But seriously, let’s talk

Bell Let’s Talk campaign points to larger issues in mental health advocacy.

Every year, Bell Let’s Talk Day strikes a chord. As the event on Jan. 24 approaches, I want to talk more about exactly what makes this seemingly well-intentioned campaign a bit unsavoury, and how its nature is indicative of larger issues. 

For context, Bell Let’s Talk was started in 2010 by the telecommunications company Bell Media as the largest mental health initiative in Canada. Though it’s an ongoing campaign, each January is marked by a specific day where their advertising goes full force. I’m sure everyone is familiar with their pledge to donate five cents to mental health programs for every text and social media interaction that includes #BellLetsTalk, and the subsequent flooding of similar messaging—although in 2023, the company announced they would replace this strategy with a $10 M lump sum donation. 

In a sense, the campaign filled an important gap, as few other major companies are so vocally dedicated to the issue of mental health. This advocacy takes the form of four pillars, according to their website: “fighting the stigma, improving access to care, supporting world class research and leading by example in workplace mental health” (which is ironic considering past allegations concerning Bell’s working conditions). Their mission statement in contrast to their actions can be scrutinized, along with their overall mental health advocacy campaign. 

The name itself is problematic to many who have speculated on the corporatization of mental health and the fact that Bell features its own name so boldly. In a 2019 statement, the company claimed that “it put its name on the campaign because no one else would,” as mental health was discussed very little at the time. Still, this is a very effective advertising campaign that ultimately benefits the company, no matter what cause they’re supporting. Maybe I’m biased—personally, I’m skeptical of any major corporation that claims to be doing a good deed—but publicity is still publicity.

The publicity often takes the form of short videos about mental illness coupled with alarming statistics (such as this one, which tackles suicide rates in Canada). Though destigmatizing conversations around mental illness do need a starting point, the videos are a little reductive and sensationalized. The presentation usually includes a shock factor, and the solution is always the same: just reach out. The campaign implies that talking about it is the most difficult step, but fails to acknowledge the systemic issues within mental health programs. Sure, there are resources out there. But how good are they?

Mental health resources are just another part of a broken health care system that is often inaccessible, damaged by bureaucracy and a lack of proper care. From what I’ve witnessed through friends and family members who sought help, the truth is quite jarring; the health care system, particularly in the sector of mental health, can actually be quite cruel. 

People must jump through endless hoops to acquire care, while being condescended by healthcare workers or mental health professionals and being exposed to environments that are not conducive to healing (the state of psychiatric facilities is a topic begging for its own article). These issues are even more prevalent for marginalized communities, with countless examples of injustice and malpractice in the healthcare system. 

It’s ironic that those who need help the most are often dehumanized by systems that claim to be the solution. I can’t help but be disillusioned by the notion of seeking help, and resentful of any campaign that reduces such a complex issue to such a simple solution. This isn’t to disregard the campaign’s message as a whole: talking about mental health is of the utmost importance, and we do have to start somewhere. However, we also need to reflect on societal factors that contribute to mental illness—a broken system is not the solution. 

Issues with mental health advocacy do not begin or end with Bell. Bell Let’s Talk is just one example. The way that mental health is discussed points to the need for a complete reform. Though efforts have been made to destigmatize mental illness and improve access to needed services, this is only the beginning.

Who is body positivity for?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Graphic by Madeline Schmidt


Adapting to serve the community: a look into the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal

How front-line staff at the shelter have dealt with the outbreak and overcome challenges

The Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM) has had to overcome several hurdles to adapt to the pandemic, and to continue to provide a safe home for Indigenous women in need.

While Executive Director Nakuset has normally been the one to represent the shelter to the public, The Concordian was given access to the shelter in order to report on the front-line workers who support the community.

“[The clients] trust us,” said Anita Metallic, residential support worker at the NWSM, a job that entails admitting new clients and managing services for them. The Native shelter is the only Indigenous women’s shelter in the city. Metallic explains that it’s a safe haven for the community.

“[At] a non-Native shelter, they don’t feel as comfortable, or even sometimes as welcomed.”

According to a survey by Statistics Canada, Indigenous women and children make up 70 per cent of clients in Indigenous shelters, and 20 per cent in non-Indigenous shelters.

In contrast, Indigenous women only represent four per cent of the population of women in Canada, and Indigenous children are eight per cent of the population of children.

Almost three quarters of Indigenous women who sought shelter did so because of abuse, and to protect their children from violence.

