Me Too

So. Harvey Weinstein. We know what happened and how he is now trying to run away and claim that he is a “sex addict” (he is not), and people on the internet are parading out the “Billy Graham Rule” for interacting with women and saying “if he had never been alone with a woman none of this would have happened”. Which is 100% absolute bullshit. Here’s the thing: he often wasn’t alone with the women he sexually harassed. Also, here’s a suggestion, just a thought I had, instead of never meeting alone with women, maybe he should’ve just not masturbated in front of them, not told them to sleep with him or he wouldn’t hire them, not been a serial sexual predator. I’ve been in charge of people and here’s the thing: it was extremely easy not to masturbate in front of them. So easy! I just: didn’t do it.

For those who don’t know what the Billy Graham Rule is, here it is: a man who abides by this rule won’t ever meet alone with a woman other than his wife. Here’s why I hate this bullshit rule: it posits that men are insatiable sexual predators who don’t understand boundaries or morality, and frames women as causing sexual assault. Know who causes sexual assault? People who commit sexual assault. Know who is capable of controlling themselves? Men. Know who isn’t responsible for someone else assaulting them? Women.

And guess what else! The times in my life that I have been the most afraid of someone who was sexually harassing me were all times when there were at least four people present. That didn’t stop men from leering at me, propositioning me, invading my personal space, and making me afraid that this time would be the time that he would follow me off the train platform and would end with me having a rape kit that would,  of course, never get tested because the world hates women. Fun fact: there have been police forces that have thrown out untested rape kits because they were taking up space.

Here’s the thing. Men who harass or assault women shouldn’t have any friends. Their social circles should fall apart. Women are human beings, these men make a habit of attacking them, and they should not have the social license to do so. Here’s how I know this ideal friendlessness doesn’t happen: my own life experience. Let me tell a story from when I was working at the Jubilee. I was going to start this next sentence by describing what I was wearing when this incident occurred, but guess what, it absolutely does not matter what I was wearing, because what I wear does not control the actions of others. It also does not matter that I was polite when this happened, because politeness is a protective measure, and is not an invite, nor is it consent.

I was working at the Jubilee, and a group of men came up to my bar. There were about four of them, but two stood out. One of them was somewhat tipsy and proceeded to make suggestive comments, to try to get closer to me across the bar, to imply that I should have sex with him later, and to leer at my chest. I was polite as well as clearly uncomfortable. When their drinks were made and they were leaving, his friend gave me a twenty dollar tip and an apology for the behaviour of his friend. Here is a man who saw his friend sexually harassing a woman who could not escape and did the sum total of jack shit to stop him, and then gave her money to soothe away his own guilt. I know he knew the actions of his friend were wrong because he apologized: so why didn’t he say something in the moment?

Pop quiz:

Who were the guilty parties in this scenario? Was it a) me, because I’m a lady, b) the man who did the sexual harassing, or c) the man who stood quietly by and watched as something he knew was wrong happened and did nothing to stop it? If you answered “b and c”, you are correct. If you answered “a”, you might still be mad that women in Canada are now considered Persons and not Chattel.

What on earth possesses people to excuse or ignore sexual harassment while it is happening? What is the excuse for that? The man who sexually harassed me faced zero consequences, social or otherwise. In fact, I was the one who suffered because of his actions! Me! I was just doing my job and some asshole thinks it’s okay to sexually harass me, to make me afraid to go clean up later because what if he’s out there? But whyever would he think that?!? Maybe because his friends stand right there and do NOTHING TO STOP HIM AND THEN CONDONE HIS ACTIONS BY THINKING THAT A TWENTY DOLLAR BILL WILL MAKE THINGS RIGHT. Here’s what should have happened: nothing. It should have been a smooth transaction in which goods and services are exchanged for money and no one is made afraid because a man who sexually harasses women shouldn’t have any friends to go to the theatre with in the first place. Barring that, the man’s three friends should have immediately stepped in, rebuked and stopped him, and then promptly left the theatre with him and in so doing removed the threat.

One of the reasons that women don’t come forward about sexual assault is because they have had experiences where men dismiss what has happened and defend their friends. Oh, he didn’t mean it. He was just drunk. He thinks it’s funny. He’s really quite harmless. Women’s experiences are brushed off, and then women blamed for what happened: “well, she shouldn’t have been alone with him.” But what if she wasn’t alone with him? What if his pals were there? What then? Since apparently having other people there is barely a deterrent for sexual predators, it is clear to me that we need to examine the social structures that sexual predators exploit in order to carry on harassing and assaulting women.

