A performance on taboo, humanity, and self expression

Two Iranian protesters and their journey of performing across Montreal to spread awareness on issues regarding women, peace, and eliminating stigma

International Women’s Day on March 8 was extremely important this year. Many women around the world could not help but think of Iran and the thousands of women fighting for their freedom following the death of Mahsa Amini in 2022 for violating Iran’s strict rules on wearing the hijab. 

Born in Iran, Reza Azarpoor married a Spanish man, and dedicated his life to art, theater and performance. Mandana Zandi, also born in Iran, is a woman who has published multiple books and journalistic works. The two met at a performance a few months ago and have been performing together ever since.

Azarpoor and Zandi took to the streets of Montreal on March 8th to conduct a rather abnormal and intriguing performance, one that raised questions and made room for discussion. This piece did not focus solely on Iran or women specifically, but it was about the correlation between humanity and taboos when it comes to being ourselves. Neither of them spoke throughout the performance, but there was music playing in the background. The performance itself was a mix of dance, and theater. 

“It’s all about taboo and taboo has very deep roots in human history. I believe taboo should die,” said Azarpoor. “Taboo is a virus engraved in our society,” he added.

Throughout the performance, Azarpoor wore a dress and makeup, and brushed and cut his hair. He represented women not only in Iran but all around the world. He also represented shame, and the human in general. Zandi, on the other hand, was represented as a sort of “goddess,” which she explained was meant to portray mother nature. She held a mirror to him, and took care of him.

Their performance was significant because it reflected something new, something refreshing to us as a society. By combining art and passion, they were able to talk about taboo topics, societal pressure, gender roles, Iran, and much more purely through movement.

“The philosophy of the performance was about being a human being, not about being man or woman. Mandana was performing the inner human nature of every human being,”

Said Azarpoor. 

To him, gender roles and expectations are engraved so deeply in society that we forget who we are and forget the general meaning of humanity. 

He talked about being brave enough to exist in this world and stand up for who you are. Then, he abruptly looked towards the audience and showed feelings of sadness and failure.

“That was the pressure you feel from society. That society can be your brain at the same time if you let yourself be one of them,” explained Zandi. “Because he felt ashamed of wearing  makeup and a dress as a man, he didn’t let himself be happy. It’s not a matter that society accepts yours, it’s a matter that you make your own space in society,” said Azarpoor.

Azarpoor believes that, with these performances, he can give courage to at least a few people to do the same, or open their minds to a new concept.  “Like this, you give that courage and braveness to people who ever see you and you open a window in their brain maybe,” he said.

When you believe in yourself, as a lady, as a man, as a person, you can do everything because problems are always following us,” Mandana said. “When you understand a problem and how to deal with it, you will be victorious.” 

Silence was also largely reflected in the performance as they alluded to our responsibility as humans not to stay quiet. Azarpoor strongly believes that we need to fight for what we believe is right and help each other. 

“Your words have meanings and pressure and impact. Silence as well. You are responsible not only with what you say, you are responsible for your silence. If you are silent, you will be [a] victim,” said Azarpoor.
In one scene, he cut his hair in protest with Iran. “War will never stop,” said Mandana. We need to protest, as according to the pair, only as a united society will people open their minds and change their ideals.


Cinema Politica: Our Bodies are your Battlefields

The documentary Our Bodies are your Battlefields, screened by Cinema Politica, shows the lives of trans women in Argentina fighting for their rights and to be accepted

Image from the official trailer for “Our Bodies are Your Battlefields”

Cinema Politica screened the premiere of the documentary Our Bodies are your Battlefields on Monday, March 6 in the atrium of the Hall Building. Cinema Politica is a media arts non-profit which screens a selection of independent political films. The local at Concordia, active since 2004, is Cinema Politica’s longest running film showcase, attracting hundreds of people to their weekly screening throughout the semester. 

The film, written and directed by Isabelle Solas, shows the lives of trans activists Claudia and Violeta, as well as those of their compatriots, in their daily political struggle for acceptance in Argentina. Despite the reality of discrimination they face from upholders of the patriarchal society and trans-exclusionary feminists, among others, they manage to fight for political progress and form community with each other.

