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Book Review: Violent Partners by Linda G Mills

NB: This is my first book review for Feminist Review, and because I had a 600-word limit, I had to curtail my criticism. For starters the author, Linda G. Mills, chose to promote her book on the FOX network's O'Reilly Factor. This should already raise a few eyebrows.

Although I've cited only one example of a questionable interpretation of statistics below, I found more than a few instances of this, and it led me to conduct my own research. For an overview of domestic abuse in a western country (Canada), where intimate abuse is also criminalized click here.
This study clearly shows that in the vast majority of instances, men are more violent than women. I'd advise that if you do read this book, do so with a critical eye and don't allow the author's credentials, a scholar and a self-described feminist, to influence you.

Violent Partners: A Breakthrough Plan for Ending the Cycle of Abuse
Linda G. Mills
Basic Books

Author Linda G. Mills is a scholar, lawyer, social worker, and the founder of the Center on Violence and Recovery at New York University. In Violent Partners, Mills challenges the tenets of the battered women’s movement. These basic principles held that:

o Domestic abuse was caused by deeply rooted misogynist beliefs, which condoned violence against women;
o Women were rarely violent;
o If women endured the abuse and didn’t leave, it was because they feared the consequences; and
o Criminal action had to be taken against violent men.

Mills proposes a controversial breakthrough plan to end the cycle of violence, which includes counseling for violent couples who want to stay together, group counseling, and healing circles. The author believes that the criminalization of domestic abuse has been unsuccessful in ending the cycle of violence and, in many instances, has only exacerbated the problem. Although Mills uses many compelling cases to support her arguments, she fails to give the reader a specific case to illustrate what it might have been like to be a victim in the late 1960s, before the women’s movement had championed the cause. This would have given the book a more balanced perspective.

The author also uses some statistics that give a skewed picture of violent women in intimate abuse cases. For instance, the author cites a US Department of Justice-funded study, which has neither footnote nor name, showing that arrests in California for domestic violence between 1985 and 1995 grew by 37% for men and 446% for women. These figures were to illustrate the author’s claim that the number of violent women was dramatically increasing. However, there is no mention that this surge could be attributed to increased reporting by men or greater public awareness vis-à-vis domestic violence. In addition, these figures don’t give the reader a clear idea of the percentage of domestic violence cases that are actually perpetrated by women. In Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile of 2004, published by the Canadian government, it states “females are more likely to be victims of spousal violence (85% vs.15%),” a figure based on domestic abuse offences reported to police.

Mills objects to the generalization that men are always the perpetrators, and women are always the victims. She believes that both partners play a role in the dynamic of violence and that understanding this dynamic is key to stopping any recurrence. I believe that the author’s intention was to emphasize the importance of understanding the dynamic rather than pointing a finger at one gender, but unfortunately, what many may take away from the book is that women are just as violent as men. This, in turn, could seriously undermine the support for and financial well-being of the current system, which has undeniably saved tens of thousands of lives in the past 30 years.

The book is convincing in its explanation of who becomes violent and why, and the impact of domestic violence on future generations. Mills is also successful in showing the complexity of intimate abuse. What’s more, the author makes it abundantly clear that we now know a lot more about family-related violence than we did 30 years ago and that with our new wisdom, we should embrace new solutions.

I applaud the comprehensive approach that involves looking for new ways to stem violence in future generations. I also found the peacemaking and healing circles to be a promising and relatively inexpensive remedy, which could work in certain situations. However, I would only recommend this book to therapists, public health policy makers, and professionals working with victims of abuse and in the criminal justice system.

Cross posted at FeministReview on Friday, January 29, 2010.
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Return of the Angels

Last week, a colleague told me of a spectacular happening out in the street that I couldn't miss. I grabbed my camera, and we ran up Mansfield to see the above statues being loaded onto a flatbed truck. They had been stored in the basement of the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral Basilica on René Lévesque West since 1978, and were now on their way to the Quebec Conservation Centre* in Quebec City for restoration.

On Mansfield, we also met Kevin Cohalan, the Vice-President of the Plateau Mont-Royal Historical and Genealogical Society. He informed us that these statues, the work of renowned religious sculptor Olindo Gratton, had originally been mounted in 1909 on the Saint-Enfant-Jésus Church in the Mile End. Some of you non-churchgoers may remember this as the site of the 2009 Expozine. The wedding cake façade of this church is indeed unique, and it somehow reminds me of the St-Sulpice in Paris.

