If You Love Her Buy Her a Gun

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – November 25, 2004

I’m bustin’ out – both outta my shirt and outta this rigid, patriarchal system where a chick can’t go braless or talk about topics left-of-center without being hit on or accused of “tramping” about.

Next to the ladies in line at posh nightclubs in Ottawa, I believed my alternative style dress code made me immune to dirty come-ons. But I’ve had guys tell me that a woman in sneakers is sexier than a string-bean with a Gucci purse and spine-deforming stilettos.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I refuse to believe the string-beans are floozies, one short of a six-pack, beggin’ for it just because they’re sleek. But it always seemed that the force field of a less-mainstream style of sexy should deflect the kind of attention they get away from me long before it reached my front door.


Apparently when a bloke is drunk and horny, he doesn’t discriminate. But just ’cause he can’t handle erect nipples and a free-speaking woman doesn’t mean I have to change my ways to avoid a fight.


You’ve heard the one about the girl in the short skirt who’s “asking for it”? Among mainstream thinkers, if you speak or look sexy, you risk being the target of some prick’s sleazy comments or worse. Unless you can take a bloke down in a heartbeat, you could find yourself in a threatening situation. In a crisis, no amount of feminist philosophy gets a drunken loser off a girl’s ass quite like a swift kick to the balls.

And it’s usually your unassuming male companion who gets dispatched to that gig.

At the heart of women, and the people who love them, are three big concerns: self-image, sex and safety. While mainstream media trivializes these concerns, they are explored by “alternative” culture. Two of the strongest backers of femme-positive messages are feminist magazines and punk music.

Toronto’s new independent magazine Shameless, “for girls who get it,” and available at Venus Envy) blends these two elements together to support and encourage strong, smart, sassy girls. It tackles a wide range of issues like chicks in male-dominated jobs, being vegan, and deconstructs the popularization of things like Avril’s “wifebeater.” A CD with femme-positive bands like Lederhosen Lucil, Jill Barber, etc. accompanies the magazine.

While it’s nowhere near novel to claim mainstream fashion magazines and advertising do a shit job of supporting positive female self-image, the lack of novelty doesn’t mean the problem’s been fixed.

A quick glance at magazines and TV offers hundreds of examples: adverts about scented pantyliners make you think your box stinks; Vogue spreads of scantily-clad supermodels flashing their $1,000 designer panties portray women as willing-and-waiting tarts; and hour-long TV homicide programs like Da Vinci’s Inquest “entertain” us with episodes about chicks who got raped and killed.

The editors at Shameless know these negative images are a regular part of our popular culture and it was a time for change. “Many mainstream teen mags,” they say, “are in the business of selling shame. They teach us to be ashamed of our bodies, our minds, our sexuality. Ashamed if you’re too smart or too critical of the world … around here, we don’t care what size your breasts are-or if you have breasts at all. We are shameless.”

I like that idea. But try going braless next time you’re out on the town and you tell Shotgun what happens. Being shameless at a bar in Ottawa might get your drink spiked with a rufie.

Which raises the question: to what extent can women dress, speak-and be-shameless in Ottawa?

Depends where you go.

Personally, I find strength in being shameless through queer-positive venues. And I’m heterosexual. Hell, if I’m dancing at the Lookout on a Friday night, I can be as sexy as I want without some guy telling me I’m giving out the “wrong” idea. Since when should my dancing have anything to do with some scumbag who’s slotting me into his fucked-up fantasy world?

Events like Ladyfest can also provide an alternative environment to bust out of your shell and showcase your strengths in safety. Gay clubs, indie lit series like the Perpetual Motion Roadshow, and chick fests are some of the opportunities I’ve identified in Ottawa where women can share their worth and not be reduced to tits and ass.

The alternative woman in Ottawa – whether in uniform or spirit – will always have a lot more to show off than just her body, and it’s nice to know there are places where she doesn’t have to act meek to feel safe.

But outside of these safe havens, maybe those boyfriends suggesting their girlfriends “tone it down” or “stop talking to that guy” aren’t being possessive after all.

Ladies, when your man says, “I know what guys are like,” he’s not being controlling – he’s arming you. Knowledge and foresight are useful weapons in the fight for shamelessness, no?


Congratulations to Sound of One Hand Records (the guys behind Furnaceface) for being voted Ottawa’s #1 recording studio.


Check out the benefit for The Shepherds of Good Hope Annual Christmas Dinner with The Hammer’s Christmas Extravaganza featuring Buford McGraw + Tim’s Myth, November 25, at Zaphod’s. Your $5 ticket will pay for the Christmas dinners of almost three homeless people.

– Sylvie Hill