The Varsity Magazine Vol. XII No. 1 Fall 2018
TABLE OF CONTENTS 06
LETTERS FROM THE EDITORS
“ARE YOU LIKE, FOR BREXIT?”
ACCESSING THE EROTIC
COUNT ME OUT
ODE TO KENZO
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
A CHECK-UP ON YELLOW FEVER
How 2016’s disappointment shapes the next generation of young Brits
A look at Toronto’s inclusive sex stores
Why #MeToo is doomed to fail
On the changing faces of Kensington Market
Reflections on the 2018 Ontario election, the alt-right, and how to not feel so small in the face of big challenges
What it’s like for Asian women to date white guys
THE DARK WEB
THE WHITEST BROWN GIRL
We sold our privacy for digital convenience, and we’re only realizing the consequences now
On growing up between cultures
TRAVELLING THE COLOURED LINES
PSYCHEDELICS AND NEURAL PHYSICALITY
CBC DIDN’T MAKE A MISTAKE
IN DEFENCE OF THE BREADTH REQUIREMENT
Racialized transit passengers face multilayered barriers in the Toronto metropolitan area
The narrow economic margins in downtown Toronto
How LSD reshapes the human brain
When the media speaks for power
Arts, science and the need to bridge the gap
FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTMENT
QUEERNESS, ACTIVISM, COMMUNITY
KANYE’S PROBLEM POLITICS
THE CLOTHES THAT MADE ME
WHO REALLY PAYS FOR CHEAP CLOTHES?
Time is running out on climate change, but university students can make a big impact
An interview with the hosts of Do You Queer What I Queer?
In the age of political correctness, can we separate the art from the artist?
How our outward presentations reflect and create our inner selves
The ethics of fast fashion
The problem with accommodations
Letters from the Editors
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“Are you, like, for Brexit?” How 2016’s disappointment shapes the next generation of young Brits Writer: Neeharika Hemrajani Illustrator: Troy Lawrence
n the first day of orientation, I was chatting to a new friend in line for the barbeque on the St. Mike’s quad. After the short introductions, our conversation gently turned to the question: “So are you, like, for Brexit?” This is a question I had heard countless times since my arrival in Canada from the United Kingdom. Before answering, the first thought that ran through my head was: what will my answer reveal about me as a person? I remember the day of the vote quite clearly. I was 16 years old and it was the day of my last General Certificate of Secondary Education exam. Quite frankly, nothing was more important to me than the Further Maths paper I was due to sit in less than two hours — not even the future of a country I’ve called home for as long as I can remember. I was in the car when the final votes had been counted and Prime Minister David Cameron was due to make his speech regarding the results. This is the one thing I remembered before walking into the exam hall that day: “The British people have made a choice. That not only needs to be respected — but those on the losing side of the argument, myself included, should help to make it work.” Fast forward two years later. This October, over 700,000 people had taken to the streets of Central London to call for a second referendum with a “people’s vote.” To give context to this figure, this was the biggest peaceful demonstration regarding government policy since the protests against the Iraq War in 2003. In response, Nigel Farage held a pro-Brexit counterprotest in Harrogate, attended by about 1,200 people. With consistent unrest, a hung parliament, and a great deal of indecisiveness, life in Brexit Britain for my generation is stormy. In the aftermath of the 2016 referendum, a study by PathMotion, a recruitment platform, found that 49 per cent of employers indicated that they would likely to lower their graduate intake should Britain leave the European Union. Furthermore, justified by the depreciation of
the pound after the vote, the British economy stands on stilts waiting to collapse. The pound’s fall in 2016 following the referendum apparently became comparable to its fall in the global financial crisis of 2008. In the face of all this, it is safe to say that I did not feel equipped to handle the political climate, let alone ‘make it work’ for the other side. Although I understand the attention Brexit has gained globally, it was still surprising to me that my views on the matter had enough merit to be discussed in conversation with my peers here. My accent has suddenly become my ‘I just left England because of Brexit!’ sticker. But here is what stands out about my generation: there is a growing passion among us all to participate, at the very least, in what’s going on. A shadow of uncertainty has been cast globally by Brexit, but it also provoked a new wave of political enthusiasts eager to have a say in their future. For me, this political uncertainty reflects in my personal life as well, ingrained in my search for an identity and concern for the shape of my future.
I find that it influences me in even the smallest decisions, such as the friends I choose or the classes I pick. I strongly feel the presence of Brexit branded on my sleeve as I walk through campus — an identity I never created for myself, but one that everyone seems to know me by. This is similar to the way that the political party one supports expresses more about one’s personality than you might expect. Living through Brexit Britain has cultivated an increasingly anti-apathetic strain in me. I’m determined to have a say and, even after having taken a step away from it all, this burning desire has only grown stronger. Through this, the intersection of activism and identity is much more important to me than it otherwise would have been. With the pending Brexit deal looming ahead of us in the coming year, I yearn for a continued fight against apathy. In the words of Charles Dickens, it truly is the best of times and the worst of times; we have nothing before us and we have everything before us.
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Accessing the erotic A look at Torontoâ€™s inclusive sex stores Writer: Ashley Manou Photographer: Rachel Hughes 8 â€” T h e Va r s i t y M a g a z i n e / S e a m
istory is no stranger to pleasure with a price tag. And neither is Harbord Street. In the thick of cafés and street art lining Harbord’s sidewalks stands one of Toronto’s oldest independent sex shops. Housed in a tame Victorian row house marked with a small orange sign, the store has an otherwise naked facade. By looks alone, the absence of cherry symbolism and black lettering cues visitors in to the fact that Good for Her is a break from tradition in the business of eroticism. It’s a 21-year-old storefront that offers a new meaning to selling sex — one that forefronts women and queer individuals. Besides dealing in the twenty-first century circuitry of wearable vibrators and kink, they dispense sexual and relationship education. Workshops focusing on topics such as “finding your fluids,” somatic sex, and dating with mental illness run on a regular basis. They have traded out shelves of smutty magazines for accessible exploration and a redeeming sense of freedom. Good for Her is about fuelling self-discovery and uncovering intimacy — with an extensive stock of leather and rubber on the side. The store’s relaxed yellow hardwood and white walls are an uncomplicated introduction to the rows of blush- and lilac-coloured toys on the back wall. Familiar phallus shapes sit alongside more inventive ones, cleanly laid out with white labels. More often than not, though, much more information is required — how toys work and why, for example. At Good for Her, they give you answers and, more importantly, make you feel comfortable while asking your questions, regardless of who you are. Regardless of your sexual or gender identity, the store has provided a space for visitors to exercise their sexual curiosity beyond a Google search bar since 1997. “I really started the store with an idea in mind that women, in particular, who didn’t feel comfortable walking into a regular sex shop would feel comfortable walking into my space,” owner Carlyle Jansen says. But outside of the hours exclusively dedicated to women and trans customers each Sunday from 12:00–2:00 pm, everyone is welcome. “It’s for people who maybe feel a little bit more comfortable in a space where there aren’t cis-gendered men,” she adds about that two-hour window on Sundays. “Not that men are bad or misbehave in the store — I’ve actually met lots of fabulous men through the store, and I think it takes a really confident man to really understand women and make that journey into the store,” she explains. “It’s just that for some people who’ve been through sexual assault, sometimes they’re just worried that a guy is going to look at them while they’re talking about something intimate. So those women and trans-only hours are for peo-
ple who wouldn’t be as comfortable in our store at other times.” Hours aside, Jansen has cultivated a store where the cookiecutter is more likely to furrow brows than a vibrator-themed greeting card. Everything is on the table, conversationally and, in the case of most toys, tangibly.
The taboos of female and queer pleasure have no place in between artsy copies of the Kama Sutra and indie porn, just as Jansen intends. “I think that women being empowered in their sexuality is [considered] very threatening. The whole idea that if we don’t need men to satisfy ourselves — people interpret that as man-hating or that we don’t like men or that men are dispensable. That’s not what I’m saying,” she clarifies. Despite being the youngest child of an accomplished and conventional family, Jansen’s empowered and assured explanations dispel any boilerplate ideas of love, gender, and, most of all, intimacy. “What it is, partially, is that when… you talk about the word ‘sex,’ what comes to most people’s mind is a penis inside a vagina, and then when you start to say you don’t need a penis inside a vagina, [that] you can have a mouth on a vagina, you can have two vulvas rubbing together, you can have a penis up another part of a guy with a penis — it’s when you start to change the permutations that they go, ‘Oh no, that’s not the real way of having sex, the mature way, the procreative way.’ That is also threatening the establishment that feels like, ‘Wait a second, this is what we’ve been told, this is what we interpret from the Bible or other kinds of religious texts.’” However they may clash, it is the collision of sex and religion that delivered Jansen to Good for Her. When her sister, the Reverend MaryAnn Jansen, held her bridal shower, Carlyle Jansen gifted erotic toys and settled in to explain the potential that they carry for uncharted pleasure. Her straightforward authority and delivery still punctuates her programs and talks today. “Information is key. I had a group of women who all knew each other; they were all really progressive and there were about 15 of them. We went around the room and 10 of them said they couldn’t orgasm during intercourse. And I said to them, ‘Does that mean you’re not normal?’ We need to change what our expectations are, what we think sex is supposed to look like, and channel it toward what is realistic instead of what society thinks it’s supposed to look like. I think a lot of women contort themselves toward an imaginary mold. There’s
all this pressure that we have to look sexy and enjoy all kinds of sex and orgasm during intercourse at the same time as our partner. It’s a performance and it’s not what is realistic and pleasurable for most women.” While Good for Her is not alone in its ideology, it has lost contemporaries to the rising costs of business downtown. Jack Lamon of Come As You Are (CAYA), a worker-owned cooperative, was a part of its transition into an online only sex shop after the dispensary craze drove up rents and dried up retail space in 2016. A self-described partner in the “new wave of feminist sex shops,” CAYA lives up to the Nirvana-esque reference, sexy pun, and open invitation to an accepting space that its name contains. “We worked really hard to keep it as a safe space for folks who were marginalized because of their sexuality, gender orientation, disability, and people marginalized because of race,” Lamon, a trans man, says. “We worked to make sure that people consented to the way that they entered and interacted with the store. We always kept things that were less exclusive at the front. So you could check out the massage oils or some books and magazines and, as you [get] more comfortable and as you go more into the store, you get into vibrators or strap-ons or DVDs,” Lamon continued. “We’re a worker-owned cooperative so we’ve always been democratic — we all have an equal say on the products that are selected and what the store looks like. We’ve all selected a very diverse set of experiences rather than just one person’s idea of sexuality.” Staunchly anti-capitalist and feminist, Lamon is unabashedly vocal about CAYA’s values-first approach and advocacy. “Politically and socially, sex is something that’s really governed by patriarchy and, like it or not, that’s the world we live in,” Lamon says. “As long as we’re in a society that is overly influenced by religious conservatism, we will never really shed those taboos.” So how do we make sex what we really want it to be? “It all starts with yourself. The best way to have an easygoing, satisfying sexual relationship with another person is to explore your own body on your own terms,” he says. “Get private with yourself. We do this all the time with other things but we don’t think about it. You try a food on your own or a special coffee or to have a little adventure. But with sexuality and your body, we’re all so different that nobody else is going to know how to navigate your body unless you teach them how to do so, and the only way you can teach them how to pleasure you is to know yourself.” Ultimately, sexual pleasure is in our hands, regardless of who we share it with. Stores like these remind us of that.
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Count me out
Why #MeToo is doomed to fail Writer: Kashi Syal Illustrators: Mia Carnevale & Jessica Zhou
grew up on Annie Lennox, Aretha Franklin, and Cyndi Lauper. My mum had short hair, baggy jeans, and a ‘fuck you’ attitude for anyone who dared to question her brilliance. From Robert Munsch’s children’s book, The Paper Bag Princess, to Gloria Gaynor’s iconic anthem, “I Will Survive,” she built me a whole universe — one that engendered my interest in the human condition. By five, I knew that girls were just as special as boys. By 10, I knew that I had to speak twice as loudly if I wanted to be heard. By 15, I knew that women had to work harder to break any sort of glass ceiling. I wrote about ‘equal pay for equal work,’ sexual assault, and justice for minority groups. I went on marches. I joined societies. I talked a lot about things I didn’t really understand, consumed in a rhetoric that I am only beginning to unlearn. Now at 21, I’m stuck. There seems to be gaps in my mum’s universe. I am finding it difficult to associate myself with a movement that seems intent on merging the personal with the political. With its disregard for feeling and emotion, when did society stop being kind?
Feminism is a social and political movement that aims to encourage and create equality between all genders. Recently, a subset of feminism has emerged: intersectional feminism. The New York Times wrote that “this brand of feminism — frequently referred to as ‘intersectionality’ — asks white women to acknowledge that they have had it
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easier.” This subculture tries to move away from the ‘white middle class’ era of feminism, and instead aims to draw attention to the inequalities faced by people of colour, the LGBTQ+ community and individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. It is distinct from white feminism, also referred to as liberal feminism, which brands itself as the ‘women’s movement.’ Before them, third-wave feminists declared that a fixed female identity does not exist. Second-wave feminists believe that all individuals are of equal moral worth, and therefore should all have the same opportunities to fulfil their potential. However, this promotion of ‘human rights’ often only extends to white, educated, middle-class women. Intersectional feminism acknowledges that liberal feminism champions legal and political equality for both men and women. Yet it criticizes the reductionist white feminist belief that many women are not only marginalized because of their gender, but also because of their race and sexuality. The white feminism of the 1970s, propounded by the baby boomer generation, is embodied in the works of women like Gloria Steinem, Susie Orbach, Annie Lennox, and Margaret Atwood. When Atwood was writing The Handmaid’s Tale, the second-wave feminism of the late twentieth century had reached its height. She questioned in an interview, “If a woman’s place is in the home, then what? If you actually decide to enforce that, what follows?” Her commentary drew attention to the gendered division of public and private spheres — with the public sphere dominated by men, and the private sphere of domestic life left to women.
The feminists of the ’70s and ’80s rejected the private-public divide. They argued that traditional political and power relationships did not just occur within the public sphere; they also existed within the private sphere. Annie Lennox described Beyoncé as “feminist lite” after her 2014 Video Music Awards performance. Lennox said that her music and branding did not “necessarily represent wholeheartedly the depths of feminism.” By reducing Beyoncé to her on-stage persona and dismissing her many other notable attributes — artist, business woman, activist — Lennox drew attention to outdated dialogues surrounding empowerment and feminism. In a later interview with National Public Radio, she clarified that “twerking is not feminism… it’s not liberating, it’s not empowering. It’s a sexual thing you’re doing on a stage; it doesn’t empower you.” By dismissing Beyoncé’s version of feminism, Lennox, like Atwood, not only reduces the movement to one of white women against
white men, but also suggests that the only societal issues surrounding female empowerment are how women present themselves to men. Once again, they ignore the nuances that arise when talking — or in this case, not talking — about race and sexuality. American author and feminist activist bell hooks argues that if white women become the authoritarian voice of the feminist movement, the patriarchal system would just be replaced by one of white women, who would in turn repress the voices of other marginalized groups. It is this version of feminism that has dominated the #MeToo movement and, perhaps, made it so difficult for survivors to speak out about their trauma.
In a world of #MeToo, where sexual assault has become something of a dinner party topic, there is an increasing tendency to overpoliticize and oversimplify the complexities of consent.
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The discourse surrounding feminism about a supposed ‘right way’ to follow the movement has allowed media outlets to reduce sexual misconduct to ‘no means no’ and ‘yes means yes,’ when in reality, it is rarely that clear cut. When looking at the intersections of popular culture and assault, there is usually an imbalance of power between the accuser and the accused. The #MeToo movement also privileges the voices of survivors who already have huge followings, leaving working-class women — who arguably bear the heaviest load — behind them. This means that their voices are often not heard, overpowered as they are by the rhetoric of their abusers as well as that of rich, often white, actresses. Last November, I wrote an article for The Varsity that reflected on the legacies of some of Hollywood’s newest notorious men — Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, and the like — and their abuse scandals. A year on, the conversations surrounding #MeToo have not really changed. Most recently, on October 6, the US Senate voted 50– 48 in favour of appointing Brett Kavanaugh as an associate justice to the Supreme Court. In doing so, the US Supreme Court decided that Kavanaugh is eligible to sit on America’s highest bench, despite sexual assault allegations from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Kavanaugh is yet another example of a man who was never truly on trial for his sexual misdemeanours. Rather, his only risk was not getting a job. Just like the countless perpetrators of the many assaults that happen on college campuses, workplaces, and transport systems every day, Kavanaugh could not lose in his narrative — because it is a narrative that he, and other powerful figures, wrote and still dominate. The slogan of the #MeToo movement is “we believe survivors” — but do we? I worry that sexual assault has become just a conversation, a political movement in which everyone is trying to shout the loudest.
