In search of understanding: response to Rehtaeh Parsons’ death

There is something about the story of Rehtaeh Parsons’ death that has gotten under my skin. The end result is just as tragic the bullying leading to suicide reports that came before her. Maybe, it is the sheer number of girls and women who are victims of sexual assaults and the slut shaming that accompanies their trauma. Maybe, it is because looking at the numbers, I’m not surprised. Thinking of the women I know personally, the number that have been a victim of a sexual assault is too large.

There are two questions I keep coming to. Why do we as a society get such joy out of bullying and shaming others? And what is wrong with our society that we think it is okay to torment victims?

I will attempt to tackle the issue of bullying first. Let’s look at the most obvious grown-up version of school – Hollywood tabloids. It’s the story of the hierarchy of cool. Just stand in line at the grocery store and look at the parade of headlines; who’s hotter, who is more shameful, who gained weight, who cheated on whom, who wore the wrong thing and who committed the greatest faux pas in the public eye. And this is all presented to us as “entertainment”. But it isn’t scripted drama; these are real people – despite what the fourth wall encourages us to believe. If you turned that camera around on you and your neighbourhood, you would call it bullying too.

It’s not just in the “entertainment” industry; adults are bullies too. Go to a kid’s hockey game and look at the parents fight with each other over a coach’s call or because another kid is better on that day in that moment than their kid. They argue and fight and… Well, set a stellar example for their kids.

Recently, at my workplace we invited some kids from a local basketball team to come for an activity night. My co-worker was instructing the kids. Her biggest complaint: the parents. The children were listening to instructions, participating and cooperating with each other; but several times she had to call the parents out for talking through presentations. And more alarmingly, the parents began making fun of one of the groups during their presentation. These are the parents, not the peers discriminating against the other kids.  So adults; hold yourselves accountable and check your own behaviour too. Your children see your behaviour and mirror it. You are not immune to it.

As for my second question – I don’t know why it has been deemed okay to shame victims of assault. Is it an extension of the joy of bullying, the entertainment factor? In part, yes. But what about our humanity and compassion. How do you look at a woman, a girl, a friend who has been victimized and not feel sympathy for them? I cannot begin to fathom why someone would delight in hurting another person so deeply. Maybe I just don’t understand the culture of men. But if it is the culture of manhood that encourages sexual assaults, then the culture needs to change. Or is the culture of our youth as a whole. I doubt that the boys were the only ones participating in the harassment of Rehtaeh Parsons.

Sure, high school was a little while ago for me, but has it changed so drastically that bullying has become so much more vicious and accepted? Am I among the minority because bullying wasn’t a big problem at any of the schools I attended? Sure there were conflicts between different groups and people but they were pretty minor. A few larger events took place, but they were few and far between.  Has so much changed in less than a decade? Or am I alone in this experience?

At the end of this, I still don’t understand, why victimize the victim? I can understand the defaming of the perpetrator as a way of holding them accountable for deplorable actions. But the victim… I have no answers. Anyone else?



canadian american flag

X-Files, Earth: Final Conflict, Lexx, Stargate: Atlantis,Sanctuary, Battlestar Galactica, Haven, Nikita, Continuum, Primeval: New World. What does this random list of fantasy television have in common? They were all produced in Canada.

Canada is a hot bed for science fiction and fantasy stories – and the television and film industry can’t get enough of us. The American-owned Syfy network keeps investing in Canadian productions like the North American version of Being Human, Haven, Lost Girl and Continuum. I think it is Canada’s identity, or rather identity crisis, that makes us such a hub for these kinds of fantasy and other-realm stories.

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Game of Thrones: The Exhibition

Have you ever watched a fantasy show and thought, “I wish I could visit that world”? Well, Game of Thrones fans, now you can visit Westeros. HBO has put together a free exhibition, which is on tour now. The first stop on the Game of Thrones – The Exhibition tour was Toronto, where I had the chance to take part in the fun.

The line-up was a little long, but I can’t really complain when the price of admission is free. Once past the velvet rope, I entered the world of Westeros; and what a world it is! Game of Thrones – The Exhibition features more than 70 artifacts from the show including costumes, props, house banners, weapons and maps from the first two seasons of the series. Eagle-eyed fans will also get a chance to see a few props from the upcoming season starting at the end of March.

More on Game…

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One Assorted and One Corn Beef, Please

It was a normal trip to grab dinner.
We parked in the lot and walked through the mud and melting snow toward Mr. Sub.
There was the faint aroma of pot from the kids who just finished school hanging around the shop.
We walked in, my mum and me. There was only the lady who worked the shop behind the counter.
“Hello, what can I get for you?”
“One assorted on multi-grain please.”
“Cheese, lettuce, tomato?”
“Yes please and can we have pickles and green olives”
The lady looked at me, she recognized something.
“Anything else?”
“Yes, one Corn beef”
“Your dad, we haven’t seen him for a while.”
That was it. Our usual Friday order. A sub for me and him. Occasionally for mum or my sister. But mostly the the two of us. Mum was craving it today. He hadn’t made the order in two years, maybe longer since he couldn’t eat much toward the end.
Before I could respond my mum piped in.
“He passed away.”
The second that lasts a lifetime. What will happen next? Will she ask questions? Try to change the subject?
She paused and looked shocked. Her eyes apologising for asking.
I smiled reassuringly. How was she supposed to know. We had been coming to this shop since it opened. But mum rarely came to this Mr. Sub – she was normally running errands on the other side of town when she grabbed a sub.
“How long?” The woman asked.
“Two years” mum mumbled.
She quickly made the second sub. And apologised for bringing it up. I smiled and tried to say everything with one look. “It’s okay, you didn’t know. It’s been two years – we’re okay. He went peacefully. It was his time.” Too much for one look to say. But I tried.
As we walked out I felt sad. For the shop girl, for her feeling like she needed to apologise. For mum who went quiet. She had been thinking of him all day. That’s probably why she wanted this sub. Mum has finally reached that point where she can remember the good time better than the bad. Did this bring back memories of the end?