Residential support worker at the NWSM Anita Metallic helps to admit new clients and manage different services for them at the shelter.

“I look at them as my sisters and as warriors … [the women are] incredibly strong and resilient to last that long. It’s one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve done,” said Metallic.

The NWSM building has four different levels. Bedrooms fill the top two floors, the main floor includes the kitchen, administration office, and socializing spaces, and the basement has some bedrooms and storage. In total, there are 13 private bedrooms.

“But right now we’re very limited because of COVID,” said Metallic.

Pre-pandemic, all the bedrooms could be safely occupied, and the shelter could hold up to 23 clients, with mothers able to bring their children. Now, the top floor, called the “hot floor,” is where new clients quarantine for two weeks before moving to their designated bedrooms. If all the quarantine rooms are occupied, the shelter cannot admit new clients.

Clients are housed for up to three months at the NWSM. During their stay, the women must look for permanent housing.

If no housing is found, staff can refer clients to another shelter. The NWSM has a three-months-in-six-months-out rule, meaning clients can return after six months outside of the shelter — but clients aren’t abandoned once they leave.

“We don’t just say, ‘okay, bye’ — we will make sure that they’re okay,” says Metallic. Staff keep in touch with the women to know if they need additional services, or if they should plan on welcoming them back.

Marina LeRoy, relief worker at the NWSM, says the shelter has experienced an increase in clients since the pandemic began.

“COVID has been a little bit harder for some families, and we’ve had a few more kids than maybe we would normally,” said LeRoy.

Even as other shelters closed during the beginning of the pandemic in March, the NWSM stayed open. Staff knew the high risk of contracting the virus at the time, but did not want to abandon the task of serving women who found themselves in difficult situations.

“We knew there was a really high probability we were going to get sick and we were comfortable with that,” said LeRoy, adding, “we feel this responsibility to stay open for the women and make sure that we can keep them safe.”

The risk of contamination was high not only because workers came in contact with several people in a closed environment, but because the shelter had no government support for equipment and cleaning services to appropriately accommodate their clients.

Marina LeRoy, relief worker at the NWSM, showing one of the bedrooms.

For two months, the shelter faced great challenges as they adapted to constantly changing health safety guidelines with little to no supplies. Four younger workers–who are at less risk of developing complications from the virus–worked at the shelter overtime. LeRoy was one of those staff members.

As with other industries, she describes how, in the beginning, they had no clear guidelines on how to deal with the virus. From navigating difficult traumas some of the women faced, some with suicidal thoughts confined in their room, and trying to help mothers with their children, Leroy said it was extremely difficult.

“It was a very isolating time,” she said.

Clients had to remain in their rooms at all times while staff members delivered meals to their doors three times a day. All of the services usually provided, like mental health support and help with personal needs like medical appointments, couldn’t be given from March to June.

“We were limited in the services we could actually provide for them, and I think a lot of us took that to heart because it felt like our mandate was not completely fulfilled,” said LeRoy, adding that, “it was heartbreaking.”

“It became a job where often we had to cater to basic needs and it was very difficult to kind of promote the womens’ well being and make sure that their mental health was okay,” said LeRoy.

It was only when an outbreak occurred in mid-May, two months after the start of the pandemic, that the requested supplies and services were provided. For two weeks, staff quarantined at home while clients were housed in a hotel.

Now, the shelter is running smoothly compared to the experience during the initial lockdown. Staff practice social distancing while moving around the shelter and there’s a limit to the number of people who can be in a room. There are curfews, specific mealtimes, and a “clean house” policy is enforced, with drug and alcohol use prohibited.

In the basement, the walk-in storage closet is lined with miscellaneous supplies, boxes and bags for the women. Among the most donated items are period products and bath supplies, and  LeRoy says the shelter is always in need of good running shoes (in any size) and winter coats.

In fact, everything provided in the shelter is entirely funded by community donations. This year, all their fundraising efforts will be online.

One of the cooks at the shelter, Rhonda Beaulieu, relaxing outside on her work break.

One of the cooks at the shelter, Rhonda Beaulieu, says she has wanted to work at an Indigenous organization since moving to Montreal from Manitoba three years ago.

With over 15 months cooking experience at the shelter, Thompson’s motives are quite clear: “I want to serve my people … I know what they’re going through.”

Thompson said she’s been through an abusive marriage, but has since left that relationship. She says her experience has helped her to connect and relate with women who face the same hardships.

