Volume 102, Issue 28
January 28, 2013 mcgilldaily.com
As(s)inine since 1911
Published by The Daily Publications Society, a student society of McGill University.
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20-40 hrs/ 10 weeks – 99$ to 175$
January 28, 5:30pm–7:30pm - Brown 5001
FITNESS, DANCE, ART, etc. Yoga • Pilates • Cardio • Boot Camp Tai-chi • Bellydancing (Baladi) Zumba • Tae Kwon Do • Dance (African, Salsa, Latino) • Toning Meditation • Knitting & Crocheting Jewelry Making • Collage & Scrapbooking • Water Color Painting Drawing • Swimming
Student Leader Panel
January 29, 12:00pm–1:30pm - Lev Bukhman
Beyond the Rack’s CMO James Weinberg; His BA, His Career and His Advice
January 29th 5:00pm-7:00pm - Brown Room 2200 (CaPS Library)
10 & 11 weeks – 55$ to 80$
ASSOCIATION RÉCRÉATIVE MILTON-PARC (a non-proﬁt organization, serving the community since 1985) 3555 St-Urbain
Graduate and Professional School Panel Free. Confidential. Non-Judgmental.
January 30, 12:00pm–1:30pm - Brown 5001
NGOs and Non-Profits Panel
We’re here to listen.
January 31, 5:30pm–7:00pm - Brown 2200 (CaPS Library)
www.miltonpark.org • 514 872-0566
Workshop: Social Media as a Job Search Technique
February 4, 2:00pm–3:30pm - Brown 5001
Working in Business with a BA
Write for news meetings Thursday at 6pm
February 6, 5:30pm–7:00pm - Brown 2200 (CaPS Library)
Quartier de L’innovation (QI) info session and Meet, Mingle & Network Event February 7, 5:30pm–8:00pm - Brown 5001
Registration required through myFuture. From your homepage, click on the Events tab followed by the Workshop tab and keyword ARTS/BA
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The McGill Daily Monday, January 28, 2013 mcgilldaily.com
Search for new principal cost close to $180,000
Board of Governors to vote on final pick tomorrow
The Daily interviews Zbigniew Brzezinski Students seek permanent funding for SEDE SSMU Council debates fossil fuels and support for Indigenous peoples
07 COMMENTARY Memoirs of a Gaysian on voicelessness and rage A response to pseudoscience in The Daily Calling out stereotypes about ‘Africa’
THE SEX ISSUE
09 SCI+TECH Looking at the aims of the Open Access movement The roots and future of English-based code
Lola Duffort The McGill Daily
n its search for new leadership, the University has spared little expense. Invoices filed to the University by the international headhunting firm Odgers Berndtson for a four-month period between June 2012 and September 2012 total $178,690. While a little over $71,000 of that money was spent on advertising – the invoices include reimbursements for ad placements in the Economist, the Globe and Mail, and the Times Higher Education, among other publications – the remainder of the money paid for the firm’s consultative services. Line items include a $12,000 “Executive Brief (Profile of University & Position Profìle).” Since the invoices – obtained through an Access to Information request – only show expenses until September 2012, it could not be confirmed that this was the total amount spent by the University. The practice of hiring headhunting firms to help with university upper administration appointments is common. Several Canadian universities have hired Odgers Berndtson, including the University of Calgary and Bishop’s University. In its search for a new president, Concordia University hired external consultants Laverne
The false narrative of sports
AUTS feels pretty A newbie’s guide to Montreal Documenting Haitian disaster relief
Protest the protocol! (...again)
16 COMPENDIUM! Coffee is the first cause McGill VP awarded Royal Kiss Super-wedgies on the rise
Photo Hera Chan | The McGill Daily
Smith & Associates. The search for Principal Heather Munroe-Blum’s replacement will end tomorrow, when the Board of Governors (BoG) is scheduled to vote – in a closed session – on a final list of candidates. An announcement will be made to the university-wide community, “probably a week or so later,” according to SSMU VP University Affairs Haley Dinel, the only undergraduate sitting on the University’s 14-person advisory committee, tasked with making final recommendations to the BoG about candidates. Odgers Berndtson did “most of the grunt work,” according to Dinel,
including compiling and narrowing the list of candidates in consultation with the advisory committee. The University’s search has been ongoing since March, when the advisory committee was struck. Its membership, constituted in accordance with the University’s statutes, includes one undergraduate and one post-graduate student, four BoG members, as well as representatives from Senate, the professors’ association, the alumni association, the Secretariat, and support staff. According to Dinel, the committee has convened twenty times and conducted formal face-to-face interviews with all of the candidates being
recommended to the BoG tomorrow. The process also included a “lengthy consultation process,” Dinel said, referring to the thirty consultation sessions held during the summer, and the email provided to students for feedback. For confidentiality reasons, Dinel could not confirm how many candidates are up for consideration by the BoG, or whether any of the candidates are from within the University. According to SSMU President Josh Redel, who will vote tomorrow as the BoG undergraduate student representative, roughly one to three candidates are typically recommended to the BoG from the advisory committee.
Bloated bureaucracies weigh down university budgets
11 SPORTS Player, fan reaction after the NHL lockout
Report notes growth of expensive managerial corps since late 1990s Eric Andrew-Gee The McGill Daily
niversity administrators in Quebec are making almost $200 million more than they were fifteen years ago due to bloated managerial corps, according to an unpublished report by a provincial professors’ federation. Between 1998 and 2009, administrative salaries leapt from $129 million to $328 million, a 154 per cent increase. Details of the report, written by the Fédération québécoise des professeures et professeurs d’université (FQPPU), were published in Le Devoir on January 19. The revelation comes at a time when administrators have been decrying the underfunding of their schools. Two weeks ago, the Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universities du Québec (CREPUQ) announced that the Quebec university system faced an $850-million shortfall relative to other provinces. The sometimes lavish paychecks of top administrators drew fire during last year’s student strike as symbols of waste at a time when the government and administrators were asking students to pay more. As of 2008-2009, the last year for
which accurate figures are available, 43 Quebec university administrators made over $200,000 a year, including 13 at McGill. In 2011, McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum’s salary stood at $369,250, with perks totalling upwards of $200,000, making her the best-paid administrator in Quebec. But Michel Umbriaco, one of the study’s authors and professor of university administration at TELUQ, a correspondence university, says it isn’t extravagant salaries that are breaking the bank, but swollen administrative staffs. He notes that the average Quebec administrator is making just 4 or 5 per cent more now than in the late nineties, and even less in the Université de Québec (UQ) system, where managerial salaries are negotiated with the government. “If the principals say they’re like the mayor of New York and their salary is zero point zero, that won’t change anything,” Umbriaco said in a phone interview with The Daily, referring to billionaire New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s refusal to accept his mayoral paycheck. Rather, it is what Umbriaco calls “a new corporate class” of mid-level administrators that accounts for most of the rise. Often coming from management backgrounds outside
of the university, rather than from within the faculty ranks, this new crop of administrators is not only responding to more unwieldy government requirements and bigger, more complicated schools, but in some respects “manag[ing] themselves,” Umbriaco said. “Is it because there are more tasks to do? Our contention is that yes, the government asks them to do more reporting,” Umbriaco said. “But we don’t think they need more managers to do that.” The FQPPU thinks an external council should handle the question of administrative salaries, and recommend to the government that a limit be imposed on them. “We don’t mind that administrators make more than junior professors, but when it’s six or five times more, that’s a problem,” he told The Daily. The McGill administration begs to differ. Olivier Marcil, vice-principal (External Relations), noted that Quebec universities are required to submit reams of paper work to the provincial government, such as sustainability plans, financial audits, and infrastructure plans, that require a huge staff. “The government asks for more and more accountability, and that’s okay,” he said in a phone interview
with The Daily. “But it adds layers, and we haven’t streamlined these things.” “Universities in 2013 are much more complicated than in 1997,” he added. “We have IT, we’re on the world stage, we have much more research, and there are the environmental issues.” As it stands, the proportion of salary dollars that Quebec universities spend on non-academic staff – administrators, but also support staff – is 44.27 per cent, almost exactly the Canadian average. Marcil also defended higher salaries for individual administrators, saying they are needed to lure top talent to Quebec. If the provincial government imposed limits on administrative salaries, he said, Quebec schools would not be able to compete with elite universities in Canada and around the world. “It’s like you’re telling me the Montreal Canadians cannot pay $8 million for Sidney Crosby. Well, they won’t get Crosby. And they won’t be able to compete in that league,” he said. Asked what would happen to McGill if the government determined administrator salaries, as it does for the UQ system, Marcil was emphatic. “That’s gonna kill McGill as we know it,” he said. “Literally.”
The McGill Daily | Monday, January 28, 2013 | mcgilldaily.com
The Daily talks to Zbigniew Brzezinski Carter’s National Security Advisor discusses foreign policy
bigniew Brzezinski (McGill BA ‘49, MA ‘50) served as National Security Advisor for U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Brzezinski oversaw the normalization of U.S. relations with China, for which Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Equally notable, Brzezinski’s tenure in the White House also included the Camp David Accords of 1978, which established peace between Israel and Egypt, and the Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis of 1979. Presently, Brzezinski serves as a counsellor and trustee at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and as a senior research professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. McGill Daily (MD): How would you evaluate the current [U.S.] administration’s handling of the Arab Spring and the war in Syria?
Zbigniew Brzezinski (ZB): I think it has been prudent and cautious, but under the circumstances, that is justified. The Arab Spring, widely proclaimed by journalists as a great democratic phenomenon, is still uncertain of its historical trajectory. It could easily end up as the “Arab Winter.” MD: How would you evaluate the relationship between the current administration and Israel? Do you think the administration should be tougher with Netanyahu? ZB: I think the administration should be guided by its best judgment of the American national interest. What is good for America is almost inevitably good for Israel, given its dependence on America. MD: Do you think that the opposite is true, that what is good for Israel is inevitably good for America? ZB: No, I think that what is good for America is inevitably good for Israel, given its dependence on [our] military and
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financial support. Now obviously, America is not dependent on Israel for support. MD: Do you think that, considering the backlash against the announcement of new settler homes to be built in the West Bank, that the administration should reign in Israel? ZB: The United States reacted critically and publicly to these decisions. There were statements to that effect both from the White House and from the State Department. MD: On a different topic, how do you feel about the funding of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan during the Carter administration? ZB: I think it was a desirable and necessary step, supported by the overwhelming majority of the international community. The Soviet [invasion of Afghanistan] was an outright aggression and it was potentially destabilizing for the entire region. MD: Is there a way that America could have prevented the growth of the Taliban out of that funding? ZB: You know, the Taliban arose about ten years after the Soviet invasion. I don’t think you are very familiar with the facts, judging by that question. The Taliban didn’t appear on the scene until about ten years later. MD: But many journalists and commentators have inferred that the funding of the Mujahideen in the late 1970s was somehow responsible for the rise of the Taliban. Do you contend that? ZB: The rise of the Taliban was the consequence of the destruction of the Afghan society by ten years of war, which was waged by the Soviets against the Afghan resistance. MD: Okay, on the subject of Iran: do you think that the United
States should bear moral responsibility for the replacement of [the democratically elected president] Mossadegh by the Shah, and the backlash against the Shah by the Islamist regime? ZB: I think the United States was unwise in the way it handled the Mossadegh challenge. I understand the Iranian resentment about what happened in the early 1950s, in other words, almost sixty years ago. MD: What would you identify as the greatest success and the greatest failure of your time as National Security Advisor? ZB: I think the greatest successes were several. I think the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt was a major success; I think the opening, both political and strategic, to China, was a very major breakthrough, which continues to shape international affairs to this time. I think the peaceful resolution of the Panama Canal problem created stability in America’s relations with Central America. I think the greatest setback was, of course, the failure of the rescue mission. MD: On the topic of Iran today, how do you evaluate the nuclear threat? ZB: I think it potentially could be serious, but in my judgment, it can be handled effectively without a war. MD: Do you think the regime is sufficiently irrational to launch, or even threaten to launch, a nuclear weapon? ZB: I don’t think there is one item of evidence to support that proposition. It is a self-serving regime; it is a very scheming regime; but it is not a suicidal regime. And neither is the country suicidal. The Iranians are very intelligent people.
MD: On the topic of ChineseAmerican relations, how do you think they should evolve? And what is the biggest challenge to the Chinese-American relationship? ZB: I think the biggest challenge to the relationship is the rising nationalistic fervor in Asia, and the resulting regional instability. The way to cope with it is to have a close, consultative relationship with the Chinese, so that each side has a better understanding of the other side’s point of view and interests. Okay, one more question, okay? MD: On the subject of the U.S. economy: do you think that the U.S. economy is doomed to be uncompetitive, and how does the U.S. absorb the non-service economy? ZB: Let’s look at the economic projections for . Already indications are rising that the recovery is beginning. I think that in the advanced world, that the American economy is the engine of change. Of course, China, in the longer run, may surpass America. But that is several decades away. MD: How do you think the U.S. should get used to not being the hegemon; that is, how should the U.S. get used to being in a multi-polar world? ZB: Well, I wrote a book about it, which appeared earlier this year, called Strategic Vision. It is very exactly on that subject. So let me end on a very self-serving plug for my book. If the readers find this interview of interest, perhaps they should look at that book. Could you do me the favour of sending me a copy of the McGill – it’s still called the McGill Daily? I’d love to have it. I very much valued my days at McGill. —Compiled by Kaj Huddart
Debate bogged down in procedure Dana Wray The McGill Daily
SMU Legislative Council reaffirmed its opposition to the development of Canadian tar sands, and committed to lobbying the University to divest its holdings in companies connected to fossil fuel production, at their meeting last Thursday. Councilors engaged, once again, in debate over how far the mandate of the council extended. Before passing with 13 votes in favour and three against, the motion regarding McGill Free from Fossil Fuels sparked disagreement over whether SSMU has the mandate to adopt motions that concern broader social justice issues. Some councilors expressed concern with the motion’s assertion that SSMU should “adopt a position in favour of a rapid transition to a carbon-neutral society.” “By just passing this [motion] saying we have a mandate, and then repeating the same process over and over by which an actionable process does not occur… [This is] institutionalizing the same problem,” Law representative Andrew Baker said at the meeting. He added that he recognized the difficulties in “translating the emotion into something more actionable.” Councilor Zachary Rosentzveig disagreed. “It’s important that SSMU have this mandate to hold McGill to a higher standard,” he said to Council. Political Campaigns Coordinator
Christopher Bangs explained some actionable projects that the motion could accomplish, including helping the student group Divest McGill. “What would help [Divest McGill] the most is a letter to the Board or Governors of the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility saying that SSMU has adopted this position … that [SSMU] feels that addressing global climate change is of the utmost importance,” he said at the meeting. Councilors found further issue with the motion regarding Support for Indigenous Peoples and Allies, which was debated lengthily in both substance and procedure. The motion also advocated that SSMU should divest its holdings
in companies that did business on Native land without the permission of communities, and that SSMU should encourage McGill to do the same. Councilors were divided over whether the motion should be labeled external, a procedure which would restrict the legislative council from voting on the motion. Council voted to divide the motion into two separate motions. As one of the movers of the original motion, Rosentzveig likened the division of the motion to “going on a campaign without a position of support.” The first newly-created motion asked to support the Idle No More movement, and for solidarity with the First Nations and Inuit communities. It was perceived as the most external,
Photo Hera Chan | The McGill Daily
but the councilors remained divided over whether or not to commit the motion to the upcoming winter General Assembly (GA). In the end, Council voted to commit the motion. It will be addressed at the upcoming GA on February 4. The second newly-created motion concerned SSMU and McGill’s divestment from companies that did business on Native land without the permission of Native communities, passed with 16 in favour and eight against. The motion regarding an endorsement of a Yes vote for the Daily Publications Society’s Referendum Question passed with 21 in favour, and six abstentions.
