Into Existence: Break (Summer 2020)

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“Wh e n di d fe m i n ism becom e a word that not on ly spoke to you, but spoke you, spoke of your existe nce, spoke you i nto existe nce?� - Sara Ah m e d


table of contents 1 3 4 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 25 27 29 31 33

10 Years | Aklil Noza Break from Blackness | Snit Abrha Scars | SACO Sorry Mom | Adia Parris Outgrowing | Waynes Manalang Bathroom Tiles | Gaek Teng NOPE | Larissa Shular Letter | Gaek Teng Meant to Be | Sarah Stewart </3 | Aira Biswas feelings n things | Rebecca Zhong A Breakup | Sofia Roni’s Broken Nose | Roni Herrera Osorio Escapism | Sofia Bleeding Kool | Ariella Ruby Death, In Reverse | Pavneet Cheema Wishbone | Julia Lindsay Beginnings | Nikisha Browne Paradox | Mimi Shaftoe Have We Met? | Alicia Anglin To be broken | Mijia Murong Breaking News | Anne Claire Baguio On my love affair with do not disturb. | Lauren Mascarenhas Cutting Ties | Prarthna Sakhuja You’ve got a friend in me | Matilda Kim, Mijia Murong, Prarthna Sakhuja


10 Years

by Aklil Noza

Art by Veronica “Roni” Herrera Osorio


Stained glass tinted red line any church’s walls Pews vacated at the sight of loss As my hands tiptoe over the glass the red bursts into shards A broken heart was never easy even if you tread lightly Even if you’re doing the breaking Losing someone of your own accord is a loss nonetheless I will miss you so much even though it will never be the same Even though our semblances morphed into foreshadowing divergent rivers Both powerful, but not meant to merge with one another This path was not for us to travel together I let the tears fall knowing that it was not written Childhood is a tumultuous phase where proximity meets insecurity I believe we were more than that, but not much more Not enough away from the weak base that we would last past my sprouting of self-sufficiency You were placed to hold me down I was placed to hold you Let your grip loosen on your expectations of us before your white knuckles clench into a strangle Let the hurt go because I feel it in you I bask in the hours where I remain in solitude While you shy away from the hours alone in order to avoid the pain Pain is inevitable How abruptly do you want it to approach you? You would rather make pain an intrusion, which I cannot judge you for Because I understand you I wonder if you carried a certain view differing from mine would you go about it the same Or ruminate over my decisions, passing through bitter thoughts? This pondering has led to me moving on to higher mountains I search for different heights for my life to reach My peaks no longer match your pinnacles You’d rather make a mountain out of a mole hill Firmly sitting in your misery Rising above it is not in your handbook yet I say yet because I’m hopeful that one day you’ll learn that that’s the only way to get through it To feel it and subsequently ascend As I sit in the pews and pray for discernment God picks you out as someone who won’t be in the next chapter I hope you come back to me whole And I love you


Break from Blackness by Snit Abrha To take a break from blackness is to turn off all the lights: let the darkness swallow your brown skin whole and take you to a place where you can’t see anything, not even colour. To take a break from blackness is to be free of this existence: break these noose-like neckties and back handed compliments, break free of these shackles, or just bite the bullet. To take a break from blackness is to be at a loss for words: when the world becomes too pathetic-fallacy, do not turn this life into a metaphor. There has never been a pretty way to put this — to take a break from blackness is to take a break from headlines, from funerals, from trauma, from history, from the present. To take a break from blackness is to be posted pretty on Instagram — for this skin to be a trend and like trends, these names will too be forgotten. To take a break from blackness is to wear our bodies for show and tell — wear box braids, use skin bleachers and a vernacular that your tongue can’t swallow. It is this truth that everyone wants to be black, but no one really wants to be black. To take a break from blackness is to really just be anyone else…. Is to really just be anything else....

Art by Rebecca Zhong



by SACO I see it I still see it every day Every time I wake up Every time I went to bed When I breathe, I see it I see your scars in me I saw the ways you viewed me Loud and abrasive Dull and tiny The first to be killed The first to die The first to be sexualized For the gaze of a guy “But you did it to yourselves.” “Look at your hands,” “If you had standards” “We will view you as humans”

Art by Rebecca Zhong

That was the past And some still last However, still we have taken control There are new stories being told: Strong mothers Cunning wives Supportive best friend Intelligence sisters New generation of superheroes. The scars from the past remains Those scars that black women face Will always be there But they are slowly healing These scars will never be the same.