You have two choices.

  1. Commit to immediately calling out and rebuking sexual harassment and misogyny when you see it or hear it. I am fully aware that this is awkward and uncomfortable and might kill the vibe at the party. I’ve sat and repeated to a man “I just don’t think jokes about beating women are funny” while shaking and turning red and wishing none of this had happened. After you call someone out, warn your female friends about him, and exhort your male friends to rebuke harassment when they see it.
  2. Stop being friends with men who harass or assault women. Stop silently standing by while men attack women. It may not be as easy as avoiding masturbating in front of people (again, SO EASY), but you can do this. You can cut him out of your life. If he asks you why, here’s a script: “I cannot hang out with you or be your friend because you sexually harass and assault women, and I cannot condone that in any way. Get help. Goodbye.” And then warn your female friends about him, and exhort your male friends to shun his company.

If I lived in Australia, I would have voted yes.

I have been thinking about writing this post for months. I kept not writing it because it seemed too controversial and it wasn’t my country. I also worried that maybe I wouldn’t be able to explain myself well enough and people would not fully understand my perspective and jump to conclusions about my beliefs or about me. But it has been months and it is still nagging in the back of my mind. Also every time I see a friend on Facebook post about voting ‘no’ it hurts my heart. So I guess I’m going to write it.

(Also, while this is sort of prompted by the vote in Australia and I write it in a sort of response to that, it is by no means directed only at Australians who voted ‘no’. I would direct it at an christians who hold the belief that gay marriage should be illegal, I know that there are plenty of them here in Canada too.)

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If I lived in Australia I would have voted yes in the plebiscite. Here’s why.

First off, to me this is a civil liberties issue, not a religious preference issue. This is a vote to decide whether or not the government will recognize and allow same-sex marriage, not a vote to decide whether or not the church will allow and recognize same-sex marriage. The church and the state are separate.

In my mind, this is a significant distinction. It is not a question of whether or not the church thinks that a person can be in a same-sex relationship and be christian in good standing. It is a question of whether or not LGBT people in a secular society deserve the same civil rights and liberties as straight people.

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I have seen quite a few Facebook posts and videos and other such things with the “It’s okay to vote no” slogan. I have watched a few of those videos and read a few of those posts and the resounding message that seemed to be being shared was “I’m voting no because Jesus loves you.” I’m having a hard time believing that is true.

Please bear in mind that we have already established that this is not a church-condoning vote, but a secular state-condoning vote. I would like to first bring to your attention 1 Corinthians 5. I would encourage you to read the whole chapter. It was written by Paul and in this chapter he is addressing sexual immorality in the Corinthian church. I am most interested in verses 9-12. Specifically verse 12, which says  What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” If you read the whole chapter he sets a very clear distinction between how you are supposed to treat those outside the church as opposed to those inside the church. If someone is not a christian, why are you trying to hold them to your christian standards? This is the “you can’t have a doughnut because I am on a diet” argument at its worst. 

Secondly, I would like to bring up the issue of laws themselves. The bible makes it clear that following rules is not what saves us or makes us holy (Galatians 3:11 “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”). Instead, the law shows us that we are sinful (Romans 3:20 “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” / Romans 7:7 “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.'”). But we are saved by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”).

You know who got caught up in making rules and made their religion into a legalistic mass of laws people had to follow to be saved? The Pharisees.

Let me share a small personal anecdote. A few years ago I was working at a christian summer camp. That summer we were specifically trying to deal with an ongoing modesty issue we had. And by modesty issue, I mean that there was a widely held assumption that the women were responsible for preventing men from stumbling and an unwritten expectation that they would wear t-shirts at all times over their bathing suits. We recognized that this was an issue. That, first of all, we were making a man’s issue (lust) into a woman’s problem. Also that there was this perpetuated t-shirt rule. “How can we fix this?” we thought. “I know,” someone suggested, “why don’t we just make everyone wear t-shirts over their bathing suits?” Then everyone would be under the rule and it wouldn’t be unequally targeting women. I can’t remember for sure if the someone who suggested it was me, I think it was, but I might have just jumped right up on board with someone else’s suggestion. I can’t remember for sure. All I know is that I legitimately thought it would solve the problem. And guess what, it didn’t. Not at all.

