Archive for Emma Teitel
Don’t let careerist naysayers derail your dreams
If you are a university student or a university-bound high school student you probably have the impression, thanks to Canadian media and possibly your parents, that the future is bleak. They would have you believe that learning for learning’s sake is a waste of time and picking a potentially lucrative major is not. There are no jobs, they warn, certainly not in art history or philosophy or whatever allegedly dead-end major you plan to pursue—so you may as well learn something “useful.” They are right about jobs. The future, not to mention the present, is bleak. Youth unemployment in Canada is exceedingly high; in Ontario, according to a September report, one in two persons between 15 and 24 has a paid job—the worst ratio we’ve seen since Statistics Canada began recording the numbers in 1976.
Yes, rapists are responsible, not low-cut tops, but…
This week Slate advice columnist Emily Yoffe incurred the wrath of Twitter with her ambitiously titled column, “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk”. Yoffe’s argument? College women should refrain from getting blotto because a lot of sexual assaults on campus involve alcohol; women who don’t imbibe excessively may be less susceptible to sexual assault. She writes:
“Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.”
Students talk of a brilliant but sexist professor
News of David Gilmour’s proud indifference to ideas and people unlike him has rocked the Canadian Twittersphere.
Gilmour and his off-the-cuff paean in Hazlitt to macho men of letters earned him attention in the American press and incited the wrath of Jezebel writers and academics eager to point out that the Canadian novelist does not have a PhD (because a doctorate, as we all know, is the prerequisite to a sound and tolerant mind). After that first cringe-worthy interview, Gilmour did himself no favours by attempting to clarify his remarks in the National Post. Again he insisted that those interested in reading the works of women, gays and Chinese people go “down the hall.”
“I don’t love women writers enough to teach them. That’s all I’m saying,” he explained. “What I teach are guys. If you want women writers, you go down the hall. … I have a degree in French literature, and I speak French fluently, but I don’t teach French literature because I don’t feel it as deeply and as passionately as some of the other teachers here. So I actually send people down the hall to somebody who can teach it better. The same thing goes for German writers, for women writers, for gay writers, for Chinese writers.”
Down the hall … it’s a big theme in Gilmour’s worldview. It’s also, I’m assuming, as a gay female writer, where he thinks I belong.
So who exactly is down the hall? I decided to find out.
Why cutting orientation isn’t the answer
Russell Smith, in the Globe and Mail, would like you to know Frosh Week is disgusting and boring, and drinking is deeply boring. Those are some of the reasons he thinks universities should do away with the matriculation ritual that tends to include binge drinking, dancing and making friends with whom you will drink and dance for the next four years. (Boring, right?)
Smith’s visceral dislike for frosh activities is the aftermath of his own “miserable” experience. A Queen’s University alum, Smith recalls the gruelling and often unhygienic initiation rites inflicted on 17-year-old engineering students. He argues that the brightest minds wait out the debauchery in their dorm rooms, praying the school year will bring real fun—the kind that involves learning and all that jazz.
It’s no coincidence that Smith’s takedown came shortly after this week’s wildly stupid and offensive bi-coastal misogyny display in which students at SMU and UBC were caught on camera reciting poorly written chants about the thrills of sexually assaulting underage girls. It was a double whammy to our national ego. Canada’s emerging scholars: too base to respect the laws of consent, too dim to write a rhyming couplet. Smith’s antidote to this apparent problem is to one-up the dean of UBC’s business school—who has suspended funding for Frosh Week in light of the scandal—and eliminate the event from college calendars forever.
In his words: “Universities can teach maturity. They can teach teenagers how to be adults and that means to function outside a clique or a tribe. Frosh-week bonding makes a fetish of immaturity. It serves no pedagogic function and universities should stop encouraging it.”
Making regular use of the campus showers serves no pedagogic function either, yet for some reason universities tend to encourage that too.