Sorry Mom by Adia Parris

There are many layers of myself I have yet to unravel. This piece came at a time where I felt like I needed to apologize for my shortcomings.


Outgrowing by Waynes Manalang

Have I been feminine enough? I look back and wonder, the day I learned to put on lipstick DO NOT, they say, COLOUR OUTSIDE THE LINES Have I tried enough? Softened my tone, sunshine in my eyes WikiHOW to smile WikiHOW to be a girl Now my arms are toned, muscles on my back, shaped my abs building into bricks I grew only seeing in men The legs I were supposed to smoothen with crystal salts, whitening soaps Now dark, bruised, cut, “no one will ever marry” – so I say BULLSHIT! cause I’m not supposed to swear that never have I ever thought that I would ever get to hold a woman I grew only seeing with men

Art by Jennifer Du


I don’t want to get out of bed. All I can do is lie on my back, watch days go by, and think about how dirty and worthless I am. Have I always felt like this? I haven’t changed my underwear in 5 days, my hoodie in 10. It’s an endless cycle of being disgusted by myself but not having the energy to get up and change it. I sink deeper into my bed. I don’t leave it for hours and hours, even when the sun asks me to. But sometimes, my body wakes up without being asked. In the hours of the night when the whole world is asleep. No one is watching. I don’t think about all the work I haven’t done. Not about how much I’ve already slept. No. Instead, I think about my teeth. They feel hot and slimey in my mouth. I think about how my teeth help me speak, how they can tell the people I love: I’m okay. I’m laughing. I’m eating. I’ve left them for far too long, but it’s okay. I get up and I brush them. Hard and well. One by one. I let out a cool exhale. Nothing has grounded me more than this moment, this feeling of cold bathroom tiles against my feet.

Bathroomby Tiles Gaek Teng



NOPE by Larissa Shular



Meant to Be by Sarah Stewart


by Aira Biswas I am moving on with the laughs we shared, the glances we exchanged when we spoke with our eyes, that game of “I spy” in the busy downtown streets, the iced tea you could not finish it was too cold and you wanted to hold my hand, the can of beans that I never touched since we had our last home-cooked dinner, the sweater that was too big for either of us, a photo of us taken moments before sunset, the love marks you insisted on leaving– fading into my skin. I am moving forward, taking a step or two back along the way but I am still moving on with my broken heart.


feelings n things by Rebecca Zhong


A Breakup

Art by Larissa Shular

by Sofia

I lost him the way I lost my gloves Suddenly but it went unnoticed left behind neglected He knew he was lost before I even thought to look if he was still there Had I known it was the last time he comforted me The last time he kept me warm I would not have taken for granted the perfect fit of each finger Whether waving goodbye or making a fist he would hold my hand I missed him the way wearing his sweater is crumbs compared to the way he held me The body that hugged me I used to love the way he felt looked sounded tasted and smelled Now left with the lingering secondhand smell of his sweater I miss him the way I miss eighty percent of loving him Had I known I would be missing him wrapping the loose-fitting fabric around me I would not have ignored the chest behind the sweater where I rested my head …

I left her the way something disappears in your rear-view mirror Slowly fading away until you’re a part of the scenery Though I distanced myself farther away each second I was the one standing still watching her move forward adding more to her rear-view mirror Until she dropped her gloves I missed her the way a driver misses his turn in a miserable way designed by insecure comfort Convinced there is another path dreading having to turn back and acknowledge your mistake Yet I trust if ever I did she’d be standing on that street Wearing my sweater


Ro n


i’s B

roken No s e

E S C A P I S M by Sofia

Art by Veronica “Roni” Herrera Osorio

I’d rather feel lonely than broken Wander around alone rather than invest in desperation at home I’d rather be neutral and alone Create my own desperation and test my temptation I’d rather be subject to contemplation I’d rather be alone than broken Keep everyone at the distance of a phone If someone gets hurt Tell them I was only joking And Suggest they be alone to avoid being broken


