Issuu on Google+

“As a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.” -Virginia Woolf

letter from the editors A lot of people think feminism is useless – that there’s nothing more to fight for. But feminism isn’t so clear-cut anymore. It’s not simply about getting the vote or getting out of the kitchen or getting into the workforce. On paper, we might be equal, but just ask a single mom, a rape victim, or a transsexual woman if they don’t have to fight for something every day. Her child, her dignity, her rights. These women aren’t wearing feminist labels, but feminism fights for them. It’s not getting easier. Just before we went to print, the Harper government announced it was closing all but four Status of Women offices and restricting their funding guidelines (see “Status:Silenced,” 22). In Juarez, the Mexican government has let 14 years of femicide slide, only to do too little, too late (“City of the Dead,” 24). Our cover story looks at the women’s wrestling trend, where sexy, gutsy, females empower themselves by kicking ass (“Girl Fight!,” 16). In Jamaica, the women fight for a different reason: poverty. McClung’s writer Andrea Hoang tries to start a women’s group there and finds out just how difficult change is (“Stitch and Bitch,” 20). Our feminism doesn’t look like the feminism of the ‘60s. A lot has changed and a lot has gotten better but why are we settling for “good enough?”

-Lauren McKeon and Jennifer Fong Editors-in-chief Special thanks go out to 89 Print, Oakham House and the Palin Foundation, Therese Shechter, RSU, the Ryerson Women’s Centre, CopyRite, our staff and contributors, Laura May and an extra special thanks to Ryerson security for never letting us in our lab.

in tribute... This magazine is a tribute Nellie McClung’s work towards the women’s movement. McClung played a key role in pushing for women’s suffrage in Canada. Her efforts led to Manitoban women becoming the first in the country to gain the right to vote. McClung formed the Famous Five along with Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Emily Murphy, and Louise McKinney. They lobbied for women to be considered “persons” in the British North America Act. She was also a noted writer and one of Canada’s first female journalists, known widely for her syndicated newspaper column, “Nellie McClung Says.”

Oakham House/RyeSac, Ryerson 380 Victoria St. #A62 Toronto, ON M5B 1W7


Photo by Laura May Cover models: Brittany DiFranco Laura Macaluso

wanna write for mcclung’s?




winter 2007

McClung’s is looking for writers, artists, copy editors and photographers for our 2006-2007 year. Interested? Drop us a line at Check out our







Winter 2006

Ryerson’s Voice for Women


Girl Fight


Stitch and Bitch Andrea Hoang  Setting up women’s programs in Jamaica


Status: Silenced Lauren McKeon  Status of Women strikes equality from its mandate


City of the Dead Claudia Calabro  Juarez, Mexico: A femicide hotbed

Jessica Lockhart


 Women’s wrestling - empowering or puff?


 When in New Guinea... - Kelsey Brennan  Free Rides - Jenelle Rupchand  A Natural Thing - Lauren McKeon  Skinny is Still the New A Winning Walk - Megan Grittani-Livingston Black - Jennifer Fong


DEBBIE GETS DIRTY Stripping Down and Shaping Up - Megan Grittani-Livingston Lockhart


Commercial Redux - Michelle Melski

 Kava Kicked Out - Jessica

 Colour Complex - Sameen Amin

MARY CLEANS UP Pop Feminism - Sameen Amin

 Ad Control



NELLIES  Kelsey Brennan talks to Newspaper editor Ruth Dunley  Hariklia Simos discusses competitive

26 28 30

POP THE QUESTION  Laura Suen quizzes Manga artist and novelist Kathryn Williams

32 34

SHE SAID/SHE SAID  Canice Leung and Sarah Boesveld discuss the pros and cons of vibrators

skateboarding with Elise Manolakos

 Amanda Ryder profiles the Nellie’s organization

SPREAD ‘EM  Joyce Yip discusses the dangers of beauty products THE DISH  Dana Lacey reviews the film “I Was a Teenage Feminist”  Andrea Lau reviews “Opheliac” by Emilie Autumn

 Photographer Ann Ruppenstein attends Tit Tales

BOY BABBLE  Adrian Morrow writes about his experience as a male feminist

winter 2007



mcclung’s masthead winter 2006

photo assistant talia eylon

art director jennifer asselin

managing editor mimi szeto

web director rosa park

photo director canice leung

assistant editor natalie fryc

managing editor emerald austerberry

assistant art director kendra stieler

assistant editor megan grittani-livingston

circulation director claudia calabro

contributors writers adrian morrow megan grittani-livingston kelsey brennan josephine lim jennelle rupchand hariklia simos amanda ryder jessica lockhart michelle melski sameen amin andrea hoang claudia calabro 4


laura suen joyce yip dana lacey andrea lau canice leung sarah boesveld

photographers laura may jordan morningstar amanda ryder jennifer asselin christine mcavoy ann ruppenstein winter 2007

artists joyce yip susannah schmidt denise kwan canice leung kathryn williams

copy editors and fact checkers adrian morrow amanda ryder andrea lau carol chung

eva lam hariklia simos kaitlyn critchley laura suen megan grittani-livingston michele melski mimi szeto natalie fryc rachelle cruz sanam islam sarah boesveld vindra dhanraj joyce yip

a winning walk raising funds for ovarian cancer by [megan grittani-livingston] n Sunday, Sept. 10, the National Ovarian Cancer Association (NOCA) broke all Canadian fundraising and participation records for ovarian cancer events, raising $1 million through its annual walkathon. The Winners Walk of Hope is entering its fifth year, though the addition of Winners as a national title sponsor was new this year. “We were thrilled with [the event],” said NOCA communications consultant Annie Atkinson. “It has evolved to a whole new level with a national title sponsor.” Peggy Truscott, a former NOCA volunteer and a woman who battled ovarian cancer, conceived of the event in 2002. The walk began as a small gathering in Toronto’s Sunnybrook Park promoting support and survival. It also raised awareness about ovarian cancer – a disease for which there is no reliable detection test – and $40,000 for the young organization. “I remember being at the first one,” Atkinson said. “It wasn’t about fundraising; it was mostly about support. That’s still what it’s about, but it’s also become a major source of fundraising.” The money goes to NOCA programs for the support of women living with the disease, the education of well women and health care professionals, and research into tests and treatments. The event has grown exponentially each year. The nine sites in the 2005 walk saw a 50 per cent increase in participation and a more than 100 per cent increase in fundraising, to a total of 2,450 walkers and volunteers and $600,000 raised. Atkinson said this year has gone well beyond that mark. With 12


walks from coast to coast run by local co-chairs and volunteers, participants raised $1 million for their cause. “It’s neat how every event has a different feel,” Atkinson said happily. “The energy [at the Toronto walk] was really lovely, a lot of joy. … We had a huge number of teams this year, and a huge presence from Winners among their staff.” Winners took on the role of national title sponsor this year, which allowed NOCA – a small organization with only 13 staff members, despite its growing national presence – access to advertising resources it could not have otherwise afforded. Atkinson said Winners developed an extensive national advertising campaign in consultation with NOCA, which included public service announcements, bus shelter posters, magazine ads and other “stuff we could never afford in a million years,” she said. Winners also launched in-store and employee campaigns. Atkinson said the company was attracted to the event by a family connection with a NOCA volunteer in Nova Scotia, whose niece was an Assistant Vice President of Marketing on the Home Sense side of the Winners brand. “They really get the cause,” Atkinson said. “It’s a wonderful partnership.” This year in Canada, 2,300 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and 1,600 will die of the disease. For more information, visit, or the new French version at

when in new guinea... not every society is a patriarchy

Art by Denise Kwan

by [kelsey brennan] irly. Tomboy. Effeminate. Androgynous. What do these words mean? In some societies, something very different from what the Western world would expect.Up until recently, three tribes of indigenous people inhabited New Guinea. With the rise of the ‘global village’, it became increasingly difficult for them to live without the strain of Western influence, and they have slowly become assimilated. The Arapesh, Mundugumor and Tchambuli tribes each had their own unique take on gender roles. In the Arapesh tribe, it wouldn’t matter much whether you were a man or a woman. Either way, you would be non-aggressive and nurturing. In other words, you would fit the Western’s world’s stereotypical definition of “feminine”.


On the other hand, if you were a member of the Mundugumor tribe, your behaviour would match the Western vision of “masculine”. You would be expected to act violently, with aggression and competitiveness. The Tchambuli are another story entirely. They’ve turned Western society on its head with their dominant and aggressive women, and ornamented and petty men. No matter which tribe you examine, it seems gender isn’t as strictly defined as we thought. So, the next time someone calls you a tomboy or tells you to act more like a girl, tell them to take a hike to New Guinea. winter 2007



free rides

does either gender get one? by [jenelle rupchand] o men or women have it easier? From getting away without a speeding ticket to faking it in bed without suspicion, women seem to have the advantage over men. But men appear to fare better running for parliament and being able to whip it out and stuff it back in whenever and wherever nature calls. To finally settle the debate of whether guys or gals get the free ride, six young students in Toronto shared their thoughts on the trials and tribulations of each gender. Here’s what they had to say:


always some girl who would want to do something with a guy ”


-Nigel Udugampola, 25, accounting student

on sex

“The guy has more worries. Because he doesn’t want to

on primping

be a minute man, you know- he doesn’t want to be quick. I say it’s easy for the woman; the man has to make sure “I work in an office where you have to dress sort of he’s got his stamina .” -Cabral ‘business-casual’ , but all the guys wear a shirt, pants – pretty straight forward. I have to come up with “I think [women] have to put more effort into it than something to wear every day.” guys while having sex. They have to dress up nicely, they -Mara Kurlandsky, 21, Jewish studies have to appear very attractive to the guy. While guys just clean themselves and that’s it.” “[Men] don’t have to spend two hours putting on make-Nedhal Alhaidari, 18, graphic communications management up and spend two hours blow-drying their hair.” -Justin Cabral, 21, police foundations

“Any time that we go out [men get ready] in two sec- on taking a tinkle onds. They throw on a shirt but the girls have to get all dolled up and it takes a long time. It’s frustrating.” -Jothi Vaidyanathan, 20, economics “[Men] can ‘go’ anywhere. For girls, they’ve got to at least have toilet paper, a toilet – a clean toilet – while a guy can go behind a building.”

on scoring a date

“In terms of meeting a guy, almost any guy will be inter-


“Definitely men. Anywhere , anytime.” - Hishon

ested in at least making her an acquaintance…. It would “[Men] just whip it out and go. I go camping a lot and I be easier for girls to get a date , they just don’t normal- speak from experience that it’s more difficult for a ly go out and ask.” -Ben Hishon, 20, history and politics woman, for anatomical reasons.” -Kurlandsky

