Doting or hip, mothers face tough expectations

Could modern-day motherhood be just as restrictive and limiting as the mothering mandates prescribed for women in the 1950s?, asked the National Post Oct. 28. Mothering experts argue that women today are hemmed in on one side by a new hip brand of mother – a more detached, edgy and infinitely cooler version – and on the other by an ethos that advises non-stop bed-sharing and a view of baby’s first year as being so tethered to mother that it is essentially a fourth trimester.

Even the bulk of modern writing on motherhood – what qualifies as “mommy lit” – gives voice to what one academic suggests is a reactionary view that assumes a mother’s natural place is at home with her children. “I think it’s much, much harder to be a mother today than it was, ironically, in the oppressed 1950s,” says York Professor Andrea O’Reilly, founder of the Association for Research on Mothering at York and organizer of a conference this weekend devoted entirely to research about mothering.

“I talk to my mother, and she says, ‘I had way more freedom than most mothers now. I had evenings with your father. We had nights out with friends.’ Nowadays, so much of mothering is who’s been the best attachment-parenting mother – who hasn’t had a single night away from their child.” At the Motherlode conference in Toronto, the women are convening at sessions titled “Mother Activism” and “You Say You Want a Revolution,” their agendas filled with talks on empowered mothering, resistance and mothering, and maternal activism.

York gives ailing professor space to smoke drug

Marijuana activists say there are several thousand people who use pot for medical purposes but have not received the government endorsement, reported the National Post Oct. 28 in a story and photo featuring Brian MacLean, professor in York’s Faculty of Arts. MacLean was one of those, forced to “skulk” around, despite his medical marijuana authorization from Health Canada. The criminology professor says he needs a hit at least every four hours to treat a severe form of degenerative arthritis. But late this past week, the York administration informed him it would provide a ventilated office in his building, Vari Hall, for cannabis treatment.

He says prolonged, heavy use of marijuana has meant the drug no longer makes him high. It does render more faint the constant “beating” of pain he feels throughout his limbs, made worse by a car accident three years ago that broke his back in three places. At York, administrators felt they had no choice, treating MacLean’s marijuana use like any other medical need of an employee, said Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations. “Now that we’ve gone through this, we can certainly make similar arrangements should they be requested by someone else,” he said.

 Beyond the veil

I have to admit that encountering a student at York University (where I teach) veiled, or even occasionally in full burka, can be quite disquieting, wrote Robert Fothergill, theatre professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, in a letter to The Globe and Mail Oct. 28. Facing such a student in a small seminar class would take a bit of getting used to. For a start, I would be unsure how she wished to be treated. Does the veil or burka signal a wish not to be addressed or questioned, for example? Well, I guess I’d have to ask. Not such a big deal, really. And either she’d become part of the class, or she wouldn’t and we’d have to get used to her silent presence.

The concealment of a woman’s face, wrote Fothergill, whether as a voluntarily adopted cultural custom, as obedience to a (disputed) religious ordinance or as submission to the will of a protective or possessive male, while it may be found offensive by some, doesn’t literally constitute an offence – does it? Unchallenged, the practice will surely evolve over time, becoming commonplace or disappearing. Confronted with hostility and attempts at suppression, it will inevitably become a badge of defiant resistance, exacerbating the very estrangement that unsettles some people in the first place.

Every night is girls’ night in the pockets of the city known as begum pura

The term begum pura was probably first used in Toronto to describe a tower near Square One where the wives of Pakistani pilots who flew for Middle Eastern airlines in the late 1990s chose to live to stick together in their new homeland, reported The Globe and Mail Oct. 28..This particular group has since moved out, but the term endures. “Begum is a title. It’s like ‘Mrs.’ – it’s very prestigious,” explains Neelam Bangash, a graduate student at York University who researches the integration of Muslim women in Canadian cities. “It is someone who is affluent. It’s not just anybody. Pura is just a place. So begum pura would be a place where ladies dwell.”

