the STRAND VICTORIA UNIVERSITY’S STUDENT NEWSPAPER
VOL. 56 ISSUE 2 • SEPT 16 2013 • WWW.THESTRAND.CA
FROSH LEADERS CENSURED OVER RAPE CHANTS
t most universities, frosh week is a time for celebration. This year, however, Saint Mar y’s University in Halifax and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver brought down the tone of first years’ festivities across the countr y with separate incidents of chants that encouraged rape—“nonconsensual sex”—with underage girls. A video of the chant, created by Saint Mar y’s frosh leaders, was posted on Instagram and the stor y was then picked up by national news publications throughout Canada. The chant is by no means the first of its kind, but thanks to the audiovisual proof of the event via social media, it has garnered a lot of attention. The video, including the words “U is for underage…N is for no consent”, has since been removed. The question many are asking is not just how frosh leaders could write this chant, but also how frosh par ticipants could sing it. Is the desire to adapt and fit in too great that frosh students are unwilling, or unable, to speak out against a crowd? Many media outlets are now asking whether frosh week is a negative star t to the university experience, and some are even calling for a banning of it on campuses. Unfor tunately, it isn’t just young men who led this controversial chant. The video showed girls visibly involved as well, seemingly unper turbed by the message they were propagating.
Canada must now reconsider the mentality surrounding an issue that is on the rise on a global scale: gender-based violence. The teaching of sexual harassment prevention in the workplace only takes place in occasional Civics classes in grade school in Canada. Now perhaps we will see changes to our education curriculum at the government level. Without doubt, the shock caused by Saint Mar y’s University’s frosh leaders’ lyrics has provoked calls for change in our treatment of women and our approaches to sexual violence and misogyny. Saint Mar y’s admits that there is little to no staff involvement when it comes to frosh and that all the decisions are left to the student leaders. None of the Saint Mar y’s frosh
leaders have been severely punished; Jared Perr y, president of the student association, resigned on his own terms and has now issued an apology, and frosh leaders in both Halifax and Vancouver are being sent to sensitivity training. In broader terms, while we can’t eliminate the existence of sexual harassment in the media, we can combat its presence in our lives through proper education of the issues. There must also be consequences for those who, in 2013, still think that rape is no big deal and that a frosh chant can’t hur t anybody. The only difference between that chant and a song on the char ts is the number of people listening—and Saint Mar y’s frosh leaders were heard loud and clear.
“Hollow words” in Syria pact? AYLA SHIBLAQ
ntil Saturday’s settlement between Russia and the United States on Syrian chemical weapons, uncer tainty had hindered any hope of an end to the conf lict that has been raging there since 2011. Russia’s alliance with the Assad regime had caused it to oppose any form of inter vention, sanction, or removal of the Syrian government proposed by other UN Security Council states since the ver y beginning of this war. In Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent opinions piece in the New York Times, he states: “we must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.” Many have praised the deal signed in Geneva by US Secretar y of State John Kerr y and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, as demonstrating the power of diplomatic settlement rather than resor ting to force. Indeed, the word “victor y” is tentatively being used to describe the deal, which outlines a plan to destroy all of Syria’s chemical weapons by mid-2014. Mr. Kerr y laid out
conditions to the agreement, including Syria providing an extensive listing of all its stockpiles within the week; immediate and uninterrupted access to all chemical sites and, most impor tantly, the complete surrender of all chemical weapons to be placed under international control. If Assad chooses not to accept this agreement, the next step will be retaliation. Militar y inter vention, as Obama and Kerr y have emphasised, is still ver y much a possibility for the US. Kerr y told the world, “we cannot have hollow words in the conduct of diplomatic affairs.” NATO Secretar y General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that this was an “impor tant step towards the goal of ensuring the swift, secure and verifiable elimination of Syria’s stocks of chemical weapons.” However, the militar y leader of the anti-Assad Free Syrian Army rejected the deal as “buying time for Assad” and promised to continue the fighting. Uncer tainty still reigns as the world waits for Assad’s reaction to the settlement. Despite agreeing to join the Chemical Weapons
Convention, the Syrian regime’s actions are unpredictable. After Assad dismantled protests in 2011, a civil war between government and rebel forces broke out. Over two years later, Syrians are still waiting for an end as two million people have f led and four million people have been displaced within their own countr y, leading to an international refugee crisis. Deaths are upwards of 100,000, a huge percentage of which are civilians. Assad’s government’s use of chemical weapons against its people has led some in the international community to call for militar y inter vention. They believe that action must be taken against regimes that perpetrate genocide. For now, however, politicians, Syrians and the rest of the world hope that through diplomatic means, the crisis can reach an end. Time will tell if this agreement frees Syrians from a deadly civil war, or if Kerr y’s words of warning come true and the deal becomes merely “hollow words.”