“Guys are really horny so there’s always some guy who will want to do something with a girl. But there’s not 6


winter 2007

a natural thing a revolutionary approach to your period by [lauren mckeon]

adeleine Shaw has seen mothers exclaim, “Oh my god, this is so disgusting” before hastily pulling their daughters away from her product. Other women won’t even touch it. Shaw isn’t selling gag barf, porn, gore or anything, really, gross at all. What has these women so freaked out by Shaw’s company, Lunapads, is their washable menstrual product line. Yes, that’s right, pads you can wash. Lunapads’ design uses a liner situated on top of the pad, allowing women to easily freshen the pad without removing all of it. The whole shebang can then be thrown in the washing machine, or hand washed daily if a gal’s up to it. Starter kits cost up to $90, but last for at least five years. While the idea may seem revolutionary, it’s the disposable products that are a fairly recent invention. Women have been using cloth for ages. Lunapads, open since 1993, is a baby in comparison. But the BC company has some grown up ideas. Washable pads let women take responsibility for their bodies—instead of being ashamed of menstruating—and say, “Yeah, I’m bleeding so what?” Women don’t have to treat their period as the Holy Grail, or dance in the streets, Shaw says, but they also don’t need another reason to hate themselves. As for the ick factor, Shaw finds it grosser sticking a tampon “way up there,” or seeing a garbage full of dirty pads. She’s got a point.


skinny is still the new black madrid’s new bmi rule doesn’t mean much

by [jennifer fong] pples and tomatoes. Imagine eating those two things, and only those two things, every single day. Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston did and in November, she died at the age of 23. Reston fought what many top models fight: anorexia, triggered by the fashion world’s obsession with thinness. Reston wasn’t the first model to have starved herself to death. Just three months earlier, another Brazilan model, Luisel Ramos, died of a heart attack on the catwalk during a fashion show in Montevideo, Spain. Ramos, too, suffered from anorexia. The incident pushed Madrid to impose a new rule during the Spanish capital’s fashion week last September: any model considered too thin would be turned away. Now, only those with a body mass index (BMI) of 18 or higher are allowed to strut their stuff in Madrid. Sounds great, except for one thing: according to the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute, a BMI of 18 is still considered underweight. So while the move is a good start in the battle against the ever-popular emaciated heroinchic look (thank you, Kate Moss), there’s still a long way to go before skin and bones go out of style on the runway.


winter 2007



elise manolakos competitive skate diva

lise Manolakos waits with one hand on her hip and the other on her skateboard. Three guys cut in front, skating down the concrete slope without so much as a glance in her direction. She shrugs it off. Manolakos knows the guys just want to show her they can jump the plastic cooler she placed at the other end of the skate park. Anything she can do they can do better—that’s what some of the boys think. While most treat her equally, “there are guys that think girls shouldn’t skate,” says Manolakos. Stereotypes are just a way of life for female skateboarders. They could land a trick as well as any guy and they could jump as high as any guy but in the end, says Manolakos, “They’ll say, ‘That’s good for a girl.’” But Manolakos doesn’t lets the stereotypes get to her; instead, she uses them to her advantage. “I like to break social codes. I think people can do whatever they want and shouldn’t be categorized,” explains Manolakos. “You need to be who you are and not be scared to be who you are.” Nineteen-year-old Manolakos began skating competitively after picking up the sport almost by divine intervention when she was 14. “I


was working at the ferry docks and I found a board and I went to the skate park with it,” she remembers. She found a pastime that would become much more than a hobby—it would come to define who she is. “Skater” is a title she wears proudly. Manolakos enjoys suiting up in a dressy black jacket, polishing her hair, doing her makeup, and finishing off her look with her trusty skateboard. The words “SK8 DIVA” is painted on its underside. “People give me looks because I’m dressed up with a skateboard and I’m a girl,” she smirks. But to her, skateboarding is not just about turning heads. She’s happy female skaters are accepted by the large crowds at skateboarding competitions. In 2003, she even competed in Ride Like a Girl, an all-girl skateboarding competition where she was up against talent from all over Ontario and Quebec. There are a lot of companies looking for talented female skaters to sponsor. It’s almost trendy to be a female skater but Manolakos is wary of girls getting into skateboarding for the wrong reasons. “If you like skating, do it because you like it not because you think it’s cool,” she says. “Ninety-eight per cent of the time, girls do it because it looks cool—[but] you need dedication in this sport.” That’s why she’s not afraid to “Skate hard, fall hard,” a motto Manolakos says she lives by. But it doesn’t mean she doesn’t still plays a mental war with herself every time she puts her feet on a board. “If you don’t think positive 99 per cent of the time you are going to fall hard,” says Manolakos. “Your mind is what limits your performance.” -m-

Photos by Jordan Morningstar

by [hariklia simos]

ruth dunley the ottawa citizen’s editor extraordinaire by [kelsey brennan]

he writer H. Jackson Brown Jr. once said, “Find a job you like and you add five days to every week.” For Ruth Dunley, associate editor at the Ottawa Citizen, that means a long week. Right now, Dunley is trying to juggle her full-time editing job at the Citizen with running a number of online projects for the paper, as well as heading its internship, student and youth programs. Those projects aren’t only for eager university students, but also include high school programs such as the second annual Canadian Critics and Awards Program, known as the Cappies. Developed in the United States, the program allows student writers to blend the dramatic arts with writing. Participating Ottawa-area high schools assemble teams of theatre critics, who attend school productions and follow up on those performances with reviews. The best of those pieces are published in the Ottawa Citizen.

Photo by Alexader Molnar Photography


The Cappies’ year culminates with a gala awards show, where the top critics and performers are each given his or her fifteen minutes of fame. It takes Dunley a year of hard work to make those fifteen minutes possible. Dunley brought the Cappies to Canada last year, and is serving as the program director again this year. In addition to the hundreds of hours she spends behind the scenes coordinating the awards, Dunley attended every production. It’s hard to imagine she has any free time left, yet Dunley is also in the process of completing her PhD in history. This PhD will join the Bachelor of Journalism and Master of Journalism degrees she has already earned from Carleton University. Of course, the hours are easier to bear when they’re spent in pursuit of something you love. Dunley’s reasoning for why she entered journalism is simple—she loves writing. That passion has carried her a long way: through high school apprenticeships, low-paying summer jobs, a stint at the London Press, a move to the Toronto Star, and her current post at the Ottawa Citizen. She has achieved all this in a very short time. At 34, Dunley is the only woman on the editorial side of the masthead at the Ottawa Citizen, and she has many years to continue blazing such trails. Dunley’s advice to anyone who would like to follow in her footsteps—or, for that matter, to anyone who wants to find success in their life—is simple: “Work hard, be willing to learn and ask questions – and write every assignment, every story, as if it is meant to appear on the front page.” -m-


a haven for women

n a building on Queen Street East, four women sit eating bagels and chatting between bites. Their children run around the table in a never-ending game of tag. An intercom from outside buzzes and a female voice crackles over the speaker. The door is unlocked to welcome the woman, her stroller and her two other children, their cheeks flushed from the brisk weather. This is a typical day at Nellie’s, a drop-in centre for Toronto women living in poverty, in an abusive situation or on the streets. Here, they have a space where they can talk about their problems with counsellors or other women in the same situation. The drop-in centre also offers an outreach program, provides housing and legal information and holds nightly seminars and social gatherings. And when a woman needs more than just advice, Nellie’s also has a 36-bed shelter. There she and her children can escape violence or homelessness and have access to a warm bed, food, protection and help. Nellie’s first began helping women in Toronto in 1973. Wendy Sung-Aad, manager of development at Nellie’s, says at that time, women’s shelters were badly needed. Women suffered from domestic abuse in silence and the problem was widely ignored by society. They had two options: suffer through the beatings or live on the streets. “There were 400 beds for homeless men but only 40 for women. This really meant that we had a huge systemic gender problem,” says Sung-Aad. The organization was originally named after Nellie McClung, a woman at the forefront of the women’s movement in the early 20th century. Today, Nellie’s link to its namesake is even stronger. Two of McClung’s granddaughters sit on the organization’s fundraising committee. Since its inception, Nellie’s has strived to help women of all ethnicities and ages. They take in violence survivors, women with addiction or mental health issues, sex workers and transgendered people. To access the shelter, a woman must be referred by another agency or have called for help. Nellie’s will admit her and then determine what kind of help she needs, based on mcclung’s 10 winter 2007


her circumstances. “Most women arrive with just the clothes on their back. It’s really our job to make sure they have everything they need to have to gain some sort of footing again,” says Sung-Aad. The shelter is a converted three-level Victorian home. The unadvertised location protects women from abusers and allows them to live in anonymity. Inside, an elegantly engraved wooden staircase leads to where the women sleep. On the main floor in the common area, two women sit on sofas and watch a morning talk show. Bulletproof glass windows let light into the high-ceilinged room. A computer lets residents type up resumes, search for legal information, find jobs or keep in contact with friends and family. The kitchen is well stocked with food from the Daily Bread Food Bank. In about an hour, the women will start making their own lunch, as they did earlier for breakfast. Dinner meals are served by the staff through a buffet. Downstairs, the shelter feels more clinical. Hospital green doors lead into a playroom, storage rooms and a quiet room. Sung-Aad says the quiet room provides a soothing escape for residents. The women can book the soundproof room to get away from all the noise and chaos that comes with living alongside 35 others. During a woman’s stay, Nellie’s staff work on any legal issues and start the process of relocating her to a permanent residence. The women can stay at Nellie’s for up to nine months. This discourages women from taking advantage of the shelter’s services and limited space. Sung-Aad says Nellie’s can only help the women as much as they allow them to. “Nellie’s has a very strong harm reduction and feminist view and it’s up to the women what they choose. We trust them that they are making the right decisions for themselves.”

The organization’s newsletter is filled with stories of shelter residents who have succeeded because of Nellie’s. Cheryl was a single mother diagnosed with clinical depression. To cope, she turned to drugs and isolation. She quit work and school and neglected her child. Things got worse when her daughter was taken away. After working with social workers from Nellie’s, Cheryl was able to re-establish her priorities. She returned to school, got a job and learned how to deal with her depression. The best part was being able to take her daughter out for dinner without worrying about the bill. But Sung-Aad says the reality is that not all residents end up with a happy story. Like many of the women who come in, Nellie’s is also struggling. The organization is kept alive through donations and fundraising. This past Christmas, it held a holiday fundraiser where people donated money towards the purchase of gifts for women who can’t afford to buy their children presents. Sung-Aad says that because of government cutbacks, Nellie’s is basically fending for itself. “We’re so strapped for funding. We can only focus on the daily grind…we can’t think about the future. It says something about the backlash of women and the feminization of poverty.” Over the last 30 years, Nellie’s has become a crucial organization for women. “Without Nellie’s around, where would women and children faced with violence go?” says Sung-Aad. “That’s a scary thought. It takes so much of their energy and strength and their own power to get here. They would have nowhere to go.”