The rule, while made from a good intentions and a real intent to address the issue of the modesty double standard, just made things worse. People, men especially, revolted. We were called legalistic and really took a thrashing over it. Here’s what I learned. Rules don’t address motives, they only address action. Guess what Jesus said over and over in the Sermon on the Mount, “I don’t care about actions, I care about motives.” Okay, that’s a paraphrase, but I think it is accurate. So many of the statements follow the same structure, ‘You have heard this rule, but I tell you that what is going on in your heart matters more.’ It is not about whether or not you murder, it is about whether or not you hate. It is not about whether or not you cheat on your wife, it is about whether you lust.

Addressing the motive is much harder. It means you actually have to talk to people, you have to ask them what they are thinking and feeling and why they chose to act the way they did. It means that you have to take time to understand where they are coming from and how they are interpreting the bible verses you are talking about. To start actually fixing the modesty problem we had to scrap the rule that addressed the action and start dealing with the motive. We had to start talking about lust, about rape culture, and about how this problem has been perpetuated. We had to deal with problems on a case-by-case basis and be willing to take the time to have conversations with people when problems came up. It is much harder than simply implementing a rule. But these interactions now addressed the heart. These kinds of interactions forced discussion and a real examination of motives. Real change could actually take place because both sides were involved in the discussion and worked together to find a solution.

So guess what, forcing people to follow a “no gay marriage” rule will not make them holy. It addresses only an action. Not a motive. Change has to come from inside. It has to be a choice. Submitting your actions to a rule means nothing. You do not have to believe a rule is right to follow it. Also, as I learned from the t-shirt fiasco, even if you make a rule from a good place with good intentions to accomplish something good, as soon as you force someone to follow it, all the good is gone. And on top of that, the people you are forcing to follow your rule will only end up resenting it and you. From my experience they will be even less likely to arrive at the place you intended when you made the rule.

The thing that makes the gospel stand apart and matter is the choice. You cannot demand that someone be holy. It does not work that way.

I understand that many of the people who voted no interpret and believe that homosexuality is a sin. But it being a sin does not give you the right to take away someone’s choice. Also, somehow the church has decided that it is a sin above other sins. Why is no one lobbying the government to have adultery made illegal? What about lying? What about pride? I seem to remember the bible having a lot more to say about pride than about homosexuality. Part of being a christian, and just being a human, is choice. We are given the free will to choose how we think, and act, and believe. Yes, things get more complicated when our choices and actions harm others. That is where our secular laws come in. I have a very hard time seeing how being LGBT harms others any more than dishonesty, and pride, and hatred, and selfishness does. But the church seems much less concerned with those things. Which again, does not line up with the bible I have read.

I will respond to some of the arguments that I have heard and that I imagine people might bring to this. Please lets just pretend that the “same-sex marriage devalues marriage for the rest of us” argument doesn’t exist. Because obviously if you are a christian who is married, you marriage is sacred because it is a convenant before God and if the government issuing a piece of paper to a same-sex couple can devalue that, you clearly have much bigger problems. Lets also not do the thing where we say that it will corrupt our children because I see lust, pride, dishonesty, and selfishness harming and corrupting just as many children and, again, no one is lining up to make those things illegal or expel those people from the church. If you really want to protect the children from sin, lets really address sin, not just pick out the few sins we deem as the worst.

The only decent argument I can think of is that someone could make the case that if same-sex marriage is legalized there could come a time when a church or pastor could be faced with discrimination charges for refusing to marry a same-sex couple. I can see where you are coming from if this is your concern. But I do not think that is a valid reason to vote no. You would deny someone their basic civil rights because there is a chance in the future you might be faced with some persecution? I get that this could put someone in the position where they may have to take a stand for their faith. Where they might have to decide whether to perform the marriage or to face the discrimination charges. But that is the issue, not the government recognizing same-sex marriage. Voting ‘no’ now so that no one is put in that position later is a decision based on fear. From my perspective that is not standing up for your faith. That is denying someone else their freedom so that you might not have to stand up for your faith later. Meanwhile, real people are being denied things that you take for granted as a straight person. Things like medical benefits, pensions, and even the right to hospital visitation and ability to make medical decisions for their partner.

I cannot see how refusing these basic rights to a couple because their relationship doesn’t line up with your religion is a loving act. And I cannot see how you can think that forcing a rule on people will show them God’s love.

I know it’s easier to just make a rule now so that you don’t have to be uncomfortable in the future. And free will is hard. It means that people have to be allowed to choose good or evil. If you are struggling with this issue, or even if you are sure you have it figured out, I would encourage you to ask yourself some questions. Are you really loving people? Are you really following what the bible says? Are you trying to solve a problem with a rule? Is your decision based on fear? Are you making your decision because it is what you feel like you are supposed to decided as a christian? Or have you taken the time to really decide for yourself what you believe?

