Sunday, 22 November 2015

She Shoots and She Scores! The History of Women's Soccer

1907 Oahu College women’s soccer team (photo courtesy Futbol Heritage Archive).

I love watching Women's Football (Soccer) especially cheering for the Women's National Team! They are getting ready for the Olympics in Rio. The team won a bronze in 2012 and I'm hoping for even better next time as the coach is very good:

"Canadian women's soccer coach John Herdman has summoned the heart of his World Cup team along with an injection of youth for his first camp on the road to Rio. Herdman's roster includes captain Christine Sinclair and fellow World Cup veterans Erin McLeod, Rhian Wilkinson, Allysha Chapman, Diana Matheson, Sophie Schmidt and Melissa Tancredi..."It's an exciting group we've brought together." Herdman said Sunday from Vancouver. "I really do hope we can find some of the quality that we are going to need to get on the Olympic (podium)."
It's been a real hard slog for the ladies in soccer though. Their history is marked by extreme prejudice and male-domination over their actions. Despite that, the ladies love the sport and have stayed strong over the 100 plus years of playing.
In the early 20th century, women were playing the game seriously in different parts of  the US, Great Britain, France and Canada. The picture above is a college competitive team picture from Hawaii. (Educated and playing soccer? Wow they must have pissed a lot of old white dudes off) Some facts point that in Central Europe, competitive soccer was not uncommon. Such games were often played without compliance with the civil and church authorities.

One of the popular records of the game comes from Boxing Day in 1920, at Goodison Park in Liverpool. A spectacular game took place on England’s biggest soccer ground where Dick, Kerr Ladies played with a Lancashire team called St. Helen Ladies in front of a crowd of 53,000 people. It is noted that more than ten thousand fans had to be locked out when the ground became fully occupied.

The winning team - sexism not in picture.
However, the men in power did not like it.
The crowd size on that day was seen as a major threat at the headquarters of Football Association in London. Also many men complained that it was "distasteful" for women to play. In 1921, the influential central body of the game set a ban on women for playing soccer for an incredible period of 50 years. The repercussions could be seen immediately as this decision crippled women soccer players in a few countries. However, Italy and France established women’s leagues in early 1930s. Women continued to play soccer despite the bans across the world as amatures. The Dick, Kerr Ladies FC continued to play.
After the war, the graph took an upward turn with Italy establishing its national association in 1950 and Germany organizing the first informal women European championship in 1957. Northern European countries were also part of the development, especially Norway and Sweden. Even though most countries had women’s teams, it wasn’t until 1971 that the ban was lifted in England and women could play on the same fields as the men.

A year after the ban was lifted, women’s soccer in America became more popular due to Title IX. Title IX required that equal funding was given to men’s and women’s sports in colleges. The new law meant that more women could go to college with a sports scholarship, and as a result, it meant that women’s soccer was becoming a more common sport at colleges all over the United States.Surprisingly, it wasn’t until the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta that women’s soccer was an Olympic event. At that Olympic Games there were only 40 events for women and double the amount of men participants as there were women.

One massive step forward for women’s soccer was the first Women’s World Cup, which is a soccer tournament that has teams from all over the world play each other. This first tournament was held in China on November 16-30, 1991. Dr. Hao Joao Havelange, the president of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) during that time, was the person that initiated the first Women’s World Cup, and because of that first World Cup, the United States created a name for itself in women’s soccer.

The original Canadian Women's National Team wore second-hand boys' jerseys
The original 1986 Canadian Women's National Team wore second-hand boys' jerseys (Canadian Soccer Association)

Overall, the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were years of enormous success for Canadian women in sports. The 1960s and 1970s witnessed the emergence of the “women’s liberation” movement in North America. Women increasingly fought restrictions in all areas of life, including sports. Plaintiffs brought sex-discrimination cases to court, arguing that girls should be allowed to play in games, and on teams, that were traditionally reserved for boys. In 1981, feminist athletes and activists established the Canadian 
Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport (CAAWS). 