Photos by Amanda Ryder

by [amanda ryder]

stripping down and shaping up megan grittani-livingston struts her stuff at ryerson’s new flirty fitness class don’t feel sexy on Tuesdays. I’d never really thought about it before, but faced with the prospect of going to my first “Flirty Fitness” class at the Ryerson University Athletic Centre (RAC) on a Tuesday night, I realise all I want to do is hole up at home in my pyjamas. This does not bode well for my introduction to the art of Flirty Fitness: a combination of regular work-out, moves and beginner-level exotic dancing. In September 2006, the RAC began running the new womenonly class as part of their dance program, at the suggestion of instructor Morgan Toombs. “I’d like the ladies to feel more comfortable in their bodies, and more confident in their sexuality and other parts of their lives,” Toombs says of her goals for the RAC class. The 27-year-old Ryerson nursing student has been involved with or teaching aerobics for nine years and exotic dancing for seven. She approached the RAC to offer the class after noticing the growing popularity of this type of dance. When 50 women came out to the September trial class, she was easily proven right. So did she have any tips for nervous rookies? “I remind [students] that no one’s watching, so they can just let go and enjoy it. We’re all sexual beings,” she says. “Own whatever it is you’re doing. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.” She’s right. I know she’s right. But on the

Photos by Christine McAvoy


night of my first class, I don’t feel confident or sexy. I feel full of mashed potatoes. I make a mental note: don’t eat Swiss Chalet for dinner before trying to feel attractive. When I arrive at the dimly-lit Ryerson dance studio, a song meant to set the mood was already thumping loudly: “I’m horny, I’m horny horny horny,” the singer purrs. Well, I’m not. But the upbeat song is getting my feet tapping instead of making me want to turn around and head home. Progress! The cheerful and encouraging Toombs starts the ten of us off with easy grapevine steps and walking sequences, like any other dance class. I begin to relax, but then our next move is unveiled: bum circles. Now, I think I need to mention at this point that I hate my butt. It’s my least favourite of my body parts. So drawing attention to it is decidedly not good in my book. I reluctantly give it a shake. “It’s like a paintbrush motion,” Toombs tells us, waving her right hand up and down. I make waves, and then circles, feeling marginally more graceful with every twist. “Billie Jean” lifts us through the swirls and bumps, and the tension from a day of sitting hunched over a computer leaves my body. After some push-ups and sit-ups, it’s time for the choreography portion of the class. We lay our mats in a line. I have no idea what’s coming next. “We’re going to crawl!” Toombs cheers. “It’s nothing like crawling when you’re a baby,” she says, and then demonstrates,

prowling on her hands and knees. It looks seductive when she does it. I have no idea what my attempt looks like. “You’re sexy, you’re a sexy beautiful woman!” Toombs calls. She tells us to look at who we’re seducing; I accidentally give my best come-hither look to a nearby girl. I pray she didn’t notice, and promptly get my pants stuck on a mat and fall over. Thankfully, everybody else is too busy giving it her all to notice my struggles. In the final section of choreography, Toombs leads us through reaching and twisting moves while standing, sitting and lying down. My first try is awkward and painful—I crash to the ground instead of dropping gracefully, and flail wildly when transferring between the moves. It probably looks more like epilepsy than seduction. My next attempts feel more natural, more fluid, but I’m still wondering: do I look like a complete moron? Toombs is a gracious cheerleader through the whole thing, which helps a lot. “The words of encouragement come naturally because everybody’s looking so good,” she tells me. I’m not sure how good I look, or how sexy I feel, though I suspect the answer to both is “not very” after only my first class. But I do feel less full of mashed potatoes, so the exercise probably helped. There’s fitness in this flirting, after all, and that’s enough to bring me back next week. -m-

winter 2007



kava kicked out it’s no girls allowed in vanuatu’s kava bars ou like kava?” my host-mom Kathy asked me early one Sunday morning, kneading a mixture of bananas and coconut milk in preparation for our lunch. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my host brother eagerly waiting for my response. I quickly realized that this wasn’t a question—it was an accusation. “Only a little bit,” I told them, lying through my teeth. The truth was, I liked kava more than just a little bit—I loved it. My mom began kneading the mixture in front of her harder. She was not impressed. Even with my rudimentary knowledge of the native pidgin language, I had no trouble understanding my host mother’s words. “I don’t like kava,” she told me in Bislama. “It’s no good. Women shouldn’t drink kava.” I had tasted the customary drink for the first time in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, only three weeks earlier. The peppery mud-like substance was vile to smell, but I chugged it back with ease. Immediately, my entire mouth felt numb and Zach, a fellow volunteer, grinned at me. “You want another shell?” he asked. While the rest of our predominantly female group declared their vehement dislike of the stuff, Zach and I downed our second full shells under the dimmed lights of the kava bar. As we walked back to our housing, the drug started to kick in. A calm, peaceful




winter 2007

state settled over me. Zach, who was on cooking duty that night, later told me, “I’ve never been so fascinated while cutting vegetables before.” We were hooked. When I left for the outlying community where I would be involved in a school construction project, I eagerly accepted kava whenever the opportunity presented itself, even going so far as to sneak into the local kava bar with one of the niVanuatu girls in my group, hoping that we wouldn’t be noticed in the dark. But someone did notice and within a matter of days, my host-mom heard about it. Kathy’s words of disapproval didn’t come as a shock to me. When I became involved with this international development project in Vanuatu, kava had been a key subject of my group’s pre-departure sessions. We were advised that although in recent years women have been permitted to consume the substance in the urban centres, it’s still considered inappropriate in the outer communities. On the island of Tanna, which reportedly has the strongest kava in the South Pacific, the drink is so sacred that women are not allowed to witness even the preparation of it. The process traditionally involves prepubescent boys chewing the local root before mixing it with water. While the Tanna example is an extreme, most traditional communities frown upon women entering the kava

bars—called nakamals—which are exclusively male domains. I had blatantly disregarded the warnings and over the following weeks in the community, I felt the repercussions of my actions. When I fell over out of sheer clumsiness on the construction site the men would tease, “Too much kava.” The local teenage girls were not as eager to befriend me, and the local women were a little less likely to strike up a conversation. But the reason for the taboo was still unclear to me. Although Vanuatu is a traditionally patriarchal society, women aren’t considered tainted or capable of making the kava impure. So why couldn’t we partake? And then it hit me: the reason women don’t drink kava is ingrained in the working of the drug. It must be consumed on an empty stomach to feel its full effects, so the drinker goes to the nakamal in the twilight hours before dinner time. And when a kava drinker gets home, he is hungry and expects dinner to be ready and waiting—a responsibility that his wife is expected to fulfill. For the remainder of my stay in the country, I continued my evening visits to the nakamal. But I did so with a newfound appreciation for the male volunteers in my group because whenever I came home, dinner was always ready and waiting for me.

Art by lLauren McKeon

by [jessica lockhart]

alcohol redux selling beer or beauty?

by [michelle melski]

he bikini-clad babe has become iconic in today’s culture of excessive drinking. Close-ups of women’s breasts and buttocks are as common as two-fours in beer ads. But does this degrade women? Or is it empowering? Éduc’alcool, a Quebec-based alcohol industry group, believes that beer babe ads are a problem that needs to be solved. That’s why they’ve proposed a set of ethical guidelines in Quebec that prohibit using anyone who looks younger than 25 in alcohol commercials, specifically women. The group is trying to battle the popular culture of binge drinking, as well as underage drinking. Not that Éduc’alcool has anything against beautiful women and fun, says president Jean-Guy Dubuc, they just feel that alcohol is being marketed in a damaging way. Using young, attractive women in advertising alcohol products is believed to add to the appeal of the product, making it more alluring to a younger market. Let’s face it though, it doesn’t just appeal to those who carry fake IDs. When women of any age see beautiful women in commer-

Art by Canice Leung


cials, it’s sometimes easy to feel sub-par--like you’d be better off showing a little cleavage than dazzling the crowd with your wits. But what we should be striving for is a reality

To change the mindset of a generation, there needs to be a cleansing of society where those pressures are less prominent; where they aren’t coming from every magazine and every television station. To change

the mindset of a generation, there needs to be a cleansing of society, a re-washed slate that allows for the integration of new ideas. Our assumptions of gender roles need to change, or even disappear altogether. Scantily dressed women in ads reinforce the gender stereotypes that many women have worked hard to overcome. Being an object that guys can obtain or a decoration in the background of an advertisement isn’t empowering. Hopefully with the absence of these female figures in ads, there will be less women looking up to the objectified as role models. With the slogan “Moderation has a much better taste,” the company is trying to promote healthy drinking habits that emulate family morals. They want to shift alcohol companies’ target market away from young people, especially those underage, by promoting the products in a more mature way. And perhaps maturing is exactly what we need. After all, a society that allows women to be respected for more than their breast size and their ability to drink is a good thing. -mwinter 2007



colour complex sameen amin investigates why some

ehreen Bengali has always felt more comfortable in her own skin when it is a lighter shade of brown. A young Pakistani-Canadian, Bengali has a natural butterscotch hue. “When I was young, lipstick on my skin tone always made me look dirty,” she says. Bengali grew up in a household, which like many families who immigrate to the West, kept a tight grip on their cultural customs and traditions. And for Bengali, that meant growing up in a culture where lighter skin equated to beauty and virtue. At 16, Bengali was an avid user of “Fair and Lovely,” a facial cream that promises to make skin appear whiter and brighter. Bengali struggled to match the white ideal of beauty that was passed down upon her. “I used it [Fair and Lovely] everyday for a month. I used it religiously once in the morning and once at night,” she recalls. Now, five years later, Bengali realizes that her




winter 2007

adolescent perception of white beauty was shared by many women. In fact, this ideal of pale beauty is so deeply ingrained amongst women that skin-whitening has become a billion dollar industry. It’s the commodification of female attractiveness, and it’s not a new phenomenon, but rather one that has its roots in historical colonial constructs. The celebration of fairness as a feminine virtue dates back to more than 500 years ago, when the paradigm of “white” and “black” skin colours was used to colonize and oppress. “Whiteness has long been linked to a certain kind if (upward) mobility, cleanliness, purity, sophistication and beauty,” says Amina Mire, a sociology professor at Carlton University. In her article, “Skin-Bleaching: Poison, Beauty, Power, and the Politics of the Colour Line,” Mire argues that throughout Western colonial history, whiteness has always been represented as the most virtuous and most aesthically appealing physical

Art by Susannah Schmidt

women will do anything to look whiter

quality, while the dark body has been characterized as deviant, degenerate and ugly. Mire says that in order to fully understand the social practice of skin-bleaching, it is necessary to look at the culture in which racialized bodies were created, contained, exploited and silenced. “Today just walk on Queen Street and how much fairness and brightness is marketed? It’s all about the production of whiteness as naturally beautiful. There’s nothing natural about this,” says Mire. Constantly being pressured to live up to this white ideal is not only an unnatural and socially contrived standard for women, but it is also dangerously unhealthy. Melanin makes up your skin pigmentation, and typically the more melanin one has, the darker, healthier and stronger the skin is. Skin whiteners aim to reduce the production of melanin in skin cells. Products like Fair and Lovely, DiorSnow Skin Whitening Essence and Porcelain Skin Whitening Cream all contain harmful chemicals that strip away the healthy melanin cells in the skin. Such harsh chemicals can cause permanent long-term damage to the skin like, skin discolouration and facial scaring. ut for Bengali, ‘Fair and Lovely’ gave her the boost she needed at a vulnerable age: her teenage years, when so much emphasis is placed on how girls look. She says after one month of using the whitening product, she could visibly see her that skin was one shade lighter. “I was very content with the fact that I was a shade lighter and the fact that others commented on my lighter skin colour, it boosted my desire to use it,” she says. For many women, moving to the fair end of the colour spectrum means acquiring favourable attention from men and women alike. This idea of attaining whiteness is what I call the ‘big joke,’ but it’s a joke with so much power, in other words it is a kind of an idealized, projected embodiment of perfection,” Mire says. But for diasporic communities, sometimes obsessing over gradations in skin


colour is rational and even logical, simply because it’s an idea that has been instilled in them by their mothers and grandmothers – who in turn absorbed these ideas from their colonial pasts. Older generations do have an influence because their perception of beauty is one where a beautiful woman is lighter skinned and graceful,” Bengali says. Only in this day and age, the pressure to have light skin is stacked on top a heap of other pressures on women, like having a slender, youthful figure. “This idea of whiteness works within the gender hierar-

