Student Life

Representing queer women in tech

The organization Lesbians who tech is a community that unites queer women in tech

They represent in tech. They are queer, inclusive and badass. In a male-dominated industry, they seek visibility and inclusivity. The Montreal chapter of the Lesbians Who Tech community met at Montreal’s Le Cagibi bar on Nov. 15 to listen to panelists talk about their use of technology to trigger social change.

Lesbians Who Tech is a community for queer women and their allies working with or around technology. The group was founded in San Francisco in 2012 by Leanne Pittsford, but it officially launched in 2014. Since then, it has brought together more than 30,000 members with over 35 chapters around the world. The organization offers coding scholarships to queer and gender non-conforming individuals, covering 50 per cent of their tuition. However, the community’s main goal is to create visibility for its members.

Rachel Jean-Pierre, a digital marketing analyst, started the Montreal Lesbians Who Tech community at the beginning of 2016 after attending the organization’s summits in New York City and San Francisco. She said she wanted to give Montrealers access to the opportunities the community offers.

Guest speakers and founders of the Lesbians Who Tech’s Montreal chapter presented the aspects how technology can bring about social changes. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Jean-Pierre was later joined by RC Woodmass, the founder of the web-design company Quill Creative. “I saw it was very inclusive and it tried to encompass all the types of queer and trans folks, and it really encouraged me,” said Woodmass about the New York City summit they attended.

In 2014, women made up less than 30 per cent of employees in the global tech industry, according to UNESCO. In 2017, women held 19 per cent of the tech positions at Twitter, 20 per cent at Google and 17.5 per cent at Microsoft, according to the companies’ annual reports. Through Lesbians Who Tech, Jean-Pierre and Woodmass want to address the issue of inequality by building confidence and giving a voice to Montreal queer women in the tech industry.

“I am aware I am a woman. I am a black woman. I am a queer woman, and I am not easily intimidated,” Jean-Pierre said. She is making an impact in the tech industry by tackling ignorance and “macro” aggressions in her environment one day at a time. “I take initiatives,” she said. “I remind my co-workers what is not appropriate, and l remind the executives that we need real change, not simply [inclusivity programs in companies].”

Woodmass uses web-designing with Quill Creative to empower and give visibility to queer, trans and marginalized individuals, with a focus on accessibility for people with disabilities. “I redirect the funds of my business and my personal money to pay very well the people that I hire, which are always queer, trans, people of colour, suffering from disabilities or who are older,” Woodmass said. Woodmass also uses Facebook groups to seek out people who are marginalized, as they said they could not do this through regular hiring procedures.

During the gathering at Le Cagibi, guest speakers presented their background in tech and how they use it to bring about social change.

Founder of the Montreal Lesbians Who Tech, Rachel Jean-Pierre and city lead, RC Woodmass both attended the organizations summits and felt inspired to recreate it in Montreal. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Justine Gagnepain and Abigail McLean presented their project on women’s mental and neurological health. In the form of an audio-visual chat box, wmnHealth analyzes answers to questions specific to a disorder in order to track symptoms and detect problems. Its first module aims to detect concussions, then provides a weekly follow-up that often cannot be done with a doctor. In the long run, the creators of wmn Health wants to develop modules for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression and other mental and neurological disorders.

Another speaker was Nejma Nefertiti, a sound engineer and hip hop artist from Brooklyn. Nefertiti began writing and composing music at a young age, but it wasn’t until later on that she began to use technology to empower young people of colour. She now aims to raise awareness and bring about social change through her work by selecting projects that empower marginalized individuals.

Since the creation of the Lesbians Who Tech in Montreal, a lot more people and allies have joined the community. “We have volunteers that want to have a position in the organization as it grows,” Jean-Pierre said. Woodmass added that the Montreal chapter is one of the most vibrant because they do their own marketing, use the resources Lesbians Who Tech offers and post photographs from all their events online to raise awareness about the group. “We are vibrant because we believe in the cause, the disproportionate disparity,” Jean-Pierre said.

Woodmass and Jean-Pierre said their goal is to have a Lesbians Who Tech summit in Montreal so that the international community can recognize the city’s growing tech potential. “Summits inspire me because they have certain quotas for panelists, such as 50 per cent people of colour and 25 per cent trans women,” Woodmass said. “These quotas are not just because we need them, but because these voices prove over and over that [these people] are the most interesting and have the most to offer. This is what we value.”

The next Montreal Lesbians Who Tech event will be about art and technology at Studio XX on Jan. 17, 2018.

Photos by Elisa Barbier

Student Life

Montreal festival is a vegan’s paradise

May contain eggs, milk, butter or gelatin are words that could not be found anywhere at Marché Bonsecours this weekend. Ingredients like soy, nuts, legumes and tofu, on the other hand, were readily available.

On Nov. 4 and 5, vegans from across the country gathered for the fourth edition of Montreal’s Vegan Festival. Conferences, culinary demonstrations, dégustations and over 30 stands introduced aspects of veganism to the public.

In the scenic Old Port, the market was packed to its maximum capacity throughout the weekend. A stage was set up on the lower level to host conferences and culinary demonstrations by vegan cooks, artists, athletes, philosophers, sociologists and bloggers. The upper level offered different options of vegan food, drinks, desserts, skincare products and clothing. Festival goers ranging from toddlers to seniors lined up for free samples of cheesecake or kombucha. Some tried on winter jackets or even got a vegan tattoo.

After five years of experimentation in her kitchen to veganize her favorite comfort food, Sam Turnbull attends Montreal’s vegan festival for the first time. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Among the many people hosting conferences at the festival, Antoine Jolicoeur Desroches, a professional triathlon athlete from Quebec, discussed the health and athletic performance benefits of a vegan diet. Three years ago, Jolicoeur Desroches made the decision to become a vegan after seven years as a vegetarian. “I had always been careful with my impact on the environment, but I had never thought of the impact my eating habits could have,” he said. For Jolicoeur Desroches, his ethics toward the environment were far more important than the effect this new diet could have on his body and practice. Nonetheless, the results were positive and noticeable. “My performance increased. It became easier to recover, and I became able to use all the energy my body was uselessly spending to digest animal products,” he said.

He advised young athletes to make the transition slowly, adding days or meals throughout the week that eliminate animal-based products, such as “meatless Monday.”

“[Veganism] is a lifestyle that must be established for a lifetime through progressive change,” Jolicoeur Desroches said. He added that traveling for competitions has not hindered his eating habits. “There are always local products like fruits, vegetables, pasta, potatoes or rice. Also, having a set of spices is good to diversify seasoning,” he said.