 It was Canada Day, July 1, 1986, when the Canadian Soccer Association brought together 20 players to make up the first women's national team. The squad had three days in Winnipeg to get to know each other and sort out strategy before embarking on a day-long bus ride to Blaine, Minn., to face the U.S. in their first game.

But sexism reigns still in soccer and in women's sports. Despite the success of women in all types of sport, female athletes are still judged to some degree on their physical attractiveness. Another challenge facing female (and male) athletes is that of homophobia, which continues to persist in the world of sports. There has long been paranoia about homosexuality in women’s sports, and many female athletes and teams have taken pains to emphasize their heterosexuality and femininity in response to societal fears about masculine women athletes. Few gay athletes have felt comfortable revealing their sexuality while in active competition. However, in September 2013 Olympic speed skater Anastasia Bucsis stated publicly to the Globe and Mail that she was “proud to be gay”; her statement may be a sign that the Canadian sporting world is becoming more inclusive.

Monday, 9 November 2015

25 Years of Burma's Slog to Democracy

Hello all! After a brief respite and working on contracts, I'm back looking at the history in current events through my own slightly fractured abnormal lenses.

Because this is normal where I'm from.

This week in world events, something is happening I never thought I would see: Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party said Monday that it had won 56 of the 57 parliamentary seats from Burma's  main city of Rangoon, a result that portends a massive sweep in historic elections that could eventually give it the presidency next year.

CBC reports that "the National League for Democracy announced that it had won 44 of the 45 lower house seats and all 12 of the upper house seats from Rangoon, a party stronghold, in Sunday's general election. It also won 87 of the 90 seats in the Rangoon state legislature. Elections for regional parliaments were held simultaneously."

About 30 million people are eligible to vote for more than 90 parties that are contesting. The main fight is between the National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung, and the ruling Union Solidarity Development Party, made up largely of former junta members. A host of other parties from ethnic minorities, who form 40 percent of the country's 52 million people, are also running.

And why we should give two owls about this?

  Burma tour: a sleeping beauty awakes

We only care about the pretty countries under military rule.

As usual, history has screwed Burma so much, and these people deserve the chance to finally have the rights we do. In other words, freedom in all forms, including forking up their own country and not someone else always doing it to them. They may finally be freeing itself from the stranglehold of the military, which ruled the country for a half-century until 2011. 

Hang on to your hats: the primer on Burma's "Highlights of History" are here! Remember kids, everyone dies, horribly. So don't say I didn't warn you.

The double tap of Mongols and British Rule

Way back in 1057,King Anawrahta founds the first unified Myanmar state at Pagan and adopts Theravada Buddhism. But nothing was untouched by the Mongols anywhere: in the late 1280s they conquered Pagan and ran it till 1531, when the nation of Burma was formed. And like the Mongols, things get crazy when the British show up. From 1824-26 the First Anglo-Burmese war ends with the Treaty of Yandabo, according to which Burma ceded the Arakan coastal strip, between Chittagong and Cape Negrais, to British India. They took the rest in 1852 as Britain annexes lower Burma, including Rangoon, following the second Anglo-Burmese war. Burma becomes a province then a crown colony of Britain.

During WWII, the Japanese tried to copy the Mongols (that whole militarism thing) and Britain (the whole colonialism thing) and take Burma. The Burmese people rose up and were ‘liberated’ by the British. Aung San and six members of his interim government were assassinated by political opponents led by U Saw, a nationalist rival of Aung San's. U Nu, foreign minister in Ba Maw's government, which ruled Burma during the Japanese occupation, asked to head the AFPFL and the government. England now looks at the chaos of what they have partly been responsible for and as per usual, fork off. Burma gets independence in 1948.

And now the infighting starts….

In 1960 U Nu's party faction wins decisive victory in elections, but his promotion of Buddhism as the state religion and his tolerance of separatism angers the military. U Nu's faction ousted in military coup led by Gen Ne Win, who abolishes the federal system and inaugurates "the Burmese Way to Socialism" - nationalising the economy, forming a single-party state with the Socialist Programme Party as the sole political party, and banning independent newspapers. Many minority groups begin their fight against the government including the Shan, who up till very recently were still kick can all over the place.

