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Review: Lauren Graham’s ‘Talking As Fast As I Can’

As avid readers of Women’s Post are keenly aware, I’m a big fan of the hit-show Gilmore Girls. Even though I didn’t love the revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, the original show still maintains a special spot in my heart. That’s why I picked up Lauren Graham’s book “Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (And Everything In Between).”

When I started to read this book, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was an autobiography of sorts that touched on the actress’ role as the infamous Lorelai Gilmore and that it would contain a diary of the filming of the revival. But the book also gives readers a sneak-peak at the Graham pre-and-post this iconic role.

I knew nothing about the actress behind my all-time favourite television character — which meant that while reading the book all I heard was Lorelai Gilmore speaking in my head. But, strangely enough, that worked.

It takes a few chapters to get used to Graham’s writing style, which is as conversational and scattered as a Gilmore Girl. She makes the reader feel like a friend and is not afraid to abruptly end a sentence and jump into broadway song lyrics or go on a tangent about her wardrobe or a phone conversation she had with her dad. It’s through this writing style the readers are truly able to get to know the author.

Some of my favourite chapters revolved around her writing and her entrepreneurship. When she first started writing, she received a lot of flak from male journalists and men within these industries, all of whom couldn’t believe she didn’t have help completing her work. When bigger opportunities were offered to her, she questioned it, wondering whether the people she was meeting with had other people in mind to produce or be in charge of her projects. The sexism she experienced made her feel inferior, but it’s something she was able to combat, which I found incredibly inspirational.

“It’s not lost on me that two of the biggest opportunities I’ve had to break into the next level were given to me by successful women in positions of power,” she writes. “If I’m ever in that position and you ask me, “Who?” I’ll do my best to say, “You” too. But in order to get there, you may have to break down the walls of whatever it is that’s holding you back first. Ignore the doubt—it’s not your friend—and just keep going, keep going, keep going.”

And of course, there were the two chapters on Gilmore Girls themselves. In “What was it like, Part I”, Graham re-watches the original series and makes comments on the fashion, technology, and the elements she loved about each season. This chapter seems to go by fast, and I wished there was more insight into the relationships between the actors rather than a simple review — but that’s not Graham’s style. As much as that was what I wanted, I respect Graham for not dishing on her co-workers. The whole book is full of positive messages, and that was something I sorely needed at the time I read it.

In “What it was like, Part II”, there was a lot more detail. Graham kept a diary during the filming of the Gilmore Girl revival and readers get an in-depth look into the challenging process of re-creating the series nearly 10 years later. The diary is written in order of filming, not in order of episodes, which provides a unique view into what it was like to make the Netflix hit. Apparently, Carol King gave an impromptu concert that led to many tears and a few emotional breakdowns. Don’t you wish you could have been there?

What did I learn after reading this book? Lauren Graham is my spirit animal — and probably yours too!Her style is refreshing and authentic, something that is very rare in memoires, which tend to be overly edited and formal.  Some of the other topics mentioned in the book include the trials and tribulations of trying to be an actress in New York, the blunt of sexism when trying to promote her first novel, and the challenge of sitting down and writing. She speaks candidly of the jobs she auditioned for that made her cry, the jobs she took because she had to, and the struggles of being an artist.

If I had to sum up “Talking As Fast As I Can” in one essence, I would say this: Graham broke down the barrier between “celebrity” and “normal”, proving that actors and actresses are just regular, nerdy people who love the work they do, and sometimes do work they don’t love to do. Seems simple, but trust me, its a lot more complicated. You should probably read the book to truly understand.

Dear Santa: We want MORE this year!

Dear Santa,

Here at Women’s Post, we’ve been mostly nice — hey, you can’t expect a girl not to be naughty for a whole 12 months, can you?

First of all, I hope Mrs. Claus is treating you well. I heard there was a sugar cookie shortage. What a scary thought! As always, I’m sure she calmed you down and rectified the situation.

