Beyond Wages: Quebec’s Wealth Divide

INRS research chair Maude Pugliese’s study uncovers the hidden dimensions of wealth distribution between men and women in Quebec.

In a study published in December of last year, the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) unveiled findings that highlight stark wealth disparities between men and women in Quebec. The study, spearheaded by professor Maude Pugliese, chair researcher of the newly established Canada Research Chair in Family Financial Experiences and Wealth Inequality, marks a significant leap in understanding wealth inequality in the region.  

Until recently, the dialogue surrounding economic disparities in Quebec and the broader Canadian context has primarily focused on income and pay inequalities. However, Pugliese’s research has shifted the spotlight to wealth distribution, a critical yet underexplored facet of financial well-being.

“Wealth is an even more important resource for well-being than income because it can act as a safety net in times of hardship and is crucial to well-being in retirement,” Pugliese said, underscoring the necessity of addressing wealth disparities to grasp the full spectrum of economic inequality.  

The study’s findings, derived from a comprehensive survey conducted in 2022 involving 4,800 respondents, reveal that men in Quebec possess almost 30 per cent more average net wealth than women. This gap widens alarmingly among partnered individuals, with men in common-law relationships holding wealth at a staggering 80 per cent greater than that of their female counterparts.   

Single women, on the other hand, have positive net wealth across all percentiles. These disparities, according to Pugliese, surpass the pay gaps currently observed between men and women in the province, indicating a deeper, structural issue within the financial fabric of society.  

“These gender gaps are far larger than the pay gaps we are currently seeing between men and women in Quebec,” Pugliese noted. The research points out that even after accounting for income differences, a significant portion of the wealth gap remains unexplained, prompting a call for more nuanced investigations into factors such as inheritance, access to financial services, and advice.  

The groundbreaking nature of Pugliese’s study lies not only in its findings, but also in its methodology. For the first time, wealth in Canada was measured at the individual level rather than the household, unveiling the hidden inequalities within couples that previous data collection methods have masked. This novel approach laid the groundwork for more detailed and accurate data collection on private and family wealth, which Pugliese and her team argue is essential for understanding and addressing gender-based economic disparities.  

As the INRS continues to lead in research intensity across Quebec and Canada, this study not only contributes to the academic institution’s legacy, but also the broader societal understanding of economic inequalities. It challenges policymakers, financial institutions, and society at large to reconsider how wealth is accumulated, distributed, and measured, to foster a more equitable economic landscape. 

Lily Alexandre believes in better online communities

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youtuber Lily Alexandre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photographs by Catherine Reynolds


Changing the way we talk about women in business

The business world can be a scary place. I wouldn’t know much about it, because I have rarely stepped foot into JMSB (unless I really had to pee).

The shiny interior and clean glass windows intimidate me. How can you keep the windows so clean, like dude, it’s downtown Montreal.

I have always been an “Arts kid.” Math, finance and economics are intimidating words that I don’t really understand. Although my dad has explained the stock market about 600 times to me, I still don’t get it. Anyways, what I lack in knowledge of numbers, I hope I have gained in communication and critical thinking. These tools have helped me understand the social world and contextualize my experiences.

The other day, I was having a conversation with a friend in JMSB. She expressed her concerns about how the school approaches gender differences in business. Quite like myself, she has a background in psychology, meaning gender differences and bias were no foreign concept. In psychology, we learn about the social construction of gender as well as biological differences. She explained that in business, her teachers often address gender differences with slides that proclaim “women are less direct and men dominate the conversation” without further explanation. This lack of context, explanation and acknowledgement of the trend as a stereotype is not only dangerous, it is enabling the behaviour. With my friend’s arts background, she can contextualize these factors and understands not to take them at face value. As she sits in the class, she wonders how many people around her understand not only that the gender differences exist, but why.

I have spent a lot of my degree attempting to understand the “why.” This is something that I often take for granted; I didn’t know any of this stuff before. For a lot of these business students, they won’t understand the “why” until they are taught. I have learned about toxic masculinity, social constructions of gender and what these concepts do to our behaviour. We cannot keep blaming the business world for not understanding why these gender discrepancies exist if the curriculum consistently lacks the tools to help.

No one is saying that men and women are not different. The gender differences that show up in the business world are real—but they are real because they are perpetuated by society, and not because they are inherently real. That is the issue with how these topics are being presented.