Permanent funding sought for SEDE
lthough involved in no advocacy on its own behalf, in the face of its precarious financial situation and looming campus-wide budget cuts, those who value equity at McGill are mobilizing to protect the Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) and its mandate. What they want is a permanent, sound financial structure for the SEDE office. SEDE was founded in 2005 in response to a McGill initiative to foster more equity on campus. It has been involved in organizing a variety of programs, including, most recently, Homework-Zone, which recruits McGill students to mentor children in Montreal’s less privileged neighbourhoods. While SEDE’s permanent budget comes from the McGill administration, this money is not enough to fund all of its programs and pay its entire staff. This means that it also relies on an amalgamation of other funding sources to make up the difference. In the past, these other
SSMUfest 2013 Monday, January 28 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Shatner Building Activities Night comes back this semester with a new name and a revamped structure. Apart from the traditional tabling, clubs and services will be putting on performances and workshops to appeal to students looking to get involved on campus.
Navigating Class in the University Setting Workshop Tuesday, January 29 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. Shatner Building
Student associations mobilize on behalf of McGill’s equity office Carla Green The McGill Daily
WHAT’S THE HAPS
SSMU Council talks tar sands, Idle No More
The McGill Daily | Monday, January 28, 2013 | mcgilldaily.com
sources have included McGill’s Sustainability Office, McGill Student Services, and several external groups. This portion of SEDE’s budget is temporary, as it must renegotiate funding from these organizations each year. SEDE office manager Veronica Amberg acknowledged in an email to The Daily that this perpetual need to renegotiate funding “does create certain challenges for long- term planning.” Since the Parti Québécois cancelled the tuition hike proposed by the previous Liberal government – and then made additional cuts in university funding to the tune of $124 million – the McGill administration has been vocally distressed about balancing its budget. As the University moves to cut costs, McGill community members committed to equity and diversity are battling to keep the SEDE office from going under the knife. On January 14, the Post-Graduate Students’ Society’s (PGSS) Equity and Diversity Committee put forward a motion to “actively support permanent funding for SEDE from McGill by writing a letter...to Associate Provost Lydia White and Deputy Provost
Morton Mendelson that acknowledges SEDE’s achievements and requests maintaining financial support for SEDE’s ongoing work.” PGSS Council failed to pass the motion, but Equity Commissioner Gretchen King believes that it wasn’t for a lack of support for the SEDE office or its mandate. “We drafted the motion because some of SEDE’s permanent funding had been cut, and we wanted to support the continued existence and institutionalization of SEDE, which is also a funding issue,” King said. “Unfortunately, the debate got sidetracked by a conversation about how the McGill budget should be run in general.” At their General Assembly (GA) on March 20, PGSS’s Equity and Diversity Committee is hoping to pass another motion “that expresses support of SEDE, forgetting the budgetary issue,” said King. In the wake of the PGSS motion’s failure, the SSMU GA on February 4 will also hear a motion in support of SEDE, albeit one that is a more general endorsement of the office without any discussion of its funding structure.
SSMU Equity Commissioners Shaina Agbayani and Justin Koh drafted the motion. Koh explained that the motion came out of a desire to show that students support SEDE and care about equity at McGill. “In this time of financial austerity, a lot of organizations are worried about budget cuts,” he said. “Because of SSMU’s commitment to equity, we thought that it would be a good time to officially affirm our collaborations with SEDE, because we’ve been working together for a long time.” Lydia White is the Associate Provost for Policies, Procedures and Equity, making her the liaison between SEDE and the McGill administration. According to White, the problem is that SEDE has an insufficient budget to begin with. “It’s clear to me that to fulfill all its goals, SEDE needs more money. Under the current [financial] climate, it might be quite difficult, at least for a while, to increase what they have,” White said in a phone interview with The Daily. “They have some wonderful initiatives, and they do need more funding. It’s not so much cuts, as lack of increases, that I think would be the concern.”
This workshop and discussion, planned by the SSMU Equity Commissioners, is intended to delve into concrete details of how class conditions people’s experiences in university. The event will examine how McGill’s structure is part of a system of classism, how class is coded in language, and intersectionalities between class, gender, and race.
An Evening For Indigenous Rights with Guest Speakers Ellen Gabriel & Warren Allmand Wednesday, January 30 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Leacock 219 Aboriginal activist Ellen Gabriel and former Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Warren Allmand will be invited to talk about the history of Aboriginal rights in Canada. The speakers will discuss why people living in Canada should become involved in the Idle No More movement to support the protection and promotion of Indigenous rights.
Film Screening – Two Spirits Thursday, January 31 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. First Peoples’ House T he A b or ig i n a l Sustainability Project is hosting a screening of the 2009 film Two Spirits. The film interweaves the story of a mother’s loss of her son with a revealing look at the largely unknown history of a time when the world wasn’t divided into male and female and many Native American cultures held places of honour for people of integrated genders.
Rock Against Racism MTL Thursday, January 31 8:00 p.m. Coop-Katacombes 1635 St. Laurent A fundraiser for CKUT’s homelessness marathon, the event will feature perfomances by Boids and Action Sedition.
The McGill Daily Monday, January 28, 2013 mcgilldaily.com
The killing ga(y)ze On rage, voicelessness, and the idiocy of objectivity Ryan Thom Memoirs of a Gaysian
It was these sequences of racialized incidents involving black women that intensified my rage against the white man sitting next to me. I felt a ‘killing rage.’ I wanted to stab him softly, to shoot him with the gun I wished I had in my purse. And as I watched his pain, I would say to him tenderly ‘racism hurts’.” – bell hooks, The Killing Rage Like many queer folks of colour, I was young when I was given my first explicit lesson in my worthlessness as a person, the voicelessness of my body, and the impotence of my rage: I was walking home from school in the first week of ninth grade with some boys that I desperately wanted to be friends with. They were everything I thought I wanted to be: popular, athletic, (assumedly) heterosexual, so easily afloat in the high-school world in which I felt like I was constantly drowning. One of them was also cute – I had a crush on him, and imagined secretly in my desperate closeted teenage way that the feeling might, somehow, be mutual. As we walked, conversation turned, as it inevitably seems to amongst 14-year-old boys, to the disgusting possibility that there might be homosexuals hidden in our midst. Gays, we all agreed, were “retarded” – and here I nodded furtively, as though my first wet dream hadn’t been to thoughts of the Hardy Boys going undercover in an all-male massage parlor. The boy I had a crush on, who was also the leader of the group by
dint of his popularity with girls, upped the ante, saying, “It should be legal to have a gun and, like, hunt gays. That’d be fun.” And everyone laughed. Years later, I can still feel that stomach-churning feeling – that sick, helpless fury that comes from the knowledge that an inextricable aspect of your being has been denigrated, and that to show your anger would be not only suicidal but entirely incomprehensible to the people who have caused it. I feel it when employers tell me that there is no such thing as racism in the workplace, that I am being oversensitive and unreasonable when I point out the fact that I am the only person of colour in the room, or that there are no bathroom facilities that accommodate my gender. I feel it when I read ‘feminist’ polemicist Julie Burchill’s recent article “Transsexuals Should Cut it Out” in The Guardian and Observer, in which she describes “the vociferous transsexual lobby” as “dicks in chicks’ clothing,” “a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs,” and “trannies,” among other choice epithets. I feel it when I hear the news that Kenneth Furr, the Washington, D.C. police officer who drunkenly fired a gun into a car occupied by three transgender women after one of them refused his sexual advances, was released with a $150 fine and community service. I feel it when I read the online “Comments” section below fellow Daily writers Christiana Collison’s and Guillermo Martínez de Velasco’s respective articles “All Racism Comes from Whiteness” and “You are Racist” and see that people of colour are still being demanded to provide “empirical evidence” for and “objective debate” on the violence perpetrated every day against our bodies.
Illustration Amina Batyreva | The McGill Daily
I feel that terrible, blinding rage every time I am told that my writing on marginalization and oppression should be stripped of emotion, should be reasonable and polite, should conform to the rules of collegiality. Collegiality? It is still commonplace to hear jokes about our people being hunted for sport in the streets. Our people are being hunted for sport in the streets! The expectation that marginalized writers, survivors of violence, should speak of that same violence without bias, as though we are divorced from the haunting impact of those experiences, is matched in absurdity only by the notion that mainstream journalism – indeed, any mainstream institution – is ever unaffected by bias. Were it so, a transmisogynist like Burchill would never be able to
dismiss the entire transgender activist community as “screaming mimis” in a national newspaper, a judge would never casually dismiss the murderous intent of a police officer shooting into a car full of transwomen (let us think of the opposite, a transwoman firing a gun at a policeman, and the vast difference in consequence she would face). The notion of ‘objectivity’ is thus one more means by which marginalized bodies are stripped of the capacity to articulate their oppression. I don’t need to listen to this, the unaffected reader thinks. Just another angry coloured person/ queer/activist spouting hysterical gibberish instead of the plain truth. But experiences of pain should, can only, be spoken of painfully. What could be more truthful than that?
I admit it: I am not now, nor will I ever, be an unbiased journalist. My writing is not an invitation to civilized debate over the justice to which I know I am entitled. My words, like so many queer, trans*, and people of colour writers before me, are a cry out against the voicelessness that has been imposed upon us, upon our sorrow and survival and terror and rage. See me, we snarl. Our scarred histories, our freakish bodies, my unbroken self. See the sacrifices I made to survive, the anger burning behind my lowered eyes. Dream of me in every shade of red. Ryan Kai Cheng Thom is a queer survivor and storyteller. Contact Ryan at memoirsofagaysian@ mcgilldaily.com.
Lies, damn lies and pseudoscience Recent articles misunderstood the basics of research Shannon Palus and Kate Sheridan The McGill Daily
e were stunned to learn, in recent issues of The Daily, that our cell phones might be killing us (Nirali Tanna, “Are our cell phones killing us?” Health&Ed, January 10, page 12) and that homeopathy might be a reasonable way to try to resolve that medical damage (Molly Swain, “In Defense of Naturopathic Medicine,” Commentary, November 26, page 16). Both of these articles fundamentally misunderstand science, and represent a dangerously low standard of journalism. They left us – and many members of the McGill science community – deeply disappointed in what we believe is a valuable resource and learning environment for journalists.
We will briefly address what we see to be the main problems with each of these articles. Molly Swain asks: “When we question the ‘legitimacy’ of alternative forms of medicine, such as naturopathy or homeopathy, what exactly is it that we are questioning?” Homeopathy is not backed by any kind of laboratory science: when we question homeopathy, we question the scientific principles behind “water memory,” we question whether, in clinical trials, homeopathy could ever be shown to be more effective than a sugar pill. If one wants to use homeopathy, that’s fine, but it’s dangerous to espouse it as a solution against an imperfect medical system. Swain’s analysis rested on the assumption that, because naturopathic doctors do less harm, as they “have fewer recorded medical errors,”
they do good. Just because someone is doing essentially nothing does not preclude them from doing harm. If homeopathy distracts patients from seeking conventional treatments, they could pay with their lives. In the meantime, their homeopathic treatments are doing nothing, as shown in 2005 by Shang et al. We agree with Swain – medicine, particularly a system in bed with big pharmaceutical companies, can be dangerous, too. But that doesn’t mean that water can cure your cold or your cancer. “Killer cellphones” – an article whose conclusion made it onto the very cover of the newspaper – similarly failed to correctly identify the existence of scientific research. Cell phones emit a type of radiation referred to as “nonionizing”: the energy that comes from them is incapable of blasting an elec-
tron off of an atom. This event – ionization – is the process that is associated with mutations, and cancer. This exact phrase – “non-ionizing radiation” – was actually used in the article to describe the heart of the problem, and then ignored or dismissed without further inquiry or definition. A simple cursory Google search will lead you to a page from the American Cancer Society, which states clearly that nonionizing radiation has not been shown to cause cancer. Cell phones can be evil little devices, but they have not been shown to cause cancer. We recognize that criticism of science – including criticism of accepted methods and empirical truth – is necessary and desirable. But writers should understand exactly what they are challenging when they do so, and not conflate other kinds of speculation, or critical thinking, with science.