Seasoning is big part of Sam Turnbull’s daily life. The Concordia alumna and author of the blog “It doesn’t taste like chicken” attended the festival to discuss her new book, Fuss-free Vegan, about vegan comfort food.

Unlike Jolicoeur Desroches, Turnbull made the full transition overnight five years ago after watching a documentary on animal cruelty. Growing up in a family of chefs, butchers and hunters, Turnbull loved cheese and meat. “When I made the switch, it is because I knew I should, not because all of a sudden I was obsessed with vegan food,” Turnbull said. “At first, I started looking up vegan recipes, but it was all kale, quinoa and energy bars. So I started my blog because I don’t eat that way,” she said. Turnbull’s blog is unique, as it features recipes focusing mainly on comfort food like pizza, burgers, sandwiches and dessert—foods that people don’t usually associate with veganism.

“It is all with easy-to-find ingredients at local grocery stores, not weird powders or maca root,” Turnbull said with a laugh. She encourages students to follow a vegan lifestyle since foods like cheese and meat can be expensive compared to fruits and vegetables. And diversity in taste is easily achievable using spices. “You can make a delicious meal with beans and rice as long as you have the right spices in it,” Turnbull said.

Vesanto Melina hosted a conference on Saturday afternoon providing nutritional advice for the public and the dietitians assisting the festival. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Beans are also the solution for Vesanto Melina, a dietician and lead author of the book The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Beans represent a source of vegetable protein often forgotten, according to Melina. She was a vegetarian for more than two decades before making the transition to veganism 24 years ago. As a dietician, Melina discussed the dos and don’ts of a vegan diet, but also how to get all the nutrients your body needs.

Learning to add beans, peas and lentils to your recipes as well as acquiring non-dairy sources of calcium in your diet is often forgotten. “Once people have those knacks and they make sure to take vitamin B12, things move along really well,” Melina said. Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient that comes from bacteria often present in meat products.

“Vegans don’t lack nutrients more than anybody else,” Melina said. She emphasised that anybody is at risk of malnutrition in Canada—especially those who lack vitamin D during the long winters. “It is easy to find vegetal proteins or calcium that are more efficient than animal ones,” Melina said.

Photos by Elisa Barbier

Music Quickspins

Hayley Kiyoko – “Feelings”

Hayley Kiyoko – “Feelings” (Empire, 2017)

“Feelings” puts into words the universally tender, yet terrifying feelings, of love rushing into our heads. This single is a new chapter in Hayley Kiyoko’s musical history. The singer, known for affirming her raw emotions and sexuality on dreamy pop sounds tinted with a progressive rock background, remains integral to her style. Kiyoko uses blunt changes of tempo, from energizing synthesizer to heavy bass riffs, to emphasize the tumultuous conflict raging inside her. This same conflict is found lyrically, as she apologizes for “feeling too much, saying too much,” when she should be “tough” or “like ice.” She asserts her desires by wishing for casual touch and steamy nights. Kiyoko provides an anthem to the excitement love brings, brushing aside the societal expectations of holding back one’s emotions. The song’s music video, directed by Kiyoko, was released the same day as the single. It highlights the same conflict as the song, using the fluidity of dance and warm-to-cold lighting to show the changes of tempo. “Feelings” is a light song with an important message, yet its instrumentals can easily become obnoxious.

Rating: 8.0/10

Student Life

Saving a warm, furry friend

Learning about dog adoption at an Animatch clinic

They wait by the entrance, but once their name is called, the frenzy begins. They rush into the room with wide eyes and open mouths looking for companions. Some prefer to sit, observing the fun from afar, others fancy running around with their new friends. In this room, time flies as both visitors and dogs enjoy each other’s company.  

On Oct. 14, the Doggy Café in the Plateau welcomed visitors as they hosted an adoption clinic for the non-profit organization Animatch. Animatch is a shelter for dogs who were either abandoned or part of the commercial breeding industry. With over 100 volunteers, the organization welcomes about 30 dogs to the shelter every month and find homes for over 300 dogs each year.

Bling loves to play with visitors for a pet on the head or hug until she drains all her energy.
Photo by Elisa Barbier

Each week, Animatch holds at least four adoption clinics in and around the city. The organization is looking to de-mystify the process of adoption. “We are here to inform people on how to adopt a dog and answer all of their questions, but also to correct common misbeliefs, like all shelter animals are sick,” said Andrea St-Pierre, a veterinarian assistant and volunteer at Animatch.

Christine Blanchette and Bling, one of the dog up for adoption, at the Doggy Cafe during the adoption clinic. Photo by Elisa Barbier

For Christine Blanchette, who has been volunteering with the organization for over 10 years, adoption clinics are also a way of opposing commercial breeders. “Not only is the adoption fee the same for all breeds, but also, bringing [shelter dogs] to the clinics allows people to see they are just like any other dog,” she said.

When the dogs are rescued, they may suffer from physical injuries, diseases or traumas. In such instances, the dog will be sent to a veterinarian to be fully treated. The dogs then have time to recover and be trained at the shelter before being put up for adoption. “Every week, we have a car full of dogs heading to the vet for checkups and treatments,” St-Pierre said. “We also have an animal trainer that comes to the shelter to evaluate each animal’s temperament and train them.”

Relying on adoption fees and donations, Animatch sterilizes, vaccinates, de-worms and treats our four-legged friends against fleas, mites and ticks before they come to our homes. “We often have arts auctions, garage or bakery sales and special seasonal events which are of great help to collect funds,” St-Pierre said, adding that, unlike a decade ago, social media allows for a more constant collection of funds.

Animatch performs strict screenings on adoption requests to ensure the best match between a dog and owner. According to Blanchette, the extensive application form makes sure the home environment would be suitable for the dog. “We also check on the dog and owner after it is placed. If the match is not working, we will reimburse the owner and take the dog back,” she said. “But to avoid things like that, we have a waitlist system for the perfect match.” Blanchette and St-Pierre agreed this bond is what they strive for. “All we want is for the dogs and the owners to be happy,” Blanchette said.

Student Life

A community space for Concordia students

Technology Sandbox offers a place to learn about emerging technologies and create innovative projects

Through the glass walls, students passing by witness the familiar sight of hundreds of heads bent down with eyes fixed on textbooks and computer screens. Yet just a few steps further down the hall is a vastly different scene. The smiles on the faces of people holding game controllers and screwdrivers break the oppressive stillness on the second floor of the Webster Library.   