Whose values are they anyway? Quebec’s proposed charter sparks nationwide controversy SOPHIE POPPE RICHTER
he presence of religious symbols in the international public sphere has caused controversy before; but it has now been brought to Canada’s doorstep through Quebec’s Par ti Quebecois’ recently proposed char ter. Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville has outlined the new Char ter of Quebec Values that bans public ser vice workers from wearing religious symbols like Jewish Kippas, Muslim headscar ves, Sikh turbans, and other exposed religious symbols. Par ti Quebecois leaders went as far as to publish pictorial diagrams of the “dos-and-don’ts” of religious apparel, labelling small cross necklaces and Star of David rings as an exemption over headscar ves and large crucifixes. When Drainville was questioned on who would be the judge of the acceptability of these different forms of attire, Drainville merely put it down to “common sense.” The char ter brings nods of approval from those who don’t believe religion should be an inf luence within the public sector, specifically in the field of education. Drainville ref lects in an inter view that some parents in Quebec do not feel comfor table sending their children to schools where they are ex-
posed to religious beliefs, even if it is a nonverbal exposure. Some suppor t a secular state due to religion’s controversial place in Quebec’s political histor y: many Quebecers still live with the memor y of Maurice Duplessis and the Union Nationale par ty. When it governed Quebec in the 1930s and 1960s, the Union put strict regulations on private life and enforced a Roman Catholic theocracy. Ironically, the cross at the National Assembly that this regime installed will be kept in under the new rules, as a “cultural ar tefact.” Many, including Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney, believe that the char ter violates the Canadian constitution. Kenney says that if approved, the char ter will be submitted to the Depar tment of Justice for legal opinion and if fur ther challenged, could end up in front of the Supreme Cour t of Canada. Those affected on a more personal level may have to change careers, and many might consider leaving the province in search of more tolerant communities. There are fears that those wearing headscar ves would be especially marginalized by the demands of the char ter. Khadija Darid, director of Espace Féminin Arabe states that, “This is extremely discriminator y and essentially targets Mus-
lim women. These women chose Quebec and Canada for its freedoms… A lot of women are telling me they will leave Quebec.” Looking to France, one could predict the consequences of such a char ter, where a ban on religious symbols in public places was introduced in 2004, with a fur ther limitation on the wearing of headscar ves and burqas in 2010. The controversy surrounding these moves is still great: just a few months ago in July, the police check of a woman wearing a niqab sparked riots in the Paris suburb of Trappes. Montreal, Quebec’s multicultural capital, is par ticularly affected by the char ter. Mr. Perez is the mayor of Côte-des-Neiges-NotreDame-de-Grâce, a neighbourhood in western Montreal where nearly half of the residents are immigrants. He claims that the issues that Drainville outlines have never been problems. “I’ve been able to defend citizens’ interests and represent the city, and it [my kippa] hasn’t inconvenienced or disturbed anybody,” Perez states. If adopted, many believe that the effect of this char ter would go beyond the city, and
tarnish Canada’s image as an open and tolerant community.
A NEUTRAL STATE FOR ALL! Non-conspicuous signs that government employees would be permitted to wear
Signs that would be prohibited for government employees
Addressing India’s violent reputation DEVIKA DESAI
ichaela Cross, an American student at the University of Chicago, recently wrote a powerful account of her experiences studying abroad in India last year. Calling her story “the story you don’t want to hear”, she described her many encounters with sexual harassment; each one a nightmare that a large percentage of women living in India have experienced, or endure on a daily basis. This rape culture has become so dominant, that Indian newspapers seem incomplete without at least one account of rape or molestation. It’s an issue that scares people away from visiting the country, natives and foreigners alike. In fact, it almost changed my own mind about India. As an Indian expatriate, I’ve never had the kind of patriotic affection tattooed onto the hearts of those who really know how it is to live in India, who daily use the trains, eat the street “chaat”, and squeeze their way through the streets. Consequently, I developed my opinion of India from what I saw in the news: a stream of stories on fraud and bribery, ruthless and corrupt politicians, rape, and human trafficking. So when I was given the opportunity of a two-month internship at Mid-Day, a Mumbai newspaper, I was both excited to work in my dream field and nervous to live in a country where statistics report a rape every 20 minutes. Now that it’s behind me, I couldn’t wish more for a chance to go back and relive those two months, over and over again. I spent my first month working in the city-reporting department. This meant that I spent half my day out in Mumbai either looking for or pursuing a story, returned to the workplace by five and wrote the story for an eight o’clock deadline. My first big assignment arrived a week into the job, in early June. A fire had broken out at a bank late in the day, killing four and injuring 26. I was to cover the story by visiting the families of the dead while my co-worker investigated the cause of the fire. I found my role incredibly nerve-
wracking—basically, I had to walk up to the doors of strangers devastated by the loss of loved ones and say, "Hi, I’d like to write a news story on your dead relative, can I come in?” I fully expected doors to be slammed in my face by pissed-off people asking me to leave them alone. Suffice it to say, I was not especially eager. For those who have never heard of a “chawl” before, think of a typical dorm-style residence. Subtract the bed, desk, room door, and bathroom hygienics. Add in a tiny kitchen space, and then make it dirtier, grubbier, and maybe smellier. Imagine living in that room for the rest of your life. Now imagine living in that room with your family for the rest of your life. I had to visit a family who lived in such a chawl—a family living on less than half of what we have, who had lost not just their beloved son, but also their main breadwinner to the fire. Yet despite their loss and grief they could not have been more humbly hospitable to me, an intruding stranger. Despite my protests, they refused to let me sit on the floor with them and borrowed a chair from a neighbour’s house for me. They were patient with my halting Hindi and even requested a friend who knew English to help me communicate better. They showed not one trace of agitation as they answered my questions, and even repeated every detail over again when necessary. Once it was over, they made sure that I was able to travel safely back to the station by escorting me out of the chawl and ensuring that a rickshaw was available to take me to the train station. I remember asking myself, would I have been able to show the same kindness to a stranger who wanted to publish sensitive details about my private life in the wake of such an accident? I still have no answer. The following Monday night a building collapsed in Mahim, a predominantly Muslim-inhabited area of Mumbai. Succumbing to dilapidation and heavy rains, an entire side of the building had crumbled without warning, trapping tenants under mounds of heavy debris. My job was to go to the site with another in-
tern, scout the situation and report back to someone in the office who would write the story. The site itself was absolute chaos—officials, trucks, ambulances, and locals all gathered around the heap of broken furniture and masonry, urgently looking for signs of life. What struck me as amazing was the speed with which shopkeepers, doctors, other residents, and random passersby rushed to the scene, offering to help pull people out from under the debris. Additionally, around 50 locals, many of them just teens, formed a human chain to help keep onlookers at bay while a small group sang prayers as a show of support. This unity in the space of such a tiny street in the dead of night was something I had never seen before. I could write about the train commuter who pulled a railway accident victim off the tracks and to the nearest hospital, and then reported the story to our paper in the hopes of alerting railway officials to the need for train medical services. I could write about the man who donated blood 111 times, and another who has not only donated platelets 85 times but also helps out-of-state medical patients coming in to Mumbai by finding them places to live, all at his own expense. Michaela made some valid points in her report. But while there are so many who complain about India, there aren’t many to remind people that India too has a human side. I worry that people will see India as nothing but a vending machine of sexual harassment cases and its people as a loud crowd whose stares say more than their words. My experience as a journalism intern reminded me just how warm India can be . For every bribe taken, there’s a person using his money for the benefit of others. For every rape, there’s a man out on the streets in protest over gender inequality. For every selfish and unfair act, there is a family, that, despite going through the most traumatic event of their lives, still extends hospitality of the sort that most of us have forgotten in our busy lives. India is just another country, looking for a way to balance out the good with the bad.
