Regenerating the real Naughty

There’s been a lot of circulation over the past couple weeks on Facebook and otherwise on the topic of sexy and culturally offensive Halloween costumes. In addition to the debate between inappropriate costumes vs. slut shaming, I recently read a really interesting article about how the sexy Halloween costume is a type of naughty completely disengaged from the original conception of naughty Halloween.

native halloween

A costume from the Stag Shop… >:-(

We often look at the ‘naughty’ Halloween costume as either a) a way to express our sexuality during a night of ‘letting loose’, or b) as an inappropriate and sometimes appropriating way of degrading both men and women and enforcing gender norms. We’ve all seen the articles and campaigns which criticize dressing up as a culture other than your own– clearly an offensive example of appropriation. What’s worse, these costumes usually focus on the hyper-sexualization of women of color, contributing to gender norms AND negative stereotypes about specific cultures. Not to mention, the cost of these ‘sexy’ costumes is usually prohibitive to those outside of a middle-class income, ranging anywhere between $40-$100 per costume (for an ironically small bit of fabric). This translates, more often than not, into privileged white women purchasing and wearing the cultures of other women, and sending a very specific message about the so-called ‘naughty’ natures of women and cultures they’ve appropriated, all while maintaining their middle-class whiteness underneath the bits of fabric.  Not cool. The real ‘naughty-ness’ about this lies in ignorance and the way such appropriation is divisive to the feminist movement.

sexy halloween comic

‘sexy fetus’ says more about women’s rights than ‘sexy doctor’ ever did

Don’t get me wrong– I believe in sexual liberation just as much as the next post-structural feminist thinker, but let’s step back for a minute and question why we think wearing a sexy Halloween costume will lead to our liberation. Do we think that size-prohibitive, skin-exposing costumes celebrate all female body types? Do we think that celebrating the female body in an overt way will somehow train men to respect women’s bodies? Do we think attracting a gaze, touch, or encounter says something about our freedom of sexual expression? Maybe. Or, perhaps we’ve been conditioned to believe these things in a society that encourages our consumption of irrelevant goods while suppressing creative, thoughtful methods of real dissent.

Real dissent– what’s the REAL naughty nature of Halloween?  In THIS ARTICLE, historian Jonathan Zimmerman describes how Halloween was originally a time for children to disobey their parents. I immediately thought of Margaret O’Brien’s character in ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ and the massive bonfire children in her neighborhood set up in the street. The following clip shows her shenanigans:

depression halloween

Depression-era Halloween

Zimmerman and other historians will also describe how this type of dissent was particularly popular during the great depression when children and youth expressed their discontent, poverty, hunger, etc. by staking their claim to parts of their communities and throwing proverbial flour in the faces of the rich.  Unfortunately, he also highlights how this dissent was typical of male children and youth and disturbingly violent toward women. But who’s to say that in our contemporary context, women couldn’t also engage in a different kind of ‘naughty’ for Halloween? For women, this type of Halloween would be far more productive in securing our rights and fighting for gender equality.  At the heart of our oppression is a capitalist system which tells us that our role in society is to consume and reproduce the physical and mental manifestations of patriarchal consumer society. I’d rather wear a paper bag over my head and engage in non-violent direct action this Halloween than dress up as sexy sushi (WTF, by the way!?).

preteen maid

…I’m scared for humanity.

Zimmerman gives a glimpse of where the original naughty went wrong: after 1933’s Black Halloween which included community violence and anti-police style protests, schools, governments and community groups collaborated to suppress the dissenting behavior. Parents were encouraged to accompany their children door-to-door, candy companies capitalized on this new conception of Halloween, and ‘naughty-ness’ manifested in obscure and patriarchal ways. Pre-teens and even babies are now being sold ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes! What does this say about how childhood has been co-opted? What does this mean for the future of a women’s movement or a movement for any sort of gender equality for that matter?

Let’s stop consuming the goods, lies and behaviors that separate us. Let’s be honest about what forces work against us in creating sustainable empowerment and real gender equality. Let’s show young girls that the capitalist’s ‘sexy’ doesn’t= naughty, doesn’t = empowered, doesn’t= a challenge to patriarchy. Let’s show our generation and the next that Halloween can be empowering if we choose to participate. Let’s regenerate the real ‘naughty’.