Last winter, the Technology Sandbox at Concordia was created based on the concept of makerspace—a public space that gives people access to machines and tools for small-scale projects. It is the brainchild of Concordia’s head librarian, Guylaine Beaudry, and part of the Webster Library’s renovations. According to Jasia Stuart, the Sandbox’s technology analyst, the idea is to offer students and staff experiential learning using new technologies in a hazard-free environment.

Stuart’s job is to decide what equipment is purchased for the space and what will be made available for rent. “It is about finding the fine balance between distinguishing established technologies from trends and finding interesting and stimulating material that is good value,” she said. In addition to the many machines available for use at the Sandbox, equipment can be rented for three days or two weeks by all Concordia students and staff members.

Cooney’s interest in electronics makes it easy for him to unsolder a delicate piece from a hardware for a student. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Stuart’s co-worker, Sean Cooney—known by his middle name, Tailor—is the Sandbox’s technician. He oversees the functioning of most of the space’s technology, including the 3D printers, the virtual reality (VR) headsets as well as the soldering and electronic equipment. Cooney also helps students use the machines and software.

The Sandbox’s services are divided into four categories: 3D printing, electronics, media creation and virtual reality. Each category has equipment that can be loaned-out, including alienware computers, Playstation VR, cameras, microphones, green screens and Raspberry Pi programming kits.

“We make sure to have a lot of the common tools that people would use for their projects,” Cooney said. Other machinery, such as a sewing machine, a vinyl sticker cutter, synthesizers, motor kits and brainwave scanners are available for use at the Sandbox.

Since its opening in February, the Sandbox’s users and following has steadily increased, according to Cooney. “The summer was certainly busier than expected,” he said. Thanks to a thriving community of volunteers, in addition to Cooney and Stuart, the Sandbox managed to handle an unprecedented number of people and projects, and prepared equipment for the new semester. “It got really busy during the end of the winter semester with all the engineering students finishing their projects, and I believe it’s safe to assume the same for this semester,” Cooney said.

Technology has been part of Cooney’s life for as long as he can remember. “I have just been intensely curious about technology,” he said. “Anything you need to know, we can teach you—material-wise, we usually have it all on hand.” Stuart mentioned it is not always easy to properly welcome newcomers to the Sandbox since she and her co-workers are often busy helping others. Yet, she and Cooney still make an effort to approach students who look intrigued by the machines, inviting them to print a small design from the 3D printers or try VR applications.

Stuart is also responsible for developing, planning and hosting workshops. “The workshops are there to help new people break into new technologies,” she said. Stuart pointed out that most workshops serve as introductions for Concordia staff or students to learn complicated vocabulary or interface in a structured environment. “It is also a way for students [who] are less assertive to come and know as much as others who would walk in and say, right off the bat, what they want to do,” she added. Workshops are held once or twice a week. “We try to keep them up to two hours for students to attend between their classes,” Cooney said.

Jasia Stuart helps Julie Ménard, student in First Nation people, to install thread on the sewing machine so she can complete a project for her class. Photo by Elisa Barbier

“There doesn’t have to be a direct correlation between what people are studying and what they do at the Sandbox,” Stuart said. The space counts many engineering and computer science students as regulars, but also welcomes students studying business, fine arts and humanities. “It is a place where you can have fun, learn and develop projects with people from different departments,” Cooney said. Described as a “dream job” by both Cooney and Stuart, the Sandbox is a place where people can create from their own imagination and meet like-minded people with a burning sense of curiosity.


Virtual reality

According to Cooney, VR is just a stepping stone to more advanced technologies. “Virtual reality is an emerging technology with a lot of potential recognized by people inside and outside of the tech community,” he said.

Omar Qadri paints mid air as he tries virtual reality for the first time with the HTC vive headset at the Technology Sandbox. Photo by Elisa Barbier

One of the Sandbox’s purposes is to teach people how to develop their own VR applications. Users can explore these skills through introductory workshops on Unity—a game developing software—and by using one of two computers with HTC vive headsets—which are currently the best on the market.

The headsets, equipped with a unique tracking system, allow instant localization and orientation of the users so they can move freely in a wide playing area. This allows students developing applications to create content using spatial movement, an important characteristic of VR. “This [system] varies from traditional virtual reality headsets, with which you need to look at a computer and sit down,” Cooney said.

In order to get newcomers accustomed to VR, the Sandbox uses a 3D painting application. “Very few people are going to be making their masterworks with this application, but it is a very polished, very tamed first experience,” Cooney said. Other applications, such as Google Earth, flight simulators, zombie games or a roller-coaster simulator are available once users feel more comfortable with VR.

The Sandbox also offers two student-made applications— application that explores the rules of gravity and a multidimensional application that allows players to pass through windows into a world of Van Gogh-style watercolours. “We are aiming to have as much student-generated content as possible,” Cooney said.

He added that he loves to see people try VR for the first time. “Just to see the reactions, varying from a fairly mute awe to a full-on wow of people being flabbergasted, is incredible.” For Cooney, VR is unique because there aren’t many experiences that allows someone to be surrounded by stars. He said he believes in the educational power of VR. “because it is so immersive. It is a very effective learning experience—you will definitely remember things,” he said.


Regulars at the Sandbox

When Daron Kasbar (right) is not studying software engineering, he comes to the Technology Sandbox to work on his electric longboard. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Lloyd Bureau

A Concordia student majoring in Supply Chain Operations Management at the John Molson School of Business, Lloyd Bureau is one of many students who comes to the Sandbox to work on a personal project. “I heard about Technology Sandbox and their five 3D printers earlier this semester,” he said. “All the softwares are available for us and easy to use—all of this is free for students. It’s amazing how much support we get from Concordia.”

Bureau is the founder of a startup company called TRYNYTY, which makes freestyle scooter products. “We design, manufacture and distribute the products to specialized action sport retailers all around the world,” he said. All of TRYNYTY’s products are currently manufactured in Montreal. “We hope to keep it that way for as many of our products as possible,” Bureau added.

TRYNYTY currently sells four products that have been developed over the last year, in six different international stores. Among these locations is the California-based The Vault Pro Scooters. “It’s the biggest online retail store in the world for freestyle scooters,” Bureau said.

“Bureau regularly brings his scooter to the Technology Sandbox in order to improve and work on his products. “This is the first product we came up with,” he said, proudly holding up his scooter to show off the pegs he and his team created at the Sandbox using a 3D printer. “Basically, we are rethinking the scooter from A to Z, every single part on it, so that we can find a way to improve it,” he said.

Rahul Ranjan

Ranjan is doing his masters at Concordia in information system security. He is passionate about the technological world and is a staff member at the Sandbox. “I work here to help people. I help people learn about technology. If there is someone who wants to learn how to use the 3D printer, I am here to guide them,” he said.

