Good Witch, Bad Witch, Will She Float Or Will She Sink?

The history of the witch: true tales of patriarchal terror

With today’s horror movies depicting their women protagonists as helpless haunted gals, I can’t help but reflect on the true feminist horror story: the origin of the witch.

While witch hunts stopped around the 17th century in America, the fear of the witch stayed in our culture, having a particular spotlight during the spooky season.

Although the topic has now evolved into popular culture, the real history of witches is much darker.

Witches were believed to be practitioners of the Devil’s work, calling upon spirits to heal or harm others. Although sometimes — and let’s face it — they were only practicing traditional medicine or sciences, but them being women made it a crime.

It’s clear that witch hunts were targeting women: more specifically, single, widowed women, or women on the margins of patriarchal society— women who stepped outside their assigned role.

Bridget Marshall, Associate Professor in the department of English at the University of Massachusetts who studies witch trials and the history of witchcraft, believes that most witches were women because of systematic oppression.

“This is why witch trials weren’t just about accusations that today seem baseless. They were also about a justice system that escalated local grievances to capital offenses and targeted a subjugated minority,” she says.

Indeed, out of the 19 people that were convicted of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials of 1692, 14 were women and the other five were guilty by association — either a brother or husband.

So, how did these witch hunts contribute to shape the feminist movement? 

It is only in 1893 that we see a critique of how the church treated women who were suspected of being witches.

In her book Woman, Church & State, Matilda Joslyn Gage, an American suffragette, reframed the witch hunts of the 1600s as a misogynistic attempt from the Christian church and state to police women’s bodies and keep gender roles in place.

Gage’s son-in-law, L. Frank Baum, author of the famous The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was inspired by her work to frame the character of the witch in his story in a more positive light.

The early 1960s TV show Bewitched centered around the life a white middle-class housewife, and coincides with the rise of the women’s liberation movement. The way the protagonist Samantha Stephens uses her magic around the house can be linked to early feminist arguments for agency and free will.

This set the stage in popular culture for how we view the figure of the witch now: from a clumsy Sabrina the Teenage Witch, to the clever Hermione, to the villainous comedic Sanderson sisters.

Although we can argue that most of them are portrayed as feminist icons today, we have to acknowledge that the real history behind witch hunts is rooted in patriarchal power and the fear of a woman challenging that power.

Whether by drowning or burning, marginalized women were murdered in barbaric ways under the broad crime of practising witchcraft.

I say “broad” because the offence included an array of subjects that men were also studying at the time, such as astrology, sciences, medicine, and divination.

Besides the obvious religious hysteria around women, witch hunts were also used to establish dominance in these new male-only establishments.

The crime was ultimately that of being a woman.


A Q&A with Yiara Magazine

 A quick glance at what the arts publication has been up to this semester

There’s no doubt that Zoom University makes it harder to engage in student life and feel like you’re a part of something. In an effort to make students feel more involved and aware of what student clubs are up to, we’ll be conducting a series of interviews with various student-run organizations.

Yiara Magazine is a student-run, undergraduate feminist art publication based out of Concordia. In addition to publishing an annual print issue, they hold events such as workshops and panels. Past events have included a zine-making workshop with California-based artist Chantal Jung. Through their publication, online platform, and various events, they aim to make feminist art and art history accessible to all.

To learn more about what they’ve been up to, our arts editor spoke to Amelle Margaron and Sara Hashemi, the editors-in-chief of this year’s issue.

TC: Aside from pandemic-related changes, what is Yiara doing this year that is different from previous years?

Yiara: Lots and lots of collabs! We’ve really worked with so many different people from our creative community so far this year: artists, collectives, professors, curators, and other student organizations … Another major difference is that we’ve hired an official creative director, Stefania Bodea, who has been creating incredibly groovy graphics to promote our events and callouts, very fun and fresh.

TC: Do you still intend on producing a print issue, or will you be going the digital route?

Yiara: We’re still publishing a print issue! We’re still working out the details on how it’ll be distributed, but it’s such a big part of Yiara that we didn’t want to let that go this year.

TC: Considering the current socio-political climate, what are some adjustments and changes that Yiara is making or is planning on implementing for future years?

Yiara: Considering the evolving definition of feminism is at the center of Yiara’s mandate, it is an important part of our annual direction. As such, we make sure to feature writing and art from a diverse range of voices, in an effort to portray an accurate understanding of intersectional feminism.

TC: What are some upcoming events that readers should look forward to?

Yiara: Our virtual exhibition for Vol. 09 will launch on March 19, and we’re super excited about that! We’re also working with the art history department on a virtual exhibition that would be hosted on Artsteps throughout the summer, and will be posting a callout for that once we’ve wrapped up everything with the print issue.

TC: For anyone who might be interested in contributing or joining the team next year, when can they expect a callout?