I obviously can’t answer these questions for you. That is up to you. I just wanted to present my thoughts to (1) perhaps show a side you have not heard before and (2) show people who might share my beliefs that they are not alone. You are more than entitled to your own free will and your right to make your own choice. I just know that in my head I have a hard time logically reasoning a ‘no’ vote and in my heart I struggle to see how it shows the love of Christ.

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(I have tried to write this in a respectful “I am just presenting my beliefs and not attacking yours” way. Is there a chance I got something wrong? Of course. But if you try to fight with me in the comments I probably just won’t answer. If you want to ask questions or try to further understand where I am coming from or respectfully point out something I may have overlooked, feel free.)

Old Books

This is going to be a photo-heavy post, because as I was going through my phone looking for the 4-5 photos I imagined attaching, I ended up with more like 20. Basically, I’ve been taking a class on the history of the book, and each week I kinda have to keep myself from crying a little bit. Last Friday we went to see a master bookbinder’s workshop, the week before we talked about printing and got to hold a first edition of Nicholas Nickleby / Charles Dickens and then go to the print lab at the U of A, AND we get to look at the copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle  that the special collections has, and on the FIRST DAY of this course we got to hold and touch with our bare hands a book of hours from the 1400s. It’s illuminated, it’s beautiful.

I don’t know if I can properly explain to you how this class makes me feel. It barely feels like school. I mean, I’m learning a great deal and I’ve still got assignments (some of which are onerous), but I’m just enjoying myself so much and we have more field trips in the next few weeks. We’re going to a paper making studio! I kept putting this post off because I wanted to show you more of what I’m doing, but maybe I’ll just tell you about paper-making after we go, and this post is already spectacularly late.

On to the photos!

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When printing became popular after the printing press was developed in the late 1400s, people had less use and regard for manuscripts. Manuscripts were also written on parchment or vellum rather than paper, and people would recycle the manuscripts into covers for their printed, paper books. Listen, this makes me suffer a little bit but not nearly as much as seeing LAMP SHADES made out of manuscripts in Hearst Castle. LOOK, WE GET IT, HEARST: YOU’RE TOO RICH.

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This is the Tinctor manuscript, which is a treatise about witchcraft. It predates the Malleus Maleficarum WHICH I REALIZE doesn’t mean much to non-nerds, but the MM was extensively drawn from by the people who led the witch hunts in places like Salem. This book is: a big deal.

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This is the book of hours which is like a fancy weird calendar that rich people had in the middle ages. I do not know wtf is going on in this painting, BUT check out the intricacy of that illumination. This is done by hand, probably by monks but maybe not, on parchment which is stretched cow skin. This was painted sometime in the 1400s and it’s still bright and beautiful, also the gold parts are gold leaf, not paint. As you can see, we got to touch and hold this book and carefully turn the pages. After this class someone was saying how a person cried over a first edition of a Jane Austen and caused some damage to the book and I was like, “OH YEAH NO ONE WOULD EVER CRY OVER BOOKS, ESPECIALLY NOT ME.”

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This is a closer view of the Tinctor, just to show you how the original velvet is still going strong. Here’s the thing: this book was 100 years old when Shakespeare was born and THE VELVET IS STILL GOING STRONG. The book has the plastic around it to keep the binding in place, because this book is v old and while the velvet still looks great, the binding is quite fragile. The pages inside, however, are still beautifully pristine. We weren’t allowed to touch this one. If you want to see a complete digitization of the book, you can do so HERE. It’s in whatever version of French they spoke in ~1460 so good luck reading it.

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SPEAKING OF OLD BOOKS. Hello, this is a complete cuneiform tablet from 4000 years ago. That’s my hand holding it. The librarian at the special collections joked that it was an example of “one of the first miniature books”. Somebody wrote on this FOUR THOUSAND YEARS AGO. Sometimes when I get home from this class I need to lie down for awhile.

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Let’s take a break from the constant astonishment to enjoy some lovely marbling. It’s very pretty! It’s in a book from one of the most prominent early printers.

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This little doodle was repeated a few times throughout this book, and I cannot get over it. It’s hilarious. Also: sometimes things happen or I learn things that make me feel connected to the past, and make me feel like humans have always been humans and share a lot of similar experiences. Things like this lil doodle make me feel that way. Also, monks used to add a line or two to the end of a manuscript when they were done writing it and they were things like “Thank God it will soon be dark” and “oh, my hand” and good gracious if I haven’t felt the same way. Complaining: connecting me with medieval monks.