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It is not enough that media platforms, governmental bodies, and the general public choose to entertain the voices of survivors if they refuse to propel any actual shift in societal values. Furthermore, let’s not forget that these very platforms — news outlets and social media sites alike, including Facebook and Twitter — actively profit from victims sharing their stories through monetizing views and clicks. It takes social and legal change for patterns of social behaviour to shift and, on a surface level, sexual assault is being taken more seriously. However, despite finally talking about it, the statistics do not reflect the current political climate of ‘caring’: 43 per cent of victims do not report because they think that nothing can be done, 27 per cent think it is a private matter, 12 per cent are afraid of the police response, and 12 per cent feel that it is not important enough to report. Over the course of a lifetime, one in six women and one in 33 men will experience sexual assault or rape, and eight of 10 of these assaults will be perpetrated by an individual that the survivor knows. Rape is not about sex. Rather, it is about power and control. And, in between discussions of how this power is distributed, who is accountable when power is abused, and why powerful media outlets, institutions, and Hollywood allow morality to be undermined — we demand unrealistic responses from survivors. The slogan “the personal is political” is a rallying cry for feminists, but it can be damaging discourse for survivors. We’ve maintained a system by which survivors are required to relive their trauma in constricted narratives in order to be believed. Who does that really serve? Too often, we forget that the personal is also the personal, and that our main priority should be facilitating healing for survivors. It’s time to leave the debates for the lecture theatre and to start genuinely focusing on the people who are hurting. We can do better.
On the changing faces of Kensington Market
Ode to Kenzo Writer: Daniel Aykler Photographer: Daniel Aykler
hen someone is looking to capture the essence of an area, they frequently use the term ‘personality’ as a catch-all to describe the unique and charismatic quirks of a space. Personality can evolve through numerous influencers, from individual storefronts and captivating locals to historic architecture and idealistic green spaces. The combination of these components can create a space that is indescribable, yet enthralling. The idea perpetuates itself, attracting like-minded people who thrive on the environment and support the spaces that embody it. ‘Personality’ is often used to describe the slew of independent shops on Queen Street, or the vibrant, welcoming atmosphere of Church and Wellesley. This concept of personality is what drives tourism, encourages local pride, and makes
living in a city truly worthwhile. Toronto is evolving into one of the most economically prosperous cities in North America. With this comes formulaic developments and lowrisk architecture erected wherever a plot of land can be zoned. In this concrete jungle, however, one space still stands as an embodiment of personality: Kensington Market. It’s only in Kensington that a Jamaican-Italian fusion restaurant can co-exist with a sailor-style tattoo parlour and an off-the-wall kids’ toy store. From cheap eats to Victorian-style architecture and prosperous parks, it’s the ideal space to happily waste away a Sunday. Kensington Market has, for many years, been the personification of anti-corporate sentiment and a pioneer for preserving local integrity.
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But recently, new developments and chains have begun to enter the market, bringing with them a subtler type of gentrification, one that the market has explicitly fought for years.
History of the market
Originating in the 1870s, Kensington Market has long been a space occupied by various cultural groups. British and Irish immigrants were the first to monopolize Kensington, giving the area its distinctly British name. By the 1900s, Jewish immigrants had quickly filled the space and begun selling goods in front of their homes. This casual, entrepreneurial environment is what gave the area its distinctive ‘market’ quality. Following World War II, the Jewish community moved to wealthier areas, opening the doors for other European immigrants to move in. Portuguese immigrants established some of the most solid roots of any European community, but they also moved into more wealthy areas around the 1970s. Following this, South Asian immigrants began opening shops in Kensington, which marked the advent of its eclectic design today. As its popularity continued increasing, countless efforts were made to change the space
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in one way or another. Companies such as Walmart and Starbucks attempted to open in the market but were strongly and successfully resisted by the city councillor and community groups. Today, the market is designated as a Canadian national historic site. It’s difficult to classify Kensington’s changes in the past few years as gentrification in the traditional sense. Often, gentrification is signaled by rising rents or corporate invasion and confirmed upon the opening of a Whole Foods. But what Kensington has gone through in the past few years has been far more nuanced. Local chains have opened shiny new shops, new condos have quietly been assembled, and the sidewalks seem perhaps mildly cleaner. But what does this mean? The market is far from destroyed. In fact, it remains the pinnacle of personality in the city. Despite the implied law of ‘independent shops only,’ the opening of anything outside of that does not inherently ruin the character of the space. These stores are far from incompatible and, in fact, are often complementary. Regardless, with this law in mind, the appearance of a Jimmy’s Coffee begins to feel more than mildly disingenuous. To imply that corporations aren’t welcome, yet embracing a well-funded chain, presents residents with a unique dilemma that they were neither prepared for nor aware of. Is the opening of these stores adverse to the market’s culture? The market’s shops are often highly specialized in their product, and, as such, can avoid inducing competition, instead enhancing each other’s performance. It is because of this specialized nature and wide variety that Kensington has rightfully sustained its ‘market’ distinction. Shoppers recognize the value in going to multiple stores to get the best of what the market has to offer, instead of going to the traditional onestop-shop. Simply because one store is newer or better funded than the other does not change the nature of the area.
What Kensington has done so effectively is preserve its integrity by fending off national chains, while simultaneously recognizing inevitable gentrification and demanding that new stores adapt to the established environment. Any new store that can reinforce the market’s style and widen the diverse range of options should be welcomed openly.
In an interview with Toronto Life, Aaron Levy raised the concern that “the creeping gentrification and concomitant rise in real estate values, many argue, are stripping the market of its eccentric character and driving out the less affluent people who live there.” This is the ultimate concern of a community that has been increasingly difficult to protect. He went on to argue, “But has that really happened? People have been saying the market’s dead for years, yet it’s still pretty much the only place in Toronto where you can fly your freak flag as high as you like.” Beyond the storefronts and quirky atmosphere, Kensington is home to many individuals who have been battling to keep their homes, but are faced with insurmountable rent increases from fierce landlords. The universally accepted disadvantage of gentrification is that residents are priced out of their homes. The displacement of locals is a tragic consequence of an environment that is infused with hipster bread and lavish poke bowls. But who is to blame for this? Some point to the city for neglecting the need for affordable housing, while others look to the landlords who ruthlessly capitalize on their appreciating asset. William Strange, a University of Toronto Professor of Urban Economics, outlines the true uncertainty of city planning. Although the burden and blame is imposed on the city for an area’s eventual form, Strange explains how “it’s really hard to engineer neighbourhoods. Neighbourhoods happen. The coolest ones happen because people make little individual decisions that make them interesting.” Ultimately, the city has far too little power to dictate what landlords will do with their spaces. Meanwhile, those same landlords are simply replying to a supply restriction in housing. Similarly, in retail spaces, they are often capitalizing on a highly-valuable property. Strange emphasizes that one of the primary issues that the city faces is a dissonance between the universal acceptance of a lack of housing supply and the diversion of possible developments elsewhere. A prime example of this is Kensington Market itself.
Although the development of Kensington might appear detrimental, its 150 years of perpetual flux should indicate that continuous change is inevitable. The market will evolve, but change is not always negative. Currently, the city restricts developments in the area to around four storeys, while the community adamantly refuses new builds altogether. For this, Strange proposes “not a ban on development, but instead encouraging development that allows diverse ranges of income to inhabit a neighbourhood.” Simply put, he suggests generating more affordable housing in the area. Although the market should attempt to preserve its identity as much as possible, new development may not bring all the unraveling that is predicted. Strange goes on to explain that, “the people who want to live in a place like Kensington, as it is right now, these are people who don’t want pristine sidewalks, trees, and no people out at night. These are people who are buying into it because they like Kensington-ness. It would not surprise me if the presence of
those [new] folks would strengthen rather than weaken inherent Kensington-ness.” This is important to emphasize because anyone buying into a newly built condo in the area could just as easily live along King Street. Instead, they choose to embrace the market for its character and want to support it rather than disrupt it. Although the development of Kensington might appear detrimental, its 150 years of perpetual flux should indicate that continuous change is inevitable. The market will evolve, but change is not always negative. Tourists and locals alike come to Kensington to escape the drudgery of the financial district or the monotony of corporatized Yonge Street. It’s a pocket of dynamic urban space, ripe for vibrant storefronts and eccentric individuals; it’s one of few places in the
city that you want to get lost in and find yourself four hours later, stomach full and hands crowded with vintage finds. This identity and individuality should be collectively upheld and prioritized above the interests of the next big business. The importance of diverse and energetic pockets of Toronto cannot be overstated. They dictate the flow of our city and ultimately shape the people who live here. We are lucky to have a community full of individuals who recognize that. In this, I’m simply aiming to curb a catastrophic view of the changing environment. I challenge individuals to support new and old businesses alike, and with the same earnest devotion that led the market to where it is today. For without it, I don’t know where I would go on Sunday mornings.
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Where do we go from here? Reflections on the 2018 Ontario election, the alt-right, and how to not feel so small in the face of great challenges Writer: Tara Mahoney Illustrator: Pearl Cao
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That is the sound that emerges from my mouth, my bones, and my brain every time I turn on my radio to hear the news in the morning. Kavanaugh. Separation of refugee families at the US-Mexico border. A Trump tax bill transferring wealth from the poor to the rich. Hate crimes. Climate change. Racial inequality. Income inequality. Missing and murdered Indigenous women. Where does it end? The world is so unfair, and now I need to take my privileged white ass to class. To top it all off, just when we were feeling all high-andmighty up here in Canada after the election of Donald Trump — ‘That could never happen here!’ — Ontario went and elected a right-wing populist. The state of our world can be completely and totally paralyzing. In fact, I think most of us choose not to mobilize on election day for this reason. What is my one vote going to do to change any of these far-reaching, deep, systemic problems? And, if the same powerful rich people continue to be the only ones with access to public office, what will change by voting? In June, 40 per cent of Ontarians who voted elected a Progressive Conservative government led by Doug Ford. But don’t let the word ‘progressive’ fool you: this party is the leftovers of a past conservative party, an artifact of Ontario politics that laughs in our faces each and every time someone is forced to put ‘progressive’ and ‘Doug Ford’ in the same sentence. Let me be crystal clear: there is nothing progressive about Ford. Who is he, anyway? Most of us just know him as some round, sweaty man who entered Ontario politics relatively recently and started shouting about hydro prices and balancing the budget. Through all the garbage of Ontario politics, you may have heard his campaign rallying cry: “For the people.” I feel very strongly that this phrase should be changed to ‘for my people’ as a result of the Ford government’s record since being elected. Why? Well, let’s check his catalogue of offerings. A pledge to do away with the labour reform bill, which, among many other things, was going to raise the minimum wage to $15 in January. Pausing the creation of new overdose prevention sites, an initiative that’s proven to help reduce the tragic effects of the opioid crisis. Cancelling the basic income pilot, which helped thousands of low-income Ontarian families make ends meet. And, as the last of only a handful of examples, cancelling Ontario’s world-renowned cap-and-trade system, which brought in millions in annual government revenue and effectively reduced the province’s carbon emissions. Many of these policies, like the labour reform bill cancellation, will mean less money “for the people” and more money for the CEOs of
large corporations. Did I mention that Ford owns a multimillion-dollar business, Deco Labels & Tags? Despite that long list of negativity, there is a light at the end of the tunnel: millennials will become the largest voting bloc in North America. We have the power to affect change. And, despite all the bad in the world, there is good happening, too. In Britain, Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of democratic socialism gained more popular support in the last federal UK election than anyone thought possible. Corbyn has advocated and continues to advocate for the nationalization of public utilities and railways, as well as the expansion of welfare and public services to support the most vulnerable of the British population. In the US, the momentum that Bernie Sanders created in the 2016 election is continued by candidates seeking Senate and Congress seats. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 29-year-old American woman of Puerto Rican descent and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, won the primary this summer against an incumbent Democrat who has held office for 19 years and is twice her age. As we speak, she is campaigning across the country for other candidates who, like her, were told that the odds were not in their favour. Something big is happening. In Canada, 2015 federal election data tells us that young people handed Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party a majority by turning out in larger numbers. As Ocasio-Cortez said a couple of weeks ago, “Our swing voter is not red-to-blue. Our swing voter is the voter to the non-voter, the non-voter to the voter.” It is our responsibility to ourselves and to our children to engage in our democracy. Progressivism is the rallying cry of young people in 2018. Young people overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump in the United States. They favour a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community, gender equality, gun control, action on climate change, racial justice, and income equality. Therefore, larger voter turnout and millennial values should equal more progressive governments. Math! In October 2019, young Canadians will have the opportunity to make a difference — they will have a say in whom they want to lead the country. Show your city, your province, and your country that you are not an apathetic millennial. Let the Doug Fords and the Donald Trumps of the world light a fire under your butt. Take that same butt, and perhaps the butt of a friend, to the polls. Even if you are doing the simple work of engaging your friends in a conversation about politics, you are contributing to the engagement of other young people in this process. Have courage — it’s not too late to build a better world.
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A check-up on yellow fever What it’s like for Asian women to date white guys Writer: Stephanie Bai Collage Artist: Kate Reeve
heryl Quan’s eyebrows furrow as she pauses, searching for the right words. “It’s a lot,” she finally says. “And I hope I got it across. I want to be mindful of the language I use, and sometimes it’s hard for me to think of the right words to say.” It is a lot, I want to tell her. I had just spent 40 minutes asking the fourth-year U of T student, vocal activist, and Administrative Director of LGBTOUT about her experience as an Asian woman in the dating scene, covering topics from colonialism and white privilege to Tinder. This interview was about the intersections of love and race, of dating and division, and these are matters that have given everybody who I talked to pause. I had to pause myself, writing this. I didn’t realized the sheer enormity of this topic until I began researching the social history, the generalizations, the stereotypes, the conflicting opinions. To begin unravelling the complexity, I spoke extensively with three people about their perspectives and histories with interracial relationships. Qualifying experiences that deal with race meant examining implicit views of each race’s treatment, views, and experiences — things that need to be felt to be truly understood. As an Asian woman myself, this topic is uniquely important to me. My identity also inspired different questions to pursue, including: how do individual experiences differ in relationships between Asian women and white men, how do these experiences change over time, and how do you reconcile racialized experiences with love and dating? And, most importantly, at the end of the day, how much does this truly matter? 1 8 — T h e Va r s i t y M a g a z i n e / S e a m
Relationships between Asian women and white men are often looked at through the lens of ‘yellow fever,’ a label attributed to men who prefer Asian women. But this preference comes with a whole host of issues, including stereotypes, typically about Asian women. “It’s the weird paradox of being hyper-sexual or not sexual at all,” says Rebecca Gao, a third-year student at U of T who has been in a relationship with her white boyfriend for a year and a half. Either Asian women are like the kinky, openly sexual caricatures often portrayed in pornography, or they’re docile and adoring girlfriends. Think Knives Chau from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, before the blue hair dye and eponymous knife skills kicked in. Quan notes that the stereotypes around and about her are that “I’m quiet, probably; good at math; or delicate and kind of submissive. And I’ve seen that reflected in the way people treat me.” There is a subtle power dynamic at play here. The combination of white male privilege with stereotypes about Asian women’s docility indicates that white men would likely exert more power in the relationship, which could be considered a conception of imperialism. According to one academic paper, sexual relations between white men and Asian women are extensions of a primal, war-driven desire to imperialize the Asian woman’s body and conquer her submissive nature. The study points to the history of white male dominance in Asia, of colonization and conquests, and of blatant racism. These desires and power dynamics are maintained in the racial stereotypes of today, which eventually translate into relationships between white men and Asian women.