Why young people shouldn’t fear photos with beer
One morning in 2011, a 24-year-old Georgia high school teacher named Ashley Payne was called down to the office of her school’s principal and given an ultimatum. She could resign from her position or be fired. She hadn’t looked at a student the wrong way or practised corporal punishment. She had had a drink. To be precise, she had two—a glass of wine and a pint of beer, simultaneously, on a European vacation in 2009. The problem, though, was that a picture of this minor indulgence made its way onto Facebook, where—despite Payne using the site’s highest privacy settings—someone saw it, and brought it to the attention of the school’s principal. Payne took the high road: She resigned.
The “Facebook firing” is now an unfortunate fixture in Western professional culture, a warning to the working population at large that normal social behaviour, when captured and chronicled online, is aberrant and offensive. Having a beer after work—sometimes with your colleagues—is a socially acceptable activity. But upload a picture of that socially acceptable activity onto the Internet and it is rendered unacceptable. More than half of modern-day employers screen job applicants’ social media profiles for pictures like the one that implicated Payne, which means that this trend in cyberprohibition isn’t just getting people fired—it’s preventing them from getting hired, as well.
New book teaches Millennials how to be grown-ups
The news has two objectives: to report what’s just happened and to rehash, in the most sensational terms, what is apparently always happening. There’s the obesity beat, the what-gives-you-cancer beat, the housing-crash beat, and the most constant of these constants: the everyone-under-30-is-lazy-entitled-and-doomed-to-fail beat. Some recent highlights: “Generation Y struggling to start their adult lives”; “Study claims Generation Y more materialistic, less willing to work” and “Are Millennials the screwed generation?” We either can’t get jobs or can’t appreciate the jobs we have. We’re not even thinking about getting married yet, we walk through traffic with our eyes fixed to our phones and, to top it off, we can’t even cook a decent roast: according to Australia’s McCrindle Research, “only 51 per cent of women aged under 30 can cook a roast compared with 82 per cent of Baby Boomers.” We are also useless at gardening: “Only 23 per cent [of Millennial women] can grow a plant from a cutting when 78 per cent of older women say this is a breeze.”
To the rescue of this so-called lost generation comes 28-year-old American blogger and former newspaper columnist Kelly Williams Brown, who has written a book called Adulting, How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps. It’s the first book of its kind—a guide for Millennials who are oblivious to all things seemingly adult: the young professional whose parents still pay her cellphone bill; the med student who spends his student-loan money on a trip to Tijuana; and the Maclean’s magazine columnist who, until very recently, thought that Warren Buffett sang Margaritaville, and had to ask her boss for instructions on how to write a cheque.
Emma Teitel on why this may be the worst film she’s seenThis post originally appeared at Teitel Page.
I know I’m a few days late to the party, but if spring break is forever, as James Franco’s “Alien” reminds us every 15 seconds in
Skrillex’s 92-minute music video Harmony Korine’s latest think piece, then I have plenty of time to kill. I never intended to write about Spring Breakers, until I saw it on Saturday night and have since felt worse than Stan and Kenny post Passion of the Christ. I want my money back. I want to round up my best girlfriends, invest in some pink balaclavas, day glo bikinis, and squirt guns, and hold up Harmony Korine’s house like it’s the chicken shack and I need to get myself to Florida, stat.
For some reason I find myself almost entirely alone in this sentiment, which leads me to believe that either the film’s greatness was lost on me (I am a boring nube and just don’t get it) or perhaps, Spring Breakers is the Emperor’s New Clothes of our day: a nude spectacle critics are falling over themselves to endorse. Sure it lags a bit, they say, but in a self conscious way. Can’t you see? It’s laughing at itself. It’s ironic. It’s rebellious. It’s a searing indictment of Western hedonism and materialism. It’s the only American movie that matters right now.
Emma Teitel on the Janice Fiamengo affair
Read more from Emma Teitel on Macleans.ca.
