HERstory Lesson Opinions

HERstory Lesson: Sir Lady Java

How she fought against the transphobic Rule Number 9

Sir Lady Java is an American transgender rights activist and performer. She performed in the Los Angeles area from the mid-1960s to 1970s.

Java was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1943 and transitioned at a young age with the support of her mother.

After singing and dancing in local clubs, she moved to Los Angeles to further her career and by 1965, performed in a nightclub owned by Comedian Redd Foxx that welcomed other great entertainers of the time like Sammy Davis Jr., Richard Pryor, Flip Wilson, Rudy Ray Moore, LaWanda Page, and Don Rickles.

In September 1967, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) ordered Redd Foxx’s club to cancel Java’s performances, but they didn’t comply. The LAPD then threatened to fine the club and arrest Foxx if they continued hosting her, using a city ordinance against cross-dressing.

Before today’s war on drag shows and the fight to ban them, there existed laws like Rule Number 9. The city ordinance in Los Angeles, California, stated, “No entertainment shall be conducted in which any performer impersonates by means of costume or dress a person of the opposite sex, unless by special permit issued by the Board of Police Commissioners.”

As part of the rule, performers had to wear a minimum of three “properly gendered” items on them.

Even though any form of public gender nonconformity had been outlawed in Los Angeles since 1898, the Board of Police Commissioners developed Rule Number 9 in 1940 to require bar owners to get special permission to host entertainment which included any sort of cross-dressing.

As a response to LAPD’s crackdown, Foxx’s club applied for a permit to host Lady Java in October 1967, but was refused.

On October 21, Java protested against the rule by picketing in front of Foxx’s club advocating for her right to work. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), she challenged Rule Number 9 as unconstitutional in court.

The court rejected her case, stating only club or bar owners could sue the police department. Java and the ACLU could not find any owner willing to join them in their fight.

In 1969, Rule Number 9 was ultimately struck down by the California Supreme Court in a separate case. Although Java’s case was not the one to dissipate the transphobic rule, she is recognized as a trailblazer for transgender performers and drag queens.

As stated on the ACLU’s website, police at the time were not just cracking down on a couple of drag queens — their fight against “deviant” activities actually targeted the whole LGBTQ+ community. 

“They were attacking drag performers in order to target bars and clubs that often served as the only public places where gays and lesbians could gather. The police made no real distinction between gay people and transgender folks,” reads the website.

With today’s political climate in the US directly targeting the drag community, it is important to remember Lady Java’s activism and fight against Rule Number 9.

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HERstory Lesson: Julia Butterfly Hill

From saving forests one tree at a time, to redirecting taxes

Julia Lorraine Hill is an American activist and environmentalist, known for living in a tree for over two years as a protest against deforestation.

Hill adopted the nickname “Butterfly” from the age of 7, when a butterfly landed on her finger during a hike and stayed there for the duration of the walk.

At age 22, she survived a major car crash involving a drunk driver who hit her car from behind, which resulted in the steering wheel penetrating her skull. Her injuries required to re-learn how to walk and talk.

“As I recovered, I realized that my whole life had been out of balance… I had graduated high school at 16, and had been working nonstop since then, first as a waitress, then as a restaurant manager. I had been obsessed by my career, success, and material things. The crash woke me up to the importance of the moment, and doing whatever I could to make a positive impact on the future,” she said in a biography.

This is what made Hill embark on a spiritual journey that made her more aware of the environmental crisis, specifically the deforestation of redwood forests in Stafford, California. 

She told the Washington Post in 2004 that “the steering wheel in my head, both figuratively and literally, steered me in a new direction in my life.”

Shortly after recovering from her accident, Hill attended a fundraiser in Humboldt County, California to save the forests.

At the time, the Pacific Lumber Company was clear-cutting the redwood forest, a forestry practice which results in most (if not all) trees in a forest to be cut down. On New Year’s Eve 1996, their practices left the community of Stafford buried in mud and tree debris after it had fallen down due to a landslide.

This is when the community demanded action and asked for a volunteer to tree-sit for a week in protest of the clear-cutting. According to Hill, she was the only one willing to do so.

She ascended the 200-foot tall and 1,000-year- old tree, later nicknamed Luna, on December 10, 1997. The week-long protest turned into a 738-day one, where Hill lived on a small platform. A support crew would often come to provide her with food, medicine and necessary survival gear.