“For many women, moving to the fair end of the colour spectrum means acquiring favourable attention from men and women alike” chy where women’s bodies are already always thought of as naturally flawed,” Mire says. It’s an age-old phenomenon that is still tarnishing skin pigmentations years later, and it spans continents and cultures. Young girls and women are striving to achieve the skin shade their society thinks is desirable, using toxic chemicals from bleaching creams that cause irreversible damage in the process. Many young women strive to get a chai complexion or a wheatish-golden tint—anything light, as long as it’s not a cinnamon hue, or worse, a caramel brown. That’s way too close to charcoal black. -m-

winter 2007





winter 2007

GIRL FIGHT! they may be sexy, but they can still kick your ass by [jessica lockhart]

unch her in the tooth!” one guy yells. The crowd cheers in approval and Monique’s lithe body flies through the air to the pounding 80s music. Monique wraps her legs around her competitor’s waist and straddles her, pulling her to the ground in one fluid movement. In a pile of endless arms and legs, they grapple and roll around with one another on the floor another until Monique pins her opponent to the mat. “That’s hot, man,” a guy in the audience says to his friend as the referee begins counting to three, slapping the palm of his hand hard against the mat. “Glad you came out tonight?” his friend teases.. Through a megaphone, Monique is declared the winner. She raises her arms triumphantly in the air, a huge grin spilling across her face. It’s Saturday night at the Drake Hotel. The girls from BOOM Entertainment, a Torontobased women’s wrestling group, are riling up the crowd with their high-energy fighting and provocative appearance. Dressed in brightly coloured leotards that cling to every curve of their bodies, they look like an American Apparel ad campaign gone awry. “THINK” is silk-screened across the butt of one fighter’s red leopard print cat suit This sexy, gutsy wrestling style was pioneered by Kristi Wray, a.k.a “Mama


Rumbelina,” owner and manager of wrestling group the Rumbelinas. In 2005, Wray realized the market potentional for female wrestling after filming women fighting in a pool of spaghetti for a film school project. She registered the Rumbelinas as a business and put out a casting call using online forums and word of mouth. They attracted countless women, including several burlesque dancers, a dominatrix and even a member of Carmen Electra’s Naked Wrestling League. Within weeks Wray recruited a group of women between 18 and 30 who were pumped to catfight on camera in campy costumes and lingerie. In fact, most of the BOOM girls first became interested in entertainment fighting after joining the Rumbelinas. In September, 2005 they left to start their own group, but they haven’t forgot what their “Mama” taught them. For her part, Wray says The Rumbelinas are on hiatus to develop their project on a broader scale and can be expected to come back “bigger, badder and better.” And just like Wray, women’s wrestling won’t stop—despite criticisms it’s only in the business of male fantasy. You’ll see these women appearing everywhere from concert venues to Dundas Square, always scantily clad, and always ready to beat one another to a pulp. And judging by tonight’s show at the Drake, their audience loves it. winter 2007



lsewhere on this same night, a man is surfing the Internet, drinking beer and wearing only boxers when he stumbles across, a website dedicated to amateur women’s wrestling. The site offers free downloadable iPod and mobile phone videos. The videos feature both familiar and unexpected scenarios all set to an indie punk rock soundtrack. French maids pillow fight in a hotel room, prison inmates cat fight in their jail-cell, and in the video that started it all: two women writhe together in a wading pool filled with spaghetti. Wray doesn’t try to sugarcoat that male fantasy is key to the Rumbelinas appeal. “Sure, there’s going to be a market of men surfing the net at 3 a.m., and I’m not going to lie—we’ll gladly take their credit card numbers,” she says laughing, but adds that


“It’s sexy, it makes you feel like a woman,it makes you more confident in your body and your female spirit” she believes her business will also attract a female audience. “The guys may want us, but the girls want to be us.” The female audience is harder to pin down though, and both the Rumbelinas and BOOM have found themselves grappling with their often-misunderstood image. In May 2006, after training with a professional 18


winter 2007

choreographer for a month and a half in preparation for the Toronto Anime North convention, the Rumbelinas performed as the half-time show in between sets of professional wrestlers. Entering the ring dressed as cheerleaders, the wrestlers were eager to demonstrate the results of their training, but the reaction to their performance wasn’t what they anticipated. “You see girls with pigtails and miniskirts and it’s sexual. For the most part the guys loved it, but I think there were some women who took it as this really sexy, dumb thing,” wrestler Allison Dunnings says. Even if the group’s intent was to demonstrate their skills—not to sexually arouse men. Yet, other women from both groups say that, by far, the reaction to their performances has been overwhelmingly positive, with few to no women bad-mouthing their costumes or down-and-dirty tactics. Rumbelina Thetis Bernard adds that the only negative reactions she’s ever heard have been from men, “And those are the type of men who pigeon-hole women into this ‘Little Miss You Need to Be Submissive’ category.” Plus, Bernard says, the revealing costumes have given her the chance to proudly exhibit her muscular body. “It’s not like, ‘Look at me, I’m a sex object,’” she says, “It’s more like, ‘Look at me, I’m strong.’ The female body is a beautiful thing regardless of who is looking at it.” And while some core BOOM members, like wrestlers Dunnings, Monique Bokya and trainer Mikey Schmidt, are more sensitive towards the sexual nature of their performances, they’re not about to scrap their suggestive outfits in favour of the traditional wrestling singlet. “By virtue of being a woman, you’re always going to be sexualized,

Photos by Canice Leung and Rumbelinas

and that’s something we have to embody,” says Bokya, “I don’t think it’s something we have to reject and start fighting in mustaches.” The group’s visually appealing assets may captivate their male audience members, but BOOM referee Bryan Da Silva thinks that BOOM Entertainment will also appeal to women for the chance to belong to a femaleoriented community. Women’s wrestling is successful because women are running it. “It’s not a guy saying, ‘Oh, I’m going to get all these sexy wrestlers together and put on shows.’” It’s girls saying, ‘Hey other girls, come out and get fit, have fun and fight— and then if you want to perform, that’s great,’” Da Silva says. While Wray is planning on pitching the Rumbelinas as the focus of a reality television series, the wrestlers from BOOM are concentrating their efforts on developing a community exclusively for females interested in wrestling. For a weekly fee of $7.00 to cover the costs of renting gym space, women can come out and take part in a weekly wrestling class, which trainers Schmidt and Ken Norheim have developed based on a grade eleven physical education handbook. Schmidt says that while it’s socially accepted that acts of aggression are cathartic for men, women are encouraged to stifle and repress the need to let it out. The members of BOOM believe that wrestling is the logical response to this need. “We live in a society that is not equal. We want to create a space where you are equal, and guess what? You’re tough!” says Bokya. By taking the emphasis away from live performances, the group hopes that wrestling will become an accessible sport for all women, regardless of what they look like in a spandex cat suit.

“We really want it to be a sisterhood of girls who do something that is very male-orientated,” Bokya says. Bernard adds her involvement with the Rumbelinas allowed her to develop a unique sense of self-confidence. “I’ve gotten the short end of the stick for being female, and something like this gives you the courage to speak up for what you believe in,” she says.

“The guys may want us, but the girls want to be us” For others in the group, like Rumbelinas co-manager Jaime Garner aka “Olive Oyl,” wrestling has allowed their to get in touch with their own sexuality. “I can’t really understand a traditional feminist’s viewpoint that it’s harmful and degrading to women,” she says. “It’s sexy, it makes you feel like a woman, it makes you more confident in your body and your female spirit.” fter their premier performance at the Drake, the BOOM Entertainment crew’s energy is unbridled. Girls that were throwing one another onto the mats moments before now hug one another in excitement. They cram into The Drake’s photo booth for an impromptu photo shoot, wrapping their arms around one another and smiling suggestively at the camera. Their affection for one another is obvious as they giggle about the fights that just took place. “Why is it not empowering to be sexy and strong? Yah, we’re sexual creatures, but we’re able to kick your ass,” says Wray. -m-


winter 2007



STITCH AND BITCH andrea hoang heads south to launch a women’s group in a troubled jamaican suburb, but discovers that it’s no easy task

t feels like an eternity. We look at each other nervously and made idle conversation, hoping that any second now, someone will walk through the door. The children’s computer lab has been converted into a makeshift studio: chairs have been pulled up to form a circle, where at each end, craft supplies glistened like pots of gold. I look skeptically at the baskets of beads and yarn. It doesn’t seem like very much to offer to the jaded and overworked women of Riverton, one of Jamaica’s most dismal neighbourhoods. I fear they will come in, weary and cynical, and see us as another bunch of “whities” who thought we could make a difference with a few measly donations. The clock ticks and the air conditioner continues to hum. A half hour passes and still no one shows up. Riverton Meadows is a suburb on the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica. It’s no secret that the rest of Jamaica views the shantytown as a dump – and it literally is. Home to the island’s landfill, Riverton’s estimated population of 2,500 to 4,600 residents live amongst garbage, filth, and dangerous levels of pollution. But the trash, it seems, is what holds the city together. Houses are built from scraps of lumber and metal, and stores sell garbage that, to the resourceful eye, is still usable and marketable. Making the most of everything is essential in an area where unemployment is high, resources are low, and where most can’t afford even the bus fare that could take them outside the dump they call home.




winter 2007

Weeks earlier, the idea of a Riverton Women’s Group seemed like a promising idea to us, the students, teachers, and community leaders who make up Toronto’s Students Crossing Borders. Twice a year, we visit Jamaica to help out at local schools, orphanages, and clinics that are at risk due to a critical lack of supplies and manpower. But lending a hand isn’t always easy, says trip leader and Seneca College early childhood education program coordinator Lynn Caruso. She says that it’s hard for Riverton’s women to see their children grow attached to us, only to have us leave less than three weeks later. And then there’s also the fact that some local men have us pegged as “easy” American women. So that Riverton women could benefit from our support too, Students Crossing Borders decided to establish the Riverton Women’s Group, based loosely on Stitch and Bitch groups here in Toronto. Women gather to knit while chatting and enjoying each other’s company. We hope that what the group produces can be brought back to Canada to be sold at fundraisers or auctions, with all proceeds going back to Riverton. Stephanie Chapman is a veteran Students Crossing Borders volunteer and one of the founders of the Women’s Group. At home, the chatty and excitable 30-year-old is a student in Centennial College’s social service worker program. Chapman came up with the idea for the group when she and other volunteers realized that Riverton’s women, who are key to

standing how the community operates, were being neglected. A women’s group seemed like a good way to hear what they had to say. “It’ll be nice to start a dialogue with them, we’ll be able to work with them more in the future,” Chapman says, “It’s a way to tell them, you’ve got some support.” She says that the group provides an “outlet,” in both the creative, and emotional sense. “It’s just some time to enjoy being a woman,” she continues. “We brought supplies to get the ball rolling and set up ideas or what might work for them. “When we empower women, we empower the community” Chapman adds. “The women carry the weight of Jamaica on their shoulders,” unior Rowe is the principal of Riverton’s early childhood centre, which gives Riverton residents elementary education. For most of them, it’s the only schooling they’ll receive in their lives. Once in a while, the school also serves as a community centre for locals. To the people of Riverton, Rowe is not just a principal – many see him as the city’s “unofficial mayor.” He regularly assists with improvised social programs like summer camps and seniors’ field trips, and performs odd jobs, such as driving his neighbours to the hospital in emergencies (he’s one of few Riverton residents to own a car). Rowe is also one of the main players who helped bring the women’s group into fruition, by providing it with a place to call home. Rowe believes that a local women’s group is a good project. In the past, all of the city’s women’s initiatives had political motives, surfacing only during elections to help party members win votes, before disappearing quickly afterwards. The Riverton Women’s Group has no such intention, and would hopefully remain strong year-round. He also echoes what Chapman says about the role of women in Riverton. “This community is predominantly controlled by women,” Rowe says. “Women need to empower themselves, as they are the bread winners, and the heads of the households.” The Riverton Women’s Group he says, could do just that, and have a great impact in the community by also creating a sisterhood within it. “There is a bitterness between women right now,” he says. “They don’t support each other.” Rowe describes a competitive nature among local women: grudges, for example, surface when one woman tries to leave the community, gains employment, or obtains

