My very Jewish love letter to the Cavendish Mall IGA

Spiritual connection can be found in the most mundane places

It may seem peculiar to admit, but one of the spaces I feel the most unabashedly Jewish is in a chain grocery store.

I currently live in Outremont, my small apartment building nestled amongst the rows of beautiful houses containing large, lively Hasidic families. Between Lipa’s Kosher Market, Continental Deli, and the dozens of synagogues, I could definitely get my share of Jewish culture anytime I left the house. But, as much as I love a Cheskie’s black and white cookie, as a secular(ish) reform Jew, these aren’t really my people.

However, a forty-minute bus ride away, at an unassuming IGA, that’s where my people are.

My grandparents immigrated to Canada around 1953 as refugees of the Holocaust. The war broke out when my grandmother was a young teen, and after losing all of her family other than a sister and cousin, likely to Auschwitz but we’ll never know, she met my grandfather in a labour camp. After liberation, the pair were processed through Italy, went to Israel, then finally arrived in Montreal.

Our family began as working class Mile End Jews, as many post-War Ashkenazi immigrants did. In comparison to the more affluent “uptown” Jews of Westmount, who had already assimilated to Canadian culture through a couple generations of living here, “downtown” Jews like my family had a difficult time initially, adapting to two new languages and secular life, all while reeling from the most awful trauma imaginable.

By the 1980s, after moving through multiple Montreal boroughs, my grandparents, again following the trends of their Polish Jewish peers, finally settled in Côte-Saint-Luc. And there they lived until they passed — my grandfather before I was born and my grandmother this past summer.

Everytime my parents and I would travel to Montreal to visit my grandmother, a trip to the Cavendish Mall IGA was inevitable. Beginning as an opportunity to make sure my grandmother got all of her granddaughter’s favourite foods, and later because driving herself became impossible, the IGA factored into every family trip to Montreal.

Growing up in suburban Virginia, never had I seen so much Jewish food in one place. Or, honestly, Jewish food for sale in general, other than a lonely box of Passover matzah inexplicably stocked in a Hanukkah display.

The IGA has been a constant, not just for my family, but for the large Jewish Côte-Saint-Luc community. The store has a sizable kosher section spanning not only the Eastern European Jewish staples like knishes and verenikas, but also babaganoush and harissa to accommodate the more recent influx of Sephardic Jews into the neighbourhood.

Early in the COVID-19 lockdowns, the Cavendish IGA briefly closed its doors to shoppers. IGA’s parent company Sobeys stated that their decision was made to limit the amount of times residents were leaving their houses. With Côte-Saint-Luc’s especially elderly population, this call was made in an attempt to protect residents from disease. However, the move created a backlash from older residents, who either did not have access to or proficiency with computers and online ordering.

On top of the accessibility concerns of online shopping, closing the Cavendish IGA limited the social aspect of shopping for not only the older community, but Jewish Côte-Saint-Luc residents in general.

Much has been said about food and cooking as community-making, but why do we not extend this thought to the grocery shopping experience?

In Côte-Saint-Luc, the IGA has become somewhat of a cultural hub for the community, as, especially during the pandemic, it’s one of the few places community members, mostly older adults, will get a chance to see their neighbours.

I don’t go to the Cavendish Mall much these days. Since my grandmother’s passing, I’ve only been out to Côte-Saint-Luc a few times to help clean out her apartment. But I went this past week, partially to have an excuse to get some reading done one the bus, but mostly because in the stress of exam season, I was craving the warm embrace of Jewish carbs. 

Once I passed the extensive bakery section, I was greeted by a giant Hanukkah display. “A bit early?” I chuckled to myself, thinking about the cliché of Christmas decorations popping up as soon as Halloween passes. Then, I realized I didn’t even know when Hanukkah begins this year. Turns out it’s Nov. 28, so the joke’s on me.

But after the twinge of pain knowing that Hanukkah will have come and gone before I’m even done with finals, I thought: where else would I come face to face with a kiosk full of dreidels, menorahs, and adorned with an image of a yarmulke-clad cartoon boy?

That’s the thing about the Cavendish Mall IGA. The mundane fact that matzah ball soup mix is sold all year (in a section that actually corresponds to the correct holiday), that it’s the only place I’ve ever found kasha varnishkes outside of my dad’s kitchen, that I can walk around on a Friday early afternoon, see a box of candlesticks in my fellow shopper’s cart and share a knowing look.

Though I had no real reason to go to the IGA recently, even without my grandmother to guide me to the good gefilte fish, the experience still ignited something comforting in me that I can’t quite articulate. Maybe it’s God, maybe just good chicken soup.


Feature graphic by Kaitlynn Rodney and James Fay

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Snail Mail – Valentine

With Valentine, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan returns to form with heartfelt indie rock

On her sophomore album, Valentine, Snail Mail crafts beautifully simple and honest breakup songs.

Coming off her 2018 breakout debut, Lush, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan had a lot to live up to, as the young singer and guitarist was launched to indie stardom seemingly overnight.

With that, Valentine does not disappoint. Fans of Lush will find Snail Mail’s beloved guitar-driven sound, as well as her typical lyrics of yearning and young love on Valentine — just a little more grown up.

Valentine kicks off with a title track, one of Snail Mail’s previously released singles. The synths starting out the song are a departure from Snail Mail’s typical garage style, yet as the track moves forward, the guitar-driven chorus bursts out, full of Jordan’s expressive, angsty singing style.

The next song, “Ben Franklin,” feels the most like a departure from Lush, with its bass-heavy instrumentation and Jordan’s tongue-in-cheek lyric delivery. In the song, she laments a broken relationship but is still self-reflective on her own shortcomings as well as her struggle with addiction, as she sings, “Sucker for the pain, huh, honey? But you said you’d die. You wanna leave a stain, like a relapse does when you really tried. And damn, this time, I really tried.”