I am beaker of glass that has been glued back to life Fractured but fixed The potions that I was once able to hide no longer stay inside They leak through the cracks in my spiderweb of glass Bright things like cherry Kool-Aid I once held so easily and drank so eagerly But now I let them out and it looks like I am bleeding Red rivers, red rivers of cherry water, wine Why can’t I keep you in? Why won’t you stay inside? I miss when crimson was divine Now crying’s coloured irony I bleed rivers iron red that hold the flecks of you and me The crystal powder that you stirred that you swore would taste so sweet shimmered in my walls back when the beaker was complete I let you in I let you stir Our mixture simmered and grew thick You took a sip Only once I knew your taste did the Kool-Aid start to drip First a drop, then a jet, then a stream, then a sea I thought that I was whole but really you had shattered me Fractures had been budding from the blooms that came before They were blossoms turned to wounds and you only gave me more Refusing a straw, your lips stole their sip That last tap on the glass was the final straw you missed

Art by Sarah Stewart

A history of scars is nothing to be spurned because the pleasure in their making almost makes them worth the hurt At least that’s the story I tell to the shards I retrieve Pieces picked up now a puzzle of me

Bleeding Kool by Ariella Ruby


They always fit back together again No thanks to king’s horses, in spite of king’s men Though I can’t help but fear That the next time They won’t All that’s left of you is a cherry residue And so I’ll scald my walls With hot water, soap, and weeping until that sip is a ghost kiss and the Kool-Aid has stopped seeping Once my glass is clean and clear and the light shines through the cracks I’ll sit empty on the shelf Until a new drink fills the flask

Death, In Reverse by Pavneet Cheema

KEY 13: DEATH. WATER (SCORPIO) MARS; PLUTO A skeleton in dark armour is sat on a horse. Under the horse’s hooves lies a fallen king, his crown and his scepter are in disarray. Before him, a woman and a child look on in trepidation, while a bishop raises his hands in prayer. The horseman’s banner bears the Mystic Rose, a symbol of Mars and the life-force. A single boat sails in the background, possibly an allusion to the mythological River Styx (passage to the afterlife in Classical Greek Mythology). The river will flow to the sea, the water will evaporate into clouds, and then it will fall from the sky, returning to the river. A sun rises over the horizon. All things cycle - over, under, around - turning perpetually, much like the heliocentric earth, much like power. In seminal occultist Eden Gray’s Mastering the Tarot, she warns prospective Readers to never fear the Death card. Despite its macabre imagery, the card is representative of renewal and change. One door closes, another opens; night falls, the sun rises. Arthur Waite, who spearheaded the production of the popular Rider-Waite-Smith cards, expands on this in The Pictorial Key to The Tarot. He writes, “the state of mystical death is a change in the form of consciousness and the passage into a state to which ordinary death is neither the path nor gate”. A dying man nears his biological end, but the greater consciousness cannot be destroyed, only transformed. However, in Tarot, the meaning of a card is changed when its orientation is reversed. Depending on the context, when a card appears upside down, the original meaning can be inverted, or the energy of the card can be delayed or weakened. Death (In Reverse) is a pause. This pause can be one of inertia - stagnant, dormant. But it can also be a blockage, hindering growth; arrested development. So maybe, it can also be a break.



by Julia Lindsay


Beginnings by Nikisha Browne


x o d a r a P by M imi Sha ftoe

I try to define it This feeling of everything being open and closed at once Everyone being open and closed I keep coming back to it // It’s present in an electric sort of tenderness A tentative intensity, a hesitant giving in The dreamy paradox of falling in love as everything falls apart And then the growing apart as everything falls apart I miss you so strangely, inevitably My body simultaneously harbours both turmoil and calm – I am out of balance But not unbalanced It’s a beginning in an end // It’s hard to explain This feeling of everything being open and closed at once Everyone being open and closed, free and trapped I keep coming back to it // It’s present in this electric sense of urgency A sense that we are widening the horizons of what’s possible The taking apart as things fall apart The coming together as we are forced apart It’s the beauty of small things in strange times The calm trying to mask the turmoil – things are utterly out of balance About to topple over It’s a beginning in an end