The films’ intimate portrayal of these women in both their activism and relationship to one another rings authentic. The different relationships these women have with their friends, families and each other demonstrates a vast diversity of trans experiences — something that is rarely shown and so often ignored. Claudia is close with her mother who supports her and her cause, whereas many other trans people were shunned or kicked out of their homes. They had to turn to sex work for survival, and have strived together for support and political activism in the community.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with two speakers, Anaïs Zeledon Montenegro and Elle Barbara, from the Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTT(e)Q), a project under CACTUS Montréal. ASSTT(e)Q is run by and for trans people, to help trans people in need of healthcare and social services. The program’s core funding is being cut in April and they are collecting donations.

Barbara shared how she related to the protagonists of the film since, prior to working at ASTT(e)Q, they were heavily involved in the grassroots project Taking What We Need which organized parties and fundraisers to give money to low-income trans feminine people in Montreal. This allowed Barbara to politicize transness. 

“That’s what transness was like to me, it is intrinsically political. And in that regard, I find the experiences depicted in the documentary are similar.”

Montenegro, who also has experience being on the streets, shared the importance of greeting people with love at ASTT(e)Q. 

“We’re trying to do our best at ASTT(e)Q to make people think that there’s hope. That’s what we talk about: hope.”

The Cinema Politica film screenings are always free with the possibility to contribute donations at the venue. Their funding also comes from the Canada Council for the Arts and membership  fees.

Upcoming Cinema Politica screenings can be found on their website. 


Montrealers march for International Women’s Day

Student unions denounce a continued lack of gender equity in universities

To mark International Women’s Day, demonstrators marched downtown to demand gender equality in Quebec and throughout the world.

Speakers at the march deplored the various ways women’s rights are undermined across the globe: from a lack of access to education, healthcare and reproductive rights or through threats of abuse, femicide, as well as sexual and domestic violence.

The most recent Statistics Canada study states that 34,242 women were victims of sexual assault over the course of 2021 in Canada. The data refers only to cases reported to the police and, according to the Regroupement québécois des centres d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions sexuelles (The Quebec Coalition of Sexual Assault Centers), it is estimated that only 10 per cent of women victims of sexual assault file a complaint with the police

Another Statistics Canada study released in 2020 found that 71 per cent of students at Canadian postsecondary schools “witnessed or experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours in a postsecondary setting in 2019.” These numbers include on-campus or off-campus situations involving other students or people associated with scholastic institutions.

Representatives from Concordia’s Inter-organizational Table for Feminist Affairs (ITFA) were present to support women and victims of sexual violence.

Composed of the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia (TRAC) union, the Concordia Student Union (CSU), the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and the Centre for Gender Advocacy, ITFA is a student-run group that advocates for student-led solutions, transparency and gender equity at Concordia.

Julianna Smith, the CSU’s external affairs and mobilization coordinator, and representative of ITFA, said the group wanted to use the attention that came with International Women’s Day to voice their demands and support feminist causes. 

“We had a rally back at Concordia in support of Concordia’s specific demands, supporting the boycott of the University’s SMSV [Standing Committee on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence] and now we are here to support the broader women’s movement,” said Smith. 

ITFA started the ongoing boycott of SMSV, claiming that the fight against sexual violence at Concordia should take into account the voices of students and victims.

“The main argument that we have is that Concordia’s SMSV is in majority faculty and management and they don’t actually listen to students and what we need to see in order to manage and prevent sexual violence in the University,” said Becca Wilgosh, TRAC’s vice-president and ITFA representative.

Wilgosh said ITFA wants to call into question how the University has so far addressed sexual violence on campus. She pointed out that Concordia’s administration comes from a position of power, a factor that can lead to abuse.

“It should be bottom-up, it should be run by the people who are more likely to be subject to it, so we are trying to construct alternatives that actually centre survivors, students and staff workers.”

Said Wilgosh.

For Smith, there is still a long way to go when it comes to feminist movements in universities throughout Quebec. 

“One thing that I’ve noticed about the student movement in Quebec as a whole is that right now we’re very stuck in this gender parity issue, it’s very second-wave feminism,” said Smith. “For ITFA, we want to take an approach that’s much broader than that […] it’s about dismantling all structures of power.”


The unseen struggles of women in engineering

Concordia students share their experiences as women in engineering 

When Gloria Anastasopoulos was 10 years old, her school organized a ceramics painting day. Excited, the young girl found a motorcycle ceramic to paint and went to ask for the monitor’s permission. 

“And she was like, ‘Why do you want to paint that?’” recalled Anastasopoulos. “And I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know, it’s cool!’ And she’s like, ‘Oh, leave it for one of the boys to paint. It’s a motorcycle, leave it, maybe one of the boys wants it.’”