The shelter provides help for a variety of different needs, from medical appointments, filing for ID, help with youth protection services, mental health support, and more.

Having an advocate is fundamental to Indigenous women’s safety in several of these institutions, according to many of the workers at the shelter.

When asked about Joyce Echaquan’s death at Joliette hospital, LeRoy said no one was surprised, as there are “certain hospitals in Montreal we know to not bring clients to.”

“If I get in an ambulance and they tell me about the availability, I have to fight for them to go to different hospitals because I will not have a woman admitted in the hospital where we know that there’s discrimination and racism, because it’s really counterproductive to them actually getting the help that they need,” said LeRoy.

LeRoy has witnessed Indigenous women who are diagnosed with cancer adamantly refuse to go to the hospital. She has also witnessed this behaviour among women who have been sexually assaulted and need medical attention.

Family care worker Camille Panneton says she advocates for Indigenous women who are involved with youth protection services.

“Nothing can make them go to the hospital because of the discrimination that they faced and the violence that they face there,” said LeRoy.

Staff who accompany Indigenous women to medical appointments help to advocate for their needs and monitor their treatment. Even so, LeRoy has witnessed medical staff demean clients and refuse to give treatment.

“You hit so many barriers no matter how hard you work to promote their well being,” said LeRoy.

Women are also helped with any youth protection-related services they require. Family care worker Camille Panneton accompanies women to their appointments, and says Indigenous women also face obstacles in the youth protection system.

“I advocate for them. There’s a lot of problems and flaws in the system,” she said.

She makes sure mothers are treated equally. She’s witnessed the clients being mistreated and talked down to in a condescending and confrontational manner. Ultimately, she describes an environment where Indigenous women don’t receive a fair treatment.

“They [youth protection services] don’t respect their rights,” Panneton said.

Despite the challenges, staff work to provide for all the women’s needs.

On the day The Concordian visited the shelter, the residents had begun beading in the afternoon. Multicoloured beads were spread over the table, and while they worked on different projects, they spoke and shared with each other. There was a calm atmosphere as staff left the room.

“This is their time,” said Metallic, “we give them their space.”


Photographs by Christine Beaudoin. Feature image is an artwork found in the entrance of the shelter.

The Age of Slacktivism: BLM Advocacy Beyond Keyboard Crusading

Don’t deny it: whenever an atrocity like George Floyd’s death occurs, many of us flee to our social media.

We’ve been taught and told by others that change can be incited from our fingertips. We see the abundance of Black Lives Matter posts being shared and if we don’t follow the herd by doing the same, it gives off the impression that we aren’t true activists. There is a false sense of commitment to the cause, an instant gratification that comes with sharing a Martin Luther-King Jr. quote or changing our twitter handle to #BLM.

Slacktivism is the notion that people can advocate for a certain issue with minimal effort and involvement, while still believing they are making a difference. We might be locked to our couches right now, but that doesn’t mean we have to succumb to a slacktivist approach.

Sharing endless quotes, tweets and Facebook posts is like pouring a glass of water on a ravaging house fire and hoping it does something significant. It’s the bare minimum and yet, there is a certain pat-on-the-back feeling we get from doing it. Long before Floyd’s death many have abused this approach, including myself. This approach allows us to be involved in the conversation from a safe distance. Many of us want to do more, but just don’t know where to begin.

As a white anthropology student, I have been introduced to a multitude of advocacy approaches that I had never considered in the past. My own positionality has led me to seek out these approaches, knowing that while I cannot experience the pain of racism firsthand, I can use my voice to prevent these injustices from being silenced.

Last year, one of my professors launched into a 40-minute improvised lecture about how useless slacktivism is, a term many of us surprisingly hadn’t heard before. The faces around the room ranged from anger to disappointment to outright shame. “Do you really think these short-lived sentiments are going to start a revolution?” my professor asked. Sure, the act of sharing posts and signing petitions has good intentions, but it only goes so far.

In an article titled “How to take activism beyond your keyboard,” author Maggie Zhou writes, “Don’t fall into complacency and give yourself smug pats on the back … acts of allyship aren’t meant to tickle white egos.” Zhou’s article also links numerous reading materials, social media accounts worth following, and practical steps to be a proper advocate.