Yiara: We usually post a callout at the beginning of the new school year, so folks coming back next year should keep an eye out for that!

Those interested in submitting written or visual work to be published on Yiara’s digital platform can submit to Yiara online via Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis.

For more information about Yiara Magazine’s upcoming events and annual print issue, or to know more about them, follow them on Facebook and Instagram.



Feature image: Yiara Vol. 8 cover. Courtesy of Yiara Magazine


How a young Montrealer is fighting toxic masculinity and sexism at school

Colin Renaud wore a skirt to school to protest against “sexist dress code”

Don’t be surprised if you saw high school boys in skirts Tuesday. It was part of a student movement led by Colin Renaud, after his own experience of wearing a skirt to school went viral on Instagram last week.

Renaud, a 15-year-old Villa Maria High School student, wore a skirt to school last week as a protest against their sexist dress code and the hyper-sexualization of women.

“I got a lot of negative comments, just not to my face,” Renaud, who recently started grade 10 and is a member of the student council, told The Concordian. “One of my first projects with the student committee was to make our school uniform unisex,” said Renaud.

His first project was a successful one, as Villa Maria implemented the unisex dress code a couple of years ago, allowing every student to wear whichever pieces of the student uniform they prefer. At least, that is what Renaud thought when he decided to put the new rule to the test by showing up to his class in a skirt.

“I thought that it would be easy, that my school had already approved a rule implying a unisex dress code, but it was the opposite.”

As Renaud walked to his class, he was followed by a school staff member and, during his second period, was summoned to the school secretary’s office, escorted by two faculty members.

What followed still shocks Renaud today.

“They said a lot of degrading comments about me,” said Renaud. What the school administration reprimanded Renaud for doing included wearing a skirt, wearing nail polish and not being a good model for younger students.

Renaud finds it disappointing that his school, which promotes itself as very inclusive, would have such a bad reaction to his choice of attire.

“Diversity is one of their fundamental values,” said Renaud.

He is happy to say, however, that the following day, he had another discussion with the administration, and that they seemed open and ready to hear what the students had to say.

Renaud said the fight is not over as the students’ association has been trying for three years to abolish another dress code rule: mandatory knee-high socks that girls have to wear in combination with their skirt.

“When I wore the skirt, I did not get reprimanded for not wearing knee-high socks but all the girls around me did,” explained Renaud. According to him and his classmates, this account of events shows the sexist nature of this rule.

Renaud is hopeful, however, that his actions will have the impact necessary to make a difference as he compares his situation to other students who imitated him at different institutions.

“There are certain schools that did worse, they sent the boys back home, telling them they can either wear pants or stay home,” said Renaud.

Seeing the movement move across the province in different schools makes him proud, but also uncomfortable.

“At the beginning I was happy … but I felt that it wasn’t my place to be the face of this movement,” said Renaud.

“I like getting feedback, whether it be positive or negative,” said Renaud as he recalled getting a lot of messages from disappointed women. “They believe it is sad that a movement like this one started getting media attention when boys were involved, which I totally understand,” said Renaud.

He prefers to see himself as an ally to the feminist movement, saying, “That’s something I want to change because I don’t want to be at the center of it all, I want to educate people so that we can live in a just place but I don’t want to steal the attention and have the spotlight on me.”

Renaud did just that when he created the movement Le Cercle Mauve, which has the objective to fight against the hypersexualization of women, toxic masculinity and sexism in school dress codes. He is hoping the movement will be a catalyst in changing how students of all genders feel about their school uniform.

“I am still waiting for excuses from the administration,” said Renaud, although he feels the administration owes an apology to all students.

“I’m not attached to that skirt, it is not a skirt I want to wear every day, but if a boy would want to wear it every day, he should not have to go through the experience I went through in order to feel more comfortable at school.”


Léonie Gray wants to start a conversation

A look at the singer-songwriter’s growing career as a mental health activist and feminist

On Jan. 31, Montreal singer-songwriter Léonie Gray took the stage at L’Escalier. Its stage is one she knows well, having played there monthly for the past three years.

Through her empowering presence, Gray made it clear that she is a natural performer and a seasoned vocalist. She managed to capture the audience’s attention with her impressive jazz runs and soulful belts as she created a space for them to have fun. Gray told a story with the emotions she portrayed through her music and, with an intimate venue, managed to connect with her audience.

With music founded on themes like mental health, feminism and self-growth, Gray opens a door for conversation.

“I love when people come and see me after a show and instead of being like ‘I like your music,’ they’re going to talk about themselves, like the songs they relate to and the things that happened to them, and now it’s a whole conversation between two people, not just someone going to go see an artist to say it was good,” said Gray.

With a hard-hitting EP on its way, Gray doesn’t beat around the bush. “I’m addressing the topics and that’s it,” she said. “There are no love songs. It’s really about mental health, feminism. That’s pretty much it.”