If Swain wants to make a personal argument for homeopathy (or even one involving the whole wide world – it is, after all, her opinion), that’s fine. But she and her editors should do their research and understand that she is making a stand against the bench studies that show homeopathy belongs in a realm separate from medical science, one that can indeed be dangerous. If Nirali Tanna believes that there is some reason why the basic science behind cellphones is misunderstood, there should be the journalism and research to back that claim up. Tall claims require proof. Kate Sheridan is a U2 Cognitive Science student. Reach her at sheridan.kat@ gmail.com. Shannon Palus is a U3 Physics student, and former Daily Sci+Tech editor. She can be reached at email@example.com
The McGill Daily | Monday, January 28, 2013 | mcgilldaily.com
Illustration Akanksa Chaubal
Out of ‘Africa’ Three things you shouldn’t ask me about my time in South Africa Benjamin Sher Commentary Writer
took last semester off of school to travel. As should be expected, I’ve spent the better part of my first three weeks back fumbling to find the best way to summarize a six-month adventure into a digestible, two-sentence morsel for various friends and acquaintances who have asked me the token questions about ‘my trip’ since my return (and proceeded to feign at least 60 per cent of their interest in my response). Token question number one is inevitably “where did you go?” to which I reply, “well, I spent the first three months in South Africa….” Usually, at this point, the tone of the conversation changes quite drastically; whereas before I may as well have been lecturing my dear listener on the effective ways of removing excessive earwax, now something has quite clearly piqued their interest. The conversation that follows is generally a set of three predictable, depressing questions: depressing because implicit in these questions are unstated assumptions and unconscious ignorance that used to make me slightly uncomfortable, and now just leave me downright jaded. More verbosely, these questions are a product of our widespread
cultural refusal to delve beyond the clichés. Immediately, interest piqued, my dear listener lets slip a ‘wow’, ‘woah’, or ‘cool’. I do respect that people react positively to the idea of time spent in South Africa; at the very least, their interest shows a curiosity beyond their immediate surroundings. The problem here is that I am often able to read undertones of surprise in this interjection. While the text is saying, ‘that’s really awesome’, the subtext reads, “Really? That’s not what I was expecting!’ This isn’t a negative thought, per se, but it betrays just how far the idea of ‘Africa’ is from our collective consciousness: we simply don’t pay it a lot of attention, so that when we are forced to, it feels foreign, exotic, and new. Then comes question number one, perhaps even the worst of them all: “so how was Africa?” Shit...seriously? There are 54 countries on the continent. I told you I went to one of them, and you want me to give you a rundown of the state of affairs in… Africa. If I told you I went to Thailand, would you ask me how I liked Asia? You either misheard me originally, or you have no conception of the sheer immensity of the landmass, and the enormous degree of diversity between and within its numerous regions and countries. This is reductive thinking at
its finest: ‘Africa’ is not a viable category of analysis, and yet we use it as such in both the vernacular and the academic. Whether you framed your question this way because you assume that all of Africa is pretty similar (you know, big red sunsets, a couple zebras, a broken-down minibus with a child soldier hanging out the side), or because you are conditioned to reference it on a continental level (remember Survivor: Africa?) is irrelevant. Please stop. The second question is slightly more nuanced, but equally loaded with presumption. After I’ve attempted to delineate how I enjoyed my time in South Africa, which was very nice, thank you for asking, my dear listener slaps me to the tune of “so why did you decide to go there?” Context: the second half of my trip was essentially the ‘classic’ European backpacking tour – yet not a single person I talked to asked for the reasoning behind my decision to visit a few European countries. You don’t need a reason to want to travel Europe, or at least the reason you would want to do so is too obvious to merit asking. In juxtaposition, then, asking why I went to ‘Africa’ demonstrates a specific subtext, which might be dramatized as follows: “You must have had some purpose for being in Africa, right? I mean, nobody just goes there. I
can’t think of a reason that someone would off the top of my head, anyway, so I have to ask…” Perhaps they are wondering if I had gone to participate in some sort of volunteer project; as we all know, North Americans such as myself like to ‘help’ the Africans, because they need (and deserve!) our benevolence, and it’s not as if a well-documented 400-year history of Europeans screwing over other parts of the world through trying to ‘help’ them is enough of a deterrent to stop us from trying once more. Perhaps they’re wondering if I was going on a sort of adventure tour; those are popular because after all, Africa is a place of immense natural beauty, and what better way to ‘see’ Africa than to get driven all over the countryside with other tourists, stay in remote campsites, and go on nature walks. Either way, the implication is that unlike Europe, ‘Africa’ is a place you visit for a reason. The third question I have come to expect is perhaps the easiest to answer, and also the easiest to critique: “Was it safe?” My answer: “Shut up.” I fully understand why this question is so persistent. For many, the image of danger is closely tied to the image of ‘Africa’. The international media, knowing sensation is what sells, puts out almost exclusively pieces on suffering, corruption, or violence. To a certain
extent, the danger is not false, and so I understand why it might seem a ‘dangerous’ place to travel. Nonetheless, I do not understand why this assumption isn’t more readily criticized. What is presented in the media is not the reality of the entire continent. (We might even say it’s not the reality of any of the continent, but that’s a whole different can of worms.) Quite simply, the automatic impulse to ask whether South Africa is ‘safe’ or not feels denigrating, evocative as it is of the historical, racist tropes of ‘dark’ and ‘savage’ Africa. While the concern itself is not entirely unfounded, why do we feel the need to ask? I’m standing right in front of you, dear listener, safe and sound. I do not wish to express doubt as to my dear listeners’ intentions: on the surface, I sincerely believe that they were motivated to ask these questions by a healthy wish for successful small talk. I also believe, however, that it is crucial for us all to examine why we continue to grant ourselves permission to utilize these reductive and denigrating tropes in our dialogue about ‘Africa’. In the end, all it takes is a little knowledge, a little selfreflection, and a little awareness into the implications of what we say. Benjamin Sher is a U2 History and African Studies student. You can reach him at benjamin.sher@ mail.mcgill.ca.
The Sex Issue
“Yes” isn’t everything
n this special issue, The Daily delves into a myriad of sexy things, including a survey of your kinky proclivities. Among those who responded that they have not gotten kinky yet, 85 per cent indicated both interest and intention in trying out a new kink in the future. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this willingness to experiment, like all other sexual activity, should be based on informed consent. Consent is, simply put, an informed agreement – made of one’s own accord and not under pressure – to participate in one or more sexual activities. Mutually asking for, giving, and receiving consent not only ensures that each person is not participating in any sexual act against their will, but also makes sex more enjoyable and makes you more comfortable with your partner. While the act of explicitly asking for consent can seem like a surefire route to mood-killing awkwardness, the way someone asks may make all the difference – and an enthusiastic ‘yes’ can make a blunt question well worth asking. Even if you don’t think a sensual whisper in your partner’s ear is quite your style, the conversation you have may take an unexpected turn and wind up with the discovery of a shared fantasy or interest
In this issue...
that you want to pursue. Of course, even if there’s no sexy way to ask or no suave way to introduce the topic to the conversation, find a way to ask anyway – no amount of awkwardness outweighs the importance of preventing sexual assault. Though the idea of consent may seem simple and straightforward, simply saying ‘yes’ to the question ‘Do you want to have sex?’ is not an all-access pass to future sexual encounters. For example, when a person consents to receiving anal sex, they are not necessarily consenting to being tied to the bed. In the broad world of sex that exists outside a high school health class, whether it’s sex that involves tongues, toys, whips, ropes, or any other number and combination of bodies and tools, it is naive and disrespectful to think that one ‘yes’ could cover all future possibilities. If and when those of you interested in trying out new things in the bedroom decide to act upon your interests, be sure to keep consent your top priority. Effective and clear communication can be sexy and exciting when you’re exploring new options – and even when it’s not, it is still the keystone of healthy sexual relationships and keeping yourself, and your partners, safe and happy.
A brief glossary
Polyamoury: learning to open up
BDSM: An umbrella term for many kinky activities, and an initialism of bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism.
Mapping Montreal sex stores
Kink: Covers a wide variety of unconventional sexual practices, including things such as BDSM and various fetishes.
A survey of kink at McGill
Trans*: A trans* person is one whose assigned gender at birth does not align with their current gender identity.
Confronting stereotypes of virginity
Accounts of casual sex and the internet
Polyamoury: Includes many configurations of consensual, multi-partner relationships.
Interviewing Sexuality and Kink Advocacy
Many of these terms are broad umbrella terms without specific or objective definitions.
Genderqueer: A term used by people with non-binary (male/female) gender identities. Includes, for example, androgynous people and agender people.
January 28, 2013 | The McGill Daily
My love is not a battlefield First love and sexuality as a polyamourist Edna Chan The McGill Daily
f someone had asked my teenage self if I thought I’d be an a serious relationship by age twenty, I’d probably laugh and change the subject. But now, a month from my twentieth birthday, I’ve been in my first and only relationship for over two years, and I believe I have much to owe to the fact that the relationship has been open since it started. At the beginning, I wasn’t sure that I’d do much more than go on a couple dates with the man who now shares half the rent of an apartment with me. I knew he was in a very long-term, long-distance relationship with someone else at the time, and I knew they were polyamourous, but I didn’t know how well I could handle being involved with someone who was in love with someone else. To be sure, in two years there have been a fair share of stumbles and awkward conversations as we felt our way around what worked, but it has, for the most part, worked. When telling people that I’m in an open relationship, I’m often asked, “What does that mean, exactly?” From having met and talked with other polyamourists, I know the arrangements and configurations of relationships are nearly endless. Some couples have ‘tiers’ of relationships (primary partners, secondary, et cetera). Some are open to the idea of their partners sleeping with others, so long as they’re willing to share. While I know that monogamous relationships also have their own sets of rules, implicit or explicit, the strictness and specificity of those rules in polyamorous relationships range so widely that it would be absurd to say “‘x’ is how a polyamourous relationship should work.” In my experience, the first mental images of polyamoury conjured up by people unfamiliar with the idea lean towards either religious polygamy, as ‘popularized’ by shows like Sister Wives and Big Love, or a free-spirited communal group-love. I admit that the latter was an idea that circulated in my mind for a while – did I have to date both of them? As it turned out, I was essentially a fourth addition to a linear arrangement of partners. My relationship with my boyfriend is entirely distinct from his relationship with his girlfriend, and that in turn is separate from her other serious relationship. What I initially feared might be some kind of sexual free-forall turned into a deeply intimate commitment to one man, with an allowance that I might someday
make deeply intimate commitments to other people and still be with him. For the better part of a year, I barely considered dating or sleeping with other people, but the fact that the option existed was hard to ignore. When friends complained of being attracted to people outside their relationships, or of their fear of commitment to a single person, I couldn’t help but feel a bit smug. Once I did eventually decide to try having casual sex with other people, I found myself empowered by the ease with which I could let those people walk in and out of my life, demanding nothing and sharing only the time and intimacy I decided to share – all within the security of knowing I was loved and cared for. Of course, I was not without issue – another question I’m frequently asked about my relationship is some variation of ‘How come you don’t get jealous?’ or ‘Doesn’t it bother you to have to share?’ I’ve heard many times, from people in various types of relationships, that in monogamy, a bit of jealousy is healthy, and in polyamoury, it’s unhealthy. This dichotomy terrified me. Jealousy and insecurity plagued me like it does many in their late teens, but I felt particularly burdened with the idea that I was supposed to strive to get rid of those feelings to satisfy the terms of our relationship. I couldn’t fathom a way to just be rid of my jealousy, to suddenly overcome and not mind at all that someone might occupy a more important part of my partner’s romantic life than me. The struggle in my relationship wasn’t about trying to get rid of jealousy, but rather confronting the things that made me jealous in the first place. Sometimes jealousy isn’t about covetousness or spite. Sometimes it’s about a genuine, though misguided, fear of losing someone important, and that fear was what I had to deal with, not the symptomatic jealousy that resulted. I’ve grown in immeasurable ways in the last two years, and while not all those ways are explicitly connected to my relationship, there are things that would be entirely different if I hadn’t learned to be a polyamourist. I wouldn’t have explored half the number of kinks I now frequently enjoy, and I’m not sure I would have come out as queer, or as genderqueer. I believe the freedom to experiment coupled with the assurance that I was not unlovable made all the usual, tumultuous self-discovery of late teenagehood a much better experience than it would have been otherwise. I also believe that it doesn’t work for everyone. I have met ex-
Illustration Amina Batyreva | The McGill Daily
polyamourists, who found that trying to juggle commitments with multiple partners, struggling with deal-breaking envy, working out the rules of their relationships, or any other number of factors made things too complex, or too painful, or otherwise unworkable. Some polyamourists, like the authors of The Ethical Slut (frequently hailed as the how-to guide of open relationships), suggest that many or most relationship problems could be solved with polyamoury, and encourage all to rethink the monogamous concept of love ingrained in all of us since childhood. As much as I have come to love the feeling of having my options open, if
I had become involved with a less patient or compassionate person, or if I hadn’t had help getting over my feelings of inadequacy, or if I hadn’t awkwardly blurted out my feelings at inopportune moments and ended up having painful but necessary conversations, I might have decided a long time ago that polyamoury was not for me, and left it at that. Some people emotionally require polyamoury, the same way some people are naturally monogamous. On the other hand, I followed a learning curve between the assumptions I had been taught to make, and the reality of admitting and being okay with the fact
that I, and people I love, can be interested in multiple people. Learning to pursue those interests in a way that doesn’t hurt me or my partner has taken time, too, and naturally, the easier-said-thandone heart of all good relationships is communication. It might turn out that at thirty years old, I’ll be in a serious relationship with one person, or two, or three, or none. Whatever the case, I’m certain the experiences I’ve had with polyamoury will have formed a good foundation for a willingness to explore and share those relationships if I have them, and to know how to take care of myself if I don’t.
The Sex Issue
Selling in Montreal
11 Ste. Catherine West
Boutique Erotika is comprised of two separate stores, situated side by side near the Place des Arts area of Ste. Catherine. One side is a couples-friendly, browsable boutique that runs the gamut of sexual accessories, from fabulously expensive glass dildos and butt plugs to pleather corsets and lingerie, as well as a small selection of BDSM and fetish gear. Next door, in a much smaller store, the walls are lined with an incredibly extensive selection of vibrators, dildos, and fleshlights. If the first portion of Boutique Erotika is boutiquey, the second is closer to a hardware store – you can get a pregnant torso with a built-in vaginal stimulator, a remote-controlled vibrator that clips to the inside of your underwear, or a doubleheaded, flexible dildo. Don’t be intimidated, though – the clerks are friendly and laid back, happy to point out favourites or leave you to your browsing. This is a sex-store multi-plex. Best for: Particular shoppers who either know exactly what they want or are ready to be guided.