Awareness is unquestionably necessary, but if you’re relying on the passive act of sharing a post to absolve yourself from your white privilege and to reconcile your past faults, you’re not advocating for the right reasons. Reach out to your black friends and family, read works written by black writers, support black businesses, listen to podcasts, donate to an array of funds, educate yourself and, if you’re not sure about something, ask!

With all this in mind, I’m not saying you need to abandon your social platforms. Instead, I ask you to think beyond the means of advocacy you’ve been taught and become comfortable with. Decolonize your media, as Zhou puts it. If you can afford a music subscription or a new pair of shoes, what’s a small donation to a worthwhile cause? If you really are strapped for cash, prioritize educating yourself and others—it’s free. If you can educate even one person and enable them to re-evaluate their thoughts and reactions to the current movement, you’ve just become a catalyst for change.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth










Concordia statement on Black Lives and demandsfor an anti-racist pedagogy



Vote yes to support clubs, advocacy services

How students can improve the funding for CSU programs without paying more

From Nov. 27 to 29, Concordia undergraduate students will vote in their union’s by-election.

On the ballot, there will be a referendum question to reallocate Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) fees. Students will be asked if they agree to reduce the amount of fees they pay for a renovation fund and increase fees for student clubs, advocacy services and general operations by the same amount. As the CSU finance coordinator, I believe students should vote yes, because it will protect valuable student services without raising fees.

The CSU offers a wide range of services, campaigns for student rights and hosts fun events. It creates jobs for students and provides support for student-led projects and clubs. All of this is funded by six per-credit fees from students. Currently, for each credit, students pay $2.11 for general CSU operations, $0.24 for the advocacy services, $0.24 for the Off-Campus Housing and Job Resource Centre (HOJO), $0.17 for the Legal Information Clinic, $0.20 for clubs and $0.74 for the “Student Space, Accessible Education and Legal Contingency (SSAELC) Fund.”

All of this money is given to the CSU, however, it can only be used for its designated purpose. Money collected for HOJO, for example, can’t be used for orientation week events. This means that when the CSU council approves the budget, it’s actually approving five separate budgets.

In previous years, the CSU ran surpluses in a few departments, specifically for clubs and the advocacy services. As a non-profit organization, we’re not supposed to do that, so the executives ran referendums to reduce the fees. The advocacy services fee was reduced in 2015, and the fee for clubs was reduced in 2017. However, almost immediately after these referendums passed, demand for the services increased. More students were going to the Advocacy Centre, forming clubs and increasing club activity, but the CSU now had less money for those resources than before.

This has placed these departments in a structural deficit. Advocacy services are projected to run a deficit of roughly $30,000 this year, and clubs is $70,000 in the red. These deficits have been absorbed by CSU cash reserves from previous surpluses, but that can’t go on forever. This year, we have to choose between raising revenue or reducing student services.

Don’t panic. Despite these challenges, the CSU is in a good financial position overall. Its net value increased this year to over $13 million. However, much of that money is in the SSAELC Fund and, because fees have restricted use, the money has to stay there.

What is the SSAELC Fund? It’s a large reserve of funds that can be used to build or renovate student spaces, support student associations that vote to go on strike, and pay legal settlements if the union gets sued. The fund has roughly $10 million in it, and is invested in stock portfolios that help it grow from year to year. It was recently used to fund projects like the Woodnote Housing Cooperative and the CSU daycare—and even after those big projects, the fund is still growing strong.

The CSU has plenty of resources, but they’re not being allocated in the best way possible. To fix that, we’re proposing to reduce the fee levy for the SSAELC Fund by $0.36, while also implementing a fee increase of $0.06 for advocacy services, $0.10 for clubs and $0.20 for general operations. All the budgets will balance out, and students won’t have to pay anything more.

The SSAELC Fund will still grow by approximately $250,000 per year after this reform. By collecting a bit less for the renovations fund, which already has $10 million in it, we can increase funding for the many clubs that enrich student life and give us extracurricular experience. We will be able to maintain the advocacy services that protect student rights, and invest more in services, bursaries, programming and campaigns. All of this will be possible without students having to pay even one extra cent.

On the other hand, if this referendum fails to pass, we’ll be required to reduce funding for clubs and advocacy services. No student will benefit from that. The proposed new fee structure is a simple, responsible and effective way to manage our union’s finances. To support student clubs and the important services students depend on, without having to pay more, please vote “yes” on Nov. 27, 28 or 29.

