Monday, 29 September 2014

Gender Equality and #HeForShe

Gender equality and feminism gets very complicated very quickly and many people (myself included) are afraid to speak up or discuss this issue because we are concerned that we may get something wrong or offend someone.  We don't take the time to become truly informed about how others are treated based on their gender so instead we choose to be silent.  I am ashamed at times that I do not speak louder and I have only just begun to understand the privalege that I have to be a white, cis, male, married, have two kids and live in a typical sub-division home.  I have never before understood (nor do I claim that I fully understand now) the impact of my privilege or how life might be different if those characteristics of myself did not exist.  I am inspired to write this post because of Emma Watson's #HeForShe speech at the UN.

For those of you who are new to the idea of privilege I would encourage you to go and take a look at this blog post by Jeremy Dowsett, What my bike has taught me about white privilege. Dowsett discusses racial inequality and one way to understand it. I would encourage you to read the article and his follow up post. Inequality of any group for whatever the reason results in a breakdown of society and a lack of progress in our world.  Ms. Watson graciously lays out the major inequality between men and women and that inequality needs to be addressed. She advocates for the need to stop seeing equality as a He vs. She debate. Both men and women can be confined by their gender and this is where the conversation needs to be.  For more on this project I would encourage you to visit  I visited the site and I made a commitment to gender equality. When I visited the page and made my commitment I was number 78 668.

As of October 29, 2014 this number has climbed to 160 342.  I am encouraged by this and I am challenged.  I continue to learn everyday that I need to unlearn patterns of behaviour that I have unconsciously adopted.
My most recent challenge is to stop complimenting people, women specifically, solely on their appearance.  I always believed that I was doing a good thing by complimenting people on looks and appearance but these things can easily slide into an offensive category if you have not already developed a relationship with them. The typical male backlash on this idea is why is it wrong to tell someone they look good.  My response is that it isn't wrong in its own right but if that is the only positive thing that you notice about someone then you are fully missing the point. We are all extremely complex individuals and our outward appearance is only one small part of what makes us who we are. People want to feel loved and they want to know that those they care about find them attractive.  Your goal is to make people feel valued.  I know that I feel valued when someone notice the work that I have accomplished or the support I have provided, I feel valued when I am asked for my opinion.  How do you feel valued? How can you make others feel valued? For those that are close to you, you would hope they notice that you made a slight change to your appearance but to everyone else this is not a relevant point.  This is the time where I remind you that I do not understand what it is like to be a women in today's culture with such high emphasis placed on a physical appearance.  All I know is that I need to concentrate on placing more focus on the person and their skills and abilities and less on their physical dimensions.

To expand the point of equality, we all have to fight for equality between all groups of people.  If you do not fight for equality when you are in a position of privilege or power when that position becomes compromised no one will be fighting for you.  If history has taught us anything we know that your position in society or the influence that your particular demographic holds is in no way going to stand forever.  Beyond this equality is the right thing to do. Fight for religious, gender, and racial equality now, identify your privilege, learn from it and support and fight for others with it.  Fight for your mothers, daughters, sisters, neighbours and strangers.  Equality.

Ms. Watson has stood up for something and she has been criticised, shamed and even threatened for it.  I know that I will never received the same type of criticisms which is why I need to stand up and state the system we have now is massively broken.  Not only do we have to stand and say enough, but we have to call out that guy who makes the ignorant remarks.  Make a point that this is not how we develop a equal and fair society. This is my challenge and this is my commitment. I stand for equality, what do you stand for?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Waterloo are you up for a challenge?

Waste management is something that I have been thinking a lot about recently.  Our famiy just finished up a self-imposed challenge to produce 1 bag of garbage for an entire year.  We recycled, used our green bin and modified our buying habits resulting in a successful completion of what we challenged ourselves to do.  If you are interested in more about our 12 month challenge you can read One Family, One Bag, One Year.  We had meant to blog a bit more but life got in the way.  The challenge itself was rather natural for us and we were able to complete it without  as much stress as we originally thought.  The stress came in when everyone wanted a piece of this story. We all know the phrase "Haters gonna Hate" but the impact is significant when they are "hating" on you.

We were not prepared for the status our story would achieve nor were we prepared for negative comments that began popping up on online articles about us.  So we backed away from the attention the we received not wanting to do any more interviews. That being said we are still very proud of what we were able to do.

That was a significant tangent introduction but the inspiration for this post is the University of Western Ontario.  My wife and I recently took a trip to London and we saw amazing waste diversion and recycling opportunities in what appeared to be regular waste receptacles. To top it all off we also saw a simple garden composter in the garden in front of the Student Services building.   We saw all of these things being on campus for only a few minutes so I can only assume they are all over the UWO campus.

I am an alumni of the University of Waterloo and I have been a staff member for a long time and I am tremendously proud of Waterloo and the innovation that is sparked all around the region.  However, I think that UWO has us beat in waste diversion opportunities and I am thinking we need to step it up.  I am reminded of an old memo that is hanging on a bulletin board in our work area that talks about Waterloo's Fine Paper Recycling System and how the university has been selling paper recycling for many years instead of paying for it to be sent to a land fill.  I wonder what kind of other opportunities we could find if we followed Western's example.

I am encouraged by many businesses who have started using new garbage bins that encourage people to sort out waste to improve our waste diversion throughout our region. Now the next trick is to get people to read and follow the directions.