We sent some intrepid reporters out on the town to browse a selection of Montreal’s sex shops. Here are their conclusions, so that you can find the best fit – product, location, and price-wise – for all of your sexual needs. Compiled by Tom Acker, Kate McGillivray, and Queen Arsem-O’Malley
1821 Ste. Catherine West
Boutique Romance, nestled in close to Concordia’s downtown campus, is a bit of a catch-all sex store. They have a basic selection of toys, games, lingerie, and fetish gear, all presented in a brightly-lit, no-nonsense environment. If they specialize in anything, it’s pornography – one side of Boutique Romance is devoted to a Boite Noire-style selection of DVDs, complete with detailed categories. Gay or straight, home-grown Quebec productions or big-budget Hollywood, hardcore BDSM or First Wives Club parody – if you have a DVD player, this place can fill it. The staff were friendly enough, though the sheer number of them clumped at the cash area – three or four in the small store – led to some trepidation in approaching. Best for: Porn lovers who won’t risk a crappy internet connection getting in the way of a good time.
Helpfulness of Staff Convenience Environment
2061 St. Denis (at Sherbrooke)
Condoms are the thing at La Capoterie. In look and feeling, this narrow St. Denis store is like a latex candy store, with two walls lined with every conceivable brand, texture, size, and flavor of condoms. Best sellers include the Japanese-made Kimono brand – a satiny, ultra-thin rubber – as well as novelty options like black licorice flavoured and glow-in-the-dark. Along with the cornucopia of condoms, La Capoterie also stocks a small selection of dildos, vibrators, lubricants, and fleshlights, erotic literature (mostly in French), and a ton of jokey games and gifts for those with a taste for dick-in-cheek humour. Dick-shaped pasta? A lollipop that looks like a pair of boobs? La Capoterie’s got you covered. Best For: First-time browsers and seekers of novelty gifts. Helpfulness of Staff Convenience Environment
Helpfulness of Staff Convenience
3511 Peel (Brown Building, third floor)
Run by McGill Health Promotion, the Shag Shop is the only on-campus sex shop and doubles as a great resource for information about sexual health. With its incredibly convenient location in Student Health Services (next to the walk-in clinic in the Brown Building), a huge selection of 25-cent condoms is just a few steps away. The Shag Shop’s knowledgeable staff can point you in the right direction for all your (incredibly affordable) sexual health needs – the shop carries non-hormonal contraception methods, pregnancy tests, and alternative menstrual products – as well as sexier stuff like lubricants, vibrators, and massage oils. The Shag Shop closes at 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, so make sure to check it out on your lunch break.
1311 Ste. Catherine East
Just two blocks from Beaudry metro station, Priape is located in the heart of the Gay Village. Priape could pass for a clothing store were it not for all the leather and lube. The first floor is composed mostly of form-fitting t-shirts and what could pass for workout wear. Near the cash register is a wide selections of lubes, including silicon and water-based lubes as well as pastes for more extreme play. Downstairs there is a huge selection of dildos, ranging in length, girth, materials, and price, alongside a small selection of vibrators. There is also a huge selection of leather products (produced on-site in their leather workshop) ranging from leather pants and vests to several types of harnesses. Full-body latex body suits, doggy collars, ball gags, and a huge selection of bondage gear round out an impressive selection of kinky options. Staff members were very helpful and knowledgeable, and didn’t crowd or pressure me to make a purchase. The store is definitely geared towards the queer set although the options are there for anyone who is curious for a good kink store. Price-wise, it’s a broad range, with some items easily in the $80 to $90 range, though always with cheaper options available. On average, prices are on par with your typical sex shop.
Best for: Students who need to pick up basics and/or information on sexual health options.
Best for: Leather fanatics and those looking to add a little kink to the bedroom.
Helpfulness of Staff
Helpfulness of Staff
January 28, 2013 | The McGill Daily
Boutique Sexe Cité 6325 St. Hubert
Located near Beaubien metro station, Sexe Cité is probably the farthest out of the way for most McGill students, but its selection makes it worth the trek. Sporting a huge collection of lingerie and sexy costumes as well as a wide array of dildos and vibrators, Sexe Cité’s first floor is a treasure trove of goodies. A good selection of cheap lube, as well as fun additions like edible chocolate and sex-related board and card games make Sexe Cité a friendly and inviting place to shop. The staff are helpful, but hands-off enough that you will have to approach them for help. The spaciousness of the interior and the friendly staff create a very relaxed environment which can be good for anyone nervous to try out a sex shop for the first time. There is also a small kink collection on the second floor, which includes a selection of leather items. Prices are very reasonable across the board for the sex toys, but the lingerie and costumes can get onto the pricey side.
Best for: First-time sex shoppers, and those in search of the perfect vibrator. Beaudry
Helpfulness of Staff Convenience Environment
Peel Saint-Laurent Beaudry
The Sex Issue
Kink Survey Results Demographics 438 total respondents 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26+
U0 U1 U2 U3 U4
% of students who reported they have participated in activity they consider â€œkinkyâ€? by faculty
Sex Toy Owners
34% own a sex toy
The Porn Kinks
What kinks people like to watch
Other (7%) 68%
Sex in Public Exhibitionism
Frequency with which students watch porn
Less than once a month
Once a month
2 to 3 times a month
Once a week
2 to 3 times a week
January 28, 2013 | The McGill Daily
65% have participated in activity they consider “kinky” Have tried
Want to try
Sex In Public
“She pushed me face-down on the bed, pulled my head back with a ﬁstful of my hair, and told me what a good slut I was and how I should never let anyone tell me that I was a bad feminist for wanting this.” “A girl once said she hated me, punched me in the face three times, and then blew me.”
“Once my partner poured hot wax on my legs and stomach and then proceeded to put an ice cube inside of my body using his tongue.”
9% 8% 8%
Never Have I Ever
The Kinkless Of the 35% that haven’t participated in activity they consider “kinky”, these are their reasons why
Taking a look into what students have done Yes
Have been restrained by a partner
Have done the restraining
Have experimented with BDSM
Have been spanked by a partner
Have done the spanking
Enjoyed receiving pain during sex
Experimented with food and sex
Had sex in public
No Partner Apprehensive to try Prefer to fantasize No willing partner Feel uncomfortable asking Anxious I would be judged
“I had a 3-way with my BF at the time and his best GF in the sporting goods section at a 24-hour Walmart.” “Getting choked during sex has been one of the hottest things I've experienced in bed.” “Met my master in his hotel room, the moment I walked in he was able to grab me, throw me over his lap and spank me til I was good enough to receive my orgasm.”
“[I had] sex in a university building restroom late at night, using a coat hanger for support.” “This summer in New York, I met up with a date in a public park at night. One thing led to another, and next thing I knew, he had his hands up my dress and he was ﬁngering me. Eventually, I took over and he pinched my nipples until I had an amazing orgasm, right there in the park, behind a tree.”
The Sex Issue
The 22-year-old virgin Text: Megan Masterson | Photos: Hera Chan
’ll begin with a confession (although, perhaps confession isn’t the right word; an acknowledgment? An admission? A revelation?): I am a 22-year-old virgin. Penetration has always been pretty excruciating for me. Whether tampons, fingers, or penises, I tend to be wary of anyone (or thing) inside me. I have only been with men, and of those men, I have tried having sex with two. I describe my experiences with those two men as attempts. They were never able to penetrate – endeavouring to get inside me for only a few short moments before retreating, glancing at me like they had shattered my sexual facade, realizing the utterly breakable virgin which lay beneath. Recently – with three years of sexual exploits in Montreal under my proverbial belt – this has become less excruciating and more nerve-wracking. I have yet to master the art of the ‘virginity discussion’ and while I don’t feel the need to talk about it with all of my sexual partners, I do consider its admission to be central to my own enjoyment of sexual encounters. I feel more confident expressing my needs after I’ve voiced the reality of my... well...relatively narrow vaginal canal. The start of this discussion is often the same: a dark room, a bed of messy sheets, and two people undressing one another. It is in this moment of kissing and fumbling that I usually decide whether to state “I’m not going to have sex with you” or “I’m not going to have sex with you...because I’ve never slept
with anyone.” I have learned to be stern and straight with both statements; I have no interest in ambiguity. In a society in which sexual refusal can be flirtatious and silence misconstrued as consent, my vocality is my security. Still, a deep anxiety roots itself within my chest before these conversations. I haven’t reached a point at which I can boldly state that I am a virgin without a cascade of justifications. I usually stick to, “No, but seriously, I swear it’s not like I’m a religious zealot or anything” and “I guess I’ve just dated shitty dudes.” Mainly, I try to express the fact that I have waited (and am waiting) to be with someone I trust. To be clear, I am not waiting for a bed of roses, nor a soulmate. I am, however, waiting to be with someone with whom I can discuss sex (or my lack thereof) openly and honestly. While I don’t question my decision to keep most Ps out of my V, I nonetheless sense that these justifications are necessary – for myself, partners, and friends. Although reactions to the news vary, responses from guys (especially those interested in pursuing a more long-term hookup) generally range from neutrality to negativity. Furthermore, I find that my explanations usually fall within three realms: the realm of my sexual identity, my feminist identity, and my hazy identity as a twenty-something. *** Following the initial – and incredibly unoriginal – question of “why?” I usually confront three follow-ups: why play into a
false notion of virginity? How can you be so sexual if you’re a virgin? And, in so many words, are you damaged goods? Of those three questions, a critique of virginity is the only conversation I find worthwhile. In any discussion of ‘virginity,’ a consideration of vocabulary is central. The North American notion of virginity is steeped in racialized, classed, and heteronormative assumptions, and to ignore these would be irresponsible as a self-proclaimed feminist and, more importantly, as a critically-thinking human being. Stereotypical images of virgins get recycled throughout our media; I would argue, though, that few virgins manage to fulfill them. These images include not only an intact hymen but also a sense of sexual innocence and virtue (traits, I might add, that seem more politically powerful for the patriarchy than for virgins themselves). This imposed fragility eclipses the wide-ranging reality of virgins. Since arriving in Montreal, I’ve met countless women who break the virgin mould. Some of us are waiting for marriage and some of us are waiting for someone to bother putting sheets on their bare mattress; some of us have never been kissed and some of us regularly bring partners home; some of us have had penetrative sex but still choose to self-identify as virgins. And yet, we only have this one word – a word that has been raked over and imbued with meaning and politically mobilized – with which to describe ourselves. The idea of
virginity and its accompanying expectations has become yet another site for the control of female sexuality and, when discussing it, I am reminded of the fact that this word utterly fails to speak to my experiences. Nevertheless, I use the word virgin. More than anything, I use it for its ease; I use it because blurting out, “I’m a sexually active woman who has had a couple penises kind-of-inside-her-but-not-really so please be aware of my needs” is an awkward sentence, and would delve into a conversation that I’m not always interested in having with casual partners. Basically, I use the word virgin with partners to describe my own needs. For me, my virginity – whether a construct or not – means that putting a penis inside me is going to be difficult. It means I need someone who will be careful and understanding. I know a lot of women who do not identify as virgins who still require that from their sexual partners. But for me, there can be a lot of comfort in playing into this trope when I renegotiate those meanings for my own experience. Problematizing the notion of virginity, however, is rarely a question I face in the bedroom; more often than not, my sexual subjectivity is questioned. Picture this: I am on my 16th-floor balcony with a guy – a very handsome guy who studies music and tells funny jokes and is a truly charming human being. We spent the evening in general revelry, dancing and imbibing and, later in the evening, kissing in a corner of the bar. Before head-
January 28, 2013 | The McGill Daily
ing home, I made it clear that I didn’t want to have sex, and out on the porch I decided to tell him the whole truth (and nothing but the truth…so help me God). His response to my declaration – like countless others before him – was, “But you’re so...sexual.” In my experience, this is the most frustrating (yet amusing) response. I am, in fact, a woman who holds her sexual subjectivity to be central to her identity. For my music man, it was confusing that I could have possibly cultivated such sexual understanding and – even more surprising – that I was so comfortable expressing that sexuality. I do my best to be aware of my sexual needs, to be open to new sexual encounters, and to put myself in situations in which I feel happy, sexy, and safe. Still, I often confront a narrow image of virginity – one in which virgins are angelic and uninformed – which stands in direct contrast to my identity as an outspoken sexual subject. Does being a virgin make me less of a sexual subject? And does feeling like a sexy lady make me a bad virgin? At times, I feel trapped in a strange space in between. It can make me feel uncomfortable, insecure, or even angry with myself (which, inevitably, leads to my feeling angry with the social constructs that made me uncomfortable/insecure/angry in the first place). There is a sense of shame deeply ingrained in virgins, especially those of us over the ‘appropriate’ age of virgindom. It is not that my friends and partners’ issues make me reconsider my decision to have not had sex up until this point; it is more that I feel like I deserve to be an oddity – like maybe I should feel more inclined to question myself. I feel trapped within a strange Foucauldian cycle in which I must constantly talk about not-wanting-to-talk-about my dirty little secret. I’m not sure whether to
desperately search for a means of liberation from this cycle, or whether it’s a meaningful space within which to dwell. *** Fast forward two years from the music man and I am once again standing on my balcony. I have a new haircut and a new man with me. This time he is a chef and has just made a crude joke about a blow job. He is expecting one because I am a virgin and I am feeling angry because that is unacceptable. This sense of entitlement – derived from my virginity – is weird and something I’ve encountered often. Some guys, not often as explicit as my chef friend, expect a consolation prize for the lack of penetrative sex. If I don’t mention my virginity, I’m usually regarded as a tease – so sexual and yet not willing to ‘go all the way.’ These are my least favourite kinds of sexual encounters and, needless to say, I kicked out my chef friend (as I do with any man who treats me this way). Friends and partners try to make sense of my decisions by positioning me within a set of acceptable tropes that, when considered together, are pretty ludicrous. Being a virgin is complicated and awkward and strange and sometimes it really does make me feel like damaged goods. Rationally, I identify that much of this discomfort comes from the problematic images of female sexuality that I confront throughout society. To repeat the oft-mentioned and nevertheless well-founded argument, we consider women as existing at two ends of the spectrum. If a woman isn’t having all the sex all the time, she’s probably having none of the sex(ual encounters) none of the time. Furthermore, if a woman isn’t out and proud about whatever sexual decisions she’s making, then she is probably working
through some serious sexual issues. The radical feminist within me feels the need to constantly debunk whatever title it is that I am expected to embody in any given moment. All I know is that these typecasting experiences make me feel worn out. I am tired of feeling obligated to explain that yes, I just want to trust my first penetrative partner and that no, I do not know why I haven’t met someone like that yet. Instead, I’d like to hold a sign that reads: If I’m okay with my sexual history, why does everyone else seem so preoccupied with it? And why (why, why, why) does it feel like my virginity keeps sabotaging potential relationships? *** In the interest of full disclosure, I’m writing this three days, seven bottles of wine, and countless self-deprecating jokes out of a two-month (non)relationship. As it was a (non)relationship, my previous partner was not my boyfriend; we did not discuss exclusivity nor did we exchange anything but meaningful “I really like you”s. We did, however, kiss each other in front of our friends; we celebrated my mother’s birthday on a double-date with her boyfriend; he slept in my childhood bed with me; and we discussed – honestly and candidly – my insecurities about being a ‘virgin.’ As such, I’m feeling pretty blindsided, pretty dispirited, and pretty full of rage – depending on the moment you catch me and the amount of liquor I’ve consumed. For us, sex became elided with relationships, which became elided with cold feet and a surprise break-up. To avoid diving off the deep end into a pool of bitter diatribes, I will stay concise. I cared a lot for him. It was a mixture of both
trust and timing that kept me from sleeping with him. I needed to trust that he would still be around two imaginary weeks from now – inviting me to shows and drinking beer on my couch. But he won’t be. He ended our (non) relationship because “sex means different things to us.” And, admittedly, it does. While a sense of pride makes me want to indignantly argue that he stop assuming what sex means to me, I was pretty forthcoming on the subject. I do feel indignant, however, that he did not communicate honestly with me prior to ending things. His quiet brooding on the subject of my sexuality makes me really hesitant to be quite so straightforward next time. So, in launching into the future of Montreal dating, what do I do? If I keep scaring everyone off with my ‘virginity,’ how will I get to a point at which I trust someone enough to sleep with them? Do I heed my own advice and stop talking about it? Keep it quiet until I’ve ensnared someone using my virginal wiles? As indicated by my choice to publish a Daily article about my sex life, I clearly don’t intend to follow those paths. It was a strange series of events that led to this ‘coming out’ article, and it has been a thought-provoking process. Why don’t I stop talking about my virginity and just go have some casual sex? And moreover, why would I write this if I want all of you to stop talking about my virginity? I guess, though, that this question of why is exactly what’s been plaguing me. Why am I so sexual and why am I virgin and why do I feel the need to write about it? I think, oddly enough, that my response to all of these questions is the same: because in this moment, it feels right, it feels exhilarating, and it feels true. As my sexuality continues to evolve, so too will these answers. I hope that this piece can become situated within a broader discussion that questions not why I am a virgin, but rather, why everyone else cares.