Archive graphic by Ana Bilokin


Concordia First Nations advocacy group goes digital

Indigenous Directions Leadership Group to help students develop business initiatives

As one of the newest members of Concordia’s Indigenous Directions Leadership Group (IDLG), Ronald Abraira hopes to bring his knowledge of business management and entrepreneurship to help the group develop initiatives that benefit Indigenous students at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB).

“I’d like to help the group reach out to First Nations institutions and create a bridging program for [Indigenous] CEGEP students and adult education learners,” said Abraira, a JMSB lecturer. “We’re hoping to create a program that’s like Dragon’s Den […] We’re calling it INSTEP: Indigenous Student Experience.”

This program will give Indigenous students the chance to create and pitch original business ideas in a style similar to the successful CBC television series. Abraira said INSTEP will give students enrolled in CEGEP or adult education programs the opportunity to gain experience in entrepreneurship and help ease their transition into university. He added that the IDLG hopes to launch the program at some point in the next year, but there is currently no set date.

Abraira is one of four new members to join the IDLG this year. The other new members include Vicky Boldo, an interim elder at Concordia’s Aboriginal Student Resource Centre (ASRC), ASRC coordinator Orenda Boucher-Curotte and Karl Hele, an associate professor of First Peoples studies at Concordia. Reporting to the provost and vice-president, all IDLG members contribute to the group’s goal of helping Concordia respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Principles for Reconciliation and Calls to Action. A total of 94 calls to action were released by the TRC in 2015, following a seven-year federally funded investigation of the Canadian residential school system. The calls to action include ensuring Indigenous people have equitable access to jobs, training and education. Another call to action recommended requiring certain academic programs, including history, media studies and journalism, to feature curriculums focused on Indigenous history and issues.

The IDLG aims to improve the university’s responsiveness to the TRC principles by preparing a list of current Concordia First Nations initiatives, designing recommendations to increase Indigenous participation in the academic community, and offering input on Concordia’s approach to Indigenous recruitment and admissions strategies.

In addition to welcoming new members, the IDLG launched an online hub that aims to provide First Nations Concordia students with access to resources and information.

The hub, which was launched in October, features a diverse range of information relevant to First Nations students and faculty, including upcoming IDLG events as well as a list of courses and faculty members in the First People Studies program. There is also a page highlighting Indigenous research and community projects at Concordia.

Some of the featured projects include Acting Out!, a program that offers theatre workshops to Indigenous youth; Nipivut, a bi-weekly Inuktitut radio show; and Journey Women, an art project exploring the theme of healing from the perspective of First Nations women.

According to Abraira, there is no formal application or election process to join the IDLG. The group welcomes Indigenous community members from a wide range of backgrounds.

“This is a group that’s here for all Indigenous students, Indigenous faculty and those interested in outreach to the Indigenous community,” Abraira said.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

Student Life

Another Word for Gender recap

The Porn Event discusses real vs commercialized sex
by Sara Baron-Goodman

Last Monday, Concordia welcomed guest speakers Sarah Beall and Ignacio Rivera (AKA Papi Coxxx), to the much-anticipated Porn Event as part of the Another Word for Gender series.

The talk covered just about everything from prostate massages, to fetish parties, to working in the sex industry in general.

Beall is the curator of content for, a new generation porn site that focuses on real sex and user-generated content to show the world that porn isn’t all bad pink-tinted fluorescent lighting and women getting cum facials. As Beall said, in real life, if you want to come on a woman’s face, you damn well better ask first.

Photo by Lucas Charlie Rose.

“We want to see everything… that part where you elbow your partner in the chin while reaching for the lube, we want to keep that in,” said Beall of the kind of content she looks for in selecting videos for the site.

MakeLoveNotPorn aims to de-fetishize certain minority groups, and represent an all-encompassing picture of real-life sex between real-life people. It puts a strong emphasis on showing safe, consensual sex.

“When I think about feminist porn, it’s about fair pay, safe environment, there’s a transparency,” said Rivera. “There’s fantasy there but there’s a backdrop to it. We get to see bodies we don’t see in mainstream porn, outside of fetish markets.”

Rivera is an activist, filmmaker, sex educator, performance artist, sex worker, and a trans gender-queer, self-proclaimed lover of kink, who seems to have done and seen it all.

For them both, the key to a more empowered future of porn is breaking down the sterilized picture, and showing the nitty-gritty reality of sex, with a strong emphasis on consent and setting visible boundaries between both partners.

