Why ‘tomboy’ remains a loaded word

Cameron Diaz claims to have always been a tomboy, reported the Toronto Star March 2. Britney Spears, Charlize Theron, Hilary Swank, Michelle Pfeiffer, Keri Russell and Keira Knightley all say they have, or had, a whole lot of tomboy in them.  

It’s chic in these post-feminist times for beautiful female stars to admit to a certain "maleness." Ordinary women, too, now often wear a tomboy childhood, once tinged with varying degrees of anxiety (why can I not find it within myself to be a dainty princess? will my daughter grow up to be a lesbian?), like a badge of honour.  

But the word "tomboy," with its basis in "essentialist" thinking about gender – girls are like this, boys are like that, and those who cross the line aren’t quite normal – doesn’t sit well with some people.  

Frances Latchford, a professor at York’s Atkinson School of Women’s Studies, agrees that the word’s continued use "is a signal that traditional gender roles are still intact" but adds: "Because I was a tomboy, I still have a certain fondness for it in terms of nostalgia. "When I was a kid, I dressed like a boy. I didn’t like it if people identified me as a girl. In hindsight, I think what it was, was I wanted the freedom to do the things that boys got to do. I thought being able to do those things meant being a tomboy, and all the things that were associated with femininity and the things that girls did and were supposed to do just didn’t interest me."

Spadina project won’t be ready till 2015, TTC says

A lack of federal funding has delayed completion of the Spadina subway extension to York University by a year, says TTC Chair Adam Giambrone, reported the Toronto Star March 1. The joint federal-provincial-municipal project, announced amid much fanfare one year ago by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Dalton McGuinty, was supposed to be finished by 2014. "It is now in the 2015 window," Giambrone said Friday.

Some sewer relocation and design work has been done but, under the joint trust agreement, he said, no shovels can go in the ground until the federal funds begin to flow.

"You can’t build a subway on announcements," said Giambrone. "I’m sure (the money) will arrive at some point," he said, but typically, "it takes an unacceptably long time."

In related news:

  • In a series on Toronto’s transit system, the National Post wrote March 1 that other cities, Montreal among them, choose to expand their subway networks, to take pressure off any one point of the system. (With the opening of three stations in Laval last year, Montreal’s Metro, which opened 13 years after Toronto’s, is now longer.) After building half a subway on Sheppard Avenue, $1-billion for five stops, the TTC has decided that, with the exception of the new spur to York University, it is out of the subway business.
  • In a letter published March 3 in The Toronto Sun, Toronto reader Murray Lumley took exception to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s recent reply to Toronto Mayor Miller who bemoaned the lack of attention to Canadian cities’ infrastructure needs in the federal budget. Flaherty said his is the only federal government that has promised to pay for a subway line in Toronto. That may be great in the long term, but that subway line to York University likely won’t be ready for another decade – it is of no help to Toronto residents now, wrote Lumley.

Evolution theory full of holes, says biology student

In response to a letter published in Ontario’s Orillia Packet and Times "Evolution is a proven fact" (Nov. 2, 2007), Daniel Wakefield wrote: I am a fourth-year biology student at York University, and I have taken enough evolution courses to know that the theory is full of holes.

For one thing, the evolutionist method of dating the earth (estimating its age) is faulty and inconclusive. Professors fail to teach that there is also scientific evidence that shows that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, wrote Wakefield. Furthermore, many scientists teach that evolution progresses by the gradual accumulation of "favourable" mutations. However, for fish to evolve gradually into people, there would have to be an increase in the information content of the genetic code, and mutations only serve to corrupt the existing information, much like defects on a computer’s hard drive.

Far from being accepted as fact by all reputable scientists, evolution is rejected by many researchers who are carrying out important work in nearly every area of science today. While I am not advocating the teaching of creation science in public schools, I do believe that evolution should be taught for what it is: a theory, not a fact, concluded Wakefield.

Voodoo sting raises question: What is religion?

A Peel Regional Police sting – in which an officer impersonated a voodoo priest – is considered a first in the Western world, reported the National Post March 1. However, the fact that a police officer disguised himself as a spiritual adviser to draw incriminating confessions from suspects makes this sting as controversial as it is unique. In a country where heresy is far from a crime, Justice Terrance O’Connor was forced to go where Canadian judges fear to tread: What is a religion? Can the state tamper with faith to solve crime?

“It is difficult to define ‘religion,’" Frances Henry, professor emeritus in social anthropology at York University, told the court. "Older definitions are being challenged because there are so many new forms of religious behaviour found in the increasingly globalized world."

Basketball player continues on all-star team

Paris, Ont. native Laura MacCallum has been named to the Ontario University Athletics east division’s first team women’s all-star basketball team for the second consecutive year, reported the Brantford Expositor March 1. MacCallum, a graduate of Paris District High School, finished the season sixth in OUA scoring as she averaged 16.5 points per game to lead the York University Lions. MacCallum, a guard, shot a remarkable 88.6 per cent from the foul line and averaged a team high 33.7 minutes per game. It’s the second consecutive season that the slender guard has been selected as a first team all-star.

MacCallum’s teammate Emily Van Hoof of Lindsay, Ont., joins her on the first all-star team.

York grad in charge of Barrie arts scene

Our new head of culture here in Barrie is a fascinating guy, wrote the Barrie Advance Feb. 29. Rudi Quammie Williams (BA ’96, MBA ’98) always knew he’d be an artist, and more. As a jazz percussionist, he first enmeshed himself in the Toronto arts scene. But soon he was performing, acting and involved in filmmaking and much, much more. Also, he found that artists and arts organizations were often looking to him for advice. Thinking strategically was natural to him. So in 1996, after achieving a fine arts degree at York’s Faculty of Arts, he returned to York to complete his MBA. For Williams, York’s Schulich School of Business program, with a specialization in arts and media administration, was the perfect foundation for his future direction.

Williams – or as he prefers, just Quammie – is an arts administrator as well as a multi-disciplinary artist. He was the founding executive director of the ReelWorld Film Festival and has also served on committees of the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council and the Caribbean Cultural Committee.

On air 

  • David Shugarman, director of York’s Centre for Practical Ethics, and Ian Greene, a political scientist in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed the controversy over allegations the Conservative Party attempted to bribe then-independent MP Chuck Cadman to sway his vote, on the “Cameron Bell Show”, CKNW-AM in Vancouver, March 2.
  • Randy Pitawanakwat, coordinator, Aboriginal Student Community at York University, talked about the importance of the three-day University Aboriginal Awareness Days, on APTN-TV in Winnipeg, Feb. 29.
  • Lillie Lum, nursing professor in York’s Faculty of Health, discussed the complicated and intensive regulatory process most internationally trained professionals have to overcome to get accredited, on “OMNI News: South Asian Edition” Feb. 29.
  • Roberto Perin, a history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed the divisive repercussions of the international Anglican Church’s decision to bless gay marriages, on Radio-Canada’s “Le téléjournal” Feb. 29.
  • Amy Lavender Harris, who teaches geography in York’s Faculty of Arts, gave the CBC’s Marishka Melnik a literary tour of Kensington Market as part of the Walk 21 Conference, on CBC Radio’s “Here and Now” Feb. 29.