“Headlock” is one of Snail Mail’s quieter tracks, where Jordan somberly discusses slowly losing herself in a dependent relationship. She sings, “Man enough to see this through, or is it one morе thing I won’t get to? Can’t go out, I’m tethered to another world where we’re together. Are you lost in it too?” Jordan, with rather simple imagery, is able to depict the fear of being too far gone in a one-sided relationship.

“Forever (Sailing)” is another highlight of the album. Much slinkier and sexier than her past work, this song finds Jordan crooning to an ex-lover about how much she still loves them, despite the fact that they are taking home another woman. The cool and atmospheric “Forever (Sailing)”, despite its familiar premise of a love lost, feels like a step towards maturity for the 22-year-old singer.

Moving towards the end of the album, the song “Glory” finds Snail Mail in signature form with her sometimes-nasal voice and moody guitars. The song is straightforward, without the production bells and whistles of some of Valentine’s earlier tracks. But, in some ways, Jordan is best in her element, just her voice, her Fender guitar, and unadulterated emotions. 

Valentine has helped to cement Snail Mail as one of the best indie rockers of Generation Z. She is at once able to maintain a sound that is true to herself (a feat that eludes many of her indie and bedroom-pop peers) but is still moving forward, both lyrically and in her production.

Trial Track: “Glory”

Score: 8/10


30 years of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless

Loveless, the seminal shoegaze record, turns 30 this November

1991 had a lot going for it. From Nirvana’s Nevermind to Pearl Jam’s Ten to The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik, 1991 is possibly one of the single most important years in rock music. Despite the competition, the album from that year that arguably has remained the most influential to this day is Loveless by My Bloody Valentine.

Loveless was like nothing before it. Sure, through the album you can faintly hear frontman Kevin Shields’ influence from bands like The Cure, or The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Hüsker Dü, but what My Bloody Valentine created from those predecessors helped to spur a whole new genre of its own.

One of the pioneers of shoegaze — jokingly named for band members’ habits of staring at their feet to control multiple effect pedals while performing — My Bloody Valentine’s sound is loud and distorted, full of the hazy vocals and driving guitars that continue to define the genre to this day.

Yet this sound didn’t come without a great deal of work and turmoil. Loveless took almost three years to finish, cycling through eighteen studios, sixteen audio engineers, and ended up costing somewhere between $230,000 to $500,000 — figures noticeably higher than other independent releases of the time. On top of that, the mental and financial stress from the years-long production led to the emotional breakdown of band members and Creation Records executives, who ended up being the label to release the project.

Shields, often described as somewhat of a perfectionist artist à la Brian Wilson or Syd Barrett, has gone on to claim this production length as on par with other similar acts, and that the price estimate has been inflated.

Regardless of the record’s inception, once it was released, it started making waves. Loveless emerged from the studio as a record full of abstract melodies, blown-out noise, and androgynous, sensual vocals. Despite its griminess, the attention to detail employed through the production saga is always evident.

Loveless opens swinging right out of the gate. The first track, “Only Shallow,” grabs you within the first few seconds as lurching guitars reverberate and then give way to smooth, feminine lyrics about thirty seconds in. The song paints a picture of the dichotomy between the abrasive instrumentation and production, and the ethereal vocals present through the whole album. 

Around the halfway mark you’re met with “When You Sleep,” the earworm of the album. “When You Sleep” is something of a perfect song. As catchy as it is blurry and distorted, there’s a love song in there, but that’s not really the point.

This vagueness is the case for many My Bloody Valentine songs; the lyrics are more of a gesture to an emotion that the instrumentation accompanies, rather than a story within themselves. As Shields told The Guardian, he wanted My Bloody Valentine’s music to sound like “the most beautiful songs with the most extremeness of physicality and sound.”

The frontman added that, in fact, many online resources have the lyrics all wrong. Shields explained that many are “completely wrong, sometimes in really key areas. Part of me really likes the folk song element of that — people changing things, having their own version of reality — and part of me thinks I should go through them like a teacher, correcting them.”

The tenuous connection between the lyrics and sonic quality is possibly most evident in “Sometimes,” one of the band’s most famous songs. There’s the sense that the song is telling a story of a love lost, but even a look through will leave you unsatisfied with that simple of an answer. Even only making out one of every few words, the track envelops listeners in a sonic blanket that is distorted yet comforting. A song for walking through a brightly-lit city at night, “Sometimes” uses its melody alone to create a dreamy atmosphere of angst and yearning. 

On closing track “Soon,” the sounds of both shoegaze and dreampop’s future are on full display. First appearing as the opener to the band’s 1990 EP Glider, “Soon” is a hypnotic, danceable track that spans nearly seven minutes. Ambient music pioneer Brian Eno even labeled “Soon” as “a new standard for pop”. He was right. Give the track a listen and you’ll hear its direct influence on bands like Radiohead, Ride, Lush, Smashing Pumpkins, and many more.

Loveless is an album with few peers. Thirty years on, it continues to stand alone as a monument to its genre, and to independent music at large.

Perfume – (In)conspicuous consumption?

If you spent $425 on a bottle of Baccarat Rouge 540 but didn’t get a compliment, did it ever really happen?

I never used to be someone who cared much about fragrance — I probably owned three Bath & Body Works body sprays my entire teenage life, and since then, I’ve pretty much been a shower and out-the-door kind of gal. But, while others were baking bread or practicing their French in the latter half of the pandemic, I was starting down a much less productive, and much more expensive, road.