The Sex Issue
Three new messages Stories about casual sex and the internet in the gay male community Allen Tahm*
Illustration Amina Batyreva | The McGill Daily
t’s Friday, the last day of my family vacation. I’m laid out on a New Jersey beach with my family nervously checking my phone for a new text message. Earlier in the week I had downloaded the gay cruising app Grindr and made a profile with what I hoped was my sexiest pic, a shirtless photo of me at the beach. I had downloaded the app partially out of curiosity and partially out of the boredom that family vacations bring. When the first message came in I quickly replied, trying to keep my phone surreptitiously out of the view of my parents and sisters. Within four days of having downloaded the app, I had exchanged dirty messages to a guy two towns over, swapped sexy pics with at
least five or six other people, and almost met up with someone who, in his own words, “would love to suck my cock.” On Thursday I chatted with a goodlooking 30-year-old who wanted to meet up with me. After exchanging text messages we agreed to meet the next day in the afternoon, three hours before I left to get on a bus back to Montreal to start the new school year. On the beach at 1:00 p.m. that day, my phone finally buzzes. “We still on?” he asks. I stare at it for a few seconds debating if I really want to do this. “Yeah, I’ll be there in an hour,” I text back. I lay back in the beach chair and try to play it cool but my leg won’t stop twitching and I feel like I’m going to vomit.
January 28, 2013 | The McGill Daily
rindr, the gay hookup app that boasts over 1.5 million users in the U.S. and Canada alone, is by far the most popular among a series of geo-location hookup and dating apps that emerged with the advent of the smartphone. They easily allow men to find other men in their vicinity who are looking to get off. While not explicitly for sex – the website says the app can be used to “find local gay, bi, and curious guys for dating or friends,” – it is widely known among the gay community as the hookup app. As one friend bluntly put it, “If you’re looking on Grindr for a boyfriend, then you’re in the wrong place.” Besides Grindr, certain apps are specific to particular gay subcultures, including Scruff (for Bears and Otters), Recon (for Kink and Fetish), Mister (for Mature), among others. Grindr is the most recent permutation in online gay hookups. Older sites like Manhunt, Adam4Adam, Gay.com, DaddyHunt, and FindFred, among others, have been around for the better part of a decade and have been helping men find casual sex with other men for years. Before the internet, cruising had already been a well-established practice among gay men for the better part of the last century. *** “I didn’t expect my summer thing to be an intergenerational bondage threesome.” Dan* and I found ourselves in similar situations at the start of last summer. Both upset with our current love lives and looking for better connections, we turned to online dating to see if we would have better luck. Dan had been on OKCupid, a site used mainly for dating rather than casual sexual relationships. After quitting a few months earlier, Dan decided to reactivate his profile last summer after moving to Toronto. Hoping for more of a relationship than a hookup, Dan went on one date. Things didn’t work out. Midway through the summer Dan downloaded Grindr and began chatting with an older couple that was looking for a third. After meeting the couple at their home and getting to know them over a glass of wine, Dan had his first three-way experience with an older couple. While Dan was sexually active, he remained a virgin by choice. “I wasn’t necessarily happy with not having had intercourse, but I didn’t feel like I needed to go out just to do it.” He adds, “after a while I felt like, you know what, if I waited this long I might as well keep holding out.” His experience with the couple the first time left him feeling good about the experience, although he still was seeking out a romantic relationship for the rest of the summer. Dan had a series of sexual encounters in which the lines between sex and romance blended, which left him confused. “I’ve had an experience being intimate with someone emotionally and sexually, and been really
hurt. And so I kind of went into the experience with them thinking I had to be comfortable with what I was doing. I wasn’t going to allow myself to be hurt again.” Two weeks later, Dan contacted the couple again. On his second experience with the couple, he had sex for the first time. “I think the fact that I was able to actually sleep with them speaks to the fact that I knew I was comfortable and confident in what I was doing. I never felt bad about the entire thing. There was a moment after we had come, I went to the bathroom to clean up and I was looking at myself in the mirror and I had a very movie moment where I realized I could look at myself in the mirror and I don’t feel ashamed and I don’t feel embarrassed. I was like, ‘Woah, I just did that and I don’t feel bad about it and I don’t feel ashamed about it. Good for you.’” *** In the shower, I am pretty sure I won’t go through with it. My whole body feels nervous and shaky. I am forgetting how to do basic tasks. I drop my body wash for the fourth time. Something about this is exhilarating though. I will do it, I tell myself. It’s important that I do this. I don’t know why, but it is. I change into my running shorts and choose to do twenty more sit-ups before I leave for his house. My sister is in the living room when I pass her and she asks where I’m going. “Just a run,” I say, quickly evading her questions. I grab a cup of water because my mouth is so dry that the skin on my lips has started to peel into little clumps. With my back to my sister, I pour myself a healthy double shot of vodka. I put it back quickly and put on my running shoes. My fingers slip twice before I knot them. “I’ll see you in an hour,” I tell my sister and I open the door. The sun is bright and hot when the door opens and I instantly begin to sweat. “And here we go,” I say to myself and I start running across the asphalt toward this stranger’s house. Standing in front of the door, I ring twice before he answers. There is a fire station across the street and for some reason I think they know what’s going on. My mind offers me brief glimpses of being arrested. The door opens and he is standing in front of me. He’s shorter than I expected, but the pictures were more or less accurate. We make small talk for a few minutes. He gets me a bottle of water. I finish about half of it and stop him mid-sentence. “So where’s the bedroom?” He goes down on me first and after a few minutes we switch. “Do you want to fuck?” he asks me. I do. He gets up for a minute to put on the condom and I look out the window and I can see the ocean from a crack of space between two houses. The sex is amazing. I ask him to start slow and he does until I’m comfortable, and then he lets loose. The sex is so good that I start making
noises that I’ve only heard in porn. The whole experience feels out-ofbody. I start doing things I’ve never done before. He slaps my ass at one point and I squeal. It lasts about 15 minutes, and afterwards we lay back panting. I ask him if I can use his bathroom. I steal some of his toothpaste and then come back into the bedroom and get dressed. As I am putting on my running shoes we make a little more small talk and exchange email addresses. “I had fun,” I tell him. “Yeah, we should do it again,” he says. Two minutes later I am in front of our family’s beach house again. No one is home.
OF THE WEB
*** Patrick* had spent the summer in Washington, D.C. working an internship at the Smithsonian. While he and his boyfriend were in a long-term relationship, they had briefly discussed being non-monogamous before the summer began. “It was totally underdiscussed, which was a problem, but I had been thinking about it since December.” After his boyfriend had an experience with someone else, Patrick joined Manhunt, a hookup website used almost exclusively for casual sex. After two encounters – one completely negative and another more positive – Patrick realized that the pressures of casual sex weren’t worth the pay off. In the end, he chose to stay monogamous with his boyfriend. While he valued his experience from the summer, he takes issue with how people, and especially the queer community discusses and thinks about sex. “There is the categorization of people who somehow find attachment to sex to be ‘clingy.’ They’re seen as hopeless, or crazy, or delusional, or naive, or pathetic, and often gendered to be effeminate. I’m really against the idea that it’s more mature or progressive to have sex without attachment.” *** Three hours later, I’ve packed up all my things and am waiting in Port Authority for my bus back to Montreal to arrive. I send my best friend from home a text. “I just had sex with a random guy off Grindr.” She texts me back. “Really? Wow.” I don’t text her back. On the bus, looking out the window I try to remember the experience but it already feels like I’ve lost it. I keep waiting for the shame to come, but it doesn’t. I can’t stop smiling. I feel free and happy. A strange sense of pride fills up inside of me. I’m a person who can have sex with strangers, I think to myself. I can do that now. When I get home to my apartment, I put my SIM card back in my phone and my Grindr indicates that I have three new messages. I don’t answer any of them. *Names have been changed.
Working under the covers Erin Hudson | February 13, 2011 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2011/02/ working-under-the-covers-2/
From the body’s mouth
Ian Beattie | March 19, 2011 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2011/03/ from-the-bodys-mouth/
Sex and exhibitionism
Emery Saur | January 24, 2013 http://www.mcgilldaily.com/2013/01/ sex-and-exhibitionism/
The Sex Issue
Illustration Amina Batyreva | The McGill Daily
Let’s talk about sex (and kink) A discussion with Sexuality and Kink Advocacy
ormed as an interim SSMU club during the 2011-2012 academic year, Sexuality and Kink Advocacy (SAKA) is a new student group whose aim is to both educate and facilitate discourse on topics of marginalized or minority sexuality and lifestyles, such as multiple-partner relationships, asexuality, role-playing, and BDSM. Amelia Mensch and Benjamin Elgie, executives and cofounders of the group, answered a few questions by email.