During her time in the air, she endured the harsh weather conditions with only a sleeping bag to keep her warm and was harassed and intimidated by the Pacific Lumber Company.

Hill and the Pacific Lumber Company came to an agreement in 1999 for them to not cut down Luna and preserve all other trees within a 200-meter radius, in exchange for Hill to evacuate the tree. As part of the agreement, the $50,000 that was collected by the environmental groups supporting Hill’s tree-sit were also donated to Humboldt State University to support research into sustainable forestry.

Luna is now protected under the non-profit Sanctuary Forest and a team of experts is constantly looking after her.

Hill’s history of civil disobedience does not stop there. In 2003, she started redirecting her taxes to places she believed “our tax money should be going.”

Tax redirection is a form of direct action that takes place through refusal to pay taxes, and in Hill’s case, redirecting that money to different causes. She gave $150,000 to different environmental and social programs that work to provide solutions such as alternatives to incarceration.

After years of dedication to various social causes, Hill seems to have retired her activism career, as her website reads she is “no longer available for anything at all relating to me being Julia Butterfly Hill.” She still leaves behind a legacy of important and concrete actions.

As our world is in an ever-growing climate crisis and younger generations seem more discouraged than ever, Hill’s story is a perfect example of the overworked environmental activist burnout.
“People forgot there was only one of me and tens upon tens of thousands of everyone wanting, needing, asking, hoping, and demanding,” she said.

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HERstory Lesson: Billie Jean King

How she humbled a male athlete’s ego in a post-second-wave feminist climate

Billie Jean King is a former American tennis player and six-time Wimbledon champion. Active from the 1970s to the 1990s, she also won seven Federation Cups, the international team competition for women’s tennis, now named after her. She is considered one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Despite all of this, King is mostly remembered for a match she played against a 55-year-old man when she was 29.

Dubbed the ‘Battle of the Sexes,’ the match was initiated by top men’s tennis player Bobby Riggs, who claimed “there’s no way a woman can play tennis with a good man tennis player.”

Riggs, who played in the 1930s and 1940s, said he could beat any woman in tennis and challenged King to play for $100,000 on Sept. 20, 1973.

King, who campaigned for gender equality in women’s sports, first rejected the challenge. However, after Riggs challenged and beat Margaret Court, she accepted.

Coming out of the second-wave feminist movement, one that focused on equality and discrimination, this match held important cultural significance on the gender politics that reflected the social climate at the time.

Riggs said it best himself in a Tonight Show interview, where he said that he planned to “set back [the] women’s lib movement about another 20 years.”

When asked by host Johnny Carson if he liked women, Riggs replied “I like them real good in the bedroom, the kitchen and when they bring you the slippers and the pipe.” Interrupted by a mix of cheers and boos, he continued and said: “I really think the best way to handle women is to keep them pregnant and this way, they don’t worry about getting out in the men’s world and competing for jobs and trying to get equal money and all that baloney.”

Although some might say that Riggs was just playing into a character to bring hype to the game, we cannot deny that comments like these would not pass on any of today’s prime-time television talk shows, jokes or not.

Whether an intimidation tactic or not, it worked as King said “I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn’t win that match. It would ruin the women’s tour and affect all women’s self-esteem.”

90 million viewers tuned in from 37 countries to watch the Battle of the Sexes go down in Houston Astrodome. To put it into perspective, the Super Bowl that year received 53 million viewers on average.

It was in front of this large audience that King beat Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, which makes this statement by Riggs even more delightful: “Would you believe that she said she could take the pressure and play for the money as well as I can?” Yes, Bobby, yes, she can.

This was more than just a tennis match — it was a significant cultural event that helped garner greater respect and recognition of female athletes.

Although King recognized the importance of this match, she said that “to beat a 55-year-old guy was no thrill for me. The thrill was exposing a lot of new people to tennis.”

Indeed, it is important not to forget that King did so much more than just win against an old misogynist at tennis. She was at the forefront of the Women’s Tennis Association, convincing her colleagues to form a players’ union. She founded the WomenSports magazine and Women’s Sports Foundation, an organization promoting the advancement of women and young girls in sports.

