Saturday, March 13, 2010

The other side of living here

A few weeks ago I posted a few of the many, many reasons I love living here and have since updated this list as I realize I did not nearly do justice to the many wonderful things about our adopted hometown. Now for the other side of living here...

1. You're not from here: Yes. We are xenophobic in Canada too. Our national newspaper just ran an article detailing how "ethnic" Canada will be by the year 2031 and talking about the challenges inherent to that. Meanwhile in my home province of Quebec a woman was just expelled from a government funded language course for refusing to remove her hijab (apparently it conflicted with their "pedagogical goals"). But I do find the xenophobia more apparent here (perhaps they are just more honest about it?). Seemingly every night or so on the news there are stories about "stranieri". My Italian isn't great so maybe these stories are about how immigrants are improving life here... but I don't think so. There are ominous organized protests by neo-nazi looking youngsters carrying flags that probably NOT coincidentally resembled swatiskas waving signs reading "Bilingulismo mai!" (Bilingualism never!). The mayor of one Italian town even tried to have a minimum income level as a pre-requisite to applying for residency in his town (this was struck down by the courts). Our acquaintances here tell us that we are not the sort of stranieri about which there is concern; what a warm and fuzzy feeling that DOESN'T give me!

2. Sexism: Let me preface this by saying I am not particularly sensitive to sexism. I can honestly say that I have never felt personally discriminated against based on gender and I have been often called out by friends and family for not being feminist enough. If I perceive sexism, it has to be pretty blatant. Blatant like television shows (such as the Italian equivalent of Wheel of Fortune) having women as purely decorative objects. Yes, yes, Vanna White, I know, but this is a whole different ballgame. The show features camera shots DIRECTLY down the woman-as-decorative-object's top into her cleavage, directly up between her inner thighs. At 7.00 pm! On what I can only gather is a family channel. Woman as decorative object is such a widespread and standard practice that there is a word for these women: velina, which translated means tissue paper. Their role is to smile, be sexy and SAY NOTHING. They are truly women objects: wobjects. The most frightening aspect of wobjects is its message to the younger generation (and apparently there is a trend towards little girls aspiring to become velina): women are valued for being sexy, decorative and saying nothing.

3. Health Care: In my post on the aspects of life I value here, health care topped the list however there are aspects of it I find alarming as well. The style of health care is too non-interventionalist for my taste. I agree that North Americans have an over-medicated, pill-popping culture and that a huge number of medical problems could be prevented if we were to get off the couch, take a walk, get more sleep and eat healthily. That being said, I feel that modern medicine is sometimes overlooked here. As an example, epidurals are often withheld from women who request them during childbirth for ridiculous reasons: didn't fill out the paperwork ahead of time, didn't have a bloodtest ahead of time to be sure an epidural would work (HUH???), will slow down the labour (I count this as a ridiculous reason b/c although epidurals can slow down labour, in this instance the woman had been induced and had been labouring for 2.5 days and was in agony). To me this smacks of authoritarianism with perhaps a tinge of subscribing to the biblical edict that women shall give birth in pain.

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