Let’s go over the stereotypes that usually follow women in business. According to The Harvard Business Review, “One set of assumed differences is marshalled to explain women’s failure to achieve parity with men: women negotiate poorly, lack confidence, are too risk-averse, or don’t put in the requisite hours at work because they value family more than their careers.” With these stereotypes usually follows, “women are more caring, cooperative, or mission-driven—are used as a rationale for companies to invest in women’s success.”

All this to say, these characteristics, when presented as rigid facts, help solidify the gender discrepancies in business. As a woman in business, learning about how you differ from men, without breaking down exactly why this happens, can be quite damaging. This is not something to be taken at face value. There is a social responsibility for unpacking gender differences.

I am in no way saying that it is more beneficial to get an arts degree. Heck—I probably won’t find a job once I graduate (let’s not go there), but what I am saying is that there are aspects of an arts degree that should be universally taught. Kind of like how I should know more about finance—and learn how to do my taxes. 


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Àbadakone: Global Indigenous artists at the National Gallery of Canada

Concordia students attend the annual art history bus trip to Ottawa 

On Nov. 9, Concordia students who attended the art history bus trip to Ottawa had the opportunity to visit the new exhibition Àbadakone / Continuous Fire / Feu continuel, currently on at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC).

In an enclosed room off to the side of the main gallery space at the NGC, visitors observe a video of an Indigenous woman washing a white woman in a metal bathtub. Both are silent; all that is heard is the loud sound of dripping water as the Indigenous woman gently washes the white woman’s face, hands, arms, legs and feet with a white cloth. The process is slow and methodical, each movement is careful and tender. It is not until the Indigenous woman begins to cry that visitors are removed from their comfortable state of observation and subsequently inserted into a place of pain and profound suffering.

Touch Me (2013), a video produced by Métis, Cree, Tsimshian and Gitksan artist Skeena Reece speaks of Indigenous trauma and centers on the connecting processes of healing between settlers and Indigenous women. This soothing act with water serves in releasing painful memories and ensues a silent restorative experience shared between the two women.

Reece is one of more than 70 contemporary global Indigenous artists taking part in the exhibition Àbadakone / Continuous Fire / Feu continuel  presently on at the NGC. Àbadakone, Algonquin for “continuous fire,” is the second exhibition to be held at the NGC that features Indigenous artists from around the world; the first being Sakahàn, Algonquin for “to light a fire,” which was held in 2013.

The works cover all mediums, including photography, beadwork, drawing, painting, digital installations and sculpture, and span across almost a dozen rooms. Àbadakone presents the works of Indigenous contemporary artists from countries such as Canada, the United States, Guatemala, South Africa, Finland, and Japan. Some of the artists featured in the exhibition are Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou, Sarah Sense, Barry Ace, Rebecca Belmore, Marja Helander and Dylan Miner.

Àbadakone’s curators have framed the exhibition in accordance with the themes of relatedness, continuity and activation. Wall text in the gallery reads: 

“Relatedness is the view that all things on the earth are our relations. This idea is fundamental to Indigenous worldviews. Relatedness – from the intimate to the global – reminds us of the responsibility inherent in art making to all living things as manifested in what is conventionally understood as the ‘art object.’”

“Continuity is relatedness across generations, histories and our futures. It helps us see that art is not static in time, but is in a constant cycle of change and renewal.”

“Activation is about presence: how an artist animates a space, an object or an idea through performance, video or viewer engagement.”

Other themes the exhibition explores include decolonization, Indigenous sovereignty, land-based knowledge, food insecurity, gender and identity, legacies of trauma and colonization, and practices of healing.

Many of the exhibition’s artists employ methods of ‘re-historicization’ and ‘re-narration’ to subvert and disrupt colonial histories and discourses. One such artist, Will Wilson, aims to dismantle the racist undertones embedded within colonial and ethnographic photography. His ongoing portrait series CIPX (Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange), that imitate the portraits of colonial photographer Edward S. Curtis, sees a disturbance of the colonial ethnographic gaze and consequently functions in reclaiming Indigenous agency and sovereignty.

During the upcoming months, Àbadakone will feature performance artists such as Peter Morin, as well as host workshops, film screenings, talks and other events.

The annual Ottawa art history bus trip is put on by Concordia’s Ethnocultural Art Histories Group, Concordia’s Undergraduate Journal of Art History, the Art History Graduate Student Association and the Department of Art History. In addition to visiting the National Gallery of Canada, other visits included the Ottawa Art Gallery and Carleton University Art Gallery.

