A weekly digest of varied conversational musings on day-to-day life, society & whatever the world throws our way.

Posts in: Society

Obama on Trayvon Martin

barack-obama-trayvon-martin-statementHello everyone!

So The Y Variable is back after a bit of a hiatus and I wanted to share a version of a piece I wrote for New Canadian Media. I’d invite you to go to the link herein: http://newcanadianmedia.ca/item/7080-obama-remarks-bring-racial-profiling-to-the-fore, and take a look at the accompanying video. It’s definitely a conversation starter!


On Friday July 19, US President Barack Obama remarked unexpectedly on the Trayvon Martin case during a routine White House daily press briefing. His statement was eloquent, empathetic and thoughtful, and was reminiscent of the Obama persona many came to know and love when he was on the campaign trail for his initial run to become President of the United States.

While Obama did discuss the Trayvon Martin ruling – George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch coordinator who fatally shot Martin, was acquitted of murdering the 17 year old African-American high school student – what was most remarkable about his speech was the fact that he also took a bold step in establishing a more intimate connection with Martin by directly identifying with a young man assumed by a large portion of the American public to be a hoodlum or vagabond criminal – Obama said that “Trayvon Martin could have been [him] 35 years ago”; Obama also further legitimized the personal experiences of many blacks in America (and in Canada too).

Obama’s statements rang true for so many blacks and other ethnic minorities – most of whom have had the experiences Obama described:

“There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off.”

Obama’s statements lend credence to the experience of so many ethnic minorities. Even (arguably) the most powerful man in the world, the leader of the United States, faces the same challenges of discrimination and prejudice as the everyday man and woman. In using his position of authority, as leader of a nation, Obama confirms what many already know to be the truth and their lived experience. If he weren’t a public figure, he too could suffer the same treatment that is a commonplace occurrence for so many.

Obama is no stranger to discussions on race. He notes that as an Illinois senator, he passed legislation on racial profiling, which collected data on traffic stops and the race of the individuals who were stopped. The legislation also provided resources for training police departments to think about “potential racial bias and ways to further professionalize what they were doing”.

Obama’s remarks are timely in the Ottawa context, given that the Ottawa Police Service began its traffic stop study at the end of June to address the issue of racial bias and racial profiling by police. Obama states what is already known by racially profiled citizens from Ottawa to London, England to Washington, DC: “there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws”.

Whether the OPS study ends up being effective in addressing the problems in this city remains to be seen; but, regardless of the study’s conclusions, ethnic minorities already know that policies aren’t always applied fairly. A study isn’t required to inform citizens of this fact. All law-abiding citizens want, as Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post says, is to see “those policies applied fairly” – regardless of race.

What do you think of Obama’s remarks? I’d love to hear from you.

Signing off,


Does it matter?


I’ve been sitting on this blog post for awhile, partly because I wasn’t quite sure how to approach writing about this issue – concerned perhaps that my own job might create some sort of conflict of interest – but also because I often like to write my pieces after gaining some perspective on an issue.

As of late, there seems to be an increase, or a cumulation of public figures (elected and unelected) who seem to be abusing their positions and the power that comes with it. Well, perhaps it’s not that there are more individuals who are abusing their positions of privilege – it has been an issue from time in memorial and will continue to be a problem – but with the 24 hour news cycle and multitude of web and social media outlets, it seems as though the problem has grown by leaps and bounds. And what a problem it is.

I won’t name the individuals who’ve been at the forefront of the news cycles – any one of us could name more individuals,  past and present, than we have fingers and toes whose indiscretions have come to light. Some of these individuals may or may have not done their actual day jobs well, but their personal lives are, or were in shambles and as a result this caused their professional worlds to crash and burn.

It begs the question, does the personal life of a public figure, particularly that of a political office holder, matter? One of the more famous quotes attributed to former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau is the following: “There’s no room for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” While he was referring to the decriminalization of homosexuality while speaking in the House of Commons, one could use the quote as a jumping off point to question whether the private lives of public figures should even be our concern.

There are some areas that should absolutely be off limits, for example, underage children of politicians should not be targeted by the media, but, whether or not it is fair, a politician (and his or her family) is going to be subject to extra scrutiny and greater expectations with respect to how they conduct their life. The personal is political. Some may say that if a politician cheats on their spouse, for example,  then it’s a private matter; but if that infidelity creates a situation where that politician can be bribed, swayed to do shady things, or ignore the will of those who put him or her into office, then that private conduct does matter.

Whether they want it not, public figures need to come to terms with the fact that their lives are public. Once they accept the challenge, and step on a podium and profess to represent “the people” and act as a standard bearer for what they believe to be good, fair, and true, in accordance with the ethos of their political party and/or faith or personal convictions, then they throw the door wide open. They invite us to hold them to account and to measure their actions against their words.