Recently, I’ve been falling deep into the spending hole that is perfume. Ever since stumbling on the #Perfumetok hashtag on TikTok, a new consumption-based hobby has taken hold of me, and I can’t say I’m mad about it.

I do largely blame TikTok for this (among many of my other ills). The platform is nothing if not amazing at selling you a very specific aesthetic goal over and over again. If Emelia, aka Professor Perfume, tells me that all I need to do to radiate “femme fatale” energy is to wear Mugler’s Alien — well, she makes a good point.

In this way, fragrances function just like any other branded commodities — you buy them for the name and bottle as much as you buy for scent. According to Allure, in some cases, the perfume is actually developed with the bottle’s shape and colour in mind before the scent inside is even formulated. Fabien Baron, the designer, photographer, and filmmaker behind Calvin Klein’s CK One fragrance told Allure that a perfume’s image is generally more important than the scent itself when determining the success of a fragrance launch.

Further, with the perfume industry being largely dominated by premium (ie. designer and niche house) perfumeries, there is a lot of money to be made from a good branding strategy to go along with your product. 

However, as the consumer, once you leave Sephora and actually begin to wear the perfume in your everyday life, are you actually communicating this expensive purchase to anyone else?

Sure, I could clock a sniff of $166 By the Fireplace by Maison Margiela walking down the street, but I admit that my perfume nerdiness is not the default. Even when wearing the most famous and luxurious perfumes, to most people, you’re just someone who smells nice, not someone with $210 to throw at a bottle of Tobacco Vanille by Tom Ford. With that being said, is perfume necessarily a conspicuous consumption? 

It’s hard to say. When I think of why I like to buy perfume, it’s difficult to find a distinct answer. If it was just about smelling nice, surely I would be okay with just buying some essential oils off of Amazon and calling it a day, right? But I don’t, I have to buy Glossier You.

It’s not that I even like Glossier as a company. I find many of their makeup products to be overpriced and underperforming, and their corporate governance has been marred by controversy. I know that the millennial pink branding and Instagram full of cool influencers’ impossibly “clean” glowy skin is simply a marketing strategy. Yet, I still paid $60 USD for their Glossier You perfume.

Despite the fact that maybe one out of hundreds of people would know that when I walk down the hall smelling of a faint, powdery, peppery musk, it is in fact due to Glossier, I still feel trendy wearing it. And that’s tied to the name more than the scent itself.

So here perfume becomes both conspicuous and inconspicuous — you’re always influenced by the bottle and marketing strategy, even when you are not outwardly advertising your purchase to anyone. 

While I pat myself on the back for being a conscious consumer, aware of branding strategies and the power of influencer marketing, this recent trip down the financial rabbit hole that is a perfume addiction has shown me that we’re all a bit susceptible to the hype. But, that’s not going to stop me from visiting now is it?


Feature graphic by James Fay

Who is body positivity for?

The body positivity movement has seen a lot of change over the years. The question remains as to who are its rightful stakeholders

On March 21, 2015, celebrity event planner turned author and influencer Rachel Hollis made waves in the mom-blogosphere when she posted a photo of herself on a Cancun beach sporting her post-pregnancy stomach. In the photo, Hollis smiles, leaning forward, as her stomach forms small wrinkles on her otherwise small frame. In her caption, she writes, “My belly button is saggy… (which is something I didn’t even know was possible before!!) and I wear a bikini. I wear a bikini because I’m proud of this body and every mark on it. […] Flaunt that body with pride!”

Four rows down on her profile, in March of 2015, Hollis posted a photo of a cake celebrating her accomplishment of competing in the Los Angeles Marathon, writing “Thank goodness calories don’t count on marathon day!!”

So, you should flaunt your post-pregnancy body because you deserve to, but calories from cake should be a concern? Something’s not adding up.

This is not an attempt to single out Rachel Hollis (though she has had her fair share of controversies in the past). Her co-opting of body positivity in the service of a less-than-ideal relationship with food is part of a much larger trend.

Recently, there has been some high-profile backlash against the body positivity movement, with celebrities such as Lizzo suggesting that it has lost its focus on liberation. As the singer explains in an impassioned TikTok video, “Now that body positivity has been co-opted by all bodies, and people are finally celebrating medium and small girls and people who occasionally get rolls, fat people are still getting the short end of this movement.”

Indeed, what we now call “body positivity” grew out of the Fat Liberation movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. In those days, the aims of the movement were primarily to fight for the civil rights of fat individuals in healthcare and the workplace, as well as confronting the diet industry. This work continued through the decades and, as fat acceptance activist Stephanie Yeboah explained to Refinery29, in the late 2000s, the work moved online, as primarily fat, Black women shared their experiences with anti-fat bias and weight discrimination across social media groups and blogs. Around 2012, however, the movement exploded as people of all body types, including thinner creators, started claiming “body positivity.”

Now, on the one hand, this is a great thing. Arguably, any movement that helps normalize different body types and gets people talking candidly about their tumultuous relationships with their body image is a net positive for turning the tides of weight stigma.

As Dr. Sarah Nutter, Assistant Professor of counselling psychology and researcher of weight-related issues at the University of Victoria points out, weight stigma relies on what is called “healthy weight discourse.” This is the common conception that weight and health are inextricably linked, where a lower weight means a healthier body, and one can always achieve this through modifying their diet and/or lifestyle.

Dr. Nutter explained, “Inherent in ‘healthy weight discourse’ is this idea that weight is an individual and moral responsibility, and I think it’s that emotional aspect of morality that is really implicated in weight stigma and the way that people can respond to the body positivity movement.”

