Caster Semenya burst onto the international stage two months ago with a track-and-field victory that should have been an inspirational success story. Instead, the 18-year-old phenom from rural South Africa has become the subject of a public debacle -- and the target of crude jokes, misinformed speculation and downright cruel personal attacks -- all because she is a woman who doesn't measure up to some people's definition of what it means to be female.
That is to say, she is a woman who is not woman enough.
Occasionally when I come across an interesting quote, I write it down on a little scrap of paper and post it near my computer so I can see it when I'm working.
I have a few up now, including one by Heather Mallick, who writes comments for the CBC and The Guardian. It reads: "Women should never underestimate how much they are hated."
It would be overly generous to suggest the city's SpeakUp Winnipeg initiative has gained much in the way of momentum since its inception, well-meaning though the efforts of its organizers may be. But that's not to say the idea is without merit.
Launched back in April with a daylong "Mayor's Symposium on Sustainability," a snazzy interactive website and as much fanfare as local media outlets would give it (not all that much), the ongoing public consultation process will last a full year. The goal is to gather feedback about the future of our city from as many Winnipeggers as possible in advance of the creation of a new, long-term planning document called OurWinnipeg, which will be used to help set priorities and guide decision-making at City Hall for the next 25 years.
Judging from the hue and cry that arises whenever anything they do makes the news, it would appear some Winnipeggers continue to harbour a deep resentment towards cyclists.
This attitude makes no sense, of course; cycling is an activity that should be encouraged for all sorts of exceedingly obvious reasons -- it's environmentally sustainable, it gets people physically active, it helps alleviate traffic congestion, etc., etc.
It's easy to point out all the things that are wrong with Winnipeg. For the most part, our city's faults tend to jump out at a person, whether one chooses to focus on the long winters or the terrible condition of our streets or the mosquitoes or the lost souls who languish on downtown sidewalks and remind of us of what mental illness, addiction and abject poverty can do to a human being.
Even if our shortcomings weren't glaringly obvious, I'm confident we'd have no problem explaining them in great detail to anyone who could actually stand to listen to us. Complaining is what we do in Winnipeg and we do it with gusto.
The recession has put the federal government in a giving mood -- and when the feds decide to play Santa and roll into town to deliver multimillion-dollar stimulus funding announcements, the pragmatic thing to do is say thank you and take the money.
This is likely why the recent announcement of $57 million worth of investments in local infrastructure projects was considered by many to be a good-news story. And, for the most part, it is.
Is the Internet killing the mainstream news industry? It's a question worth asking -- particularly as daily newspapers hemorrhage money while the mass appeal of once-underground bloggers increases exponentially (listen closely and you will hear them rubbing their hands and cackling with glee).
Last week, the Winnipeg Free Press ran an insightful piece from The Economist that explored this very issue.
It's been my experience that a politician's accessibility -- to media, specifically, but also to the public -- is correlated with the amount of political power he or she wields.
It's virtually impossible to get close to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for example, let alone ask him a question about something. I attended the news conference he held in Winnipeg a year-and-a-half ago to announce his government's anti-drug strategy, and the experience supports my theory. It was a highly micro-managed affair, complete with pre-screened questions and carefully scripted answers. I wasn't even allowed to move from the spot I was standing in to take a picture.
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