Nothing says free speech like pulling the fire alarm. It was a quarter past seven last night when police emptied U of T’s George Ignatieff Theatre. Keynote speaker Dr. Janice Fiamengo, an English professor at the University of Ottawa, rolled her eyes and adjusted her blouse as the crowd poured out of the building and onto the sidewalk to mingle with the small throng of protesters—pretty girls with big placards and little patience. They wanted Dr. Fiamengo to take her message elsewhere. But firemen came and went, and the professor, once a radical feminist, proceeded to do what the University of Toronto Men’s Issues Awareness Society, and the Canadian Association for Equality invited her to do: denounce women’s studies.
The discipline has devolved into an “intellectually incoherent and dishonest” one, she argued, replacing a “callow set of slogans for real thought.” It’s man-hating, anti-Western, and fundamentally illiberal. “It champions a “kind of masculinity that isn’t very masculine at all,” and shuts down freedom of debate, hence the fire alarm.
This message was quite pleasing to the minority in the room—greying baby boomers of the pro-Fiamengo, Men’s rights camp–and exceedingly distressing to the majority—by the looks of it, gender studies majors and people who would, if given the opportunity, personally execute Rob Ford. It looked like a small contingent of CARP wandered, bemused, into a Bon Iver concert.
Appearances aside though, it was a meeting of truly lunatic minds.
Emma Teitel on the educational side of casual sex
In 1925, when American anthropologist Margaret Mead was 23 years old, she travelled to the volcanic island of Tau, in eastern Samoa, to study a group of “primitive” teenage girls. Her findings—namely that Samoan adolescents were unusually free with their bodies and their hearts—would make their way into her most famous book, Coming of Age in Samoa, three years later. Mead didn’t fetishize Tau as a modern-day Eden. Rape was frequent. Entertainment was scarce (unless you like weaving fish baskets, I wouldn’t recommend it). But she did laud something on the island: casual sex. “The Samoans,” she writes, “laugh at stories of romantic love, scoff at fidelity to a long-absent wife or mistress, believe explicitly that one love will quickly cure another.” In other words, if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. She suggests that the cloistered West—prudish and purity-obsessed—could learn a thing or two about sex from teenagers on a remote island thousands of miles away.
On the Christian law school where gays need not apply
Have you heard? Free speech is a thing of the past. And religious liberty is dying fast.
It began last week when Arun Smith, a seventh-year human rights student at Carleton University in Ottawa, tore down a “free speech wall” on campus because it featured socially conservative comments. The action inspired three National Post columns and an Ezra Levant exclusive lamenting the end of freedom of expression as we know it.
Elsewhere, on the religious liberty front, the Canadian Council of Law Deans wrote a letter of protest to Canada’s Federation of Law Societies about Trinity Western University. The Christian liberal arts school in British Columbia wants to open a law school that would require students to sign a Community Covenant Agreement that pledges “Healthy Sexuality.” The agreement has nothing to do with gonorrhea or how to avoid it: what’s to be avoided is love and sex between people of the same gender (which is, I guess, by Trinity Western’s standards, worse than gonorrhea). “Sexual intimacy,” says the covenant, “is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman.” In other words, gays need not apply.
Female gamers face harassment and contempt online
Republished from Macleans.ca.
When Lianne Papp started playing shooter games like Counter-Strike online 12 years ago with complete strangers, she noticed something immediately: not only were the majority of those strangers men, but they really didn’t like playing with women. The 27-year-old game developer from Edmonton lists “Show me your t–s,” “I’ve got something for you to sit on” and the more traditional “Make me a sandwich” among the sexist remarks and obscenities she’s received as she played on the web. “Online gaming is plagued with juvenile gamers who sling insults at everyone they can,” she says, “but the harassment women have to deal with is seemingly worse.”
Stop being so cynical about young people
The Toronto Star ran a story recently about a 24-year-old “super intern” named Maeghan Smulders, who graduated from Mount Royal University with 29 job offers—all of which she rejected. Smulders figured if she was going to begin her career, she was going to do some research first. So ProjectONE12 was born, a postgraduate’s 112-day exploration into the world of unpaid internships. Smulders took stints in Toronto, Montreal and even San Jose, interning with 10 companies, all in the hopes of finding and landing her dream business job.