This notion is seen most strikingly in healthcare. Aubrey Gorden, a writer and podcaster who used to publish under the pseudonym “Your Fat Friend” until last year, discusses her experiences with medical weight stigma for Health Magazine. She explains that due to her size alone she does not receive the same quality of healthcare given to her skinnier friends. In the article, she describes the common occurrence of doctors not ordering necessary diagnostic tests, instead prescribing weight loss for any ailment under the sun (including, astonishingly, an ear infection).

Gorden writes, “I wondered how thin I would need to become in order to earn the kind of health care my thin friends got — a privilege that increasingly seemed reserved for those already perceived as healthy.”

Gorden believes, however, that despite good intentions, body positivity cannot solve this fundamental inequality deeply rooted in the healthcare system. She writes, “No matter how much we love our bodies, those of us living on the margins can’t love our way to good health.”

Though body positivity alone is never going to tear down the preconceptions keeping fat people ostracized, there is a real need for a movement that makes people in marginalized bodies (whether fat, queer, disabled, or otherwise) feel good about themselves in a world that wants them to be ashamed.

“To be able to curate a life […] that isn’t weight stigmatizing is really difficult,” explained Dr. Nutter. “For the health of everybody across the weight spectrum, getting rid of weight stigma is a really great idea.”

Zachary Fortier, a first year journalism and political science student, explained that while he finds a lot of issues with the current commodification of the body positive movement, there is still a necessity to promote fat acceptance.

“As a non-binary person assigned male at birth, my relationship with my body has been complicated,” explained Fortier. “Fatness and the celebration of bodies we’ve been told are ugly beyond repair is what fat acceptance is all about. Your body cannot be ‘beyond repair,’ what needs repairing is the jumble of harmful constructs that make up beauty.”

So, how can body positivity move to help uplift fat individuals, and not reproduce society’s focus on thinner bodies?

All sources point back to making sure body positivity retains its origins in fat liberation. While all people can feel bad in their bodies, it is important to acknowledge which bodies in society are the most marginalized, and fight the structures that keep them that way.

As Dr. Nutter explained, “Body positivity should be about accepting all bodies regardless of weight, size, or what bodies look like, and that all bodies have inherent worth and all bodies are beautiful. If that is truly the message, then that should be reflected in the [social media and publicized] imagery and whose voice is heard.”


Graphic by Madeline Schmidt

Where to go out this fall

A few nightlife recommendations for lost students

For new Concordia students, especially those living in Montreal for the first time, navigating the city’s extensive nightlife scene can seem like a daunting, nearly impossible task. For many non-local first-year students, getting sucked into a night full of hopping from overpriced bar to sleazy nightclub around the downtown campus/Crescent Street area is almost a rite of passage. But, I don’t think it has to be. With a metro pass and a willingness to explore, you can escape the leering old men and shady promoters waving flyers on street corners for a much better experience.

Rockette Bar

Rockette Bar has what Café Campus Retro Tuesdays wishes it had. Located near Mont-Royal metro station, this bar and nightclub spins a mix of rock, funk, punk, and leans heavily into new wave. The bar has a back section of long tables as well as a space to play pool, and a dancefloor (well, pre-COVID at least). If you’re sick of hearing the same music every time you go out, whether it’s top 40 or the same tired “throwback” songs, this is the place to be. In my experience, Rockette plays the sort of music that will actually make you want to dance — but we’ll leave that for when it’s allowed again, I guess. For now, it’s still a great atmosphere.

Resonance Café

For a more chill night out, Café Résonance, located in the Mile End, is always a good choice. Not only do they have great inexpensive vegan food, but they recently brought back their live music. During the day, Résonance is a cafe that’s easy to bunker down and study in, especially because their drip coffee has free refills. But at night, the cafe turns into a live music venue with moderately priced beer, wine, and cocktails. They continue their food service in the night though, so you can enjoy some jazz and some vegan nachos at the same time.

Bar le Ritz PDB

Bar le Ritz is pretty well known by Concordia students, and for good reason. This Little Italy bar/venue puts on some of the most fun dance nights in town. In the past, they’ve thrown parties in honour of certain pop divas, like nights dedicated to Britney Spears or Céline Dion, but they’ve also thrown ones centering around a certain genre or era like their “World of Post-Punk” or “2009-2019” dance parties. Once regulations ease up, they have a “Dark Eighties” party in the works.

Bar de Courcelle

This Saint-Henri bar has been connecting with its patrons in creative ways throughout the pandemic. On top of indoor seating and a terrace, since the summer, Bar de Courcelle has been hosting outdoor concerts in Sir George-Étienne Cartier Square every Sunday evening. So, there’s something for every COVID comfort level. Bar de Courcelle has a neighbourly, inviting vibe, as is evident from even just their meme-filled Facebook page. With reasonably priced drinks and a decent-sized bar snack list, this spot, whether indoor or outdoor, is a solid bet.


Feature graphic by James Fay

Lily Alexandre believes in better online communities

Video Essayist Lily Alexandre makes videos to help mend our broken online conversations

Lily Alexandre started her YouTube channel almost 10 years ago and has been producing videos on and off ever since. After a brief break in her output, she decided to start her channel back up when she became concerned about her job opportunities, having left Dawson College before graduation. So, deciding to use YouTube as a way to show off her skills to possible employers, Alexandre put out her first video in the “video essay” format. To her surprise, the video went viral.

The video that sent her channel soaring was released in January of this year, titled “Millions of Dead Genders: A MOGAI Retrospective,” which details the mostly forgotten “MOGAI” (Marginalized Orientations, Gender Alignments, and Intersex) community of 2010s Tumblr. This community, Alexandre explains, was largely comprised of early-teenage kids aiming to navigate their queer identities and formulate new names to put on their often confusing feelings that they felt did not fit neatly into existing “LGBTQIA+” categories. While often ridiculed for their incessant “micro-labeling,” Alexandre approaches this community with a critical lens to discuss why queer youth gravitated towards this outlook despite how it may have been detrimental to the ongoing process of some people’s gender exploration. Alexandre didn’t realize that this video would strike a chord with audiences so quickly.