As you can see from the pictures below, these were wooden sculptures covered with copper sheets that were welded together. This was cheaper and lighter than using bronze and a widespread practice at the time. Unfortunately, over the years, water seeped into the wood, causing it to rot, and the statues eventually began to fall apart. Bernard Mulaire, the great-grand-nephew of Olindo Gratton, noted the poor condition of the sculptures in 1977 and was instrumental in having the Montreal diocese take them down and put them into storage. The Plateau Mont-Royal Historical and Genealogical Society has been lobbying for the restoration and return of the angels in order to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Saint-Enfant-Jésus Church.

As I took my pictures, I was astounded by the beauty and, particularly, the fine details of the sculptures, which would be perched some 50 feet off the ground, far from anyone to fully appreciate. In the pictures below, you will notice the folds in fabric, the natural wave of the hair, the expression lines on foreheads and cheeks, and even the veins and tendons on the hands and forearms. It was a unique opportunity to see these 10-foot sculptures up close, and it was reassuring to learn that the Quebec Religious Heritage Council (CPRQ) would be funding 70% of the $90,000 project.

Have you ever been moved by a beautiful religious work of art? I'd love to hear about it.

All of these statues form two separate works: the Last Judgment and the Star of Bethlehem. To see these two works on the front of St-Enfant-Jésus prior to 1978, click here.

*As a courtesy to my readers, I have translated the names of organizations. The official names are always in French.

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6 Things Children Never Say

In a previous post, I raised the issue of the perceived barriers of raising a child whose first language was not English. Since I wrote this post, my daughter's English has improved, and those perceived/real barriers have somewhat faded.

I've also discovered something quite reassuring. Regardless of differences in languages and times, my daughter and son say basically the same things as my brother and I did as children. Even though my kids have their own unique likes and dislikes, I can still accurately predict what my children will never say. Here are six of them:

1) I hate toys. I prefer to use my imagination.
2) I don't want a Wii. (Fill in the blank here. In my case, it would have been cable TV.)
3) I still have room for my vegetables.
4) That's way too much chocolate.
5) Oh, I'm tired. Think I'll brush my teeth and go to bed.
6) Mom, I think you need some time to yourself.

Please feel free to add to this list!
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Internet Addiction: Poll Results

As the responses to our poll flooded in, we found that that most readers had a healthy relationship with the Internet. While one poor respondent teetered on the brink, about a third of you confessed to a full-blown Internet addiction (IA). Maybe the four of you can meet up in a café, obviously not an Internet café, and establish an Internet Anonymous chapter. If you don't live in the same city, you can always establish a...never mind.

I must admit. My research into IA has made me painfully aware of how much time I waste surfing the net. StumbleUpon has helped me to find the absolute best sites, but I've also allowed it to become my poisoned chalice.* I more than stumbled upon it; I fell on it face first. To prove to myself and my entire family that I am not Internet addicted and that my attention span is on the mend, I watched a movie, Mary & Max, three times this past weekend. Am I still addicted, if, after 15 minutes into the film, I was convinced I was going to blog about it? Or that I choose to blog at night or early morning when everyone is asleep. You tell me reader.

Special thanks to my significant other who DIDN'T take the poll...Hmmm, maybe he has something to hide.
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Film Review: Mary & Max Directed and Written by Adam Elliot

Mary & Max is a claymation tale of two penpals that begins in 1976 and spans 20 years. Eight-year-old Mary Daisy Dinkle accompanies her shoplifting mother, Vera Lorraine Dinkle, on an errand to "pick up" some envelopes at the post office. While waiting, Mary spots a Manhattan phonebook and thumbs through the pages of New York surnames. Vera's stashed box of envelopes unexpectedly falls from her dress and onto the floor in front of the enraged post office manager. Vera beats a hasty retreat grabbing Mary who takes part of the phonebook page with her.

When Mary returns to her suburban Melbourne home with her sherry-swilling, cigarette-smoking, cricket-loving mother, she decides to write a letter to a name on the torn phonebook page, one Max Jerry Horowitz, an obese middle-aged atheist who also suffers from Asperger's syndrome.The penpals quickly discover that they are both lovers of chocolate and the Noblets (cartoon characters) and have loneliness and friendlessness in common.