Rejoice, bitter students! Student living can be just as shitty abroad JONAH LETOVSKY
aby boomers love to call us a generation of complainers, ungrateful for what we have as students in the 21st century. These people, generally our parents, relatives, and media personalities (looking at you, Margaret Wente), see our laptops, renovated lecture halls, high rates of university attendance, travel abroad opportunities, and non-9to-5 lifestyles as proof that we are living the high life, cushioned by parents yet still harping on about a range of grievances. That’s their perspective. And, as many have pointed out, it’s incredibly stupid and hypocritical—so much so that I don’t need to delve into it here. I do, however, think that it’s worth considering both the ups and the downs of our student lifestyles, particularly as they compare to others. Let’s look at Toronto. We attend university in a city filled with small, dark, basement apartments.
For many of us grocery shopping involves a long walk to a massive store. If you live anywhere more than a 15 minute walk away, getting to campus can be a pain (or expensive, or unsafe). Much of Toronto is unreservedly ugly. But it’s also worth reminding ourselves what we have, and others do not. I moved to Paris three weeks ago for a year-long exchange program; it is, without a doubt, a beautiful, shiny, fun city. But after two weeks of classes, I already find myself missing some elements of student life in Toronto. Cafés. For example, in Toronto, you can always find a small coffee shop (or, at least, a Starbucks or Timmies) open late, perfect for getting work done. Paris has many, many noisy bistros—but that’s about it. Libraries? They close around 8:00PM (and weekend hours? Non-existent). Food is incredibly expensive here; you’d be lucky to spend anything less than $15 CAD on a small lunch, and the grocery stores aren’t much more affordable. Toronto-style basement apartments don’t exist in
Paris. Instead, the norm is 6th, 7th, and 8th floor studios with a view—which are great, if you’re willing to take the stairs. But it’s incredibly easy to get around in this city, with a vast bike-share system and web of subway lines. You’re never more than a 5 minute walk away from a well-stocked grocery store or bakery, and the nightlife here far exceeds anything back home. As students, no matter where we study there are trade-offs. Apartments, food, and campus resources all vary depending on whether you go to a rural, suburban, urban, or ultra-urban school. What’s most important is to consider the great lifestyle elements we do have—and to remember that many of our peers don’t share them. Of course, the one struggle that we all share today is affordability. The cost of living for students is higher than ever, especially in North America and Europe. And that fight, the fight for economically inclusive communities, has to be the one we stay focused on.
ADMIRATION OR OBSESSION? Celebrity culture may be out of hand
ull disclosure: I once chased J.K. Rowling’s limo nine blocks through downtown Toronto and later waited outside a hotel that may or may not have been the one at which she was staying. My 14-year-old self was certain, I’m sure, that my borderline (well, okay, more than borderline) stalking would pay off, that she’d meet me and take me under her wing and tell me all of the unrevealed facts about Harry Potter I was so desperate to know. Did it ever cross my mind that she might have been tired from signing the thousands of books she’d already signed that day, that maybe she just wanted to have a nap and not autograph the seven volumes I’d dragged along with me? To be perfectly honest: no. It didn’t. Over the past few weeks, downtown Toronto has been going mad with a case of exactly what I’d caught all those years ago: Celebrity Worship Syndrome (and yes, that is a medically-identified psychological condition). The Toronto International Film Festival has long garnered a host of both celebrities and their all-adoring fans, and this year— with names like Daniel Radcliffe, Meryl Streep, and Benedict Cumberbatch in attendance—has been no exception. It’s easy to get caught up in it all, and not
at all uncommon to be walking around campus and overhear plans to wait outside a hotel or stand in line in the hopes that you might get into a movie where your favourite celebrity might be. Going crazy over stars can be fun—for us. But what I think most people don’t realize is that the fact celebrities are just people and that everyone— even the Amanda Bynes’ of the world—has moments when he or she just wants to be left alone. When it comes down to it a celebrity is going to have much more respect for a fan who respects him or her back—and that means treating him or her like a regular human being. I’ve got a childhood friend who starred in a couple of YTV series and has developed a bit of a following—to the point where I’ve got 12-year-old girls following me on Instagram and Twitter simply because he follows me, too. To us, seeing pictures of girls kissing blown-up photos of his face is funny, if a little creepy. It’s harmless, but it’s also not the sort of thing that would compel him to actually send these girls a reply when they message him. But while he’s famous enough to warrant his own Wikipedia page, he certainly isn’t at the level of most celebrities. So where does it stop? Where do we draw the line? At following celebrities home, sending them obsessive letters, getting tat-
toos of their faces? It may “prove” your dedication, but it certainly doesn’t seem like the most courteous way to show your regard for their work. I can still remember my dad’s lack of enthusiasm when I got home later that night after a full day of J.K. Rowling-stalking. I countered by asking him what he’d do if his favourite hockey player, Bobby Orr, were to walk into the restaurant where we were eating. Wouldn’t he whip out his phone and start taking pictures? Scrounge around for a clean napkin and ask for an autograph? My dad shook his head. If anything, he told me, he’d wait until Bobby Orr had finished his meal, and on his way out he’d shake his hand. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of a lot of things, and I think that being a fan is a lot of fun. But is stalking and obsessing really the right way to show someone how much respect you have for them? Wouldn’t being respectful of the fact that they’re just people like the rest of us be a little more on-par? Of course, feel free to fangirl or fanboy all you like. But you might want to reconsider that song, dance, and marriage proposal routine you’ve got prepared on the off-chance you run into Benedict Cumberbatch sometime during TIFF. A simple keep up the good work! will probably suffice.