Of the Sandbox’s five 3D printers, one is is multi-material—it creates products in more than one colour, contrary to the typical single-material 3D printers.

The first step to 3D printing at the Sandbox, Ranjan explained, is to bring in the design of the item. “We can also help you create the design here and download it,” he said. The design needs to be downloaded as an STL file. “After downloading the file, we use a software known as Slicer which converts the STL file into G-Code,” he said.

According to Ranjan, G-Code combines X, Y and Z axes to produce a three-dimensional result. “If there is a print that is five centimetres, it will create coordinate points and then the points will connect. Slicer will create the layers of your model,” he explained. The final step is to actually print the 3D version of the model.

The time it takes to print something in 3D depends on the size of the project, Ranjan said. Generally, for something three centimetres tall, it takes about two hours.

Ranjan also helps out with the Sandbox’s media creation lab, which offers users access to software such as Adobe Creative Suite, Photoshop and Illustrator. To create music, Garageband and Ableton are also available, and there are two synthesizers on-site for students to produce their own music. “If you have any idea, or if you think about a cool project and say ‘I want to do this, but how can I do this?’ We can help you get started with your idea,” Ranjan said.

Daron Kasbar

When Daron Kasbar is not studying software engineering, he comes to the Technology Sandbox to work on his electric longboard. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Daron Kasbar is also a regular at the Sandbox, where he spends his time building his own electric longboard. “It’s a fun project,” he said. “I didn’t do it for school. I did it mostly to help myself get around.” Kasbar is currently taking prerequisite courses in order to study software engineering at Concordia.

According to Kasbar, his electric longboard was inspired by Casey Neistat, a YouTuber from New York City who vlogs about electric longboards and skateboards. The electric longboards Neistat features on his YouTube channel are expensive, Kasbar said. “One board is around $1,000 to $2,000 minimum. I can’t afford it so I decided to make my own instead,” he said.

While Kasbar used some parts of his old longboard to create the new one, other elements, such as the enclosures for the electronic components and the motor, were made using the Sandbox’s 3D printers. “The wheels, the motor, the 3D printed parts, that’s all from me. The enclosures and all plastic parts that you see here came from my own 3D printing, and most of them are from my own designs,” he said.

Kasbar said building an electric longboard is not as complex as it seems. “It’s simple to build. You can do it on any longboard or skateboard. You just need a battery, an ESC (electric speed controler) and a motor,” he explained.

The longboard can go up to 30 kilometres an hour and can run for three straight hours at that speed. Kasbar also built in a crucial safety mechanism. “If there is a shortage of battery, the electric speed controller will plug itself out of the battery so that it doesn’t overheat” he said.

For Kasbar, the Sandbox is one of his favourite places at Concordia. “I can be myself and share my creativity with anyone,” he said. “The people here will either improve my ideas or understand what I’m talking about—I feel comfortable sharing my ideas here.”

Student Life

Fast and yummy vegan recipes

Quick, healthy and filling dishes for students who are always on the go

Being a student isn’t easy. Being a healthy student when living by yourself can quickly become mission impossible. Juggling classes, part-time jobs and a social life, time constraints often lead students to eat take-out or simply skip meals. A remedy for this could be to try out two of my favorite recipes from HurryTheFoodUp and Pretty Bees—both websites offer quick-to-make vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free recipes.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pancakes

By Hauke Fox on HurryTheFoodUp

Serves four people.

Preparation time: five minutes. Cook time: 20 minutes.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cooked steel-cut oats
  • 1/3 cup canola oil, regular or organic
  • 1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk
  • 3/4 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
  • Vegan spread for frying
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon.
  2. Add the canola oil, non-dairy milk, vanilla extract and cooked steel-cut oats. Stir to combine.
  3. Add the chocolate chips and stir until evenly mixed. Set aside for a few minutes—you will see the batter puff up because of the baking powder.
  4. Heat the vegan spread in a skillet over medium heat.
  5. Once the spread is sizzling, pour a tablespoon of the batter into the pan. Reduce the heat slightly.
  6. Watch the pancake closely—when the edges start to firm up and look cooked, use a spatula to flip the pancake carefully.
  7. Cook until golden brown, usually two to four minutes on each side. Remember to add more vegan spread to the pan between each round of pancakes.

Vegan Chickpea Curry

By Kelly Roenicke on Pretty Bees

Serves three people.

Preparation time: 10 minutes. Cook time: 15 minutes.


  • ½ cup basmati rice
    Vegan Chickpea Curry. Photo by Elisa Barbier
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • ½ lime, juice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons curry paste or powder, to taste
  • 1 can (1.5 cups) coconut milk
  • 1 can (400g with liquid) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce, to taste
  • 2 medium tomatoes or a handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped. (The sweeter the better).
  • 1 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup or sugar
  1. In a pot, add rice to 500 ml of water. Throw in a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Keep an eye on the rice. When the water is boiling, put a lid on the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook for another 8 to 10 minutes until the water is fully absorbed by the rice.
  2. In a large pan, cook onions in olive oil at low-medium heat until the onions start to soften and turn clear, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Add one tablespoon of curry paste and the milk, stirring until the curry dissolves. Add another pinch of salt. Add more curry paste to taste.
  4. Add the chickpeas and soy sauce, and cook on medium heat for about five minutes, bringing the curry to a boil. If it starts to burn, reduce heat immediately.
  5. Add the tomatoes, basil and lime juice, and gently simmer the curry for another two minutes. Add more soy sauce to taste and stir in maple syrup or sugar.
  6. Serve the curry in a bowl over rice.

Balancing silence and rage in discussions

The difficulties of facing arguments with those who hold different opinions

There is no winning or losing when it comes to a discussion. At least, this is what I try to tell myself after every heated argument with a friend or relative. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to convince myself of this with much success.

It is easy to get carried away when a subject you are passionate about is brought up by somebody whose opinion conflicts with your own. While some may react rapidly with directness, others may feel the need to remain silent, fearing the aftermath of a disagreement.

Comedian Tina Fey recently wrote a segment for Saturday Night Live following the events in Charlottesville, Va., denouncing white privilege and white supremacy through satire. In the skit, she jokingly said that people should just eat cake in response to white supremacists. A lot of controversy emerged in response to the segment as many criticized Fey for encouraging people to ignore racism rather than take action against it.

Disregarding racism gives it the space to grow and the time to strengthen, eventually leading to atrocities such as the ones seen in Charlottesville on Aug. 12 which led to the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Closer to home, according to a Statistics Canada report, the number of Islamophobic hate crimes reported to police in Canada increased by 60 per cent from 2014 to 2015.