MD: This club was formed relatively recently – as the cofounders of the group, was there a particular niche you were trying to fill on campus? SAK A: What we found looking at the clubs and services on campus was a lack of any group dealing explicitly with sex and relationships, or certain marginalized sexual interests and lifestyles. Both Queer McGill (QM) and the Shag Shop touch on these issues, but it’s not really the focus of their mandates. Therefore, we wanted to make a club specifically for these subjects, and provide a
resource for students who might feel uncomfortable asking other groups about our topics. MD: Were there any obstacles in the formation or maintenance of the group, either structurally or individually? SAK A: Structurally, we haven’t really experienced any obstacles. SSMU has a fairly straightforward club formation procedure, and there was a similar (defunct) club predating us. Individually, though, as for any smaller club, it can be difficult to maintain an executive, so it’s mostly Amelia and Benjamin organizing things, which is a bit challenging when we’re busy with other priorities. MD: What sorts of events have you held? SAK A: We’ve held some smaller workshops, as well as a few bigger events with other groups. Our workshops thus far have included topics such as polyamoury, asexuality, and BDSM. Our larger events have included a safer sex and kink play discussion with the Shag Shop and an experienced member of the Montreal kink community, a film screening of (A)sexual with
Asexual Montreal, and a BDSM 101 & 201 introduction with QM. MD: What sorts of events would you like to hold in the future? SAK A: We’ve really enjoyed our experiences working with the student services on campus, like QM and the Shag Shop, and we’ve also had some success in joining up with off-campus groups for larger events, so we’d like to focus more on those and less on some of the club-only workshops we’ve run in the past. MD: You cover a fairly broad range of topics, from asexuality to polyamoury, and ostensibly, a long list of kinks and fetishes. How do you decide what to cover in workshops, or discuss during social events? SAKA: For social events, we don’t usually select specific topics but just discuss whatever comes up during the course of conversation. For workshops and larger events, though, we try to focus on topics that we have personal experiences with, or where we have individuals who can act as a resource on a specific topic (such as our workshop on safer sex and kink play). A
few times we’ve been approached by other people who have a topic they think would interest us, and if it’s appropriate, we’ve worked out an arrangement to co-present on that topic. MD: How would a student become a member of the group? SAKA: We don’t maintain a formal membership per se, so most people we’d consider members are people on our mailing list or members of our Facebook group. MD: When you’re trying to attract members, what kind of reception or reactions do you have from students? SAK A: Reactions have varied. We’ve mostly been recruiting at Activities Night, so we have a fairly eye-catching table with toys of various kinds to grab attention. We do seem to get more than our share of giggles, and some people who’ve come up have been either shy or ostentatiously open, but by and large the reactions have been pretty positive. MD: Do you have any affiliation or involvement with the broader kink community in Montreal? SAKA: We do work with some
groups such as the Alternative Lifestyles Community Centre (ALCC), mostly on poly and kink issues, and we’ve acted as a campus resource for Asexual Montreal. Some of our execs are active in those groups as well. MD: Along that train of thought, would you encourage students to get involved in the kink community, or other communities outside McGill? SAK A: We would definitely encourage students to get involved off-campus. The ALCC hosts a monthly meetup for people interested in polyamoury, and can be a good starting point for people interested in attending play parties or other kink events in Montreal. They also do some advocacy work for trans* people and members of other groups who may find themselves marginalized from the more mainstream parts of the scene. Asexual Montreal runs a meetup that we also direct people to if they’re interested, and we can pass them along for AM’s mailing list. —compiled by Edna Chan
The McGill Daily Monday, January 28, 2013 mcgilldaily.com
Illustration Joanna Schacter | The McGill Daily
The future of academic publishing What the Open Access movement is all about Fedor Karmanov The McGill Daily
The world’s entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations.” These were the words of Aaron Swartz, founder of Demand Progress, a grassroots organization concerned with civil liberties and government reform, and a relentless activist for the Open Access movement. Swartz was recently put on trial for illegally downloading over 4 million JSTOR articles through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) network, a crime for which he could have been sentenced to 35 years in prison had he not committed suicide before the verdict had been finalized. The tragic loss of Aaron Swartz raises many sensitive issues regarding internet law, but most of all it stresses the importance of the open access cause. So, what is the Open Access movement, and what is it trying to achieve? Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Open Access Project, defines Open Access as “literature [that] is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” This definition is usually, but not always, applied in the context of digitized scholarly articles and journals. While no single and unified Open Access organization exists, it is
generally accepted by Suber and other scholars that supporters of the Open Access movement expect publiclyfunded research to be royalty-free and publicly available on the internet. Nonprofits such as Public Library of Science, Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition, and Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association all strive to promote open practices within modern academia. Open Access, however, is up against a rigid academic system. In a past with no internet, journals were trusted sources of sharing academic knowledge; they disseminated information through a subscriptionbased service provided to academic and professional institutions. In today’s academia, journals rarely publish physically, instead opting for publishing through scholarly databases such as JSTOR. Multi-billiondollar companies such as Reed Elsevier, Thomson Corporation, and Kluwer Academic Publishers now own a significant portion of the top 7,000 journals currently in circulation. Subscriptions to these journals average thousands of dollars, while access to a single journal article can cost a non-subscriber up to $50 to access. In the eyes of Swartz, as well as many Open Access supporters, the soaring prices are hard to justify. Indeed, this paradox of pricing has been at the core of the Open Access argument. In 2009, the University of Illinois outlined that “between 1986 and 2004, journal expenditures of North American
research libraries increased by a staggering 273 per cent…[outstripping] inflation by a factor of almost four.” This has led universities to cancel journal subscriptions; in 2006 alone, the University of Illinois cancelled subscriptions to over 200 Elsevier journals, citing rising subscription costs as the issue. It seems as though individual users are not the only ones feeling the tight grip of big-business publishing. However, the opposition to academic journals is not only based on rising costs. In general, scholarly journals also tend to be extremely restrictive when it comes to their content. “There are certain journals that are considered top-tier, and they have control over the dissemination of ‘acceptable scholarly knowledge,’” said Professor Shaheen Shariff, of the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill, in an interview with The Daily. The idea that research should be free and open to the public has been an ideological driving force for the movement. Swartz’s “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto,” for instance, implies the moral danger of not resisting “the privatization of knowledge.” The monopoly on information is increasingly an issue for the scientific community; an issue to which making journals open access seems to be the only solution. Open Access publishing has been around for a while. Although it is difficult to accurately pinpoint the origins of the Open Access move-
ment, the Open Access Directory lists several peer-reviewed journals that started appearing within the first few years of the internet; between 1983 and 1990. Professor Gabriella Coleman, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill, suggests that the movement took off following the success of the Open Source movement, at the turn of the 21st century, which was primarily concerned with providing software free of charge to the public to promote learning. While Open Source has thrived, Open Access has remained relatively underground. The current academic system remains resilient to change despite the movement’s best efforts. “In the Social Sciences and Humanities, I do not know a single prestigious, long-standing, existing journal that has gone openaccess,” Coleman said in an interview. Reform, at least for now, does not seem to be the answer. Regardless, the Open Access movement has been picking up its pace. More and more open-access journals are being founded, the quality of which is steadily going up. Coleman asserted that “there have been a slew of journals [newly] established that are open-access, a handful of which are extremely well-regarded.” For researchers, going openaccess is now finally starting to pay off. A study titled “Do Open-Access Articles Have a Greater Research Impact?” – written by Kristin Antelman in College & Research
Libraries – has shown that openaccess articles do have a larger academic impact than those published in non-open journals, stating that “scholars in diverse disciplines are adopting open-access practices and being rewarded for it.” The movement itself is also swiftly gaining popular support. Following the death of Swartz, hackers have responded with several attacks on MIT’s home page, replacing its content to pay tribute to Swartz and his work. Many academics also began releasing their copyrighted works over Twitter for free, as an acknowledgement to Swartz’s efforts with regards to the Open Access movement. The trend, dubbed “#PDFtribute,” has, by some critics, been labeled as a form of “slacktivism” (lazy activism); however, it has undeniably raised awareness in the public eye for the looming issues of academic publishing. Academics, it seems, remain hopeful about the future of publishing. Shariff believes that, “given that we now live in a digital age, in an age of social communication, it [Open Access] is inevitable.” “It’s slow but marching forward,” agreed Coleman. “For now, it’s looking the way of Open Access.” In its current state, Open Access remains a moral alternative to the colossal publishing machines dominating the academic industry. Given time, however, Open Access may become the reality of all academic research.
The McGill Daily | Monday, January 28, 2013 | mcgilldaily.com
printf(Programming); // always in English? Looking at the prominence of English-based programming languages Omar Saadeh Science+Technology Writer
ommunication (originating from the Latin word communis, meaning to share) is an essential part of what defines us as human beings. In all societies, people use different languages to communicate. Language is the medium that we use to share emotions, experiences, and affections. Throughout history, different regions at different times used different languages. Yet to every civilization, there has existed a lingua franca, a common language that enables people of different mother tongues to communicate. In today’s technology-driven world, we are in constant communication through computers. Financial markets can move at a click of a mouse and I can Skype with my parents before going to sleep. Computer programming uses languages such as Java, C, HTML, and others, all of which have clear roots in the English language.
Origin The world’s first computer program is credited to an English mathematician by the name of Augusta Ada Byron, aka Ada Lovelace. She worked on Charles Babbage’s mechanical general purpose machine in 1830, the first machine that used an arithmetic logic unit, control flow, and integrated memory. Another Englishspeaker, American Dr. Grace Hopper, worked on the Bureau of Ordinance’s Computation Project at Harvard (an IBM project). She is credited with developing programs for the first automatically sequenced digital computer, the Mark I. Through the U.S. Navy’s wartime efforts in World War II, this was the first computer operated on a large scale, setting a worldwide precedent. Rather than dealing with specific memory addresses, stacks, and registers, a high-level programming language focuses on usability, offering a simpler way to program and use the computer system. In 1945, a German civil engineer by the name of Konrad Zuse designed the first high-level programming language, Plankalkül (“Plan Calculus”). Unfortunately, due to the wartime and postwar conditions in Germany, Plankalkül was never published, leaving the door open for another language to become the foundation of highlevel programming. Almost a decade later, IBM created their Mathematical FORmula TRANslation System, abbreviated to FORmula TRANslation, and further reduced to FORTRAN. In 1954, it was initially developed to compute lunar positions and is now regarded as the oldest high-level program-
ming language ever published.
Development of English-based languages After witnessing the potential of computers during World War II, Europe and North America wanted to employ a universal computing language between the two continents. Various languages were proposed, including IBM’s FORTRAN and Lisp (an American language used in the early development of artificial intelligence for the military). In 1958, however, at a conference in Zurich, both sides agreed to implement ALGOL, short for ALGOrithmic Language, another English-based language developed by a team of American and European scientists, as the universal standard. An interesting dilemma unfolded between IBM and the committee. IBM had allocated an enormous amount of resources to develop their programming language FORTR AN, and was resistant to forfeiting its investment. They claimed that ALGOL’s user experience was incomplete and required further development if it were to be considered the standard. However, the committee stuck to its decision. The employment of the ALGOL language was slow to catch on and was initially concentrated in academia. IBM, on the other hand, expanded globally and promoted FORTRAN as the lingua franca of the industrial computing world. The next big step in programming was real-time computing. In the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis and during the later years of the Cold War, the U.S. military was especially interested in the idea of real-time computing. At the time, conventional military tactics demanded information sooner rather than later. They wanted a platform that could control all tanks, planes, missiles, et cetera in a synchronized fashion. The military funded Project Ada, consisting of thousands of computer scientists collaborating over the course of several years. Project Ada formed the basis for real-time computing around the world – yet another English-based standard. In a post-W WII world, American superiority in commerce, technology, and military can be seen as the cornerstone of the English-language dominance of technology. It is evident that universal computer programming standards have been defined through players like American research institutions, private and public companies (such as IBM), and projects funded by the U.S. military. That being said, other countries have, both in the past and present, made pushes of their own.
Illustration Ariel Lieberman
The Non-English Languages Obviously, there are linguistic factors that can impact the building of a programming language. For example, one byte (consisting of 8 bits, and able to represent 256 characters) can more than represent all the characters in the English language. The Hanyu Da Zidian Chinese dictionary, as published in 1989, consisted of 54,678 distinct Chinese characters. A Chinese programming language would then require two bytes (representing 65,536 characters), a fundamental difference that would set it apart from an English-based language. Some may question the value of implementing a language requiring so many characters. That is not to say that non-English-based programming languages do not exist – they do. A quick Google search comes up with many results in many languages. Starting in the 1960s, the Soviet Union made many attempts at developing
its own languages. ANALITIK was designed initially domestically at the Institute of Cybernetics in Kiev. Yet many have noticed its resemblance to Western ALGOL-like languages. Research and development efforts in other countries such as Brazil, India, South Korea, and Singapore have also produced very capable and developing software industries. These up-andcoming players will undoubtedly participate on the global stage and may in the future put a dent in the English-dominated industry.
Does it matter? When the major programming languages are based in English, one wonders if fluency, or if you’re a native speaker, matters. Interviews with members of the McGill community suggest that this has a possible, but variable, effect. “I think programming code is sufficiently divorced enough from English such that the actual
language of the keywords used is irrelevant,” said Bentley Oakes, a second-year Master’s student in computer science. However, Michael Misiewicz (MSc ’12), a McGill graduate who now works at AppNexus Inc. in New York City, claimed that “… nearly everything to do with computers has been invented or designed in the U.S., mostly everything is in English. I’d say proficiency in written English is a requirement for complex technology work.”
What’s next Is the world moving away from a lingua franca of English? As with anything, it is difficult to predict, but as long as significantly more scientific research is published in English, and many computer-based industries are based in the West, incentives for the development and use of English-based standardized languages remain.