The exhibition is on display at the National Gallery of Canada, at 380 Sussex Dr. in Ottawa, until April 5, 2020. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays. 


Photos by Kari Valmestad.


Liking sports for the sake of the game

How sexism prevents women from being part of the conversation in sports and sports coverage

Watching sports is not a quirky personality trait, it’s not a way for women to differentiate themselves from other women, and it’s definitely not unusual that women enjoy it.

I know several men who think the opposite; that women force themselves to learn everything they can about sports—from the rules of the game to the good and the bad teams—for the sake of standing out. Or they think that women just say they like a sport because the players are attractive. Either way, it’s common for people to not take women seriously when they try to talk about sports.

In a group of avid basketball fans with support for two opposing teams, different opinions are sure to be brought up. Maybe this player’s stats haven’t been looking too good the last few games, or maybe this team’s coach has been making bad calls lately. Whatever it is, “sports talk” is bound to happen.

As a Toronto Raptors fan, I’d love to be part of the discussion. But my opinions are quickly dismissed, I’m repeatedly interrupted until my voice is drained out, and facts just aren’t believable when I bring them up. It’s not because I don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s because I’m a woman.

Most sports are controlled by males, from the administration to the professional players to the journalists. In the media, only 4 per cent of sports media coverage is based on women’s sports, and 12 per cent of sports news is given by women. As viewers, we’re used to watching men guide the conversation, participate in the debates and bring up the numbers. We don’t think it’s any different when the men in our lives do the same.

When it’s time for playoffs, the English Football League (EFL), National Hockey League (NHL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and National Football League (NFL) dominate not only sports news, but regular news as well. When a reigning team wins a trophy, it’s everywhere.

In the International Ice Hockey Federation Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship (IIHF), Team Canada and Team USA have played in the finals for all 18 tournaments and are the top two in standings. It’s a proud achievement for both countries, yet it’s still disregarded because it’s a team of women.

In Canada, hockey is a major sport. The Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) has been the main front for female hockey players, but the league will be terminated as of May 1 due to financial reasons. Imagine the reaction if the Montreal Canadiens held the same title as Team Canada in the NHL, or if the team’s operations were to be discontinued.

By being a woman who likes sports, I’m out of the norm. If I want to watch a basketball game with other fans, it’ll probably be with a bunch of guys who will suggest going to a nearby bar. I’m already shunned by sober basketball fans, why would I want to fight harder with the drunk ones? Why should I have to prove my worth by passive aggressively forcing myself into the conversation and talking about how many games I’ve watched and how long I’ve been a fan?

Gender inequality within sports is bigger than the lack of coverage of women’s sports—it boils down to overlooked fans because they’re women. The facts are there, but we shouldn’t have to constantly assert ourselves into the conversation, whether it’s to talk about sports or the imbalance of women in sports media.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee


How bullying is a gendered issue

The Gillette ad that broke the internet is what women have been taught their whole lives

It was the advertisement that spurred a million Twitter threads. In early January, between public outrage over the stupid things that disgraced YouTuber Jake Paul said and the disrespectful behaviour of students at Covington Catholic School, people on social media got very riled up about a two-minute Gillette commercial that suggested men can be better. From bemoaning the use of “boys will be boys” as a blanket excuse, to invoking the #MeToo movement, the ad argued that men will only be the best they can be when they hold each other accountable and, you know, show basic decency to women and each other.

Of course, this caused men on the internet to go absolutely bananas. The ad was called leftist propaganda by some, and opportunistic corporate virtue-signalling by others. I have no desire to debate either of these stances—it should be painfully obvious that toxic masculinity is very much a real and prevalent issue, and that corporations will never stand for progress if they truly believe it will hurt their profit margins. But one idea that gained particular traction from the more misogynistic corners of social media is interesting: the Gillette ad could not exist if the gender roles were reversed. If a brand urged women to correct their behaviour, we would not celebrate it or even tolerate it. This opinion has been posed (almost solely by men) on subreddits and angry blog posts, with even right-wing favourites like Piers Morgan agreeing that a gender reversal would lead to “all hell[…] break[ing] loose.”

The only problem with Morgan’s opinion is that it’s completely untrue. On the contrary, from a very young age, women and girls are explicitly taught to address the issues of bullying, respect, and self-esteem from a gendered lens.