Reading this paper was chilling. It is disturbing to think that we can strip relationships down to such stark and violating generalizations. It seems paradoxical, doesn’t it? That some of our most intimate experiences — from that casual date to the depths of our love lives — should collide so violently with the cold realities of racial power plays.
A white guy’s dating experience
Mitchell Newman* is from Richmond, British Columbia. He has a history of dating mostly Asian girls, but he doesn’t consider it a fetish. He’s open about his dating history and he understands that people look at him funny sometimes when they hear about it. When I ask him about the ethnicities of his past girlfriends, he says, “I’d say it was half Asian, half other races.” While he attended a well-ranked, diverse high school, being in the International Baccalaureate program put him in a small pool of students that was very much separated from the rest of the school. And the majority of students in this program were East Asian. “In my program, I was one of the three white people,” he says. Proximity and exposure were two of the biggest factors at play in the genesis of his dating life. “It was more like you were friends with people who were in the same program as you, so I was in an environment with a lot of Asian people, and I learned a lot about their culture,” he says. “I think people have a misconception that there’s a certain characteristic that makes me into Asians, but I think it was the environment mostly.” David Frederick, Chapman University assistant professor of psychology, told Vice that “if a man has a particularly positive relationship with an Asian woman, this may increase his prefer-
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ence for Asian women.” He explained that “the physical features typical of Asian women can become paired with feelings of reward and pleasure, leading men to preferentially seek out relationships with Asian women in the future.” This may be another explanation for white men’s preferences. This might apply to Newman too. “I guess my most long-term relationship was with someone who was Asian, so I guess maybe subconsciously, I associate that with stability,” he concedes.
Behind the attraction
Newman’s attraction to Asian women isn’t easily defined, though. He explains that he likes less aggressive women, a characteristic that apparently overlaps with Asian values. “I kind of like people who talk about issues that are important but [don’t] just try to shove their opinions down people’s throats,” he says. “I wouldn’t even say that I associate that with Asian people, but that’s just a quality I like and I’ve noticed that quality more in Asian girls I’ve dated, but that’s only because I’ve dated more of them… I can’t say for certain.” Part of his attraction also comes from his expectations of beauty, which are notably outside of the white mainstream perception and likely due to his high school experience. “I grew up in that environment, and [Asian girls] are the girls I find pretty,” he says. “Like, one of my friends, he’s of Indian descent. He grew up in Europe, and he grew up around lots of white people… now he only finds white girls attractive because [of ] the environment he grew up in.” Newman’s first experience with the idea of ‘yellow fever’ actually came from a difference in opinion about attractiveness. He was 16 and staying with a host family during his Québec exchange trip. While he and the host family’s son were scrolling through girls’ profiles on Instagram one day, “I was like, ‘That girl’s cute,’” Mitchell says. “He’s like, ‘No she’s not, she’s not cute at all.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, look, she has a nice smile, and she looks nice and stuff.’ And he’s like, ‘She’s not hot though.’ And I guess it was that moment I realized, ‘Am I — is there something wrong with me?’ And he’s
like, ‘Do you only like Asian girls or something?’” It was the first time that he had been told that the way he thought of or saw people was wrong or different. It was an uncomfortable, revelatory moment that stuck with him, like gum on the bottom of his shoe. “I guess I was just questioning myself. I was questioning what I think is attractive,” he says. “And then I think that may have spurred the fact that, in that time — then and [shortly] after — I dated two white girls. So I think that might have had something to do with it. I don’t think it was direct, maybe subconsciously or indirectly.” Above all though, Newman believes that the term ‘yellow fever’ impacts Asian women the most. “If you’re dating a white guy and your friends are like, ‘Oh, he’s only dating Asians because he has yellow fever’… I bet it makes the girl feel objectified,” he says. “Like, ‘Oh, he’s only dating me because I’m Asian, because he has some sort of weird Asian fetish.’” Indeed, for Asian women especially, there is an underlying reductive quality to the term. Yellow fever traditionally refers to a viral, infectious disease, which implies that a white man must be experiencing a feverish delirium, or that Asian women are only desirable because they are like germs infecting men, like viruses that replicate and latch on to more and more hosts. In either case, the language is degrading and may invoke a level of unease for Asian women in these relationships — that they may feel more wary, be more aware of the way they’re being perceived.
An East Asian woman’s dating experience
Viewed in terms of stereotypes and yellow fever, Asian women are forced to be more conscious of how their relationship’s racial dynamics are portrayed. “A lot of it’s just my own internal anxieties,” Gao says. “I don’t think my boyfriend has ever been like, ‘Huh, weird that I’m not dating someone who’s white.’ I don’t think he’s ever thought that, but I feel as if I think about it a lot and I feel as if other people think about it a lot.”
Even though Rebecca’s in a loving, committed, and equal relationship, these thoughts still infect her mind some days. This anxiety is compounded by the fact that racialized experiences are difficult to qualify, and words like ‘microaggressions’ have been offered to try and give people the language to express their inner feelings. Ultimately, though, it’s a matter of perception that is rooted in deeper systemic issues. Just the idea of a submissive stereotype can come with the idea that Asian women somehow loathe themselves or each other for dating outside of their race. “I think that’s where a lot of my issues stem [from] whenever people are like, ‘You’re not a ‘woke,’ progressive, strong, independent Asian woman because you’re dating a white person,’” Gao says. “I feel as if it’s a thing of people thinking in that framework of ‘once you’re indoctrinated in this white society, especially if you’re an Asian woman dating someone who’s white, then you’ve become colonized, or absorbed.’” Therein lies my issue with the theory of imperialization in relationships between Asian women and white men. That choosing to date a white guy is somehow forfeiture of agency and power for Asian women. After all, if white men are so obviously going to colonize Asian women, then clearly they must be weaker and more submissive, right? “I don’t know even know if I can put words to it, but it makes me really, deeply uncomfortable when people are like, ‘You’ve been colonized because you’re dating a white person,’” Gao admits. “But it’s this thing I’ve read where it’s like, ‘Why are women — specifically women of colour — why’s the onus on them?’” Disconcertingly, the burden is on Asian women to explain themselves, to validate their so-called ‘Asianness.’ Sometimes, people from their own community see their relationship as a betrayal to their race. It’s a frank conversation I’ve had with my Asian friends throughout high school, something that we still return to every now and then. If we dated an Asian, there’s this odd pull of the gut, a question instantly sparked about homogeneity or conformity to our parents’
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limited permissions for our love lives. So, if we were to date a white person, we sometimes wonder if it’s just an act of rebellion. Would we just be trying to prove that we’re different from the rest, that we’re ‘not that kind of Asian?’ It’s an uncomfortable subject to dwell on and an uncomfortable topic to discuss. Both questions make me step back and want to say that no, it’s not all about race. It can’t be. There are so many more mitigating factors to a relationship. But that can only change so much. At the end of the day, the questions and tension still linger.
How important is race?
There are mountains of generalizations that I can sift through when it comes to race — stereotypes, history, oppression, power dynamics. Deconstructing the idea of race and racial interactions, unpacking it until it’s completely accessible and understandable, is a layered, layered process far beyond the scope of this article. According to Quan, these are issues that she’s discussed within her queer community. They often talk about intersectionality and examine relationships with different lenses, whether that be through gender or race. She believes that race influences our daily interactions and overall lives. She found that Tinder and its use in the
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LGBTQ+ dating community revealed some of the internalized racism. “It’s not uncommon for people literally on dating profiles to be like, ‘No Asians, no Black people,’” she says. “I have these biases too that I’m working on. But a lot of us, when we look at someone with apps like Tinder, we decide whether we want to talk to them or not, and we would all be lying if we said it wasn’t racially motivated.” To her, the discussion of race is necessary for open communication in relationships. “I think things like race and sexuality — I can’t not talk about them because they’re my life, right? And so, I don’t see it as a difficult conversation. It’s like any other, like, ‘What’s your favourite food?’” “Because as much as you might love your partner in a completely healthy, valid way, there are still structures in society, in things like systemic oppression, that treat both of you differently [and] influences how you interact with each other. For example, a man acknowledging that he has male privilege is an act of standing in solidarity with his wife, who is a woman. He acknowledges her experience by acknowledging his privilege and how his experience has differed from hers.” According to a study that interviewed nine couples of Asian women and white men separately, each set of
partners found that being in an interracial relationship and communicating their differences in perspectives actually strengthened their sense of cultural heritage. For the white men, they noticed the differences in the treatment of their partners and the unique characteristics of their own European heritage. For the Asian women, they addressed their family’s culture more, and some even developed a newfound appreciation for it. Paradoxically, the distance created by racial divisions may build a bridge in and of itself. For if Asian women reckon with the burden of validating their Asianness, then that also allows a reclamation of the self and of their heritage. That being said, there are always different power dynamics in different relationships. Some may find that race factors more into unequal power dynamics and unhealthy stereotypes than others. When it comes down to it, the topic of race and relationships is multifaceted. It can be seen from within and without, and it can also be contextualized within discussions of colonial and racist oppression that still hangs low around our society. This is a valid interpretation, and to ignore the history of race would be to erase the power of it. And yet how do you qualify the dynamics of every relationship between Asian women and white men? Love, attraction. Though these may be nuanced by and bound up in race, they can also be so simple. As I wrap up my interview with Rebecca, I say, “I find that the bottom line is that every relationship is so unique and so—” “And so personal,” she says. “Exactly.” “You never know what’s going [on] inside a relationship.” “Exactly, which is why I feel like I can explore the history, I can explore the power dynamics. But there’s always something more to be said about two people that are in love, and that’s just what it is,” I say. “Yes,” she says, “and that’s what it should be.” *Name has been changed for confidentiality
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Photographer: Hanna Nickeci
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The dark web: drugs, hitmen, and the future of online privacy We sold our privacy for digital convenience, and weâ€™re only realizing the implications now Writer: Nikhi Bhambra Illustrators: Elham Numan & Pearl Cao
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n the same way that a shower curtain protects you from a killer with a kitchen knife, the internet protects you and your personal data from the prying eyes of surveillance. Government agencies, tech giants, advertisers, and others want to use your data to further their interests. These interests range from the annoying, like targeting you with personalized ads, to the dangerous, like monitoring your communications and interactions. As data-driven computing continues to grow and reshape how we use digital technology, data is slowly becoming the most valuable commodity in the world. Throughout its short and extremely active life, the internet has grown from a rudimentary communication space to the foundation of the contemporary world. Due to this ubiquity, it has become nearly impossible to protect or anonymize yourself online. At any moment, you can safely assume that your location, communications, and interactions are being used by companies however they choose. A desire for online privacy spurred the creation of the first dark web browser, known as Tor. Developed by the US Navy starting in 2001 and spun off in 2006, Tor uses sophisticated encryption and multiple intermediate relays to make user data impossible to trace and collect. In a world where data is power, protecting user identities was a huge leap forward. Finally, those who feared persecution, monitoring, or government surveillance had an outlet to express their ideas and communicate with others.
Duality in the dark web
With the power of anonymity on a worldwide scale, Tor quickly became the host of the world’s largest markets for illegal narcotics, illegal pornography (often including child pornography), firearm sales, hitmen, hacking for hire services, and much worse. This was enabled by the advent of Bitcoin in 2009, the world’s first cryptocurrency — decentralized and anonymous. Prior to the advent of cryptocurrency, the dark web primarily served as a way to share illegal files without being caught. But following the first wave of Bitcoin-enabled markets, business took off. Some estimate that cybercrime generates 1.5 trillion USD annually in illicit sales. The magnitude of this problem shouldn’t be overlooked; Tor has given refuge to those wanting to abuse children, distribute laced drugs, and extort money or information from innocent people. Anonymity allows this to happen. On the other hand, anonymity also provides safety. In some capacity, the dark web is like an online escape hatch — journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and oppressed citizens often turn to it to avoid censorship. In the wake of mass human rights violations following the re-election of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in 2018, Venezuelan Tor usage exploded. Jumping from less than 5,000 users in January to over 40,000 by June 25, it was such a powerful circumvention of government censorship that Maduro’s government blocked access nationwide. For applications like these, anonymity provides a safeguard against broken systems.
In countries under strict government control, people can be freed from censorship and fear of arrest for online dissent. Anonymous tip websites for news publications, forums for civil discussion, and protection for citizens of oppressive states are all enabled by online privacy. The dark web also breeds creative technological innovation which may shape the future of mainstream internet use. Despite operating in the shadows, ducking law enforcement and lacking resources, the next generation of cryptographers still manage to stay one step ahead of most governments. Many of their innovations are related to abstract methods of encryption and could have significant applications if adapted into mainstream technology.
The illegal marketplaces on the dark web have ingenious ways of ensuring that anonymity doesn’t get in the way of business. Vendors, which have no inherent reliability, rely on positive feedback from buyers to maintain sales. This review system encourages competition and user-friendly practices. Prices and quality expectations rise and fall with supply and demand; sellers offer coupons and return policies. This leads to a surprisingly consumer-friendly experience. While making a Schedule I narcotic easy to buy is absolutely detrimental to society, these markets, which conduct billions in online sales, demonstrate the capabilities of anonymous purchasing. Competitive, consumer safe, anonymous economies are viable online — and that’s very powerful. When a user buys a product, the payment is held by the marketplace until the sender can provide proof that the product has been sent, and the buyer can confirm they received the product. Then at least two of the parties involved — buyer, seller, and site administrator — must sign off on the sale using an encrypted digital signature to release the payment. This, of course, requires trust in the marketplace itself from both seller and buyer; other than getting shut down by law enforcement, exit scams by marketplaces stopping orders and vanishing have occurred. Nevertheless, in the face of possible fraud at every turn, illegal markets maintain viability through a series of checks and balances, just like our current systems.
The quest to evade law enforcement and regulation is an arms race. Bitcoin, despite having anonymous user credentials, stores all transactions made on a public ledger, which records who sent and who received the money. Law enforcement are able to identify users by the volume of network communications, ultimately matching payment history with other personal details to make arrests. But newer methods of strengthening user privacy are continually being developed. One example of this is zkSNARK (zero-knowledge succinct non-interactive argument of knowledge), which allows cryptocurrency transactions to be verified without revealing or knowing either the sender or the reciever. These cryptographic breakthroughs,
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advanced forms of user-side encryption, and more have enabled the growth of untraceable interaction across the world. While these developments currently prop up the highest concentration of illegal trade ever, they are the only existing structures in place that can genuinely protect users’ privacy. The creativity of those seeking to protect Tor’s sanctity is one of the foremost drivers of cryptographic innovation. There is no doubt that the dark web has failed in its goal of enabling mainstream privacy. Despite Tor’s sheltering of whistleblowers and those seeking to do good, it is also responsible for spawning an unprecedented distribution network of illegal goods and services. Thanks in part to the cryptocurrency revolution over the last decade, the dark web shows no signs of slowing down. That said, everyday internet users will never switch to Tor. The danger that lies behind every link is too ominous for mainstream adoption. But its scale, innovation, and longevity proves one thing: online privacy is possible. As the internet reaches further into our lives, there is a growing discomfort with the idea that large corporations and agencies will always have access to us. For people who want to go about their online lives without being spied on, the framework is here. The dark web, despite its ugliness, offers an alternative. Tor will be the backbone of the fight against destructive legislation, corrupt governments, and systemic oppression. The real test will come at the adaptation of these technologies into the mainstream. Over the last decade, blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency, has seen widespread implementation across every corner of the tech industry to decentralize data. The encryption techniques and protection practices of dark web users could be retrofitted to existing technologies to give users more control over what they want to share. In the end, is anonymity worth it? The internet without legal ramifications has spawned the most sophisticated, deadly, and disgusting markets in the modern world. It also created an environment for Edward Snowden to alert the world of gross mass surveillance from his government. One could not have happened without the other. Maybe one day, we can reconcile the victories and failures of both faces of the internet to develop a platform that could be anonymous and free, while retaining the data-driven, highly intelligent developments of the surface web. I hope that one day, we realize the serious consequences behind digital interaction and start treating users as humans, not just as ones and zeros.