In addition to giving a touching portrayal of friendship, this tragicomedy deals with some very adult themes: depression, suicide, anxiety and alcoholism. But don't be scared off. For every sad moment, there is something equally hilarious to offset it. For instance, Mary's letters often trigger Max's anxiety attacks. After a particularly intense episode, Max is unable to write to Mary for a very long time. When he finally sits down to type a letter, he tells her that not much has happened in his life, except for his facing manslaughter charges, being committed to a state mental institution and winning the lottery.

Unlike most animation features, this film doesn't have a lot of colour, but somehow more colour would have detracted from all the details. The scenes in Australia are filmed in sepia tones, while those in New York are filmed in black and white. There is a splash of red in every scene to emphasize certain objects: Mary's barrette, Vera's lips and a pompom that Max wears on his yarmulke, a gift from Mary.

I enjoyed this movie enough to watch it three times. What I loved the most was the writing, and Adam Elliot's love of threes and his balanced names, such as Bernie Clifford who teases Mary about her poo-coloured birthmark and pisses on her spam sandwich, and Marjorie Butterworth who tries to seduce an anxiety-ridden Max. I also liked all the fine details that working with clay allows for. I much prefer the naive imperfections of clay models to the slickness of computer-generated images (CGIs).

Oddly enough, this is based on a true story. Writer and director Adam Elliot had a New York penpal with Asperger's syndrome. In the interview below, he claims that Mary most resembles him and his life growing up in Mount Waverly, a suburb of Melbourne.

This is a great movie for adults! See trailer (2:05 min)

Further reading:
Interview with Adam Elliot

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The Flavours of Social Media

Since my last post was on addiction, I wanted to draw on the experience I acquired as a scooper and double dipper at my first job. Although forced to wear the unsightly combination of pink and brown, I enjoyed my first, albeit shortlived, employment experience. Now, the pay was shite, but the fringe benefit, conducting R&D to acquire a taste for each of the 31derful flavours, was worth it, at least for a few months. This "research" helped me "develop" recommendations for customers but, unfortunately, caused me to expand more than my horizons.

As I see it, my near-addiction to ice cream at age 15 has coloured my view of social media, and my point in assigning a flavour is to give you an idea of what to expect. This way you can pick yer poison...

Please bear in mind that this list is not exhaustive. There are more than 200 social media sites. These are the biggies.

Flavour: Pralines and Cream
You can't go wrong with pralines and cream, and this was a top seller in my day. Twitter is a great way to connect with like-minded people. It's also a wonderful place for seeing activism in action, learning something new and finding great bloggers. Now some people (Fidel) think that it's only people tweeting about "shaving their backs" and "plucking their nose hairs," but you have a choice in this. And there is no better place for breaking news. Just ask CNN. And here you will find an abundance of writers, activists, artists, craft enthusiasts, feminists, journalists, bloggers and photographers. This is a great place to find killer links and get your social yayas out. Down side: you'll find a lot of salespeople, marketers and social media "experts," but remember, you don't have to follow them back.

Flavour: Jamoca Almond Fudge
What could be better than coffee, chocolate and almonds. I've just stumbled upon Stumbleupon, and I love it. It's particularly good for people who are visual. This social medium works on the premise that if you're looking for something on the net, you may have to sift through a lot of junk before you find it. Stumbleupon is like a curating service. In my profile, I checked off a few areas I was interested in: photography, crafts and art. Then I hit Stumble. If I liked what I saw, I gave it the thumbs up, if not, the thumbs down. This site keeps track of your likes and gives you more of the same. The good news: you can share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. I have found fabulous sites here that I would not have found otherwise. This is the site that my father will absolutely adore. Have a look at the quick tutorial before you get started.

Flavour: Vanilla
I have found this to be the least social of the social media, but it's the best one for professional networking. If you're looking for a high-paying executive position look no further. In addition, this is ideal for finding specialists in particular fields. It's also a great place to ask questions. Two years ago, I was doing research on BPA and received a lot of helpful information from professionals working in biotechnology. But be forewarned. This is for professionals, so you'll want to put your best face forward. Be professional and keep the silly stuff for Twitter and Facebook.

Flavour: Spumoni
Through Facebook, I have connected with relatives and friends whom I have not seen in years, like aunt Bonnie, cousin Tina, and Andrew from grade 5. And in some cases, it's easier to get ahold of some of my friends here than by phone. But there's a lot of things on Facebook that I just don't understand, just like those little green candies in spumoni. And then there's still that issue of Facebook owning all your personal information. But they changed all that...Right? Okay, so I'm not a fan...yet.

