Thursday, January 22, 2015

An open letter to a Northeast Avalon Times columnist

Dear Ms. McGrath,

I believe what you were trying to write about in your January 2015 Column in The Northeast Avalon Times is gender and the harms that gender causes in our society. It's a pity that you obfuscated this very relevant topic with your thinly veiled hatred against girls/women with a particular hair colour and eye colour.

As someone who is blonde (and blue eyed) and has raised a blonde (and blue eyed) daughter I would like to point out a few inaccuracies in your article.

First of all, I am still blonde and I'm 47. Yes it did get darker and now it has grey throughout but I did not 'resort' to artificial products to 'restore' my natural hair colour. And neither has my now 20 yo daughter.

Secondly, and I know I can't speak for all blonde blue eyed women BUT my own personal glory was found by completing not one but two degrees, the first one majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Computer Science and the second a graduate degree in Engineering. I've got other glories lying around too and none of them have to do with the colour of my hair and/or eyes. My 20 yo daughter is currently accumulating her own set of glories that (shock!) also have nothing to do with her hair or eye colour. She is in her third year double majoring in International Development and Economics and is on the Dean's honour list. She is going to India on a placement in May. She backpacked Europe last summer. She volunteers. She is in the Student Leadership program. And (another shock) she wore pink as a child, as I did. I myself was not into the whole princess/doll scene but, alas, she was. But she also liked books. And interactive games. And swimming.

Thirdly, your attempt to determine whether me, my daughter, and others of our ilk are repulsive is, in a word, repulsive. It is also repulsive that you question how you would have treated your own daughter if she herself was blonde and blue eyed. It is also repulsive that you compared blonde and blue eyed people to albino bugs. It is also repulsive that you are given a public forum to voice these repugnant views.

Fourthly, apparently you know my Mother. How do you feel about her now, knowing that she raised not one but two blonde and blue eyed girls? Is your opinion of her diminished or does it remain the same since she herself is not blonde? Does she get demerit points for occasional buying (or making) pink items of clothing for us? Or letting us see a princess movie? These items need to be clarified.

And lastly, and most importantly, you realize that hating people on sight might be indicative of needing to see a psychiatrist? It's called being a sociopath. Unfortunately the prognosis is not good for this type of ailment. Maybe, with encouragement, you'll get the help you need.


Orla Hegarty BMath MASc

P.S. If you wanna read up on the whole gender issue thing I'd recommend Gender Hurts by Dr. Sheila Jeffreys. It's available, for free, in our provincial library system.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Tools and fools

The narrative around consent, rape culture, violence against women and narcissism exploded into the Canadian stratosphere this week. Ricochets of #BeenRapedNeverReported are still being heard around the world.

The absence of one aspect in this dialogue is sitting very uneasily within me. Actually, there are a few aspects but I'll focus on just the one, for now: Sexual objectification.

It's a term that has been suspiciously avoided during this week's dialogue but it's a term that is central to the events that occurred. And it underpins much of the dialogue that is happening...both by the talking heads and the victims.

Sexual objectification: "the act of treating a person as an instrument of sexual pleasure....without regard to their personality or dignity."

This definition helps explain a lot things going on, doesn't it?

Women are merely instruments, tools, of sexual 'pleasure', see?

That is why an executive can ask a young intern if they've been used as a tool.

That is why executives can believe that texts and photo evidence of a man using a tool was 'consensual violence'.

That is why a violent man can be an unchallenged taxpayer funded spokesperson for Canadian culture despite knowing about Jian - for years.

This weeks events have not occurred in a vacuum. Anybody looking clearly around at the world today can see that our society continues to devour women. We are merely tools.

But let's not just examine the term and it's implication in this scenario. Let's also think about the term and what it means for what our notions of sexuality and sexual pleasure are in our culture.

Some feminists claim empowerment via sexual objectification. Slutwalk, anyone? These women proudly proclaim themselves as tools and put themselves in the tool box - happily and willingly. Ergo, status quo achievement: unlocked.

But other feminists are trying to get out of the tool box. They recognize that sexuality is so much more than being a tool. Sexuality is the fluid beautiful essence of what it means to be human (pun intended). It is an act that fully engages your body, heart and mind. It is not a mechanical tool. And it does not involve violence. Ever. There should be nothing 'pleasurable' about using a tool to orgasm. If it is reduced to that then the full experience of sexuality and what it means to be a human being is erased. And if you don't believe me and my sisters on this then maybe this man will help you understand the concept of physically and emotionally safe sex better.