OUR MASTHEAD Editors-in-Chief
Patrick Mujunen Paula Razuri Blaire Townshend
Amanda Aziz Emily Pollock
Arts & Culture
Film & Music
Jade Bryan Sarah Crawley
Victoria Chuen Thomas Lu
Cover Photo Thomas Lu Contributors Ashkan Salehi, Tara Abrahams, Lauren Dineley, Dina Ginzburg, Ayla Shiblaq, Sophie Poppe Richter, Devika Desai, Jonah Letovsky, Emily Deibert Photos Ashkan Salehi Illustrations Wenting Li, Emily Pollock, Sarah Crawley
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Major issues Thanks but no thanks for the unsolicited life advice PAULA RAZURI EDITOR-IN-CHIEF I’ve grown accustomed to the feeling of uncertainty that nearly always ensues when somebody asks me what I’m studying. This typically happens during situations that revolve around small talk, and especially so during exchanges at my customer service job. It starts off with pleasant chatter, a couple non-intrusive questions, and then finally, “so what are you studying?” Awkward pause. It’s not that I am ashamed about what I am studying, or that I feel that my mouthful of double major and minor titles is too much to explain to someone not involved in the academic world, it’s not even that I think they wouldn’t understand (oh, what am I studying? You’ve probably never heard of it)—it’s simply the unnecessary interest that most people feign when you tell them you’re getting a degree in the arts. “Oh, that’s cool.” And from there the conversation is typically, for all intents and purposes, over. Sometimes I make something up, sometimes I just shrug, and sometimes I laugh and change the subject. I recently had an exchange that has stayed with me for what I can only assume to be a plethora of reasons: a customer’s insistence on knowing my cultural heritage, his reluctance to pay full price, his unpopular views on colonialism, and what I remember most vividly; his apparent deep concern for my career path and for my financial future. During my interaction with this particular customer I could see that he was making an effort to read my name. I am, unfortunately, required to wear a name badge at work, something that usually results in a customer’s sense of entitlement garnered from a false sense of intimacy or camaraderie, so I was happy to delay the customer-employee first-name exchange. Inevitably, he read the badge, and as most customers feel the urge to do, began to speculate on my cultural background. Apparently being simply Canadian isn’t good enough when you have brown hair, brown eyes, and sport the slowly fading leftovers of a summer’s tan. “Nope, I’m not Italian,” I politely responded, trying to avoid the topic altogether. “Well you must be!” Oh, sorry, I didn’t know. After the customer continued to ask the mildly inappropriate question of where I am from, I understood
that the question could not be avoided, so I caved and answered. Though this did result in a welcome excuse to speak Spanish in the workplace, it brought on some eyebrow raising musings by the customer on the material exploitation of the Americas and how colonization is, put simply, not really that bad. I abstained from participating in this discussion, mostly because we had long left the standard customer to employee conversation and I didn’t want to take it any further. He was, after all, just a regular customer who for some reason felt it necessary to encourage me to have more than ten children in order to perpetuate my heritage. Just as I began to relax at the prospect of finally finishing his transaction, the customer asked me what I was studying, and for some reason I answered honestly. The whole debate regarding the value of a BA in today’s economy is certainly, by now, slightly tired. Undergraduate degrees in the arts can produce some great thinkers and communicators as well as some not so great ones. Is somebody defined by his or her major of choice? Absolutely not. This is probably why I became irate when the customer looked at me and said, “so you expect to get a job with that”? After years of struggling with this question myself, I thought his question and subsequent speech about planning for my future was most unwelcome. Is there value in being a generally educated person? Yes. Do undergraduates with arts degrees require focused, specialized training before entering a skillset-specific workplace? Probably. Is the idea of having to decide on a specific field terrifying and potentially limiting? Yep. The idea of a career-focused major, especially during a time when youth unemployment and degree-to-career relevancy isn’t exactly booming, has become a joke at students’ expense. That isn’t to say that the value of your education should be measured by what your degree enables you to do beyond the university. And it certainly shouldn’t be measured by customers who write: “Enrique, but you can just call me Mr. Iglesias” at the top of a contact information form. As the customer left I told him how grateful I was for the unsolicited life advice to which he responded, “hey, I like your sarcasm.” Well, it’s good to know I’m doing something right.
meet and greet If you’re interested in becoming involved in Vic’s student paper, or if you’ve worked for us before and would like to know more, then come to The Strand’s meet-and-greet extravaganza! The editors will be there to chat, answer questions, and listen to your ideas. Meet with us on Tuesday September 17th in the Cat’s Eye at 9pm.
2013 VICTORIA COLLEGE 22nd Annual BOOK SALE Thousands of good books: used, new, old, rare! All subject categories; Amazing prices! Stock replenished daily!
Thursday September 19: 4pm - 9pm* Friday September 20: 10am - 8pm Saturday September 21:11am - 6pm Sunday September 22: 11am - 6pm Monday September 23: 10am - 8pm (half-price day!) (First night only*-- admission $3; students free with ID) In OLD VIC 91 Charles Street West (at Museum Subway Exit) For more information call 416-585-4585 firstname.lastname@example.org www.vicbooksale.utoronto.ca Proceeds to Victoria University Library.