As King said it best, “In the ’70s, we had to make it acceptable for people to accept girls and women as athletes. We had to make it OK for them to be active. Those were much scarier times for females in sports.”

There were scarier times indeed, as even King’s sexual orientation became a subject of headlines in the 1980s. After a palimony suit was brought forth by one of her lovers, King had to come out publicly as bisexual, which made her lose $2 million in commercial endorsements.

At the end of the day, I think her story, despite being heroic and bad-ass, goes to show just how much women need to prove themselves outside of their sport in order to make an impact outside of it.

In a 1984 interview with Parade Magazine, King said, “My only regret is that I had to do too much off the court. Deep down, I wonder how good I really could have been if I [had] concentrated just on tennis.”

This only opens the door to one question: what are we waiting for to recognize women athletes as athletes and stop expecting them to also be advocates and publicists for their own sports?

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HERstory Lesson: Athénaïs de Montespan

The crazy life of Louis XIV’s number one mistress

Françoise-Athénaïs de Rochechouart, Marquise of Montespan was born in 1640 from many different royal ancestries. At the age of 20, due to her parents’ status and royalty, she was made maid-of-honor to the king’s sister-in-law, Princess Henrietta Anne of England, and was appointed lady-in-waiting, a female personal assistant, to Queen Maria Theresa of Spain.

In 1663, she married Louis Henri de Pardaillan de Gondrin, Marquis of Montespan. The title of Marquis designates a nobleman of hereditary rank (in Britain, it’s below a duke, but above an earl). Together, they had two children and lived close to the court so that Madame could carry out her duties as lady-in-waiting. 

She had everything going for her: she was beautiful, cultured and politically-aware. She knew her worth. As per her memoir, confidence was not something she lacked: “I was not slow to perceive that there was in my person something slightly superior to the average intelligence — certain qualities of distinction which drew upon me the attention and the sympathy of men of taste.”

In 1666, Madame de Montespan was in her mid-twenties and trying to replace Louise de La Vallière’s as Louis XIV’s main mistress. At the time, it was common for the king to have two wives: the queen for political affairs, and the maîtresse-en-titre that would serve as a social companion. Madame de Montespan got closer to La Vallière and even became her confidant, all while still keeping a close relationship with Queen Maria Theresa.

While both women were pregnant, she cleverly started to entertain the king in private. It is said she purposefully showed him her ankle (big hoe move for the 17th century) while getting out of a carriage. This led to the beginning of their relationship. Apparently, she would mock people in order to make the king laugh and her sarcasm hurt so much that courtiers feared it. It is also said that another way she seduced Louis XIV was by “accidently” dropping her towel while he was spying on her showering.

La Vallière was then reduced to second mistress. She was so humiliated that she retreated to a convent.

Madame de Montespan’s husband, enraged to learn of her infidelity, made a scandal at court and even made a symbolic funeral in front of the children (talk about childhood trauma). He was then imprisoned and exiled. Madame de Montespan became the favourite, but was still not recognized as the official mistress due to her marriage.

Her beauty and new position made her popular with men, but not so much with the church. They didn’t like her adultery and despite the king’s demand to give her absolution, the church did not yield.

They still went on to have seven children, to which Madame de Montespan did not tend. They hired a governess to look after them, named Madame de Maintenon.

Madame de Montespan became more than just a mistress. She had so many means of influencing the mind of the king that many ministers and courtiers submitted to her: her advice was asked for and followed. This also meant she knew a lot of state secrets.

Madame de Montespan became jealous when Louis XIV started an affair with none other than the governess looking over their children, Madame de Maintenon.

It was another affair with yet another mistress that sent Madame de Montespan into a downward spiral. Indeed, Louis XIV also took interest in another noblewoman named Madame de Fontanges, only 17 years old at the start of the affair. She became pregnant with the king’s child quickly, but gave birth prematurely and died not long after.

However, this all unfolded during the infamous Affaire des poisons, a major murder scandal in France near the end of the 17th century where multiple members of the aristocracy were accused and sentenced for charges of poisoning and witchcraft.

Given the general mistrust at the time due to the Affaire, it was not long before suspicion grew that Madame de Montespan’s jealousy could lead her to murder. This is why many believed her to be responsible for the death of Madame de Fontanges by poisoning her, although it was later confirmed she died of eclampsia, a condition where high blood pressure results in seizures during pregnancy.

