Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: February 2009

The beating and assault of a woman in Calgary has the police repeating the same old messages: women should use caution when unescorted or unchaperoned. (via Lillith Attack)

It is so normal that women are considered fair game that when one is attacked the police use the moment to remind women that they need to restrict their freedom of movement. If they do not, they can forfeit their right to expect safety as a general rule.

Is the message garnered from a bank robbery and shooting that victims need to exercise caution and listen to their instincts when they enter a bank – as if by instinct a person can know a bank is going to be robbed or that a man is going to jump out from behind a bush and rape. Do we tell a man whose car was stolen that he should not have been driving it down the street alone in so flagrant a manner, or that parking in a public parking lot was asking for it? 

It’s a neat corner women are backed into: we are accused of playing the ‘victim card’ when we ask for political action on an issue concerning women. Then, when we go about the world as if we have a right to safety, we are told to act the victim, forever vigilant, using emotional and mental energy to predict when an attack might happen and where.

Nevermind that rape/sexual assault can happen anytime, anywhere, most frequently in our own homes, by people we know.


I have two daughters who love listening to the sugary soundtrack from Mary Poppins and so I’ve had much more opportunity than some to re-learn the song lyrics as an adult, wonder at what is packaged as children’s media and shake my head at the ubiquity of rape myths. 

So, do gentlemen rape? 

No, according to Mary Poppins as she sings “Jolly Holiday”. Gentlemen do not rape; rape is the province of the lower classes. 

It’s subtle but it’s there. Bert has just sung his part of the duet about what a wonderful person Mary Poppins is – practically perfect, indeed. She really has a high bar to reach in order to merit his praise. What does he have to do, or not do, to gain her praise? Not force her into unwanted sexual activity.

(This part reminds me of parenting: a father changes a diaper and he’s a hero, a mother changes 100 diapers and she is boring.)

It’s all there in the song. Bert’s “blood is blue” because he “wouldn’t think of pressing [his] advantage” which is, in turn, the reason that “a lady needn’t fear when [he is] near”. Add to that mix that “forbearance is the hallmark of [his] creed” and we have completed what is so special about Bert. In essence, because he is a gentleman he won’t push Mary Poppins into unwanted sexual activity; he will not attempt to rape her. 

Is my point that gentlemen do rape? Is it that we set the bar far too low for men?

Actually, I think my point is that this is a children’s song, from a children’s movie. How young children begin their schooling in society’s dominant narratives about men, women and sex.

My life has changed. I am no longer a paid minion, reduced to typing stories that meet the specifications an editor who is so anxious to please the multi-millionaire-publisher-and-owner’s-son that he seems almost unable to leave the office for fear of not being available to change this story he thinks the publisher might find objectionable or spike that story that he is worried might cause too much attention, which will then cause the publisher to pay too much attention to him. He’s living in one house, building another and has no other marketable skills – with the notable exception of passive-aggressive bullying. He landed his relatively well-paid job completely by fluke and he can’t afford to be fired. 

I am on an island – which is as I write in the middle of an amazing snowstorm. Both island and writer are used to waiting out snowstorms, recalling the green shoots and furled tendrils of springs past and re-living flings with summers of our youths. 

I am in the middle of a personal snowstorm, I suppose, one in which I am redefining who I am and who I will become. I will use this blog to clear the snow each time the path out of my door becomes covered again with regrets and hopes, memories, the kind which bring a smile, and the kind which have still the power to wound, with ambition and failure, with stories and words and the sound of children. 

There’s something about snowstorms.