A Cannabis-Induced Epiphany: Gender Equality and the Medieval Notion of Chivalry

God Speed! by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1900
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Blowing out the last wisp of smoke through my bedroom window, I took in the sight of the city, a river of lights sweeping across the abyss of night, ever admiring.

It never got old. Marvel at our minds, our resourcefulness, the skyline seemed to boast. See how we’ve transformed our surroundings, changed the very surface of the planet. Every inch conceived in our minds and converted into reality – every brick and mortar a product of our consciousness.

Putting away the vaporizer and sacred stash, I crawled onto my bed. Reclining comfortably on a small mountain of pillows, I opened a book, flipping through a dozen dog-eared pages to a favourite chapter, and plunged into the world of A Song of Ice and Fire.

I followed George R.R. Martin’s dragon queen and her siege on a city in an eastern land, as a former arena-fighter prepared to do battle with one of the city’s defenders. When one of her knights indicated that for single combat, chivalry would demand a warrior on horseback alight from his steed when facing an opponent on foot, I stopped, eyes focusing on a single word: chivalrous.

The late medieval notion of chivalry had always puzzled me: it seemed bizarre that a society would largely deny a gender of rights yet idolize its members; that a society could at once view women as property and cater to them. Yet in reading this work of epic fantasy, something seemed to click in my mind.

Courtesy and consideration were paramount to the chivalric code, and it would have indeed been courteous and considerate of the champion to dismount. But what if it’s also about getting rid of any unfair advantages? About leveling the playing field? I wondered what the significance of the concept, if plausible, would be when applied to the treatment of ladies of the court.

Maybe all the polite things, the gallantry and heroic acts made in the name of love and begging for a lady’s blessing before war – the courtly love – maybe all that stuff wasn’t just about distractions or sex or justification for violence, I considered. Maybe it was about implicitly acknowledging the fundamental disadvantage of females, both social and legal.

But if that’s the case, I interjected, it could also have meant inadvertently keeping them at a disadvantage – by constantly doings things on their behalf, possibly curbing the desire to even want to do things themselves.

Systemic infantilization, coupled with placation bought by perks like special treatment and material items and security.

A double-edged sword. Hospitality in a hostile world.

I frowned down at the beloved book, deeply perturbed by my own thoughts.

The Term ‘Stoner’ as Analogous to ‘Feminist’

Lexicon
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With the reform of marijuana laws must come a corresponding revitalization of social perception. As advocates of cannabis seek to carve out a new and socially legitimate image of the substance and that of its users, many have understandably attempted to distance themselves from the word ‘stoner’.

I fully embrace it.

It could be argued that the term ‘stoner’ is analogous to the term ‘feminist’; though perhaps it is as an individual who identifies with both groups that I perceive similarities. Both are subject to lingering stereotypes, which while not always hateful are nonetheless misconceived. Both have proponents, those who support the group’s basic principles, hesitate to publicly associate with the term for fear of either social stigma or more grave repercussions.

By stringent definition, a feminist is a proponent of gender equality, and a stoner is a habitual user of marijuana. There is a need not necessarily to reclaim the word and certainly not to reject it, but to expand upon it. Although the 2014 “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” campaign by Fawcett Society and Elle UK was sullied by its ethically questionable use of sweatshop manufacturers (the issue of which opens a whole different can of worms), its core intention was commendable and resonating: to demonstrate that those who identify with an ideology come in various shapes, sizes, and genders.

Similarly, cannabis, as the most widely used illicit (no longer illicit in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Washington D.C.) substance in the world with 38% of the populace in the U.S. and 40% in Canada admitting to experimentation, is enjoyed by vastly different individuals, not limited by gender, ethnic background, profession, or level of education. A homemaker and parent may look to cannabis to alleviate his or her chronic back pain. A corporate lawyer may choose a joint over a glass of wine to alleviate stress. A novelist may take up vaporizer in hand when confronted with that mortal enemy, writer’s block.

The key is not to project animosity and fear towards the word itself but to make evident the diversity of the individuals with an appreciation for the Cannabis plant and its medicinal, recreational, and creative uses. Instead of allowing the word ‘stoner’ to become the focus of controversy, let it instead become assimilated into colloquial usage; let it be taken at face value.

I adore weed. Whether I relate more to the iconic Tommy Chong or the ambitious young women at Cannabrand (or a combination of the two) is a secondary matter. By virtue of mutual appreciation for marijuana, we are all united. We are kindred.