During the Affaire des poisons, Madame de Montespan’s name was dropped in court by several accused and convicted as being a customer of Madame Catherine Monvoisin, also called Lavoisin, a potion maker. Montespan was accused of giving Louis XIV a love potion and participating in Black Masses with Lavoisin where infants were sacrificed.

It is important to note that Lavoisin allegedly provided midwife services and performed abortions, which at the time was seen as witchcraft was the source of the child sacrifice rumour. 

Despite the state of frenzy at the time of the Affaire, Madame de Montespan was never put on trial or convicted for the accusations. It is believed the king either believed her to be innocent or wanted to avoid the humiliation for his children.

Madame de Montespan later retreated to a convent and died in 1707.

HERstory Lesson is a column presenting all the “bad girls” in history, or the ultimate girlboss summit.

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HERstory Lesson: Nellie Bly

From Ten Days in a Mad-House to touring the world in high heels

A girlboss of her time, Nellie Bly — born Elizabeth Cochrane — was an American journalist who was famous for her investigative undercover work.

She was born in 1864 and went to school until the age of 15, but struggled to find work, even more than her brothers who were less educated than her.

In 1885, she wrote a response to an editor at the Pittsburgh Dispatch after they published an article titled “What Girls Are Good For” that criticized the presence of women in the workforce. In her response to the column, she argued for more opportunities for women in the public sphere. The editor was impressed by her writing, and this kick-started her career as a reporter. 

When she started working for the Dispatch, she began writing under the pseudonym Nellie Bly because it was considered inappropriate for women to write under their own name. So, it only made sense that all of the men in the newsroom came together to find her a “catchy” nom de plume, which turned out to be inspired by a racist form of entertainment.

Although Nellie Bly made the name a feminist reference today, it is actually the misspelled version of the minstrel song Nelly Bly by Stephen Foster. Minstrel songs were made specifically for minstrel shows, a racist form of theater that was prominent in the 19th century.

Despite bringing great reporting on the conditions of working women at the Dispatch, Bly’s editors confined her to writing on women’s issues. In a time where women were hired as reporters mainly for the “women pages,” Bly wanted to do investigative work.

To be less restricted, she moved to New York in 1886, but struggled to find work as a woman reporter. A year later, Bly stormed into the office of none other than Joseph Pulitzer and asked to report on immigrants in the United States. Although he refused her pitch, he challenged her to look into the Blackwell’s Island mental asylum for New York World.

Not only did Bly accept the challenge, she committed herself to that piece by faking mental illness to get herself admitted into the institution. During her time there, Bly investigated claims of abuse and neglect in the women’s unit. She also dropped her act and started acting “normal,” even asking to be let go, but to no avail. After ten days of trying to convince the staff that she was a reporter, the New York World had to come rescue her from the asylum.

Bly’s discoveries were published in a series of articles in the paper, followed by a book called Ten Days in a Mad-House. Not only did her investigative reporting lead to a grand jury investigation of the asylum and brought more funding for the Department of Public Charities and Corrections, it also became one of the most iconic pieces of undercover journalism. 

The ease with which she was able to trick doctors into thinking she was insane also ensured future examinations to be more thorough.

She continued to publish regular exposés on corruption in the legislature and jails, as well as continuing to advocate for the working class.

In 1889, she was inspired by Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days to beat fictional character Phileas Fogg’s record travel. Bly read the book and was inspired to beat Fogg’s record.

The New York World published daily updates of her journey, even running a contest where readers could guess how much time it would take her to travel the world. Bly travelled the world by train, boat and horse, wearing a full gown, heeled boots and corset, the traditional attire for women at the time.

She completed the tour in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes and 14 seconds, setting a new world record. It didn’t take long, however, for a businessman to take her glory and complete the challenge in 67 days.

Nellie Bly was a pioneer in her field as an investigative journalist and continues to be an inspiration for women today.

HERstory Lesson is a new column presenting all the “bad girls” in history, or the ultimate girlboss summit.


Hogwarts Legacy: it’s okay to let the fantasy go

A video game or an attempt at reparations?

Although the magical world she created seemed utopic, J.K. Rowling’s world-famous book series has been tainted by her history of transphobic views.