Art by Sarah Stewart




To be broken

by Mijia Murong

My mother’s mother had a theory: If you break a bowl And the porcelain shatters Even if you glue every broken shard back together It is never a whole again Forever will it remain

a broken bowl

My mother’s father is the birthplace of this hypothesis The way he broke her heart over and over again with the nights he did not come home How she pressed her lips together despite it all Refused to utter the word “divorce” 50 years later, their marriage remains a sealed bond Evidence that the only way to remain whole

is to never speak a brokenness into existence

Last spring my mother climbed the tree in front of our house with an electric saw in hand Vowing to cut down every dead branch poking through its leafy canopy According to her, diseased wood is a spreadable infection For which the only cure is to prune out the unsightly defects I wondered if she saw my father in the branches that she tossed to the ground How his cancer spread ruthlessly How fighting malignancy will always be a losing battle But in the meantime we kill every cell that could be the likely culprit My father’s mother watched her husband fight the same fight Keeping my grandfather alive one pill and serving of pork bone soup at a time At his funeral I watched her move with grace from table to table Thanking distant aunts for their visitations Imploring quarrelling uncles to forgive one another Her grief, also her strength Could not keep a liver from failing


But holds a family from breaking

Needless to say The women in my family know a thing or two about keeping brokenness at bay We find it in our wedding vows in the way we beg those who hurt us to stay in our silence in wood-dust plastic bowls chemotherapy Anything to help worship a wholeness Inherited and passed down like an heirloom I spent a long time testing my grandmother’s hypothesis By putting razor to skin Breaking the soft tissue meant to keep me whole

Just to see what lays underneath

Imagining my grandmother’s “I-told-you-so” if she ever saw the scars How they grow back raised Thicker, tougher, more resistant to being cut open again

But never unbroken

The scars: a rebellion against a generational obsession with perfection a bloodline that refuses to bleed a family tree deprived of defect a reminder that to hurt is to be human That any pain is valid even if self inflicted even if against logic That it is okay to desire vulnerability so badly That you tear yourself into an open wound That it is not thankless to wish for brokenness when you have spent your whole life trying to be whole To be broken is to be vulnerable is to let light in is to say, that it is okay to bleed to hurt to lay, unfunctional, frozen in time to be soft to shatter to be quiet and bold damaged and whole

To be broken Is to say I am ready to heal


BREAKI NG N EWS The World Health Organization declares a pandemic

BREAKI NG N EWS The Philippine government establishes Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ)

BREAKI NG N EWS Harsh consequences are given to those who break ECQ protocol

BREAKI NG N EWS Police and high ranking officials break ECQ with little to no punishment

BREAKI NG N EWS The Philippines’ largest media and news network, ABS-CBN, is kick off the air

BREAKI NG N EWS Duterte’s government proposes the Anti-Terror Bill

BREAKI NG N EWS 20 Pride protesters are arrested in Manila

BREAKI NG N EWS ABS-CBN is no longer allowed to operate, leaving 11 000 people unemployed

BREAKI NG N EWS The people continue their online and socially distanced protests

BREAKI NG N EWS The Anti-Terror Bill is passed into law

BREAKI NG N EWS 6 activists are arrested in their own homes after an online and socially distanced protests

BREAKI NG N EWS I’m so tired of breaking news 27

#masstestingnow #junkterrorbill #defendpressfreedom #savelumadschools #stopthekillings For years, it has been hashtag after hashtag, protest after protest, while seeing everything get worse. It has been listening to rich Filipinos defend Duterte because his policies will never hurt them like it hurts the rest of us. It has been Filipinos from the motherland telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about, because I don’t live there. It has been witnessing the death of children due to extrajudicial killings, and now the death of everyone else due to a pandemic. It has been watching the government revise history while the people forget it. Breaking news I know why they call it “breaking news” It chisels at the hope I hold in my heart, Creating fissures then cracks Breaking news Our system is broken Our government is corrupt Our people are dying Breaking news I don’t know what to do But to speak up.

Our voices are the only things that have been left unbroken.