After making sure nobody else took the ceramic, Anastasopoulos ended up being allowed to paint it. Now in her third year in mechanical engineering at Concordia, she still has the motorcycle, and she still carries the experience that came with it.

The first time she spoke with The Concordian, Anastasopoulos could not think on the spot of this story nor any specific instances where she felt singled out as a woman in engineering. She could only share a feeling that these moments had occurred.

Shortly after the interview however, she requested a second talk. This time, she came armed with a list of microaggressions and subtle sexism experienced by herself and her colleagues. “You get so used to seeing it, you don’t even notice,” she said. 

Anastasopoulos is very involved in engineering societies and competitions at Concordia. She said that there are many women in these groups, but a lot of them fill management roles, while the men fill more of the design and programming roles. 

She recalled the story of one of her friends, who joined a society in which most of the members were men. They sometimes met until late at night to work on projects, but her friend was uncomfortable staying out so late with men, and having to take the metro and walk home alone at night. So she left early.

“She always had this thought: ‘Do they think I’m not putting in enough effort, because I don’t stay as late as the men in the room?’” said Anastasopoulos. “But really, they just don’t understand and they don’t have to think about the kind of stuff that she had to think about.”

Another one of Anastasopoulos’ friends was passed up for a coveted and highly technical society position two years in a row. As far as Anastasopoulos is aware, the position has not been held by a woman in recent memory. 

Despite this candidate’s qualifications, the role went to another candidate, who is male. “But the president told me, almost word for word, ‘I don’t want to take her because she speaks up a lot,’” shared Anastasopoulos. “This read to me like, ‘I don’t want to take her because she goes against what I say.’”

“I regret not saying something at the time,” said Anastasopoulos. “I guess you get so used to it.”

In 2010, faced by the low number of women in engineering, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta created the 30 by 30 initiative. The goal of this plan was to ensure that 30 per cent of newly licensed engineers are women by 2030. This initiative was soon adopted throughout Canada.

Today, 20 per cent of newly licensed engineers in Quebec are women, and according to their 2022-24 strategic plan, Engineers Canada fears they will not reach their goal. This year at Concordia, 23 per cent of new undergraduates and 28 per cent of new graduate engineering students were women, reported the Office of Institutional Planning and Analysis.

The difficulties faced by women in engineering are the topic of Dr. Ann-Louise Howard’s thesis. Howard is an assistant professor in Concordia’s department of applied human sciences. She started her career as an engineer, but left because of the hostile work environment. Only when she started her research did she understand that her experience was tied with gender. On March 8, International Women’s Day, she gave a webinar about her research. 

Howard’s research focuses on the female engineers who suffer in the workplace and on the microaggressions they experience. According to her, while there exists a lot of research on women in engineering, there is a gap when it comes to microaggressions.

“We talk so much about how women are welcome in engineering, there’s so much effort to showcase successful women in engineering,” said Howard. “But engineering is a very gendered profession, and microaggressions are manifestations of implicit bias.”

She also mentioned that people often fail to consider the experiences of women in engineering who are part of other marginalized communities, like women of colour or LGBTQ+ women, and the additional barriers and struggles they may face.

Anastasopoulos shared a variety of other instances where she felt her male peers did not respect the women around them. One of her colleagues told her that “girls can just go cry to the professor and get a better grade,” and that, as a man, he didn’t “have that luxury.” Another argued that the reason why Anastasopoulos had more connections than him on LinkedIn was because she is a woman.

“It’s just little stuff like that,” said Anastasopoulos. But it’s a trend.

Rania Alioueche, third-year mechanical engineering student and co-VP of the outreach team of Concordia’s Women in Engineering association, had similar experiences. Before starting at Concordia, she expected that 40 per cent of the students would be women. 

“But actually, I was the only girl in my lab class,” she said. “There would be a whole auditorium of 160 people, and there would be only 30 girls, maximum.”

In group projects, the ideas of her male peers were often accepted without question, Alioueche said. “If I would propose something, they would have to double-check, ‘Let’s check with the teacher, let’s check online if it’s true.’ They would always doubt what I said.”

The worst comment she got was after an exam. “We received our grades back,” she recalled, “and I had a good grade, and the guy next to me during the lab said something along the line of: ‘You’re flirting with the TA, that’s why you got a good grade.’”

“All the women that I know in engineering experience this,” said Alioueche. 

Alexandra Gagliano is a second-year mechanical engineering student. She noticed inequalities between the work of her male and female peers when it came to group projects.