ART: SARAH CRAWLEY
by Amanda Aziz and Emily Pollock
t sounds like a comedian’s punch line: a young woman wearing a frazzled blonde wig enters court for a hearing because just a few weeks before, she accidently set her dog on fire, when all she really wanted to do was to set her neighbour’s driveway ablaze. Her dog, she loved; her neighbour, she didn’t. The dog, we feel sorry for; the girl, we don’t. Especially if that person is Amanda Bynes. What a lost cause. When there’s nothing left to burn, you have to set your dog on fire. Over the past few months, former teen star and child actress Amanda Bynes, aged 27, has gained notoriety as the go-to public figure to gawk at. After all, her activity on Twitter has become a long psychotic meltdown ranging from calling everyone ugly to asking Drake to “murder her vagina.” And it’s a fabulous source of entertainment. She rants, we snicker, she sets her dog on fire, we combust with laughter. Because hey, she’s crazy, and it’s funny, so why shouldn’t we? She’s so lost that she wouldn’t even notice that we’re making fun of her—so we ask ourselves: Where’s her mind at? She’s delusional—and unfortunately, as her mental state currently stands, our claims seem justified. But then again, aren’t we delusional as well? We think it’s funny that someone is suffering from a severe mental illness. Shouldn’t we be corrected? Maybe we have to ask ourselves: Where are our minds at? The short answer is that we don’t know. Even though almost a quarter of us will have mental health problems during our lifetime, we still believe the same tired stereotypes about mental illness. For a disenchanting reminder that such stigmas are nowhere near dead, we only have to read the results of the 2008 study on Canadians’ attitudes about mental health. Among other uninspiring statistics, almost half of Canadians think that mental illness is an excuse for personal failings and well over a third of us wouldn’t socialize with a friend diagnosed with a mental illness. With all the attention directed at “reducing the stigma”, shouldn’t we be doing a better job by now? Celebrity testimonies about experiences with mental illness can be helpful, since they show that people with mental health problems can be successful and admired. The problem with this is that it frames mental health as an issue that doesn’t impact the lives and communities of ordinary people. We’re writing It’s Personal to look at the different ways in which mental illness affects our community, whether we know it or not. “Stigma” is a word we all hear far too much. We hear so many earnest messages asking us to “end the stigma” that the word becomes verbal white noise, and ceases to mean anything anymore. Basically, stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace, or something that causes the extreme social disapproval of one’s peers. It’s not only mental health that can cause this kind of social isolation. In many
parts of the world, such as China and India, more than half of people believe that cancer is shameful and is the fault of the patient. To us, with our “Walk for the Cures” and huge corporate breast-cancer fundraisers, that kind of thinking seems alien. But here, mental illness is just as embarrassing a secret. Why is that, though? Like good little journalists, we have to ask ourselves why something is happening in order to understand it. One of our go-to answers is the media—that all-devouring machine that spits out ugly generalizations and easy answers about people with mental illnesses. It’s an easy target because a lot of the time—like in Amanda Bynes’s case—media outlets are all too quick to report sensationalistic headlines without a lot of thought behind them. Cases like the decapitation of Tim McLean by a man who was suffering from schizophrenia get a ton of headline time, and positive stories about mental health (obviously) don’t. And so the cycle continues. But it’s not just the media that’s responsible for this. Not all TV shows portray mentally ill people as delusional, scary people; shows like In Treatment make for surprisingly realistic and compelling TV. And newspapers like The Globe have published sensitive and informative content about mental healthcare (admittedly, it’s also published complete stinkers on student mental health by Margaret Wente). The media is simply a reflection of what our society thinks. After all, they wouldn’t keep churning out sensationalistic content if we didn’t keep buying it. When we continue taking in (or laughing at) these stories about “crazy people” without thinking, it completely tanks the possibility of making meaningful change. And a serious discussion about mental illness is made way harder by the weirdness surrounding the topic. We rationalize our silence by saying it’s not our business, and that talking about feelings is too personal (*shudder*). Yet, being personal doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Isn’t suffering in silence much worse? You know we have a problem when someone can recieve empathy for having a cold, but is disdained for saying that they can’t leave their room because they feel too depressed to get up. So, again, where are our minds at? We’re going to keep asking this question until we start getting answers. And it’s not going to be easy, because asking questions about mental health, let alone talking about it, isn’t widely encouraged. But we have to start somewhere in order to make this subject less intimidating, and we’re going to start with this; a monthly mental health-based series. From true stories to investigative journalism, we’re going to talk about what’s going on in our heads. You might not be able to personally relate to everything we write about, but we’re challenging you to empathize and maybe even learn a little. Because when 1 in 5 Canadians are affected with a mental illness, this time—it’s personal.
ACCORDING TO WHAT? AN EXHIBITION BY AI WEIWEI ASHKAN SALEHI
magine taking no more than a few steps into an art exhibit before encountering a mural that contains the names of 5,000 children who perished in a recent Chinese earthquake. Not many, including myself at first, would have called this mural an art piece. I hope that this report, however, can convey how the mural’s artist, Ai Weiwei, is actually an artistic genius who uses art as a medium for transmitting profound messages of activism and cultural rebellion. Since Weiwei’s According to What? exhibition at the AGO was advertised as “contemporary art”— which I as a science student have no understanding of—I was expecting to see lava lamps and plastics melted into weird shapes in the name of art. But Weiwei’s collection was more than enough to snap me out of my artistic ignorance and towards understanding his messages of rebellion. Weiwei created the mural to protest the poor infrastructure of rural schools in China, which led to the death of those 5,000 school children during the earthquake. The Chinese government kept the death count a secret but Weiwei and his team made it their duty to personally identify as many bodies as they could; a search that resulted in the 5,000 names on the mural. For his activism, the Chinese police placed him under house arrest and beat him to such an extent that he suffered a hemorrhage in 2009 from head injuries. One can easily see how some of his artwork works as a tool of protest against the Chinese government. Visitors will note a massive pile of porcelain
crabs that are placed in another room. Government authorities destroyed Weiwei’s Shanghai studio in 2010, and to protest this, he organized a dinner of crabs with local activists. The authorities did not appreciate this act of defiance either and immediately arrested him. The sea of crabs is thus another act of protest against the Chinese government. Weiwei also features photographs of himself pointing his middle finger at government landmarks such as Tiananmen Square as well as the White House, in an act of political rebellion. Furthermore, another art piece features rusted and low quality metal rods from the ruins of schools after the 2008 earthquake. These rods are laid out as many horizontal waves. Since art is open to one’s interpretation, I believe the piece symbolized the seismic ripples of the ground when an earthquake strikes. But like I said, I’m only a science kid. Not all of Weiwei’s pieces are in bitter protest to the Chinese government. Weiwei also features works that promise a bright future for the Chinese people by incorporating Chinese tradition into modern pieces. For example, he revives the Ming Dynasty’s (1368-1644) woodworking technique to create a wooden log with a hollow of China’s map in the middle from an ancient temple’s wooden ruins. Weiwei is suggesting that China has developed out of many different historical elements and although most artifacts have been destroyed, the past is still part of who the Chinese people are and will persist in being into the future. Therefore, Weiwei is not just an artist, but also a humanitarian who offers criticisms of our present state in hopes of human equality in the future. Witnessing his exhibition is a must.
