rude for the etiquette-addicted. How about an all-purpose sex-neutral prefix like 'Doctor' but without the professional implications; how about just 'Person' – 'Person Brown' and 'Person Smith'? As for the pronoun problem, they already have a sex-neutral pronoun: 'it'. But, stupidly, it's reserved for animals. Go figure. In this world, animals are accorded the respect of a sex-free identity, but people aren't.

 

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Shit that Pisses Me Off
Excerpt

You Oughtta Need a Licence for That

We have successfully cloned a sheep; it’s not unreasonable, then, to believe we may soon be able to create human life. Despite Frankenstein visions of a brave new world, I'm sure we'll develop carefully considered policies and procedures to regulate the activity.

For example, I doubt we'll allow someone to create his own private workforce or his own little army.

And I suspect we'll prohibit cloning oneself for mere ego gratification.

Doing it just because it's fun will certainly be illegal. And I expect it won't even be imaginable to do it 'without really thinking about it', let alone 'by accident'.

I suspect we'll enforce some sort of quality control, such that cloned human beings shall not exist in pain or be severely 'compromised' with respect to basic biological or biochemical functioning.

And I suspect one will have to apply for a license and satisfy rigorous screening standards. I assume this will include the submission, and approval, of a detailed plan regarding responsibility for the cloned human being; surely we won't allow a scientist to create it and then just leave it on the lab's doorstep one night when he leaves.

Thing is, we can already create human life. Kids and addicts do it every day.

And though we've talked ourselves silly and tied ourselves in knots about ending life—active, passive, voluntary, coerced, premeditated, accidental, negligent—we’ve been horrendously silent, irresponsibly laissez-faire, about beginning life.

We wouldn’t accept such wanton creation of life if it happened in the lab. Why do we condone it when it happens in bedrooms and backseats?

It should be illegal to create life, to have kids, in order to have another pair of hands at work in the field or to have someone to look after you in your old age.

It should be illegal to create a John Doe Junior to carry on the family name/business.

It should be illegal to have kids because, well, it just sort of happened, you didn't really think about it.

And it isn't possible to create life 'by accident'—men don't accidentally ejaculate into vaginas and women don't accidentally catch ejaculate with their vaginas. (As for failed contraception, there's follow-up contraception.)

And it should be illegal to knowingly create a life that will be spent in pain and/or that will be severely substandard.

As for the screening process, we already do that for adoptive/foster parents. Why do we cling to the irrational belief that biological parents are necessarily competent parents—in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? We have, without justification, a double standard.

Oh but we can't interfere with people's right to reproduce! Right to reproduce? Merely having a capability doesn’t entail the right to exercise that capability. (Re)Production, with its attendant responsibilities, should be a privilege, not a right.

And yes of course, this proposal, this argument for parenting licenses, opens the door for all sorts of abuses. For starters, who will design and administer the screening process? But look around: it's not as if the current situation is abuse-free. In fact, millions of the little human lives we've created so carelessly are being starved, beaten, or otherwise traumatized. Millions.

To be succinct: the destruction of life is subject to moral and legal examination; so too should be the creation of life, whenever and however it occurs.

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Still More Shit that Pisses Me Off
Excerpt

Dr. Frankenstein, meet Dr. Spock

Thanks to genetic research, we may soon see people making sure their kids are born-to-succeed, parents paying to guarantee their kids have the right stuff. I'm not talking about a straightened spine or a functional optic nerve. I'm talking about designer kids: those made with healthy bodies, intelligent minds, and perhaps a certain specific ability or two to boot.

First, success isn't happiness. Let's be clear about that at the start.

Second, having intelligence or ability is not nearly as important as knowing what to do with it. So success isn't necessarily goodness either.

Third, this ain't a meritocracy. Sure, there are certain attributes that are favoured, but as far as I can tell, intelligence and ability aren't among them. Sex is. Colour is. And a certain freedom from physical abnormality. And yes, tall men, especially those with deep voices, get more respect than short ones who squeak. But at best, these are necessary attributes. They are certainly not sufficient attributes.

Success more often depends on being in the right place at the right time. Have we found the good luck gene yet? Success also depends on who you know. The schmooze gene? And who you know often depends on how much money you have. In which case, the kids of people rich enough to design them don’t need to be designed.

The thing is this: only to the extent that our genes control us should we get excited about controlling them. Those advocating, and fearing, genetic engineering for its designer kids application seem to be forgetting that we are products of both nature and nurture. There are many people whose natural intelligence remained undeveloped for lack of encouragement or crippled because of excess criticism. There are many with great bodies who were not even allowed to try out for the team. How many Beethovens have we lost because a kid with musical ability was introduced to practice as punishment? How many recess geniuses were never told on career day about life as a diplomat?

True, if everyone's going to be creating tall, smart, white men, then we will experience loss of diversity—which is the kiss of death for any species. But we're way past kisses. As a species, we've been fucked for a long time.

To judge by what comes out of our education system, as well as what goes into it (listen to any grade one teacher), we don't have the nurture bit under control. At all. So why jump up and down about controlling the nature part?

Ah—because we don't have the nurture bit under control.

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Ethical Issues in Business

Ethical Issues in Business

Inquiries, Cases, and Readings
edited by Peg Tittle
edition:Paperback
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