However, the Harry Potter franchise continues to bring in revenue today, from an amusement park in Florida to a studio tour in Watford, U.K., with Rowling ultimately earning royalties on anything branded with the official Harry Potter name.

Ever since she first started showing her true colours online, fans around the world started to take differing stances. From tossing her books to boycotting any new project of hers, or still supporting the author, the public was divided — but it definitely opened up a conversation on separating the art from the artist.

Hogwarts Legacy, “an immersive, open-world action RPG set in the world first introduced in the Harry Potter books,” launched at the beginning of the month.

And although Warner Bros. stated that Rowling was not involved in the project, the author will still profit off the new video game because of the Harry Potter brand being attached to it.

In a world that feels ever-changing, with Gen Z being more and more involved in politics and social issues, the launch of the game could not go without controversy.

Discussions around the ethics of purchasing or playing the game were everywhere online, leading the game creators to include a trans character, Sirona Ryan, in the story.

According to different sources who worked on developing the game, the character was only added as a response to critics.

They really thought that adding a trans character would eliminate the association of Harry Potter with transphobia and suddenly “excuse” Rowling’s own transphobia.

But if they are so adamant that she is not involved with the project, then why feel the need to do damage control? Because, in a way, Rowling’s continued success with the Harry Potter franchise makes her believe that many hold the same views as her — and that’s what makes supporting the brand problematic.

In a way, it makes sense that Warner Bros. would still go ahead with the launch. At the end of the day, they know that the people ready to boycott the game would not have purchased it regardless.

Their target audience is the older millennials, who grew up with the franchise and therefore have more attachment to it. They are the ones still purchasing official branded merchandise and that, whether they like it or not, supports Rowling in the process.

As a zillenial, someone that identifies with both Gen Z and millennials, when it comes to popular culture I sometimes fall in the middle of intergenerational conflicts. But this one is more than that.

I understand the sentimental attachment to the franchise as the Harry Potter books are what fuelled my love of reading. However, I just can’t help but pass on the message to the ones who can’t let go: it’s okay, you can let it go.

It is time for our society to tell, read and embrace new stories. More importantly, saying goodbye to the franchise and no longer supporting projects that are connected to it also means taking a stance on what we believe in. It’s protecting our friends, sisters, brothers, parents, partners, and neighbours of the trans community from harm. It is dreadful to have to explain to fans why this is more important than them virtually living out their fantasy of attending Hogwarts.


Why are love languages so important all of a sudden?

And people might not even be using them right

When counselor Gary Chapman wrote a book on his theory of the five love languages, he probably didn’t think that, years later, people would be saying that avocado toast is their love language.

Initially, Chapman came up with a pretty simple concept: “Different people with different personalities give and receive love in different ways.”

The Love Language Quiz is an online questionnaire you can use to find out how you and your partner prefer to receive love. Ultimately, love language compatibility is not as important as it is to understand how your partner feels loved. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, it sounds good in theory and practice. However, people have been talking about love languages in a very self-focused way. Today, the love language test is being used more as a personality test than a tool to help relationships.

People are listing their love language on their dating profile just as they would their astrological sign and personality traits. But at the end of the day, the love languages were meant as a way to guide your relationship, not base it off of that.

Are people really going to start using this as an excuse for incompatibility?

It’s also important to note that Chapman’s book was published in 1995. Not to sound too old and wise, but things have changed since then. The way we talk about relationships has changed. So, should we even rely on them at all?

Couples can now use the languages for scorekeeping. After all, aren’t most arguments started because someone feels like they are the ones doing more in the relationship?

Not only that, love languages can change and evolve over time. Don’t we all need physical touch at one moment, and quality time at another?

As long as we communicate what we need at that specific time, our relationships would be just fine. We shouldn’t need a quiz to do that work for us and then blame our incompatibility on that when our relationships don’t work out.


What’s wrong with TikTok’s stay-at-home girlfriend?

The trend might unveil more about women inequalities than we think

Forget the independent girlboss. Now, working outside the home is out of style. Make room for the “stay-at-home girlfriend”: she cleans, she bakes, she takes care of herself, but most importantly, she’s young, skinny and white.

It started out innocently when influencer Kendel Kay posted a “day in my life” video on TikTok, highlighting what she does as a “stay-at-home girlfriend.” The trend quickly grew and, just like any other viral TikTok trend, within 24 hours it had flooded everyone’s For You page.