The McGill Daily Monday, January 28, 2013 mcgilldaily.com
Illustration Amina Batyreva | The McGill Daily
The aftermath of the lockout Players gain some key victories; fans return en masse Lewis Krashinsky Sports Writer
or five long, agonizing months hockey fans held their breath as the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and National Hockey League (NHL) negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Since September 15, 510 games had been cancelled. To fill that fathomless void, too many ‘non’ competitive games of Monopoly were played, too many trivial basketball games were watched, and too little beer was consumed. But on January 2, the lockout officially came to an end. In an exclusive interview with The Daily, Alexandra Dagg – the Director of Operations for the NHLPA – and former Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup winner Mathieu Schneider – now special assistant for the NHLPA – shared their opinions about the results and implications of the lockout. (No spokesman for the league could be reached). “It was a very difficult dispute. It had a lot of hallmarks of an irrational labour dispute which meant that it became very difficult to resolve, much more difficult then it should have been,” says Dagg. “But we had an amazing unified group of players…and they were incredible during a difficult period.” [Full disclosure: the author of this piece is closely related to Dagg.] “Given the circumstances we did really well,” says Schneider, “especially
[considering] the NFL [National Football League] and NBA [National Basketball League] deals done before us. We had to deal with a precedence of bad deals for players.” The NHL lockout followed disputes in the NFL and NBA, both of which were resolved more quickly, with the player unions making major concessions in both cases. This was the third lockout of Gary Bettman’s 19-year reign as commissioner of the NHL; an entire season was lost in 2004 and part of one in 1994. The new CBA includes a number of significant changes. Revenue shared between the players and team owners will now be split 50/50 – the players previously received 57 per cent. The new salary cap for players will be $64.3 million and the cap floor will be $44 million. For the first time in league history, the players will receive a pension plan. The main reason for this is that on average, NHL careers are very short. “The players have very short careers. It is important for the guys who do have short careers to have money saved for the future for when they are older,” says Dagg. “The average NHL career is only three years. There are three hundred players who make a million or less, [which is] a lot of money but that’s their lifetime achievement,” says Schneider. “[These players] work [their] entire lives for those three years, then they’re retired.” The pension plan is an often-overlooked part of the new deal that could make a big difference for the players, and is one of the few
victories the players gained in negotiations. “The pension was the only thing in the new CBA that went in the players direction, everything else was a concession to the owners, this was the only true significant gain for players,” says Dagg. The most notable clause in the new CBA is that the length of the deal will be ten years with an optout option after eight. “One benefit is that we have guaranteed labour peace for at least eight years,” says Schneider. “But the downside is that we are negotiating for kids that are ten years old. They don’t have a say in the system they are coming into.” “Players who aren’t playing yet will have no say in their working conditions; a big part of collective bargaining is that the workers participate in the process of negotiating their own working conditions, with players who have short careers, there could be a whole generation of players who don’t participate in it,” says Dagg. The length of the deal, despite the possible negative impact on future players, is tremendously reassuring to fans. “The assumption is that every single time the bargaining agreement expires there is going to be a lockout or a strike,” adds Schneider. Historically, though, this has been the case. When the agreement signed after the 2004 lockout ended, this lockout ensued. So what is there to stop this from reoccurring in eight years? The answer lies in the difference between the two disputes. The 2004
NHL lockout was characterized by the collapse of the players’ union. The owners walked all over the players, leading to the momentous implementation of a salary cap system. But this past lockout was quite different. “The way the players stood up for themselves makes it less likely to happen again. The unity and confidence of the players means they won’t be pushed around by the owners anymore,” says Schneider. The stronger the players’ union, the better the balance of power and thus a higher likelihood that the league will be willing to settle sooner, knowing that they can no longer gain so easily. “Both sides have to figure out how to build a positive relationship, one based on respect for the players and their role in the game, if that can be achieved it will help when we sit down again,” says Dagg. Hockey fans have endured rough times. They have seen more games lost due to labour disputes than any other sport in the past twenty years. They have seen an unyielding ignorance on the part of the NHL in maintaining struggling franchises in the Southern U.S. while potential prominent Canadian markets remain unventured. Now, with the end of a third lockout, the prevalent question remaining is whether the fans have had enough; are they fed up, or will their love of the game persevere? First-year McGill student and avid hockey fan Sason Ross shared his opinions about the post-lockout NHL with The Daily. “I have no lin-
gering anger toward either side. I was angry during the lockout. There were those days when I was just like, ‘god, I want there to be hockey’, but I’ve put that in the past like most fans should… however angry I was, my love for this beautiful sport will never change. Nothing could be done to take away my love for this game,” he says. These two past weekends, hockey fans like Ross returned in droves. The NHL experienced some of their highest ratings in recent history. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ opening game against the Montreal Canadiens on CBC drew 3.3 million viewers. The New York Rangers experienced their highest season opener rating since 1995 (the year after the Rangers won the Stanley Cup). The Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, and New Jersey Devils all experienced exceptionally high TV ratings as well. There is something about hockey that keeps drawing us back. From year to year, game to game, and shift to shift we cannot avert our eyes. Its history is ingrained with unforgettable moments of hardship and triumph. It has the flash of iconic heroes, the grind-it-out toughness of the common fan, and the struggle for relevance for teams with fan bases just looking for a winner to applaud. No other sport is as uniquely composed of strength, creativity, and devotion. While some might have turned their backs on hockey, most rejoice in the return of the game that continually captures their curiosity and passion.
The McGill Daily | Monday, January 28, 2013 | mcgilldaily.com
Illustration Julia Boshyk | The McGill Daily
Sports aren’t a bedtime story Manti Te’o, ‘chokers,’ and the media’s obsession with narrative Evan Dent The McGill Daily
Life’s single lesson: that there is more accident to it than a man can ever admit to in a lifetime and stay sane.” – Thomas Pynchon, V. The sports world, was shaken by the January 16 Deadspin.com report that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend was the product of an elaborate hoax (Te’o’s involvement in the hoax, or lack thereof, is still unknown). But read that sentence again. Think of how absurd it is. Te’o, a famed college football player and Heisman Trophy finalist, had a fake girlfriend, who, while never existing, died. Throughout the college football season, the media touted Te’o as an inspiration because he had played, and played exceedingly well, days after the (absolutely true) death of his grandmother and (absolutely untrue) “death” of his “girlfriend” on September 11 and 12, 2012. Fawning stories
about Te’o soon followed as more and more sportswriters found out about the hardships Te’o was playing through. Sports Illustrated ran a cover story on Te’o, his grandmother, and his “girlfriend.” But no one bothered to check whether any of it was real. The writer of the Sports Illustrated piece, Pete Thamel, admitted in January that he had run into some “red flags” while writing the piece (no obituary for Te’o’s “girlfriend,” no record of her in any student directory, et cetera), but had basically written around them at his editors’ behest. Herein lies the problem: the sports media is obsessed with narrative at the expense of good reporting. When the chance comes to tout a heartwarming story like the one revolving around Te’o (football player at beloved college leads team to upset in face of incredible adversity!), mainstream media has no reservations in running with it. Te’o’s story made Notre Dame’s undefeated season somehow better because it added gravitas and raised the stakes. The
story was certainly more compelling, despite how far it strayed from the truth. But the trend doesn’t end at just heartwarming stories. There are other narratives that the media promotes to add to the importance of the games they’re watching. For example, players who haven’t won a championship in their sport are often put into the ‘can they win the big one?’ story. If they continue to fall short, they are given the label of ‘choker’ – someone who fails in big moments. From that point on, the story becomes “can they show up or will they choke again?” These are the talking points for the 24-hour news cycle, a way to add stakes to the game. Players become defined by their mediacreated narrative; this narrative becomes an endlessly repeatable talking point. Such elaborate tales enable sports viewers a way to make sense of the unpredictability of the game. With the exception of a completely individual sport such as golf or gymnastics, where the
competition is centered on only one athlete, games are not decided by one action or one player. With each play of every game there are hundreds of things happening at once, each the reaction to another, each spawning new effects. You cannot encapsulate a game, much less a season, with one storyline. But the narrative complex chugs on, attempting to do just that. Sports are compelling precisely because they are so unpredictable; the better team on paper does not win every time. These surprising moments are why people continue to watch; nothing is assured. But the creation of a narrative is a way to hem in the randomness of every game. It’s more comforting when something falls into a predictable rhythm. The mass randomness of the sport is given a plot. Assigning the label of ‘choker’ to a quarterback is easier than considering that a team’s loss can never be attributed to just the quarterback. It’s easier to call the hockey goalie a ‘headcase’ than to explain the numerous offensive and defensive
mistakes that led to the loss. And it sounds better that the linebacker is making tackles all over the field in memory of his dead girlfriend. We want our scapegoats and we want our heroes; we want something to explain the outcome of every game. There are certainly patterns in sports; some teams or athletes spend a decade or more succeeding within their field. It’s part of the media’s role to notice these patterns better than anyone else, to point them out to the general public. They’ve erred, however, by narrowing these patterns into narratives. By simplifying or extrapolating something so much, it loses its veracity. It becomes easier, but less true. For the Te’o case, there was actually no substance: it was all a hoax. But the rest of the narratives fans hear every day on the radio, or read online, or watch on TV, are false in a different way. The complexity of the games, which should be compelling in its own right, have been elevated into something more palatable – a fable.
The McGill Daily Monday, January 28, 2013 mcgilldaily.com
Polish over passion AUTS’ West Side Story a modest success Nathalie O'Neill The McGill Daily
est Side Story, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet set in 1950s Manhattan, overflows with sizzling attitude, from its sassy leading ladies to its edgy rumble scenes. The original Broadway performance of Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim, and Leonard Bernstein’s musical caused a splash by tackling the gritty reality of New York gang rivalry, bringing the passion of the city’s divided youth to the stage. The Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society’s West Side Story borrows to a limited extent from the musical’s original inspiration, presenting a well-executed production that lacks emotion in some parts. Director Rebecca Pearl explains how, before the popularity of renowned shows such as Hairspray and Rent, West Side Story was the first Broadway musical to portray the experience of a young population. Pearl expresses some desire to play with the original script in her production. Musical numbers are switched around – the giddy and lovesick “I Feel Pretty” comes after, rather than before, the death of Maria’s lover, creating narrative irony. Pearl’s production retains the moral lesson Shakespeare first delivered in Romeo and Juliet: social groups must learn to live together despite their differences in order to avoid mutual self-destruction; the timeless lesson is clear in Pearl’s production. Romeo and Juliet’s narrative is universally relatable. West Side Story is also a compelling depiction of 1950s
Manhattan. Had she brought more of the original production’s intensity to AUTS’ version, Pearl would have delivered a richer, more engaging, and more authentic world. It is the contextual origin of West Side Story and its basis in real events, which renders its lesson so powerful. The underlying frustration of the gangs in their fight over their small turf, as they try to adjust and adapt to the realities of immigration, is a central pillar of West Side Story’s appeal. Although this came through in some of the musical numbers, at other times the portrayal bordered on the mechanical, as some cast members didn’t fully embody their characters’ turbulent emotions. Perhaps this is due to the cast’s unfamiliarity with certain aspects of musical productions. Most cast members had a background in acting, singing, or dancing – but rarely all three together. While this is understandable for a cast largely composed of non-theatre students, the choice of West Side Story may not be ideal for timid performers. It’s a show that needs confident leaping dance moves, powerfully clenched fists, and booming voices. The conviction that the characters have something to fight for must be communicated unequivocally to the audience. Pearl’s background as a dancer led her to focus on movement as an inherent part of West Side Story. The excitement of the dance choreography, intended for a large troupe, was not fully transmitted to the smaller cast of Pearl’s production. But fortunately, Pearl retains West Side Story’s classic moves, albeit on a smaller scale. The confrontations, orchestrated by fight choreographer Isaac
Robinson, contain some of the most successful movement in the production. A few clumsy face-slaps aside, Robinson manages to deliver visually compelling and emotionally engaging fight scenes while staying true to West Side Story’s iconic dance-fighting style. Brawls are fluidly executed as opponents dance around each other, dodging strikes. Vanessa Drusnitzer’s Anita and Ryan Kligman’s Riff deliver the most potent cool factor in the production. Garbed in brightly coloured taffeta and silk dresses, Anita and her cronies are bold, clever, and amusing. Drusnitzer has adopted the sashay and fiery sophistication that suit Anita so perfectly. Drusnitzer is passionate throughout, performing without lapse her dual role of confident, independent young lover, and distraught, vengeful widow. Kligman, as Riff, has all the self-assurance required to portray the leader of the Jets. While other gang members seem hesitant at times, Kligman plays a palpable Riff, successfully depicting a cool-headed leader with a passionate undercurrent. To Pearl’s credit, the soft aspects of the production are strong: Piper Ainsworth, as Maria, sings a stirring soprano. Christopher Stevens-Brown, as Tony, also has strong potential as a vocalist, but is, at times, pushed to sing out of his range, lending a halting cadence to the couple’s duets. Choosing such a successful and popular musical poses a great challenge to any director, who must inevitably live up to the notable versions already produced. Like many classic musicals, West Side Story calls for a highly dramatic performance, a strong communication of the unique
Photo Victor Tangermann | The McGill Daily
historical circumstances of the tale that reaches out to audience members through fervent emotion. While the plot is sufficiently poignant to make almost any production enjoyable, Pearl’s production, although
solid, is at times hindered by its lack of confidence. West Side Story runs January 24 to 26 and January 31 to February 2 at Moyse Hall.
Froshies to big fishes A user’s guide to the user’s guides Tobias Atkin Culture Writer
s first-years come of age with the help of the traditional campus-adjacent dipsomania, they may gradually find themselves seeking those activities – those trappings of identity! – in which the McGill hoards are not as involved. Such is growing up and escaping the McGill bubble. In an effort to provide sources of those ‘extra-extra-curricular’ events, I’ve reviewed three websites, each of which covers a unique slice of Montreal culture for the curious freshman. For the pusillanimous (read:
nerds), the problem presented by next Saturday night’s activity is resolved by Midnight Poutine (midnightpoutine.ca). This blog has the prototypical array of concert updates and reviews of music and restaurants. Its staffers manage to cater to two important subgroups of the undergraduate population, the hipsters and the hipster-foodies, in their frequently updated and sometimes lacklustre culture pieces. The offerings are supplemented by a music podcast that defies categorization as anything but ‘quirky’ or ‘eclectic’ – much as I imagine the people responsible for it do – with a selection of songs by the likes of Bob Dylan, Peaches, and Diamond
Rings. But that’s not to say that their choices are lacking quality – they include many fledgling and obscure Montreal-based groups. The Rover (roverarts.com) is an online journal that publishes reviews of visual art, books, theatre, film, music, dance, events, ‘trends,’ and festivals. Many of the city’s anglophone authors and literati are contributors, such as Marianne Ackermann, the Rover’s publisher and the author of the recent novel Piers’ Desire. Insightful, pithy, literary, and structured to promote interaction and commentary, the Rover is for the student with a minor in Art History who plans to study abroad at Paris IV-La Sorbonne; the kind of stu-
dent who spends their days luxuriously draped over the chairs at Blackader-Lauterman, staring out the windows and thinking of casual seduction. Indeed, in its layout and the quality of its reviews, the Rover is an excellent rebuttal to the idea that edited, researched journalism will atrophy as the internet usurps print’s traditional market. But sometimes, migration to the internet is an unwilling change, even a tragic one. Such was the case on June 22, 2012, when Montreal lost its Mirror, the free weekly that had been distributed since 1985. My grief had reached Hadean depths by the time I finally discovered the Mirror’s reincarnation, Cult MTL (cultmontreal.
com), a website launched by many of the Mirror’s former employees where they continue to publish the same sort of work: sex columnist Sasha answers your carnal questions and Johnson Cummins cites concerts for the coming week. Even the Rant Line is preserved! Best of all for our froshie friends, the right-hand sidebar has a ‘To-do list’ feature that lists all the goingson of the current day. Perhaps it takes a freshman to know a freshman. The truth is that my writing hides a sinister reality: my true rank in university. At least by surfing the three websites that have been examined, you don’t have to take my advice about what to go and experience.
The McGill Daily | Monday, January 28, 2013 | mcgilldaily.com
Cinema Politica: The People of the Kattawapiskak River January 28 7:00 p.m. Concordia Hall Building Room H-110 1455 Maisonneuve West By donation Timely as usual, Cinema Politica is screening a 2010 documentar y by Alanis Obomsawin about Attawapiskat. Filmed following the Attawapiskat housing crisis that made international headlines, the documentary sets out to interview the people of Attawapiskat and bring their voices to the discussion surrounding the desperate living conditions on the reserve, and First Nations issues in general.