Fast forward to the 1980s and the people are pissed. A currency devaluation wipes out many people's savings and triggers anti-government riots. Thousands of people are killed in anti-government riots. Martial Law is declared, arrests thousands of people, including advocates of democracy and human rights, and the country is renamed 'Myanmar'.

The cartographer's clearly gave up and just started using brackets.

Our heroine enters?

NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Aung San, is put under house arrest for her whole “I like democracy” button collection. After years of absolute bull-crap including multiple arrests, and no chance of seeing her dying British husband in the UK unless she concedes to these right wing nut jobs in uniform, Aung finally gets out in 2002. However, not all is rosy in the country as activists are continually arrested including Buddhist monks, who are not down with the whole “Do what I say or I’ll kill you deal” they keep getting.

Finally, it takes a fucking cyclone to get the government to move towards democracy. Cyclone Nargis hits in 2008. Some estimates put the death toll as high as 134,000. Referendum on new constitution proceeds amid humanitarian crisis following cyclone. Government says 92% voted in favour of draft constitution and insists it can cope with cyclone aftermath without foreign help. After a few more deaths – like 1000s – and more house arrests, the Banana Republic of Asia Called Myamar finally gets a break. In 2011, pro-democracy leader Aung says she will stand for election to parliament, as her party rejoins the political process. Myanmar abolishes pre-publication media censorship. The hard liners are either dead or removed from power. 

Aung San Suu Kyi Old

Pictured: Aung San Suu Kyi. She's just plain awesome.

Now What?

Current President Thein Sein dismisses rival Shwe Mann and allies from leading roles in ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party. Opposition leader Aung says ready to work with Shwe Mann, and she wins the most seats!

This does not mean things are going to be ok: these people lived through civil war, famine and death, a military run government with no freedoms, and they seriously have a country to re-build. But at least now they have hope. 

Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Rise of Cupcakes...with Frosting!

Warning: This article does not involve any vegetables.
I come from a long line of professional bakers: my father was a cook/baker in the military, his grandfather owned a bakery in Kingston, Ontario, his father before him...we have icing sugar in our veins. And one favorite of the family was cake. Cake was the king of all deserts in my house, even the raisin pie my dad made was humbled before his chocolate cake. It didn't hurt my mom was awesome at baking too.

Cupcakes however, were never in their repertoire. They are in mine though as I love these mini cups of heaven. Over the last five years, there's been an explosion of cupcake specific bakeries across Canada. Now the first flush of love is dying down, many of these places are now offering assorted cookies and other pastries as well. But the passion of the cupcake got me thinking...who was the first to develop cakes and cupcakes specifically?

Thank You Miss Simmons!

Cup Cakes (called Fairy Cakes in England) were first mentioned in American Cookery by Amelia Simmons in 1796, the first cookbook written by an American. She was probably a domestic cook in a family and was an orphan. Simmons probably knew about cupcakes from English bakers who made the lighter and smaller version of the cup cake. She writes:
A light Cake to bake in small cups:
Half a pound sugar, half a pound butter, rubbed into two pounds flour,
one glass wine, one do rose water, two do. emptins, a nutmeg, cinnamon
and currants.
Lovely Fairy cakes - note the absence of a tower of icing. But the designs are modern.

Another type of cup cake was the number cake, or 1234 cake, or quarter cakes as the baker could remember how much of what ingredient would go in.  One such Victorian era cup cake recipe that would have been a number cake:

Two cups of sugar, one cup of butter, one cup of milk, three cups and
a half of flour and four eggs, half a teaspoonful of soda, large spoon
cream of tartar; stir butter and sugar together and add the beaten
yolks of the eggs, then the milk, then flavoring and the whites. Put
cream of tartar in flour and add last. Bake in buttered gem-pans, or
drop the batter, a teaspoonful at a time, in rows on flat buttered

To this recipe may be added a cup of English currants or chopped
raisins; and also another variety of cake may be made by adding a half
cup citron sliced and floured, a half cupful of chopped almonds and
lemon extract.