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These three woodcuts are found in the Nuremberg Chronicle, which is basically a history of the world. These pictures are interesting because they are all popes. But wait! That’s a lady at the bottom! Yes, friend, that is Pope Joan and no one knew she was a woman until she had a baby during a parade. I’m pretty sure she was killed very soon after that but still: a Lady Pope. Some people in my class were like “but isn’t the pope not allowed to have sex” and I was like “uh………since when did that stop the pope.” There is a possibility that Pope Joan is apocryphal, but the fun thing about possibly-true history is that you get to decide if you believe it or not and guess what? There was a female pope.

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On the day we were learning about printing we got to see a lot of the library’s collection of early printing, and this one is from 1481. People moved from manuscripts-only in the early 1400’s to printing mania in the late 1400s. It’s the kind of shift in technology and information dissemination that we’ve seen with the internet, although the computer age moves even faster.

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We also learned about woodcuts! This is a slapdash woodcut done on a cheap lil pamphlet of songs.

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This is a much better woodcut! Also: I am very mature and had to stifle a guffaw at the name “bustard”.

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OKAY now this is also a woodcut but clearly it is the wood part and not the printed part. There is something special about this woodcut and it is this: this is a woodcut from early editions of Dickens. I don’t know which book because I forgot to ask but geez louise, I love this class. This is a piece of literary history and I just get to HOLD IT?

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Woodcuts are lovely and can get very detailed, blah blah blah.

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This is a first edition Nicholas Nickleby. Dickens’ books were published as serials, hence the number of volumes here, and also why his books are so damn long. Fun fact: people will tell you that Dickens was paid by the word and this is just as false as the “frogs will stay in hot water until the die if you turn the heat up slowly” thing, which is to say: it’s false.  He was paid by the installment. (Also false is the notion that we only use 10% of our brains.) I like the idea of people waiting impatiently for the next part of a Dickens story. It’s like waiting for a new season or new episode of a tv show. Oh hey, guess what, humans across the ages are all connected, I’m going to cry forever. Like I watched the Bleak House miniseries and couldn’t wait for the next episodes and people felt that same way about the book when it was being published! Crazy! I read the book all in one (very long) go, so it’s not quite the same experience there.

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These two pictures are both illustrations from Nicholas Nickleby, and would have been made with a woodcut like the one up above. Look at the detail! I haven’t read this book but I have watched the movie and while Bleak House is roughly 100 times better it’s not half bad AND I know what’s going on in these scenes and once again: connection to the past.

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Moving on from books to a book binder! This is SALMON LEATHER????????? IT’S POSSIBLE.

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Here’s where I started feeling overwhelmed and awestruck at the book binder’s. These are all for tooling the leather on the binding of a book. There are: so many of them.

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For making long patterns on bindings. These two pictures represent a mere fraction of the tools this guy had. How do I become a book binder???????????

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Examples of different types of binding as well as a pile of books to show us what different leathers look like once they’ve been stretched and tooled and made into a binding. One of these (I think the big one in the middle under the little one but I could be wrong) is bound with leather from a reindeer. You can still buy the leather made by the same people at the same time – the 1700s – because a ship that was carrying it sank in the English channel and when people dived down to it in 1973, they found rolls of leather that had been bound so tightly that the leather a few layers down was perfectly preserved. They’ve stopped diving for it because of the currents where the ship wreck is, so clearly this leather is a) very expensive, and b) hard to get. And the book binder had a piece of it! SHIP WRECK LEATHER.

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At one point the book binder went through the history of binding from how it was done when monks were the ones copying manuscripts to when it moved into mass-production. This book is an example of an early bind: wooden cover, raised straps, hand-sewn headbands incorporated in the binding, EXTREMELY STURDY. Hence why books like these still survive while books that we make now are COMPLETE SHIT (sorry mom, I’m very fired up).

I didn’t even scratch the surface on all the things this course is teaching me and allowing me to do. Like we got to run a letter press a couple weeks ago, and there are so many other books I’ve been able to hold and exclaim over, and I just feel so privileged to be able to take this class. When I registered for classes back in March there was a SITUATION and I wasn’t able to register in time to get into this class (there’s only 16 spots), and it wasn’t until a few days before the semester started that a place opened up. I debated whether or not to switch into it because it’s on Friday mornings and can you imagine the heaps of regret I would be experiencing if I hadn’t?

I’ll tell you all about paper-making in a couple of weeks.