1. Premier Houston and Dr. Strang make a video
Jennifer Henderson has this story on the two-minute video released on Wednesday that featured Premier Tim Houston and Dr. Robert Strang speaking to Nova Scotians about COVID and getting back out there. Henderson writes:
The message appears to be an attempt to get ahead of bad news expected late Thursday afternoon that will show an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases as well as a growing number of people in hospital due to the virus.
Last Thursday’s weekly communication from public health reported two deaths, 11 people in ICU, and 336 people in hospital with COVID-19, 48 of whom were new admissions over the previous week.
“COVID-19 is present. There’s lot of COVID around,” Houston said in his video message, speaking directly to the camera.
“And it’s stubborn. It’s not going anywhere. And given how contagious the current strain of the virus is, we are going to see cases rise. They are high now — they could go higher over the next little while. But eventually we will see them come down.”
Strang offered some familiar advice, reminding us all that vaccines offer good protection, keep wearing your masks, and so on. There was a lot of criticism of the video online yesterday. See my Noticed section below for some of the reactions and memes to the video that were making the rounds on social media.
2. COVID in wastewater study
A wastewater surveillance project in Nova Scotia could get more funding to continue its work as the number of COVID cases rise across the country. Yvette d’Entremont reports:
Launched last January, the goal of the research project was to track the presence of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia wastewater to help researchers more quickly identify the SARS-CoV-2 virus before it can spread. That project is winding down.
In addition to measuring levels at four Halifax wastewater facilities — Eastern Passage, Mill Cove, Dartmouth, and Halifax — the research team began a wastewater monitoring program at Dalhousie University residences in September.
While unwilling to provide the most recent data from Halifax wastewater sampling, lead researcher Graham Gagnon explained that during previous pandemic waves, the municipality tended to follow similar wastewater trend patterns as other major Canadian cities.
“I would say it’s generally consistent,” Gagnon said.
“Maybe we’re a week ahead or maybe we’re a week behind, but by and large, most of the Canadian municipalities are (similar). People are flying across our country now and so it’s not like anyone’s really isolated from SARS-CoV-2. So the patterns are broadly similar.”
3. Halifax planning committee cuts
On Wednesday, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr introduced Bill 137 which will include amendments to the Halifax Regional Municipality Charter and make the process of getting new housing more streamlined. Zane Woodford reports:
The amendments, among other changes, remove the requirement to advertise planning matters in the newspaper (the Chronicle Herald); shorten the time in which the province approves HRM planning bylaw changes; and “suspend the referral of planning decisions to planning advisory committees and other advisory committees established by Halifax Regional Municipality Council for a period of three years.”
That last clause includes all advisory committees: the Heritage Advisory Committee, the Design Advisory Committee, the Halifax Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee, and the North West Planning Advisory Committee. Those committees are composed of councillors and residents, and they review development proposals and make recommendations to Halifax regional council and the community councils. In the case of the Heritage Advisory Committee, the members weigh in on how and whether applicants should be permitted to substantially alter their heritage properties.
While Lohr called the amendments “bold,” Coun. Waye Mason called “the whole thing depressing,” adding that government advisors don’t know how municipalities work.
4. Continuing the tradition of Black hockey
Matthew Byard was in PEI recently working on a number of stories. This week, he has this one about hockey on the island and the history of Black players in the sport. Byard interviewed Ryan Maxwell, who grew up as the only Black hockey player in PEI. Maxwell now coaches his daughter who plays on a minor hockey team in Charlottetown.
This story is about more than hockey, though. Byard gets into the history of the Black community on the island. He spoke with Anne Maxwell, Ryan’s mother, who was born and raised in Charlottetown and whose grandparents on both sides of her family were from a long-forgotten Black neighbourhood/community known as The Bog.
I had heard of this community before, but I was interested to learn more. As Byard found out, Anne was a member of the Black Islanders Cooperative, which researched the genealogy of Black people living on the island. Anne traced her own ancestors back to “The Seven Sheppard Sisters” from PEI, and then back to the first Black inhabitants on the island. Byard writes:
In 1786, the lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, Edmund Fanning, became lieutenant governor of P.E.I. When he arrived on Prince Edward Island (known then as John’s Island) Anne said he brought with him four enslaved people of African descent. Two of them were a husband-and-wife couple, David Sheppard and Keisha Wilson Sheppard.
After Fanning’s arrival, she said a number of British generals also brought enslaved people of African descent to the island, some of whom are ancestors of Rocky Johnson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
“There was definitely a slave population here, and slave laws,” she said.
She said a genealogy researcher from Montague, P.E.I. estimates that about 40% of that island’s present-day, predominately white population are descendants of former slaves.
“When we did the research a lot of people were reluctant to claim their ancestry,” she said.
“I had one man…he was an older man, like my parents’ age, he came down to my place of work and said to me, ‘It took us 100 years to live this down, now you’re bringing it all up again.’”