Man, it’s been a hell of a year. So much has happened, and most of it was pretty depressing.  After a year like this, I think women around the world deserve a little something extra, don’t you? Here is our wish list Santa, and I hope you don’t mind we are being so forward:

1. Can you make our politicians listen to the female sex for once. This wish is particularly for the United States, but also applies right here in Canada. We want clean energy and an even cleaner earth. We want equal pay and equal rights. We want to be free from discrimination and free from harassment. These may seem like small things, trifles really, but I can assure you it will make all the difference. If “because it’s 2016” was the first step towards equality, let’s make “because it’s 2017” the final year for sexism.

2. Speaking of politicians, we need more women in power. Nothing is going to change until we get real women into politics and in boardrooms. This is a nearly impossible tasks, as the “old boys club” is hard to break through. We have profiled a number of women who have made it; who have worked hard to get their foot in the door, but it isn’t easy. In order to bring about change, ensure policy is made that encompasses all diverse sexes, races, and ethnicities, it’s important to have a diverse staff. That’s something most governments haven’t realized yet. Maybe you can sprinkle a bit of magic dust on Parliament Hill to help with the transformation?

3. The outfits trending this winter are dismal. It seems beiges, browns, and burgundies are in right now — if there is anything you can do to bring a bit more colour into next year’s wardrobe, that would be great!

4. And finally, can you do something about the poverty, hunger, and general depression that has taken over this place we call Earth? People are needlessly dying all over the world, being killed in fits of rage and political disruption. Refugees have no where to go and families are being separated. At Women’s Post, we dream of a world where families can be together for the holidays (no matter the religion), without fearing for their lives.

I know this wish list is a bit of a challenge — especially for the day before Christmas — but I know you will try your best. Love, respect, and family are the foundations of the holiday season, and too often that is forgotten. Ultimately Mr. C., we hope you have a safe trip Christmas Eve. Even though we’ve been a little naughty, I hope you can overlook it. I’m sure Mrs. Claus will make a case for us!

Best,

Women’s Post

 

P.S. If you want to throw in some shoes, dresses, headphones, and/or a new laptop for the office, feel free. We promise to have some really great cookies and vegan treats waiting for you — and maybe even a bottle of Pinot!

Viola Desmond to be on Canadian $10 bill

Civil rights activist Viola Desmond will be the first woman, other than the queen, to be featured on a Canadian bank note.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau and the Bank of Canada announced the decision on Dec. 8. Desmond was chosen from a list of five finalists, who were chosen from 461 candidates.

“Today is about recognizing the incalculable contribution that all women have had and continue to have in shaping Canada’s story. Viola Desmond’s own story reminds all of us that big change can start with moments of dignity and bravery,” said Minister Morneau in a statement. “She represents courage, strength and determination—qualities we should all aspire to every day.”

Viola Desmond is often described as Canada’s Rosa Parks. A thriving Nova Scotia businesswoman in the 1930s-40s, she travelled to Montreal, New York, and New Jersey so that she could get her diploma in beauty and hairdressing. She established the Desmond School of Beauty Culture, a school that brought students together from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec.

One day, as she was travelling for work, her car broke down in New Glasgow. She decided to take in a movie at the Roseland Theatre while waiting for repairs. She took her ticket and then went to sit down on the main floor of the theatre; however, she was told her ticket only provided access to the balcony. When she went to exchange ticket, she was told that African-Canadians were only permitted to sit on the balcony — the main floor was reserved for white patrons.

She decided to sit on the main floor anyways. When asked to move, she refused. She was dragged out of the theatre by police and held overnight in jail without being advised of her rights. She was charged and convicted of defrauding the Government of Nova Scotia (tax for ground floor and balcony seats differed by one cent) She was also fined $20.

Desmond decided to fight the charges and raise awareness about segregation in Canada. Ultimately, she failed to have her conviction overturned, but she did set a fire under the Black community in Nova Scotia and became an inspiration for change across the country.

Desmond died in 1965. She received a posthumous pardon from the Nova Scotia government in April 2010. She was also featured in Canada’s Heritage Minutes.

Desmond is a wonderful choice for the $10 bank note — her courage and dedication to civil rights is something to be celebrated. And Women’s Post is equally ecstatic that this new face is a woman, AND a woman of colour at that!

This change is part of a broader attempt by the Bank of Canada to integrate themes of social justice into their notes. The next $5 bank note will feature a different Canadian, and Sir. John A Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier will be moved to the higher bills. The Queen will keep her $20 bill.