Breaking News

by Anne Claire Baguio 28

On my love affair with A friend recently shared a post about slow responses that returned me to the self reflection I’ve been doing since the start of quarantine. When I moved back home in March, I was determined to keep my university social ties untarnished. Pacts with my housemates to have frequent FaceTime calls, promises to my friends that nothing would change — words of commitment fell out of my mouth as I scrambled to maintain a sense of normalcy online. If we saw each other every day, how hard could it be to maintain those bonds through our screens? Nearly impossible was not the answer I anticipated. And yet, within weeks my grand plans fell through. Missed connections made me feel further apart from my social circle than I ever had before. Physical isolation seeped through my screen and unread messages piled up on every social media account I had. My slow response times are the running joke in most friend groups I’m a part of. I live my life on Do Not Disturb and it is bliss. Yes, this has created an issue or two when someone wants to reach me immediately, but the unbridled joy I find in not being constantly available far outweighs the jabs at my snail-speed replies. I got my first phone in Grade 11. Social media accounts came even later. ( Yes, you read that correctly. Grade 11.) Before age 16, the conversations, conflicts, and commitments I had to my friends ended when the final school bell rang each day. By the time I got to class the next morning, gigantic, monumental changes had occurred in the few hours I’d spent at home, buried in my piles of homework. I often resented the need to be filled in every morning by friends who complained about my inability to be reached, but now I look back and miss that compartmentalization. These days, every interaction I have stretches into the online world, and there is no escaping it. So, it doesn’t surprise me that the pace at which I reply irks the vast majority of my friends. Like me, they grew into a society that values constant availability. This pressure has only increased with younger generations, who are handed iPads at ages I was outside playing on the lawn with my neighbours. We have all had to adapt to a pressure to update the world on our presence at all times. It seems that if you don’t constantly remind the world of your existence, it is all too likely to forget you. A guy I used to talk to every day told me he “hardly knows where his phone is these days”, when I jokingly mentioned his change in response times since the start of quarantine. In the moment, my quip came from the deep-seeded idea that, well, if they wanted to reply they would. This concept has been embedded into social media since its conception. After all, we’ve all got our phones on us, so what’s the excuse for not replying, right? All those months ago, I wasn’t cognizant of the ways in which that thought process went against the very principles my Do Not Disturb romance was built upon. The promises I made to my friends to keep in touch came with good intentions, but not from a place of sincerity. I do not measure my closeness with someone by the frequency with which we engage online — sure, I generally speak to my best friends more than I do with less-close acquaintances, but it’s not the neat linear relationship we’d like to think it is. Some of my closest friendships are built upon sporadic-catch ups that sew together time as if it hasn’t passed at all. When we talk, I realize how much I’ve missed them, and I look forward to that sense of longing again. There’s something important that the passage of time brings to a relationship — more than room to breathe, perhaps a chance to remember all the ways in which someone adds value to your life. Constant communication rarely lets you stop and make that list. When we apologize for a late text, or a tardy like on an Instagram post, or the loss of a Snapchat streak, we are really saying “sorry I did not drop everything in my life to be online with you.” Why are we remorseful for living? For being present in our own lives? Who are we really accountable to? Being held to an impossible standard of communication is crippling. At the start of summer, I lost friends over the week-ish that I spent in the hospital, too frail and gross


by Lauren Mascarenhas

to send a snapchat or a text back. I’ve probably lost even more with my lack of replies to the continuous “are you okay??”s that I’ve gotten almost every day since. There’s a strange double standard around replying these days — people will post stories about taking necessary breaks, only to follow it with a Tumblr quote about not wasting your time on people who don’t reciprocate the energy you pour into them. Both are true, but can both co-exist in harmony? In the current structure of social media we’ve created, I think the answer is no. If we want to have our cake and eat it too, we have to accept that the very premise of social media itself doesn’t allow for the kind of disengagement we tout as a radical form of self care. Social media relies on online engagement. Apparently these days, real-world relationships do too. I think back to the words of that guy and I almost admire them now. Hardly knowing where my phone is sounds like a life I’d like to be living. I want to be so consumed in the tangible world around me that I’m not wrapped up in the nuanced rules of online interaction. I don’t want to be concerned with read receipts, streaks or likes. I want to show up fully every day in my own life, and have that be enough. Unfortunately, as long as I continue to exist online, it seems I’ll continue to fall short. I can’t end this with a simple solution or a call to just be more present, because life is never that simple. I will however say that there is liberation in redefining your interactions online, and shifting worth from noise and numbers to quality. It’s okay to post less and lose followers, or respond less and lose friends. Quarantine has brought with it a craving for togetherness that won’t be satisfied solely online. It cannot be, because life doesn’t exist solely within the confines of a phone or computer. These past few months of self reflection have shown me that some of my best interactions come from within, from conversations with myself. Perhaps those are worth more investment, and the people we happen to engage with in a day are a nice cherry on top. Finding worth in oneself makes the endless rolling fields of social media seem a little less daunting. To everyone I’ve left on read, haven’t gotten back to, or fell out of contact with: I am sorry. Not for the pace at which I reply, but for the ways in which society has dictated the rules of our relationship. I hope we can all carve out boundaries for ourselves and honour the silences that come with logging off for awhile. There is beauty in being left with your thoughts and responding with intentionality. With every pause of my fingers over that “send” button, I am willing into existence a world in which we are not so tethered to our phones. Until then though, I’ll get back to you when I can.