If I've missed an important aspect of any of these four social media, or you take issue with the flavour I've assigned then drop me a line. I'd love to find out more.
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8 Symptoms of Internet Addiction

I am hearing more frequently that the first thing people do when they get up in the morning is turn on their computers. I've even heard of people keeping their laptops on their bedside tables. I must admit that I spend more time than I ever have online. This is mainly because I started a blog, which requires a large investment of time and an online presence. This change has impacted my life in more ways than one. For starters, I have a noticeably shorter attention span. Secondly, my family complains that it's hard to get my attention when I'm online. Thirdly, although I only intend to check my e-mail, I often end up checking my blog and analytics, looking to see who's on Twitter and replying to a few people on Facebook. My intention is to go online for 5 minutes, and it quickly stretches to 30. I'm wondering how much is too much, and what is the fine line between enjoying something and developing an online addiction?

Do you think Internet addictions are widespread? 

While doing a little research, I spoke with a psychologist who told me that an increasing number of couples were consulting her because one person was tired of playing second fiddle to a computer. This is one of the eight symptoms of addiction in the Internet Addiction Diagnostic Questionnaire (IADQ) developed by Dr. Kimberly Young. Internet Addiction is considered a disorder, and there is some talk that it will be included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association which provides diagnostic criteria for mental disorders.

The following are the eight symptoms Young presented in her paper "Internet Addiction: the Emergence of a New Disorder." If you have five or more of these symptoms then you apparently have an addiction. I volunteered to take the questionnaire.

1. Do you feel preoccupied with the Internet (think about previous on-line activity or
anticipate next on-line session)?
Yes, I gleefully look forward to my next online session on my way home from work. My employer filters out all the fun stuff.

2. Do you feel the need to use the Internet with increasing amounts of time in order to
achieve satisfaction?
No, but I find it's very easy to waste a lot of time on social media.

3. Have you repeatedly made unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop Internet use?
No, but I've been asked not to get on the computer until after 8:00 pm.

4. Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop
Internet use? No, I don't need to curtail online time to feel moody, depressed or irritable.

5. Do you stay online longer than originally intended? Yep, busted!

6. Have you jeopardized or risked the loss of significant relationship, job, educational or
career opportunity because of the Internet? No. Someone laid down the law before that happened, and BTW, he thinks that it's hilarious that I've chosen to blog about online addiction.

7. Have you lied to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of
involvement with the Internet? I don't announce that I'm a fan of twitter because "some people" pass unfair judgment on Twitter users. Rather than lie, I don't disclose...

8. Do you use the Internet as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a dysphoric
mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression)?
Yes, particularly when I don't want to think about something.

If you said yes to less than five then you have a healthy relationship with the Internet.

If you would like to read the research Kimberly Young presented click here.

How did you fare on the questionnaire? Please take my poll in the right sidebar.

Further reading:
Rome Hospital Starts Treating 'Booming' Internet Addiction Disorder (Bloomberg, November 3, 2009)
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Death of World Music Star Lhasa de Sela

Last night, we learned of the untimely death of Lhasa de Sela after a 21-month battle with cancer at the young age of 37. She was born in Big Indian, New York, just a few hours from New York City, but she chose Montreal as her home. One of four daughters born to a Mexican father and American mother, Lhasa spent her childhood travelling the US and Mexico with her family in a converted school bus. She moved to Montreal at 19 and began singing in bars, creating material for her debut album, the Spanish-language "La Llorona," which was released in 1998. She left her music career temporarily after touring for two years and went to join her sisters in France, working in a traveling circus as a musician and helping to put up and take down the big top. She settled for a time in Marseilles, where she laid the groundwork for her second album, "the Living Road," which the Times of London named one of the 10 best World albums of the decade. Trilingual, English, French and Spanish, the singer received many awards in Canada and Quebec. She released her third album entitled "Lhasa," in April of 2009.

Over the Christmas holidays, I saw the advertisements for "Lhasa" in the Metro and heard her hauntingly beautiful voice on TV and radio. Unaware of her ongoing battle with cancer and unable to get her song out of my head, I told myself that I would see her perform this year, as she was said to be a captivating and mesmerizing performer. Sadly, my husband told me last night that there were unconfirmed reports that she had succumbed to the disease at her home in the late hours of Jan 1. Those reports were confirmed later in the evening. The local media has said that it snowed for 40 consecutive hours after her death.