Photo Courtesy of Film at 11
A noble inquiry Michele Mitchell’s Haiti: Where did the Money Go? Gaby Lai Culture Writer
ecently, the documentary Haiti: Where did the Money Go? was screened at Cinema Politica, followed by a panel discussion with indie production company Film at 11. The documentary itself aims to answer a very simple question. Billions of dollars have been raised internationally in the three years since Haiti was struck with an earthquake in 2010. Where did it all go? There has been plenty of talk centered on the efforts of charities and governments alike, but not much is known about the specific actions that have been taken. Michele Mitchell, American journalist, former political anchor at CNN, and director of the documentary, answered The Daily’s questions in a phone interview. Where did the Money Go? was created mainly for educational purposes, and had its first showing last year on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Despite the documentary being relatively new, it has already sparked increasingly active conversations concerning the role of international entities, the U.S. Congress, the Haitian government, and local NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in Haiti. While some felt that the documentary could build a greater understanding of the situation in Haiti, members of the Red Cross criticized the film as a rather misleading representation of their efforts in Haiti. Mitchell comes to the conclusion that
although the NGOs were wellintended, there was virtually “no accountability, no transparency, no cooperation, no reflection, and no effort on their part.” The film realistically documents thousands of camps lined with tarp tents and poorly-built hygiene stations amongst remnants of rubble and waste. Living situations were clearly unsanitary, and even after almost a year of relief efforts, no significant sign of change was spotted. When asked about this issue, Mitchell offers an explanation as to why money didn’t effectively create positive change. “People think, ‘well, it’s Haiti,’” she began. “It’s an urban disaster, [a] developing nation, and the government is corrupted. However, the problem with relying on that as a crutch is that the essential problem with the relief effort can be transported to almost any type of post-disaster [situation].” Mitchell explained that even in the United States – a first world country with a strong government – disaster relief following Hurricane Sandy wasn’t managed properly. Help from NGOs was not present when needed, and problems were blamed on the city, when apparently the Red Cross had close ties with the intended emergency plans. This constant blame game is only a fraction of what is preventing Haiti from making progress toward recovery. When it comes to the core issue of money management, the documentary leaves no space for sugar coating the problem at hand. Most strikingly, there is the misuse of aid money. The film
insinuates that this corruption is due to collusion between NGOs and the Haitian government. Mitchell states, “the issue of corruption comes up a lot, and there is no denying that there is an element of corruption. Any post-conflict expert will tell you that a government with no revenue and a lot of money washing around it [from the NGOs] [will see an increase in] corruption, not [a] decrease.” Economic distortions occur with regards to wages, the economy is exposed to crises and rents rise about 300 per cent, and the country becomes flooded with expatriates. There is also a problem with corruption and legitimacy in land ownership. Mitchell clarified this through interviews with families and individuals involved. Residents of the camps explained that supposed landowners would sometimes bulldoze inhabited campsites in order to claim land. With official documents lost during the disaster, it becomes hard to determine exactly who owns the land. The government, on the other hand, is not strong enough to claim the tracts. This, in combination with lack of accountability among NGOs, leads to even more issues. Mitchell points out that this is verified when the Red Cross allegedly purchased a piece of land in Port-au-Prince for $10 million, not to form temporary shelters or aid, but for a for-profit hotel and conference center. “This is not just the problem with the Haiti government. There are serious problems with priority,” she said. Although certain NGOs are portrayed in a rather negative light, the documentary points out that the lack of progress also originates from outside factors such as the U.S.
Congress. The term “tied aid” refers to aid money that is tied to requirements made by Congress. It defines what aid missions do on the ground and as a result, much of the money ends up in American hands. However, the documentary also brings our attention to the smaller, more effective organizations in Haiti such as Gobal DIRT and Habihut. Mitchell believes that these organizations can better handle disaster relief efforts. The solution to the many complications above? According to Mitchell, “the best suggestions are to actually separate our government and NGO efforts. It is the foreign funding through NGOs [that] complicates the vision. The humanitarian strategies are affected by the lawmakers, and that is not a good idea.” In reference to the organizations themselves, she said, “there has to be some accountability in this. What do people do with [the money]? There has to be some level of transparency; it is not enough to say that 99 per cent of your money goes to Haiti. It would be great if we could find a way to make this possible.” In the end, what future donors should take from this frank view of Haiti is that, firstly, there are always good intentions involved. The point of the documentary is not to suggest that people should cease donating to these large NGOs. However, in order to make humanitarian efforts better, these groups should find a way to work together so that the process is collaborative and efficient, rather than competitive. In the end, it all comes down to improving the efficacy, accountability, flexibility, and transparency of aid organizations.
Quintette Antoine Pelegrin January 28 8:30 p.m. Casa del Popolo 4873 St. Laurent $10 Casa del Popolo hosts jazz nights earlier in the week. Come check out a versatile and talented local quintet for less than you’d pay at Upstairs. Composed of bass, piano, guitar, drums, and sax, the freshfaced Antoine Pellegrin Quintet look younger than they sound.
Kafka’s Ape January 28 to February 17 Bain St. Michel 5300 St. Dominique $20 for students Infinitheatre is putting on an adaptation of Kafka’s Letter to an Academy, a great short story about a monkey who becomes a human, losing his dignity along the way. The adaptation plays on the contemporary mercenary industry, as the ape is hired to work for “Gray water Corporation.” There is a play-what-you-can show on February 3; check online for showtimes.
Vernissage: Jason Botkin’s ALL KIN January 29 6:00 p.m. 550 Beaumont Free Co-director of En Masse Jason Botkin’s new show ALL KIN will be opening at LNDMRK Yves Laroche. En Masse distinguished itself as a collaborative drawing project with a streetart aesthetic. Among other works, ALL KIN will exhibit Botkin’s large-scale, somewhat cartoon-like murals.
volume 102 number 28
A protocol by any other name
editorial board 3480 McTavish St., Rm. B-24 Montreal, QC H3A 1X9 phone 514.398.6784 fax 514.398.8318 mcgilldaily.com coordinating editor
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Illustration Hera Chan | The McGill Daily
Despite claiming the opposite a mere seven days before, Vice Principal (Administration and Finance) Michael Di Grappa announced at last Wednesday’s Senate meeting that McGill will proceed with its plans to install a permanent set of rules policing campus protests. After receiving a condemnation from the Canadian Civil Liberties Union, prominent civil rights lawyer Julius Grey, as well as several campus groups, for attempting to introduce a set of regulations that would have allowed the administration to shut down protests if they breached any one of a number of incredibly vague and nebulous criteria, such as the “degree of inconvenience” caused, Di Grappa and Provost Anthony Masi hastily withdrew the proposal. Di Grappa released a statement which read, “the McGill community will be best served by an agreed upon statement of values and principles, rather than a protocol of operating procedures, which, by definition, must be sensitive to context and determined by judgement.” Yet the new operating procedures, according to Di Grappa, will be “intended to guide responses to events and activities in a general way – because every situation is different....They
can never be as specific as some people would like because they must be broad enough to apply to a wide variety of situations.” McGill, after trying and failing to redefine a peaceful protest in the most ambiguous of terms – the “wide variety of situations” Di Grappa had in mind with their previous protocol effectively limited all protests to those which are not disruptive or inconvenient, not loud, not angry, short induration, and sparsely attended – is trying again. Worse, the new set of “operational procedures” will not have to be approved by the Senate or Board of Governors: the administration would rather their latest attempt to police campus protest faces as little resistance as possible, even from the University’s own governing bodies. Ignoring the near-unanimous outcry from students, faculty, and support staff groups, as well as the indictments of civil rights groups, is not the sign of an administration willing to engage in open discourse – and certainly not one willing to tolerate dissent.
—The McGill Daily Editorial Board
cover design Victor Tangermann contributors Tobias Atkin, Eric Andrew-Gee, Julia Boshyk, Akanksa Chaubal, Carla Green, Fedor Karmanov, Lewis Krashinsky, Gaby Lai, Megan Masterson, Nathalie O’Neill, Shannon Palus, Omar Saadeh, Benjamin Sher, Kate Sheridan, Allen Tahm, Victor Tangermann, Ryan Thom, Dana Wray
Errata In the article “Course lecturers’ union walks out of meeting with administration” (News, January 21, page 4), Raad Jassim’s position was mistakenly listed as Course Lecturer Unit President. In fact, Jassim is Chair, not President. In the January 24 issue, the photo for the cover image and on page 3 was mistakenly credited to Jessie Marie. The photos should have been credited to Jessie Marchessault. The Daily regrets the errors.
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lies, half-truths, and if you spit on a car it freezes instantly
Coffee is the uncaused cause Scientists surprised, everyone else already awake Euan EK The Twice-a-Weekly
n an unprecedented solution to the most difficult problem of the universe, scientists have revealed that they have discovered the uncaused cause: coffee. The discovery brings to an end a search that has lasted an/ the entire space-time continuum, and finally puts to bed the question of the origin of the universe, causing celebration, dismay, and masses of people to see Jesus in their lattes. The finding, published in the journal Laboratory!, shows that the universe came from a single molecule of coffee, and that nothing could possibly have come before it. “It all goes back to coffee,” said lead researcher Dr. Thomas A. Quinas of the Institute for Studies (IfS). “After all of the science and adding up has been done, it’s clear that the universe came from a single molecule of coffee. There’s no point questioning us: everything that has happened proves us right. In the order of causes it goes coffee then God then God’s terrible, terrible mistake [the universe].” “It appears God needed a little wakey-wakey; there could not have been anything before his first cup,” Quinas said. Philosophers are divided on whether they already knew the answer. A popular televised philosophical talk show, Is it?, was the centre of controversy last night as several philosophers clashed over the discovery of the first cause. “Philosophy pipped science by like, millenia,” said William McRoberts, Professor Emeritus
of Dressing-Well at McGall University. “If everything has a cause, then it’s either an infinite chain or somewhere along it there’s a first cause. All the badass philosophers, such as myself, went for option two. The less-good philosophers wrote the film Inception. People should think and talk to each other more, [then] there wouldn’t have been all this confusion.” “It’s true,” said Jacobius Levyathan, Associate Professor of Caffeinated Literature at McGall University. “If you think about it, nothing happens before coffee. Have you ever done anything before you’ve had a cup? No. So how could God? Exactly. Hence, coffee is the first cause. From coffee proceeds everything. No coffee, no things: il n’y a pas de hors-cafe. Science has done a good job; we have final proof that uncaffeinated life is not worth living.” “Stfu!” said Jokes Derridas. “It was I who knew all along. Prove me wrong using words!” “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. [Boo] hoo, boo hoo” said Richard Dawkins, Professor of Antagonistic Crybabying at the University of Sinkingship. Despite the disagreement among philosophers, basically everyone else agrees nothing comes before coffee. “Something before coffee?” said U1 Chimney Building student Chim Chimeney. “Another coffee? A percolator? Lol you guys are just seeking controversy.” Religious leaders have not reacted with the same confidence. In a statement released to the media, the Vatican has announced it will “begin looking through the archives” for “what-
Di Anna awarded Royal Kiss
ever we missed” as soon as it finishes flagellating itself. “That is how metonymy works,” noted the Vatican. A leaked Vatican document obtained by The Twice-a-Weekly shows that the Vatican now believes it has been mistaking the word “coffee” for “thee.” The document claims that a recently-discovered scrap of paper from St. Augustine’s early diaries revealed the mistake. In a poetically-worded paragraph, Augustine reveals, without confusion, that it is coffee he loves: “Belatedly I loved coffee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, belatedly I loved coffee. For see, thou wast within and I was without, and I sought thee out there. Unlovely, I rushed heedlessly among the lovely things coffee hast made. Coffee wast with me, but I was not with coffee. These things kept me far from coffee; even though they were not at all unless they were drinking coffee. Thou didst call and cry aloud, and didst force open my palate. Thou didst gleam and shine, and didst chase away my sleepyness. Thou didst breathe fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for coffee. I tasted, and now I am tired and thirst. Coffee didst touch me, and I burned for another cup.” Elsewhere, Milton Friedman, the somehow-undying leader of the Church of Selfish-Bullshit, was unperturbed. “Back to the drawing board,” he told The Twice-a-Weekly. “I’m sure we’ll find some more theories to apply to the world without taking into account anything real soon. [We] had people going for a while there.” The news that heaven is in
Illustration Amino Acid | The Twice-a-Weekly
fact a bowl of coffee has sent coffee sales skyrocketing, and coffee connoisseurs are now hotly debating the type, grind, and melange of the first coffee, much to the boredom of most people who just want to function for another day’s wage slavery without losing their job. Despite being presented with irrefutable proof that coffee is the
uncaused cause, several SSMU councillors still refused to believe the truth, claiming that the truth is too political and divisive. Euan EK is the William J. Faculty Professor of Faculty Relations at the University of Adjuncts’r’Us Incorporated. All inquiries should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Super-wedgies on the rise on campus
VP Praised for “outstanding” quality of pencil sharpening Euan EK The Twice-a-Weekly
rinces Di Anna, Vice Principal (Counting and Adding Up) at McGall University, has been awarded a Royal Kiss for his service to ledgers and graph paper. The Queen paid a visit to McGall last Thursday to award Di Anna his Royal Peck On The Cheek, the eleventh highest honour the Queen can bestow on a university administrator. At the ceremony, held before a baffled crowd at Igloofest, the Queen
said Di Anna “was not an unexceptional role-model for grey and dreary middle managers everywhere.” “And at least this Di Anna didn’t try and insinuate himself into the Royal bloodline, amirite?” said the Queen to the Igloofest crowd. Di Anna, who joined McGall in 2010 and is responsible for Pencil Sharpening, Filing Cabinets, and Turning Off The PCs, told the Twice-aWeekly he is “delighted” by the award. “I am delighted to receive the Royal Kiss,” said Di Anna. “But I was sort of hoping for Kate Middleton.”
Photo Hieronymous Chanski | The Twice-a-Weekly