Facing racism and bigotry can be terrifying, but reminding yourself of the experiences their victims go through should be enough to motivate you to try changing someone’s mind. Regrettably, some may see it as a hassle or a useless fight to confront a narrow-minded person, and prefer to silently avoid conflict.

While I strongly encourage people to stand up for their beliefs, I have not always done so in my own life. France, my home country, only legalized same-sex marriage in 2013. In 2010, when I began to discover my sexuality, homosexuality was still rather taboo in France, especially in the countryside where I am from. I hid my very own traits from most, making sure not to show signs that would reveal who I am. Yet, it was hard to ignore the comments, the degrading names, the unfounded criticism or the blatant disgust some people around me expressed toward openly queer people. Unfortunately, directly calling them out was challenging. Avoiding confrontation can sometimes be the safest solution, and it is sometimes the only thing that can be done.

This tendency to avoid conflict has unfortunately become even easier in our social media age where you can effortlessly choose the content you want to see or ignore. Yet, interacting with people who hold differing opinions is a good way to understand why they don’t agree with you. Furthermore, focusing on one issue and ignoring other issues around social matters such as gender identification, religion, women’s rights, healthcare or historical truth is not a way to be actively open-minded.

Over the years, I’ve become more and more outspoken about some of my opinions. An example would be a three-day long argument my roommate and I had about whether taking in refugees in Europe and North America was a good thing. The opinions he had on the matter were the gasoline fueling my fire. Occasionally during the argument, we would lose track of the points we were making or try to use irrelevant information as evidence—we just wanted to be right. After three days, we both agreed on one single thing—you need a strong will to learn and have a productive, mind-changing discussion.

Simply believing that opinions will evolve and shift over time is the worst way to seek change. Protests that turn violent and arguments that focus on winning rather than proving a fact-based point aren’t good solutions either. It is important to speak with people of different backgrounds and ask them about their own experiences. And while a person’s experience may not be enough to change your view, complementing it with research from diverse sources will allow a productive exchange of ideas.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin

Student Life

The city’s first meditation studio

Andrew Rose, the co-founder of  Présence Meditation, at his studio in the Mile-End. Photo by Elisa Barbier.


Welcoming Montrealers to take a deep breath and relax at Présence Media

The sun’s early golden rays were subtly parting the shadows of potted plants through the curtains into the room. Only the faint sounds of birds chirping and distant voices from the street could be heard. Inside, a pleasant warmth caressed the faces of some participants. Sitting with crossed legs, tall spines, hands on their thighs, with eyes closed and a restful expression, they are meditating.

About a year and half ago, Andrew Rose, the co-founder of Présence Meditation and one of its instructors, decided he wanted a studio to solely practice meditation. On Sept. 13, he opened Montreal’s first secular meditation studio,  in the Mile-End. For the occasion of POP Montreal—an annual international music festival—the studio offered free classes from Sept. 13 to 17. It was as an introduction to the practice of meditation and an opportunity to try different teaching styles.

If you walked by 207 St-Viateur St. W., it would be hard to believe the building is anything other than a regular apartment. Yet, if you climb the dimly lit stairs, you’ll find a bright and spacious room filled with potted plants and dark blue cushions spread across a squeaky wooden floor. In a hidden corner is a desk where people can register or sign-up for a membership. On the other side of the cushions is a small room with a sofa facing a bookshelf filled with books on meditation and mental health.

Rose said he wanted to create a space for people with varying knowledge about meditation to come in and sit for 30 minutes a day or a couple of times a week. “Every class is accessible and suitable for beginners,” he said. Varying in length from 15 to 60 minutes, the classes focus on periods of the day with sessions like late-riser, after work, lunch or morning meditation. On Sunday mornings, an outdoor class teaches meditation while walking. Rose said more classes will be added as the studio grows. Drop-ins, monthly memberships and inclusive 10-class cards are available at a student-discounted price.

Rose said he wants Présence Meditation to be a space for people to meditate together and become Montreal’s first cohesive meditation community. “You can certainly do it alone, but when you are starting out, having a group and someone to guide you is much more practical,” he said.

A view of the serenity found in a Présence Meditation room. Photo by Elisa Barbier.

According to Rose, the studio has a unique approach to meditation with 12 teachers from different backgrounds and a partnership with Mindspace Clinic, a Montreal-based organization that specializes in using cognitive mediation to strengthen mental health. Rose emphasized the secular aspect of the studio. “We are not endorsing particular techniques or religions,” he said.

Rose said determining who is qualified to teach meditation is a sensitive topic at the moment. He pointed out that Présence Meditation focuses more on teaching techniques and less on the psychological problem-solving aspect that meditation can offer. “We made sure that our teachers have the techniques,” he said. “Some even went through the mindfulness-based stress reduction program taught in clinics.” While scientific studies show meditation can have considerable impact on the brain, Rose said it’s not a solution to tackle every problem. “Meditation is more efficient when practiced regularly. It is not a magic pill.” He explained that it involves long and arduous training—he has been practicing meditation for 15 years, but more seriously in the last 10 years.

Rose also mentioned the potential anxiety that comes with meditation, as one has to deal with unwanted emotions. He said that is a challenge in and of itself.  “Sometimes the [emotions] come up to the surface as tears, sometime as laughs,” he said. Nonetheless, Rose emphasized the importance of the practice. “It is hard in the beginning, yet truly worthy on the long run,” he said.

This was a challenge I faced during a late-riser session at the studio last week. With little sleep and an empty stomach, the breathing exercises—meant to help visualize our bodies as spaces and our breathing as time—enhanced my hunger to a point of obnoxious discomfort.

Yet, as we kept going, the overwhelming hunger transformed into an unexpected deep joy and thankfulness that brought tears to my eyes. Needless to say, it was an emotional rollercoaster. After I completed the session, my outlook on things like breathing, mind and body connection were remarkably transformed.

Rose said he tries not to have overly high hopes about the studio’s future. While he said he believes there is a need and desire for this type of studio in Montreal, Rose doesn’t try to convince people of the benefits of meditation. Instead, he encourages people to experience them first-hand. Quoting his favourite line from the American TV show Reading Rainbow, Rose said with a smile: “You don’t have to take my word for it.”

Student Life

Like online dating but for food

Concordia alumna launches free restaurant matchup app, Feed Me

Appealing or not? The decision can be made at the simple glance of a perfectly grilled avocado toast surrounded with fries. A swipe left and the dish disappears, and now a delectable sushi platter tempts you for lunch.