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The whitest brown girl On growing up between cultures Writer: Yasaman Mohaddes Photographer: Shanna Hunter
ne day, when I was in the third grade, a friend came up to me and said that I couldn’t be her friend anymore — her dad had said that my dad was a terrorist. What even was a terrorist? That was the first time that I was ‘othered’ because of where my family came from and because of our religious identity. My family immigrated from the Middle East to Winnipeg, one of the whitest cities in Canada at the time, before I was born. To top it off, we lived in one of the whitest neighbourhoods in Winnipeg, where over 70 per cent of the population was Caucasian. The early 2000s were really not a good time to be Middle Eastern. So I tried not to be. All my friends were white girls, and I felt like one too. I was obsessed with the Jonas Brothers, watched Hannah Montana, had crushes on boys, and wore Uggs just like everyone else. But I was never allowed to be just like everyone else. The comments about my family being terrorists persisted. My thick eyebrows and curly hair were mocked as well; they were visible reminders that, even if I acted like a white girl, I most definitely wasn’t one. And it’s true; I’m not a white girl. One step into my family home will tell you as much. I did all that I could to act or look ‘white,’ rejecting anything that would attach me to my ethnic roots. I never brought friends over to my house to see my Middle Eastern décor or eat my mom’s Middle Eastern food. I dreaded questions about where I was from, especially the highly impolite “what are you?” which I got, and still get,
on an almost daily basis. By high school, I had found friends who accepted me, but I always kept my ethnicity as distant from my identity as I possibly could. That’s when the comments changed, and my friends often joked about me being the whitest brown girl they’d ever met. That comment always rubbed me the wrong way — as though, by nature of my skin being darker, I was not capable of taking part in the same culture as them, that it was a surprise that I didn’t have an accent, or that I was born here, or that I had the same pastimes and dreams that they did. Even with a group of accepting friends, it seemed as though I would forever be the ‘brown girl,’ as though that would be my only identifier in a group of jocks, beauty queens, and nerds in a Breakfast Club life. When I moved to Toronto for university, everything changed. It was the first time I had really experienced large-scale ethnic diversity. I embraced my ‘brownness’ more and more. No longer was being brown a point of contention; it became something that my friends were truly interested in learning about. I became more comfortable expressing my ‘ethnic’ side. I started to wear my hair natural, stopped plucking my eyebrows — although they never really grew back — and never felt the same level of anxiety when answering questions about where I was from. The problem then became that I didn’t know anything about where I was from. I knew nothing of the culture, and my language skills grew worse by the day.
In a group of Iranian girls, I became the ‘white girl’ who couldn’t fit into their cultural circles. When they asked if my parents ever tried to teach me about the culture that they came from, I had to shamefully answer that they did, but I tried my best to close my eyes and ears and run away from it. I wanted nothing to do with being Iranian. Even to this day, it makes me uncomfortable to say I’m Iranian instead of the more white-friendly ‘Persian.’ I became so obsessed with being a white girl that I ended up in a limbo of being neither a white girl nor a brown girl — white girls think I’m brown, brown girls think I’m white. So then, what am I? These are questions most second-generation immigrants have a hard time answering. We get stuck between the culture produced at home and the way of life that we see our peers lead and our outside surroundings suggest. It can be challenging, especially when you’re still growing up and figuring out who you are, to be perceived as a different person in different contexts. What’s the most real version of me? Is it when I’m with my white friends or my brown friends? The answer is, I don’t know. I guess I’m just the whitest brown girl.
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Travelling the coloured lines T
oronto is often lauded as a global, dynamic, and diverse metropolis that brings together the best of all backgrounds — especially, so the story goes, on the city’s touted public transportation system. But the more interesting question isn’t what the city looks like, but rather for whom the city is made and whom it serves. Just as infrastructure can connect us, it can also divide us. Transit, in particular, is a central site in and through which belonging is determined and negotiated.
Expulsion from within Documenting the perspectives of the most excluded individuals in political configurations of the city is scholar-activist Punam
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Khosla’s 2003 report, entitled, “If Low Income Women Of Colour Counted in Toronto.” The stories that Khosla records in her report show how racism, in its most blatant form, comes alive on the TTC. When I recently caught up with Khosla, currently a U of T instructor, to discuss her report, she recalled how, as soon as transit came up as a topic of discussion, the women “lit up with an enormous amount of stories… about getting spit on, being called names, and [being] harassed on the transit system.” In her report, Khosla articulated that the “passionate and unanimous anger” of women of colour with whom she spoke was directed at the discriminatory behaviour of transit drivers and fare collectors. She documented how drivers humiliated them, especially those who
couldn’t speak English, and engaged in such practices as refusing to stop for them, to help them if they had a stroller with children, or to board them if they wore a hijab. Drivers also viewed them to be criminals and fare evaders — for instance, by refusing to accept their transfer. The report also found that racism by drivers and fare operators often emboldened passengers to do the same. Years since the 2003 study, Toronto university students who rely on the transit system continue to share many of these experiences. Ann, a Filipino-Canadian woman and U of T student, identifies as a “native Torontonian” who grew up in the suburbs of North York. She never expected to feel like she’s “not from around here.” But recently, while she was commuting home on the subway, a white man
Racialized transit passengers face multilayered barriers in the Toronto metropolitan area Writer: Ibnul Chowdhury Photographer: Simone Rusu targeted her when she was the only person of colour in the vicinity. He rambled about how “she’s not Canadian” and that “immigrants should go back to where [they] came from. We Canadian taxpayers should not be paying for you.” Given her close connection to the city, Ann is terrified by the experience of racism in a place as diverse as Toronto — a fear that comes alive every time that she goes on the subway. Ayesha*, a Black Muslim woman and York University student, recalls several incidents that brought the intersectionality of her identities to the forefront. In several instances, she was called the n-word and at one point, told to “get to the back” of the bus — a reference to Rosa Parks.
Another time, while taking a bus near Jane Street and Dundas Street, she was told to remove her hijab because she could be “free” and “so much more beautiful without it.” She felt as if she was “nothing more than an ‘exotic’ woman who existed for [a male passenger’s] viewing pleasure.” In most cases, other passengers merely stood by, watched, and did nothing as she endured anti-Blackness, anti-Muslim racism, and misogyny. Because of her experiences, Ayesha is hyperaware of her surroundings when using transit. While not directly experiencing racism on transit, other racialized passengers regularly witness it. Angela, a Chinese-Canadian woman and U of T student, has taken the 89 Weston at least twice a day this past year. She noticed how Mayor John Tory’s policy, which
allows kids under 12 to ride for free, is not applied fairly. Specifically, racialized children are frequently questioned by bus drivers for their age and ID — sometimes having to pay a fare anyway. On the other hand, Angela said she has “never seen” white children IDed or forced to pay fare. She notes that the 89 bus is interesting because it passes through both affluent and racialized areas, which may inform differential treatment of passengers depending on their location. Angela also noticed how men frequently harassed Black teens late at night on the 89 bus, based on their age, gender, and sexuality. She observed how “naturally they responded, with confidence and anger that seemed far too routine.”
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What is clear is that women of colour, in particular, bear the brunt of open racism on the TTC. However, why racism occurs so particularly on the TTC is open to debate. Angela doesn’t believe that it does. “Transit is just something we frequently use, so it makes sense that racism, which is entrenched in our society, would manifest itself in this ordinary setting.” Ann claimed that on transit, passengers feel inclined to remain quiet rather than stand up to aggressive behaviour. Ayesha added that the “courage (or cowardice)” of attackers derives from the feeling that they can get away with it, without any repercussion. Filip*, a Hong Kong-Canadian man and U of T student, added that transit allows for quick exit and escape, thus enabling racism. According to Khosla, there is always an unspoken contest about who has access to public spaces, including transit. Spaces are hierarchized according to race, gender, and class, among other categories. Those who are privileged in these embedded fragmentations can express their entitled positions through openly racist, homophobic, and sexist vitriol — and usually are able to get away with it. The underlying reality is that their belonging in public spaces — such as transit — is fundamentally in question. People of colour, especially women, should expect to use transit as safely as everyone else does. But the city, while on the one hand claiming an identity based on strength in diversity, also contains a hidden order that bars certain groups from benefitting from the resources that are purportedly for everyone.
Scanning the outer suburbs The Toronto subway system is well set up to connect commuters between the downtown core and the outer suburbs, like Mississauga, Brampton, and Markham. But it is important to note how connecting transit systems are not immune to similar issues of race, especially for Toronto commuter students. Nadine, a Black woman and U of T student, uses the Brampton and Mississauga transit systems. While taking the 502 bus from Brampton to Mississauga, she noticed that the driver was being difficult with an elderly Black woman who wanted to board the bus. The driver ultimately refused to drive the bus with her on board. Another time, at the intersection of Dundas and Hurontario Street, she observed a man’s reaction on the bus as a woman in a bur-
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ka was crossing the street. He told the driver to “run them over — we don’t need them in our country anyway!” The bus was full of people of colour because it was travelling from Brampton. When they turned and questioned him about his behaviour, he only yelled back. It was not until another white man stood up to him that he stopped. Nadine also shared how bus stops in Mississauga are spray-painted with Islamophobic messages. She believes that racism is prevalent, especially during rush hour, because people are tired and don’t want to bother with incidents that won’t affect them after they leave the bus. Travelling on transit, therefore, is perceived as a momentary state that justifies disengagement from our obligations to one another as human beings. Earlier this year, Filip reported an incident of racial and sexual harassment to GO Transit authorities. One night, while taking a bus from Union Station to Markham, a drunk white man was making vulgar sexual comments toward the women who were with him. At one point, he turned his attention to Filip, accusing the woman beside him of having “yellow fever” — a racial trope referring to an Asian fetish. The man followed with further vulgar remarks, which unnerved other passengers. Filip felt compelled to leave the bus, and informed the driver that he needed to handle the man’s behaviour. He is unsure if the driver was able to hear him clearly, as he was “shaken.”
The downtown core versus the inner suburbs The intersection between racism and transit is not limited to experiences derived from the use of transit itself. The current transit infrastructure also reflects racial divisions between low-income communities — especially the inner suburbs — and other Torontonians. These divisions are concerned with affordability and accessibility. Khosla indicates how transit costs are out of reach for low-income women. Public transit is the only option for this demographic, and working women make up 60 per cent of those who rely on transit to commute to and from work. Yet compared to other major cities, a large portion of the TTC’s operating costs — 70 per cent — are covered by the fare box, as opposed to provincial subsidies. This means that the working poor largely pay for the TTC. This issue is accentuated as fares continue to hike year after year, essen-
tially operating as a regressive tax on transit-dependent communities. They are forced to make choices between transit and other essential needs. Furthermore, because the TTC operates on the basis of maximizing the fare box, it favours the routes that generate the most revenue. This justifies cuts to less travelled routes that are used by the racialized working class in inner suburbs, like Scarborough. This leads to declining service, overcrowding, and longer wait times. Together, a lack of affordability and accessibility restrict the mobility of inner suburban communities — whether to find employment, socialize, or do groceries. The TTC even maintains the position that it is “beyond its mandate” to “resolve broader social and community issues related to income distribution” — that is, to serve the needs of its most vulnerable citizens. In her report, Khosla noted how women of colour need subway service because of the long travel times on buses. Women in York saw the need for an Eglinton subway line, while women in North York wanted the Sheppard subway extended to Jane Street. The subway service that was demanded by women of colour 15 years ago has either not materialized or has yet to materialize. In a 2015 paper entitled “Environmental Justice, Transit Equity and the Place for Immigrants in Toronto,” Ryerson researchers Amardeep Kaur and Cheryl Teelucksingh corroborated many of Khosla’s findings. Immigrants are a large source of population growth in Toronto, and low-income immigrants — especially women — rely heavily on transit to navigate the city. But the transit system is largely set up to support the downtown core. A rapid transit network does not exist to support the inner suburbs. Meanwhile, low-income immigrant communities, who often only find affordable housing in inner suburban communities, are compelled to live far away from access to transit. Immigrant women with children face particular barriers. Buses and subways are not generally catered to accommodate their strollers or their need for functioning elevators and escalators, once again pointing to the issue of accessibility on transit services. This reinforces the isolation of communities within their immediate neighbourhoods and restricts access to various services, institutions, and needs. One example of poor service in the inner suburbs is the notorious 41 Keele bus, which is frequently late and crowded. Since this summer, the Action Keele campaign has been
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canvassing on issues surrounding the bus and advocating for better public transit. In the October 13 Action Keele talk, Transit Justice in the Inner Suburbs, campaigner Steve Maher spoke about how central transit is to the lives of working people — but how they are the least connected to the city because the subway system is set up for the downtown area. Indeed, the suburbs are connected to the downtown core, but not to each other. All the “lively” and “desirable” parts of life happen downtown. For this reason, he lamented that the two regions appear to be completely different cities. In their transit experiences, both Ann and Angela observed that for locations populated by racialized communities, such as Jane and Finch, Weston Road, or Kennedy Road in Scarborough, there is a lack of reliable transit routes and service is infrequent, even though these are the areas that need transit the most to get around the city. One of the most heated issues on subway expansion in the inner suburbs relates to the construction of the one-stop subway at Scarborough Centre, a plan supported by Tory. Critics pointed to the fact that politicians exploit the transit issues faced by suburban Scarborough citizens — many of whom are racialized immigrants — and offer the construction of a subway as a solution to a city that has otherwise neglected them. But this is not a reflection of good policy; rather, it is a political strategy for votes and re-election. After all, the alternative plan — light rail transit — would offer more stops, service, and connectivity to more people in Scarborough, and it could be implemented much faster. The Scarborough subway, on the other hand, is viewed by critics as a costly, fiscally unjustifiable plan. Yet Tory accused his critics of not caring as much about immigrant communities as he does. Part of the optics of subway politics, then, is the invocation of race — even when it is not in the best interest of those whom the politicians claim to be representing. Khosla shared that, today, big capital projects have been undertaken or are underway, such as the York University subway expansion or the upcoming Eglinton line. Yet she cautioned that transit planning must reflect those who really need them and have no choice, namely, working-class people of colour. She criticized the mainstream environmentalist position on transit policy, which focuses on encouraging middle-class commuters to leave their cars at home and take transit as a means to reduce carbon emissions. This de-
mographic operates on choice, unlike many inner suburbanites, who can only use transit. This only reinforces the downtown-commuter dynamic on which the transit system is already built.
“What could our lives and our finances be like under a free, high-quality public transit system?” asked moderator Sadia Khan at the Action Keele talk. This was a timely question, as one of Toronto mayoral candidate Saron Gebresellassi’s platform points was, in fact, free transit. This idea, although dismissed as unrealistic, could theoretically address many of the affordability issues that low-income communities face. Khosla, Kaur, and Teelucksingh all agree that transit planning and decision-making need to include, consult, and focus on marginalized, inner suburban voices. This process can help reflect the needs of transit-dependent communities and also document experiences of racism on the transit system. For instance, Kaur and Teelucksingh also call for the planned downtown relief plan to connect to the inner suburbs, like East York and Etobicoke. Indeed, the future of transit needs to reflect those who need and use it the most. The reality, though, is that progress is slow and inelastic. For instance, Khosla’s recommendation for a discounted pass for social assistance recipients 15 years ago was only implemented earlier this year. At the Action Keele talk, TTCriders member Vincent Puhakka called for a transit system that delivers dignity to its users. He noted how riders feel disconnected and that the work of TTCriders is to engage in conversation and mobilize transit users as a political constituency that can reach out to elected officials — especially around provincial and municipal budgets and elections. Transit cuts across a variety of issues — like housing, poverty, and wages — so examining intersections in advocacy work is also key to long-term organizing. Puhakka also views the King Street Transit Pilot in downtown as a model for how transit could look like in the inner suburbs, where public transit receives priority over private motorists. On the subject of racism on transit, the TTC recently launched the #ThisIsWhere campaign, which showcases ads that raise awareness of harassment. The TTC also launched an anti-harassment app which enables passengers to share reports of harassment and allows TTC employees to respond.