My name is Hayoung Terra Yim: advocate for equality, reader of books, assembler of words, drinker of fermented grapes, and smoker of dried Cannabis leaves. I am – as my friends so affectionately describe – a huge stoner.

 

It was the Best Holiday; It was the Worst Holiday

hello
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‘Merry Christmas,’ wished Lynette, her eyes giddy and expectant.

‘Erm … thank you?’ I took the takeout container from her outstretched hands, wondering if she was gifting me with leftovers this year.

I opened the plastic lid to find a large piece of chocolate moulded in the shape of Hello Kitty, complete with black fudge-sauce eyes and whiskers, yellow candy nose, and red syrup bow. She did not have to explicitly say that the treat was infused with cannabis.

Best Christmas ever. ‘Have I told you lately I love you?’

A measured bite, a few hours, and several glasses of eggnog afterwards, gathered at a table laden with food, the elders had no idea that I was quickly and progressively getting crunk.

‘… asking for trouble.’

‘Huh?’ Who, me? ‘Sorry, Grandma – could you repeat that?’

‘You need to stop going out so much and stay home like a good girl. If you go out when it’s dark, you’re just asking for trouble.’

I smirked. The age-old argument. The standard response was to nod politely, agree orally, and continue life as normal. However, in an intensely yet not uncomfortably intoxicated state, I opened my big mouth.

‘Why?’

‘Because bad things can happen to girls. Because it’s not safe.’

‘Bad things don’t just happen at night, though,’ I pointed out. ‘Like that 23-year old woman who got raped at High Park in like, the middle of the afternoon last summer.’

‘Well, that’s exactly why you shouldn’t go places where you know that sort of thing can happen to you.’

‘So, because I’m a woman, I shouldn’t expect to be safe jogging in a public space, in broad daylight?’

‘Can we talk about something else,’ my wise sister interjected, ‘and please not argue on Christmas?’

‘We’re not arguing,’ I insisted with a grin, trapped within the bounds of a drunken stupor. ‘We’re discussing. I’m genuinely interested in her perspective. I wanna understand.’

‘As a woman, you need to be careful about the environments you put yourself in. Some places you shouldn’t go at certain times – some you shouldn’t go at all.’

‘But how does that make sense?’ I asked. ‘That means that a part of the population – a big part, like literally a bit more than half – would be excluded from certain areas at certain times or at least from the freedom to go alone, because of something they have no control of. No more than they do over the colour of their skin. How is that fair?’

‘Of course it’s not fair,’ she retorted. ‘But that’s just how it is. That’s just how men are.’

I scowled at my grandmother. ‘Well, that’s just not fair to men, to say that’s just how they are. And makes as much sense to say, “Genocide is something that happens, that’s just how it is and we should accept that”.’

‘How about this?’ said Grandma in a sharper tone than she had ever taken, narrowing her eyes. ‘You get a real, office job – and when you’re a success, you can say whatever you want on whatever topic.’

I finally shut my mouth.

Afterwards, sitting in the car in silence, I wondered if the tension was actually palpable or due to paranoia as a side effect of marijuana. Unable to tell, I turned my thoughts back towards the subject.

Just accepting the state of things isn’t an option. But she has a point. It can’t be about wishing it was different, theorizing and arguing about how to change the system. While waiting for social change, entire lifetimes are affected – possibly destroyed.

It also had to be about teaching and training, giving individuals the tools to manage within the existing system.

You really, really need to learn some sort of self-defence. If you get off your ass and do one thing for yourself, for the love of God, let it be self-defence.

And it’s not just skills needed to counter extreme situations, I deflected, but also to handle the more delicate, ambiguous ones. I thought of Kane: an intelligent, respectable, and kindhearted young man whom I considered friend and who persistently provided unwanted affection, with a casual hand on the waist or an arm around the shoulder, with inappropriate jokes and comments. I had told him bluntly that his actions made me uncomfortable, had asked him politely to stop, had reproached him angrily, had cut contact for long periods of time; all fruitless endeavours. Out of ideas aside from terminating an otherwise valued friendship, I often pretended not to notice the blatant invasions of personal space.

What do you do when someone, otherwise functional in society, otherwise smart and fun and generally good, thinks it’s OK to touch you when they know you don’t want them to? When they’re a friend, a colleague, a boss?

I wished there were some sort of brochure or program to tell me.