A growing number of would-be retirees are staying on the job

Bill Gleberzon has spent a good part of his working life at an organization that helps seniors handle retirement, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 30. Now that he’s pondering his own, he finds he isn’t prepared to stop working. He’s not content to “sit on a shelf” once he leaves his job as director of government relations at CARP, Canada’s Association for the Fifty-Plus. In particular, Gleberzon, who is 64, doesn’t much like the idea of giving up his part-time job at York University in Toronto, teaching humanities and American history. “When it comes to pensions, the real question is, who knows how much is enough?” Gleberzon said. “Then you get these blips like the cost of heating fuel, or gasoline, and that impacts food, and so on.”

Woman turns from body abuse to bodybuilding

Three years ago if you told Desmona Cole (BFA ‘96) she would one day stop drinking alcohol, stop eating fast food and become a bodybuilder, she’d have probably laughed in your face, wrote The Toronto Sun Oct. 30. “My friends used to think of me as a lush,” Cole said. “And I loved food. The worse it was for you, the better I liked it.” But those days are long gone for Cole, who, over the past two years, has placed in the Top 3 in two all-natural bodybuilding pro-qualifiers. And at 35 years of age, the graphic designer from Rexdale says she’s in the best shape of her life.

Cole felt she had the necessary discipline to become a bodybuilder. But in hindsight, even though she knew what it took to become a bodybuilder, she said she wasn’t fully prepared for the road ahead of her. “The whole workout thing was a shock to my system. After my first leg workout, my legs hurt me for about two weeks. Through the whole process, I’m saying to myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’ But after seeing what your body can do and how it’s changing, you want to push yourself to do better the next time you get in the weight room.”

Short-term tax cuts don’t interest citizens, economist says

With his announcement of more personal and business tax cuts, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty signalled the end of irresponsible government spending, wrote the Newmarket/Aurora Era-Banner Oct. 26. The news drew praise from the business community, where, in some sectors, our booming Canadian dollar has led to shutdowns and job losses. However, the idea of sweeping tax cuts doesn’t resonate with many, said Daniel Drache a political economist in York’s Atkinson School of Social Sciences and associate director of the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies at York. “The idea that people are driven by the short term isn’t true. Public opinion shows Canadians are not hot to trot on more tax cuts. They want to see progress on health and education,” Drache said. “Ontario is the heartland and there are schools and hospitals that can’t stay open. It’s wealthy with substandard infrastructure.” “Markets can’t do everything. They can create wealth, but they can’t distribute it,” Drache added.

MacDermid study affects campaigns around the GTA

Environmentalist Erin Shapero (BES ’99) was a lone – and, some said, crazy – voice in York Region when she declared her 2000 campaign for Markham council would be free of developer funding, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 29. But voters outraged over development on the yet-to-be protected Oak Ridges Moraine welcomed her maverick stand. “Many of my colleagues on council were very bitter that I actually got elected,” Shapero recalls. “It brought the issue of developer influence into people’s consciousness.” In the suburban cities and towns bordering Toronto, where galloping urban sprawl is a hot issue, the question of who is funding local campaigns is driving many races.

Across Greater Toronto, more than 40 candidates are mounting corporate-free campaigns to protest what they see as an improper relationship between developers and city hall. In a study released last spring, York University political scientist Robert MacDermid found that the bulk of 905-area campaigns in the 2003 municipal election were funded by corporate contributions, primarily from developers. “It’s encouraging to see candidates…making this an issue and hoping that they can attract votes by showing they are free of corporate and development interests,” MacDermid says.

In Durham, where regional council wants to let developers build subdivisions on provincial greenbelt land, Ajax Mayor Steve Parish is running re-election ads in a local newspaper urging voters to “elect candidates who do not accept developer contributions.” Parish, who is running his fifth campaign without developer or corporate funding, says MacDermid’s study has galvanized public opinion in Durham. “We have had greenbelt and urban expansion issues that didn’t make much sense to people until they saw the other side of the equation – the amount of development money in the municipal election system,” he says.

  • It’s a Ward 2 trifecta race with incumbent and York alumnus Erin Shapero (BES ’99) up against former York student Peter Pavlovic and Howard Shern for the councillor’s job, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun Oct. 26 in an municipal election profile. One of the smallest of Markham’s eight wards, Ward 2 is also among the most densely populated and diverse.

    A business administration graduate from Seneca College, Pavlovic has also studied political science, public policy & administration at York University and the Schulich School of Executive Education. Incumbent Councillor Shapero is Markham council’s sole woman member. A graduate of York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, the tri-lingual candidate is a lifelong Thornhill resident.