"Hey...let's get nuts and make tiny cakes? What do you think guys...guys?" - English Bakers in Victorian era.

The 20th Century Rises

Further refinement to cup cakes came int he 20th century. As you can tell from the two recipes from above, icing wasn't used. Cupcakes were finally decorated with frosting in the 1920’s and only with chocolate or vanilla. Taking a cue from modern baking methods, the first commercially produced cupcakes were launched around 1918, originally produced by the Taggart Bakery - then bought by Hostess. Early in the 20th century, the advent of multi-cupcake molded tins brought modest mass production methods to cupcake making, and a modern baking tradition was born! (Thanks University of Florida for the info). During the 1940’s cupcakes were available with Malted icing. Then it got even easier to make your own: Cake mixes, sold by Duncan Hines and others, made it easier and more popular to bake cakes and cupcakes at home.

The overwhelming popularity of cup cakes came about in early 2000s with the first cupcake only bakeries in America. Before this, cup cakes were made by general bakeries or at home. Magnolia Bakery in New York gained fame with their cupcakes from the huge hit show Sex and the City. One of the first cupcake only bakery was Sprinkles Cupcakes in 2002 in Beverly Hills.

Here's an amazing infograph just on cupcakes for you to enjoy before you head to the baking bowls to make your own.

history of cupcakes

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Cultural Hijacking: the Svastika

Nothing makes my blood boil more than people who appropriate other people's culture for their own uses or with no understanding of the original culture. Let's be clear: I am a Canadian who studied Chinese History, and that's not a problem to me. It's cool to study and write about other cultures, just don't think I'm going to wander around in yellow face ever. I study and practice yoga, but no way am I going to start spouting off about ancient Hindu texts as I have zero idea on that.

Neither of these women doing yoga are me. (from Seattle Yoga News)

The absolute worst cultural appropriation award should go to the German Nazi Party of the early and mid-20th century. Why? Because not only did they decide that the ripping off the past glories of other nations and mythologizing their nation was a great way to cement their Fascist nationalism, but that stealing the icons of cultures that they barely knew about and probably would have tried to kill off anyways. One image was the Svastika.

Svastika, not Swastika You Idiot...

It's a Nazi horse? No you fool - it's a coin from Cornith, 500 BCE.
First, what is this odd cross like symbol? According to my go-to place of first blush information, Britannica Online (eat that Wikipedia) it's an ancient symbol always with with arms bent at right angles, all in the same rotary direction, usually clockwise.  The word is Sanskrit: svastika, meaning “conducive to well-being.” It was a favourite symbol on ancient coinage. In Scandinavia, the left-hand swastika was the sign for the god Thor’s hammer.(They missed that detail in the movies.)

The swastika also appeared in early Christian and Byzantine art where it became known as the gammadion cross, or crux gammata, because it has four Greek gammas [ Γ ] attached to a common base. The symbol is universal in that it occurred in South and Central America among the Maya and in North America among the Navajo peoples.

Here's where I laughed my ass off: The swastika as a symbol of prosperity and good fortune is widely distributed throughout the ancient and modern world. So...the Nazis were wishing themselves prosperity and good fortune. Ugh.

swastika on a temple
Peace and prosperity to you all, and...OMG what is that gargoyle doing up there?

In India the swastika continues to be the most widely used auspicious symbol of Hindus, Jainas, and Buddhists. Among the Jainas it is the emblem of their seventh Tirthankara (saint) and is also said to remind the worshipper by its four arms of the four possible places of rebirth—in the animal or plant world, in hell, on Earth, or in the spirit world.

A clear distinction is made between the right-hand swastika, which moves in a clockwise direction, and the left-hand swastika (more correctly called the sauvastika), which moves in a counterclockwise direction. The right-hand swastika is considered a solar symbol and imitates in the rotation of its arms the course taken daily by the Sun, which in the Northern Hemisphere appears to pass from east, then south, to west. The left-hand swastika more often stands for night, the terrifying goddess Kālī, and magical practices.