These new programs receive scrutiny. For one, the ads for the campaign may be triggering and uncomfortable for those who have experienced harassment or assault before, while those who haven’t might not be affected much at all. The question, then, is to what end these ads serve in terms of addressing racial harassment, beyond just “awareness.” Furthermore, passengers of colour may feel uncomfortable using the app if there are concerns over police involvement. The app also suggests that it is the responsibility of the victim to address what could be a traumatic experience for them, making it difficult to engage in the reporting process. What is necessary for any such anti-harassment campaign is that marginalized voices are adequately consulted. Furthermore, there is a need for thorough anti-racism training for TTC employees and operators so that they are equipped to handle harassment appropriately and do not engage in it themselves. In February this year, the use of excessive force against a Black teen on a streetcar by fare inspectors was highly scrutinized. Similar to the aforementioned drivers, the behaviour of TTC employees can justify the perception that they are the perpetrators of racism, as opposed to interveners. Aside from anti-racism training for operators, the responsibility of bystanders is a main focus of those who experienced or observed racism on transit. Nadine, Ann, and Ayesha all emphasized the importance of bystanders standing up to racial harassment — especially if the bystander is white, as they appear to mitigate offenders who are white. Filip advocated for better bystander training in transit use, so that passengers are aware of how to intervene, de-escalate the situation, and help those being racially harassed. Racialized folks in Toronto, like everyone else, wish to be a part of all the city has to offer, in terms of employment, services, culture, and social life. To do so, many need and use transit. Yet they continue to face structural barriers on the transit system — from discrimination to affordability and accessibility. This is a question about who belongs and who matters in the city. It is imperative that transit planning and policy reflect their experiences, concerns, and needs — if people of colour are to belong to the city, then the city is to belong to people of colour. *Names have been changed at the individual’s request
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Neighbourhood divisions The narrow economic margins in downtown Toronto Writer: Catherine MacIntosh Photographer: Catherine MacIntosh
n the past couple of years, I’ve developed the habit of walking unreasonable distances. It’s my boyfriend’s fault: he’s always favoured walking over any other modes of transportation, and when we started dating, walking became our main bonding activity. Sometimes, we’d end up in Leslieville for brunch, with heaping stacks of buttery pancakes swimming in maple syrup, freshly baked bread, and mimosas. Wintertime meant plenty of visits to the Distillery District, sipping hot chocolate as we meandered up and down the cobblestone streets. Nowadays, our ritual is to sit in a coffee shop — perhaps in rustic
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Corktown, or maybe somewhere slightly more upscale across the Don Valley — and sip coffee while we read, side by side, warm and cozy. Our relationship was forged in the East End, where we continue to pass many idyllic weekend mornings together. But what we see while walking there seldom resembles the places where we end up. Instead, it can feel like stepping in and out of totally different universes. Walking east on Dundas Street takes you first through Chinatown to the consumerism that is Yonge-Dundas Square, before spitting you out into a series
of neighbourhoods that are decidedly less affluent. Multinational brands give way to local businesses with barred windows, and community aid centres become fixtures of the landscape — so do bright yellow needle disposal boxes bearing the symbol for ‘biohazard.’ Before you cross the bridge and emerge into the mecca of hipster culture that is Leslieville, you’ll pass through the affordable housing projects of Regent Park, coming within a block of where 15-yearold Mackai Bishop Jackson was shot dead in September. Toronto is frequently called the most diverse city in the world, a title in which many residents take great pride. Oftentimes, our by-the-numbers diversity is taken to mean that Toronto is a bastion of tolerance and equal opportunities. We are, they say, a ‘cultural mosaic,’ where anybody can make their home and anybody can succeed. In reality, Toronto’s cultural mosaic is increasingly divided along racial and economic seams. “Toronto is no longer a city of neighbourhoods,” writes David Hulchanski, a professor of housing and community development at U of T’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. “It’s a collection of islands segregated by income.”
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The income inequality between Toronto’s neighbourhoods has increased 68 per cent since 1970, making us the most unequal city in Canada. We’ve also become much more polarized, meaning that middleincome neighbourhoods are disappearing. In 1980, Toronto had only five very lowincome census tracts — in 2015, it had 88. And this inequality is colour-coded: visible minorities disproportionately occupy lowincome areas. Three decades ago, Toronto’s poorest areas were inner-city neighbourhoods. The impoverished areas that I frequently stumble into downtown are the last vestiges of this era; gentrification has transformed many of the surrounding neighbourhoods into hip, well-to-do places. But this doesn’t mean that poverty is going away; it’s just being relocated, mostly to Etobicoke, Scarborough, Brampton, and North York. We’re tucking it away someplace where we don’t have to look at it.
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wealth and privilege does violence become a problem. Even then, we didn’t take care not to re-elect Tory, whose strategy to ban handguns and expand policing will do nothing to target the discriminations and ensuing hopelessness that lie at the root of the violence. This summer demonstrated how adverse privileged Torontonians are to confronting the structural inequality in our society. “[Torontonians] don’t talk too much about discrimination,” said Hulchanski in a conversation over the phone. “We think about these things and we say, ‘It’s worse in the United States.’” Prejudice doesn’t jive with our reputation as the cool, tolerant kid on the block. But that diversity doesn’t really mean much unless the same opportunities are available to everybody. And if trends continue, we won’t be any better off than those in the States for much longer.
The reality of inequality in our city — and our refusal to confront it — was thrown into sharp relief over the summer. Even prior to the horrific Danforth shooting, Torontonians were thrown into a panic by a series of shootings in the downtown core that were believed to be gang-related, particularly one on Queen Street West that claimed the lives of two young men. Gun crime became a campaign issue in the lead up to the municipal elections; John Tory responded by increasing police presence to combat what is now widely understood as a major spike in gun violence. But as the Toronto Star has pointed out, the increase in shootings from January to July this year have only amounted to about 10 per cent since 2016 — hardly proportional to the amount of news coverage that gun crime received over the summer. The reason for the panic wasn’t the number of shootings — it was their location. When Mackai Bishop Jackson, a child, was murdered, few of us heard anything about it. Why? Because it happened in Regent Park. Only when it happens in our bubble of
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Psychedelics and NEURAL physicality How LSD reshapes the human brain Writer: Adam A. Lam Illustrators: Troy Lawrence & various
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ldous Huxley, sensing the end of his life approaching as he lay dying from laryngeal cancer, chose to pass on while high on 100 micrograms of LSD. (One microgram is a millionth of a gram.) Albert Hofmann, the research chemist who first synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in 1938, framed his invention as a means to access a “miraculous, powerful, unfathomable reality that was hidden from everyday sight.” Former Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary told a crowd of 30,000 people in San Francisco that experiencing LSD was more important than receiving an education. “Turn on, tune in, drop out,” he famously said at the 1967 ‘Human Be-In’ rally. “Drop out of high school. Drop out of college. Drop out of graduate school. Drop out of junior executive. Drop out of senior executive.” Leary’s activism led to the 1968 federal bans of LSD possession in both Canada and the United States. American legislators classified it as a Schedule I substance, defined as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” while Canadian legislators classified it as a Schedule III substance. In Canada, Schedule III substances are prohibited for possession, but they have the lightest sentencing associated with possession charges — a maximum of three years in prison, compared to the other schedules that forbid possession. Since the 1960s, LSD has gained a reputation as a party drug — something people take recreationally to experience the mutating hallucinations, the vibrant colours, and the disconnect from reality produced by the drug. This May, food writer Michael Pollan published a book titled How to Change Your Mind. Pollan’s book detailed his experiences trying LSD, using psilocybin (‘magic mushrooms’), and smoking Sonoran Desert toad venom. The book was met by wide acclaim in The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Times, and The New Republic. Pollan’s foray into psychedelic drugs thrust an important question back into the mainstream — how do we manage the substances that change us?
What exactly is LSD, and how does it work?
Pollan wrote, “The group of tryptamines we call ‘the classical psychedelics’ have a strong affinity with one particular type of serotonin receptor, called the 5-HT2A… Basically,
the psychedelics resemble serotonin closely enough that they can attach themselves to this receptor site in such a way as to activate it to do various things.” “Curiously,” Pollan continued, “LSD has an even stronger affinity with the 5-HT2A receptor—is ‘stickier’—than serotonin itself, making this an instance where the simulacrum is more convincing, chemically, than the original,” explaining why LSD-induced hallucinations seem realistic and convincing. As for why the hallucinations are so chaotic, Pollan wrote, “Depending on the type of receptor in question and its location, serotonin is liable to make very different things happen—sometimes exciting a neuron to fire, other times inhibiting it.” In other words, LSD, which mimics serotonin, causes different effects on the brain, despite binding to the same type of receptor, depending on the receptor’s location in the brain. The “specialized neural networks of the brain—such as the default mode network [DMN] and the visual processing system,” wrote Pollan, “each become disintegrated, while the brain as a whole becomes more integrated as new connections spring up among regions that ordinarily kept mainly to themselves or were linked only via the central hub of the DMN.” The DMN is responsible for linking “parts of the cerebral cortex to deeper (and older) structures involved in memory and emotion,” Pollan wrote. Thus, LSD has the incredible power to literally reshape our brains — and this offers significant opportunities for research and innovation. This may also account for how LSD can break established beliefs and enhance suggestibility, as reported by the British Psychological Society (BPS). That explains why some researchers see LSD as a potentially useful tool in psychotherapeutic contexts.
The promises of LSD
Due to the increased suggestibility of LSD users, the BPS reported that LSD is a potential psychotherapeutic tool for treating alcoholism. A “meta-analysis of a set of trials looking at LSD treatment for alcoholism,” according to a BPS Research Digest post, “showed an effect that hasn’t been bettered by any other means.” In another post, the BPS also suggested potential for the use of LSD to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and depression but noted that current research is too sparse to draw definitive conclusions. Pollan also reported that psychedelics are
a potential tool for reducing anxiety about death in terminally ill patients. He pointed to a 2016 study by New York University and John Hopkins University researchers on psilocybin, which has similar cognitive and visual effects to LSD. In Pollan’s words, “Some 80 percent of cancer patients showed clinically significant reductions in standard measures of anxiety and depression, an effect that endured for at least six months, after their psilocybin session.” In a 1965 letter to Harper’s Magazine, physician Sidney Cohen described an anecdote from his “limited and inconclusive research project.” He recollected how a patient told him, while on a “minute dose of LSD,” that “I supposed that I’m detached — that’s it — away from myself and my pain and my decaying. I could die nicely now — if it should be so. I do not invite it, nor do I put it off.” But LSD is not just for the terminally or mentally ill. For the psychologically and physically healthy, it can be used as a tool to promote creativity and innovation. Online magazine Slate reported that Steve Jobs had described it as “one of the two or three most important things” that he has ever done; that John Lennon attributed a Beatles album to LSD use; and that molecular biologist Francis Crick “reportedly claimed to have envisioned the structure of DNA during an acid trip.” To better understand these experiences, as well as the severe risks associated with taking LSD, one must understand how LSD changes one’s psychology and perception.
What does dosing on LSD feel like?
The New York Times reported that “an amount [of LSD] the size of a grain of salt can induce swirls of emotion, and shimmering clear senses in which the ordinary becomes extraordinary, luminous, and meaningful.” How this translates into a human experience can be better understood by reviewing the journals of the scientist who created and first tried the drug. Hofmann first synthesized LSD in 1938, as a result of his investigation into components of the ergot fungus. He discovered the psychoactive effects of LSD when he accidentally came into physical contact with a small, unknown quantity of the substance on April 16, 1943. Documenting his unintentional ingestion of the substance, Hofmann wrote: “Last Friday… I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle
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of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.” Hofmann then intentionally ingested 250 micrograms of LSD in his lab on the following Monday, which, according to his calculations, was “the smallest quantity that could be expected to produce some effect.” That is actually 12.5 times the upper bound of the threshold amount, which ranges from 10–20 micrograms. At the start of his 250-microgram ‘trip,’ Hofmann recorded his initial feelings of “dizziness, [a] feeling of anxiety, visual distortion, symptoms of paralysis, [and a] desire to laugh.” Feeling ill and struggling “to speak intelligbly,” Hofmann decided to take a bicycle ride home, accompanied by his lab assistant. “Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror.” Once he reached his home, Hofmann recalled his surroundings as having “transformed themselves in more terrifying ways. Everything in the room spun around, and the familiar objects and pieces of furniture assumed grotesque, threatening forms. They were in continuous motion, animated, as if driven by an inner restlessness.” This is likely a result of LSD temporarily dissolving the neural networks associated with visual processing. Describing his cognitive distortions, Hofmann wrote, “I was taken to another world, another place, another time. My body seemed to be without sensation, lifeless, strange. Was I dying? Was this the transition? At times I believed myself to be outside my body, and then perceived clearly, as an outside observer, the complete tragedy of my situation.” This is perhaps the result of LSD dissolving the DMN. Yet despite his cognitive distortions, Hofmann still “had brief periods of clear and effective thinking,” which made him “just barely capable” of asking his assistant to call a doctor and request milk from his neighbours as a “nonspecific antidote for poisoning.”
When his neighbour arrived to deliver milk, however, Hofmann’s cognitive distortions returned with increased intensity. He failed to recognize her as “Mrs. R., but rather a malevolent, insidious witch with a colored mask,” Hoffman wrote. He then began to spiral. Convinced that he was be dying, he felt “fear and despair” about his wasted life — regrets that “a young family should lose its father,” and that he would leave his “chemical research work, which meant so much to [him], unfinished in the midst of fruitful, promising development.” Once the doctor arrived, he confirmed that Hofmann physically had no “abnormal symptoms other than extremely dilated pupils” and monitored him without prescribing medication. The effects soon faded. “The horror softened and gave way to a feeling of good fortune and gratitude, the more normal perceptions and thoughts returned, and I became more confident that the danger of insanity was conclusively past.” To Hofmann, some of the most positive effects appeared the following day, while sober. The next morning, he woke “refreshed, with a clear head, though still somewhat tired physically. A sensation of well-being and renewed life flowed through me.” Describing his newfound appreciation for life, Hofmann recalled, “Breakfast tasted delicious and gave me extraordinary pleasure. When I later walked out into the garden, in which the sun shone now after a spring rain, everything glistened and sparkled in a fresh light. The world was as if newly created.” But Hofmann’s recollections only documented what he personally experienced; anecdotal stories only record experiences based on an individual, rather than a population. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) largely corroborates Hoffman’s experiences based on studies of populations, reflecting the upand-down nature of LSD trips. On a physical level, LSD “may include numbness, rapid heartbeat, reduced co-ordination, chills, nausea, tremor, weakness and dilated pupils,” according to CAMH’s website. “Sensations of gravity may be altered, ranging from feeling weighted down, to feeling light and floating.” On a perceptual level, colours “become more intense, halos or rainbows may appear around objects, and shapes may become fluid in form,” CAMH reported. “Rapidly changing brightly coloured geometric patterns and other images may be
seen, whether the eyes are open or shut.” On a psychological level, the effects are “unpredictable.” According to CAMH, “Individual reactions to the drug can range from ecstasy to terror, even within a single drug-taking experience. People who have used the drug before, and had a positive experience, may have a negative experience if they take it again.” A wealth of reports of individuals sharing what they’ve felt and experienced while on LSD can be found on an online database called Erowid, whose founders were profiled in The New Yorker in 2015. Analyzing its users’ anecdotes, Erowid published a figure like the one on the next page explaining the duration and intensity of the effects of LSD. The duration aligns with CAMH’s findings: “The effects of LSD come on gradually within an hour of taking the drug, peak at two to four hours and gradually taper off, with the entire trip lasting up to 12 hours. The intensity of the effect depends on the size of the dose.” The sinusoidal wave at the top of the figure refers to how the psychological effects of LSD intensify and de-intensify, peaking and receding for the duration of the most intense parts of the ‘trip.’ This explains how Hofmann was able to call for a doctor and milk, during his “brief periods of clear and effective thinking,” despite feeling the full effects of LSD.
The risks of LSD
LSD can be psychologically addicting. Regular users of LSD “do not experience physical withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug,” according to CAMH. However, “it can be addictive. Some people who use LSD repeatedly feel compelled to take it. The drug takes on an exaggerated importance in their lives, leading to emotional and lifestyle problems.” As an analogy, consider a disturbing scene in the 2010 film Inception. A chemist in Kenya named Yusuf describes to a foreigner named Eames about how 20 people “come every day” to his laboratory, seeking the psychoactive effects of a substance named ‘somnacin,’ which enables them to hallucinate via lucid dreaming upon falling asleep. “They come here every day to sleep?” Eames asks. “No,” replies an elderly man overhearing the conversation. “They come to be woken up. The dream has become their reality. And who are you to say otherwise?”