Gray performed some songs from her upcoming EP and said it is the project she is most proud of. Gray continuously puts work into her music and has been seeing significant growth in her career. One of her biggest accomplishments is her three performances at this past summer’s Montreal Jazz Festival. She described the experience as amazing, and it was only the beginning of her busy festival season.

Having recently signed with a new management team, taking on a new process with her latest EP, and pushing through challenges that arose this past year, it seems as though nothing is stopping Gray.

Sensitive, her latest EP, is different than anything she has done before. The completely self-made project was one that took time. The process started with no direction in mind. There was no theme and no goal, but Gray sat at her piano, wrote the first song, “Needed,” and it guided her through the rest of it.

“For me, it wasn’t a project I wanted to do something with after the release, it was more like ‘this is who I am, this is a part of me, have a listen and I’ll see you for the next one,’” said Gray.

Gray authentically communicates her experiences and relationships through her art and creates a human connection to which her audience can relate. She hopes her listeners will feel her music the way she does with other artists.

I want people to relate,” she said. “I’ve been listening to the same two albums for the last fifteen years, and I still feel the same way every single time. I really hope some people are going to discover my music and still feel the same way in fifteen years listening to those songs.”

Gray keeps true to her feminist beliefs and advocacy for mental health as she persistently continues to grow with her career. “I just want everyone to know my name,” she said.

With music that stays true to her authentic self and a hard-hitting EP coming soon, Léonie Gray is a name to know.

Photo by Anne Sophie Coiteux


Just a sci-fi girl in an apathetic world

How attending Comiccon helped me find community

Anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time with me knows I’m a horror junkie. Even as a kid, I grasped onto any opportunity to feast my eyes on something that would permanently maim me. When I was just barely 10-years-old, I cherished sleepovers at my grandparents’ house because my grandmother would take me to the video store and let me pick out any DVD I wanted.

At home, I was never allowed to watch anything rated PG-13 or higher. I was sequestered while adults watched movies that all my friends had seen, like Titanic or Grease, until I hit double digits. My parents deemed Kate Winslet’s nipples and hickeys from Kenickie as content far too inappropriate for my prepubescent eyes.

My mom’s parents were never the sheltering type, though. Nor were they fond of enforcing strict bedtimes. The first horror movie I remember watching was in their basement, shortly after midnight, both of them fast asleep on the couch beside me. It was Child’s Play—often colloquially referred to as Chucky. The film is a 1988 Tom Holland slasher (the first of seven in the series) about a possessed doll who terrorizes a little boy and his mother. To an adult, it’s a fun, vulgar, slightly cheesy hour and a half. As a child, it was virtually my worst nightmare—and I couldn’t get enough.

Luckily, it wasn’t hard to find others that shared my dark taste in cinema, especially as I got older. From supernatural scares at seventh grade slumber parties, to ninth grade torture porn marathons, to Marble Hornets binges during senior year, I found that most of my friends shared this interest of mine (or at least tolerated it). I’m guilty of making a good handful of boys sit through the classics with me. My first relationship started in my family’s dingy basement, kissing on an old couch while the credits rolled on Friday the 13th. Our hearts pounded in our ears as a result of teen hormones, but mostly because of that insane shot where Jason Voorhees’ decomposing body shoots out of the water and totally wrecks Adrienne King.

The thing with horror is that, while it’s not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, it’s become relatively accepted. It’s not hard to find people to bond over it with. Yes, an obsession with it might be off-kilter, but it still makes for good conversation, pizza night entertainment, and background noise for makeout sessions. Throughout my 20-something years, I never really considered my interest in horror to be “nerdy”. It was so vast and varied as a genre that I wasn’t forced to identify with a particular group. There was something in it for almost everyone. Before last summer, I hadn’t truly known what it was like to be into something that few people understood.

About a year ago, I discovered The X-Files—a sci-fi television show about two FBI agents who investigate cases that deal with the supernatural. I had always been generally aware of The X-Files. I knew it existed. Most people I knew had either tuned in occasionally when it originally aired in the 90s, or had seen an episode or two on Netflix and given up. One night, I came across it in my “Top Picks” and decided to give it a chance. It was one of those rare occasions where, from episode one, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. Everything about it screamed “me”. I promptly reached out to anyone and everyone I knew and was shocked to find that literally no one in my personal life thought anything of it. Not only did the show not stand out to them as special, but some people even admitted outright that they hated it.

Aside from a few other fans I found in real life who I texted during major plot twists, watching The X-Files was a completely solitary experience for me. I watched each of the 11 seasons and two films all by myself. Because of this, my experience of the show was very private in nature. It felt like my dirty little secret—an escape of sorts. I spent hours laughing, crying, and gasping in front of my television screen during popcorn-fueled binge sessions after the rest of my family went to bed. I became deeply attached to the characters. Unlike horror movies, it was the first time I had an obsession that I couldn’t share. It truly felt like the show had been created for me, and the fact that I had no one to experience it with was both entirely uplifting and mildly heartbreaking.