Searching for a nearby restaurant that suits your cravings and budget has just gotten easier and, frankly, more fun with Concordia alumna Amie Watson’s new app, Feed Me. The concept is similar to dating apps like Tinder. Rather than swipe left for a date, though, let Feed Me introduce you to a wide selection of restaurants, bars and cafés based on your indicated preferences.

“You open the app, and you will have more than 30 options in a four-block radius, but you can also plan for the weekend, look for a nice French restaurant,” Watson said about the app’s benefits. “[Feed Me] helped me discover restaurants in places I already lived.”

Watson is a freelance journalist based in Montreal who has contributed to outlets such as the Montreal Gazette, National Post, MaTV and Global TV. She graduated from Concordia University with a graduate degree in journalism in 2015. Originally from St-John’s, N.L., Watson moved to Toronto to earn her undergraduate degree in classical percussions at the University of Toronto. It was also in Toronto that she developed a passion for world cuisines while reading food reviews by Steven Davey—a food critic and musician in the city’s Queen West scene—in Now Magazine. “I hadn’t had much money, but once a week I would take myself out for lunch at one of his top cheap-eat places,” Watson said.

Amie Watson scrolls through some photos of nearby restaurants on the Feed Me app. Photos by Elisa Barbier

After a while, she decided to learn the recipes she was enjoying so much and began to appreciate the traditions and history behind them. When Watson moved to Montreal, she was exposed to new types of cuisines that were not as predominant in Toronto. “Tunisian, French Caribbean, Ghanaian [cuisines]—I was able to find and cook new recipes,” she said.

On her path to become Montreal’s Steven Davey, Watson worked as the food editor at Midnight Poutine—a local food, indie music, fashion and arts blog—for several years, and eventually ended up doing work for their weekend podcast. “It was then that I realized I was way more into freelance food writing than into my classical percussion master’s,” she said.

In 2011, Watson launched her blog,, to write restaurant and meal reviews and share healthy recipes. As she delved further into the food writing world, she developed an intolerance to lactose and gluten. Nonetheless, this did not prevent her from keeping at her passion. “I have recipes full of bread on [my blog],” she said as she discussed her love of baked goods.

Three years later, Watson participated in a Yelp Hackathon—a two-day event during which teams have to come up with a useful, funny or cool project that uses Yelp interface. This is where the Feed Me app was conceptualized.

“I wanted to write about all these restaurants, and I wanted somewhere to put it,” she said. The Yelp Hackathon provided participating teams access to its accumulated data about locations, trends and reviews, and Watson’s team came up with a project that improves existing restaurant apps.

When conceptualizing the app, Watson said it was important for her to have all the information—the reviews, the photos, the addresses—all in one place with an easy and simple interface, similar to Tinder. “When I first used Tinder, I thought it was fun. You get sucked in easily, kind of like a game,” she said.

Feed Me gathers reviews from restaurants in over 30 countries thanks to Yelp’s interface. Reviews and pictures of the restaurants are not selected by the establishments themselves but rather by the clients who have posted their own reviews on Yelp. “It is awesome because when you are travelling you can use it wherever you go,” Watson said. Montrealers have the added benefit of Watson’s own local reviews appearing on the app.

Some of Feed Me’s interesting features are the categories that a user can choose from to narrow down their search—everything from world cuisine, TGIF and vegetarian, to business dinners, sweet treats and even safe break-up venues. (A “safe break-up venue,” for example, includes at least one of the following elements: a back door, an affordable menu if one needs to pay for themselves or a not-so fancy ambiance.)

Watson decided the project was worth pursuing since it was a finalist at the hackathon, and she funded it herself. “I had money I could have responsibly put aside or put it into a passion project, so I put it into the passion project,” she said.

However, after a failed first attempt, Watson was told by user experience specialists that she had to redevelop the app. “I needed a new team, more money and strong business plans to get the loans I assumed I would need,” she said.

With the help of Yes Montreal—a Quebec-based organization that helps people find jobs and start or grow their business—she created a business plan and was able to get loans from Futurpreneur and Canada’s Business Development Bank.

Due to many obstacles, it took four years for Feed Me to go from being a concept to a final product, available in the Apple and Android app stores since August. Watson said she felt that Feed Me was what she needed to create, that no obstacles would make her back down. “There are moments when you are frustrated, irritated and you don’t think about it for a day,” she said. “[But then the passion for it] just creeps back into your mind.”

According to Watson, the app reached 12,000 downloads in its first three weeks and received positive feedback. Its success comes from being financially responsible, she said. “I am not just throwing money at this and crossing my fingers,” she explained, adding that mentors, financial guidance and business plans, along with the mindset of a responsible business owner, are all key to becoming successful.

Feed Me has many plans going forward, including offering discounts for restaurants and creating partnerships with food festivals. Currently, it offers a monthly give-away of $50. Users who share the app with their friends are automatically be entered in the draw when their friend downloads the app from the reference link.

“I want Feed Me to be the go-to restaurant search app, for it to be number one in the world, but in Canada first,” Watson said.

Student Life

A moonlit foodie’s paradise

Foodfest MTL hosts Montreal’s first all-Asian night market under the Jacques Cartier bridge

The barbecue’s were grilling and the woks were frying. The potato twister was swirling and the knives were chopping. The cooks were stirring, the kiosks were selling and the food-lovers were savouring the market.

Over 20 of Montreal’s best East and Southeast Asian restaurants gathered to serve a crowd of foodies at the newly renovated Village au Pied-du-Courant near the Jacques Cartier bridge. Hosted by Foodfest MTL, it was the city’s first all-Asian night market, with food available throughout the night on Aug 25 and 26.

Night-Market hosted by Foodfest MTL at Village au Pied-du-Courant. Photos by Elisa Barbier

Foodfest MTL, which was launched about a year ago, has seasonal partnerships with around 20 local Asian restaurants. The group collaborates with these establishments to offer customers special deals, often geared towards students but not exclusively.

“We work with a lot of student associations to see the restaurants around them and what can be done,” said Eva Hu, the co-founder of Foodfest MTL. Every few weeks, Hu explained, a new group of four or five restaurants will offer discounts. The rotation allows people to try different restaurants and broaden their experience of East and Southeast Asian cuisine.

The reason Foodfest MTL organized the all-Asian night market, Hu said, was to introduce Montrealers to a wide variety of flavours. “A problem we would see [at night markets] is that they have three stands of milk tea, three stands of sticky tofu or three stands of potato spiral, which is boring and brings up competition which we don’t want either,” she said. “We want each restaurant to shine with their biggest specialities.”