It is frustrating to see comments claiming that this is “going back in time,” because ultimately, telling a woman what to do is going back in time. However, I also can’t help but see a problem with the trend.

First, let’s be real: the concept of a woman staying at home is nothing new. However, the stay-at-home girlfriend is exactly that: a girlfriend, not a mom.

Now, let’s remember what a time it was in the 2010s for stay-at-home moms. In a time where the working mom and small business owner was thriving, saying you were just staying home to look after your kids was not the most “girlboss feminist” thing to do. (However, we should be clear here that taking care of a house and kids is a full-time job in itself, but was just never recognized as so).

Ultimately, I can’t help but wonder if the stay-at-home girlfriend is making a mockery of stay-at-home moms. Regardless, it’s safe to say that stay-at-home moms did not get the same amount of compassion from the internet back when staying at home was not it.

Although the stay-at-home girlfriend does get backlash — like some saying she is “lazy,” or “taking advantage of her boyfriend’s income” — she is not exactly being criticized for the bigger societal phenomenon that she represents.

As mentioned above, the stay-at-home girlfriend is young, childless, attractive, skinny, white, and practices self-care. Her level of education remains a secret and she is ultimately valued for the amount of household or self-care tasks she can accomplish in a day.

With the recent spike in misogynistic, alpha-male content à la Andrew Tate on social media lately, I can’t help but think that the characteristics associated with the stay-at-home girlfriend are similar to what these incels describe as the “high value” woman.

There is nothing wrong with being childless, attractive, having a boyfriend and wanting to stay at home, but the trend is just making racist and classist inequalities between women resurface. There is a long history of white, upper-to-middle-class women romanticizing the ability to opt out of labour.

Indeed, after slavery was abolished in the US, many upper-class families would employ Black workers to take care of their homes and families, on top of having to take care of their own. Racist policies in the US like the Mothers’ Pensions and Social Security Act of 1935 helped further depict the image of the Black woman as worker instead of mother. This allowed white low-income single mothers to stay home and care for their children, while Black women were excluded from welfare assistance programs up until the 1960s.

While the trend might seem innocent at first, it actually perfectly demonstrates how the systems of power we are still fighting operate in our society. Romanticizing a stay-at-home life negates the reality of women at intersections of race, gender and class, for which it becomes impossible to be the stay-at-home girlfriend on TikTok, at least without getting more criticism than their white, middle-class counterparts.


Celebrities are now naming their babies after iconic Quebec swear words

Because Elon Musk’s experiment of a baby name was not enough

John Legend and Chrissy Teigen named their newborn baby Esti and Quebecers are the only ones laughing because the rest of the world obviously does not know the iconic Quebecois swear word.

The newborn’s full name is Esti Maxine Stephens, which makes it even funnier if you separate the first two names with a comma.

The couple’s baby is quite literally a legend (pun unintended) and they don’t even know about it.

An infamous swear word in Quebec culture, “esti” finds its origins in catholic liturgy. And now it’s a name, apparently.

The name Esti is the short form of Esther or Estelle that means “star.” Maybe Teigen and Legend were going for a subtle celestial hint to her sister Luna? At least for baby Esti, we’re the only ones laughing.

Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott named their baby Aire, a direct Arabic translation of “penis” or “my penis” that is often used as a profanity. But again, what you don’t know doesn’t hurt you.

Regardless, it’s pretty sad that the competition for the most original celebrity baby name has led us here. It’s safe to say that, in this case, ignorance is bliss for little Aire and little Esti.

Consider Elon Musk and Grimes’ baby X Æ A-12 Musk, which sounds bad in every language. When you need to explain your baby’s name because it looks like a serial number, I don’t see how you could ever think it was a good idea.

According to Musk, the name is pronounced X Ash Archangel Twelve, with the last part of the name being his own contribution. A-12 is the precursor to the SR-71, the coolest plane ever in Musk’s eyes.

However, according to California regulations, names can only contain the 26 letters of the alphabet for characters, which made the couple change their baby’s name to X Æ A-Xii.

This makes Esti and Aire sound like perfectly fine names, even knowing what they mean.

Swear words and genitalia aside, it looks like we have come to a generation where robots are named Sophia and humans are named X Æ A-Xii.