She did. At the end of her seven-month journey (which she documented online) she took a job at Beyond the Rack, a Canadian online retail start-up. “Being in all the different places,” she said, reminiscing about the project, “you get a taste for culture and you get a taste for not just the work you’re doing, but the people there. I really wanted to find an environment I could really grow in.” Don’t we all.
Emma Teitel on the controversy at Simon Fraser University
On May 1st, my friend Josh Dehaas wrote an article about a Simon Fraser University student named Keenan Midgley who wanted to start a “Men’s Centre” to complement his university’s “Women’s Centre”–the kind that exists on nearly every Canadian university campus today.
Like the women’s centre, the men’s centre would provide a safe space for its respective gender, one in which to discuss (to quote former SFSS president Jeff McCann) “men’s issues and mental wellness and all the different things that come along with that.” As Keenan Midgley pointed out to Dehaas, suicides, alcoholism, and drug use, are more prominent among young men than they are among women. Not that it’s a competition.
Or maybe it is…
Students boycott Israel, but are blasé about Syria. Why?
March is upon us, which means the Oscars have been awarded, and that other harbinger of spring is around the corner: Israeli Apartheid Week.
Ordinarily, both events are masterpieces of predictability, with the Academy Awards ushering the usual suspects to the podium (Meryl Streep anyone?), and Israeli Apartheid Week featuring the usual anti-Zionist suspects on megaphones (among them the now famous IAW sub-group, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, which I’d argue is largely composed of gay Jewish girls who didn’t have fun at summer camp.)
This year the Oscars have come through in predictability, but Israeli Apartheid Week is shaping up quite differently. It’s traditional at Passover seders for the youngest member of Jewish families to ask the “four questions,” which inquire why “this night is different from all other nights.” This year it might be prudent to ask a fifth: why is this Israeli Apartheid Week different from all the others?
The perils of co-ed washrooms
From the 21st Maclean’s University Rankings. Get your copy today!
Some call it “the can,” others, the final frontier of gender equality: It’s the public washroom and it’s gone co-ed. Even though single-sex facilities are still the norm on the majority of Canadian university campuses, you’d be hard-pressed to find a school that doesn’t have at least one co-ed washroom—and it usually includes shower stalls. McGill, York University, the University of Toronto, Dalhousie, Mount Allison and the University of British Columbia are just a few of the “progressive” (or backwards, depending on your lavatorial leanings) co-ed washroom providers, earning the approval of campus feminists who view mixed facilities as a positive step towards full gender equality. Others, however, are not convinced. One 18-year-old Queen’s University psychology major says she was relieved to live in an all-girls dormitory solely because of the same- sex bathroom factor. Co-ed washrooms struck her as “grosser because boys used them,” says Jessica, now in her second year and living off-campus with a washroom of her own. “The girls’ ones were generally very clean.” Jessica would regularly make the five-minute walk back to her all-girls dorm from the co-ed dorm where many of her girlfriends lived, simply to avoid using the washrooms there. “It just smelled so much worse,” she says, before conceding, “maybe I just have bathroom phobia.”
Canada’s coolest undergraduate research opportunities
From the 21st Maclean’s University Rankings. Get your copy today.
Contrary to popular belief—and what you may see in the movies—academic research isn’t only for master’s students, and undergrads do more than just drink beer: they do research, too. In fact, there are lots of exciting collaborative research projects currently underway at universities across the country, where undergraduate students and professors are working together to help change the learning landscape. See for yourself, below.
University of British Columbia
UBC master’s students Samantha Brennan and Aidan Whiteley—with the guidance of their cartography and society professor, Jon Corbett—are still engaged in the research project they began as undergraduate students in 2009. When the Okanagan campus undergrads realized that forest ﬁre maps were inaccessible to the public, they enlisted Corbett’s help in building a fire-mapping tool that local residents could use to access data on burn areas, as well as review actual human experiences pertaining to the fires—as opposed to only facts and figures. Brennan and Whiteley’s project, which has been dubbed the “Facebook of forest fires,” also included real-time Internet videos and timelines.