This semester, for the first time since she started in engineering and after going through five different lab groups, Gagliano has only women in one of them. “Best lab group I’ve ever had,” she said. “Everyone does their work on time, communicates well, it’s so easy, simple.”

In her other lab groups, some of her male colleagues ignored her when it was time to write the report, and others simply did not show up to the lab.

“Maybe women are more conditioned to be responsible, so sometimes the work does fall on the woman in the group,” Gagliano said.

She also shared that making friends with the men in her program was very difficult. Many of her attempts at friendship ended when she rejected her male friends’ romantic advances.

“Sometimes, I feel a bit like an outsider if I’m the only girl in the group of like, six guys,” Gagliano said. “Sometimes it’s a bit difficult.”

Howard felt like all these examples could have been plucked from her research, as they were so similar to other women’s experiences in engineering.

“One of the things that I found was that women in engineering tough it out,” said Howard. “Part of that was, they disregard the price that they’re paying.”

These visible instances are only the tip of the iceberg, according to Howard’s research. Many more are just subtle enough to be felt but not recognized. But these small cuts add up.

Howard wondered what women internalize about themselves along the way: That they cannot be too bold? That they must become “one of the boys?” That they are not as talented as their male colleagues, and that the attention they receive is simply due to them being women?

“I feel a little alone, talking about this,” she said. “The dominant narrative is that we want women in engineering. ‘Here, look at these women who are successful in engineering,’ and they give all the credit in the world. But there’s stories that are conspicuously absent from that narrative.”

“People ask me why I did this research,” Howard said. “And I really never wanted to do this research. I wanted to be an engineer.”


VIDEOS: International Women’s Day, Men’s Hockey Recap

Hundreds gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 12: Video Editor Anthony-James Armstrong covered it live

Read the story here →

Stingers’ recap: Men’s team showed promise through the season, cut short at quarterfinals

Read the story here →

Women’s History Month is off to a terrifying start

The month began with the death of Sarah Everard, followed by a mass shooting and reports of femicide in Canada

As little girls, we were warned against straying from the confines of our gendered boundaries, because if we did, we would surely be punished for our curiosities — that transgressions of any kind would inevitably result in deadly consequences. What nobody prepares girls for is that the same boundaries we are told to operate within serve as challenges for boys and men. That we don’t have to earn gendered violence against us; it may happen anyway. In a month intended to celebrate women, Women’s History Month is off to a terrifying start.

The history of International Women’s Day (IWD) dates back to the early 1900s. Its cultural significance was strengthened by the participation of the United Nations in 1975, includes movements supporting women’s rights in countries all over the world, and has now expanded into a month-long celebration. While Canada celebrates IWD on March 8 along with the rest of the world, Canada’s Women’s History Month is observed in October. However, popular recognition and commercialization of IWD has coloured the way that women are celebrated globally. But despite these admirable goals, this Women’s History Month has been marred with terror.

On the night of March 3, 33-year-old Sarah Everard left her friend’s home in South London, heading on a 50 minute walk home. Sarah left at 9 p.m., well before what girls are told is the cutoff for their unspoken curfew. We learn that she was on the phone with her partner, Josh Lowth, for 15 minutes before it was cut short. She was dressed for an evening walk, wearing a rain jacket, pants, knitted hat and a face mask. When the Metropolitan Police raised concerns over Everard’s whereabouts on March 6, women understood the danger Sarah may have been in, silently praying for news that she made it home that night.

Everard did everything right — she was dressed in a way that would satisfy the “but what was she wearing?” crowd; she was walking home early enough for the “but was she out too late” crowd; and she was careful enough to walk on a main road while on the phone with her partner for the “but was she reckless” crowd. Everard was last seen on a CCTV camera alone at around 9:30 p.m. that night. When remains were found on the evening of March 10 in a wooded area 56 miles away from where she was last seen, we prayed harder. The body discovered was confirmed to be Everard on the morning of March 12.

To date, a 48-year-old police officer has been taken into custody in connection with Everard’s murder. When thousands of women gathered on March 13 in South London for a vigil in her honour, peaceful observers were met with violence from police. As footage of arrests circulated, public outrage prompted London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to declare the force from police “unacceptable,” and that they were “neither appropriate or proportionate.”