If our society continues to be directed by those that orgasm using tools then we are all fools for continuing to allow it. After all, tools can't report themselves as broken.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What do you believe?

I am a person of strong opinions. That is vastly different from merely being opinionated. For example, I no longer hold strong opinions on ideas on which I am not well informed about. I now take time to assimilate information about an idea and let it sprout into knowledge, As this knowledge blooms, I will generally become more forceful in my beliefs surrounding that idea.

In my lifetime, I have ditched opinions more often than not. I used to believe in God. I used to believe in academia. I used to believe in marriage. I used to believe in democracy. I used to believe in peace. I used to believe in hope. I used to believe in certainty.

I look back on the naivety of my certitudes with a nostalgic fondness now. I clung to them with desperation. It is freeing to not feel the chains of blind faith while trudging through life. I have joy in the new lightness of my being.

Recently I had a discussion with a new neighbour about religion, god and faith. She was getting frustrated and flustered about my atheism. She asked: "Well, what DO you believe in then?"

"I believe in humans. It's all we've got." I replied calmly.

And by her look, I could tell, that she did not share this belief. This makes me sad since I realize that she is not alone in her misanthropy yet ironically must feel quite alone whilst walking amongst her fellow humans.

But, in my humanism, I too am not alone. I have met some astounding people over the last few years that also believe in humans and the power of human connection. This has brought more faith to my life than the three decades of religious indoctrination in my youth. Watching their activities through the magic of technology, inspires and humbles me daily. It literally gives sight to my faith and cushions me with the comfort of knowing others have belief in me and in each other.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The gender badge vs. the gender vadge

Dear Females,

I apologize for travelling along the third wave feminism road.  It was the road called equality and it seemed to logically follow the road my mother and grandmothers fought for. I apologize for calling it equality and erasing liberation from the nomenclature of feminism.

I apologize for believing that in the 21st century women had a right to choose to sell her body. I apologize for thinking porn helped further sexual liberation. I apologize for thinking pro-choice = reproductive justice.

I apologize for thinking that women and men were wired differently and I somehow won the genetic lottery by earning the right to call myself a mathematician and an engineer despite being born female.

The road to my enlightenment was long and twisted and admittedly, privileged.

My privilege came from a mother determined to not award gender badges to her daughters. A mother who allowed me firetrucks and my sister cowboy regalia. A mother who encouraged a love of learning and a love of math. And a father who 'allowed' this freedom and even (gasp) changed our diapers in the late 1960s. A father who 'allowed' my mother to be the primary wage earner and he even cooked our family meals during the week and took us to lessons and medical appointments. There were no gender badges awarded in my family growing up. And when my sister came out as a lesbian in her early twenties in the early 90s, my parents embraced her despite their catholic upbringing and a church determined to erase her reality.And we did not seek to give her the gender badge of butch dyke or femme lesbian. She simply loved women and we accepted that without needing to label her beyond lesbian.

And now my privilege is being slammed because I also have the audacity of having a gender vadge. I am a female that calls herself a woman and I happen to also have a vagina. The fact that my parents tried so hard to eliminate the gender badge from my life - as did other freethinking parents who saw the harms of boxing in their children into prescriptive gendered roles while children - is now considered irrelevant and even dangerous to third wave feminists. Flaunting the fact that I have a vagina and others born with one need liberation is deemed cissexist. Saying that someone born with a vagina is more likely to be penetrated in a violent act whether for money or torture is called sex-phobic. Telling people that I want access to female only space is pronounced transphobic.

The only thing that seems to be relevant today is what gender badge you feel like you have and the quicker you identify your gender then the quicker your "problem" can be solved if you don't have the right body parts to match. The solution ultimately  involves lots of drugs and genital mutilation surgery. But, if caught early enough, the gender badge will be awarded.

My vagina is not gendered, it is female. My brain is not gendered, it is human. My feminism is not gendered, it is about females. My privilege is not gendered it is about socio-economic class and education and race.

Ultimately I am sorry that it took me so long to wake up to our female born reality and what the true liberation of females entails. The road behind is only a couple of centuries old and I fear the road ahead is much steeper than it was before gender badges and gender vadges become priority #1 in First World Feminism.

The penance for my own third-wave feminism fiasco will be that for the remainder of my life I will cry every time I see another female shame another female for anything.

And I'm crying a lot these days.