Preparing chicken pad thai at the Phayathai restaurant kiosk. Photo by Elisa Barbier

At Friday’s market, attendees could have their pick of mouth-watering dishes like toppoki from the Korean restaurant Ganadara, steamed baos from EAST, hand-pulled noodles served up by Nudo, Cuisine de Manille’s pork barbecue sticks or Phayathai’s chicken pad thai.

The shaky scaffolding observation deck at Pied-du-Courant was the perfect spot to observe the sea of people swarming from one stand to the next. Foodies shivered as they stood in indistinguishable queues, teased by the chilly breeze that carried succulent scents through the air.

The wait to taste each dish was often long, but the rewards were worth it and varied — everything from the soft, sweet jelly of a raindrop cake to the tender cold cooked-beef that practically melted in your mouth. The remarkable freshness of a Banh mi sandwich could be seen on the faces and in the smiles of people finally able to enjoy their food.

Many attendees could be seen struggling with their chopsticks, dropping them in the sand or admitting defeat over the slippery food that evaded their grasp. Others would simply eat skewers with their hands, a trail of sauce dribbling down their chin. Some preferred to indulge in less traditional dishes, such as oysters or ice cream featuring flavours like Taro, Vietnamese coffee or a neon-green sorbet that tasted like fresh coconut milk.

For Hu, it’s important to support local restaurants and the Asian food scene in Montreal in order to help the businesses and their dishes develop. “Introducing authentic flavours for people will enable them to explore the culture and share a mutual understanding through its goodness, instead of looking at unknown foods or flavors with fear,” Hu said.

Serving a batch of General Tao chicken. Photo by Elisa Barbier

Kiosks serving up not only a wide range of food, but also milk tea, fresh coconut juice, fruits and soft drinks, lined the street to accommodate everyone’s taste buds. The market also featured classic fair-style games where players could win prizes like backpacks or stuffed animals.

On the first evening, the market opened at 5 p.m. and, according to Hu, reached its maximum capacity just an hour and a half later. For people arrived around 7 p.m., the wait time was estimated to be about two hours. “We are letting 3,000 people in per hour so that the people inside clear up and the queues for the kiosks are reduced,” Hu said amidst the crowd of food-lovers.

Despite the overwhelming response to the festival, Hu said Foodfest MTL is trying to keep their events small during their first year to prevent errors and to get meaningful feedback from attendees.

Traditional Vietnamese Banh Mi and salads by the restaurant Tran. Photo by Elisa Barbier

“I wasn’t expecting it to get so big the first year,” Hu said, although she added that upcoming events will have even more restaurants participating, with a wider choice of flavours from different cultures. “What you learn about other cultures, you learn about yourself, too,” Hu said. “And there are only great things that come from that.”

Foodfest MTL’s next event is another Asian night-market on Sept.16 with seven to eight kiosks at Aire commune in the Mile-End.

Photo by Elisa Barbier

Student Life

Catching up with Concordia alumni in Beijing

A recent reunion in China’s capital offers a glimpse of what former Concordians have to offer.

As the scorching sun set on Beijing’s busy Chaoyang District, about 30 Concordia alumni living in China’s capital gathered at the local Hilton hotel for their annual summer reunion on June 14. Amidst tables of appetizers and drinks, the alumni reminisced about their time in Montreal, and chatted with university administration officials and current Concordia students studying abroad in China for the summer.

The reunion—organized and paid for by Concordia Advancement and Alumni Relations—is one of two official receptions hosted in Beijing every year. The winter event usually includes a visit from the university’s president, Alan Shepard. This reunion, however, began with a visit from Canada’s new ambassador to China, John McCallum. He mingled with the crowd before giving a speech highlighting the benefits of such a gathering. “It is wonderful to have a group like this in China,” McCallum said, referring to the alumni turnout. He departed soon after, leaving most of the attendees feeling a bit in awe.

With over 200,000 alumni spread out over 110 countries, Concordia University prides itself on its vast alumni circle, and emphasizes the importance of strong alumni relations, according to Leisha LeCouvie. LeCouvie is the university’s senior director of alumni relations, and oversees all the events and programs offered to the university’s alumni. The development of Concordia’s facilities and global reputation, coupled with the efforts of the alumni relations department, has made it increasingly easy to draw former students to these events and keep them engaged in the university community, LeCouvie said.

Concordia’s Beijing alumni chapter was founded in 2003 by Chen Zhang and Winston Kan. Now the chapter president, Zhang graduated from Concordia in 1998 with a bachelor of commerce and, later, in 2003, with an master of business administration. “We are very glad that the university supports our activities,” Zhang said. When he and Kan, who graduated with a BComm in 1981, created the chapter, there were only about a dozen alumni involved.

From left to right: Graham Carr, Leisha LeCouvie, Chen Zhang, and Bram Freedman. Photo by Elisa Barbier.

The chapter now gets about 10 to 20 new graduates every year, and its 200 members gather three to five times throughout the year for dinners, picnics and official reunions. Zhang said some members also meet casually for coffee on occasion, and keep in touch through WeChat—a Chinese social app similar to WhatsApp—or via the chapter’s bi-annual newsletter. “It is always a pleasure to meet for annual reunions and see the administration members,” Zhang said as he greeted arriving members with a welcoming smile on his face.

During the reunion, a video created for the gathered alumni was played, featuring current Concordia students from China explaining what they love about Montreal and Concordia, and discussing the differences they’ve noticed between China and Canada. Some of the students expressed gratitude at being offered a scholarship to the university, and many said they were eager to join the alumni chapter after they graduated. The video also included shots of Montreal and the university campuses, which put a smile on more than one face in the crowd. However, nothing compared to the audience’s unanimous “aww” as an image of poutine flashed on the screen.

For Bram Freedman, the vice-president of advancement and external affairs, Concordia’s alumni are like cement to the university’s foundation. They bring new ideas, opportunities, funding and a stronger reputation to the university, he said. This is of particular importance in Asia, with more than 17 per cent of the university’s international students coming from the continent, according to Concordia’s administration. In fact, the university’s first self-organized alumni group was created in Hong Kong 35 years ago.

Beyond reunion events, such as the ones in Beijing, the university offers several alumni programs that allow future graduates to prepare for their professional life. Alumni Matters, for example, is a bi-annual event held at Concordia in March and November. The conference hosts discussions from selected alumni on topics of interest to students, including debt and contract negotiation.

The university also recently developed Go Global, a one-night networking event with Concordia ambassadors, held in 10 cities around the world. Concordia also provides on-campus career services with online programs, webinars and a new chatroom software, Brazen, to connect alumni with alumni-to-be.