Stop saying people look better without makeup

It’s not the compliment you think it is.

If you’re a heavy makeup wearer too, you’ve probably been told this before: “You look better without makeup,” or even “why all this foundation? You have beautiful skin!” No shit, Sherlock. That’s because I’m also interested in skincare.

Even though that’s what I wish I could answer on the daily, most of the time, I have to be polite and just take the “compliment.”

But is it really a compliment?

Let’s start from the very beginning: beauty standards. The expectation for women to look a certain way starts young. As soon as we get some sort of awareness of our assigned gender role, we immediately admire “pretty” princesses and our version of playing becomes giving a makeover to anyone that dares to say yes.

It’s not hard to see: women and girls are taught at a young age that beauty matters. From the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz to Ursula from The Little Mermaid, we are taught that ugly equals bad.

Then, in our pre-teen years, we already get influenced by the very clever marketing of the beauty industry that preys on our insecurities.

So, naturally, makeup piques our interest. Some stick with it until adulthood, some experiment and decide it’s not for them. That’s okay.

Even though I’ve come to terms with it, it’s still sometimes hard for me to admit it: I cannot deny that my interest in makeup does stem from patriarchal ideas.

This is why when a man, out of all people, wants to imply that “I’d look better without all that makeup,” it drives me insane.

And I say that not to generalize, but because I genuinely only ever get that from men, when other women will actually compliment my makeup skills.

For people who don’t understand, I’ll put it simply: it’s rude. I put effort into something to then be told that you wish I hadn’t. Why? Because it doesn’t serve you in the way you want it to, assuming it was supposed to when it certainly wasn’t?

That’s without considering the fact that women throughout their entire lives have been told what to do, what to wear, what to say and how to act just to benefit men in society.

Even though the saying might come from good intentions, let’s not forget that nobody owes you a positive response when you make an unsolicited comment about their physique.


An ode to all Sagittarius babies out there

I won’t forget about you this crazy holiday season

My birthday is 10 days before Christmas, and like all of my fellow Sagittarians, I get to celebrate my birthday at the most inconvenient time of the year.

Even though I might’ve been a Christmas miracle to my parents, the birthdays that have followed since 1996 would never get as much hype as the Christian holiday.

It sucks that the festivities tend to overshadow our special day. As everyone around us also has a reason to celebrate, my turning of age seems like “just another party” for them.

Sagittarians might be prone to selfishness, but it’s because we’re misunderstood. We never get to be selfish on our birthday because sometimes we don’t even get to celebrate it.

At every point in my life, there will always be some inconvenience around my birthday. When I was a kid, all of my friends were out of school, either on vacation or just spending time with their families. When I got to higher education, it’s exam season. And when I finally reach my adult life, office christmas parties are in the way.

And don’t even get me started on the weather. As a Sagittarius baby, especially in Montreal, you have to pray that a snow storm won’t ruin your plans because it’s not like you can reschedule anyway.

The planning of my birthday is now a month-long process that needs to start around Halloween, in order to make sure I get the proper reservations. And with most businesses being at their busiest around this time of year, if I want to order a cake, decorations, or a special birthday outfit, this also needs to be done right after Halloween to make sure I get everything on time.

With that kind of preparation process, it’s easy to understand why I’m always the one in charge of organizing my own birthday parties and ordering my own cake.

With everyone’s busy schedule around this time, I know I’ll never get a surprise birthday party. But it’s okay, I’ve come to terms with it.

December babies just want you to understand that we want to be a bit selfish for that one day. We just want you to show up and not mention the C-word. After all, it’s not like we can forget about what time of year it is anyway; the music and decorations will always be there to remind us. Not to mention every other table in the restaurant is usually celebrating the holiday too.

After 25 birthdays, I’ve tried it all — from celebrating at home (but the damn decorated tree is constantly just there) to celebrating my half-birthday in June, but then it just doesn’t feel right.

I might not have the ultimate solution for the sagittarius to have their time to shine, but I know we need the other signs to understand the need to make it a little bit more about us on our birthday.


What Nikita Dragun’s placement in a male jail unit can teach us about Canada’s trans inmates’ safety

Our institutions need to do better

Influencer Nikita Dragun was arrested at the beginning of the month at the Goodtime Hotel in Miami, Florida for felony battery on a police officer, and disorderly conduct.