Other finalists included Mohawk poet Emily Pauline Johnson, Olympic gold medalist Bobbie Rosenfeld, journalist and suffragette Idola Saint-Jean, and Canada’s first female engineer Elsie MacGill.

The new bills will enter circulation in 2018.

What’s the best way to ask for a raise?

You’ve worked at a company for a few years, but nothing has changed. You’ve put in a lot of hard work, led very successful projects, and have done put in quite a bit of overtime. But, you are still living off of the same entry-level salary you were given when you started the job. Sometimes, it takes a while to receive more than verbal praise. It could be the crappy economy preventing your boss from handing out bonuses or giving annual raises, but if you don’t ask, you’ll never find out!

Asking for more money is daunting. And, for some reason, women just aren’t doing it. Women in Canada still make 72 cents to a man’s dollar, and that wage gap doesn’t appear to be dropping. I’m not sure if it’s because, as women, we are more calculative and respectful of our employers or if our employers are simply not giving women enough money. Either way, it sucks and it’s time to stand up and ask for that raise you’ve been thinking about for months.

Still worried? Don’t worry, Women’s Post has you covered. Here’s what you need to know:

Timing is everything: No, the right time to discuss salary is not when you are out to lunch with colleagues or riding an elevator with your boss. It’s important to make this request in a professional manner. Ask for a meeting with your boss and be honest about what the conversation is about. Say you want to sit down to discuss your salary and your future at the company. Also consider when raises are typically given at your company. Generally, employees are given a yearly review; however, by that point, it is often too late to ask for a raise as the books have been finalized. Try to meet with your boss a month or two beforehand.

Also, note whether your colleagues have been laid off or if there is a frugal atmosphere in the office. If your boss is always making comments about loss of revenue or client reductions, the company may not be in a place to give you a raise. Better to wait until the company is thriving.

Know why you deserve it: Just because you’ve been working at the same place for a year, it doesn’t entitle you to a raise. Come prepared with a list of your accomplishments and the new responsibilities you’ve taken on since you’ve started working with the company. Make sure to mention if business has gone up or if a project has been particularly successful. If you work in a large company, your boss may not actually realize you’ve been doing more than indicated in original job description.

Try not to compare your work to that of your colleagues. Remember that you are talking about yourself, and there is no need to say that you did more work than Mark on a project or absorbed some of his workload. Just be honest about your contributions and keep everyone else out of it.

Do your research: How much are you making right now and how much do you want to be making? These are important things to decide before heading into the office, just in case your boss throws it to you and asks what you have in mind. While it’s important to calculate your worth, it’s equally important not to overreach. Find out what others are making in similar positions in other companies, and what your new responsibilities mean. Are you doing the job of two employees? Are you doing the work of a manager rather than an entry-level employee? Make your “ask” reasonable, and be prepared to negotiate and compromise if your boss can’t accommodate your request.

Be polite and confident: Confidence is key. You need to make your boss believe you deserve this raise. Practice your pitch a few times in the mirror before the meeting, and make sure to make eye contact. Speak slowly and try not to let your voice waver (which I know can be difficult, as the issue of money naturally makes everyone nervous.) At the same time, don’t offer your boss an ultimatum, at least not unless he or she is being incredibly disrespectful. It’s important that you come across as a professional. If your boss does say no to a salary raise, ask why. It may just be an issue of funding. If that’s the case, ask if you can revisit the topic in six months time (or even the following year) to see if the situation has changed. This shows that you are willing to be accommodating to the needs of the company, but are not willing to just let the issue go. If the answer is a little more superficial, be prepared to come up with polite rebuttals about the time and effort you put into the job.

If the answer is still no, then take the loss — for now. And maybe start looking for a better place of employment.

What did you say to your boss when you asked for a raise? Let us know in the comments below!

The Gilmore Girls Revival I wanted to love

Warning: slight spoilers ahead. But no, I would never reveal the last four words. That would just be mean.

There are very few television shows that make me more emotional than Gilmore Girls. It’s one of those feel-good comedy dramas that makes everything better, even if the episode leaves you sobbing into your pillow while eating a bucket of ice cream.