“I was at work one day, packing orders at a warehouse and my phone started suddenly blowing up,” Alexandre detailed. “It was super exciting but I also had no idea how to approach it because I had made hundreds of YouTube videos and never had an audience over a thousand people. So, suddenly there was a lot of expectation.”

Since then, Alexandre’s channel has grown to have nearly 20K subscribers, and has released four more videos this year averaging about 30 minutes each, mostly discussing issues in online gender discourse.

However, with this focus on controversial topics in queer identity, as well as her being a visible trans woman online, Alexandre has begun to feel the burden of representing her community, where marginalized creators often feel the need to be more perfect and controversy-free than their peers in order to escape backlash.

Youtuber Lily Alexandre

“I think in my case, and in the case of a lot of queer and trans creators, it’s specifically a thing where

people have seen that they can relate to what I have to say and very quickly have become super attached to me, and kind of assumed that they know who I am and what I stand for outside of these videos,” Alexandre explained. “So, if I say something that goes outside the bounds of their image of me, there can be a lot of backlash, because I feel that people have gotten attached to me as a person and the idea that I have to live up to their ideal.”

Much of Alexandre’s catalogue focuses on where online conversations go wrong, and how we can start to piece our conversations back together. In her most recent video, “Do ‘Binary Trans Women’ Even Exist? The Politics of Gender Conformity,” she details the false dichotomy between non-binary and binary trans people and how both sides claim they are the ones that are more oppressed. This whole argument, Alexandre argues in the video, is reductive to the core, as it places all trans people into one of two boats, erasing important nuances in personal experiences.

Alexandre’s videos show viewers how to be more generous with each other online. Alexandre jokes in her videos about simply “logging off” of toxic conversations online, but she believes that there is truth to this suggestion.

“I think just engaging with people face-to-face builds a lot more empathy than we have online. I’ve been trying to carry that empathy into my online interactions too,” she suggested. “If I see someone with a ‘take’ I think is bad […] that doesn’t make us enemies. This stuff is just a lot lower stakes than it feels online.”

When producing videos spanning difficult topics like gender identity and mental illness, Alexandre is still learning how to balance her work with her own mental wellbeing. She finds herself sometimes getting overwhelmed when putting together videos with such heavy content. However, over the past few months, she’s been learning how to deal with these uncertain moments.

“In those cases, it’s been helpful to remind myself why I’m writing the thing I am. It’s usually not just to talk about ‘Hey, this is really awful, let’s wallow in it.’ It’s usually directional, it’s usually for a purpose,” Alexandre explained. “Because I’ve talked mostly about things I feel do have stakes, and my takes might move the needle in the right direction.”

Looking to the future, Alexandre plans to step away from videos along the topic of gender identity to focus on other issues. Worried she may get pigeonholed, she plans on also creating videos about art, games, music, and other interests.

All in all, Alexandre wants her channel to be a place of discovery and empathy, no matter the topic of videos she puts out.

“I’m hoping there can be a space for talking about these big questions in a way that isn’t super partisan,” explained Alexandre. “And I hope it can be an empathetic place where people are interested in understanding each other more than they are about being correct or being superior.”


Photographs by Catherine Reynolds

Easy student-friendly recipes for when life is just too much

Budget and time-friendly meal ideas to get you through student life

As students, it’s easy to get swept up in studying, socializing, or lying around on your laptop for so long that you forget to feed yourself. Now, despite how common this practice is, we all know it isn’t all that healthy. One of the best ways to prepare yourself for success this semester is to make a balanced diet a priority. Now, that in no way means sad diet foods and avoiding Tim’s on the way to class. Instead, making sure your arsenal is stocked with nutritious and budget-friendly recipes is a great way to make sure you aren’t surviving on instant ramen alone. Here are some fast and easy recipes to help you nail this school year.

Summer Rolls

Vietnamese summer rolls sustained my withered body during this summer’s heat wave, but this cool, refreshing dish is also a fast and simple lunch or dinner all year round. All you need are: rice paper sheets, vermicelli noodles, a protein of your choice (I use baked tofu, but shrimp is most authentic), and any veggies you have lying around your fridge chopped into thin sticks (I like a bed of lettuce with carrots, cucumbers and peppers). Wet your rice paper sheets in warm water until they reach a pliable and gummy texture, fill with whatever your heart desires, and then roll into a burrito-like shape. A few shakes of fish sauce inside the roll really makes it, if you have a bottle lying around (which you definitely should). This is the perfect dish for cleaning out your fridge, so don’t be too precious with it. Make sure to dip your rolls in a peanut sauce for a well-rounded but light meal.

Oven Fajitas

One great way to save time cooking as a student is a “set it and forget it” meal, where you throw everything in the oven in one swoop and just wait. My go-to is Budget Bytes’ chicken fajitas. Throw some oiled and seasoned sliced chicken breast, peppers, onions (and whatever else you’d like) into an oven at 400 F for 35-40 minutes and then boom — dinner. You can eat it over rice on the go, or my preference, in a tortilla with some salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. These one pan recipes are perfect for students living in packed apartments, where too many dishes clogging up the sink can lead to some unsavoury altercations. I’d also recommend Budget Bytes in general as a great resource for other simple, cash-saving recipes — I know I’ve relied on them for the past four years.