According to hotel security guards, Dragun had allegedly been “causing a disturbance” and “walking around the pool area unclothed.” Afterwards, “Dragun flung an open water bottle toward the officers and the hotel staff, wetting one of the officers.”

When she appeared in a bond court video the following day, it was revealed that she had been kept in a men’s unit. In the video, Dragun asks judge Mindy Glazer, “Do I have to stay here in the men’s unit, still?”

It has obviously sparked a number of negative reactions on social media. However, what follows is even more shocking.

In the court video the judge seems to be writing something down, hearing but not really listening to Dragun’s request — or at least showing very little interest. Glazer then proceeds to say, “Yeah, I don’t make the rules up there but, they should make a proper accommodation for you.”

What does that mean? There shouldn’t be any accommodations, just put her in a women’s unit. The way it’s phrased also makes me furious. Is Dragun’s right to be in a jail that houses inmates of the same gender as her really an “accommodation?” Because we all know it would not be an accommodation if the inmate was cisgender. It would simply be their right.

According to Florida law, transgender inmates’ housing situations are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. A “transgender committee” made of medical and mental health professionals meet with the inmate to evaluate and make recommendations to the state as to where the person should be housed. These are however only recommendations, and it shows that transgender people’s rights are not fully protected in those cases.

Transgender inmates are over-represented as victims of many forms of abuse in prison. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, they are ten times more likely to be sexually assaulted in prison.

If this is what happens to a popular figure in the US, imagine what can happen to any other trans person in our own country.

In January 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised trans inmates that they would be housed based on their gender identity, stating that “trans rights are human rights.”

Up until then, Correctional Service Canada (CSC), which governs the federal penitentiary system, had a clear policy regarding the placement of inmates according to their gender assigned at birth.

According to a report on trans prisoners’ safety, “the CSC policy dictated that trans prisoners be assigned to either men’s or women’s penitentiaries based on their pre-operative sex. Consequently, trans women who had not undergone gender affirmation surgery were forced to live in men’s prisons instead of with the gender they identify with. This CSC policy has led to extreme difficulties for these women, who are often subjected to sexual harassment and assault.”

The day following Trudeau’s speech, the CSC stated that they would “consider” inmate placement based around gender identity and expression rather than gender assigned at birth.

Adopted in June of that same year, Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, protects transgender individuals against gender discrimination. The Bill amended section 3(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act and added “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the prohibited grounds of discrimination.

The Bill also amended the Criminal Code “to extend the protection against hate propaganda set out in that Act to any section of the public that is distinguished by gender identity or expression.” The amendment prevents the federal government from discriminating on the basis of gender, including in its prisons.

Then, in December 2017, the CSC adopted an interim policy to “accommodate based on gender identity or expression, regardless of the person’s anatomy (i.e. sex) or the gender marker on identification documents.” Included in the policy is the right of the inmate to be addressed by staff with the correct pronouns and, if a strip search were to be performed on them, the right to choose whether it be conducted by a male or female staff member.

This sounds really good and progressive in theory. But I have a hard time imagining an institution like the prison — that is founded on militarism, punishment, humiliation, racism and discrimination — to completely change its course of operating because they truly believe that trans lives matter.

My research proved me right on that point. In the 2019 case of Boulachanis v. Canada (Attorney General), the applicant had requested to be transferred from a male institution to a female institution after identifying as a woman. The CSC refused her request on the basis that the inmate would “pose too great a risk, in particular a risk of escape, to be placed in a women’s institution.” Although Justice Grammond of the Federal Court granted her the transfer and recognized that “keeping her in a men’s institution is discriminatory,” violating the interim policy, it is important to highlight how he got to that conclusion.

After clearly stating that Boulachanis is legally a woman, Justice Grammond then questioned whether she should be treated as one: “Stripped to its essentials, the issue is to determine whether Ms. Boulachanis should be treated as a man or as a woman.”

Blatant heteronormativity aside — if Boulachanis is a woman, why are we questioning her right to not only be seen as one, but also be treated as one by the law?

Probably for the same reason that Nikita Dragun was put in a male unit in Florida. It doesn’t matter what Bills, promises or policies they establish on paper, our institutions, governments and society still fail to protect transgender people.

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