The academy comes down too hard on honest mistakes
From the Maclean’s University Rankings—on sale now.
It’s fall, and over 800,000 undergraduate students have just begun classes at universities across Canada. In the next 12 months, 32 per cent are likely to binge drink and smoke marijuana, 14 per cent will probably drop out, and—to introduce a new scholastic rite of passage—more than 1,000 will be accused of plagiarism. Scores will be convicted, but there’s a good chance only a few will be guilty of anything more than oversight. I know this because I am a plagiarist.
I was accused in my third year at Dalhousie University (a mature plagiarist, they would say) by a creative-writing professor a few days before reading week: I had failed to attribute a philosophical term, “category mistake,” to the philosopher who first used it, an omission that put me in direct violation of Dalhousie’s academic dishonesty policy. In addition, I gave an example of the term that was nearly identical to the example used by its originator, Gilbert Ryle, in his 1949 book, The Concept of Mind. Here’s what I wrote: “Such a question is the stuff of a philosophical category mistake. For example, if a small child touring Halifax were to ask his mother and father ‘show me a university,’ the parents might take him on a tour of Dalhousie, showing him all the different faculty and athletic buildings, and confused, he would still ask, ‘show me a university,’ so the same concept applies to the question of film editing.”
Slang just might make a new Canadian feel more like everyone else
English as a Second Language (ESL) now goes by the new, politically correct name of English Language Learning (ELL), in official recognition of the fact that immigrants new to Canada may know more than one language already. That doesn’t, however, make the average ELL student a champion of political correctness. At least it’s doubtful that Amira Azad, an Iranian Muslim woman in her mid-40s, had cultural sensitivity on the brain when she interrupted our ELL tutorial on the prepositional phrase. “May I ask a question?” she said, and then leaned closer to whisper: “Tell me please, what is the difference between a slut and whore?”
“The first sleeps with a lot of men,” I answered when I recovered, “and the second gets paid to do the same.” “Oh,” she said, “same in Iran.” Amira (who, like the other students interviewed, requested that her name be changed) asked roughly 30 similar questions that day, compiling a mini lexicon of English curse words and expressions that she covered with her hands every time the program supervisor walked by. Writing down the definition of “bitch,” she noted: “Thank you. My sons will be punished.”
As someone who’s been volunteer-teaching ELL at my local library in Halifax for the past three years, I assumed that people like Amira immigrate to Canada and learn English for a “better life.” But we seldom ask exactly what kind of English is most relevant to that life. A 2007 survey of ESL students by the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education cites the ability to use English in daily life as the single most important goal for learners; above both employment advancement and access to higher education. Chinese immigrant and English language learner Michelle Wong (who also asked that her real name not be used) points out that “everyday English” is far removed from textbook English. “In [textbook] English you have lots of grammar rules,” she says, “and I noticed people were not always following these rules. They used slang and swear words and it confused me.” To remedy her colloquial gaps, Michelle enrolled in a free, student-driven ELL program at the Halifax Regional Library (the same program I volunteer with, and Amira belonged to), where her volunteer tutor briefed her in conversational English, Western profanities and, finally, the answer to something that had been puzzling her for a long time: the definition of “funky.”
Frances Smith-McCarley, the coordinator of the program, is a street-speech activist in her own right. Helping students grasp not only English grammar but the naughty parts that go with it is, she believes, a lesson in survival skills. “What most concerns me,” she says, “is when our students hear racial or religious swear or hate words and may not know that they or their children are the victims of discrimination.” In other words, Amira didn’t have to cover her notebook when Smith-McCarley walked by. In fact, she didn’t need a notebook to begin with.