SEPTEMBER SHOWERS STILL BRING FLOWERS TARA ABRAHAMS
lthough summer is drawing to a close, Toronto’s flora had one last hurrah this past Saturday as the final Toronto Flower Market took place at 99 Sudbury Street. Bustling with flower fans and avid gardeners alike, the small but affluent market setting was a treat on a fairly sunny September Saturday. Situated between Queen Street West and King Street West, the market was in an ideal location in an artistic area of town. After picking up a dirtcheap bouquet (most run for $15 or less), one could wander over to Fresh and enjoy a vegan/vegetarian lunch or peruse a few of the free galleries on Queen Street before topping off the morning with a coffee from the White Squirrel Café. The market itself, however, stood out as the highlight of the day. Beautiful blooms lined the
street, with everything from marigolds to roses to succulents greeting the autumn sunshine as their cultivators and florists said hello to admiring customers. The market, spearheaded by Poppies Plant of Joy, a local and successful flower shop located at 1094 Queen Street West, garnered huge success this past year, with coverage spreading as far as the Toronto Star and blogTO. As Toronto’s first annual flower market, it had a strong start, and the many avid horticulturists and casual customers it managed to garner will be looking forward to next year’s market and the many more sure to come. The hopes of the market are, in short, to promote Canadian floriculture and support Ontario growers of beautiful blooms in a slowly dwindling industry. Like any subsection of agriculture, it’s impor-
tant for everyone, especially the buyers of flowers, garden plants, and houseplants, to not only enjoy their purchase but to understand where their flowers originated. Much like buying a dog, or any pet for that matter, understanding the caretaker who tended to and produced the plant makes for a better industry all around. As winter slowly settles over Toronto, the flowers will begin to fade, but the impact of the flower market will continue to grow until it comes into bloom again next year. For more information on the market, go to http://torontoflowermarket.ca. For more information on Canadian floriculture, go to http://www.flowerscanadagrowers.com.
PHOTOS: ASHKAN SALEHI
TV vs. TIFF LAUREN DINELEY
attended 14 films at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, including Palme d’Or prize winner Blue is the Warmest Colour, Oscar-bait August: Osage County, and films from some of the most respected directors working in film today, including Jason Reitman, Paul Haggis, and Ron Howard. As much as I enjoyed attending TIFF, I found myself ultimately disappointed. Not a single one of the films I saw at the festival—films curated by a group of well-respected film experts and critics and held in high esteem— was as good as some of the scripted television available on platforms such as cable and Netflix. Television is in a creative upswing at the moment that film simply cannot compete. The stories being told on television are just as, if not more, interesting than those being told on the big screen. Not only are the stories brilliant, but so are the creative forces behind the scenes: the performers, writers, directors, and producers of today’s quality television are of the highest caliber. HBO’s Boardwalk Empire is a prime example. The pilot episode of the series
which stars Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson, a 1920’s era gangster-politician who rules Atlantic City, was two hours long and directed by Martin Scorsese. It was brilliantly entertaining, visually stunning, and—admittedly a subjective opinion— as good as any movie Scorsese has ever made. Another, more recent example is this summer’s Netflix hit, Orange is the New Black. What makes OITNB so noteworthy is not necessarily its artistry, as with Boardwalk Empire, but rather its content. OITNB, which is set in a women’s prison in upstate New York, features a predominantly female cast. It also addresses social issues rarely seen in even the most progressive of entertainment products, including featuring a racially diverse cast and foregrounding a male to female transition storyline, even casting transgender actress Laverne Cox to play the role. On top of all that, the show is one of the most quick-witted and entertaining I’ve seen in years. Contemporary television is simply developing narratives and characters that are simultaneously entertaining and intellectually en-
grossing—something that a feature film, especially commercial cinema, seems incapable of accomplishing. The medium of television and its format lends itself to immersing its audience in a more thorough manner. Film is finite; television is not. There is simply more time in television due to its episodic, serialized structure to develop the storylines and the characters that ensnare its viewers. Television makes use of anticipation and the hope of eventual satisfaction predicated on the show’s content in order to develop a sense of loyalty from its audiences. It is this loyalty that brings them back week after week and in turn allows for that development of unique content. In other words, the structure and quality of contemporary television is somewhat mutually dependent. It is not only the brilliance of the content that entertains viewers on a long-term basis, but also the structure of television itself that allows the medium to meet the needs of our generation better than films of today.
The Wind Rises: A Beautiful Swan Song ELLA WILHEM
or anyone who loved director Hayao Miyazaki’s previous films Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, or My Neighbour Totoro, The Wind Rises, Miyazaki’s final fim, is bound to be a joy to watch. With beautiful animation, The Wind Rises shows us the story of Jiro Horikoshi, from his boyhood dreams of becoming a pilot to his final triumph as the designer of the Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane, which was used in World War II to bomb Pearl Harbour. Miyazaki skillfully navigates this sensitive backdrop by placing the film’s focus on the protagonist’s unwavering desire to create the most beautiful airplane in the world. When the war is brought up, it creeps into the story in brilliantly chilling ways, finding its metaphorical way into Jiro’s romance and work, thus providing a balance of fear, sadness, and moral ambiguity to Jiro’s otherwise idyllic and naive dreams of beautiful airplanes. The destruction of war is bound up with all of the other sadnesses in the film in such a way that brings out in painful clarity the bitter-
sweet nature of beauty, art, and dreams. As the film tells us that all dreams come to an end, and that all beautiful things must perish, Miyazaki is also bidding his viewers an artistic farewell. Criticisms of The Wind Rises as being too simplistic or clichéd in character development and storyline ring true to some extent. Since The Wind Rises does not fall into the fantasy genre like many of Miyazaki’s other films, these traits become more obvious: there are no cat buses or giant babies to distract us from the simple and archetypal nature of the characters and narrative. In The Wind Rises, however, the major counterpoint to images of fleeting beauty and flawless romance is a good measure of humour, which kept the audience laughing even in some very sad or cheesy scenes. It is exactly this humour which convinces me of Myazaki’s mastery over his work, and of his uniqueness as an artist. He is invested enough in his art to place himself inside of it, yet he delivers it all with a twinkle in his eye.