A 46 yo womens liberationist.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Today the wind is gathering momentum outside my saltbox by the sea. It is expected to crest to upwards of 100 km/hr. AGAIN.

It is a metaphor for the myriad of emotions I feel while reading and listening to tales of women's oppression. And as you likely know, it's everywhere.

I met with two women in town for lunch this week. We had all just attended a rally to protest the closure of the Family Violence Intervention Court here in my new home province of Newfoundland. This court, opened by the current government in 2009 was closed last year. The budgetary savings of a mere $500,000 (only 0.02% of the entire provincial budget) was deemed too much to improve and save the lives of women. A province with the highest rates of domestic violence in Canada closed the only program offering real solutions to families facing the horrors of domestic violence. It is beyond shameful and should be criminal.

At our lunch the three of us shared part of our own stories of domestic violence. We agreed it is the shame that weighed heaviest upon us and nearly crushed all of us. And the fact is that domestic violence does crush some of us. Five women in Newfoundland were murdered by their partners in 2012. Five women literally crushed out of existence by five violent men. 

So yes, I'm howling today. And the backdrop of the raging wind is providing a poignant metaphor for the way so many of us women feel whilst desperately battling the shackles of oppression in our town, our province, our nation, and our world.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Public Consultation on Prostitution-Related Offences in Canada

The Government of Canada is seeking the public's input on the criminal law's response to adult prostitution (i.e. the sale and purchase of sexual services from persons 18 years of age or older). This online consultation is open from February 17 to March 17, 2014.

My responses are below. Please go to this link and provide your own.


Consultation Questions

1. Do you think that purchasing sexual services from an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
Comment: Purchasing sexual 'services'????? By framing this question in this way there is an implication that providing access to a bodies orifices is something that is required - like a tune up on an automobile. So yes, I think that purchasing sexual services from an adult should be a criminal offence. Sex is not a 'service'. It is a consensual act conducted *between* adults. Our society should be working actively to reduce demand by penalizing the people who regard sex with others as a service to be purchased rather than an act to be enjoyed between consenting adults.
2. Do you think that selling sexual services by an adult should be a criminal offence? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
Comment: No, I don't think that selling sexual services by an adult should be a criminal offence.
3. If you support allowing the sale or purchase of sexual services, what limitations should there be, if any, on where or how this can be conducted? Please explain.
Comment: There should be no limitations on the providers. By criminalization of the purchasers the providers can work with authorities to eliminate the purchasers they wish to remove from their clientele.
4. Do you think that it should be a criminal offence for a person to benefit economically from the prostitution of an adult? Should there be any exceptions? Please explain.
Comment: All pimps and brothel owners should be criminalized. Body guards should not be criminalized.
5. Are there any other comments you wish to offer to inform the Government's response to the Bedford decision?
Comment: I find it dismaying that this issue has been framed around the notion of sex=work. Any enlightened adult knows that good sex should be an act that allows mutual enjoyment. If it is reduced to 'work' then it is a sad reflection of how distant our Canadian society is from recognizing this.
6. Are you are writing on behalf of an organization? If so, please identify the organization and your title or role:

Monday, February 10, 2014

An open letter to the University of Oregon regarding the censorship of a Women's liberation activist

To whom it may concern,

I am appalled to hear that your institution is considering not only banning Ms. Kieth to talk at your school but also that your senate is considering writing a letter of condemnation regarding her views.

The liberation of the majority female humans on this planet is far from over and has even regressed due to increased globalization and staggering human trafficking. To subvert this silenced reality for millions of females by allowing the voices of the extremely privileged few that have the resources and media at their beck and call merely cements the silent torture of every female raped in a country that allows so-called 'child brides' or allows a father to sell an owned daughter to the burgeoning sex slave industry.

If academia now pursues the milieu of those that fail to recognize the reality for millions of biological females on this planet then the state of education of our first world youth is in much dire shape than my twenty years of teaching tertiary level students has led me to believe.

Lierre Kieth has committed a constructed 'crime' consisting of questioning the validity of gender usurping biological sexual reality. Gender is a theoretical construct. Biological sex is a scientific fact.

If your institution allows a theoretical construct to erase a scientific fact, I might as well tear up my (hard earned) two science based degrees in the name of the liberation of women since your banning or condemning Ms. Kieth would in effect erase all meaning of scientific and theoretical discourse in academia.


Orla Hegarty B.Math, M.A.Sc.