On social media, women began to share their experiences of sexual assault, only to be met with resistance from the “not all men” crowd. The widespread refusal to acknowledge mens’ complicity of gendered violence surprised no one, yet women continued to perform emotionally laborious tasks in defending their right to safety. Little did we know, Everard’s murder was just the beginning of the grim weeks to follow.

On March 9, Texas lawmaker Bryan Slaton introduced a bill that would allow the death penalty for those who would have abortions. HB 3326 would allow anyone having or performing abortions to be charged with homicide, a crime punishable by death under Texas law.

On March 16, a 21-year-old white gunman opened fire at three separate Asian-owned businesses in Georgia, killing eight people. Seven of the victims were women, six of whom were Asian women. The mass shooting occurs after spikes in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Asian Canadians since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Canada, a report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability found that one woman or girl is killed every 2.5 days in Canada. #CallItFemicide reports that 90 per cent of cases of an identified killer are male, with more than half of them being the partners of their victims.

Women’s History Month has yet to conclude — but thus far, it has served as a stark reminder that violence against women continues to eclipse the celebration of their societal and cultural contributions. Author and activist bell hooks said, “What we do is more important than what we say or what we say we believe.” If Canadians and Americans believe at last, that women deserve the right to feel safe in their own bodies, then much has left to be done.


Photo collage by Kit Mergaert


International Women’s Day 2020

March 8 was International Women’s Day (IWD) 2020.

IWD celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and serves as a reminder that much remains to be done to achieve gender equality.

This day has a long history – following the model of National Women’s Day in the United States, IWD was first celebrated in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. It was then celebrated in Russia in 1913 for the first time, and in the following years, March 8 became the official day worldwide.

The United Nations began celebrating the day in 1975 but only started adopting an annual theme in 1996. The first theme was “Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future,” and other themes since then have highlighted a variety of issues, from “Women and Human Rights” to “World Free of Violence Against Women.” This year’s theme is “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights.”

Over the last century, IWD has gone from protests in just a few countries to a worldwide campaign with support from organizations like the UN, UN Women and Amnesty International.

Since IWD was first celebrated, much progress has been made by women worldwide. They have obtained the right to vote almost everywhere, abortion is only completely illegal in 26 countries and partially illegal in 37, and there are women in almost all positions of power, from president – 59 countries have had a female leader – to CEO.

2020 and beyond

Despite the improvements in women’s situations worldwide and all the commitments/declarations of countries, corporations and organizations to achieve parity – such as the World Economic Forum’s framework for gender parity – much remains to be done to truly reach equality.

“Women have made a lot of progress, yes, but women are still dying, they’re still being killed by their partners, they’re still being disappeared and snuffed out, and there’s an impunity about it: it’s taken for granted that women can be beaten by their partners, aggressed, harassed, and violated,” said Marie Boti, spokesperson for Women of Diverse Origins, who organized the Montreal demonstration at Cabot Square on March 8. She added that this network of women’s organizations is hoping to bring back the militant tradition of IWD demonstrations.

As Canada faces a domestic violence crisis and a genocide of three decades of missing and murdered Indigenous women, Boti believes it is important to continue creating awareness about women’s struggles.

Boti said that even in North America, women are paid less than men for the same work – women in Canada currently earn about 0.87$ for every dollar earned by a man – while the largest burden of household and childcare tasks still falls on their shoulders.

In positions of power, women are severely under-represented: only a quarter of parliamentarians worldwide are women, and under 7 per cent of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. In Canada, despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise of parity in his cabinet, women only make up 29 per cent of the House of Commons, and only one woman has ever been Prime Minister in the country’s history.

What about Montreal?

If we take a look closer to home, Concordia University’s spokesperson Vannina Maestracci revealed statistics that show that parity has been achieved. In the 2018/19 academic year, 50 per cent of students and 51 per cent of employees were women.

However, Maestracci’s student enrollment numbers split by faculty reveal that parity has not been achieved for every specialty. Although the Arts and Science and the Fine Arts faculties have more than 60 per cent female students, and the John Molson School of Business is close to parity with 48 per cent, there is a clear disparity among engineers.

The Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science, despite being named after the first woman in Concordia University’s history to obtain a PhD in building engineering, only has 24 per cent female enrollment, according to the numbers revealed by Maestracci.

Although organizations like Concordia’s Women in Engineering are working on reducing this gap, these numbers reveal that there are still many barriers for women in STEM fields in Canada.


Graphic by Sasha Axenova


The importance of Feminism in the 21st century

Officially recognized since 1977 by the UN, the goal of Women’s Day has always been to pay tribute to the achievements of predecessors in the labour movements and the feminist movement that succeeded it.