12 Years A Slave: The People’s Choice JOHN DEBONO
lavery has always been a difficult subject for Hollywood to address. For many it is too difficult to confront such a painful history. Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave should be applauded for its bravery alone, but it’s also conveniently a modern classic. Based on the forgotten memoirs of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), 12 Years A Slave tells the story of a free black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana. The film follows Northup and the horrific struggle he faced before re-gaining his freedom. This is a storyline that could have been softened to make Northup’s story easy to digest. Fortunately without being sadistic, McQueen forces his audience to helplessly watch every moment of suffering Northup and others faced. Rarely is the film graphic (the exception being one pivotal scene), but McQueen and cinematographer Sean Bobbit frames every shot to capture the small details of physical and psychological torture,
producing some of the most haunting images of mass suffering to come from Hollywood since Schindler’s List. McQueen’s greatest strength, however, is his having an excellent cast match the power of Northup’s story. Getting a role worthy of his talent, Ejiofor is remarkable in capturing the silent sense of sorrow in Northup’s expressions. As plantation owner Edwin Epps, Michael Fassbender captures the complex layers of confusion and evil underneath a man of “respectability”. As great as both actors are, newcomer Lupita Nyong’o gives the film’s best performance as Patsey, Epps’s main target of cruelty. Nyong’o stands in for the suffering of those without a way out like Solomon and is heart-shatteringly good. To be honest, I cannot say a bad thing about 12 Years A Slave. It’s almost torturous to watch, but is an essential reminder of a cruel past that should never be forgotten. PHOTOS COURTESY OF MOVIEPILOT.COM
A conversation with Marcelo Zarvos: The Strand interviews the score-writer of TIFF films Enough Said and The Face of Love
ILYES SAIDANI TS: Tell me a little bit about yourself. MZ: Well, I'm from Brazil originally. I came to the US to basically work on films, through a long road of doing other types of things in music. I've been a musician since I was a kid. Did my first score in 1998: a short film that was nominated for an Academy Award; it was called A Soccer Story—a great Brazilian film. Then after that I began working on indie American movies; first feature I worked on came to Toronto called Tele, where you had people like Todd Solondz and Hal Hartley and all these people that were doing great films in New York, where I lived, happened to be a great place at that time and it still is. For anybody that was working on indie films was very rich. When I came here I was working on another film called Kissing Jessica Stein which did very well; it was a lesbian comedy. And that was the beginning. Started doing a lot of indie films; started doing more studio stuff. The first studio film I did was called Door in the Floor. It was a very gradual progression from one job to the next. Each one getting more interesting, bigger names. Eventually I got to work with Robert de Niro in The Good Shepherd which was one of two films he directed. It's been really great to work on high quality projects that need really interesting music. TS: So how exactly did you get involved with the films in the TIFF festival? MZ: For Enough Said: I had worked on Nicole Holofcener's last film, which was called Please Give—a wonderful film. I am a huge fan of hers, so when I got the call after being a composer for her last film, I said “Yes I'm there, I don't even need to know what the movie is, I want to do it.” She is a very, very consistent film-maker with a real voice. She writes her own material. Her films have a scope that she's interested in exploring. They are all contemporaries: they're comedies, but they're dramas and they are emotional. They deal with deep things; I would say very few people write that deeply for female roles. I'm married to an actress and every female actress I have met has been interested in Nicole's characters because they are so multi-faceted and so real and they don't feel phony—they feel like real people. For The Face of Love: I was introduced to the directors via my
agent and producers. It was a more traditional thing: they had heard my music. A lot of the times they use sketch boards from other films, so they had Door in the Floor. So I feel like I really hit it off with Arie Posin. This is his second film but he's really going places; he's very smart, very mature. What really struck me with Arie is the conversation was always at such a high level: what he wanted to do, what he wanted the film to accomplish. He was talking to grown-ups; he would deliver in a very psychological, very sophisticated way. TS: Is working on a certain type of project due to decision or demand? MZ: Because from the get go I have more dramas and comedies, the decision for me is what I want to do. Toronto this year is great in the small world of my career. It is a great example that these are two excellent films that couldn't be more different, and I am going to attract massively different [audiences] for each of these films. They are both high quality films and that's what I am looking for: great scripts, great directors, and doing something interesting and fresh. There are composers or actors who just do one thing, and do it very well. But it has been a blessing for me from the get go to be working with different things, and I find that towards the end of a project, if you are working on a comedy, you are saying: “I am craving something sad now. I really want some tragedy.” And the same thing when you're working with something dark: towards the end you feel you would like to jump into a comedy. I think that a contrast is really healthy. TS: So what do you think is the most challenging part of being a versatile composer such as yourself? MZ: I think the hardest part is to keep willing to take risks, to be willing to fail. I think I've done 40 movies, and to keep trying is the biggest part. You know I've done a lot of different types of films, so I'm not scared, but when you first get it (the script) you're like “Oh my god, what am I going to do.” But I keep that fear alive inside to make sure I am trying as hard as I really can. People still hire someone who tends to do something the best. But I think to progress and to keep evolving is the challenge.
THREE BOOKS THAT SHOULD NEVER BE MADE INTO MOVIES CLAUDIA KLOC I love books. My boyfriend loves movies. That’s why, at any opportunity I get, I proudly point out that some of the best movies out there were originally books. Take, for example, The Shining, The Silence of the Lambs, The Lord of the Rings—the list could go on. There is a literal smorgasbord of books out there just waiting to be tapped into and brought to life on the silver screen. The Catcher in the Rye, anyone? (Don’t be deceived; the “official trailer” on YouTube with 50,000 views is just a school project by some pretentious film kid) There are, however, some books that should never, ever, under any circumstances, be made into movies. Here are my top three and the reasons why:
The boring parts of the Bible
Fifty Shades of Grey
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
One year, out of boredom and curiosity, I decided it would be a great idea to read the whole Bible. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really good things in there—Adam getting to name all the animals, Noah getting so drunk he sleeps butt naked, and a pretty dope guy who walks on water. Bible-movie-makers really milk all this good stuff to the fullest, and they rightfully skip over a lot of the super boring and lame stuff. You know, all the verses about how many stones you need to build a temple, the millions of weird laws God gave the Jewish people, and nine whole chapters of names like Dinhabah, Oholibamah, and Tilgathpilneser. This is more of a warning to anyone out there: don’t try making a movie out of the Book of Chronicles, and I beg you, please, for the love of God (ha!) don’t name your child Tilgathpilneser.
Calm down hot mommas, don’t get your panties in a twist, just hear me out. I know there’s lots of buzz over the actors chosen to play the leading roles of Dominant and Submissive, but this really should not be a movie—at least not a Hollywood one. It should be a porno. But the problem with finding a genre for this “book” (I cringe when I say this because it’s a sad excuse for literature) is that it would suck no matter how you marketed it. As a movie, there will inevitably be some sex scenes cut out, or at least a conveniently placed sheet that hides the actor’s good bits. Bummer. As a porno, no one would give a damn about the story line and just fast forward to the action (do people really watch that whole pizza-delivery-bit at the beginning?). Either way, this book shouldn’t become a movie, or a porno, or let’s be honest, even exist in the first place.