This is something David Burke, author of The Slangman Guide to Dirty English, has been preaching for 20 years. Burke, an American writer, has written over 50 books and products specializing in cross-cultural slang and idioms—many of which have been distributed to ELL programs around the world. Burke acknowledges that making the vernacular and the profane respectable hasn’t been an easy battle. “I was once the ESL bad boy,” he says. At his first TESOL conference (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) in Arlington, Texas, in 2001, an incensed fellow attendee told him that he had no business teaching informal language, and that his disregard for “pure English” would sully the name of ELL education everywhere. “She caused a scene so loud,” he says, “other teachers came over to my booth to watch!” The showdown came to an end when the purist made the mistake of telling Burke he really ticked her off. “Tick you off?” he said, “That’s slang.”
Nowhere is Burke’s obsession and message more applicable than in this country, where Statistics Canada estimates that by the year 2031, one half of the population over the age of 15 will be foreign-born or have at least one foreign-born parent. A Canadian citizenship hopeful won’t find the sort of language on her citizenship test that she’d find in one of Burke’s books, but just because she isn’t required to know English slang or swearing to become a Canadian doesn’t mean she won’t need it in order to feel like one.
Everyday language, the discourse of everyday people, has never worried about being politically correct. What’s ironic is that our Canadian fear of cultural imposition (always the mosaic, never the melting pot) might end up disadvantaging the very people we’re trying not to impose on. Knowing the proper place to use “slut” and “whore” might not be polite, but it’s just as important as etiquette when it comes to building an identity in your new home. Amira’s only complaint about Canada was that its native citizens were far “too nice.” Fortunately, her sons weren’t.
As universities urge sick students to stay away, some undergrads are faking H1N1
Thanks to H1N1, Section 16.8 of Dalhousie University’s Academic Regulations, regarding medical certificates in the case of illness (required to miss classes and assignments with no penalty incurred) has been modified. Since September, anyone with “flu-like symptoms” has been encouraged to stay far, far away from campus, no questions asked. It seems for now swine flu has killed the sick note at Dal. And other universities across the country have put similar policies into effect.
At first it seemed like a pure Godsend. Free to sign their own notes, students quickly expanded the definition of flu-like symptoms to include smoker’s cough, hangovers and an insatiable appetite for TLC’s Cake Boss. One Dal philosophy major has had the virus twice—once in Logic and once in Deduction—and is planning to contract it again before her Epistemology exam. “It’s supposed to come in waves,” she says.
Or not. Recently the University of Western Ontario started requiring infected students to enter their names into an online database, which could possibly red-flag multiple bouts of the flu. For students a new question loomed: how many times could they cry swine flu; and if they did malinger, what happened if they got the real thing?
Strangely, not much. John Doersken, vice provost in academic programs and students at UWO, maintains detecting fakes was never the reason for the database. “The system is in place so that we can provide our public health unit with data on how serious the pandemic is. We can tell on any given day how many students are away on influenza like illnesses.” Or at least, how many claim to be. There’s no telling, admits Doersken, how many students enter their names under false pretences.
And despite acknowledging that some students are likely using the pandemic for their own benefit, Susan Spence Wach, associate vice-president of academic programs at Dal, says their revised no-sick-note policy will remain in effect for now. “Our main concern is with flu prevention and the care of our student population.” In other words, having some people take advantage of the revised policy is better than what would occur if the policy were left unchanged. “People with flu-like symptoms,” says Spence Wach, “should not be going out to get sick notes. They should be at home.”
Though no official system is in place, data is also being collected at Dal, says Spence Wach: “On a weekly basis I get reports on student illness; only numbers, never names.”
So while it looks like students jumping on the H1N1 wagon won’t be facing any thorny disciplinary problems, they’re probably the contributing factors in some erroneous public health research—just another chapter in the swine flu fiasco. “For the most part, students aren’t abusing it,” says one Western undergrad, who prefers to remain anonymous. “However, I have heard of some students who are. Namely, myself and my roommates.”