Veggie-Packed Quiche

Now, I can imagine many reading this are perplexed at the concept of making a quiche as being an easy, student-friendly recipe, but I promise it’s simpler than you think. Quiche is truly the perfect meal-prepping food, as it works for lunch or dinner with just the accompaniment of maybe a side salad or soup. One recipe I love to batch-prep on weekends is a veggie quiche, packed full of whatever produce is in season. The mix of fibre from the veggies, protein from the eggs, and carbs from the cheese and crust (premade of course, we’re not Nigella Lawson here) makes quiche a super nutritious quick meal idea that will last in the fridge and keep you energized throughout the school day.

Big Boy Salad

I am of the firm belief that salad can be fun if you’re willing to put in a little bit of effort. And the salads I make are not diet-y, basically-just-eating-water bowls of sadness. The key to a salad (or “bowl” as bougie establishments have begun to dub them) is balancing the ratio of grains to vegetables to fun add-ons. So, as the weather turns, I like to make a fall salad with kale as the base, adding in farro, and topping with roasted sweet potato, thinly sliced apples, a bit of goat cheese, and some nuts like walnuts or pecans. Now, while I think that sounds delish, this formula can be adapted to any taste. Just keep in mind: base (kale, spinach, lettuce, arugula…), grain (rice, farro, quinoa, couscous…), and protein-filled add ons (meat/tofu, nuts, seeds, cheeses, hemp/flax/chia seeds…).

Sweep the Fridge Shakshuka

Shakshuka is another recipe that can be simple or made fancier depending on your time and the ingredients you have on hand. In its most basic form, Shakshuka is a stewy tomato dish with eggs poached inside. Start by frying up some onions and garlic. Once fragrant, dump in a can of diced tomatoes (obviously fresh chopped tomatoes are ideal, but we live in Quebec so we make do). Season with salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne, and other spices to your liking. Once the sauce is reduced and the flavours have melded nicely, create divots in the sauce with a spoon and crack in a few eggs and cover until cooked through, but with a nice, jammy yolk. Top with herbs and/or feta to your liking. This dish can be made entirely out of inexpensive pantry staples, and is a warm, comforting and filling dish easily paired with some nice crusty bread for dipping.


Graphic by James Fay

How to make friends (because you probably forgot)

No, I don’t mean Twitter mutuals

The pandemic has caused a notable shrinkage in most people’s social circles. And if you’re like me, with honestly not that many friends to start out with, post-lockdown Friday nights often consist of you and your one roommate sitting across from each other playing the “do we make the effort to go out or do we just drink wine and just talk to each other” game. I love my roommate, but something’s gotta give.

In theory, with school back in session, there’s no excuse to stay in this lonesome routine. Throughout the past year and a half, we’ve told ourselves that the reason our friend groups were diminishing was because of social distancing rules, discomfort attending large parties, people graduating and moving on while still online, etc. Surely it’s just COVID. I’m not the problem, right?

Well, that’s a question for your therapist to answer. In the meantime, how do you make up for those friends who have been lost to the sands of time these past COVID years?

To make friends this back-to-school season, you have to really want it. This means not waiting for people to come to you, because you’ll be waiting forever. So, actually go up to the interesting person in your class and strike up conversation. Is there someone with cool laptop stickers? How about the person with Spotify open on their computer, showing pretty good taste? Maybe it’s just the person with the least contrived response to your class’ Foucault reading? Talk to them!

You already have some shared interests with those you’re in class with, whether it’s pondering the intersections of queerness and spirituality in the religious studies department, or the shared interest of getting a job after graduation while in a JMSB lecture. Surely there’s something bringing you together, so go grab a coffee at The Hive and find out.

Thinking outside the classroom, you can try joining activities that can help you to foster friendships. I made the mistake of not joining any collaborative clubs until January of 2020, so pending another global crisis, don’t be like me. There are plenty of clubs, classes, and activities on campus and off that could help you build that sad little social net you so desperately desire.

Off campus, there are many art classes around town that you can drop in on for fairly cheap, and what’s better than staring at a naked model to really bring you together with your peers? Exercise classes are also great for building relationships through shared trauma.

On campus, there are plenty of clubs for different interests and identities. For example, there are groups for students of different nationalities and ethnicities, such as the Concordia Syrian Students’ Association, Hillel Concordia, Haitian Students at Concordia, and many more. If you’re into art, try Collective 4891 or Concordia’ART. For the adventurers, there’s the Concordia Outdoors Club. If you’re a massive egotist who wants to subject others to your silly little ideas, try student journalism!

Attending these clubs and events is a great start, and you’re sure to find at least a few people you click with. But, the crux of all of this is to make sure you’re fostering these acquaintances into real friendships. There’s nothing worse than a casual friendship that you know could be made into something deeper, but neither of you are willing to put in the time or effort. We all need to collectively swallow our pride and make the first step, because if social isolation taught us anything, it’s that an Instagram mutual does not necessarily a true friend make.


Feature graphic by James Fay

Netflix’s dating shows have a sex problem

The streaming service’s roster promises raunchiness but delivers an antiquated scolding

Since the start of the pandemic, Netflix has been pumping out reality shows left and right. Once the place to go for high-concept prestige TV, with early titles like “The Crown” and “House of Cards.” In recent years, Netflix has cast a wider net, venturing into the murky world of dating shows. This move makes sense, as while in lockdown, many yearned to be able to go out and meet new people, with casual dating being risky at best. So, what could be better than absorbing the sexy, flirty, and even awkward experiences of strangers, right from the comfort of your couch?

Unfortunately, Netflix’s quarantine roster did not deliver on the fun raunch viewers have come to expect from reality dating shows. Instead, it doled out a heavy hand of sex-negativity and falsehoods on basic human attraction.