Gilmore therapy — that’s what I call it.

To give you an idea of how much I love the show, back in October, I stood in a line for nearly two hours to get some free coffee at a pop-up Luke’s Diner. Despite the fact that I knew I would get nothing more than a coffee sleeve, I stuck it out anyways. So, when Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, came out on Netflix on Friday, I knew I needed to make it quite the affair.

I invited my girlfriends and fellow Gilmore girls to my place on Saturday morning to binge the revival. The table was covered in snacks Gilmore-style. We had the staples — poptarts with an apple centerpiece, tater tots, marshmallows, smartfood popcorn, and pizza — as well as a few “healthy” options we barely touched. Dressed in sweat pants, sweaters, and some plaid, we all settled in for what we knew would be an incredibly long emotional rollercoaster. After watching the last two episodes of the original season, we dived in to the revival; ready for whatever the writers were going to throw at us.

Note: we started watching television around 11:30 a.m. and we finished around 9 p.m. I think I can say I’ve officially mastered the binge.

It’s taken a few days to digest my feelings about the show, but after much consideration, I would give the revival a solid b-minus. The theme was very much about transitions — what you do when life throws you a curveball. Emily, Lorelai, and Rory Gilmore are each struggling to get their lives back on track, and each challenge brings the family closer together. Emily must deal with the loss of her husband, Richard, who was played by the late Edward Herrmann. Lorelai is in a rut, both in her relationship with Luke and in her professional life at the Dragonfly Inn, unable to move forward. And Rory is jumping from guy to guy with no set clear path career wise.

There was a lot to love about the revival. Kirk’s film and his oooooo-ber business, Paris taking the heads off of Chilton’s next generation, and of course the extensive cameo list. There were moments that made me snort in my coffee and cry into tissues. The draft of the book entitled “The Gilmore Girls” was a cute add-in that I really enjoyed. And, of course, the set of Stars Hallow was still as beautiful and quirky as ever.

But —and while it it pains me to say it — there was a lot lost in the new four episodes.

What appealed to me about the original series was the strength of the characters. These ambitious women tackled problems independently, without aide or dependence from their partners. They were comfortable with who they were. It’s also one of the few shows that didn’t have unnecessary relationship drama (the emergence of April notwithstanding). The boyfriends, fiancés, and husbands were always there, but they were never the focus. The only relationship that mattered was that between mother and daughter.

But those strong characters completely deteriorated in the revival. Rory, the bookworm that stole my heart and soul so many years ago, lost all her journalistic fire. Where was the woman that sent out hundreds of resumes by hand or harassed an editor in his office with a book full of writing samples and a handful of pitches? It seemed like she was just waiting for opportunities that were presented to her instead of going out and finding a story, something the old Rory Gilmore would have done in an instant. Professional life aside, where was the girl that fled the country after realizing she was “the other woman” in an accidental affair? Now, the character seems to have completely devolved, actively engaging in an affair with an engaged former beau. And what about poor Paul!!

And then there were the fillers. The Stars Hallow musical, for example, was strange and way to long. Yes, it gave Carol King an opportunity to make a cameo, but it was 15 minutes of weird unnecessary song and dance from two Broadway stars that worked with the writers on other projects. Also, the 30-something gang was kind of offensive. It perpetuates the false stereotype that millennials are lost and apathetic, mooching off their parents and spending their time watching YouTube and doing weird Internet challenges. Kudos to Rory for not getting caught into it all, but I was hoping she would get them involved in the Stars Hallow Gazette to prove they had actual purpose.

All in all, Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life fulfilled my withdrawal. It had enough good moments to counter some of the bad, and it presented a great opportunity to get together with friends and eat a ton of junk food. The last four words were worth waiting for, and it does bring the story full circle, ending the revival in an intriguing and suspenseful way, but also leaving room for a possible continuation.

I hope that if Netflix does decide to keep Gilmore Girls running, they do a bit of a better job at returning the characters to their former glory. I really wanted to love the revival, and I really want to love whatever Netflix decides to do with the show next. Until then, I’ll just say this:

I smell snow. 