The history leading up to International Women’s Day is rich and full of brave women who fought for more rights and equality in the societies they lived in.

Though it’s a day to celebrate the achievements of women and how far we’ve progressed, we need to stray away from patting ourselves on the back and becoming passive in the status quo.

I am honestly grateful to have access to education, voting and having rights in general. I am my own person and I have a say in matters that involve my body and choices. But the heartbreaking truth is that reality isn’t like this for every woman around the globe. Just because we’ve progressed, doesn’t mean that we can’t do more to finally achieve gender equality—the same dream that fuelled so many feminist icons in the past to fight for all women.

International Women’s Day is a celebration of feminism and how brave women took to the streets of New York to ask for rights and less detrimental working conditions in 1908.

This year’s theme, which was  #EachforEqual  is wonderful to me because it is reflecting on what we should all be doing and pondering during the rest of the year. The goal of challenging stereotypes, fighting bias, broadening perceptions, improving situations and celebrating women’s achievements is what we all need to be doing. Why do we have to celebrate women’s achievements only once a year? And why does it have to become another marketing ploy abused by corporations?

Female empowerment isn’t properly celebrated with cutesy merchandise that may take the form of a bright pink t-shirt with the slogan ‘Woman Up!’ written across it or with a BrewDog pink beer ‘‘for girls’’ (it was in poor taste, even if it was ironic). It’s all feeding into sexist advertisements—and we’re in 2020. Do we seriously need to continue having this conversation and continuing to treat stereotypical gender roles as social restraints?

The world isn’t all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns and I’m aware of that. This is why corporations need to do better and invest money in the cause all year long, not only showing support on March 8 to be trendy.

International Women’s Day should always be about realizing how much we have progressed but also recognizing our shortcomings, and how much we can improve and continue to pave the way for less privileged women. There are still 132 million girls who don’t have access to education and are forced out of school worldwide.

In fact, many of these girls are refused opportunities due to sexism and outdated gender stereotypes, where girls are perceived as being housewives and don’t deserve an education, unlike their male counterparts, as reported by World Vision.

These biases against women aren’t only happening in underdeveloped countries.

On March 5, the United Nations Development Programme came out with a report with findings that 90 per cent of men and women alike hold a bias against women especially in areas such as politics, education and business. These results are upsetting and show that there are still invisible barriers blocking the achievement of equality.

Feminism isn’t only a trademark to show off once a year.

The advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes needs to be kept alive in 2020 and the years to come—so that all women around the world can accomplish their dreams and are finally seen as worthy of holding titles that were traditionally held by men.

We all have a role to play in making this a reality. 



Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Feminism is not one-size-fits-all

For more than a century, International Women’s Day has celebrated the achievements of women and supported women’s movements around the world. According to the United Nations, March 8 is a day to recognize the achievements of women “without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.”

Yet too often, too many women are left behind by feminism; the focus is on achieving equality between men and women, without much consideration for the diversity of female experiences. As a movement fighting for equality, it is vital that feminism give a voice to all women, and tackle all women’s issues. Only by recognizing and valuing the unique experiences of women of colour, disabled women, trans women, LGBTQ+ women—and any other woman who doesn’t fit the standard “white” identity—will feminism have a hope of achieving true equality.

First coined in 1989 by American scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectional feminism highlights the multi-facetted identities of women and the importance of considering these identities when striving for equality. All women face inequality amongst their male peers, but it’s important to recognize that women of varying social identities are at even more of a disadvantage compared to both white men and white women. Those with less power face more abuse, and women of differing social identities are more vulnerable than white women.

Yet, when we hear about unequal pay, sexual violence and abuse of power, it is typically through the voices of white women. Take the #MeToo movement, for example. Although it was popularized when actress Alyssa Milano used it as a hashtag, the phrase was first used by Tarana Burke, a black woman, more than a decade earlier.

Closer to home, we can see instances in our own history when women of colour have been held a few steps behind white women. In 1940, women in Quebec were given the right to vote—white women that is. Chinese and Indo-Canadians only got the vote in 1947, Japanese-Canadians could only vote in 1948, and First Nations people were only allowed to vote in federal elections as of 1960. In all of these cases, the right to vote was withheld from both women and men in these groups. So while being a woman comes with its challenges, there are a lot of obstacles that comes from holding a particular ethnic identity as well.