“In the real world we know you have prep your ass to get rammed,” said Rivera. “In porn, you don’t see that somebody had to wear a butt plug for three hours first.”

The most important takeaway is that real life sex and the kind of sex usually shown in traditional porn, are two very different things. A lack of formal sex education in schools has made it so that many young people are getting the bulk of their formative knowledge about sex from porn—and it’s a flawed image to be sure. This is why the movement towards indie porn and feminist porn is so important.

Exploring Another Word for Gender, Janet Mock talks trans rights and feminist freedom
by Guenevere Neufeld

Janet Mock, prominent TV host, speaker and advocate for trans and women’s rights, spoke about her life as a trans woman for the keynote address of the Another Word for Gender Series last Friday.

Mock was first brought into the limelight as a trans woman in a 2011 Marie Claire article. Despite the many problems Mock has with the article, the attention drawn to her by it gave Mock the platform to speak up on behalf of trans women and women of colour.

Over 600 audience members filled the Hall building’s H-110 auditorium beyond capacity to hear about Mock’s philosophy on feminism and gender issues. Paying homage to mentors and colleagues such as Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and Laverne Cox, Mock described her mission to defend the image of trans women of colour and dissect cultural stigmas surrounding these people.

“Writing is a source to freedom,” she said, highlighting the importance of telling stories and listening to the stories of others. She says her activism “started at the kitchen table,” referencing Barbara Smith’s feminist essay Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.

Mock acknowledges she has been granted “conditional privilege.” She is given access to platforms to spread her message because she makes certain choices to fit into society. Yet rather than uphold power structures as they are, Mock also wants to “go into these spaces like a Trojan horse and blow stuff up” in order to “push that space.”

“I’m a big proponent of creating your own space,” she said. “For me I’m a big proponent of knowing that there’s other people who feel as alienated as me, and I’d rather organize with them, become more powerful with them in the community, and then go into those spaces as a group.”

She spoke of creating clear definitions of “community” and “allies” and how important it is, especially for young trans people, to have a strong support network.

The evening ended with a book signing of her 2014 memoir Redefining Realness, in which she tells her own story.

“It’s all about language,” she says. “I should be as authentic as I feel I’m safe enough to be.”

Reproductive Justice has no borders
by Olivia Ranger-Enns

Reproductive justice. People will either be nodding or scratching their heads at these two simple words. What exactly is reproductive justice? According to The Pro-Choice Public Education Project, reproductive justice is “the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights.”

A panel held at Concordia University on Oct. 2 shed some light on this complicated, multi-faceted issue.

Jessica Danforth, executive director of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, opened the floor. She spun forth an exhaustive link between race and gender issues. “We speak in terms of bodies and spaces,” said Danforth. “Aboriginal women have been colonized both in terms of their culture and in terms of their bodies. We don’t ask about the assault, we ask the more important question: why does it happen?”

Danforth went on to share some background on reproductive justice. The term was coined back in 1994 when black women wanted to shift away from pro-choice advances. “We are constantly laid back by barriers such as poverty, discrimination, immigration status and incarceration,” said Danforth.

The issue of reproductive justice got up close and personal when an Aboriginal woman came to the mic to talk about living on the Kahnawake reserve.

“There are so many issues with reproductive justice when it comes to Aboriginals,” she said. “I live on this reserve, and it’s not even possible to give birth here. On top of it, there are so many teen pregnancies. I have taught a 13-year-old girl theatre, only to learn that she herself was already pregnant. The stigma of getting pregnant doesn’t make any sense. It even happened to my little sister!”

Danforth stressed the fact that her story was not one of apathy but of action. “This is not a sob-story, a story asking people to feel sorry for Aboriginal women, or women in general,” said Danforth. “We were colonized and manipulated, and that’s the story. We knew about sex beforehand. After all, we didn’t wait for Christopher Columbus to teach us about sex,” she said, as the audience chuckled.

Danforth went on to make another connection between gender and environmental issues. “We all know that the Canadian government is ruining Aboriginal land through logging and mining. The contaminated water and mercury levels are corrupting breast milk, causing major diseases like ovarian cancer and neurological problems for young children,” said Danforth. “This has to stop.”

All in all, Danforth led a strong and well-balanced talk, weaving between theory and anecdotes, which provided some much-needed comic relief.

“We are constantly isolating, demonizing and shaming young women. That is not the issue,” said Danforth, stabbing the air with her finger. “The issue is how we are going to get over this problem.”

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