From Disney Channel special episodes to sleepover go-to movies such as Mean Girls, Clueless, and Legally Blonde, plenty of media targeted towards young women includes the not-so-subtle message that women should be lifting other women up, not tearing each other down. Advertising for everything from skincare products to tampons focus on the need for girls to love their bodies and believe in themselves. As positive and important as this message is, these discussions of body image and empowerment rarely focus on any social—dare I say patriarchal—factors that contribute to these issues in the first place, instead treating insecurity as a behavioural shortcoming that women can overcome with the right encouragement.

That’s not even beginning to touch all the brands that don’t even bother trying to capitalize on self-love, and instead encourage women to just change everything about themselves. If men are truly upset about being discouraged from schoolyard fights and workplace sexual harassment, they should spend a day being told that their weight, hair, skin, teeth, face, fashion sense, and personality (in no particular order) need a makeover. Although the intentions of chick flicks and airbrushed advertisements are very different, one thing is clear: women and girls spend their whole lives being told how they can and should be better.

It’s even being incorporated into public school curriculum. When I was in middle school, the girls in my class and I spent one recess per week in “Go Girls,” a program run by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada. Highlights included naming things we liked about ourselves and making a pact that we would never let one of our fellow girls sit alone at lunch. Although this program runs nationally, it has a lot of competition with non-profits like Girls Inc., Girl Guides of Canada, and Young Women on the Move offering similar services.

The names may vary, but most of my female peers remember participating in similar programs in public school, and being taught specifically about women-centered issues, like catfighting and body image as part of their health curriculum. Very few of my male friends, however, can remember anything comparable. They never had to invest free time each week to participate in all-boys programs or make a pact to not get into physical altercations with their friends—some cannot even remember learning about consent in school.

I frequently hear people speak about how, while men tend to fight physically, women fight with words. I can’t speak to how accurate this is universally, although in my own experiences, it would seem to be true. So why are we teaching girls that female catfights are an unhealthy way to handle conflict, but not teaching our boys the same for roughhousing? Gender indisputably affects where we stand in this world, and girls have been taught that their entire lives. The tragedy is that men have not, leaving them woefully unprepared to reflect and grow in the age of #MeToo.

Ultimately, the problem here is not that Gillette took a gendered approach when exploring violence and bullying. The problem is that it’s easy for men to see this ad as an attack on their entire gender because, in the past, they’ve never had to see bullying for what it is: a gendered issue.

The solution might not be any more Gillette ads. After all, it would be hard to argue that a major corporation like Procter and Gamble saw their own ad as anything more than a smart marketing move. But we are definitely one step closer to finding a solution when we stop being afraid to discuss how our gender affects the ways in which we need to grow and improve. After all, women and girls have already been doing it for years.

Graphic by @spooky_soda



The feminism we are exposed to

One student’s experience with being told “no,” and how that led to an epiphany

A few weeks ago, I was at my aunt’s house with my parents, my cousins, my great-aunts and uncles for Saturday supper. It’s a tradition that after our family’s Sunday supper together, the men go to a local Italian bar to have coffee. Every time, not one of the women is asked to go, simply because it’s not customary.

Recently, I’ve been super busy and, although I had brought my laptop to supper to work on assignments, I decided I wanted to take a break and get a coffee. I was looking forward to a freshly brewed espresso and some down time with my cousins away from my laptop. That is, until I was met with a sentence I’ve never been told in my life: “No, because women aren’t allowed to come.”

I immediately got defensive. I told my great-uncle I just really wanted to get a coffee; it’s not like I was intruding on anything. To no one’s surprise, I guess, arguing with an old Italian man and getting around being told “no” was futile. I got upset and emotional, struggling to hold back tears.

You may think I was being dramatic and that my reaction, while not unwarranted, was not necessary. But this experience made me realize a plethora of things I hadn’t really put too much thought into before.

My entire life, my parents—my mother, in particular—have raised me to be able to do anything and everything. As a small child, I knew how to use a hammer and a screwdriver; I could paint a wall, install pavé-uni (yes, even that), do basic plumbing, change a lightbulb, and maintain the pool. In our house, being a girl was never a factor for discrimination. I knew how to do all of these chores because they were the tasks that needed to get done.

My mom passed that mentality on from her childhood when she and her three sisters were taught how to do everything and pull their weight too. That was passed down from my grandparents. My nonna knew how to paint and fix things around the house, and my nonno would cook, do groceries and even the laundry, which was super uncommon at that time. Likewise, my 70-year-old aunt is and has always been the one who does the gardening, mows the lawn, all while being the one who cooks and cleans up after 15 people at family gatherings.