Art by Joyce Yip


newer, more expensive possessions than the rest. “When a girl tries to elevate herself, she is stigmatized,” he says. Such competition seems entrenched in womanhood, even in North America. Just look at Mean Girls, and reality shows like The Bachelor and America’s Next Top Model. A women’s group, Rowe hopes, would fight this aggressive mind-set and “beat down segregation,” which continues to exist between social classes. He believes the group could generate newfound empathy and compassion among citizens. t last, women began trickling through the door. They look at us with both suspicion and intrigue, as if they’re wondering what we could possibly offer. Some of the women who come in could be more accurately described as girls; no one present was over the age of 25. Yet these young women bear the same duties and pressures of their elders, and are


“The women carry the weight of Jamaica on their shoulders” responsible for supporting their families and children, both financially and emotionally. These young women also share the same pain as those before them—abuse, teenage childbirth, and just being victims of their situation, as citizens of Riverton. They listen intently as Chapman explains how the women’s group could give them room to be creative, and even act as a means of catharsis. “It’s about feeling like things are more possible because you have this support,” Chapman says, all signs of nervousness disappearing as her fervor for the topic grew. “Its about a sisterhood. It’s about coming together to create,” she says. Slowly but surely, the women begin chiming in themselves, sharing personal interests and hobbies with each other. Behind the sullen stares and poker faces an earnest enthusiasm was slowly emerging. They seem optimistic, and they stun us when they suggest, with real excitement in

their voices, that the group meet three times a week. When I ask 20-year-old Tanya Warren why she agreed to meet so often, she tells me that she and the other women in the community are often bored, and don’t really have opportunities to relax and enjoy themselves. “We will have a lot of fun,” she says. “It’s a good thing to occupy time.” Warren, who enjoys sewing and designing clothes, was grateful for the opportunity to hone her craft and bond with other women. Friends, she says, are hard to come by in Riverton. The women here love to fight, she says, both verbally and physically, over anything from a cute top to a guy’s affections. But Warren doesn’t think it has to be like this and hopes the Riverton Women’s Group “can let ladies’ eyes open. Something good can come out of Riverton,” she says. “We all need to come as one.” For Tamara Edwards, a 21-year-old mother of three, she finds that being unemployed means she has too much spare time on her hands. Joining the group is about getting active and setting a good example for her children. “Children can look up to you. They grow up and should watch you do things, achieve things, and doing things positive” she says. The first official meeting of the Riverton Women’s Group seems to be a success. It’s our last day in Riverton, so the future of the group lay in the hands of all its participants, who seem ready and excited to move forward. The idea is for the group to grow independently, and have as little influence from us volunteers as possible, so that hopefully, it will blossom into a community project that Riverton can call its own. But a long road still lies ahead. ince Students Crossing Borders left Jamaica last July, the Riverton Women’s Group has hit a road block. The early childhood centre is under renovation and the group is having trouble finding a location to hold meetings and store supplies. Plus, there are the problems that continue to exist in Riverton, problems that 21year-old Nikisha Bent suggest that volunteers like us could not possibly fathom. “Down here is not quiet. Down here is not safe. Down here is not fine. Night time, there is stone flying,” she says. “Night time can’t come to Riverton. Anger take over.” -m-


winter 2007



n Dec. 10, 2006 Marika Morris joined women from across the country on Parliament Hill to protest a mandate change to Status of Women Canada. Morris, research coordinator for the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW), would have a better chance of keeping her organization alive if she kept her mouth shut. Under the new policy, which will come into effect this year, women’s groups who do lobby or advocacy activity, like the Parliament gathering, will be ineligible for funding. The ban translates into not being able to speak on public panels, at rallies, and to parliament. Organizations who compile original research will also become ineligible. This means hundreds of grassroots groups who rely on government funding—Status of Women provides 80 per cent of CRIAW’s—will be unable to continue their work. And while CRIAW likely won’t get funding under the new mandate, for-profit businesses, like The Bank of Montreal, and faith-based organizations, like the United Church, can for the first time. The new objective of the Women’s Program, which approves funding for groups under Status of Women Canada, is to “facilitate women’s participation in Canadian society by addressing their economic, social and cultural situation through Canadian organizations.” The wording is vague and the mandate is no longer “seeking to advance equality for women.” Women’s groups, though, are getting the message clearly. Organizations will be allowed to “do things like donating business suits to shelters, but nothing in terms of challenging why violence is occurring in the first place,” says Morris. But there are supporters of the move, like REAL Women of Canada. It says that groups who are meant to survive should be able to secure funding independent of the government—like REAL does. REAL, an organization that supports pro-family, prolife values, is entirely self-funded. Instead of women’s shelters, the group proposes counseling and reconciliation in their place. REAL, which has a long history of an apply-deny dance with Status of Women

status of women canada has wiped “equality” from its mandate. lauren mckeon looks at the bleak future of our women’s groups



winter 2007

Photo by Canice Leung


has been lobbying for years to eliminate the Women’s Program—which it believes supports a radical feminist ideology unrepresentative of Canadian women. It’s been rumoured REAL wants to replace Status of Women as the representative body in government for Canadian women. Not so, says national office research coordinator Diane Watts. The group just wants everyone to have a “level playing field.” She says organizations signed up under the Women’s Program are “being propped up with the money and don’t have any base within the population.” This hard-line approach—echoed by the Conservative government and Status of Women Minister Beverley Oda—ignores the fact that most groups who receive funding under the old mandate aim to help marginalized women who not only have little money, but are pushed down low on the totem pole of public policy. So while large coalition groups like the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC)—which represents 700 member groups—can be kept alive by donations, grassroots groups like CRIAW likely won’t. Morris will look for research grants to make up for the estimated $300,000 CRIAW will lose if denied funding, but because of traditional definitions of “research,” she doubts she’ll find enough. Morris doesn’t do her research in a library. Instead when she wants to find out about low-income women she asks them. This method, dubbed “participatory action research,” gives women who are normally pinned to the margins of society a voice. She hears testimonials from across the country, like that of a disabled Winnipeg woman who is terrified of being in her own home: “I ended up living in a place that was extremely unsafe. I’ve been attacked several times. I’m scared to live there, and I have to move, and there’s nothing out there.” CRIAW mobilizes women like her and gives them the tools, the means and the knowledge to give their testimonials in front of the House of Commons. This kind of “building policy from the ground up” idea, Morris feels, is something the government should be doing, but isn’t. Next year, whether Morris gets funding or not, she won’t be able to do anything like this. The new mandate simply forbids it. Minister Beverley Oda asks that, “If women in Canada feel their rights in Canada have been violated, they can pick up the phone and call.” In response, women’s groups have produced a mock flyer that urges troubled women to call “Equality Hotline” (613) 941-6888—the number of the Prime Minister’s Office. Monica Lysack, Executive Director of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada (CCAAC), calls Oda’s solution simplistic and inaccessible for many women (like the one CRIAW spoke to) whose rights are most violated. Lysack points to Aboriginal women in Canada: “I know those women are not being treated equally in Canada. And I know their problems aren’t going to be solved by picking up the phone. Tell me who to call.” But soon, their options may become even more limited. Those who have relied on Status of Women offices across Canada as a meeting place for support, advice and networking will soon be greeted with a closed sign. Oda has announced that 12 of 16 offices will be shut down by the

first of April. Women’s groups in B.C., Manitoba, and Saskatchewan—a combined total of about 100 groups for both provinces—who are applying for grants will be rerouted to the office in Edmonton. Oda says that the move should have little ripple-down effect because Women’s Program applications—supposedly the main task of the offices—will now be available online. Pat Faulconbridge, executive director of Saskatchewan Labour, Status of Women, says that her office knew closures were coming, but were never given any indication there would be so many. She’s concerned that the online application will put smaller community groups, who are less familiar with the application process, at a disadvantage. Currently, an advisor helps any applying group navigate the demanding application and complete it with knowledge and persuasion. Groups must complete a sophisticated plan of action, providing details on goals, objectives, expected outcomes and the need for the project, as well as a budget and a method of evaluating success—no easy task. And although the Edmonton office has assured Faulconbridge that it will continue to provide assistance, questions of face-time, effectiveness and priorities arise. “When a couple of organizations are applying, two

women are hearing “that sexism doesn’t exist, that racism doesn’t exist, that nothing exists”

from BC, a couple from Alberta and one from Saskatchewan, how do you make your decision,” she asks, if it’s likely you can only meet with the one from Alberta? Decisions to close the offices were based on cost-cutting measurements. What is left unsaid is that the some of the offices that were closed were breaking the rules and helping many under-funded organizations by giving out office supplies, like stationary, allowing free photocopies, and helping groups to find contacts who would provide them with cheaper, or free, services. Although Faulconbrige, like others, doesn’t know the extent to which the mandate changes and office closures will affect women, she does know the message that it sends. “Eliminating equality as a goal for the Status of Women is a clear indication that the government has little commitment to ensuring the citizenship means as much for women in Canada as it does for men,” she says. Morris adds that the message being sent is that wherever a women is on the spectrum of society, it is her choice. She and other women are hearing “that sexism doesn’t exist, that racism doesn’t exist, that nothing exists.” And while many, like REAL, say the move was made to stop the funding of a “feminist” ideology, Morris and others say it has a “fend for yourself ” ideology all of its own. “Public voices are being silenced in a shockingly undemocratic way,” says Lysack, adding that she doubts CCAAC will receive funding under the new mandate— especially since one Conservative MP told her she’d have an easier time getting funding if she were more aligned with party views. Her response to it all? “We will not be silenced.” -mwinter 2007



city of the dead

ights flashed, and smoke curled upwards through flailing limbs covered in sweat. The sound of dance music reverberated off of the cave walls. Inside an old silver-mine-turned-discotheque in Zacatecas, Mexico, my friends and I laughed and danced into the night. As we swung our hips, Mexican men with gelled pompadours watched us keenly; they tried to grab our hands and dance with us but we always smiled and shook our heads – ‘No gracias.’ When we finally stumbled drunkenly out into the cold night air, we went back to hotels and hostels and collapsed, nearly oblivious to the fact that we were in Mexico, that Mexico was everywhere around us. One year after our trip to Zacatecas, my friends and I found ourselves participating in a different sort of public display, this time on the streets of our own city. Lying on the pavement underneath white sheets, outside of the Fly Gallery on Queen Street in Toronto, we were silent and still. For two




winter 2007

hours we laid there as voices floated around us. Unseen footsteps sharply approached and faded on the ground beside our heads. In those hours I experienced what it felt like to be nowhere, to be ignored, and yet also to feel vulnerable. I imagined the horrific image I might have presented to a bystander - nail-polished toes on a motionless foot, sticking out from beneath a female-shaped sheet. We were participating in Isolated Voices, an artistic installation meant to show solidarity with the women of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a city thousands of kilometres south of Toronto and hundreds of kilometres north of Zacatecas. Juarez sits on the MexicanAmerican border, across from El Paso, Texas. Scattered around the town and its surrounding desert, free-trade maquiladoras (sweatshops) make use of a Mexican resource other than tourism. Besides beaches and discotheques, cheap labour is abundant in Mexico. Unlike the people of