 


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Woman of the Week: Jo-Anne McArthur

Photography can be a tool for change — there is no limit to the difference a powerful image can make. Animal rights photographer Jo-Anne McArthur has taken this medium to a new level by using her DLSR camera to take astounding photographs of animals in various states of suffering. She has gained attention worldwide for her courageous work, and her investigative journey was also featured in Liz Marshall’s documentary The Ghosts in our Machine.

“It is unforgiving work. I am trying to make art out of the atrocities,” McArthur says. “If I produced shitty images, people aren’t going to look. How are you going to look and not get people to turn away?”

McArthur’s job is difficult, no doubt. She is forced to get up close and personal to each and every animal, and then has to walk away from the suffering in order to keep doing her job without legal litigation. Not to mention, many of the photos that McArthur take are in hard-to-reach places that often keep animals in terrible conditions.

“Most commonly, I am sneaking onto a property at night with a security team. We know when people are coming and going,” McArthur says. “I never break or touch anything. I will climb a fence if I have to and document — whether that takes half an hour or six hours.”

McArthur says her most difficult photography shoot was with minks held in cages, because of the low lighting and confined space. The cages were quite small and the mink are often trying to protect their young. Photoshoots like these make McArthur feel devastated, especially when she has to walk away without interfering. A photography shoot involving a lone elephant is one of her worst memories on the job. “The saddest thing I’ve seen was an elephant named Jeanna in France. She does fuck all except walking in circles and swaying back and forth,” McArthur says. “It was devastating to see this girl who has been alone for 15 years. They should re-home her, give her sanctuary, and give her enrichment. Seeing her once was bad enough, but then I come back the next day and she is doing the exact same thing. Why isn’t the world screaming about her being there? I take photos, but I feel inept.”

After years of working in the trenches of animal rights investigations, McArthur found herself suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  “I was doing too much time in the field. It is natural to need a recovery period from traumas. I felt I was invincible and I was not. My first thought when I woke up in the morning was mink or gestation crates,” McArthur says. “I had therapy to help me process what I had seen I was thinking of the utter sadness of animals in captivity all the time. I had to relearn the basics, eat well, and sleep well. I annoyingly tell activists to eat, sleep, and have sex. If we are not joyful, we are not healthy and we need to joy to advocate for animals. I got used to seeing the sadness. When people ask me if I’m desensitized, I want to say no. To go there emotionally, it is not productive.”

Along with being a leader in animal rights activism, McArthur is a huge supporter of women. She began an initiative called the ‘Unbound Project’ with Associate Professor of Visual Arts at Brock University, Keri Cronin that features women in animal rights activism around the world.  “Over many years of doing animal rights work, I saw that it was women on the front lines. There is often men at the top for optics, but women are really the dominant sex in this movement,” McArthur says. “I’m doing the Unbound Project because I see that it is women that lead the movement, and I want to celebrate that.”

McArthur has been fascinated by animals since she was a child. She says that many people get into animal rights to change the world, but for her it was a different story. “Even as a wee kid, I would feel sad for an animal. I took action because I was worried,” McArthur says. “My parents allowed me to express these concerns and act on them.”

An avid reader as well, McArthur is currently reading The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. She also recommends Aftershock by Patrice Jones for women going through PTSD. She has also published her own book, We Animals.

After having faced so many countless atrocities, it is a wonder that McArthur has hope in the future of the world we live in. She says that living with hope is the only way to stay positive. “I certainly have moments of despair, but that is not where I live. I live with a focus on change, and with every person I reach, that is a victory. I choose to live hopefully instead of despairingly or I wouldn’t be able to do this shitty work I do.”

Here is a sample of some of McArthur’s work and you can find more animal rights photographs here:

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”3″ gal_title=”Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur”]

Remembrance Day has never been more important for women

There are moments in history where women have proven themselves to be forces of change. These moments give me goose bumps — when I think of what these women fought for, what they sacrificed so I could be in this position: a woman editor of a news publication, a woman who can vote, and a woman who has equal rights.

On this Remembrance Day, I’m reminded of the role women played during the war efforts. They worked in construction, took over their husbands’ jobs in farms and factories, and manufactured shells and ammunitions for the men overseas. They sold souvenir stamps and knit clothing for military personnel. Throughout both World Wars, over 50,000 women joined the Canadian Armed Forces. They served as soldiers, nurses, and artists.