She and my great-uncle are of the same baby-boomer generation. Since the incident, I struggled to understand how two people of about the same age, especially from that generation, could have such different values. Then I realized that even within my own generation, which is supposedly “woke” and informed about social constructs, there is disparity. I have come to the conclusion that it all comes down to what you were and continue to be exposed to.

Luckily for me, I come from a few generations of feminists (I use the term lightly here, although it’s applicable nonetheless) even if they didn’t know it. My nonno raised four strong daughters; my mom went on to teach me the same values and, along with my dad, instilled in me that I don’t need a man and I should never take “no” for an answer.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


Student Life

Changing the media landscape one word at a time

A portrait of Concordia’s communications professor, activist and author, Yasmin Jiwani. “[As an activist] you have to use whatever tools are available to you, and whatever access you have.” Feature photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Yasmin Jiwani is an activist, professor and author who advocates for women and marginalized communities

For over 15 years, Yasmin Jiwani has taught some of the most interesting classes the communications department has to offer; Media and Gender, Communication Colonialism, and Alternative Media, to name a few, bringing her colourful past as an academic and activist to the classroom. In fact, “activist” is a title she proudly holds, alongside a running list of distinctions she has accumulated throughout her career. But you won’t find Jiwani breaking windows or storming police lines, instead she prefers to harness the power of words to make an impact.

Jiwani said her research and advocacy on the subjects of intersectionality, media, and social oppression were motivated by her own experiences as an immigrant from Uganda, a woman and a person of colour growing up during a period of heightened racial tension in Canada. “I first went to a high school in Ontario where me and my sisters were the only girls of colour, and the racism was palpable,” she said. “We wouldn’t be included in anything, we wouldn’t be talked to.”

It was only after a cross-country move to Vancouver that Jiwani found the sense of community she lacked. “I ended up in a school that was 80 per cent immigrant kids, 60 per cent of those were the refugee kids that I had grown up with back home [in Uganda],” she said. “My school actually saved me, because there was all these kids that were people of colour, or marginalized, and who were also trying to find their way and so that became a kind of bedrock for me to build my sense of self on.”

She then began to channel her own experiences into a deliberate effort for social change. Jiwani got involved with a group called the Committee for Racial Justice, where she examined the way the media naturalized the racialized, gender-based violence she saw unfolding around her. “This became my way of countering the kind of racism I was experiencing. It became my sanity in an insane world.”

This initial act of personal empowerment was the catalyst to a career spanning over three decades. “Activism is the most powerful source of immunity against having a self that is constantly being eroded,” said Jiwani. In the years that followed, Jiwani earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of British Columbia, a master’s degree in sociology and PhD in communications at Simon Fraser University. A writer by trade and an activist at heart, Jiwani uses her personal skills and resources to address the gender and race disparities in the media, especially within the medium and industry of film.

Jiwani’s early media criticism took shape during her time working at the In Visible Colours Film Festival, a Vancouver-based initiative championing women of colour in film. “Seeing the kinds of stories that women who were marginalized were telling, those things gave me a lot of hope,” she said. At the 1991 Women in View festival, a non-profit organization supporting female filmmakers, Jiwani delivered one of her first lectures about the stereotyping of artists of colour in the media industry. “That’s how I got involved in that whole area,” Jiwani recalled. “Then commenting on films as well, and writing about them.”

From there, she held a position at the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada working for their Women’s Program alongside the renowned Studio D, the now defunct all-women filmmaking unit. “There were so many exciting things happening at that time,” Jiwani recalled. “Part of the women’s program was taking the films that were produced [at NFB] to all the rural nooks and crannies of British Columbia. So it was going into these places and organizing public screenings at the community centre or the public library, bringing filmmakers in, doing the media work around that.”

This kind of community outreach bridged the gap between her academic work and the communities she was writing about. She continued with her research at the Feminist Research Education Development and Action (FREDA) Centre. “My work in that place was to bring those communities in, and to work with them [while] doing participatory action research on how gendered violence takes a particular form in racialized communities,” she explained. “The dominant society confines this kind of experience and culturalizes it, instead of looking at its gendered dimensions.” After seven years at FREDA, where she eventually became executive director, Jiwani made her way back east in 2001 to share her expertise in media and intersectionality as a professor in the communications department at Concordia.