Up until this point, I had little-to-no experience with nerd culture. I’d never picked up a comic book, I didn’t really like anime, I’d seen only a handful of superhero movies, and I thought “gaming” was something that 30-year-old white guys with neckbeards did in their moms’ basements while double fisting Mountain Dew and Doritos. Plus, I had always associated nerd culture with sexism. In my mind, “nerdy” spaces were cesspools of male cliques firing off condescending remarks and participating in sexual harassment. I wanted no part of it.

Nearly every time I clicked into an online forum discussing The X-Files, my preconceived notions of these spaces were instantly validated. I simply didn’t feel welcome. This was jarring, especially considering the feminist tones of the show. I was annoyed and I concluded it was an interest I’d just keep to myself. But, it was lonely. I wanted so badly to be a part of a community I could share it with.

When I was first offered the opportunity to attend Montreal Comiccon as a member of the media this year, I was skeptical. I wanted to go to see if I could find fellow “X-Philes,” but I knew I’d have to write up something about the convention, and I didn’t want to have to write a scathing review about a toxic environment. Boy, were my preconceived notions ever wrong.

Montreal Comiccon completely shifted my perspective on what it means to be a nerd. It channeled what the true spirit of what being a “nerd” really is. I mean, where else on earth can you walk into a room full of strangers by yourself and instantly feel completely welcome and at ease? Where else can someone who is in love with an odd, campy, 90s television show about aliens find a thousand other people who feel the same way?

Walking into a room full of hundreds of “X-Philes,” I felt the most included and myself I had in a long time. It also made me realize that nerds weren’t all straight, white men in cargo shorts tweeting about #GamerGate and quoting The Big Bang Theory. Nerds were 10-year-old girls, drag queens, disabled people, gay couples, women of colour… I suddenly realized that this thing—this series that I had turned into such a private indulgence—was far bigger than just my secret obsession. These characters that I had developed one-sided relationships with weren’t just mine, they were ours. They helped us all relate to one another.

Comiccon takes a person’s private experience with art and makes it social. The main reason people attend is to meet other people and find those who love the same stuff they do. Making friends only gets harder as you age, so finding somewhere you can be yourself, express gratitude to the artists behind your favourite work, and meet people from different walks of life with shared interests is something pretty special.

There will always be cliques, fandoms, and rivalries. We will always be into different kinds of art. We’ll always experience that art differently from one another. Comiccon showcases that perfectly, but also reminds us that, at the end of the day, we’re all just huge freakin’ nerds. Together.

Graphic by Wednesday Laplante

Student Life

Attending my first feminist comedy event

Belly laughs and feminism came together at Concordia’s cozy and intimate Café X on Friday, March 31 for a night of feminist stand-up comedy.

The space was beautiful, with twinkly blue lights, potted plants and comfortable couches—as an artistic person, I felt at home, surrounded by other creative and beautiful women.

I sat down with Emily Karcz before the event to talk about her experience organizing the night of comedy. She said one of the challenges in setting up such an event is social media promotion—making sure people hear about it, and that they actually show up.

Café X is entirely student-run and open to collaboration with other people, organizations and groups for special events or exhibitions. It offers an alternative space for emerging artists.

The night started with a casual ice-breaker game where volunteers were invited up to the microphones to “verbally vomit” out any words that popped into their minds. This game made for some deep stories about hair colour, heavy drugs and annoying cats. I volunteered to participate and had a lot of difficulty forming a story with random words. This made me realize how difficult it is to build a chronological plotline on the spot. I could see how this game would help creative individuals build on their vocabulary.

Two hilarious women performed interesting comedic monologues. Menstruation, awkward first dates, ways of saving money on tampons… no topic was off-limits.

“I think feminist comedy is still something that people have to understand. Everyone who will present tonight will probably have a different view on feminism,” said Karcz. “There’s a healthy way to cope with things that are going on. Women are hilarious—I have great conversations with my girlfriends. People in oppressed positions often experience a lot and they rip on that,” she added.

“Yeah, that was my first time doing comedy. I felt great, definitely a very welcoming atmosphere,” said Emily Estelle Belanger, one of the stand-up comedians.

“Everyone is super supportive, no hecklers for sure. I spent the last week making all my friends listen to it. My speech is typed up in a draft email to myself. I would love to do more of these things in the future if the opportunities were there,” said Belanger.

Comedy helps women laugh about their stressful experiences and transform hardships into something positive and bright. I am incredibly happy I went to this event because it made me feel empowered as a woman and ready to take on the world without fear. I appreciate my female friends even more now and feel so thankful for their constant love and support.

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