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Their contributions not only played a large part in the success of the war effort, but it also helped laid the foundations for women’s movements to come. These were the same women who fought for the vote and the opportunity to work alongside a man. They set the groundwork for women to become active members of the military. They were just as brave as the men on the front lines.

Last year, I wrote a piece about how Remembrance Day is impacting future generations. Groups of students and families with young children gathered at Queen’s Park around 11 a.m. to watch as veterans and politicians acknowledged the sacrifice of Canada’s men and women in uniform — the people who fought so that we could be free.

This year, I’m a bit more cynical. I still admire and respect every single person who contributed (and still contributes) to the Canadian military. But, as a society, I feel like Canada still as a long way to go.

7f5c68c6f4bea0b3cf89c090fd0a6c72Celebrating women in the military is often an afterthought —the words “and women” are thrown into most public speeches about military service and sacrifice, but very little is said about their dedication to the cause.

The women being celebrated on Remembrance Day sacrificed much more than anyone should have to. They served during a time when their service wasn’t recognized, where they were simply considered stand-ins for men who were being forced to go oversees. Women with pilot licences were still unable to serve in the war effort during the Second World War, despite being active members of the Royal Canadian Air Force – Women’s Division. So, why not recognize their service now?

 

While watching CBC’s live-stream of the ceremony in Ottawa, I noticed that their banner included a number of photographs from various war efforts, from the Boer War in 1899 to our peacekeepers and soldiers fighting against ISIS. The pictures are touching, but they also don’t include any women. No female veterans were interviewed prior to the ceremony either, or featured during the hour pre-show.

Over the last few years, instances of sexism and harassment against women in the military and the RCMP have been widely covered in the media. As of 2014, women only made up 14.8 per cent of the Canadian Armed Forces, 18.7 per cent in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and 18.4 per cent of the Royal Canadian Navy.

But, that doesn’t stop women from joining up. It doesn’t stop women from going through the training and overcoming all of those obstacles. And this should be celebrated and remembered.

The last year has been challenging for women. In the United States, women watched as a sexist man was elected President. In Canada, sexual assault cases were thrown out because the word of women could not be trusted. Female reporters are being targeted and attacked on air be men shouting obscenities. There is a real and inexcusable lack of respect for women, despite it being 2016.

On this Remembrance Day, let’s use this opportunity to renew our sense of togetherness and respect. Let’s honour the sacrifices of men and women equally, and continue to fight for total equality.

Let’s not let anyone’s service be forgotten or go unrecognized.

Lest We Forget.

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Fear and hatred elected President Donald Trump

“This loss hurts, but please, never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It is worth it,” Hillary Clinton said during her concession speech on Nov. 9. “And to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable, powerful, and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

The United States has a new President — and that President is Donald Trump.

I’m numb. I’m not even sure I’ve completely processed this information. As editor of Women’s Post, I was watching the election results come in Tuesday night with the expectation that I would be writing a piece the following day about the first female President of the United States. Staff created some templates with details of Hillary Clinton’s life, focusing on her expertise and capability for the office. There were photos, graphs, and lots of feminist quotes to throw in. It would have been easy to put together a great profile for our readers.

Instead, I’m writing a piece about how a racist, misogynist man who thinks sexual harassment is locker talk, who was endorsed by the KKK, and who believes that all immigrants are thieves and rapists, became President of the United States.

Let’s tackle the first aspect of this question: how? How on earth did this happen?!

Obviously, there were a lot of factors. Voters were upset with how their political system worked and wanted change. There was a predominant disgust of “the elite”, an undefined group that tends to include politicians that can’t relate with the majority of the American people. When voters get frustrated with their politicians, it makes it hard for them to vote for the status quo. It also didn’t help that the FBI interfered with the election by releasing unfounded information that brought Clinton’s emails back to the surface at a critical point in the campaign.