In 2006, Jiwani published her first book, Discourses of Denial: Mediations of Race, Gender, and Violence. “That project was actually the culmination of all the other things I had been writing,” she said. “It’s dealing with the denial of racism, and gendered violence. So each chapter looks at how this racist, gendered violence is evacuated, erased, dismissed, trivialized, [covered by the media], in each instance leading people to think they’re crazy when in fact they’re not crazy.”

Though the book deals with recent case studies of racial discrimination in Canadian media, including the 1996 Vernon massacre, the murder of Reena Virk, and the representation of Muslim women in post-9/11 news coverage, she begins with a personal experience. “Me and a colleague were presenting our work on the Gazette’s representation of Muslim women post-9/11, and there was a white male academic in the audience who said, “What’s race got to do with it?” Jiwani recounts. “So the book starts like that.”

Today Jiwani is the Concordia Research Chair on Intersectionality, Violence, and Resistance, where she runs the Intersectionality Hub. Her most recent endeavour, the Virtual Graveyards and Cyber-Memorials Project, explores the online spaces dedicated to housing the digital remains of people who have passed away and how this information is preserved over time.

Jiwani has co-written two other books and authored dozens of published articles, lectures, book chapters and journal publications. Her work has evolved with the changing media landscape, continuing to challenge the perception and representation of race and gender in the media. But what remains constant throughout her career is a steadfast dedication to advocate for the women and marginalized communities who inspired her to start writing in the first place. “[As an activist] you have to use whatever tools are available to you, and whatever access you have,” Jiwani said. “I use writing.”


Sorry Jordan Peterson, the future is non-binary

The professor’s conceptions of gender highlight a refusal to acknowledge modernity

It’s an exciting time, folks. Progressive culture is alive and well, and it’s propelling us toward a more realistic and less discriminatory definition of gender every day. This definition is one that recognizes the ways Western society enforces arbitrary gender stereotypes through socialization. It also recognizes and seeks to end the unjust limitation of individual opportunity on the basis of gender identity. This is currently the dominant way gender is taught in post-secondary institutions in relevant fields. But there is a psychology professor at the University of Toronto who has taken to publicly lamenting the declining popularity of the traditional understanding of gender—and his name is Jordan Peterson.

His online lecture videos are often geared directly toward young men—a demographic that represents over 90 per cent of his following, according to Peterson himself. The reason for this is likely the content of his claims like: “Feminism that says Western culture is an evil and corrupt patriarchy [is to blame for] alienating young men.” Peterson’s videos operate on the logic that progressive conceptions of gender are wrongfully oppressing men. He fights to preserve the gender ideals that one might find in a TV commercial from 1950s America.

Peterson’s understanding of the world is so rooted in a binary understanding of gender that it makes sense he would be reluctant to question it. Almost every one of his videos are laced with big, generalizing claims about the inherent personality differences between men and women, and he states in a lecture that he has been studying the topic for over 25 years. If Peterson acknowledges the large role socialization plays in gender identity, as well as the legitimacy of non-binary genders, he risks invalidating 25 years of his own research.

He argues society doesn’t value traditional masculinity as much as it did in the past (and he’s right). He may also be right in proposing that this shift has caused his young male supporters’ troubles. But he is wrong in suggesting that progressive attitudes towards gender—rather than toxic men—need to change.

Peterson refuses to recognize the existence of rape culture or the whole idea of toxic masculinity as a culture-wide problem. He said in a recent video: “You don’t want to confuse the actions of some of the men with all of the men” in response to the #MeToo movement. However, what Peterson doesn’t realize is that this is the exact type of logic that enforces the very alienation of young men he is concerned about. If they dig their heels in and refuse to adjust to society’s changing values, then they’re bound only for ostracization.

Some of the traits that we associate with “traditional” masculinity are courage, independence, assertiveness and leadership (I put traditional in quotations, because as sociologist Raewyn Connell points out, definitions of masculinity have varied dramatically in various cultures throughout the course of history). The thing is, there are a ton of women in my life who have all of these traits, and as progressive culture encourages a more fluid definition of gender, that number will only increase. Don’t get me wrong, there is a long way to go, but people are finding it increasingly easy to act according to their feelings rather than in accordance with societal constraints.