To have an idea of her talent, take a peak at De Cara a la Pared (4 min):

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Something Unique in the Hood

The exciting part of my neighbourhood is its diversity. If I'm going for a stroll with my children, I invariably head to St Viateur where I never feel underdressed and where my children are always welcome. In addition to restaurants, bagel shops and Montreal's best English-language used bookstore, St Viateur has several cafés with patios that are invariably packed, even during the week. This is the area where many of Montreal's self-employed live. At any given time, you will hear schmoozing, flirting, bragging, socializing and cheering (the cafés are also the venues for watching World Cup soccer games) in several different languages. You will also notice at about the intersection of Jeanne Mance that this is the neighbourhood of Montreal's Orthodox Jewish community. St Viateur is indeed the closest incarnation of Sesame Street that I have ever seen.

In stark contrast is Laurier Avenue West, just a few blocks south. To the west of St.Urbain, Laurier Avenue has a decidedly Outremont feel to it. For those who are not acquainted with Montreal, Outremont is the city's French equivalent of Westmount--rich and known to be snobby. The shops cater to les Outremontais(es), and I rarely enter the shops unless I see something truly irresistible. Is it because I'm usually woefully underdressed, my children would be unwelcome, or because I fear cardiac arrest upon seeing the price tag of some coveted item? Whatever the reason, window shopping is still a treat. And dear reader, don't be put off by my description, there are still some gems on this street.

One such gem is Marché G. Young's Exotic Plant and Flower shop at 232 Laurier West. Mr and Mrs Young have taken a former convenience store from the 1970s and turned it into an exotic plant shop without changing the original décor one iota. On a street known for ripping out any sign of past retail existence and starting anew, this shop is a fine example of upcycling. As you walk around the store, mesmerized by their collection of exotic plants, you will notice the Molson clock and the fact that the produce aisle has been converted into the cactus and orchid section. I always wondered why the orchids were put there until I learned that these flowers enjoy artificial light. The owners will be pleased to show you around the store, as they genuinely enjoy the beauty of their plants. Their 15-year-old dog sleeping in the back corner also gives the shop a homey "dep*" feel. (See note below picture.)

If you love orchids, G. Young has a beautiful selection year round. And if you call ahead of time, the owners will tell you the day of the best selection. For more pictures of some of the exotic plants you can find here, visit my Flickr photostream on the right sidebar.

*Dep is short for "dépanneur" the French word for convenience store, but you will also hear English speakers refer to a convenience store as "the dep." In addition, deps often carry quite a range of house plants, particularly if the owners hail from South East Asia. As someone who grew up in Ontario, I've always found it an odd place to pick up a house plant.
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Participatory Video: Wapikonimobile

As many of us already know, the people we see in mainstream media are generally not representative of the public at large. Although efforts have been made in recent decades to make our media more reflective of our population, some groups are still sadly under-represented. In Canada, the First Nations, or natives, are unfortunately nearly absent from both our big and small screens.

After discovering photo-voice last April, I learned of another wonderful project here in Quebec that uses participatory video (PV), another means of giving a voice to marginalized peoples. PV gives communities the opportunity to tell their stories, explore issues and be proactive in finding their own solutions, while the end product, the video itself, serves to show their lives to the outside world.

After the extraordinary experience of making films with youth in the First Nations community of Wemotaci and with homeless youth in Quebec City, Manon Barbeau drew on her inspiration to create Wapikonimobile, a traveling film-making and music-recording outfit, which has been crisscrossing the province since 2004. Barbeau wanted to offer native youth a type of forum where they could exchange among peers, develop an appreciation for their culture, learn some technical skills and fulfill their dreams in a substance-free environment.

The National Film Board of Canada and other partners provided the necessary support to make the project possible. The Wapikonimobile has since traveled more than 16,000 km to First Nations communities throughout the province. The team of instructors arrives in a community and teaches a group of 12 youth the art of film making, editing and music recording. After the project is completed, there is an area presentation.

Last October 13, there was the annual mini-festival in Montreal featuring 13 of the best shorts to come out of the Wapikonimobile project in 2009. In addition, the first permanent studio was inaugurated in Wemotaci in 2006, and there are plans for more permanent studios in other communities. Barbeau's long term goal is to set up a series of studios to form the first Aboriginal audiovisual production co-operative in North America.

A short to come out of this project, "War of Life," is a 7-minute short about a young woman who questions her Mohawk identity. NB: You will hear the narrator speak of Native Americans. Please bear in mind that the Mohawks live in Quebec, Ontario and New York State.

Related posts:
Photo-voice: girl behind the camera
Doc Review: Finding Dawn by Christine Welsh

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