Gasp! Am I about to bash the largest and most loyal fandom on the planet?! You bet I am. A disclaimer before I do; I am an HP fan myself, read all the books, saw all the movies, even ventured to Florida to experience Harry Potter World (Yes, I am 20, and no, I am not ashamed). But come on already, just let it go! This book was meant to be read as a supplement to the novels, not as a novel itself. J.K. Rowling apparently plans to tell the adventurous tale of Newt Scamander, the fictional author of the textbook, but she’s actually just making stuff up because a) she wants more money or b) she can’t move on from Harry Potter like the rest of us can. I don’t know which is sadder, but I, for one, would be much more interested in an adaptation of one of her new novels instead of a Care of Magical Creatures textbook.
HOW CLITERATE ARE YOU? 1. The clit can be up to ______ long when erect. a) 7cm b) 9cm c) 2 cm
2. True or false? The clit is the only body part that exists for the sole purpose of providing pleasure.
3. The clit wasn’t scientifically discovered until: a) 1900 b) 1976 c) 1998
4. True or false? A woman cannot reach orgasm without clitoral stimulation.
ou’ve probably seen one. You’ve probably touched one. There’s a 50 percent chance that yes, you even have one. But do you really know what the clitoris is? The clit isn’t just a fun button—although it is the only human body part that exists solely to give its owner pleasure. It’s like a really hightech, really fun, toy—and let’s be honest, who bothers to read the instruction manual? Even those of us who have one (yay!) rarely stop to think about how it actually works. I think you’d be surprised, though, how much reading the user’s guide can help the user in. . . well, using. American artist Sophia Wallace has started a worldwide campaign for the clit: a symbol of equality, female sexuality, and a hell of a good time. First things first: let’s clear up some misconceptions. While male sexuality has been written about for thousands of years, female sexuality is surprisingly new. Before 1952, female libido was diagnosed as “hysteria,” a mental illness that could be cured by marriage, or, of course, a doctor “rubbing essential oils” on the maladied girl’s “afflicted spot.” Even recent anatomy textbooks omit full descriptions of the clit. And the year scientists figured how the clit works? Hint: it was the same year we discovered water on the moon, the iPad, and Lady Gaga’s Poker Face. It was 2009: researchers Buisson and Foldes, after three years of unfunded research, published the first 3D sonogram of the stimulated clitoris—and what they learned completely changes the way we see female sexu-
ality. The clit isn’t just a button; what you see is actually the tip of the iceberg. It actually extends deep inside the female body, and encompasses the vagina ent irely when erect. This means the long held notion of a vaginal orgasm (courtesy of the penis) is actually an internal clitoral orgasm. Whether you have one or not, you have to admit: throughout history the female orgasm has been, well, pretty fucked over. Cliterally. Why is it even important to know this stuff? Well, for one, it can help women do just as easily what men take for granted—orgasm. One in three women have trouble reaching orgasm, and whether you have a clit or not, you have to admit: those numbers kind of suck. And if you’ve ever had a really good orgasm (yay!), you know how totally uncool never having one would be. Not only that, but sex is the most quintessential interaction people can have with each other. So if the distribution of orgasms aren’t equal, then what does that say about the distribution of power and, hell, satisfaction in our society? That’s something that matters regardless of your genitalia. . . clitless or not. So do yourself, and all the clits of the world, a little favor. Learn about the vagina. Learn about the penis! It won’t take
4. False (There have been reports of women orgasming through a combination of clitoral, vaginal, anal, nipple, and thigh stimulation; even just thought alone!) 3. C (Australian urologist published the first complete anatomy of the clit.) 2. True (It has 8,000 super sensitive nerve endings – more than twice as many as the head of the penis.) 1. B (When erect, the clitoris can be longer than an erect penis)
SAD TREND: The crossword
ACROSS 1. Fool; 5. What’s left; 9. Diminutive being of folklore; 14. Suit to ___; 15. Switch ending; 16. Causing goose bumps; 17. Celestial body; 18. Large village; 19. Spoil; 20. Short-tempered person; 22. Where junk may be held; 24. Extraterrestrial; 26. Yes, to Yves; 27. Occur; 30. Infinite time; 35. Bottomless gulf; 36. German Mister; 37. Exultation; 38. Craggy hill; 39. Dancer Duncan; 42. Nav. officer; 43. Paradise lost; 45. Sect; 46. Fable; 48. Resound; 50. Emphasis; 51. “… ___ the cows come home”; 52. Mead subject; 54. Taro; 58. Relate; 62. Moral precept of conduct; 63. Object of devotion; 65. ___-European; 66. Peter of Herman’s Hermits; 67. Songwriter Bacharach; 68. Draft classification; 69. Supermodel Cheryl; 70. Cpls.’ superiors; 71. Snack; DOWN 1. Cummerbund; 2. Sock ___ me!; 3. Crux; 4. Possibly; 5. Keep possession of; 6. Eat into; 7. Plant; 8. Heaps; 9. Circuitous way; 10. Eroding; 11. “Tosca” tune; 12. Circular band; 13. Celebration; 21. Varnish resin; 23. It’s human; 25. Teases; 27. Misanthrope; 28. Dwelling; 29. Funeral fires; 31. Horse’s gait; 32. Actress Graff; 33. Camp sights; 34. Approvals; 36. ___ monde; 40. Climb; 41. Role player; 44. Naught; 47. Speech; 49. Sisters’ daughters; 50. Separates metal from ore; 53. Nautical direction; 54. Fender bender; 55. Yours, in Tours; 56. Foot covering; 57. Pen points; 59. Part of A.D.; 60. Mid-month times; 61. Flood survivor; 64. Made a hole;
Clitoris Labia Majora Labia Minora
long; maybe even quicker than sex, and I guarantee it’ll make you look at it differently. Honestly, wouldn’t the world be such a better place bathed in a permanent post-orgasm glow? Stay safe and stay sexy! Your literate nympho, Miss Scarlet X
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