 

 

 

 

You know you want these…

In addition to my last ‘dinner-time’ recipe post, I wanted to share last week’s wonderful dessert/ baking recipes as well.

After dinner, I was looking for something sweet and dairy free to enjoy and once again turned to Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows for the following recipe. The best part about it is that it’s super-quick to blend up and enjoy. One thing  you need to do in advance is free the avocado…you should probably freeze the banana too for a thicker pudding, but I used an un-frozen banana for my recipe.

Vegan, Cold Chocolate Pudding

choc puddingIngredients:

  • 1/2 large avocado, frozen (flesh only)
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used coconut milk)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 medjool dates, pitted (a.k.a. candy of the earth)
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of fine grain sea salt
  • shredded coconut, to garnish
  • 3-4 ice cubes

Steps:

1. Put the milk in a blender first, then add the rest of the ingredients (except coconut) and blend. You may want to add more ice for a thicker result.

2. Sprinkle shredding coconut on top ( or any other topping of choice) and dig in.

The next morning, I figured I’d been having such great luck with recipes that I thought I would try a little baking. The result was delectable–is there anything better than the smell of cinnamon buns fresh from the oven? This vegan recipe is better than Cinnabon, in my opinion. Did I mention I’m obsessed with pumpkin? (Recipe courtesy of Hell Yea! It’s Vegan)

Vegan Pumpkin Cinnamon buns

Ingredients- Doughcinnamon buns
  • 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
  • ¼ c warm water
  • ¾ c pumpkin puree
  • 2 tbsp earth balance, melted
  • 2 c flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt

Filling

  • ½ c packed brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ c earth balance, melted
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces (optional)

Icing

  • 1 tsp earth balance
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1½ c powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, stir yeast into warm water; set aside to proof (get foamy)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, nutmeg and salt.
  3. Add pumpkin puree and margarine to your foamy yeast mixture; blend well.
  4. Make a well in your dry mix and add liquid, stirring to incorporate.
  5. Knead for a couple of minutes until smooth, adding extra flour a little bit at a time as needed to keep it from sticking to everything.
  6. Cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place– I turned my oven on to preheat it and allowed the warmth to help the dough rise on top of the stove.
  7. Once it’s about doubled, punch it down and roll out until it’s rectangular and about ¼-½” thick.
  8. Mix the earth balance, sugar and cinnamon and spread over rolled out dough. Sprinkle walnut pieces evenly on top and roll the dough up like a jelly roll.
  9. Cut the roll into ten pieces and place rolls swirly side up on a greased baking dish.
  10. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes.
  11. While the buns bake, whisk together icing ingredients until smooth.
  12. Set aside at room temperature (refrigeration will make it difficult to pour).
  13. Spread icing over buns and EAT!

I also tried my hand at some delicious muffins (they were a hit with Bill and my parents when I brought some home this past weekend!) Did I mention I love pumpkin? I did? OK, just checking.

muffinsVegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 (15 ounce) can solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Steps

1. I break the rules: I put all the ingredients in a bowl and mixed them vigorously. Then I added the chocolate chips and dropped the batter by the tablespoon into my greased muffin pan. I will note that the batter required a bit more water than the recipe called for, but it all worked out in the end 🙂

2. Bake the muffins for 25 minutes in a 375 degree oven. AND EAT!

Dinner Time Nom-nom-noms

I had a surprisingly excellent run with recipes this past week, so I figured it would be an ideal time to start sharing some of these compassionate recipes with you all!

happy cow

Keep cows happy- go dairy free.

Let’s start with dinner. The weather in KW lately has been horrible– OK I’m exaggerating; but, when you’ve come from Windsor (Canada’s ‘down South’), you don’t have much tolerance for the ‘real’ Canadian Fall/Winter. Snow in October is simply unacceptable! In light of this cold weather, I was feeling like some traditional comfort food and for me that’s mac ‘n cheese. Now, in trying to live more compassionately (and financially friendly!) I’ve been trying to give up dairy. It’s not easy– I LOVE cheese and at one point I definitely said I could never live without it. In any case, I found an interesting looking recipe for vegan ‘cheeze’ sauce, dairy free and enriched with pureed pumpkin. I’d recently baked two sugar pumpkins and pureed the flesh, so this was a perfect opportunity for me to use up some of that goop in my fridge (goop = appetizing vegetable goodness!).