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People psychologically addicted to LSD, especially at high doses, may believe that the distorted world on LSD is more ‘real’ than reality itself. This can cause them to neglect their personal and interpersonal responsibilities. Another substantial risk is that of developing hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), in which the visual distortions of LSD persist for days or even years after a person is sober. HPPD, whose “risk factors, causes, and effective treatments remain a mystery,” according to The New Yorker, can cause visual “streaking and trailing” of moving objects and the perception of a “ghostly afterimage” of written text after turning a page. In 2013, poet Jacob Scheier wrote an op-ed in the Toronto Star about his personal experience with LSD and his ongoing struggle with HPPD. He’d struggled with the disorder for about eight years at the time of publication, after he took LSD weekly beginning at age 16. Scheier was admitted to a psychiatric ward and later nearly committed suicide. Eventually, he
decided to cope with his condition rather than attempt to cure it, “discovering that sometimes the only way to fix something is to let it remain broken.”
Visions of the future
One of the most intriguing tools for psychological development is LSD; yet it can also derail one’s life, due to psychological addiction, HPPD, or the consequences of one’s actions while experiencing hallucinations. Furthermore, its illegality and association with the hippie culture of the 1960s serves to delegitimize it in the public eye. An opinion piece in The Washington Post by Daniel Miller argued that psychedelics ought to be tightly regulated because “they’re simply too powerful to be left to the free market.” Yet, recognizing the potential for LSD as a psychological tool, Miller also sketched a possible plan for regulated access to LSD. “Patients could be recommended for treatment by their doctors, screened for serious mental illness and certain heart conditions, prepped about what to expect and moni-
tored by a medical professional (with whom they built a trusting relationship) over six to eight hours in case of anxiety and fear.” Miller continued, “The psychedelic experience should also be integrated into the participant’s life through some form of follow-up therapy.” Citing New York University professor Mark Kleiman, Miller argued for the importance of “containing the experience” during and after the experience, “for the purposes of safety.” Hofmann himself wrote, “The history of LSD to date amply demonstrates the catastrophic consequences that can ensue when its profound effect is misjudged and the substance is mistaken for a pleasure drug.” Clearly, a substance that rewrites the brain — itself already a mystery to scientists — requires some kind of regulation. “Special internal and external advance preparations are required; with them, an LSD experiment can become a meaningful experience,” wrote Hofmann. “Wrong and inappropriate use has caused LSD to become my problem child.”
IMPACT OF LSD OVER TIME PEAK
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CBC didn’t make a mistake When the media speaks for power Writer: Jakob Barnes Collage Artist: Kate Reeve
n October 28, Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil. Bolsonaro’s flamboyant fascism has compelled most global media outlets to denounce him. After all, he uses brutal language toward the country’s vulnerable populations, promises to license the murder of criminals and people who are poor, and wants to resuscitate the country’s previous military dictatorship. Uniquely, immediately after Bolsonaro won the election, a CBC article by Chris Arsenault was not concerned with denouncing him. Instead, Arsenault explicitly accounted the opportunities that Bolsonaro’s presidency will afford Canadian businesses. Three of CBC’s tweets that night pushed Arsenault’s article. The first: “Brazil’s new president elect, Jair Bolsonaro, is a right-winger who leans towards more open markets. This could mean fresh opportunities for Canadian companies looking to invest in the resource-rich country.” The second: “Critics have lambasted the former paratrooper for his homophobic, racist and misogynist statements, but his government could open new investment opportunities.” The third: “Updated: Brazil’s new president elect, Jair Bolsonaro, is set to put his country on a new course. The right winger promised big changes, including curtailing crime and getting tough on leftists. So where does that leave Canadian investments in Brazil?” All three tweets drew outrage. On Twitter, Arsenault lamented that his article was misunderstood, claiming that his intention was to implicate the amoral motivations of businesses as their gains will deny others of their human rights. It is not difficult to see why his article was misunderstood,
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since his few criticisms of Bolsonaro are attributed neutrally to “critics.” His apparent optimism for Canadian businesses is the real substance of the article. Judging from Arsenault’s other articles, his professed motivations are probably genuine. What’s interesting is how this article reads after it has been filtered through CBC. It is unclear whether or not CBC explicitly told Arsenault to strip his article of any substantial criticism in order to not offend Canadian businesses. Regardless, an article of any other nature probably would not have been published. It is CBC’s financial imperative — though CBC is far from unique — to appeal to powerful business leaders and government officials while presenting palatable narratives to the public. Sometimes, the attempt at doublespeak fails, as it did in CBC’s tweets immediately following Bolsonaro’s election. Usually, it is inoffensive and banal. The day after Bolsonaro’s election, John Paul Tasker wrote a CBC article titled, “Canada issues terse statement after far-right candidate elected president of Brazil,” with the subheading, “Trump, meanwhile, welcomes Bolsonaro with enthusiastic tweet.” The article implies that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland was moved by moral imperatives to extend an unfriendly, though professional, hand to Bolsonaro. Of course, Tasker may not really believe that Freeland’s policies are motivated by a concern for human rights in Brazil. In fact, Tasker might believe that Freeland’s policies have not been motivated by a concern for human rights under the regimes of Israel, Saudi Arabia, or under the United States and NATO’s involvement in the Middle East. But
after CBC’s minor public relations foibles the previous night, CBC needed to return the focus to its narratives of Canadians with real power, in a moral language that its average reader would readily receive. Canada’s exploitative mining projects in Brazil have been horrendous, but not nearly as costly as its projects in other parts of the world. This is due in part to Canadian mining company Belo Sun’s inability to pursue its project after the Brazilian federal court moved to protect Brazil’s Indigenous people — which, Arsenault noted in his article, will probably change under Bolsonaro’s presidency. To predict how the Brazilian case may play out in Canadian media, we should look to the projects of U of T alum, the late Peter Munk. In his article in Jacobin two years ago, titled “Canada’s Dirty Secret,” Gerard Di Trolio described the human rights abuses committed by Canada’s mining and oil companies worldwide. At the time of Trolio’s article, Munk’s Barrick Gold was globally the largest gold mining company. Barrick Gold’s abuses traversed the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Tanzania, Eritrea, and Guatemala. Trolio referenced Munk’s response to gang rape committed by Barrick Gold’s security in Papua New Guinea: “Gang rape is a cultural habit. Of course, you can’t say that because it’s politically incorrect. It’s outrageous. We have to pretend that everyone’s the same and cultures don’t matter. Unfortunately, it’s not that way.” In 2014, Tracy McVeigh published an article in The Guardian International on deaths at the hands of Barrick Gold’s security and funded police. In 2015, Renee Lewis of Al
Jazeera published an article on activism in the Dominican Republic against Barrick Gold’s water pollution, environmental destruction, and disregard for local opposition. In 2016, Telesur published an article on Barrick Gold’s chemical spills in five rivers in Argentina. The list of reported abuses is long, but the coverage by large Canadian news organizations is frequently nonexistent. CBC has not published critical articles on Munk’s company’s human rights abuses nor his subsequent contempt for the people affected by his colonial project. Following its own internal logic, it only makes sense that CBC’s video shortly
after Munk’s death earlier this year presents a truly cartoonish hagiography praising his “philanthropy,” while ignoring the unflattering details that are the substance, not the footnotes, of his career. The point of this is not to discredit CBC. What I am trying to present, though, is the amount of outrage that is produced when mainstream media institutions fail to speak convincingly in high and low moral registers at the same time. The average reader is not
only morally outraged, but they are also deeply offended that the presentation of Canada does not mesh with their conception of Canada. To be angry at CBC, to demand that CBC polish its public relations capacities, is to miss the fact that if institutions like CBC were to comment exclusively on the most powerful business leaders and political officials of the country, our picture of Canada would be very different. To paraphrase a witticism of Oscar Wilde, our rage at institutions that project the voices of the powerful is comparable to “the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.”
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In defence of the breadth requirement
ne of the issues that U of T students complain about frequently is the breadth requirement. While maligned by many students, I’m a big fan. It forces us to take a minimum number of courses across a variety of ‘breadths’ — essentially, very loose subject areas touching on everything from philosophy to chemistry — in order to graduate. In my view, the requirement helps to address one of the biggest problems that we’ll face in the coming decades: the growing divide between arts and science.
As it stands
This is not a new phenomenon — traces of it can be seen in past decades. Perhaps the most famous example is the lecture delivered at Cambridge University in 1959 by chemist and writer CP Snow, entitled “The Two Cultures.” Even then, couched in that highly privileged, academic environment, Snow recognized that the separation of arts and science would be detrimental to our society moving forward. Recent technological revolutions have made the need to address this divide greater than ever. We need to acknowledge that this gap does exist and that it’s widening. In recent years, there has been a steady rise in educational funding for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) on almost all levels of schooling in Western societies, often accompanied by very little gain in performance or student health. Since the mid-1960s, the percentage of bachelor’s degrees that are granted in the ‘traditional’ humanities has fallen by over 10 per cent. Here, ‘traditional’ refers to those subjects for which data is easily trackable between institutions, such as English, history, linguistics, or philosophy. Similarly, since the mid-1970s, annual funding both requested for 4 8 — T h e Va r s i t y M a g a z i n e / S e a m
and given by the National Endowment for the Humanities has fallen by over $250 million. In the developed world, we are seeing an increasing emphasis on isolated STEM education that lacks any humanities or arts training. We can hardly say that the developing world is any better, where pressures of accelerationism have left millions in systems that prize STEM training so much that there is increasing worry, in areas like China especially, about the lack of adequate humanities graduates entering the workforce.
What are the benefits of keeping these two seemingly opposite systems together? The first benefit is utilitarian. We can gain an inordinate amount from the successful integration of the humanities into our increasingly technological world. Just look at how quickly Google hires linguists: there is a fundamental disconnect between technology and the people that technology is supposed to reach, and only people with training in the arts can bridge that gap. As technologies reach wider audiences, we need to ask more and more questions about their implementation. What will the ‘rules’ be for placing augmented reality technology in areas outside of the safe Silicon-Valley-esque areas in which it will debut, for example? Knowing about cultural boundaries, how do we communicate our quickly advancing knowledge of biotechnology in a way that won’t leave those in colonized and developing nations behind? These are all questions that can’t be answered by science alone. Second, there are values that a humanities education inculcates that a
Arts, science and the need to bridge the divide Writer: Arjun Kaul Illustrator: Iris Deng
science education can’t, and these values will only be harder to attain if the arts/science divide grows. Drew Gilpin Faust, former president of Harvard University, has spoken extensively about how the arts teach us the ways of “critical slowness” in ways that science can’t: “[the value of arts] imparts skills that slow us down — the habit of deliberation, the critical eye, skills that give us capacity to interpret and judge human problems; the concentration that yields meaning in a world that is noisy with information, confusion, and change.” “The humanities teach us many things, not the least of which is empathy — how to see ourselves inside another person’s experience. How to picture a different possibility.”
The dark side
New technologies may also affect the less advantaged in a very different way than they would affect those who engineered them. The arts can reach the most vulnerable of us; they convey universal passions and feelings. They can convey concerns about technology in a way that instruction manuals and command lines alone can’t. This gets into the most critical reason for why we need to avoid the arts/science divide: the approach of a technocracy. We need to lessen the divisions between disciplines if we are to mediate the effect that technology will have on our most vulnerable. There are important moral problems posed by the technologies we are using — ones that we have, thus far, failed to solve. Automation, for example, could be the holy grail of modern labour, freeing many of us from the shackles of late-stage capitalism and reinventing the future of work. On the other hand, it could make
up to six million people in the UK jobless over the next decade, with no short-term solution due to the political system in which this would take place. We commonly develop algorithms to deal with everything from municipal housing allocation to online speech prediction. Without further cultural and social input, however, these algorithms produce results that are at best accidentally discriminatory — and at worst systemically sexist and racist. We have heard far too much about how, without the sciences, the arts might become aimless, without a use in the modern world. But without the arts, science will only amplify existing social and cultural imbalances. Without the arts, science will adopt our worst tendencies. We desperately need a way for the arts to have a say in these technological issues. Otherwise, we risk becoming a technocracy. We’re already frighteningly close.
Toward a union
My love of science is as much informed by Star Trek and other visions of the future as it is by real-world science, and I hope that there are others out there like me. These visions of the future, after all, may be the best guide we have to lure us away from a technocracy. Science, for many, is the most human of pursuits — the urge to understand, build, and discover more about our world. But how we present it and interact with it — and whether we, as students of science, can overcome our vanity enough to embrace the arts — may be the key to avoiding the technocracy that seems to be awaiting us. And for that, I would happily go through as many breadth requirement courses as necessary. Fall 2018 —
Fossil fuel divestment: a story of inaction
Time is running out on climate change, but university students can make a big impact
Writers: Madeleine Kelly & Tahmeed Shafiq Photographer: Kamal Osama/CC Wikimedia Illustrator: Troy Lawrence
he Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released a special report titled “Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees Celsius.” It spells out apocalyptic consequences for humanity unless we radically change our behaviour on a systemic and individual level within the next dozen years. On average, the world’s surface temperature is one degree warmer than it was before the Industrial Revolution. This is because of human activities. The report emphasizes the need to stay below 1.5 degrees of warming in order to prevent the worst environmental and socioeconomic impacts of climate change. Should we surpass that level of warming, the sea level will rise more rapidly, more species will become endangered and extinct,
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and food and water insecurity will increase further. In order to remain below 1.5 degrees Celsius, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions would need to decline by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching net zero around 2050. If we want to limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius, emissions must decline by 20 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero around 2075. Alarmingly, at our current rate, the report states that we are on track to hit 1.5 degrees of warming sometime between 2030 and 2052. Without political will from international leaders and corporate regulations, it is unlikely that we will meet the emissions reduction levels necessary to prevent some of the most catastrophic repercussions of
climate change. Even so, we should remain optimistic and idealistic. Throughout history, political and social revolutions have seemed impossible at worst or pessimistic at best. Not very long ago, it seemed incredibly difficult to tackle the issue of acid rain or to achieve an international ban on ozonedepleting chlorofluorocarbons. When you think of the year 2050, it may seem too soon for the massive systemic shifts needed to effectively decelerate global warming, but not when you consider how quickly technology has advanced. Simply put, politicians will not make climate action a part of their platform unless they see their constituents demanding it. Climate change consistently ranks low on the list of concerns put forth by potential voters, with issues such as job creation, the economy, and health care beating it out. Collectively, we need to understand that climate action is inherently connected to these other pressing social issues. Climate action will create millions of jobs in the renewable energy and related sectors. Energy efficiency will save people more money. Less pollution in the atmosphere will save lives by preventing diseases. It’s going to take innovation and ingenuity to develop a sustainable domestic and global economy. The capitalist system runs on edacity and efficiency, and climate change presents a massively untapped source of economic, industrial and infrastructural development. We need to capitalize on climate change. The opportunity cost is simply too high if we don’t.
The role of universities
Discussion about climate change and the lack of reaction to warnings often centre around governments and Big Oil: how reticent they are to act and how it’s never enough when they do. Universities are often left out of this debate. A surprise, considering how much money from university investment funds helps prop up the fossil fuel industry. In 2017, the total value of divestments from the industry by universities around the world exceeded $136 billion, and that’s ignoring the many institutions that have refused or ignored calls for divestment. All the criticisms that are levelled at philanthropic institutes, governments, and the fossil fuel industry apply equally to universities. As students, we are uniquely poised to create change here, to pressure administrations to act. It matters. It will soon be too late.