Zacatecas, the people of Juarez survive by working in factories for poverty wages. And unlike the young women of Zacatecas, the young women of Juarez have been terrorized since the early 1990s by hundreds of unsolved murders that have taken place in their backyards, on their ways to work around the outskirts of their town. Since 1993 as many as 500 women have gone missing and nearly 400 have been found dead in Juarez; many of their decaying bodies indicated that they were mutilated, tortured and often raped before death. The circumstances given for their captures, rapes and murders are numerous, ranging from the awful – while travelling to work in the early morning – to the bizarre – during gang celebrations of successful cross-border drug deals. Their murderers are faceless and anonymous, but in the end they all share one characteristic: an astonishing disregard for female life. And no one, not even local police, seem to care. In fact, some speculate

Art by Lauren McKeon and photos by Rita Kamacho

in juarez, mexico the body count of murdered women has risen into the hundreds, and too few care. claudia calabro wrestles with tourist ignorance and finds canadian artists striving for change

the police have even participated in the murders. Though the homicides began in 1993 the Mexican government did little about them until nearly a decade later, when mounting internal and external pressure from groups like Amnesty International and the Mexico Solidarity Network (MSN) forced a response. Since then the newest governor of Chihuahua, the state where Juarez is located, has vowed to solve the problem and Mexico’s top attorneys have been assigned to the case. But in all of this commotion, blame is assigned everywhere and court cases are routinely thrown out due to inadmissible evidence, or a lack of it. Usually they are quietly closed. In 14 years only a handful of men have been charged. In Juarez, relatives and friends of the victims have started Justicia para Nuestras Hijas, one of the many groups that have sprung up across Mexico to put pressure on the government and to publicize the murders. The MSN and feminist organizations like the Quebec-based Comité Québécois de Solidarité Avec les Femmes de Ciudad Juárez have tried to publicize the murders in places beyond Mexico’s borders. While they have held awareness campaigns and have helped bring the issue to US and Canadian legislative bodies in hopes of increasing international pressure on the Mexican government, there is

still a vast disconnect between the way these murders affect the people of Mexico and the way they affect the people of the United States and Canada. Isolated Voices was organized by Lina Rodriguez and Rita Kamacho, two Torontobased artists whose pieces aim not only to bring awareness to the issue of Juarez, but also to engage observers and participants by evoking a depth of emotion lost in traditional awareness campaigns. Isolated Voices is an ongoing performance that has so far taken place in different parts of Toronto three times since its conception in early 2005. Part of the idea is to involve the citizens of Toronto in the issue by making the murdered women of Juarez visible. “I don’t want to do something that will tell people how to feel good,” Rodriguez said. “I want to inspire dialogue.” The concept of proximity, of “here” and “there”, is mental, emotional and physical, and one of the most difficult things to understand, she added. Isolated Voices tries to bridge that disconnect between worlds. It is a complex task made more complicated by the efforts of the Mexican government to pretend that the beaches and the maquiladoras do not exist in the same country. Canadians spent nearly $1 billion dollars on travel in Mexico last year, contributing heavily to the Mexican tourism industry – an

industry that ranks among the top three sources of revenue for the country. My friends and I contributed to that figure without thinking about the link between our money, the Mexican government and the continuation of injustice in Juarez. But Isolated Voices reminded us that as women, it is impossible to forget that the world forces us to consider our bodies liabilities, and that this connects us with women everywhere. Walking the streets of Zacatecas at night, I felt the illusion of safety behind my Canadian citizenship. But participating in Isolated Voices on the streets of my city, any sense of safety or security that I had disappeared. I felt scared and alone. It made me think about my connection to every other woman in the world, and of my role as a global consumer. It was terrifying to be reminded that the femicides of Ciudad Juarez, a city ironically named after one of the most beloved heroes and seekers-of-justice in Mexican history, are much closer in proximity than I could imagine. Isolated Voices illustrated the peculiar power of art to rouse and inspire beyond conventional politics. Though forging emotional connections is only the first step in creating change, installations like Isolated Voices stand as a reminder that art cannot be forgotten as a powerful weapon that exists in the arsenal of the struggle. -mmcclung’s 25 winter 2007

Art by Kathryn Williams

bois don’t cry laura suen sits down with manga artist and novelist kathryn williams to talk about censorship, breaking boundaries and being a lesbian


hen Kathryn Williams walks down the streets of Toronto people stop to stare, eyebrows raise and heads turn. Either they can’t decide whether she’s male or female, she figures, or they’re thinking of shouting all too familiar remarks: ‘homo’, ‘queer’ or ‘fag.’ Kathryn is a self-described ‘boi dyke,’ a term used for androgynous lesbians. She is also an accomplished shoujo-ai manga artist and novelist, quick to correct others who classify her work. Four words: it is not porn. Yuri is a term many associate with sexually explicit lesbian content in anime, manga or fan-fiction, normally directed toward a male audience. But, winter 2007 mcclung’s 26

shoujo-ai is identified a separate genre that shows the romantic love between two women. Her website is a safe-haven for those who need her work most: teens who, like her, grew up alone. L: Does it surprise you to see how well your stuff is selling? K: I didn’t believe my comic book would sell for five years. But when I went to sell it to distributors, they said, “no” because lesbianism, suicide, death… these aren’t things that people want to sell. So I ended up having to sell my comic book on my feet by running around the city from London to Toronto and from New York to LA for

conventions. Then I started getting book signings all over the place and people wanted me to talk about girls comics first. It’s interesting because people have wanted me to talk about shoujo-ai but the second they hear lesbianism, they told me “no, no, no.” I’ve been fighting censorship for the past 15 yrs. I’m breaking boundaries with the stories that I’m writing and it’s actually scaring people because I’m writing about things no one is willing to write about. L: What stories have you covered? K: My first full-length comic book, Shadowlands, was all about child abuse. It became so deep, so dark that I couldn’t write it as a comic book

more. I needed it to actually expand so I wrote it as a novel. The entire story was about incest, rape, suicide, and it was all very surrealist and quite weird. It was all about a group of girls who were so distraught that they would dissociate and then create their own world. It turns out that this other world actually exists, that it’s created specifically for survivors and that it’s designed for them. The only problem is that their nightmares had become true as well. L: That sounds pretty creepy. K: But it showed that there’s hope for the future. It showed that it’s alright to fall in love. L: You said it was dark and deep. K: I didn’t realize how much it was stressing me out. I kept starting over and over. I was asking myself, “Do you realize that I’m about to explain how I was raped?” Back. Start over again. I didn’t want to write it. I kept saying, “I don’t want to write anymore. I don’t want to write anymore,” because I didn’t want to admit what happened. I was also scared, writing about 16-year-old girls dealing with all this. My wife said, “write it, forget what censorship says, forget what everyone else says,” because I was writing it for me. L: And your reader response? K: I have people telling me that they’ve been getting nightmares after reading stuff I wrote. Then there are a lot of people coming to me saying, “I’m suffering from the same problem.” I’ve had people calling themselves, “Shadowlanders.” L: What exactly is a “Shadowlander”? K: It means a person who creates a world in order to cope with their nightmarish reality. L: Your first book-K: -- Didn’t deal with sex, it dealt with just pure terror and insanity and just with kids who needed to cope. Book two, I had dove deeper and I started dealing with child porn. One of my characters was actually part of a child porn ring. I had to write an entire scene dealing with two girls being photographed and that was the last part I wrote. I took a month off because it was so stressful. It was so hard to write iit because I never admitted to what happened to me. L: What happened to the two girls being photographed? K: One girl was forced to do things to the other girl and she felt sick, and she felt dirty because she enjoyed it. I started writing about dealing with that emotion. It has been something I haven’t

been able to deal with myself because I had to deal with sex as a kid. By the time I was 11 or 12, I was already having sexual relations with other girls. L: Was this forced upon you, or--? K: Well the ‘forced upon me’ was by the time I was seven. By the time I was eleven, I actually had a girlfriend. L: How did you take it all? I mean, being gay at the age of eleven? K: I didn’t know what was different with being gay. I was being called a dyke when I was in elementary school, but no one told me there was something wrong with it. But I found out that there was something wrong with very quickly when my girlfriend and I were beaten almost to--she didn’t make it. She didn’t live, but I did. I had a fractured skull and three broken ribs, which I still show the wounds of. I still don’t know all the details because I can’t remember everything. L: That speaks volumes in itself. K: That’s why I have to write these stories, because it hurts so much. Originally, I came up with the idea of the Shadowlands when I was a little kid. I thought that there was another world that must exist because the world we live in doesn’t make any sense. L: In what way? K: For one… I had to watch children being raped. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I had to watch friends die. I’ve watched friends commit suicide. I’ve had a friend whose father shot himself in the basement with a shotgun. I have buried people. I have tried to deal with everything every way possible but nothing seemed to work. I ended up being completely cynical and suicidal to the point where I didn’t care. L: It says on your website, “With the increasing intolerance to gays in the U.S., we find it safer to stay in Canada.” What experiences have you had in the U.S.? K: We were friends with somebody a year ago online who was from the U.S. She was a stressed out 21-year-old girl who needed help so she came to us. Her little sister, just 16-years-old, ‘outed’ herself to her parents and got kicked out of their house. Her parents didn’t take things well. So I told the 21year-old girl to: “find her and bring her back and don’t worry about what your parents say. Let her stay with you.” So she did. And then her parents showed up at her house and starting throwing things and breaking things and they said they were taking her little sister back. She got custody of her little sis-