Here is the recipe I used to make a delicious pumpkin cheeze sauce, courtesy of Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp Earth Balance (or other non-dairy butter replacer)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened and unflavoured non-dairy milk (I used coconut milk)
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot flour (I use whole wheat)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 6 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp mustard (your favorite– I used honey dijon)
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • Kosher salt & black pepper, to taste (I used 1/2 tsp salt)
  • herbs/seasonings, to taste (sage or cinnamon would be nice!)

1. Melt Earth balance in a pot over low-medium heat.

2. Whisk together milk, flour and garlic powder until clumps are gone. Add into pot and whisk.

3. Stir in nutritional yeast, mustard, salt and pepper and whisk over low heat until thickened (about 5-7 minutes or so). Lastly, add in 1 cup of canned pumpkin and stir until combined and heated through.

Mix with two cups of cooked pasta (we used traditional whole wheat elbow macaroni) and dig in! I was SO surprised by this recipe– when I was describing what was in it to Bill when he got home from work, his reaction to every described ingredient was ‘that sounds gross’. Mine was too, but it was honestly SO delicious I don’t even know what happened there. I think the nutritional yeast, which really does have a sort of ‘cheesy’ flavor, really brought everything together. And it added some much-need vitamin B12. SCORE. (Another friend of mine said that my description of this dish sounded like ‘feet’– I’m telling you, nutritional yeast may sound gross but it’s really good!)

To go with this dish, I also picked up a baked maple lentil recipe from the same site, and altered it a bit to my taste. The result was this recipe:

Baked Maple Lentils 

Ingredients

1 can of lentils
1 sweet onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 sweet apple, peeled and diced (I used Gala)
1/2 of an acorn squash, baked and cubed
2.5 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
2 tsp regular mustard
1/2-1 tsp fine grain sea salt + ground pepper, to taste
1-2.5 tbsp red wine vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 375F.Rinse and drain lentils. In a glass baking dish, add lentils along with onion, garlic, apple, squash, maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, mustard, salt, and pepper.  Stir well to combine. Add the vinegar and cover with tin foil

3. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover, and stir. Bake for another 8-12 minutes, uncovered, until the onions and garlic are cooked through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

I also sauteed up some delicious purple kale with garlic as an extra side and here is the finished result!:

mac n cheeze

Reflections on the PJSA Conference

After a weekend of relaxing while the weather got colder outside my window, I figured it was about time to write out my reflections on the recent PJSA Conference held at WLU. What an amazing collection of inspiring talks and workshops– props to the PJSA conference organizers who clearly experienced a labor of love in putting it together.

pjsaPJSA stands for the Peace and Justice Studies Association, a North-American based non-profit that brings together thinkers, researchers, educators, etc. around the subject of Peace and Justice. Each year they hold a conference and this year, the WLU global studies department along with University of Waterloo’s Congrad Grebal University College and the University of Waterloo’s Peace and Conflict Studies program. In addition to the main conference, students gathered to learn from experts and from each other within a complimentary student conference. I participated in general conference plenary sessions as well as the student conference plenary and breakout sessions and I’d love to share with you some of the highlights.

idle no more

Sylvia McAdam, in blue, along with other Idle No More founders Sheelah McLean, Nina Wilson, and Jessica Gordon.

The morning began with music from the Aboriginal Students’ Centre’s drumming and singing group, filling the Maureen Forrester Hall with hope and setting the tone for the day. Sylvia McAdam, co-founder of the Idle No More movement, addressed the auditorium in the first plenary, emphasizing that Canada’s Aboriginal people don’t need the help of non-Aboriginal allies, but rather need our support. I decided to attend the student conference mainly because of the focus it placed on conflict within our own country, Canada. The day before the conference, the RCMP launched their highly militarized offensive against peaceful anti-shale protestors near Rexton, NB and this became a rallying point for many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups across the country. These events were discussed within the context of broader discussion on treaty rights and Canada’s continued attack on Aboriginal communities and the environment via bills such as Bill C-45. For more information about this, I recommend check out Dr. Pamela Palmater:

stop harper

Brigette with her sign, being escorted out of parliament in 2011.