But above all else, I think the underlying reason why Trump won is hate. Hate of “the other” and fear of “non-American values”. Throughout this campaign, Trump has capitalized on the fear and intolerance of the American people. Hate of immigrants, hate of women, hate of African Americans, hate of the LGBTQ community, and hate of the media. Hate for “the other” — people who are not like you. Hate of uncertainty.

This fact makes me sad. As a Canadian, I was raised with an understanding of tolerance and acceptance, that people, no matter their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, should be treated equally. I was taught that respect and kindness was the ultimate value. Sure, I know Canada isn’t perfect. This country has it’s own problems with racism and misogyny, but it’s nothing compared to what I witnessed during the US presidential campaign.

The Trump rallies incited violence, talks of waterboarding and torture for enemies, and general sexual harassment. Protesters were attacked for simply holding up signs that said they were anti-Trump. People of various ethnicities were dragged out of conference rooms. Is this what Americans should expect from their new president?

Trump won the election with 279 electoral votes compared to Clinton’s 218 (as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday). It was a close race, much tighter than anyone expected, with large swing states flip-flopping between the two candidates until about 3 a.m. What does this mean? A lot more people in the United States let fear dictate their decision, fear of unemployment, fear of immigrants, and fear of the unknown. Instead of voting for someone inspirational, capable, and strong enough to incite real change, they voted for the person who made them scared of the future. This person told them they should be afraid, that the political system was rigged and corrupt, and said he was the only person that could protect them from these evils. And people believed him.

The sad reality is that this is democracy. I can’t say I’m angry or disappointed with the American people because it is their right to vote for the person they want to be President. I can, however, say that I’m disheartened by how much hate and fear Americans seem to have in their hearts. I’m saddened the American people felt like Donald Trump was the only solution.

In this particular case, hate and fear won the day — and now the world will have to deal with it.

How to fight off that pesky PMS

If you Google “how to handle PMS”, a lovely box appears at the top of your screen with a useful list of topics on how to “treat” mood swings. According to most of the links associated with the topic, a girl should simply exercise, avoid caffeine and sweets, eat small meals, and try to manage or reduce stress.

Thanks Google. Helpful.

The problem is that PMS (or Premenstrual Syndrome) generally makes you want to curl up in a corner under blankets instead of venturing outside to use an exercise bike, makes you crave sugar and salt to such an extent that you want to eat a whole bowl of mac and cheese by yourself; and makes you stress about stupid things that don’t matter.  Obviously, if women avoided all of these things life would be easier, but the problem is that PMS makes us feel like we can’t!

My PMS is terrible. It lasts almost a full week leading up to my time of the month, and during that week, I’m a mess. I never know if I’m going to be happy, sad, frustrated, or angry. It takes me 30 minutes to decide what to wear in the morning because nothing looks good on me anymore (it doesn’t matter if I wore it the week before and received compliments).

There is no “cure” or “treatment”, despite what some magazines will tell you. There are, however, some things you can do to try to alleviate the mood swings a little bit. Here are a few:

The first is all about acceptance — do what you need to do to feel better. If you want to eat chocolate and lie in bed while watching a rom-com, do it! And don’t feel guilty! It’s important to give yourself time to heal and relax. Take a day for yourself and do the things you’ve wanted to do over the last few weeks. Avoid the people in your life who are confrontational. However, if you are feeling especially down, make sure there is someone around you can talk to. Make sure the friend or family member you choose is non-judgemental and can handle the silly freak outs.

Don’t forget to take your supplements! You may be losing some of your body’s natural magnesium, as well as vitamins B and E. Calcium supplements have been said to help alleviate some of the symptoms of PMS like bloating.

In terms of physical activity — yes, it’s true that exercise can relieve stress, anxiety, and boost endorphins, which can improve your mood. But, let’s face it. If I leave the house during days I’m experiencing PMS, that’s a miracle.

Instead, focus on stretching at home. Get a yoga mat and look up a few simple workouts on Youtube. Do some meditation and soft movements. This will help alleviate those pent-up emotions and relax both your mind and body. Go for a nice walk outside if you are able. Nature can have a calming effect and the walk will give you time to come to terms with the emotions you are dealing with. If you feel like doing a bit more, but still would rather avoid the gym, try a Jillian Michaels yoga video (I promise you it is unlike any meditative yoga you’ve done before).