This trend is no more obvious than in the streaming service’s breakout hit “Too Hot to Handle.” In this show, so-called “sex-crazed singles” are lured to an island vacation on the false promise of all-night parties and uninhibited hookups. However, in what can only be described as a horror movie-esque twist, they soon realize that they are actually going to be judged on their ability to remain celibate, while under the pressure of a cash prize that decreases with every sexual indiscretion. The show’s Amazon Alexa-style robot judge posits this test as a way to force the contestants to foster “real” romantic connections with each other, rather than focusing on sex.

What results is a show with a perfectly serviceable amount of relationship drama, where the contestants learn to be “better people” through activities like wellness workshops, and break a few rules along the way. But, despite the moderate fun, always in the background is an impossible-to-ignore puritanical view that casual sex is somehow incompatible with a happy and fulfilling life.

“Too Hot to Handle” is not Netflix’s only show peddling this ideology. Both the recent “Sexy Beasts” and the early-quarantine smash hit “Love Is Blind” fall prey to similarly regressive views. In “Love Is Blind,” singles meet each other through an opaque wall, with only their conversations to connect them. The aim of the show is to foster relationships not built on physical attraction.

Similarly, in “Sexy Beasts” the romantic hopefuls can’t see each other. However, in this show, that is because the contestants are decked out in ridiculous animal and monster prosthetics for their dates. This renders them unrecognizable, and rather ugly. Both of these shows argue that when dating, physicality is the least important indicator of compatibility, and in fact, we should ignore it all together.

The issue is, this isn’t exactly true. For the vast majority of people, physical attraction is, if not very important, at least an influential factor in determining compatibility. While yes, there can be a point in which someone becomes vain or overly obsessed with looks in their partners, as humans, we generally experience sexual attraction as a fundamental fact of life.

With that, pairing couples up with either no clue what each other looks like or no experience with each others’ physical touch could lead to some awkward encounters later down the road when they realize they just aren’t compatible in that way.

But that shouldn’t be punished, right? Simply not being physically or sexually attracted to someone isn’t a moral lapse. All these shows try to convince viewers that the sheer desire to be with someone you find attractive is a non-sequitur to romance and we should try to learn to date differently.

While I think most of us would agree with the cliché that inner beauty is what really matters, and that there are some real issues with contemporary hookup culture, it’s impossible to take physicality out of the equation for the vast majority of people. It begs the question why Netflix’s shows need to demonize this fact of life.

Furthermore, on both “Sexy Beasts” and “Love is Blind,” once faces are revealed (spoiler alert), all the contestants turn out to be wildly conventionally attractive. So, if all the options were thin, young, clear-skinned, seemingly able-bodied people anyway, what sort of message is this even conveying? What are the stakes here?

These shows seem to have to convince the viewer that the show has a reason for existing. Rather than relying on the fact that many of us simply want to watch a bunch of hot dummies create drama with each other like we have for two decades on Bravo and E!, Netflix needs to convince itself these new dating shows are all “social experiments” made to uncover some hidden dirty truths about modern romance. Thus, no, a show where singles dress up in animal prosthetics to go on dinner dates can’t just exist for fun. It must now spoon-feed viewers a moral on the importance of inner beauty. This leads to a series of shows with convoluted rules and uninteresting storylines.  There’s obviously space in the culture for thought-provoking stories on love and relationships, but come on, can’t Netflix just throw us a bone for once?


Photo collage by Kit Mergaert

Student Life

Concordia needs a stronger focus on vaccination

The university needs to do more to pull their weight so we can achieve herd immunity

As Concordians return to campus this week, many for the first time in over a year, and many more for the first time ever, there are still a lot of questions about students’ safety that the university administration has left up in the air.

Throughout the summer, it seemed as if information regarding reopening trickled into student inboxes as slow as a broken faucet. With only four emails sent by Student Communications relating to the possibility of on-campus activity throughout the entire summer, the reality of an “irl” semester has been hazy to most.

Even now as we begin the fall semester in earnest, the university should be doing more to ensure both student, faculty, and staff safety as we enter COVID-19’s fourth wave and clearly communicate those safety measures.

While it is commendable that Concordia has strengthened its vaccine policy in recent days, now requiring proof of vaccination for many on-campus activities, this move was too little, too late. Proof of vaccination should be required not just for extra-curricular activities, but for classes as well, in order to keep faculty and immunocompromised students safe.

The fact that Concordia has only now imposed a vaccine mandate for extra-curricular activities is short-sighted and lags behind its American counterparts. In the United States, over 800 universities, and all of the top 25 ranked institutions are requiring proof of vaccination for students in some capacity, many of them requiring it for class attendance. And it’s not just American universities, who due to the United State’s vaccine production, had a much faster rollout. Many Ontario universities are following suit. York University, Queen’s University, the University of Guelph, and Ontario Tech University all require proof of vaccination for students returning to campus.

On Aug. 26, McGill University strengthened its vaccine requirements for on-campus activities. Now, McGill students will need the Quebec vaccine passport to attend events like sports games and conferences, as well as access certain residence common areas, and more. While this move was a last-minute addition before the start of the semester, students would already need the passport starting Sept. 1 to do many other activities around the city because of the government mandate.

Concordia seems to be following McGill’s strategy of only regulating some activities which, at first glance, might pose a larger risk. However, there are many Concordia classes boasting over 50 students to a room. So, requiring vaccination for outdoor events of over 60 people, but not for indoor classes of the same size doesn’t quite hold up under scrutiny.

While it is impossible to say at this moment how the Quebec vaccine passport app will pan out, due to its quick and simple registration process, it’s safe to assume that the system will be fairly streamlined and unobtrusive. However, getting students vaccinated is another issue altogether.