Art by Matilda Kim Caption from Instagram video “The thing about billionaires” by @ijeomaoluo


by Prarthna Sakhuja

Cutting Ties


In South Asian culture, hair is the ultimate signifier of beauty. I have grown up with family and community members alike instilling into me that long hair is beautiful. Similarly, long hair is equated with femininity, a belief that is heavily emphasized. Within a culture that attaches honour to women, anything that supposedly tarnishes women’s beauty and by extension, honour, is a threat to both families and nations. Of course, the obsession people have with women’s bodies and the agency they seem to think they have over our choices is a product of the patriarchy. In South Asian culture, comments about one’s body are presented under the guise of concern for one another. If an elder family member, someone I may barely even know, tells me that I should lose weight or should not have short hair, it’s because they are worried about my health or what others might think. Growing up in a small town in Southwestern Ontario, I was mostly surrounded by white people. This meant that at a young age while I was struggling with accepting and loving my body, I was also struggling with my perceived reality that I was the only young girl who was facing these issues. The other girls I was surrounded by did not have to confront their body hair, facial hair, unibrow, or dark circles the same way that I did. While I did not possess many of the traditional signifiers of beauty that they did, the one thing I did possess was beautiful, long, thick hair. It was my greatest pride. I convinced myself that it was what made me beautiful. I may not look like them, but they loved my hair, so I began to construct my self worth around this one sparing piece of validation. If my hair was beautiful, it had to mean that I was beautiful. In my early teen years, I romanticized my long hair by believing it to be a kind of curtain that I could always use to hide from the world. My insecurities took on lives of their own and I consoled them by reminding myself that I had this flowing river of beautiful black hair. My curtain kept me safe. It hid my flaws and supposedly framed my face in a slimming way, which I think is just a coded way of telling fat girls that they need to take up less space. I grew up perfecting the art of taking up as little space as possible. I would grow tired from learning new ways to shrink myself. I would cry from the shock of pain I felt when brushing through the tangles in my hair, but convinced myself that it was okay because it made me beautiful. After all, what is more important than being beautiful? 4 years ago, I got rid of my long hair. There have been many haircuts before but having long hair was something I always felt would be a constant in my life. At a time when I was struggling to find beauty within my body, a body that seemed to fail at nearly every expectation that Eurocentric beauty ideals set for me, my long hair had become a crutch. It was not until after I cut my hair that I realized that it was not the world I was hiding from behind my beautiful curtain, but myself. Breaking away from my long hair meant cutting off a part of me that I had begun to define myself with. It was part of my identity. So, I now had to figure out how to redefine myself. I was forced to confront the person behind the curtain. I was forced to find beauty in this person because hating myself was not an option. Existing within the margins of a system that wants to push us out completely means being set up to not only internalize hatred for ourselves, but to make survival itself a challenge. While my existence itself was thus innately an act of resistance, I refuse to merely exist; I want to thrive. And we must fight to thrive.

It became about more than just how I looked with long hair or short hair, it was me learning how to regain autonomy over my own body. It was teaching myself that I did not need to look any kind of way to be worthy of accepting my body and offering it love. I am still learning everyday how to define myself outside of notions of beauty. I think beauty as we define it and the value we give it is violently damaging, especially to women, as all bodies deserve to be accepted and valued regardless of the way they look. But as of right now, in a world that places immense value on aesthetics and beauty, I find comfort in knowing that I can find beauty in myself no matter what I look like. I have taught myself how to reject the ideals that are supposed to make me be considered as beautiful. Most importantly, I have learned how to identify and define myself through qualities that have nothing to do with my appearance. I know that these qualities have more value to me than beauty ever could. How sad is it that we let our entire identities become defined by the norms of beauty we fit into? How much are we depriving the world of by limiting ourselves to this? These words are a call to action: I urge you to break away from what you consider to be your curtain. I challenge us all to find ways of loving ourselves without our crutches. In the words of Audre Lorde, “We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings.” Lorde defines the erotic as “a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings.” Women and other gender-oppressed peoples have been taught to distrust our intuition, our deepest source of feeling and knowledge. When we allow ourselves to tap into the power that is our strongest sense of self, when we embrace our truest feelings - rather than our appearance - as our source of power, that is when we find true acceptance and love for ourselves. When we make the switch from appearance to affect, we see the power not only in our deepest selves, but also the value in sharing our deepest feelings with another person. We build stronger relationships and communities through this commitment to vulnerability, the most radical act there is.