A key word in “public office” is public. If you’re not prepared to live your life in the spotlight, if you’re not prepared to live your life with integrity in and out of the office then – plain and simple – you shouldn’t run. Perhaps it’s harsh, but the reality, whether you want it or not is this: what you do behind closed doors….matters.

Signing off,



bra_1394830cYou know sometimes a study comes along that is so important, so life-changing, you can’t help but step back in awe and appreciation of the good work that was done. You can’t help but wonder why no one else had considered the subject matter to be so essential for study. Such a study was released the other week. And which study was it might you ask? A French study that suggests that women should consider going braless because, and as noted in a Reuters report by Tara Oakes, bras weaken “the natural muscles that hold up breasts”.

I for one am so delighted to know that there are people out there who are so concerned about the health of my breasts and the breasts of fellow women and where those breasts may or may not sit on our chests as a result of wearing an ‘over the shoulder boulder holder’. Because really, aren’t there too many doctors working to cure and eradicate cancer and diseases like HIV/AIDS? I mean, come on, nothing is more important than boobies – especially studying the contraptions that hold them up.

I’m so happy to learn too that the study was led by a middle-aged male sports doctor – that’s not creepy in any way – who was so thorough in his research. He did study the busts of 300 women between the ages of 18 to 35 – a pretty ripe age group if I do say so myself. Of course, he needed to be painstaking in his research. A small subset of boobies – no pun intended – wouldn’t do for such critical work.

I do worry though about the lingerie industry and all those poor Victoria Secret models whose incomes will be decimated by this study. What will they do when we all go braless? I’m not sure their bodies could take solid food after all of the juice cleanses they’ve done in order to look their best in the brassieres.

I can imagine how many women around the world have squealed in delight over this study because going braless won’t be engrossing in any way shape or form for the opposite sex. Being all jiggly wiggly as we walk or run won’t draw any interest. And nipples, at full attention, covered by nary a piece of a lacy bra, won’t draw the male gaze our way. Surely, we should all feel a great debt of gratitude to this doctor.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the study that tells us that we should all go commando.

Signing off.


A Woman’s Work is Never Done

Female_symbol“A man may work from dusk to dawn, but a woman’s work is never done”

I’ve just finished reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. While it is an inspiring read – she is a woman of many accomplishments and who seems genuinely interested in improving the lot of the professional woman – I couldn’t help but think as well that as women, our work is never really done.

Each day we have to maneuver through a tricky dance and at times, for me anyway, it feels as though the ‘to do list’, or the boxes that need to be ticked are never-ending. On the one hand, we’re expected to fulfill the destinies won for us – and desired – by women of previous generations. The suffragettes and second wave feminists fought hard and endured extreme prejudice to ensure that women would have a place at the table, the executive table in particular. On the other hand, some of us want to ‘lean back’ from our careers and ‘lean in’ to family – but we worry that if we do, we’ll be called traitors to the cause.

Today’s woman has to be strong and smart, ready and alert at all times because, in many circumstances, her work needs to be as good, if not better than her male counterparts in order to receive the same recognition – or to justify that recognition. And, as in Condoleezza Rice’s words on the back jacket of Sandberg’s book, while we have to “[manage and overcome] the challenges that arise on the ‘jungle gym’ of career advancement”,  there is also an expectation that we act as wonder women of sorts: simultaneously hot shot career women in power suits and “Sex and the City” heels’; yummy mummies; nice and amiable, but not too nice, of course; ladies in the street but freaks in the bed. Oh, and we also need to “lean in”, tap into our greatness, and be the leaders we need to be at work and in life.  And, I should add, find a good partner in the home who will share domestic duties 50/50 and support our career aspirations. I don’t know about you, but it can all feel heavy and makes me go slightly out of breathe.

Don’t get me wrong, the hard work is worth it and our loads are lighter because we stand on the shoulders of those who came before. And if we carry on the work for parity and equality, it will be even easier for the generations to come.

The reality is that our lot is different – our lives come with specific ‘accoutrements’, if you will, whether we like it or not. We’re the Ginger Rogers to the Fred Astaires, doing everything the male counterpart is doing, but our dance is complicated and weighed down as we sashay, somewhat burdened, in our metaphorical high heels.

Signing off.


An Introvert in an Extroverted World

4662105780_980c577609_zThe truth is, the world we live in is structured for extroverts – the outgoing types, the lives of the parties, the boisterous ones with the quick funny quips. I am not one of those people.

I have moments where I’m funny and sarcastic (and even silly), but much of the world doesn’t see this because I’m fairly reserved and quiet most of the time, unless I’m with close friends, or the conditions are such that I feel comfortable and safe being open. When the mood is right, and I feel at ease, then, at times, it can be difficult to shut me up.

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