ter and things looked like they were going fine until the anniversary of her little sister’s girlfriend’s murder. L: Murdered by? K: By a bunch of people. She doesn’t know who did it. Soon after, she actually wrote me, telling me she made it past the anniversary of her girlfriend’s death. She was looking through the stuff her girlfriend gave her and the stuff said, “I can live. I can live because of you.” L: What happened to her afterwards? K: The next day she was gang-raped and two days later, she committed suicide. One of the boys actually showed up at her house afterwards and gave her a note saying why he did it. I almost got him arrested because he actually posted on a LiveJournal saying what he did and things like, I can’t save her. I sent it to his older sister and she sent it to the police. L: So do you think it happened because of her sexuality? K: Yeah. It turned out the boy was a drug-dealer; her drug dealer. He said he would make, either way, one lesbian either die or one lesbian will… there will be one less lesbian in the world. That’s all he said. He was going to make sure there was one less gay person in the world. He blamed me because I convinced her… L: … That it was okay to be gay. K: I convinced her to give life a try. I’ve been raising money for Kids Help Phone, but unfortunately, Kids Help Phone doesn’t help kids in Florida. I was sitting there going, “I can’t help her. I can’t do anything.” Usually, I get so into a pit of despair that there is nothing that can bring me out of it. And I actually consider dying again and again. People have asked me, “Why are you so dark and depressing all the time?” L: Your response? K: Show me one day where there isn’t an unnatural death in the newspaper and I’ll show you a day where I’ll actually smile. L: So in the end, why did you end up writing, caring, and helping people after all the stuff you’ve been through? K: I figured out that there is something that you can do and that is to make a single difference every day. I mean, trying to do something that’ll make a difference. L: So here you are. K: Yeah, for the longest time my quote was, “I live. I always do.” -mwinter 2007



o 1

if looks could kill for women, looking good is a game of no pain, no gain by [joyce yip and josephine lim]

f Barbie were real, her neck would be too long and thin to support the weight of her head,” writes Jillian Croll, a leading researcher and clinician of eating disorders. Well Jillianl, if Barbie were real, she would probably be dead. Not only is her body disproportional, but it would be lethally poisoned and deformed from the amount of beauty items she throws on herself. The clichés aside— like make-up can block pores and piercings can damage nerves—a lot of people do not recognize the hidden dangers behind some of these simple “beauty tips.”






high heels High heels—sometimes a girl’s best friend, other times a girl’s worst nightmare. Not only can these pretty shoes be uncomfortable, they can cause some major damage. The foot is designed to evenly distribute a person’s weight across the entire surface of the foot. High heels force the foot into an uncomfortable state, which can affect the shape of the foot. This can lead to minor illnesses such as metatarsalgia, pain in the ball of the foot. The more major effects of wearing high heels are a shortening of the Achilles tendon, which leaves the tendon inflamed, and “pump bump”, where a bump forms on the back of the heel. Both of these conditions render the foot unable to function normally. Beware girls, when they say beauty is pain. In the case of high heels, it’s true.

bra without sufficient support The only way to find the right bra is through trial and error, which is why some stores have bra fittings. A bra size has two values: the band size, which measures the circumference of the chest excluding the breast, and the cup size, which uses a letter and measures the volume of the breast. Bras that don’t fit properly can provide insufficient support to the wearer. This can lead to muscle tension, headaches and back, neck and shoulder pains. After a long period of time wearing an ill-fitted bra, you may develop poor posture.

low-rise jeans Low-rise jeans are in for girls who like showing off a little skin and in some cases, their thongs or underwear. But, low-rise jeans can lead to meralgia paresthetica, a condition which can cause you to feel a tingling or burning sensation on the outer side of your thighs due to forced pressure on a sensory nerve in the upper thigh. It can be dealt with by not wearing low-rise jeans for four to six weeks. If you think showing off a little skin can’t hurt, think again. 28


winter 2007

Luckily for the bikini-lovers, most methods of hair removal are not life-threatening. Still, some forms have many side effects. Laser hair removal can cause swelling, redness, and skin burns if the skin instead of the hair follicle comes into contact with the laser. For those who fancy the waxing method, reactive chemicals on the wax strips such as calcium thioglycolate may cause skin irritation, chemical burns and scarring if the strips are left on for an extended period of time. So if you have a secret stash of wax strips in the back of your closet or the hair removal clinics on speed dial, give your pores a break. Buy some long sleeves.

Photo by Talia Eylon

hair removal

o 2

o 3

o 8

o 6

o 5









flat shoes Everyone’s experienced the pains of high heels, but few seem to know that those trendy flats could also pose a threat. Without an arch, flats fail to provide proper cushioning, support and shock absorption. This may lead to foot and ankle pains, shin splints and Achilles tendonitis. Serious cases may lead to flat feet (where the arch is lost) and ankle deformations. If this is not convincing enough for those who have a multi-coloured collection of flats to match every outfit, this may just do the job: in extreme cases of feet deformations, surgery may be required. Surgery!

tight headbands Yes, retro addicts, tight headbands can also be problematic. Zits and blackheads can grow on your skin because of constant suffocation. Also, continuous pressure on the head from wearing tight headbands and hats may cause headaches. And don’t think your head will eventually adjust to the pressure, because it won’t. As long as the headwear remains in place, the headaches will worsen. So before buying that zebra-striped headband to match your red polka-dotted dress and white platform boots, check if it’s too tight for your head. If you already have one, then thank god for the refund policy.

teeth whitening

Remember the episode of Friends when Ross had glow-in-thedark teeth because he left his whitening gel on for too long? Yes, just because a professional is not required to do the job anymore doesn’t mean it cannot go out of hand; teeth whitening is an excellent example. Not only could it burn the gums, but it could also increase tooth sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures and may cause damage in the nerve tissues inside the tooth pulp. Gum damage is more prevalent when teeth are poorly aligned because the strips can harm the gums. And you thought perfect teeth was your ticket to heaven, huh?

contact lenses Some people wear contact lenses so they don’t have to worry about glasses falling off while playing sports. Others wear them just to feel pretty. But, if contact lenses are misused they can lead to a large number of health issues associated with every part of the eye. These problems can be as minor as getting itchy eyes. More serious diseases include keratitis, which is the inflammation of the cornea, and corneal ulcers, which can scar the eye permanently and eventually lead to blindness. winter 2007



veryone is born a feminist, some are just talked out of it,” grins Vinnie the Tampon Guy, “they’re too embarrassed to admit it.” He should know—he’s made a business of dragging our periods out of the dark. A new breed of feminist. I’m not a feminist. Never have been. I’m only here—volunteering at McClungs’ screening of I Was a Teenage Feminist, a ‘documentary about redefining the F-word’—because the editors promised to pay me in cupcakes. I swear. The story starts in 1974. Therese Shechter, 14, has just stumbled across the woman’s movement. “It gave me power,” the Toronto-born, Brooklyn-based filmmaker says, “The power to be smart, to be independent, and to be myself.” Fast-forward to her 40th birthday, and she hasn’t thought about the f-word in years. Her feminism had been a weapon against the neatlypackaged niches society typically holds for women: wife, mother, supermodel. But, decades after the first flambéed Wonderbra, the film shows Shechter standing in the shadow of a 3-storey tall Victoria’s Secret model. Our narrator is left wondering if she can truly be herself in a post-feminist

world “without judgment, apology, or compromise.” Shechter spent four years on the film in search of the point where feminism fell out of fashion. She’s a hesitant guide to the new feminism; “did I lose it?” she wonders, “or did it lose me?” She isn’t alone. It seems our entire generation suffers from historical amnesia; we ignore the feminist movement and take the rights we have for granted. Maybe feminism is dead. We fought for the vote, and won. The war is over. If only it were that easy. We can’t let our guard down, Letty Cottin Pogrebin—co-founder of Ms. Magazine—stresses in the film: “If you don’t protect it every moment, it slips away.” Shechter confronts her about the world the women’s movement promised, but never fully delivered. Pogrebin (whose 1972 TV show Free to be You and Me told the tale of a princess who travels the world instead of marrying the princely love of her life) spoke frankly: “All we said was lets get rid of the barriers and open doors. We got rid of the sign that says ‘help wanted; men only.’ The rest is up to you. I’m 62 now, it’s your turn.” Shechter finds victims of feminine denial repeatedly; the music promoter who fights to


opheliac emilie autumn traitor records release date: Oct. 10, 2006 by [andrea lau]



hink Courtney Love wreaking havoc at a Renaissance Fair on her way to the Mad Hatter’s tea party, and you’ve got Emilie Autumn, the walking, singing anachronism. In fact, the pink-haired and corseted Autumn has toured with Love, who dubbed her the “anarchy violinist.” Recording her solo debut at 17 and sampling Shakespeare and Sartre in her lyrics, Autumn is an artist of darkly provocative intelligence, as well as a performer of perilous femininity. Under her own label, Traitor Records,


winter 2007

get grrl bands onstage? Not a feminist. The woman marching in the pro-choice parade? She i was a teenage feminist directed and written by prefers the term ‘socialist.’ Feminism is simply defined therese shechter as a “belief in the social, politi- trixie films cal and economical equality of by [dana lacey] the sexes, and the movement organized around this belief.” So why do we tiptoe around the word? “It sounds like something from the past,” one woman testifies, while a group of frat boys chant “lesbians” in unison. I admit, I too suffer from this post-feminist syndrome. I know plenty of selfproclaimed feminists who don’t Photo by Ellen Ko fit the angry, man-hating stereotype, but I don’t like the label. It scares people; they roll their eyes and become defensive in a what-more-could-youwant? way. Men are intimidated; “I don’t think it’s a good idea to talk about feminism on a first date,” Shechter says, only halfjoking, “Not if you want a second date.” Photo by Malinda Foy “People think there’s nothing left to worry about,” Pogrebin says, yet “you can silence a woman by calling her a lesbian.” No wonder Shechter is struggling to find her place in feminism. Today’s definitions are narrow (lesbian), negative (we hate men) or sensational (we hate children.) But have women given up? Hardly. Feminism Photo by Jason Weber didn’t die, it’s just evolved. -m-

she fuses strings, industrial beats, cabaret rock and her ethereal, yet sultry voice into the pure awesomeness of a genre she calls “victoriandustrial.” Since the electronic otherworldliness of her last CD, Enchant, Autumn has moved away from her faerie princess image, demonstrated on songs like “Rapunzel” and “Rose Red,” to the more gothic affectations of SuicideGirls, an online community of punkporn pinups. Her persona dwells in the Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls (as she

calls her recording studio), and her fans go by the Bloomer Brigade. Overt sexuality intertwines with themes of repression, rebellion and revenge on this album. The powerful title track, “Opheliac,” is a defiant anthem of female madness, replete with shameless contradictions and punctuated by feral wails. A limited deluxe edition of Opheliac, featuring bonus tracks, videos and photos, is available exclusively through her website, From the accusatory snarls of “I Want My Innocence Back” (“And

if you can’t give it to me / I will cut you down”) to the caustic “Thank God I’m Pretty” (“I think my ego would fall right through the cracks in the floor / If I couldn’t count on men to slap my ass anymore”), the album is both raw and supremely danceable; rich in irony, and in imagery— whether it be oysters waiting to feast on pale flesh or blood trickling down a gartered thigh. “The world is full of singers / We don’t need any more,” Autumn croons in “The Art of Suicide. Oh, but we need this one.

if breasts could talk

women share their breast stories at tit tales, hosted by secrets from your sister by [ann ruppenstein]

Shoshana Sperling hosts the event

The only male!