“Existing within the margins of a system that wants to push us out completely means being set up to not only internalize hatred for ourselves, but to make survival itself a challenge. While my existence itself was thus innately an act of resistance, I refuse to merely exist; I want to thrive. And we must fight to thrive.”

Art by Rebecca Zhong


You’ve Got a Friend in Me

by Matilda Kim, Mijia Murong, Prarthna Sakhuja

Matilda We wanted to create these questions to help our readers reconnect with their friends during this “break” (inspired by WNRS) but we also wanted to ask our readers to think about what friendships mean. How do our friendships shape us, even build us up? What is the role of friendships in feminism, in breaking power systems, in replacing them? During our conversation, we talked a lot about safety. How we felt safe to be ourselves wholly in our friendship because there was an underlying respect for each other. Not only respect, but a genuine love and appreciation. I want that for my communities, for people to feel the same love and appreciation from others as a way to build safety rather than through destructive power systems meant to separate us. At the worst of times, the patriarchy taught me to hate other women, hate those who do not fit into this imaginary binary, hate myself. Instead, feminism taught me to build a new world filled with relationships. Friendship, to me, is radical. Just like how choosing to love myself in a society that needs me to hate myself to profit, choosing friendship in a society that needs me to stay isolated to be unaware of our shared experiences is so necessary. My friendships show me what the world could look like if we chose people instead of power. They cease to surprise me with how much support, gratitude, and warmth can be shared amongst people and how much this brings to my life. We talked also about how our friendship is so generative. I do the most work within my friendships – the work of creating, the work of selfreflecting, the work of critical thinking. Having people who not only show you what could be but also how to get there is invaluable. Through our friendship, I’ve learned so much about feminism because feminism is inherently social. The patriarchy is not an individual, but a system meant to affect all of us. In that way, having friendships where you are able to be open and thoughtful about the ways we have been impacted is so necessary for my healing.


This whole project was a way for me to build a new world through creativity and it wouldn’t have happened without Prarthna and Mijia. I’ve always kept my art to myself but they encouraged me to create, and most importantly share. They’ve helped me understand the value in sharing my art, how art can bring us together and how feminist artwork in itself is a way of breaking these systems. By valuing art we create that is (in a way) a part of ourselves, we say that we are valuable. You - a queer person, a fat person, a Black person, a person with a mental illness, a trans person, a woman, a person with a disability – you are valuable to us and deserving of so much love. So I can’t stress enough how much these two mean to me. I’m so grateful we were able to have this conversation and gush about each other for 2 hours, and I highly encourage all our readers to do the same with the friends in your life!

Prarthna In my heart and soul, I believe loving openly is the most radical act there is. Holding space for people in our hearts is freedom. Being vulnerable is the most brave and anti-oppressive act I can think of. I am a self-proclaimed hopeless romantic and for me, love has never been centred around romantic relationships. Love to me is crying and laughing with my closest friends. I met Mijia and Matilda through our work with an organization centred around anti-racism. While we met in a professional setting, overtime, we each developed a genuine care for one another. The three of us are continuously and genuinely vested in each other’s wellbeing. As our friendships developed, my feminism and understanding of our world developed as well. My feminism is always changing, adapting and learning--just like friendships do. As we try to understand what it means to build a better and more just world, friendships serve as a model for what we can aspire towards creating. My friendship with Mijia and Matilda creates space for accountability, kindness, care, support, honesty and healing. These are the foundations of a safe space. As a child, I was made to feel hyper aware of my