Hannah Jamet-Lange, academic & advocacy coordinator at the Concordia Student Union (CSU), believes that the university has a decent way to go in terms of ensuring students are adequately informed about vaccination. In an open letter to President Carr, Provost and Vice-President Academic Whitelaw, and the whole Concordia administration, the CSU stated that it would only favour a vaccine mandate if the university was to put in checks for students with preexisting health conditions, religious objections, and international students unable to get the vaccine before their arrival in Canada.

Jamet-Lange explained, “Basically, we just want to be sure that the implementation of a vaccine mandate does not cause further exclusion of international students and students who cannot get the vaccine for medical reasons, while also wanting the university to actually acknowledge that a lot of people do not feel safe returning to campus knowing that people they sit in a small room with for three hours are not vaccinated.”

Moving further from simply a vaccination mandate, Jamet-Lange explains that many students have voiced their concern about Concordia’s overall safety measures. “A lot of students have health concerns, for themselves, their loved ones, and the general community,” they explained. “We also have a lot of student parents at Concordia who are concerned about infecting their children who have not yet been able to receive a vaccine, especially if schools were to shut down at any point or classes need to stay home for a certain amount of time due to a COVID outbreak.”

All in all, Concordia’s safety approach must flow and change with the ongoing situation. However, it has felt more like a game of catch-up than a resolute plan to keep students safe.

The CSU points to measures such as an on-campus vaccination site, clear information on contract tracing and social distancing, and the option of online learning as ways for the university to ease concerns from students. These are all good ideas, and will surely lead to a safer campus environment. If Concordia started shifting to a preemptive communication approach, informing students of possible COVID-19-related changes (earlier than a few days before they go into effect), then we may start to feel more comfortable around campus again.


Graphic by Madeline Schmidt

The dirty truth behind “clean eating”

“Wellness” has become a ubiquitous term, but is it as beneficial as it’s marketed to be?

CW: This article contains discussions of disordered eating.

Turmeric capsules, alkaline water, detox teas — more and more the market is filling with new-agey products claiming to rid consumers of a multitude of ailments. One the one hand, many see this trend of “wellness” as a good thing. The more healthy food on the market, the more empowered consumers will be to make positive purchasing decisions. However, it may not be as simple as it seems.

What we now know is the wellness industry owes a lot of its tactics to ol’ faithful: the diet industry, which cares less about consumers’ health and long-term goals and more about keeping people hooked on their products and systems.

The wellness industry is chock-full of pseudoscientific answers to issues they themselves made up. Cleanses and detox regimens are a perfect example of this false promise. As Christy Harrison, a registered dietician and intuitive eating expert, explains, detox companies freely choose which foods they consider toxins, and this is not in line with actual scientific data. These companies label anything from gluten to coffee to peppers as toxins and then sell consumers a nutrient deficient liquid regimen to flush their bodies “clean.”

This can lead to a multitude of health problems. As Harrison explains, fasting cleanses can lead to massive drops in blood sugar, hypoglycemia and possible further pain from caffeine withdrawals. Further, research shows that “yo-yo dieting” may increase risk of heart disease in women.

The madness of the whole situation is that there is no point in detox dieting to begin with. If you have a functioning liver and kidneys, and have not ingested poison, there is simply no need for a detox — there’s nothing in there to “cleanse.”

We’ll come back to that word — cleanse — because it’s all over wellness marketing.

The diet industry is smart, and over the years marketers have realized that modern women are skeptical of the claims of diet pills, low-fat diets, and exercise programs of the 90s. So, the message had to change. Since the term “diet” tends to conjure up images of gloomy “before and after” shots, flavourless, pre-portioned freezer meals, and constant weighing, the industry has pivoted to a more positive and contemporary image — wellness.

Yet, a lot of the tactics of dieting have stayed the same with this turn to wellness, just dressed in new clothing. Cleanses, for example, rely on the same moral idea of food as either good or bad that the diet industry loves to pedal. No longer is food labeled “low fat” or “high fat,” now it’s “clean” or “toxic.” No matter the verbiage, this superimposes a binary between foods, erasing the importance of all types of food in a person’s diet. Despite aesthetic changes, the message stays the same: there is good food and bad food and it’s your job as a consumer to pick which side you want to fall on.

When we ascribe morality to food, that carries on to how we view people and their bodies. If it is seen as virtuous to diet and eat salads everyday and sinful to consume fast food, it becomes a personal responsibility to be thin. Thus, this contributes to inaccurate notions that fatness is a choice, and a scornworthy one at that.

Further, wellness culture does little to address the staggering food disparity across North America. Canada, for instance, holds many “food deserts” where healthy and fresh foods are either extremely difficult to find or exorbitantly priced. In these areas, diet concerns are less about healthfulness as much as simply surviving.

The shift from dieting to wellness has wider implications than just wasted money on overpriced tuscan kale and chia seeds. The shift towards “clean eating” can be connected to a new type of disordered eating: orthorexia. Orthorexia centers around an obsession with eating “cleanly” and healthily, rather than simply losing weight.

Sondra Kronberg, founder and executive director of the Eating Disorder Treatment Collaborative, explained to NPR, “Orthorexia is a reflection on a larger scale of the cultural perspective on ‘eating cleanly,’ eating … healthfully, avoiding toxins — including foods that might have some ‘super power.’”

Yet, this doesn’t make the disorder any less harmful. Though the focus may be less on weight than on perceived healthfulness, when taken to obsessive length, clean eating can still cause a lot of harm to your body, mental health and self esteem.

Furthermore, the celebrities and influencers leading the crusade for wellness and clean eating just so happen to be overwhelmingly thin. So, regardless of intention, the perception still stands: healthy = thin.

Whether it’s the Atkins Diet or detox teas, it’s important to be wary of the shifting goalposts of the diet — I mean, wellness — industry. These companies are promising an unrealistic aesthetic of health that may leave you worse off than when you started.


Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam

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