“Traditional” men are finding that their place in society is diminishing, and they are faced with the option of either confronting the toxic behaviour they’ve been instilled with since the beginning stages of their socialization, or becoming bitter about it. There is comfort in Peterson’s lectures for those who become bitter, as he reassures them that society is at fault for progressing away from traditional masculinity.

It’s hard work to acknowledge privilege and confront toxic masculine values, but the social move that questions those things is not going anywhere. You get to decide if you want to be part of the positive change or cling on to archaic understandings of gender. The future is non-binary.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth



The complicated ‘F’ word

The definitions of feminism and why it still needs to be applied in Canada today

I’m bringing up the “F” word again, and some of you may not like it. Some find it uncomfortable and are unable to situate where they stand on the matter. Some are passionate about it, while others are annoyed over how repetitive the topic is. However, seeing as we’re in the midst of Women’s History Month in Canada, I think it is fitting to once again open up the conversation about feminism.

Feminism is a difficult word to define. Google it and you get an endless amount of web pages trying to define it, outline the different types and argue whether or not we need to define it. After searching through more than 100 pages to find a worthy article, it seems Wikipedia provides the longest list of the different types of feminism, including mainstream feminism, intersectional feminism, ecofeminism and even Marxist feminism. It’s daunting to even try to define this complex term and it raises the question: can feminism really be defined?

Since I personally identify as a feminist, I believe feminism can be defined with a very simple explanation: feminism is the movement of equality for men and women—regardless of your ethnicity, religion, culture, age, profession, etc. I believe the need for feminism is due to society’s gender norms that continue to be applied today. Feminism is necessary because it breaks down these norms. However, this is my own interpretation and understanding. As mentioned before, there are several ways of interpreting feminism today, but it seems this multitude of ways leads some people to think there’s no way to simply define it.

Is it a movement that cannot be justified due to society’s indefinite perceptions, sexism and patriarchy? Throughout history, Canada has made great strides in applying laws to instill women’s rights, such as the 1883 Married Women’s Property Act that allowed women to have legal control over their earnings. Also, women’s right to vote was fully established nationally once Quebec jumped on the bandwagon in 1940. The Civil Rights Act later prohibited discrimination in the workplace. Equal pay was established in 1977, and abortion was made legal in 1969.
Back in 2015, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected, he made the bold move to form Canada’s first gender-balanced cabinet. Many applauded his act and saw it as something obvious that should have happened years ago. But little action has been done to improve the state of feminism in Canada since then, or at least that’s how some see it.

However, women are still not treated the same as men. One in four North American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to Sexual Assault Canada. And despite the equal pay law, women are still only making 72 cents to a man’s dollar, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Furthermore, women of colour, women with disabilities, older women and women of specific religions and minorities face even more extensive oppression.

I personally believe the relation between what is considered “feminine” versus “masculine” has disrupted the freedom of choice to living independently. Why are women still struggling to find their voices in corporate, technological or political settings? Why are they worried about getting a job and starting a family?

This traditional understanding of gender norms must be rehashed since it’s one of the prime reasons feminism is still being fought for today. The application of human rights and respect is not being understood as rights for a “human,” regardless of gender. They are being applied as a division of rights: men’s rights and women’s rights. In order to combine this division into one issue, both women and men have to be more vocal about changing the way we view gender.

Parents must begin educating their children about the fact that the polarization between genders is wrong, and that it places unfair expectations on people. Society, as a whole, has to realize we are all entitled to make personal decisions, receive quality education and be respected. Until this is universally applied, the need for feminism will still exist.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth 

Student Life

Raising trans awareness on campus

A workshop hosted by QPIRG dedicated to trans terminology and acceptance

A trans awareness workshop, organized as part of the Quebec Public Interest Group’s (QPIRG) “Disorientation Week,” took place on Sep. 20 for students and other individuals interested in gaining more knowledge on issues surrounding today’s transgender population.

Gabrielle Bouchard, peer support and trans advocacy coordinator for Concordia’s Centre for Gender Advocacy, hosted the workshop and introduced the participants to the vast world of transgender identity.

Transgender is a term used to describe a male or a female who identifies with a gender that does not correspond with the gender they were assigned at birth, she said.  Bouchard added that the prefix trans- means “from one thing to another.”  In the case of “transgender,” it would mean from one gender to another.  As for the difference between transgender and transsexual, Bouchard explained that transsexual is a term that was first invented by medical practitioners to identify trans-individuals who had undergone a sex reassignment surgery or other medical interventions, such as hormonal replacement therapy.  