5. The Tideline, Episode 74: Night Blooms
On this week’s episode of The Tideline, Tara Thorne interviews Jessica Clement, star of Night Blooms, and its writer-director Stephanie Joline. Night Blooms, which was shot in Halifax, is a Yarmouth(ish)-set feature about Carly, a high schooler who becomes involved with her best friend’s father. On this show, Thorne, Clement, and Joline talk about the grey areas around relationships, and the film’s conception and production. The film’s last screening is Friday at Park Lane.
6. No paid sick leave for you
The number of cases of COVID is rising, but the province has no plans to bring back a paid sick leave program that helped workers stay at home when recovering from the virus, reports Michael Gorman at CBC:
[Labour minister] Jill Balser said the provincial program, which ended last week, was intended to act as a bridge for people affected by COVID-19 who didn’t qualify for the federal assistance program, which covers a longer period.
The Tories relaunched the provincial program in January as the Omicron variant caused a surge in cases, but Balser said there wasn’t as great a need for the assistance.
“Nova Scotians needed more time off, so they were eligible for that federal program in place of ours,” Balser said in an interview at Province House.
The provincial program provided up to four paid sick days for people who missed less than half of their work week due to COVID-19. The days did not have to be used consecutively.
Anyone who needed to miss more time than that was referred to the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, which remains in place for now.
As Gorman reports, the NDP has a bill before the legislature now that could give all workers in the province a chance for up to 10 paid sick days a year, depending on how much they worked.
Rejecting the “Girlboss” bullshit
Last week, I saw an ad for an event called the Wonder Women Conference. Now, this is not my kind of event, although I am sure it will be a good time for the guests. But the language in the event description got my eyes rolling. It was all about woman as superheroes who have superpowers, who can lift other women up with those superpowers. (The tickets cost $159-$199, by the way.)
I tweeted out that I wasn’t a fan of the superwoman/warrior/girlboss language, and I must have hit a nerve because a lot of women felt the same. I personally find this language silly and condescending. It’s sold as a way to empower women, but it does so with an expectation that we still be nice. Men aren’t labeled in the same way. Can you imagine someone organizing a Superman Conference as a way to empower and lift up men and all their ambitions and superpowers?
This language reminds me of how we described essential workers as heroes during the pandemic, but never actually paid them more or did much to make their workplaces safer. It also reminds me of the language used in the wellness industry, which I wrote about here. And I see it used as a rallying cry in multi-level marketing schemes, which prey on women. All the language is the same and designed to appeal to an exclusive, privileged —and often white — audience.
Women who don’t like or use this superwomen/warrior/girlboss language are labelled something else, usually negative, difficult, or bitches. I’ve been called all these things, and let me tell you: no one is organizing a conference for us.
The one word many women in my Twitter thread seemed to loathe the most was “girlboss.” Adult women don’t like being called girls, but also girlboss sounds like a subset of boss, which we always assume to be a man. And we never call men “boybosses.” Charlene Boyce wrote that girlboss “is the biggest trash repackaging of ‘be cute and sassy and as long as you’re rich and/or very attractive, you can have whatever you want!’ since riot grrrls turned into webcam girls.” This description could be used for wellness “influencers” too.
I don’t use girlboss either, although a few weeks ago when I was out shoveling the driveway, my daughter told me I was “girlbossing” the job (she girlbossed the rest of it). So, I started researching the origins of girlboss and learned the term was coined by Sophia Amoruso, who founded Nasty Gal, a women’s retail chain. Amoruso also founded Girlboss Media and she titled her autobiography Girlboss. The book was adapted into a TV show with the same name. Not everyone was a fan, though. One TV reviewer called the show “a tone-deaf rallying cry to millennial narcissists.” The show was cancelled after one season. In 2015, a former Nasty Girl employee filed a lawsuit alleging she and three other female employees were illegally terminated after becoming pregnant. (I guess Girlboss doesn’t mean “Goodboss.”)
Karen Foster, a sociologist who teaches a course about gender and work at Dalhousie, saw my Twitter thread and sent me a link to this article “The Happy Marriage of Capitalism and Feminism” by Christine Williams. Foster talks about the girlboss phenomenon in her class (I want to attend that class). The article by Williams largely focuses on Facebook COO Sheryl Sanberg and her Lean In theory, a girlboss concept if there ever was one. Williams writes:
Lean In represents a disturbing trend toward ‘‘neoliberal feminism’’ (Eisenstein 2010, Fraser 2009). Unlike liberal feminism, which relies on the state to rectify problems of women’s unequal opportunities and underrepresentation, neoliberal feminism promotes individual responsibility, limited government, market-driven solutions to social problems, and what Arlie Hochschild (2003) has called the commercialization of intimate life. Most concerning of all, Sandberg draws on decades of sociological scholarship on gender and work to ground her argument.
I am with comedian Ali Wong on this: “I don’t want to lean in. I want to lie down.”