Where have the economic nationalists gone?

Last week, The New York Times discovered a crisis in Canada, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 29. Reporting on the formal closing of deals by foreign companies to buy two leading Canadian firms – Inco Ltd. and ATI Technologies Inc. – the paper headlined its story, “Canada wonders why it’s the Bought and not the Buyer.” Actually, Canada wonders no such thing, said the Star. And that’s the crisis, for those who still believe in such a thing as economic nationalism. In the past two years, more than a dozen of Canada’s largest corporations, with total assets of more than $57 billion, have been swallowed by foreign predators. And the response has been…well, there really hasn’t been a response. At the height of economic nationalism in Canada in the 1970s, there was nothing like the “hollowing out” of Corporate Canada that we’ve witnessed lately.

Bernie Wolf, an economics professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, regards openness to foreign takeovers as fair play. “If we want Canadian companies to invest abroad, we can’t very well say that foreigners will not be allowed to invest here,” says Wolf, who is director of the international MBA program at York’s Schulich School of Business. “It’s important that the world not return to the days of protected fiefdoms, which leads to economic inefficiency and a lower standard of living.”

Wolf sees the recent takeovers as part of a trade-off. “There are some negatives to foreign direct investment (FDI), among which is the likelihood of key decisions being made at an offshore head office,” Wolf says. “But FDI can bring major benefits, including an infusion of capital, technology and organizational knowledge, which promotes greater productivity.” Those are not particularly compelling arguments.

Net pharmacy closing

An online drugstore owned by a major U.S. drug maker and run by a prominent Waterloo pharmacist is shutting down Monday amid questions about a possible conflict of interest, reported the Guelph Mercury Oct. 28. The move comes after the Toronto Star started asking questions about the unusual arrangement that had industry observers worried. is indirectly owned by New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson and managed by pharmacist Phil Hudson, an unusual arrangement between drug maker and drug dispenser that has raised concerns about whether the traditional independence of pharmacists is being undermined by corporate interests. Unlike typical pharmacies that sell drugs made by numerous manufacturers, sells to Canadians only over-the-counter drugs made by Johnson & Johnson.

“I haven’t heard of this kind of thing before. How do you know whose interest they’re putting first?” said Joel Lexchin, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health and a long-time pharmaceutical industry researcher. “They could be seen as furthering the interests of their employer indirectly, Johnson & Johnson, and not the patients. Whether or not they are is irrelevant because there’s the perception of a conflict of interest. That can take away the confidence that people should have in their pharmacists.”

Police fail to police themselves

Police accountability is a major concern for all Canadians, wrote columnist Evelyn Myrie in the Hamilton Spectator Oct. 30. We must ensure that those entrusted to enforce the law do so in a manner consistent with our human rights declarations and Charter of Rights. Transparency, fairness and equity must be cornerstones of our institutions. The failure by police to adequately punish their own when they commit offences against the citizens they swore to serve and protect is a threat to all of us.

A growing number of people are fed up with police being only accountable to themselves. David Charney, an Osgoode Hall law student, is urging police complainants to hit police services where it hurts – in their pocket books. In Waterloo, Charney, a social activist, sat in jail for eight days awaiting bail on a charge of “obstructing police.” He had had enough. He filed a $10,000 suit against the Waterloo police in small claims court. On the eve of the trial in June, Waterloo police settled for $9,000. Since then Charney has recruited fellow law students to form what is called the Police Accountability Small Claims Collective.

Life as an extra ‘beats working’

While making movies sounds glamorous, there’s little glamour in being just another face in a crowd, wrote the Belleville Intelligencer Oct. 28. Think hurry up and wait – hurry to hair and makeup, and then wait for 14 hours for a six-second walk by in front of the camera. But that’s show biz and it doesn’t deter people from signing up for meagre background parts, like walking down a street. At $9.25 an hour, extras can earn more than $100 a day without doing anything demanding and, sometimes, not doing anything at all.

York University film student Claire Hodgson, 24, plays dress-up to pay the bills while waiting for a break in actually making films. She works four to 15 days a month as an extra and up to 20-hour days. “I don’t want to be an actor but it’s fun dressing up and being someone else,” says Hodgson, who looked like Marilyn Munroe on the set of the new John Travolta movie, Hairspray.