Bouchard also touched on the misconceptions that exist for transgender individuals. According to Bouchard, today, many experts and medical professionals still believe that transgender people suffer from a mental illness and that “you need to be cured from it.” She provided the example of certain medical professionals at the Montreal General Hospital who still participate in “conversion therapy.” She explained that these professionals believe these “therapies” are the best solution to “cure” transgender individuals.  

Bouchard said she hopes the next step in the trans conversation would be to ban “conversion therapy” for trans patients. She highlighted the importance of education and understanding since there are still people who express transphobic beliefs.

Photo by Ana Hernandez

“The trans 101 workshop is hugely important because we do have trans students here at Concordia. [The Centre for Gender Advocacy] is a queer magnet for students who come to Concordia … they might have a better [chance of] acceptance for who they are than in other spaces. By giving this workshop, we are giving safer spaces for students who are part of marginalized communities,” said Bouchard.

Bouchard mentioned that not all individuals who come to the Centre for Gender Advocacy are students—many non-students who are also part of the trans community come to the centre to seek help.

Bouchard emphasized the importance of respecting a person’s chosen name and pronoun as part of their identity. “Don’t presume gender [and] don’t be a passive bystander when you see transphobic stuff around campus. Be the voice of these identities,” she said. Respecting someone’s identity is the foundation to accepting trans people. If someone prefers to be called by a different name or pronoun, Bouchard said it is important to support them. “That is the one thing that is always denied for trans people. Just respect that and you will do a world of difference.”

If you are a transgender or non-binary individual looking for support, feel free to contact the Centre for Gender Advocacy, located at 2110 MacKay street near Concordia’s downtown campus, or Queer Concordia, located at 2020 MacKay street.


Student Life

A room of their own – bachelors find make own space

Concordia Prof takes a look at design, sexuality, and politics in new publication

A new book by Concordia professor John Potvin is exploring the political links between sexuality, gender, and the spaces people carve out for themselves.

Bachelors of a Different Sort looks at six bachelors in Britain from the 1880s to the 1950s who created homes, or private spaces, different from the norm during a time when the white-bread wholesome mom-and-pop family units were all that existed.

“Things we often don’t think about is the policing of sexuality,” Potvin said, “it’s not just about bodies, but about space.”

The book explores how six bachelors, when faced with the policing of space, “carved out a space of their own,” Potvin said. “Literally, a room of their own.”

It then goes on to explore the complex relationship between how the six bachelors created their homes, how they lived in the spaces they made, and in some cases how they created a community that revolved around these spaces.

The bachelors Potvin refers to here are unmarried men. Not always gay or fitting on the spectrum of queerness, but deviants from the norm who lived a life different from the prescribed family norm of man, woman, and child.

One of the biggest issues bachelors are caught between is the double-bind of being “too” anything, said Potvin. They are accused of being too lavish or too miserly. Too sexual or too conservative.

“There is always too much of something that the bachelor was charged with doing,” said Potvin. “And so for me the seven deadly sins articulated that quite well.”

The seven deadly sins of the bachelor, according to Potvin, are queerness itself (as “bachelors are often conflated with non-ideal masculinity”), idolatry, askesis (or severe self-discipline), decadance, glamour, and artifice (otherwise known as trickery).

Potvin organises his book by looking at each sin, and the particular case study that embodies it.

The well-known Brit is introduced, explained and then explored for how and why he decorated his home.

The men in the book are not, save one, interior designers though. The book explores instead how they chose to decorate their homes and chose to function within these spaces, said Potvin.

Funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Potvin added that this book is important in the dialogue it creates.

“In the West there is a sense that life is good, and that all human rights have been obtained and safeguarded. But it’s always in these moments of supposed tolerance that one must be most vigilant,” he said.

Just look at Russia and Uganda, where anti-gay, or “hate laws,” just made legislation.

“It’s always easy to say ‘it’s always been this way,’ but it is not that simple,” Potvin said.

Design is not free of politics, and it’s not free of identity either, according to Potvin. “They’re inseparable, and that’s the bottom line,” he said.

“[I’m] using the book to look at interior design from the question of sexuality and gender, and see how they’re in these spaces, and in these objects,” said Potvin.

Bachelors of a Different Sort: Queer Aesthetics, Material Culture and the Modern Interior in Britain (Studies in Design) is available from Amazon for $91.99.

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