Next, I moved into a student conference plenary where Brigette DePape addressed students on the importance of social movements and youth involvement in social activism. If you aren’t sure who Brigette is, you may remember her for her infamous ‘stop Harper’ protest during Harper’s speech to the throne in 2011,as a former page in the Canadian parliament. Never have I heard a young women address an audience with such passion, yet so cooly– I sat through her talk nodding and thinking about how I wished I could be her best friend. That morning I had the chance to read her article about the most recent speech to the throne and I highly recommend you check it out here. Having participated in various direct actions in the past, the thing I appreciated most about Brigette’s talk was her real-life advice about how she prepared for direct action. She spoke with a lawyer before her protest and was fully aware of the short-term consequences and possible long-term ramifications of her action ahead of time. This, I believe, is a thoughtful and encouraging approach to social activism for our generation.

In the afternoon I had the great pleasure of attending a plenary wit

orbinski

h renowned medical doctor, author, academic,  and social activist Dr. James Orbinski. To say he blew my mind would be an understatement. His simple message was that for all social advocates and humanitarians, the process of ‘speak-listen-think-act’ is essential in ensuring we engage in social change in sustainable ways. His philosophical perspectives and reflections on his work were really inspiring, and definitely left me reeling– I can only hope to be as thoughtfully reflective on my own work as he is on his.

I ended the day by attending the student conference breakout session with the Aboriginal Students’ Centre. Melissa Ireland led our small group in a circle sharing reflection of our experiences that day. Students had come from all across Canad and the U.S. for this conference, so hearing their perspectives was really inspiring– to see how much they cared about peace and justice helped me believe our generation is capable of so much good work. The overwhelming sentiment expressed in the circle was one of gratitude and that, is ultimately what I left feeling. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the conference and hope my little reflections encourage you to take part is these kinds of events in the future!

Also, in support of the Elispogtog First Nations community targeted by RCMP, Bill and I participated in a rally in Waterloo Town Square that night— and it resulted in this wonderful experience:

PEACE AND JUSTICE TO YOU ALL! ❤

4 Ways to make your Thanksgiving less Exploitative

There’s no perfect time to start a blog, but I’ve ‘gotta say that starting this blog around Canadian Thanksgiving loans itself to some pretty meaty discussions for a foodie and activist. We’ve got colonialism, neo-colonialism, poverty, charity, the gendered division of labour, exploitation of animals and our planet– practically a smorgasbord of topics to write about. In lieu of writing a novel about how Thanksgiving can be a hugely exploitative to-do, I decided to write a shorter article with four ways for you to make your thanksgiving less exploitative. If you’re in the U.S., then you’ve got even more time to mull these suggestions over!

1) Be conscious of your beloved holiday’s roots– colonialism and violence.

In Canada, the Thanksgiving holiday was appropriated from America in the late 1950s. Some say that Canada celebrated Thanksgiving long before America when Martin Frobisher arrived in Newfoundland in the mid 1500s to celebrate after returning safely from his exploits in the New World.  No matter how you choose to view the origins of the holiday (with patriotism or skepticism), Thanksgiving is rooted in colonialism. If you grew up learning about the first Thanksgiving as a time where Western Explorers and Native Peoples came together over a table filled with a bountiful harvest, you are not alone. In fact this image was created for American and Canadian textbooks after the first World War in order to promote patriotism (and likely to encourage people to fix their tables with consumer goods, giving thanks for the bounty they would supposedly have in peaceful times). Thanksgiving was, in fact, a Native practice that was part of traditional spiritual life where people viewed bounty as gifts for which to give thanks.  The first ‘Western’ thanksgiving did not include Native peoples; instead it was preceded by the murder of over 700 Pequot Indians in Massachusetts (men, women, and children). The feast was to celebrate the safe return of Western colonial volunteers who participated in the slaughter. Here’s a video with a more extensive description of what may have formed modern conceptions of Thanksgiving after this attack, when colonial families arrived in New England:

idle no more

Why is it important to remember this? Though you may feel depressed about the way Thanksgiving truly originated, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy spending time with family and munching on good food. Being conscious of the roots of the holiday serves to encourage consideration of how neo-colonial practices continue to exploit Canadian Native communities. For more info on resisting for change and justice, check out and support the Idle No More movement: http://www.idlenomore.ca/

2) Do more than just giving your soon-to-be-expired cans of lima beans to Food Banks in order to fight poverty.