This same trend can be seen in the fight for equal pay. A Statistics Canada report showed that Canadian women earn 73.5 cents for every dollar a man makes. While these figures are horrific and unfair, we need to remember that women from minorities make even less than that, according to The Globe and Mail. The earnings of all working women is about 31 per cent less than the combined earnings of all working men; but for women of colour, that gap is 37.5 per cent, and for Indigenous women it’s 54 per cent, according to Maclean’s. Trans women also face terrible pay equity, with male-to-female transgender workers seeing their earnings drop by nearly a third, according to Maclean’s.

Violence against certain groups of women is also amplified depending on their identities. Indigenous women, trans women and black women face dangerous and violent situations that are unimagined by white and privileged women.

There is not enough space on this page to list all the ways that women of different identities face obstacles and problems not experienced by white, able-bodied, cisgender women. But we at The Concordian believe even these few examples demonstrate the importance and necessity of including all women’s struggles in the fight for equality. We live in a diverse world and that shouldn’t be ignored. By understanding how different women live, we can do more to support everyone in this age-old movement for equality.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Joining forces to denounce exploitation and sexual violence

30,000 Quebec students rally to demand salary wages for unpaid internships

Nearly 30,000 students across Quebec mobilized to protest against unpaid internships and denounce the sexual violence many students, particularly women, experience in the workplace on Thursday, March 8. In tandem with International Women’s Day, the Montreal Coalition for paid internships organized their third large-scale protest to demand that student interns be given proper wage compensation, as well as access to the internal resources at their workplaces that are exclusively available to paid employees.

The coalition was formed in early June 2017 by multiple student unions and associations to unite against labour exploitation. “We think that by asking for wages for interns it will change the situation because, in Quebec […] when you’re an intern, you are below every [paid] worker, and you don’t have protection,” said Kaelle Stapels, one of the organizers of the march and a member of the Montreal Coalition for paid internships.

Unpaid internships are illegal in Quebec, except when the student is completing an internship for course credit either for an approved educational institution, as part of vocational training or if the student is working for a non-profit organization, according to the Canadian Intern Association.

Jeanne Dufresne, a Université du Québec à Montréal student protester, explained how degrees that require students to do a minimum number of hours as an intern before graduating are particularly problematic. According to Dufresne, an internship is a “full-time job [and students] need to do that to get their diploma, so that’s why it’s frustrating, because after the work, they need to go [find] a part-time job” to subsidize the costs of being in school and working full-time with no income.

“When I’m doing my internship as a nurse and I’m with my patients, I’m legally responsible for [them] as I would be if I were a real nurse. But I’m not paid,” Stapels said.

While the coalition demands that every student, regardless of gender, be fairly compensated as working interns, many of its members emphasize that women are more vulnerable when it comes to labour exploitation and sexual harassment in the workplace.

A crowd of 300 protesters chant while they trek uphill towards Docteur-Penfield Avenue along Atwater Avenue. Photo by Alex Hutchins

Although it’s possible to experience sexual violence in every program or field, Stapels explained that women who are in programs such as nursing, social work or education have an increased chance of experiencing exploitation and sexual harassment in the workplace.

Stapels also explained that because female interns in particular are not given the same protection as paid employees through their placement’s administration, if they experience sexual harassment while working, often their only option is to use the resources available through their university. “And we all know schools do nothing,” Stapels said. “The resources that are in place now, they’re not [enough]. They don’t do the job.”

According to a report titled l’Enquête sexualité, sécurité et interactions en milieu universitaire (ESSIMU) conducted by over a dozen researchers, about 37 per cent of university students have reported incidents of sexual violence or harassment in Quebec training programs. One third of the reported incidents occured within a hierarchical context. Due to the power dynamics found within academic institutions, the report explains, students are often at a disadvantage when reporting sexual misconduct.

The march was organized mainly to protest against unpaid internships and sexual violence in the workplace, however, given that it occured in conjunction with International Women’s Day, many protesters gathered to denounce gendered violence altogether. Maintaining an open dialogue between people and encouraging women to speak up about the problems they experience daily, explained student protester Giverny Welsch, “[is] what is so remarkable about what’s happening right now.” Welsch emphasized how this open dialogue is key to formulating both a community and a movement that are geared towards inclusivity. “We’re humans because we are able to communicate.”