Liberals expect to face election with deficit

“There is so much money pouring into Ottawa right now, they don’t have…any place to store it,” said Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, in the Toronto Star Oct. 28. Sorbara remains baffled that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has refused to commit to its $670 million share of the proposed $2-billion, 6.2-kilometre extension of the Spadina subway line through York University’s Keele campus and into Vaughan. “It’s ludicrous to think that somehow they can’t make up their mind on participation in major infrastructure projects. They’re trying to renege on their obligation to fund the Canada-Ontario Agreement,” he said, referring to the six-year, $6.9-billion accord signed between the province and former prime minister Paul Martin in 2005 that Harper is refusing to fully honour.

Reserved York grad keeps his cool as Kingston mayor

At various times in his life, York alumnus Harvey Rosen (BA ‘71) has aspired to be a nuclear physicist, an architect, a philosopher and an urban and regional planner, wrote the Kingston Whig-Standard Oct. 28. Instead, he became a lawyer, businessman and politician. For a while in his late teens, he was also a flower child, a textbook ’60s hippie, with the requisite mop of long, unkempt hair, bandanna, dark glasses and baggy clothes. Not surprisingly, this particular phase didn’t last.

What has held Rosen’s interest, though, and captured his heart, is politics. It’s still something of a surprise to Kingston’s low-key mayor that he occupies the city’s highest political office and that he loves the job so much he’s campaigning to do it for the next four years. He isn’t naturally outgoing and certainly doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a glad-handing politician. Rosen, 57, is the first member of his prominent Kingston family to hold political office.

In a league of his own

Delcio Delgado is a happy man, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 28 . He recently organized a one-day futsal tournament – indoor soccer played with five players a side – to kick off the second season of the Platense Juniors Soccer League, which starts officially tomorrow. On this day, 10 of the 12 Delgado children, ranging in age from 4 to 28, are helping Dad continue his dream of running his own league. Ivan Wadgymar, a 20-year-old history student at York University who has been playing under Delgado for five years, says the league gives youths one more means to stay out of trouble. “It’s happened here. There’s lot of guys who have been badasses or been in trouble,” said Wadgymar. “It’s a positive focus – physical conditioning and mental, too.”

Harry Jerome Scholarship honours 35 black students

One of the biggest challenges faced by young black Canadians attempting to break through includes a lack of familiarity and expertise to tap into in certain fields, says York student Konata Lake, recipient of a Harry Jerome Award in Toronto on Oct. 27. It’s particularly a problem, considering for others, “there’s a generational pass-down.” Lake, who grew up at Jane and Finch, spent his early days determined to become an NFL player. But that was until, he says, his Grade 10 English teacher, took him outside and told him he was capable of much more.

After that day, Lake made the library his friend, spending his Saturdays with his head buried in his books. Today, he is doing a joint LLB/MBA program at York University and spends his time going back to Jane and Finch to mentor other black young people. It’s this type of behaviour that Julien hopes he will see in other students. “My hope is that…they will come back and mentor young people in the community.”

Markham woman wins Governor General’s award

Seema Shah, a 24-year old Markham student at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, accepted the Governor General’s Youth Award with the same humility and hope which earned her the nomination in the first place, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun Oct. 26. Following last week’s ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, during which six citizens were honoured for their outstanding contributions to the quality of life for women in Canada, Shah said she was overwhelmed. “I had this incredible feeling of awe,” when Governor General Michaelle Jean put the medal around her neck in the presence of family and dignitaries, she said. “I never experienced that feeling before. The magnitude was incredible. The third year Osgoode Hall Law School student was nominated by Osgoode Professor Benjamin Richardson.

On air

  • Seth Feldman, film professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts and past president of the Film Studies Association of Canada, spoke about horror movies on CBC Radio (Charlottetwon, PEI) Oct. 27.

  • Alan Young, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about a new challenge by religious groups to Canada’s marijuana laws on Global TV, Oct. 28.

  • Paul James, York Lions soccer coach, spoke about the situation faced by disgruntled soccer star David Beckham of Real Madrid, on CBC Newsworld, Oct. 29.