Thanksgiving is one of the quintessential times of year where the majority of Western society takes a break from our hectic lives to stop and appreciate what we have. Along with this is a common desire to reach out and help those less fortunate– at Thanksgiving, this usually involves helping those without access to the same amount of food as we have. It’s important, though, to think about why we are giving to the Food Bank– is it because we really want to help fight poverty? Or is it because we want a quick way to push away our feelings of guilt that stem from our privileged position in society? If we want to fight poverty, I’d argue that giving a few cans to a food bank, though it may be a positive action in the short-term, is not the best way to direct your energy. Take a look at what your community does to mobilize around anti-poverty action and take part. Seek out an organization which aims to address issues of poverty from the community level and give a bit of your time or money to the cause. For example, The Working Centre in Kitchener, Ontario has an amazingly intersectional approach to addressing poverty in our community… it’s worth looking into! I promise. If you’re hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, why not make room at the table for a few members of your community who may not have anywhere to go? Make a new friend and begin a lifetime of sharing by sharing your table.

3) Acknowledge that your dinner probably enforced patriarchal norms.

YLF_053Here’s a question: who cooked your thanksgiving meal? Perhaps you live in a beautifully egalitarian family where Mom and Dad or husband and wife work together to prepare a meal. In which case, I give you mad props and graciously request that you not read this point. If your family is anything like mine, though, chances are your mother practically slaved over the oven and stovetop for one or two days to prepare the family meal. Perhaps your grandmother also worked hard to make her traditional pies, while an aunt or great-aunt concerned herself with bringing appetizers, salads, rolls, or any other accompanying piece requested. The key activity my dad participates in is the carving of the turkey. He sharpens his knife and carefully cuts perfect pieces, ensuring to save the bones so my mother can make soup in the coming week. There is something so eerily violent about the carving of a turkey, to me. One Thanksgiving I fell down the stairs as my dad was carving and he came running to me with knives in hand-the knives were scarier than the falling! Now, you have to know that my dad is the kindest, most loving and supportive guy, and I’m not saying in any way that he would reproduce his role in Thanksgiving dinner as violence towards anyone. I am suggesting, rather, that modern day Thanksgiving dinner reproduces an age-old gendered division of labour where women are seen as the ones responsible for preparing the dinner with care, while men are responsible for disecting and consuming both the products of women’s labour, and the labour itself.

If your wife is cooking dinner, why not offer to make the veggies? If she wants to carve the turkey, let her. If she wants to cook a vegan meal, support her. If she asks you to help her cook a vegan meal throw on some ‘kickin tunes and enjoy the shared experience. If you have no control over the situation (i.e. you’re like me and having dinner at your parents house) let your mom know how much you enjoyed everything and continually ask if you can help with anything.

I would like to note that I do give my dad credit for taking on the dishes after our family meal. Go dad! 😀

4) Cut the turkey– consider eating a Vegan (and organic!) Thanksgiving meal

Sadly, a staple in so many of our  Thanksgiving memories is the smell of turkey cooking in the morning. I can’t say I ever grew up with the smell of tofurkey in the morning and I will admit that to-date, I personally have not eaten tofu for thanksgiving; however, even if my past Thanksgiving eating habits haven’t lived up to my desire to eat consciously and compassionately, I know there is still room for improvement. In the following video, the Compassionate Cook, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau talks about how we can challenge the cultural norm that says we have to kill a turkey to enjoy Thanksgiving, by compassionately choosing to fill our plates with plant-based, delicious grub.

I struggle so much with the rift between my desire to eat compassionately and the obligation I feel to eat what my family prepares during the holidays.  For four years I was a vegetarian and was bombarded by questions at every family gathering about what I did and did not eat. Over the summer I participated in a 30-day vegan challenge, and even my supportive mother found herself questioning my decision. It’s not easy to explain why you don’t want to participate in a cultural tradition  to people who disassociate the tradition of eating meat from the practice of slaughter– people who view meat-eating as a sign of cultural capital. This is what I know I will struggle with over the course of my journey towards eating a plant-based diet and I will always appreciate your stories, suggestions and comments on how to navigate this interesting journey!

For now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and been able to critically think about how you can create a less exploitative Thanksgiving experience for yourself.

PEACE!
-Kate