The Drake Hotel on the night of the show

Stephanie Conover sings during the fashion show

Photos by Ann Ruppenstein

The fashion show with designers Janet Beauchamp, Erika Connor, Kim Cunick, Mark Gleberzon, Jennifer Klein, Heidi Laney, Heather MacCrimmon, Elaine May, Nina Oken, Christian Pane, Monika Stor and Ming Wong

winter 2007



vibrators rule!


t seems that men possess an almost-second nature disposition towards masturbation, with few qualms over the ejaculatory process. Fringe cases aside—religious guilt, freakish, emotionally-scarring experiences, naiveté due to lack of exposure, or being walked in on by mom, few dudes have hang-ups over self-love. They’ll find dad’s stash of Playboy, or a pack of dirty playing cards in the park and get that funny feeling in way down in their tummy. And then, they’ll act on it. But, ah, to be a girl. I grew up in a good, Christian home with good, sex-ed-free Christian schooling, so I was cursed with not one, but two unshakeable forces against me. My journey to the vibe was a loopy trip from ugly-duckling syndrome to the heralded sexual awakening of a university student. The moment of decision to buy one had come out of circumstance—I was dating long-distance and was getting a bit... antsy. I bought my vibrator from a co-operatively owned store in downtown Toronto, 32


winter 2007

which shall remain nameless. It has a reputation for being matter-of-fact and clinical about buying, using, and enjoying vibrators, almost so much that the staff shoots disparaging glances for giggling when the display products quiver on the shelves. The feminist salesgirl with a nose piercing told me that I needed to discover myself. She prescribed a curvy, ridged, silicone tech-wonder with the colour scheme of Wonder Woman, turned it on full-blast and pressed the tip against the inside of my wrist. “See?” she said as the blue thing pulsated, “This is an approximation of what it’ll feel like. You’ll be very happy with this one.” Wondrous delight for only $69.99! My loins said oui oui, but my wallet said non non. In the end, she frowned as I picked out a sleek, silver space rocket of a vibrator for $20. I thought it would match my iPod. The salesgirl’s prognosis was that with the Wonder Woman, I would replace the need for a male in my life. And now, with this product deemed half-assed, I inexplicably felt bad—like I had cheated myself out of my god-given right to earth-shattering, multiple orgasms. I tucked it in my bag, the new acquisition burning a hole in my load. A strange, smug smile spread across my face as I curtly thanked the sales girl for her help, zipped up my jacket, and walked out the door. The whole ride home on the streetcar, I was terrified someone would read the secret on my face, and leap out of their seat, screaming and pointing. “Her! She bought one! That slut!” Last year, I interviewed two female employees at another Toronto sex store. Behind the dildo-festooned front door and the googly-eyed, prophelactic mascot storefront, I got an ear-

ful of a rant from one girl on why Store A was turning girls away from getting their rocks off by being too serious about selflove. “It’s as though they’d never laugh during sex or something!” she accused, arms flailing upwards in indignation, her voice raising. “Not even a smile!” She brushed the glass shelf over her head, the assortment of gelatinous dildos quivering in unison. Male masturbation, according to some male friends, is simply a release. If that’s all it is and nothing more, why do girls get hung up over doing the same thing? Maybe the adolescent cattiness of high school never quite extinguishes itself—the way girls sling insults like “slut” and “whore” at each other in an attempt to distance ourselves from those names. At home, I safely shut my bedroom door and undressed with all the aplomb and grace of a virgin. Freed from its box and loaded up with batteries, my new purchase suddenly felt more imposing, weightier in my hands. But the second I turned it on, all the cluttered voices of pro-sexual liberation, rah-rah “womyn” empowerment of the co-operative and the raunch and camp of rubber ding-dongs on Queen Street disappeared. I felt like Wonder Woman. -m-

Photos by Talia Eylon

by [canice leung]

dildos drool! by [sarah boesveld]

one girl finds there’s no replacement for the real thing, while another feels like wonder woman

in’t nothing like the real thing, baby. Stimulation, and all of its joys and pleasures, just can’t be simulated It’s another human body with a matching heart pumping blood to the genitals, hormones rushing through the channels of the internal jungle. It’s the human sweat and semen. It’s the cliché locking of eyes while two bodies get it on. It’s the lock and key element. It’s the feeling of someone breathing in tune with your breath, someone on the same emotional wavelength as you are. Someone who is crazy about you. Of course, I’m talking about sex with love as the pelvis’ driving factor. But that’s a whole other she said/she said. But, I suppose, to banish all prudish or remotely romantic thoughts from my mind, sexual desires do need to be fulfilled in some respect. What if another warm body is not ava i l a b l e ?


W hat then? Well, you have your…um, fingers? Vibrators. Buzzing away, humming their little motors mindlessly, getting the job done like a drone in a hive. The vibrator business is a marketing empire designed to empty the pockets of the lonely. Vibrators, among other sex paraphernalia, are for those who have child complexes and still like playing with toys. It’s all so Freudian. Sure, vibration is one heck of a way to get off. But it’s not sex, and it shouldn’t pretend to be a viable replacement. When having sex sans toys, there is no vibration going on—just gyrating pelvises humping to the same rhythm. So why is the vibrator the tool of choice for the lonely and partner-less? Dildos are much more realistic in that department. Plus, some of them even have fake skin. Sure, vibrators warm up when they’re turned on, just like any other object run on energy. But you can’t fake the warmth of blood flow. Or the hormonal excitement you feed off of from the anticipation your partner feels. They’re hot for you— that’s what should turn you on, not an emotionless, battery-operated tool. I recently bought myself a little buzzing buddy out of pure curiosity. I’ll admit, I had a whirring good time with it. The fun only lasted so long before numbness set in—a numbness missing human flesh perhaps? I called my boyfriend who lives four hours away to tell him I missed him. Then I cried. So tell me, what did the vibrator do to help my love life? Nothing! -mwinter 2007



inside the world of the mythical creature known as...

remember two incidents several years ago that distinctly shaped my perspective as a feminist boy. I was at a punk rock show and overheard some kids nearby talking about the band. One guy said, “They’re pretty bad, but the lead singer is a babe.” A couple of weeks later in a high school English class, I got into a debate about women’s issues with two female classmates. They were arguing that feminism meant asserting women’s superiority over men and I was trying to explain that feminism meant egalitarianism. In the end, I felt awkward continuing the discussion: as a male, did I really have any right to tell two women what feminism is or isn’t? To me, these two events epitomized the dual difficulties in male feminism. On one hand, it can be hard to draw the line between a sincere expression of emotion and a sexist objectification of women. On the other, as a male feminist, it can be all too common to hold yourself back for fear of playing the role of a sexist male. These two circumstances made me start thinking about the practical application of feminism to my life and what it means in a day-to-day sense to be a feminist boy. There was nothing wrong with the attraction that the boy at the punk rock show felt to the lead singer of the band. But, in the way he expressed his attraction, he implied that her attractiveness was the only thing that really mattered. As I was growing up, I became increasingly aware that men often treated women, whether deliberately or not, as if their phys-




winter 2007

by [adrian morrow]

ical traits were the most important of their characteristics. What’s more, I began to realize that I did it, too. When I looked at crushes I’d had, I realized that they were often based on a physical attraction, and I hadn’t made much attempt to appreciate their personality traits. I felt guilty about it. I also began to realize how annoying it had to be for women when someone’s interest in them wasn’t motivated by a genuine interest in their personality or their intellect but by mere physical attraction. At the same time, I was becoming increasingly aware of the way men often marginalized women in society. In conversations, loud and opinionated men often eclipsed anything women were saying; at school, there was a disproportionate number of men serving as administrators while the majority of my teachers were women. During class discussions and debates, boys dominated the direction of the discussion. When I worked at a grocery store, women were usually encouraged to work as cashiers or customer service assistants, while men were given the more coveted jobs working stock or in the back room. One woman (who went on to be promoted into management) applied at the store for a stock job. She was twice offered a job as a cashier and refused, before the store gave her the job she had applied for. In the end, guilt caused me to hold myself back from speaking up about feminism. Even in the wake of women’s emancipation, there are still gender roles in western society, women are still underrepresented in government and still face latent sexism on a daily

basis. By speaking up, wouldn’t I just be one more man trying to say how things should be done instead of letting women do the talking? And in feeling physically attracted to girls, wasn’t I just another guy who was objectifying women on some level and not appreciating them as human beings? The discussion I had in my English class made me question the limitations I imposed on myself for fear of being sexist, and I came to realize that guilt had often led me to inaction. There’s no use in feeling guilty. There was nothing wrong in telling the two girls what I believed feminism to be or what feminism meant to me. In the end, we’d probably just have had to agree to disagree. I realized that I could still be as vocal as I wanted to be—just as long as my speaking up didn’t interfere with women who were doing the same. And when it came to balancing attractions with a feminist mentality, there was a fine line to walk, but one didn’t always exclude the other. These are issues I still struggle with. More than anything, it’s a matter of finding a balance. There’s nothing wrong in being physically attracted to people, so long as that attraction isn’t the main thing that influences how you treat them. Similarly, there’s no need to be inactive or silent for fear of excluding other people, so long as you give others the same opportunity to speak up. It’s a fine balance, but it’s possible to do. It comes down to understanding that everyone is a complex and unique person, and that we have to relate as equals.

Photos by Canice Leung

the male feminist

pop feminism so, madonna, beyoncé, you say you want a sexy revolution? by [sameen amin]

the feminist image: At face value, Madonna is the pop-star feminista of the 21st century. A woman constantly re-inventing her persona, Madonna has climbed to the top of her game and hasn’t looked back since. The sometimes blond bombshell, sometimes black-haired vixen, has made her mark as a pop icon and she did it all by asserting her femininity.

the verdict: So does this pop icon really embody true feminist ideals? Just toying with this idea is a slipperly slope to walk down. I’m going to take the egalitarian route and delve into both sides of the issue. Black leather suits and cone-shaped bras aside, Madonna’s constant image changes have always been done under the guise of her assertion of female power and sexuality. She is one woman who has struck a fine balance between the two. Granted, the feminist movement could have done with a bit less of her cleavage and midrift, but Madonna has successfully adopted at will identities that challenge gender norms. But is she just a bimbo in control of her bimboness? Are we at a point in the feminist movement when simply asserting female sexual power is the all you need to do to call yourself a feminist?

the feminist image: She’s an independent woman. Or, at least, she sings about being one. Beyoncé has gone from front-woman in her all-female trio to solo stardom and she’s done it all while asserting her womanhood. This bodacious diva epitomizes the nexus between femininity and feminism, strength and sexiness.

the verdict: In her superstar career, Beyoncé established herself as a fiscally and emotionally independent woman. But, take a look at her “Cater 2 U” lyrics: “My life would be purposeless without you...Do anything for my man. I got your slippers, your dinner, your dessert and so much more . . . anything you want just let me cater to you.” Is Beyoncé acknowledging an active choice to be a woman in a “traditional” role? If so, she’s putting herself in the same category with many women who don’t have that same choice.


ad control take a look at what happened when this tricyclen ad was placed in the womens washroom on the first floor of the rogers communications centre at ryerson university. apparently, birth control remains a controversial issue even today

“How is this not realistic? I swim and dance”

imperfect without clear skin and long hair”

“Show a realistic portrayal of women and I will consider your product” 36


winter 2007

“Get over it you friggin’ feminist” Photos by Jennifer Asselin

“And I bike but I am

“Get over it yourself you ignorant biggot”

Printing Services by 89 Print

McClung's Winter 2007