On Monday, Foster and I chatted about the girlboss concept and other language like it. Foster said the first time she taught about the girlboss concept, she wasn’t sure how much exposure her students had to the idea. Foster said some students had already been thinking about it, but couldn’t figure out why girlboss ideas rubbed them the wrong way. But occasionally she gets students who praise Sandberg and the concept of leaning in.
I kept teaching it because I want to show a critique and get them to look at it from a sociological perspective, which means the opposite of an individualistic perspective, which is what the Lean In movement is.
I hope they leave at the end of the semester, and I say this explicitly, with the understanding that working is great and you can enjoy it, you can even love your job and throw yourself into it. You can call yourself a girlboss and feel good about that, but understand the wider implications of your choices and the structures that limit what is possible for you to do. I think it’s possible to do both of those things at the same time. It probably makes you more likely to stick up for people who are disadvantaged and to recognize your own privilege without having to be protesting every day.
Foster said it’s important not to let “the state off the hook.”
If you make it an individual problem then you’re ignoring the fact there are policy needs, and other things the state can do that stop short of complete transformation, that also move it beyond the individual’s responsibility to speak up and show up at meetings and not talk about your kids at work.
I asked Foster for her thoughts on why we don’t label men in the same ways we do women.
The basic ideas we have about work are all implicitly premised on a man, so anytime a woman does a role it requires a new word or an adjustment. So, that’s part of it. But it also stems from the fact that we understand in order for women to take on power roles they are transgression dominant gender ideologies. So they are doing something different. I think that’s why we tend to introduce new words.
So what about the women who do like this language? Is critiquing this language critiquing women?
This comes up a lot … it happened during the Mommy Wars, mostly in the US in the 2000s. People tend to retreat to this “whatever works for you is right. As long as we can support each other as women.” But that to me seems like the easy way out. I do think there’s something really important about critiquing structures and systems, and if we make it all about individual choice, that might make it easy to interact with other women so that people don’t feel judged, but we lose the systemic critique part. I think if we understand what we’re doing with feminism is — or should be — a critique of structure, then it’s not personal. As a sociologist, the are a lot of things I do each day to work within a structure I don’t like and I understand you have to do that to live. It’s pragmatic. But you can still make the critiques.
I told Foster that the Wonder Women event got me thinking of the other women who will be there that day, notably the women who will be serving lunch, organizing the room, setting the tables, and cleaning the place afterward. This is hard work that is often underpaid and not recognized. What are girlbosses doing for those women and their superpowers? Here’s Foster again:
For every innovation at work, every change, every trend, there are always winners and losers in a capitalist system. That’s just the way it is. It’s structured so that some people will be exploited so others can make profit. And there will be all kinds of people in between in different functions to preserve that system. It just means you have to be realistic. Any movement that promises anyone can make it if they just put their minds to it is ignorant of that fact. There will always be people disadvantaged by the system and who don’t get ahead. We can’t all be winners in the system.
One of the best Twitter accounts that parodies the self-help, having-it-all nonsense marketed to women is @manwhohasitall. Through the account, its actual creator, who has chosen to remain anonymous, offers “top tips for men juggling a successful career and fatherhood.” It flips the language on how we talk about women, their lives, their work, “me time” and having it all — but it applies it to men. The responses are often hilarious. Women play along, and sometimes men don’t get the joke. But it shows how women are bombarded with this bullshit all the time.
I have no idea if I and other women who aren’t fans of superwoman/girlboss language are in the minority or not. But language is important. Women need more than hollow slogans and meaningless language.
Nova Scotians were getting pretty crafty with their memes yesterday after this video of Premier Tim Houston and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Strang was shared online encouraging Nova Scotians to “get back out there.” This video from the campaign was released on March 21, the day the restrictions lifted. I remember seeing it and thinking it was too soon.
Anyway, I thought I’d share some of the memes of the “let’s get back out there” campaign making the rounds:
Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm) — virtual meeting
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting space, Alderney Landing) — agenda here
Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)
Legislature sits (Friday, 9am, Province House)
PhD Defence: Mechanical Engineering (Thursday, 2pm, online) — Alireza Vahedi Nemani will defend “On the Post-Printing Heat Treatment of Wire Arc Additively Manufactured Ferrous Alloys”
Calling Out Racism: A Reckoning (Friday, 2pm) — virtual event featuring Augie Fleras, with discussion to follow. From the listing:
The catastrophic events of the early 2020s – from the discovery of mass burial sites of Indigenous children at Residential School sites in Canada to the #BLM-inspired aftermath of the George Floyd murder under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer – have ignited a conversation for calling out racism by way of a national re-reckoning. This presentation is themed around the challenge of clarifying the idea of racism as a contested and changing concept in response to evolving realities and emergent discourses.
In the harbour
05:00: Conti Contessa, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
15:00: Thalatta, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
16:00: Oceanex Avalon, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
18:00: MSC Sao Paulo, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Sines, Portugal
12:00: Mia Desgagnes, oil tanker, sails from Government Dock (Sydney) for sea
“Get back out there” is what people say post-breakup when they’re really not ready. That rebounding is a disaster, too.