Graham Carr, provost of Concordia, speaking at Beijing’s annual alumni summer reunion. Photo by Elisa Barbier.

“When I say to somebody who graduated in 1980 that the university has now close to 47,000 students, they nearly fall off their seat,” LeCouvie said, expressing her delight at the connection many alumni still have with the university. Freedman shared a similar enthusiasm for alumni reunions. “[Alumni] have warm feelings toward Concordia. I am always happy to reach out and connect,” he said. “They are our best ambassadors.”

According to Freedman, former students often want to give back to their university community, either by becoming mentors, providing work opportunities for current students or making donations to the school. In November, Concordia will launch one of its largest fundraising events in the hope of attracting generous alumni. “Quebec government funds make good universities, but private funds make great universities,” Freedman said, adding that donations from alumni allow the university to expand its facilities and programs beyond what could be done with government funds.

“Alumni can open doors,” said Graham Carr, the provost and vice-president of academic affairs, who also attended the Beijing reunion. As someone who oversees academic life and programs, Carr believes alumni chapters also offer the university a lot of innovation, such as suggesting changes to programs based on their experiences.

Concordia students studying at the Communication University of China for the summer. From left to right, Ana Hernandez, Sebastian Molina Calvo, Grégoire Bergeron Chiasson and Moises Espinosa. Photo by Elisa Barbier.

Concordia already offers a summer program in China that allows students from all departments to study Mandarin at the Communication University of China in immersion for two months. However, Carr said he hopes to see the development of international partnership programs that allow business and engineering students, for example, to work with companies abroad. During the reunion, Carr spent a lot of time talking to the students studying in China this summer, curious about their opinions and experiences in China so far.

The Beijing reunion offered a glimpse at the possibilities such a large group of international alumni can offer Concordia. Not only can proud alumni help build the university’s reputation in foreign countries through word of mouth, but they also have the opportunity to work with current students to better their own university experience. “The global world is a big place,” Carr said in a speech at the reunion. “We can make it smaller by keeping in touch.”


French experimental band: La Femme

La Femme combines French yé-yé with a 60s California vibe of psychedelic rock

I will always remember the first time I heard La Femme—it made me see music from another perspective. At the time, I was on exchange in Westfield, N.J., when a local student named Andrew said, “Do you know ‘La Femme’? They are really good. Give them a listen.” The disturbing yet fascinating melody of “Antitaxi,” which incorporates taxi honks and bus brakes with psychedelic pop sounds, played in the background as we rode to his house. Less than an hour later, Psycho Tropical Berlin, La Femme’s debut album, was already part of my playlist.

From the numerous genres they experiment with, to the lyrical topics they dive into, or from the cold-yet-sincere and eye-opening atmosphere they create musically, to their clothing style—ranging from three-piece tuxedos, to Sex Pistols torn jeans and leather jackets—La Femme is one of a kind. The group describes their music as limitless and without a specific style or distinct voice. Aside from their full-time lead female singer, the band features the singing voices of different women on many songs—according to their online biography. It’s a singularity that rapidly got me hooked.

La Femme is a sextet initially created by high school friends Marlon Magnée and Sacha Got in France’s Basque region—Europe’s surf capital. Magnée, who is on vocals and plays the synthesizer, moved to Paris, followed by Got. Back in 2010, La Femme began their journey in Paris, where they met the other bandmates: Noé Delmas, the drummer; Sam Lefèvre, the bassist; Lucas Nuñez Ritter, who plays the synth; and Clémence Quélennec, a vocalist.

La Femme’s genre may be undefinable, but elements of different styles are recurrent between La Femme’s Psycho Tropical Berlin and Mystère, their second and newest album. The group’s influences stem from California’s surf music and the 60s French yé-yé style, which reinterprets English songs in French. From one album to the next, the band has deepened their psychedelic and post-punk tones, evolving and adding to their style.

Over the past 15 years, French radio stations have been marked by a great amount of foreign music, mostly from the U.S. There were few French pop-rock bands that rose and stood out between the dominant French variety—which consists of songs with French-driven lyrics and poetic structure, or French rap. Yet, La Femme, with their distinct sounds, have stepped up in France, overseas and even have a  presence in the U.S.

Their popularity has also risen due to the topics they write about, such as suicide, gender neutrality, psychedelic drugs, women, depression and the sometimes ugly realities of life. Their songs, written as short narratives, carry listeners through the life of a protagonist, usually a woman, making the listeners feel their despair or joy in raising awareness about social causes.

Album cover for Mystère, La Femme’s second album.

Here is a list of some of my personal favourite songs:

“Tueurs de fleurs” from Mystère

In “Tueurs de fleurs,” which translates to flower killers, La Femme touches on the sensitive subject of conjugal violence directed towards women, using the metaphor of women as flowers being poorly looked after or mistreated by their “owners.” In the end, the flowers grow strong in the dark and become carnivorous plants taking their revenge on their abusers.

“From Tchernobyl with love” from Psycho Tropical Berlin

In the form of a letter sent by a liquidator at the Chernobyl power plant to his family somewhere in past USSR, La Femme puts emphasis on the people directly exposed to the nuclear waste in the aftermath of the explosion. In the letter, the man, who tries to stay positive, describes his daily life as “a mission: destroy everything,” before saying the gamma rays are more important than his own flesh. The band uses a vintage synthesized voice resembling radio voices of the time, perfectly transporting the listener to that era.

“Si un jour” from Psycho Tropical Berlin

This song aims to break gender labels using the story of a woman living in France during the 50s and 60s. The protagonist enumerates simple fantasies, like smoking all day, wearing trousers, spitting or walking and whistling, which shape her gender-neutral identity. Yet, she is faced with people telling her to go back to sewing, to not play with the ball meant for boys and demanding she put her skirt back on. In the end, she trades in her Moulinex—a 60s kitchen utensil with the slogan “freeing the woman”—for a leather jacket and a Harley Davidson. Now she is ready to beat up anybody who criticizes her choices.

Special mentions

A special mention should go to “Mycose,” from Mystère, which explores the delicate subject of vaginal mycosis, commonly referred to as a vaginal yeast infection. In the song it affects a woman who wishes nothing but for it to go away. She departs from Earth to another planet in hope of the mycosis to go away. “Le Blues de Françoise,” from Psycho Tropical Berlin, touches the depression that can occur after a break-up. Finally, “Sphynx,” from Mystère, aims to spread the message that differences should not divide us. It uses the image of taking acid as a means to unify everybody under one universe during an mind-opening experience. La Femme will remain a mystery, and their music will keep on carrying me and other listeners to the rhythm of their uniqueness.

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