In the Buddhist tradition the swastika symbolizes the feet, or the footprints, of the Buddha. It is often placed at the beginning and end of inscriptions, and modern Tibetan Buddhists use it as a clothing decoration. With the spread of Buddhism, the swastika passed into the iconography of China and Japan, where it has been used to denote plurality, abundance, prosperity, and long life.

The legend goes that the Gautama Buddha (the historical Buddha) was inscribed with this symbol on the chest by his disciples upon his death. We often see statues of him with this symbol on the chest or on the sole of the feet. Many Buddhist texts start with this symbol, thus it has started being used in Japan as a symbol representing temples, especially on maps as the torii gate represents Shinto shrines.,+Kyoto+Prefecture,+Japan/@35.0228129,135.790626,16z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x6001a8d6cd3cc3f1:0xc0961d366bbb1d3d?hl=en
"My goodness there's a lot of Nazis in Kyoto. I guess they really were allies in WWII"

Goose-Stepping Thieves!!!

mom bought our goose at an estate sale and it
"Seriously don't associate me with those people"

The Holocaust museum has an amazing amount of research available on the acquisition of the Germans of the swastika. The advent of using the symbol begins pre-World War I. In 1910 a poet and nationalist ideologist Guido von List had suggested the swastika as a symbol for all anti-Semitic organizations; and when the National Socialist Party (NSP) was formed in 1919–20, it adopted it. They knew about the symbol from being nuts about archaeology: the famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered the hooked cross on the site of ancient Troy. He connected it with similar shapes found on pottery in Germany and speculated that it was a “significant religious symbol of our remote ancestors.”  His work soon was taken up by the NSP movements, for whom the swastika was a symbol of “Aryan identity” and German nationalist pride.

This conjecture of Aryan cultural descent of the German people is likely one of the main reasons why the Nazi party formally adopted the swastika or Hakenkreuz (Ger., hooked cross) as its symbol in 1920.
The Nazi party, however, was not the only party to use the swastika in Germany. After World War I, a number of far-right nationalist movements adopted the swastika. As a symbol, it became associated with the idea of a racially “pure” state. By the time the Nazis gained control of Germany, the connotations of the swastika had forever changed.

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote: “I myself, meanwhile, after innumerable attempts, had laid down a final form; a flag with a red background, a white disk, and a black swastika in the middle. After long trials I also found a definite proportion between the size of the flag and the size of the white disk, as well as the shape and thickness of the swastika.”

On Sept. 15, 1935, the black swastika on a white circle with a red background became the national flag of Germany. This use of the swastika ended in World War II with the German surrender in May 1945, though the swastika is still favoured by neo-Nazi groups.

I said Neo, not Neon...

Screw You I'm Still Using It

Can the symbol be-reclaimed in the modern world? Well people use it still all the time outside of Europe and the Americas because fuck the Nazis. And they had it first. So when I went to China and Japan, I did see it on a few statues. There's a lot of people out there who want to reclaim the symbol from its misuse by the Nazis. But my friend John and I once talked about this and he was vehemently opposed, as it was a sensitive issue for many people. And I think he sums up a lot of what people feel: I'd rather just forget about it and never talk about it again.

I have to disagree: I watched a great BBC4 documentary on reclaiming the swastika and I think that's the better answer. I think we should commit to sharing information that reveals its long and varied history and the spiritually deep meaning that underlies it. For, if we allow the swastika to remain forever distorted, then those responsible will have won.
No way are we going to take this sitting....down...I mean....

If you haven't noticed, I didn't include one picture of a Nazi Swastika, because those assholes have gotten enough mileage out of stealing other people's stuff. And to more appropriately express my feelings, here's comedian Eddy Izzard on the Nazis and Hitler "the mass-murdering fuck head":

Books more your take?

Heidtmann, Horst. “Swastika.” In Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, 937-939. New York: Macmillan, 1991.
Heller, Steven. The Swastika: Symbol Beyond Redemption? New York: Allworth Press, 2000.
Quinn, Malcolm. The Swastika: Constructing the Symbol. London: Routledge, 1994.