A crowd of 300 protesters chant while they trek uphill towards Docteur-Penfield Avenue along Atwater Avenue. Photo by Alex Hutchins

Building relationships by empowering women, said Lucie Arson, a protester who preferred to use a pseudonym, is the first step towards starting a movement and creating a strong community that works towards positive change as a united front. “[As] a non-binary trans person, and as a sex worker, I kind of feel alone and not represented […] but right now, I’m feeling great,” having met people with similar experiences, Arson said. “There’s a [feeling of] solidarity.”

Sexism still exists, “[it] is a problem everyday,” said Arson, and it can be life-threatening for countless women all over the world. “Patriarchy works in a way where we are always opposed to other women around us, so I think it’s time to rebuild these relationships and fight together.”

Photos by Alex Hutchins


Updated: Montreal marches on International Women’s Day

Hundreds of Montrealers took to the streets on March 8 to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Protesters met at 5 p.m on the corner of Queen Mary near Côte-Des-Neiges metro station, and at 6 p.m. marched to Nelson Mandela Park.

Women held signs that read, “We demand income equality” and “Where are the missing native indigenous women.”

The march began at Queen Mary Square in honour of the 14 women who were murdered at École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989, said Marie Boti, the organizer of Montreal’s International Women’s Day march.

Elizabeth Shepard, a protester and mother of two toddlers, explained her reasons for taking part in the social movement. “With statistics that show that women are making [less than] of what men are financially, in Canada, I feel like it is important for my daughters to know that, and that in the future that they can surpass this,” said Shepard.

Statistics Canada released new data on International Women’s Day this year, identifying that Canadian women earned 87 cents an hour for every dollar made by men in 2015.

“I am proud to be a woman these days,” said Sandy Bourdelais, a Montreal university student. “I am here to support women’s rights, and I am proud that our ancestors have fought for our freedom today.”

Crowd gathered at Queen Mary Square. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“I hope that women can be treated equally,” Bourdelais said.

“The women’s march that we’re having right now is an amazing opportunity to celebrate this day because, unfortunately, we live in a patriarchy that still oppresses women,” said Samy Cheallah, a male student and marcher.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“Whether it’s working-class women, trans women, women from all over the world, it is important that we all mobilize and create a community where people can get together and raise their voices,” he told The Concordian.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“This year, SdBI will celebrate its 40th year,” said Julia Dyck, the communications and events coordinator at SdBI. “What we are seeing at the institute is that feminism is stronger than it has ever been.”

“It is not just rights for women—SdBI takes an intersectional approach on issues of racism, sexualism, colonialism, transism, ablelism and a generally social justice approach to all of these things,” Dyck said.

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“International Women’s Day is a day to acknowledge how far we have come and all the important work women have accomplished and to address inequality,” Dyck explained. “Although there is a long way to go and there remains huge gaps in gender inequality and along the lines of race ability and religious social class, the idea that all of these things make up your experience is not as useful as looking at all of these issues together. “

On wage gap, equality and the future of feminism

This one is for the ladies on International Women’s Day

There are no hard and fast rules about what makes a feminist. Short hair or long hair, high heels or flats—women who believe in equal rights come in all shapes and sizes.

In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, let’s take a moment to talk about the status of women in Canada today.

Although women’s rights have greatly improved in the last hundred years, there is still so much that needs to change for men and women to be equal. While we like to imagine that Canada is a place where gender divide, sexism and inequality is a thing of the past, this simply isn’t the case.

We probably don’t need to remind you, dear reader, of the many headlines of late ranging from issues of sexual harassment, domestic abuse and violence against women.

Feminism, yes the “F word,” does not necessarily mean burning bras, or letting your leg hair grow, anymore.

All feminism means is equality. That means getting rid of the glass ceiling. That means understanding what consent is. That means not judging a woman because of how she looks, or the length of her skirt.

We are lucky enough to live in a society where rape culture and victim blaming are actually being talked about in the public sphere. It may seem disheartening, but these important discussions are a sign of increased awareness about the realities of how bad it really is out there.

Canadian women have many rights that women elsewhere in the world do not, and for that, we should all be proud, but that does not mean that our society is perfect—far from it.

Women in this country still get paid 74 cents on the dollar (according to a 2011 Ontario Pay Equity Commission study) compared to men working the exact same jobs. Women of colour and women with disabilities make even less. This is a stone cold fact, and it’s an injustice of epic proportions.

So on Sunday, take the time to do a little research before condemning feminism as a dead or outdated movement. The second that we stop talking about feminism will be the day that the struggles of our foremothers are forgotten, and that history repeats itself.

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