Figures from around the world
Let’s break down the numbers. Of that $136 billion, only 0.1 per cent is from Canadian universities. If that wasn’t shameful enough, it becomes even worse when you look closer. Concordia University is one of the brave few who have pledged to divest in the country — kind of. In 2014, they established a $5 million fund for sustainable investments, which some hoped might prompt the university to divest from its $12 million or so in the fossil fuel industry. Four years later, little else has changed. It’s good public relations, but it’s not good environmentalism. For a better example of what real divestment looks like, we can turn to Université Laval. Last year, it became the first Canadian school to commit to full, actionable, and effective divestment across all their financial assets. They aren’t alone. Across the Atlantic, Scottish students have a lot to be proud of, as the University of Glasgow’s full divestment pledge wiped roughly $31 million from Big Oil companies. Close by, the University of Edinburgh has also cleaned up its act this year, after a partial divestment in 2015. In fact, UK universities and colleges account for almost half of the divestment pledges. So what are they doing that we aren’t? Climate change is an issue that affects everyone regardless of where you live — that’s what makes it a crisis for the future of humanity — but not everyone seems to want to do anything about it. Squarely in that camp are some of the biggest names with the biggest account balances, the ones who are needed to really start a powerful domino-effect of divestment. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology refuses to budge. Harvard University nervously pauses investments but won’t scale back. Scientists at the University of British Columbia work to educate the public on the real dangers that climate change proposes, all the while university bureaucrats place financial returns over the planet’s wellbeing. And of course, there’s U of T.
Divestment at U of T
The divestment campaign at U of T began to gain momentum in 2014, when UofT350, our chapter of the international divestment organization 350.org, presented the university with a detailed petition asking it to take a hard look at what it was investing in. Following this, President Meric Gertler established an Advisory Committee on
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Divestment from Fossil Fuels, which later produced its own report suggesting that the university take a balanced approach to divestment. UofT350 argued that U of T should break away from firms who blatantly disregard the environment in their activities, a strategy that an op-ed in the Harvard Crimson called the “Toronto Principle,” one that other institutions such as Harvard ought to adapt. High praise, but today it rings hollow. In 2016, Gertler declined the Committee’s suggestions, opting instead for a “firmby-firm” approach to assessing whether an investment might be environmentally unsound. This practical-sounding, fiscally responsible strategy has given the university the leeway to act without acting. There isn’t room for greed, for pussyfooting in the face of an existential threat so large that our short-term-risk-assessing brains cannot process it properly. Moving away from
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fossil fuels is critical, investing in sustainable industries so they can grow is necessary, and universities are uniquely poised to do both. Why the apathy? The late William Bowen, former president of Princeton University, said of divestment campaigns: “To abstain is both a legitimate and appropriate action when the issue is not central to an institution’s educational mission.” There is a school of thought that says that an education is not merely for oneself, but for the society one lives in. Instruction of a student, then, ought to look beyond the campus walls as well. How can any university, not just U of T, justify its reputation and academic standing if it does not take an issue like climate change at face value? There is simply no way the two can coexist. Our duty as students, scholars, teachers, and just plain human beings is clear: we must halt fossil fuel emissions before it’s too late.
QUEERNESS ACTIVISM COMMUNITY An interview with the hosts of Do You Queer What I Queer? Writer: Kate Reeve Photographer: Shanna Hunter
hom, Elliot, and Jesse crowded onto my office balcony. It was early August and we were all incredibly sweaty. We cracked our beers and complained about the heat. Jesse offered to hold my recording device, checking the angles periodically and moving the phone from corner to corner to capture the clearest audio. Jesse is the quietest part of the Do You Queer What I Queer? (DYQWIQ) trio and works behind the scenes to help keep the self-proclaimed “faggoty messes,” Elliot and Thom, on track. Thom and Elliot are the public faces and voices of DYQWIQ, a Toronto-based queer podcast. Starting as an outlet for their collective rage and as a springboard for mobilization in the aftermath of the altright wave in global politics, DYQWIQ aims to be a hub for the queer community. Through weekly episodes, Thom and Elliot provide a platform for queer individuals, especially those usually left outside mainstream representations of queerness, to share their lives and reflect on their experiences. Thom, trained as an educator and a performer, currently works in community arts programs. He’s tall and loud, but somehow not intimidating. Rather, he puts people at ease. Relentlessly busy, Thom often sacrifices his own needs for those of the projects he involves himself in. He’s well matched by Elliot, who started his PhD in anthropology at U of T this fall. Elliot often brings his academic lens into DYQWIQ episodes, especially when the topic of queer history comes up. Listeners can practically hear him shift
forward in his seat and lean closer to the microphone when he gets excited about a topic. Elliot explained that “rage and anger seemed to be very productive” in his studies of queer activism, and he wanted to harness his and Thom’s in something bigger than themselves. “We realized we have the most privilege situated in our community and we turned that into activism,” Elliot continued. “[We] realized that you can’t just acknowledge privilege — you have to activate it, you have to use it.” Thom agreed. Being an activist doesn’t have to be hard, he said. “Take what you’re good at and turn it into something that matters.” Thom laughed before continuing, “And for me, what I’m good at is, I guess, talking shit?” When Thom falls down a rage rabbithole, Elliot usually grounds him. Likewise, when Elliot spins off, Thom reassures him. They bump into and off of one another’s energies; so comfortable together that listeners might feel like they’re just listening in on an everyday conversation between best friends. And they can’t be blamed for thinking that; casual, colloquial and of-the-moment, DYQWIQ doesn’t pretend to be CBC. They even have a show mascot, a porcelain cat named Pamela, who they dress up in different costumes and ask guests to describe on air. Hilarity often follows. Occasionally, listeners and guests criticize the specific language choices inherent in DYQWIQ. The word ‘queer’ carries a heavy legacy, especially for older generations. For Elliot and Thom’s peers, the word ‘fag’ or ‘faggot’ is likely more salient, and can trigger a gut-twist of shame and embarrassment. But Elliot and Thom don’t see it that way. For them, their active and consistent use of these terms is a form of protest, of reclaiming. Elliot explained that this re-appropriation is where his politics lie, that “if you take something back and you find power and a place for activism within it, then it can’t hurt you.” Thom nodded along, adding that “‘faggot’ is our word now. Ours being mine and Elliot’s specifically, and if you want it to be your word too, great, take it.” He continued, “It can’t hurt us, because we own the word and we own its power.” But, Elliot added, “We just need to communicate that that’s how we understand it and use it to our guests. To show the wonder and the love within it and the power within it.” Elliot and Thom wear this on
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their bodies, in twin ‘faggot’ tattoos. Some of the first questions they ask guests on the podcast is to define what being queer means to them and how they use their queerness to influence positive change. Since hearing and interacting with different understandings of queerness through these conversations, their own definitions have shifted. Thom explained that to him, queerness now means inclusivity and broadening the umbrella. The gift of queerness is making space for complexity in identity and personhood that an acronym like LGBTQ+ can’t quite hold. Elliot concurred, “I think many people use that word in different ways than I might come to it, but I kind of use it as a praxis [rather] than an identity.” To Elliot, the politic in queer “lies in people’s inability to pinpoint one meaning, and kind of the fluidity in queerness.” But, he cautions that “people who identify as queer need to recognize that within that umbrella there’s still a hierarchy in terms of social order.” These hierarchical relations within the queer community are a frequent topic of discussion on DYQWIQ. Elliot and Thom regularly acknowledge how their own perspectives as white, cis men heavily influence their experiences. To counterbalance this, they try to focus on providing a platform for diverse experiences of queerness and keep one another very aware of the narrowness of their own understandings. Elliot explained how he and Thom hope that “people come out of episodes with not us as the authority, but with the guest who can speak to it or the resources we refer them to. It’s awareness, but not the be all end all of the conversation.”They frequently reiterate that being queer “doesn’t just mean being gay and getting drunk at a gay bar. It means going out and advocating for Indigenous rights, standing up for people of colour, [and] fighting the trans fight,” and that listening to other perspectives is central. “Although,” Elliot said drily, “The irony of this is I want to say listening more and speaking less, but we have a podcast, so…” Their queerness also hugely influences their interactions with the world. Elliot’s academic career at U of T has been formative in the development of his politics around queerness. “In fact,” he told me, “U of T is what helped me learn about queerness and adopt queerness for myself. But I know that’s probably not a lot of people’s experiences, especially in other programs.”
Elliot’s PhD focuses specifically on queer digital activism in rural communities. “I think the main vehicle for my queerness is the education I’m in now,” he concluded. Thom’s queerness manifests in his career as well. He mainly teaches creative classes, including writing and drama, so “in order to facilitate that, the space has to be completely safe.” He continued, “I think I understand that as a queer person, because I celebrate ‘come as you are.’ Speak as you want, think as you want.” Furthermore, he’s always learning from his students. “It’s very different to be a 15-year-old now,”Thom said, and “they understand that art in this climate should be, maybe has to be, a vehicle for social change.” Elliot’s training in anthropology rings through his approach to podcasting. “We’re taught that self-reflexivity is the strength in anthropology because as embodied researchers you need to recognize who you are and how your experiences have shaped how you interact with the world.” Reflecting on how he and Thom balance the divisions between their personal lives and the public personas they project on DYQWIQ, he said, “I think it’s getting more difficult to separate the podcast from our lives. I think that in the future it’ll be one and the same.” Elliot and Thom pride themselves on their painful honesty on air, especially about their mental health. One of their segments is the practice of sharing their ‘colour’ of the day, as a way to express their mental state. “The colours started when I was, you know, having really dark days or days that I didn’t want to leave my bed or days where I was so angry I didn’t know what to do. So I’d text Elliot and be like, ‘This is a red day.’ It was my version of putting it out there and giving it to someone so I didn’t feel so alone,” Thom shared. “Now it’s morphed into this fun, creative but still quite vulnerable way of expressing who we are and how we’re feeling.” Elliot nodded, adding, “We’re also trying to show that even when you’re at your lowest and you’re not feeling well, you can still be active and help. Talking about your truth can be activism.” “And you can still even laugh!” Thom interjected, smiling. The sharp change in Ontario’s political climate after the election of Doug Ford this summer helped them realize their convictions. “We started really angry at concrete things and at an ethos that, for myself, I couldn’t pinpoint. But to see it reproduce in front of our eyes in Ontario, it’s like we’ve
D Y Q W I
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talked our own activism into existence,” Elliot reflected. They want to hold themselves accountable to their convictions by actively protesting the changes imposed by the Ford government, and they encourage their listeners to follow suit. “There’s active things that are easy to do, like emailing the education minister or attending the rallies at Queens Park. These are all actionable things that not only we can all be doing but we can be sharing that we’re doing and supporting each other.” Elliot noted. Thom agreed. “As like a stupid, queer actor I always thought it was over my head. I always though that ‘Oh, I’m not smart enough to really understand that.’” He paused. “The difference now is that I realized it is accessible. Everyone can be active.” Elliot looked over, “I will say too, to address the elephant in the room, we’re both white, cis men. Not to reduce everything to that, obviously, but I think that’s why we were able to have our heads in the clouds for so long.” He raised his voice slightly. “If
They frequently reiterate that being queer “doesn’t just mean being gay and getting drunk at a gay bar. It means going out and advocating for Indigenous rights, standing up for people of colour, [and] fighting the trans fight.”
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politics isn’t part of your everyday life, that’s because you’re privileged enough to not have them impact you.” Thom and Jesse nodded. DYQWIQ encourages its listeners to be accomplices to the queer community. “I’m just gonna take one sec to say to people who aren’t queer: we’d like to see you be respectful in queer spaces. That’s not to say don’t be in queer spaces; come, we need accomplices. But know that these spaces function as safety for a lot of people who didn’t feel welcome or who were actively marginalized in non-queer spaces,” Elliot said. “Being an accomplice is talking to people in a community and finding out the best place to help,” he explained. Elliot encouraged U of T students to take classes in gender studies and other queer topics, advising students to take advantage of their electives to learn as much as they can. Thom agreed. “Showing up and supporting queer businesses is huge,” he added, but also emphasized the importance
of “showing up on the front lines. Go to protests at Queens Park, at Nathan Phillips Square. Get out there for our missing and murdered Indigenous women, for our Indigenous allies, for our people of colour who don’t have the same chances as we do… get out there for them.” DYQWIQ is a refreshingly self-aware take on queer issues and broader social justice causes in Canada. Thom and Elliot offer much of themselves to their listeners, leaning into vulnerability without veering into performance. They play into one another’s quirks and personalities and have steadily honed their dynamic since their first episodes. They’re funny, irreverent, and sometimes heartbreaking. Yes, DYQWIQ is a queer podcast, but it’s for everyone. After all, as Thom says, “If you’re angry, if you’re an activist, if you don’t subscribe to the patriarchy or heteronormativity, that makes you queer.” He looked directly at my recorder: “Straight people, allies, you’re queer too — we welcome you.”
“We’re also trying to show that even when you’re at your lowest and you’re not feeling well, you can still be active and help. Talking about your truth can be activism.”
“If politics isn’t part of your everyday life, that’s because you’re privileged enough to not have them impact you.”
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Kanye’s problem politics In the age of political correctness, can we separate the art from the artist?
Writer: Silas Le Blanc Illustrator: Troy Lawrence
there’s one person who’s consistently dominated headlines, it’s Kanye West. Few artists of his generation have been able to draw as much ire and controversy from such a wide variety of demographics as Kanye. Recently, he’s gained attention for his political stances, including his outspoken support of Donald Trump, his claim that slavery “sounds like a choice,” his apparent support for accused rapists and domestic abusers such as A$AP Bari and XXXTENTACION, and his associations with reactionary, conservative pundits such as Candace Owens. The hip hop community, where Kanye was almost universally respected, has also begun to lose patience. He lied about the release of his forthcoming album Yandi, released a single with completely nonsensical lyrics, and potentially revealed the identity of Drake’s child to rapper Pusha T, who then made it public. I grew up listening to Kanye’s music, as did many of my friends and peers. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was one of the first albums I’d ever owned, and it still stands as one of the best albums of the decade. Earlier hits like “Stronger” and “Gold Digger” were anthems of my elementary school years. Yeezus helped me get through my angsty teenage years. The Life of Pablo contained some of the most beautiful production I’d ever heard on a hip hop record in my 18 years of life. Even his newest albums, his solo record Ye and his collaboration with Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts, explored mental health issues in a way that I’ve never heard in hip hop, all accompanied by the quality production that fans have come to expect from Kanye. Despite Kanye’s reputation as a controversial figure throughout his career, his reactionary political positions are relatively new developments. In 2005, he spoke out against LGBTQ+ discrimination and toxic masculinity in the hip hop community. “Looking at my rappers out there, hip hop is discriminating against gay people,” he said in an interview on
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MTV. “I wanted to just come on TV and just tell my rappers, just tell my friends, ‘Yo, stop it fam.’ Like, really, that’s just discrimination. To me that’s exactly what they used to do to Black people. I’m trying to tell people, just stop all that.” This may seem like a bland statement now, but remember, this was 2005. The social environment was very different. Canada had only just legalized same-sex marriage, and both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s official stances were that marriage should be between a man and a woman. That same year, Kanye also spoke out against the media coverage of Hurricane Katrina in his now famous “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” speech. “I hate the way they portray us in the media. If you see a Black family, it says they’re looting. If you see a white family, it says they’re looking for food,” Kanye said during a nationally televised telethon benefit. This sentiment translated into his music as well. “Crack Music” spoke about the crack epidemic in the US, and as recently as 2013, “New Slaves” touched on topics such as anti-Black racism and consumerism. It’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly has happened since then. There are a seemingly infinite number of theories out there to explain away his new behaviour — his bipolar disorder, marrying into the Kardashians, or growing tired of the empty rhetoric of establishment Democrats are just a few. One thing that we know for sure, however, is that this isn’t the same Kanye. While I’d like to think that I can simply enjoy the music without worrying about the artist’s personal life, it isn’t that simple. His first three albums were so positive and they made me feel good — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy introduced me to the scrutiny and myopia of celebrity life, for instance. But how can I sympathize with someone who simply doesn’t share my basic values? Even when Kanye talks about his mental health struggles — which are a very real and personal
issue — it’s hard to personally connect with someone who appears to be so disconnected from reality. Clearly, mainstream listeners have less of an issue with this than I do — and not just about Kanye. The late XXXTENTACION allegedly abused his pregnant girlfriend. His song “SAD!” reached number one on the Billboard charts. Tekashi69, who pled guilty to one count of use of a child in sexual performance, saw his song “FEFE” peak at number three. When a video was released of A$AP Bari attempting to sexually assault a nude woman, fellow A$AP Mob member A$AP Rocky jokingly dismissed it in his song “TonyTone,” suggesting that he “would say ‘suck my dick’ — but that’s sexual harassment.” Despite how unsettling this may be, I understand why people don’t change their listening habits based on which artists they think are good people, which itself can be subjective. I imagine most people don’t want to come home after a long day, only to be told that one of their forms of escape is problematic. At the same time though, it’s disappointing to realize that artists who have affected me on a personal level have ended up completely different from how I’d hoped. As a society, we shouldn’t expect all of our artists to be amazing people. But it’s difficult to listen to someone who raps that he sees “women as something to nurture, not something to conquer” while supporting a president who has routinely treated women as objects. Frankly, I almost envy people who can fully separate the art from the artist. It certainly makes music more enjoyable. If it ever releases, I’ll probably still listen to Yandi, and it’ll probably still sound amazing. But it won’t ever be the same, even if Kanye renounces his past statements.