Get creative and make a plan. This is not something recommended by doctors, but it does work for me. Instead of focusing on all of the supposedly terrible decisions I’ve made, I try to think of new good decisions I will make the following week. For example, I will go get some healthy food from the store so that when I’m feeling more up to it, I have the ingredients to do some baking. The whole process of planning important decisions is calming and relaxing — and it makes you feel like something positive is coming from that pesky PMS.

What’s important is to realize that being slightly crazy for a few days of the month is simple biology. It’s normal. So, don’t sweat it. Do what you need to do to get through this tough and uncomfortable time, and then move on! And also don’t listen to Google — it doesn’t understand women like you do.

 

Do you have any suggestions or recommendations to alleviate some of the symptoms of PMS? Leave a note in the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Flanagan

Jennifer Flanagan, co-founder and CEO of the non-profit Actua, was exposed to science and technology at a young age, more so than other young girls in her class. Her father and uncle were both engineers, and as she says, “kids that grow up with engineers or scientists as parents are typically the ones that pursue it themselves.”

Flanagan’s plan was to go to medical school, combine her love of science and her affinity for helping people into one career. But, all that changed when she saw a poster on the wall asking the following question: Do you want to start a science or engineering camp? Her answer was a resounding yes.

That small group of students started up a few camps locally, but soon the model spread nationally among engineering programs at different universities. As of 1994, the camps had a policy for gender parity, with an equal 50 per cent divide between girl and boy participants. “That was unheard of,” Flanagan said.  “It was controversial, amazing, and it worked.”

The programs became more popular, and eventually the students started to receive funding from university chairs and Industry Canada. And that’s how Actua was formed — a national charitable organization that engages young kids and marginalized communities in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). “We [engage] about 225,000 youth a year – that includes a huge focus on those underrepresented audiences, or the hardest to reach audience in Canada,” Flanagan explained. This includes a program called InSTEM, a customized, community-based educational program that engages First Nations, Metis, and Inuit youth, as well as a digital literacy program that transforms young people from passive consumers into real innovators capable of using and creating future technology.

Twenty-five years later, Flanagan is just as excited about her role in Actua as she was when she saw that poster on the wall. She says she has seen progress since the program went national.

“Big evidence of that progress is Actua,” she said. “When I first started doing this work, we had to convince people it was important. A summer camp was one thing, but no one saw the link to the future work force or economic development.”

More woman are getting involved in certain science, like medicine for example, but Flanagan says there is still a void in research and in technology-based industries. “Whether its health-based research that’s skewed because no women were involved — it affects research outcome. It’s really important to have those voices at the table. And so, that starts really early. Talking to girls – telling them that they can do science and we NEED them in science. We need to make sure women are designing the world of the future.”

Flanagan is working with a team on a special project meant to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary next year. Actua is building a “Maker Mobile”, a mobile workshop that will travel from one end of the country to the other in just over 18 months, stopping at schools and community centres along the way. “A maker space is a workshop that is filled with technology tools that allow you to build prototypes or allow you to build products,” Flanagan said. “We are celebrating past innovation by building skills for future innovation.”

The idea is to inspire young people to not only learn more about science and technology, but also to inspire them to innovate. The maker mobile will empower these young people and shift their attitudes. Too often, people tell kids to pay attention to math and science so they can do great things in the future, Flanagan explained. Instead, why not encourage them to do great things now?

“Today’s youth are incredible innovators already. They are amazing problem solvers and have natural abilities with science and technology.”

Flanagan’s passion often follows her outside of her work with Actua. She sits on the board of the Canadian Women’s Foundation, an organization that has a wide mandate, which includes empowering women, helping them escape violent situations, and ending poverty.

“The work with the Canadian Women’s Foundation is so fundamental — doing work that is creating the first generation of women free of violence requires more passion. The work that we do, engage girls in science and technology goes far beyond knowing there is enough female participation in these subjects. It’s about raising confidence.”

Flanagan is also a finalist for the Social Change Award for the 2016 RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. She is reading a newly released book called “Girl Positive”, which tells the story of hundreds of girls across North America and finds out what they need, something Flanagan says is critical reading for parents and policy makers.

 

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