femininity and how this put a target on my back. I constantly felt unsafe both in my body and in our world. While the circumstances of our world have not radically improved since then, my ability to find ways to feel safe have improved and this is primarily because of the strong friendships I have built. I dream of feeling as safe in our world as I do in our friendship. I believe if we build and rely on our communities in the same way we build and rely on friendships, we become as close to building a safe world as we can. I practice my feminism in my friendships and my friendships guide my feminism--the two are always in conversation with each other. I am constantly working to dismantle any potential power dynamics, trying to holding myself accountable, actively trying to see the goodness in others and provide care for the people I hold dear and these are all lessons I have learned from feminist thought. At the same time, the fire within me that urges me to keep fighting for a better world is only able to stay aflame because of the friendships I have in my life. They keep me warm. They keep me alive. As a woman of colour, I have grown up in a world that constantly gaslights me and makes me question whether I am justified in feeling what I feel, in responding the way I respond to injustice. Through my friendships with other women of colour and other racialized gender-oppressed people, I have found freedom in knowing that not only are my feelings and experiences justified, but I am not alone. When we are able to establish patterns and identify shared experiences of trauma, we can then begin to understand how to prevent these traumatic experiences from occurring as a community. We are constantly bombarded with images of love to aspire towards. The problem is that these images are always focused on romantic love or familial love. Placing value and emphasis on platonic love and strong, healthy, transformative friendships brings us closer to building strong, healthy and transformative communities. We build communities that look out for each other out of care and don’t need to rely on policing. This begins at an individual level of understanding the revolutionary power there is within love and vulnerability and then extending this towards all relationships in our lives. To Mijia and Matilda: Thank you for being your honest selves with me and patiently inviting me to be honest with you. I am still learning every day how to be vulnerable with others and you both have so gently created a space where I can achieve this. Thank you for inspiring and supporting my creativity, I am always honoured to have the privilege to create, dream, heal and grow with you two by my side. Thank you for always being there with me when I need to take a break, and for teaching me how to break and rebuild what’s harmful. I have infinite love in my heart for you both.

Growing up, I’ve always had the sensation of drowning. I have distinct memories of walking into my first Canadian classroom at 10 years old, my lips glued shut when asked to introduce myself because I did not know enough English to “properly pronounce” my own name. In those years my only goal was to “stay afloat” by finding friends who will save me from being an outcast. I thought that if I became “them”, I would be safe - so I changed my accent, the way I dressed, the food I ate, the way I saw myself …. when I found people to surround myself with in this way, I could not fathom why I felt lonelier and more isolated than ever. I wish I knew then what I know now – that friendship should never be about conforming to the “norms” created to imprison us. Friendship should be about encouraging each other to be the truest version of ourselves (which is also fluid and malleable and shaped by the friendships themselves). Like feminism and anti-oppression work, friendship is radical because it requires us to give energy to something that builds rather than destroys, uplifts rather than stifles, reimagines rather than confines. Sometimes I get emotional thinking about how far I’ve come – how far we’ve all come. How we arrive here today, trauma and all, with the love, and courage, and softness to hold space for one another. How we have all survived the breaking of interpersonal relationships, but still choose to show up as the most vulnerable and raw versions of ourselves. How we were raised by a culture that puts individualism on a pedestal, but still choose to believe in a world that is inherently interdependent. When we speak about abolition and braking systems, the question of “well what would you build instead?” often comes up. My answer to that is friendship – it is to create a system that keeps us safe, modeled after the friendships where I feel the safest. Through my friendships with the two of you, I have learned that as much as friendship is about survival, it is also about building. It is in conversation with you that I have felt the most creative and valued, and that is exactly what I want when I imagine a world without police, and prisons, and capitalism, and all of the interconnected systems of power that seek to take power away from ourselves and the bonds holding us together. Here’s to love. Here’s to radical vulnerability. Here’s to turning our friendship-wood-rafts into a playground for creativity, and resistance, and growth. I love you both so much, and this friendship is truly one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Mijia I have a tendency of living my life without taking the time to reflect upon it. I am so grateful to have played the game with the two of you. Like our friendship, this game has given me new perspectives and insights that I will cherish for the rest of my life. This game was an exercise of reflecting on something that I have taken for granted all these years –community. I once heard a quote that goes “white supremacy is not the shark, it’s the water”. If I were to expand on this metaphor, I would say that friendships are the wood-rafts that we build to help each other stay afloat despite living in a world that is constantly trying to drown and swallow us whole, and community is piecing these rafts together to create islands of safety – where we can rebuild life-affirming systems.


Instructions: Assemble a group of friends. Pick a card and go around answering it. Next person pick a card and repeat.

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