Fall 2018 â€”
The clothes that made me How our outward presentations reflect and create our inner selves Writer: Zeahaa Rehman Illustrator: Wendy Zhang
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A long chiffon dupatta that can’t quite decide whether it is red or dark pink. It is simultaneously a comforting talisman, a fun, shapeshifting toy, and a way for my three-year-old self to imitate the women around me. I drape it on my head to mime a dulhan, drape it across my chest to mimic an aunty, tuck it closely around my neck and become a larki, and then reverse the larki-tuck to become a dulha or a dancer. If I feel particularly fancy, then I wrap it around my torso as a makeshift sari. My dress-up is punctuated by coos, cheek pinches, and exclamations of “cute!” I revel in both the possibilities it holds, the protection it offers, and the positive attention it brings. I want to hold that dupatta and absorb the warmth it offers one more time. A white cotton shalwar that Mama gives to me to wear with my white uniform frock the first day of third grade. In a sea of bare legs, both male and female, my shalwar-enclosed legs reflect the strong, sweltering Pakistani morning sunlight rather than absorbing it. “Why are you wearing a shalwar?” boo the boys and girls. “It’s not part of our uniform!” I shrug, stammer, “My mom made me,” and suffer the distaste and disgust that third graders heap on someone who dares to go against the status — or uniform — quo. The white shalwar is a white flag for my legs. They, cursed with coarse black hair and even coarser thighs, have surrendered to the demand that they never be seen in public again. All the dupattas that I use to play an odd game of pushand-pull with my brother. The game comprises of us holding either end of the dupatta and pulling the other where we want to go, be it up the stairs, out to the garden, or to our Baba’s study. Suddenly, I can’t play games of push-and-pull with those dupattas anymore, because I have to wear them, Mama tells me. Properly, she emphasizes. And my chest is like dough in an oven — rising and expanding. Any time an older male, related to me or otherwise, comes over, I have to drape the slippery-slidey nuisances across my chest, lest it burn their eyes
when they look at me. I don’t think to ask Mama why older men would be looking at the chest of a nineyear-old. A cotton shalwar kameez suit tinged with hues of orange, yellow, and green that my nano — Mama’s mom — sews for me. Mama forgets half the clothes I am supposed to change into for my uncle’s Eid party at home. I alternate between sulking and shouting and silence. Then Mama presents me with the labour of love that is the shalwar kameez that Nano made for me. I forget the shape and shade of the clothes I am supposed to wear. I flow into the shalwar kameez, float out of the room, and flout rules by asking everyone for Eidi first. Nano doesn’t need spells; she has a SINGER machine. I wish I learned to sew. A baby-pink, half-sleeve Gap t-shirt with a small rhinestone on its top-left corner that my tayi — Baba’s older brother’s wife — buys me a week into our family vacation to Canada. My family and I come back home after having spent the day at a family friend’s house when my tayi shows me the t-shirt. “It’s a little big for a nine-year-old,” Tayi says, “but why don’t you try it on?” I am in the midst of modeling the shirt for my tayi and Mama, when my brother stumbles into the room. “Dado died.” Disbelief tinges his voice. My paternal grandmother back in Pakistan is no more. Tears wet my cheeks, slide down my neck, and seep into the pink t-shirt as I struggle to take it off in the bathroom. The t-shirt accompanies me to Pakistan for her funeral ceremony, and it returns with me to Canada when my family immigrates. I keep the t-shirt long after I stop wearing it. A pair of flared Gap jeans that I bring back to Pakistan as a souvenir of my vacation to Canada, a sign of my modernity, a symbol of my coolness. I never wear them. But then, there is a party at school and everyone is wearing jeans and if I don’t I’ll be uncool, so I tell Mama that, but Mama tells me to wear a shalwar kameez suit. I can’t say no to her, so I stuff the jeans inside my bag and change when I’m at school, but change back before I come home. “You took the jeans anyway, didn’t you?” Mama asks. I brush past her. I wish I hadn’t lied. A cotton black shalwar kameez suit with grey flowers printed on it that my 11-year-old self wears during the 14-hour flight to Toronto, my new home. The thin shalwar kameez is no match for the cold tone that the airport immigration officers speak to my mother in, the dismissive stares that punctuate my journey through Pearson International Airport, or the Fall 2018 —
icy wind that greets me outside it. The shalwar kameez is a symbol of everything my family and I bring from Pakistan: experience, education, and culture. I must distance myself from it to succeed in the Caucasian, colonial country of Canada. I bury the shalwar kameez deep in my closet in our two-bedroom apartment that houses four. I bury with it my penchant for desi music and movies, my propensity to mix Urdu with my English, and my preference for biryani over burgers. I water these buried seeds of shame with self-hatred until they bloom into a plant of whitewashing. It is only seven years after the bleach has burned Urdu off my tongue, the sounds of desi music from my ears, and the smell of masala from my nose that I realize that I will never be white. I wish I was brave enough to wear a shalwar kameez in public. A ready-made white hijab adorned with sequined black diamonds that Mama forces me to wear when I start school in Canada. The white emphasizes my brownness, the black brings out the dusting of dark hair above my upper lip, and the combination of the two underlines the fact that I am foreign and fresh off the boat; it undermines my every effort to fit in. “People need to be able to tell that you’re Muslim,” Mama reminds me when I ask her why I must wear a hijab. People need to be able to see that they should avoid you is what I interpret when I observe the wide berth people give me. Mama doesn’t yet understand that Muslims inspire mistrust, microaggressions, and misgivings. I don’t have the Urdu words to explain this to her, so I lie instead. I lie about wearing the hijab at school when I take it off once I get there, and I lie awake at night worrying about her finding out. I wish I was brave enough to tell my mother how I really felt. A ready-made black hijab that Mama buys me when I decide, two years after my deception dilemma, to wear a hijab for good. I suddenly represent an entire group of people. I must answer every day whether it is really hair I’m hiding under there. I automatically stand out in a room and I can never feel safe in public again. Sometimes, I think I made the wrong decision.
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A pile of pastel Forever 21 dresses that don’t fit me no matter how hard I tug. “Do you need a size?” The floor assistant’s helium-infused voice mocks me from outside the changing room. “No,” my lie is muffled by layers of lace and tulle wrapped around my face while I struggle to shoulder one of the dresses off. “I’m okay.” I shove the dress off, take in the angry red marks that it and its predecessors cursed me with, and alternate between cursing the fashion industry and my fitness levels on my way home. “You wouldn’t be sad if you were just a little bit skinnier,” I berate myself. “I wouldn’t feel the need to be skinnier if society didn’t value and make clothes for thin bodies only,” I return. I wish I was happy with myself. A quilted black winter jacket that I wear one winter day as I walk to my bus stop. The cold Canadian winter wind stopped bothering me a long time ago, except on this day. On this day, it carries to me catcalls from a troupe of teenage boys as they drive past. Shame and shock paint my cheeks a damning hot red, infuse an itchiness at the back of my neck, and shrink the previously comfortable jacket so it scratches and scrapes me. “What were you wearing?” I imagine people asking me, if I relayed this instance of harassment to them, just like they do if anyone reports a similar incident. I wonder if my answer of being covered hair to toe would shut them up. A cotton grey pashmina hijab with fringes on each end that I wear so often, it might as well be the only one I own. I don’t remember when the day was, why I wore that particular hijab, or where I went wearing it. I only remember boarding my bus home and feeling fingers fondling my neck. I glance behind me to find a man touching the fringe at the end of my hijab without invitation. He stops. I lean away. He starts again. I tug the yellow rope above my head requesting the bus to stop, jerk up and away from the man who invited himself to my body, and find a seat beside a girl near the front of the bus. I wish I had done something more.
Who really pays for cheap clothes? The ethics of fast fashion Writer: Paige Chu Photographer: Jackson Whitehead
elcome to 2018, when shopping is so cheap and convenient that it’s literally entertainment for the privileged. The fast fashion industry produces a staggering 150 billion items annually and leading brands in the industry, such as Topshop, spit out over 400 new styles per week. Online-exclusive brands like Asos are the new behemoths of apparel, skyrocketing in popularity and sales. While customers might enjoy having access to runway looks for low prices, the shorter turnaround times for manufacturers come at incredible costs. As the apparel industry outsources much of its labour to developing countries and is the second highest polluter of clean water, the impact of constant consumption cannot be overstated. We’re sacrificing more than just quality to satisfy ever-evolving and ever-increasing demands. Fashion itself has undergone a makeover in the past few decades. What was once a game of forecasting trends is now a race to replicate styles the quickest. Fast fashion brands are less interested in investing in design, and are instead inspired by popular fads. Not only has this shortened design and consumption times, but it has shortened the lifespan of each piece. On average, items are worn for around a month before being forgotten or tossed for the next round of styles. Fast fashion legitimizes and reproduces the mainstream attitude toward clothing as disposable. This leads to novelty items that wear out quickly — nothing is made to last — and consumers are hooked on retailers, increasing profits. What was once the fulcrum of fashion — originality, artistic value, and luxury — has been replaced by a culture of obsolescence. But most critically, we’re allowing bargains to supersede morality. This newfound world of ‘disposable’ clothing turns a blind eye to exploitation.
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Where do our clothes come from? In 1990, most clothing for sale in the United States was locally made, but in 2015, 97.5 per cent of the United States’ apparel was imported. While the garment industry has been the site of significant labour abuses since the Industrial Revolution, outsourcing labour to developing countries has allowed corporations to regularly escape from regulatory frameworks that were established to protect workers and the environment. The pressures of this accelerated pace to get clothing from design to shelf trickle down to labourers, resulting in poor working conditions, abuse, and child labour. Sexual and physical abuse in factories are often the norm, and victims have little to no safe avenues to report abusive incidents. The International Labour Organization estimates that roughly 170 million children are engaged in child labour, with many working in the nooks and crannies of the fashion supply chain. From cottonseed production in Benin to the long, intensive hours spent harvesting the plant in Uzbekistan, there is no limit to the dangers that these minors are subjected to. Employers are rarely held to account for these abuses — and when they are, consumers don’t always pay attention. Factory workers put their health at risk every day, but the industry equates
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absence of injury with health, failing to examine how workers’ physical, social, and mental well-being is held hostage by their dehumanizing employment. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, labour standards are so skewed that wages only amount to less than three per cent of the cost of most clothing items. Even when labour stays local, manufacturers absorb immigrant and refugee populations who have no choice but to accept pay below minimum wage. In a report on Los Angeles garment factories, 42 per cent of surveyors revealed that exits and doors were regularly blocked, 49 per cent noted that there were no first aid kits on site, and a shocking 82 per cent of workers said that they had never been provided with any health or safety training. Evidently, the fashion industry isn’t good for anyone other than those who profit directly from it.
Morality in the closet While the Global North revels in the postmodern phenomenon of trying on temporary identities with endless supplies of garments, the Global South pays the price in suffering. A perpetual sense of urgency and drive for increasing profit forces employees to work at ridiculous speeds, leaving little time, space, and energy for them to assert their legal rights or to address viola-
tions of their rights. How can we change our consumption patterns? Ethical, sustainable brands have difficulty gaining traction, in large part because the sticker price is often significantly higher. Why bother shelling out more when something similar can be found at your local Gap? Ironically, it is the same capitalist system that pushes consumers to scrape for the ‘best deal’ that also oppresses the workers producing the goods. These workers, strangled by low wages and poor conditions, don’t have the resources to support ethical brands themselves. But for the privileged, each purchase becomes a vote. Opting for vegan shoes over leather boots is a vote for animal rights. Buying less and investing in responsible retailers is a vote for ethical values. While we may not always have the funds to throw our support behind every conscious brand, we need to recognize that what we dress ourselves in is a message to the retail industry. It’s easy to be swayed by the Amazon package of 25 per cent off items, or a $20 H&M dress that looks just like your favourite Instagram model’s, but saving a couple of bucks doesn’t mean that a price was not paid — we’re just not the ones paying it.
Seemingly optional The problem with accommodations Writer: Kristen Zimmer
ccessibility and pedagogy should be seamless, but accommodations remind us that these two categories are not as intertwined as they should be. As a student enrolled with Accessibility Services, I use accommodations. As an English student, the word “accommodation” troubles me. In fact, I don’t like it. A scroll through the Oxford English Dictionary’s entries for “accommodation” deepens my dislike of the word, particularly when the term is used in the context of accessibility and education. To accommodate means to adapt a “system to something different from its original purpose” . If we apply this logic to the educational system, we can infer that pedagogy does not include accessibility within its original purpose. Accommodations aren’t created for students who need them; they are created for the existing structure that doesn’t accommodate these students in the first place. When a school system does not weave accessibility into its core fabric, accommodations become a seemingly optional add-on to the curriculum. The optics of optional accommodations could explain why some professors don’t accept a student’s
letter of accommodation as a valid excuse for an extension, or why these same professors don’t mention accessibility in their syllabi. Different learning needs, however, are just as important as the content covered in the course. Thinking about accommodations as the frayed threads of a seam — extra bits of fabric barely connected to the main material — gives us insight into the language that contributes to the exclusion of Disabled students. Accommodations are designed with us in mind, but school curricula are not. We need to question this existing structure in academia, and an analysis of specific language affords us that critique. What if curricula were designed with disability at their cores? What would happen if accessibility was woven into academia, and not treated as an afterthought? Accessibility would be more accessible. I’m not thinking about specific flaws in the educational system. I’m thinking about one word — ‘accommodations’ — and how we need to rethink its use. I meditate on this word because change is incremental. Word by word, stitch by stitch.
Fall 2018 —
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VOLUME XII NO. 1 SEAM Kate Reeve Magazine Editor Pearl Cao Creative Director Jack O. Denton Editor-in-Chief Kaitlyn Simpson Managing Online Editor Reut Cohen Managing Editor Kevin Lu Senior Copy Editor Julie Shi Deputy Senior Copy Editor Angela Fu & Gheyana Purbodiningrat Design Editors Shanna Hunter Photo Editor Troy Lawrence Illustration Editor Nikhi Bhambra Front End Web Developer Stephanie Zhang Back End Web Developer Jakob Barnes Magazine Assistant Keith Cheng Associate Design Editor Emma Findlay-White Business Manager Copy Editors Amena Ahmed, Isabel Armiento, Marisa Balleani, John Bao, Debasmita Battacharya, Christina Bondi, Angela Bosenius, Megan Brearley, Caroline Colantonio, Christina Ditlof, Joy Fan, Jacob Harron, Emily Hurmizi, Ashley Manou, Isabella McKay, Gina Nicoll, Daniel Ninkovic, Jovana Pajovic, Areej Rodrigo, Lindsay Selliah, Shayelle Smith, Sabrina Wu, Helen Jingshu Yao, Emily Yu, Gabriella S. Zhao Designers Tarik Haiga, Christie Lee, Jennifer Wan, William Xiao, Jenny Zhang, Yolanda Zhang Cover Art Kate Reeve Pearl Cao Endpaper Illustrations Vera Usherovich Special Thanks to Italian disco, for keeping our spirits high, Mitski for holding us emotionally accountable, Blythe for donating her magazines to be dismembered, Kaitlyn for her moral support, Miggy for a last-minute catch, and all the volunteers who generously donated their time to make this possible. The Varsity Magazine has a circulation of 10,000 published by Varsity Publications Inc. It is printed by Master Web Inc. on recycled newsprint stock. Content ÂŠ 2018 by The Varsity. All rights reserved. Any editorial inquiries and/or letters should be directed to the associated editors. The Varsity Magazine reserves the right to edit all submissions.
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