I love a sport that doesn’t love me back

Formula One is starting its season with a driver who inappropriately touched a woman in its line-up

Content warning: Sexual harassment

I need to get it off my chest: my favourite sport is going in a direction that I cannot ignore anymore.

As Formula One’s (F1) 2021 season began this past weekend, I am now, more than ever, realizing how it is basically the white, straight man’s sport of honour.

As a woman, being an F1 fan is hard.

Back in 2013, my 16-year-old self was ecstatic when I saw a woman would be in charge of an F1 team for the first time; Claire Williams.

Williams’ Formula One team, however, has not been performing as it once was for the past few years.

Now, many would be quick to associate this downfall with Claire Williams’ promotion; however, the team was doomed to fail since the 1998 Concorde Agreement; a contract which dictates how F1’s television revenues and prize money are distributed, changing the money distribution drastically.

Williams was not even given a fair chance as she was the victim of the glass cliff.

This phenomenon occurs when women in leadership roles, such as company executives or even political candidates, are more likely than men to achieve these positions when the organization is facing crisis or the chance of failure is high.

Williams addressed her struggles linked to sexism and even mentioned how it got worse once she became a mother.

“I have actually had someone say to me that a lot of people in the Formula One paddock think that the team started doing badly when I fell pregnant and had a baby,” she said. “How dare they? There are nine other team principals in F1 and I am sure the majority of them have children. Would you ever level that criticism at them?”

As I grew up trying to find my place as a woman in the sport, I had to endure seeing my only representation in the sport being critiqued all these years for supposedly leading the team to failure.

As a young girl, the only image I had of women in the sport was of its “Grid Girls,” and how conventionally beautiful and useless, for a lack of better word, they were.

Despite their absence today, the image of the paddock remains a playground of sexual advantage that catters to a heterosexual male audience.

As Hazel Southwell, a motorsport journalist, wrote: “Women who work in motor sport warn each other about the predators because they don’t face consequences. I know more women who’ve left the sport after harassment, by far, than men who’ve got even a stern email about doing it.”

This toxic climate was always something I knew of from hearsay, but never actually something I wanted to believe, until Dec. 9, 2020.

Only eight days after Nikita Mazepin was announced as a Haas 2021 driver, he posted a video on his Instagram story where he can be seen groping a woman’s breast.

Mazepin’s list of controversies already included punching another driver in the Formula 3 paddock in 2016, demanding nude pictures from a woman in exchange for paddock tickets, endorsing racist comments, and record-breaking violent driving on the track.

The incident was met with outrage amongst fans, as the hashtag #WeSayNoToMazepin was circulating on social media, and a petition was created demanding the driver face proper correctional measures.

What is frustrating as a woman who enjoys the sport, who has given money to the sport and who would eventually like to work in it, is that the only thing I got was a statement from the Haas Team condemning his actions, but keeping him on board for the ride and saying that “No further comments shall be made.”

The son of a billionaire who will most likely help the sole American team to get out of its financial struggles, Mazepin’s controversy was quite frankly not the groping, but the broadcast of it.

He made an embarrassment of the sport and the Haas team, upset the sponsors and, most intriguingly, opened up the curtain behind the sexism still present in the paddock.

Although I believe that punishing Mazepin for his actions should not be too much to ask for in 2021, I do believe the F1 group and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) should address Mazepin’s case as what it truly is: not an isolated incident.

I am writing this article as McLaren driver and Twitch streamer Lando Norris’ sexist comments during a recent stream have just come out.

Norris can be heard objectifying women as he refers to them as “yours,” “mine,” “that one” and “the nationality one.”

In times dominated by seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton, where every driver wants to be as fast as him on track and every fan admires him for his performance, maybe the men of F1 should start taking notes on his off-track activism as well.

After years of watching the sport demonize my gender, at the start of the 2021 season, I am left feeling as though I am going back into a toxic relationship. Because the part of me that loves the sport believes it can change for the better.

But will the sport I love ever love me back?


Graphic by Taylor Reddam

Student Life

Braving the world of stand-up comedy

After getting out of a bad relationship where she felt powerless, and dealing with health issues consisting of debilitating migraine attacks, Diana Gerasimov found herself in a very dark place. For months, she felt that there was nothing that interested or captivated her. 

One day she was scrolling through Facebook when she saw a post calling for people who wanted to try stand-up comedy. She signed up, feeling reckless and thinking that this would be a one time thing. Turns out, she was wrong.

“No one was expecting me to do this. I didn’t expect myself to do this and I didn’t really care if it turns out bad,” she said.

The process of getting ready for her first show helped change Gerasimov’s outlook. “I didn’t feel motivated by anything, as one does when their mental health is poor,” she said. “This gave me a sense of purpose that I hadn’t felt in a while.” At the end of her first show at Barfly in Montreal at the start of the year, she felt extremely proud of herself.

Gerasimov finds inspiration for her jokes in many places. For one, she was raised by her single mother who is a Russian immigrant. She was always able to make people around her laugh by imitating her mother’s accent or pointing out her superstitious ways. She built jokes around what her friends thought was funny about her cultural background.

I exploited the stereotypes against me, and now I’m reclaiming them,” she said. Gerasimov also gets inspired by her environment. “I’m a big eavesdropper, on transportation especially, and I try to build a context around whatever joke or punchline I’ve written.”

Gerasimov is a Concordia student, studying communications and cultural studies. Even though she works hard on her stand-up, she doesn’t find that it really interferes with her schooling.

“Juggling school work and stand-up feel pretty easy,” said Gerasimov. “They both compliment each other, where stand-up kind of feels like eating a greasy poutine and school is like eating a jar of pickled beets.”

Being a 22-year-old woman, there aren’t many comics like Gerasimov. Comedy is a male-dominated space and can often feel intimidating; because of this, Gerasimov didn’t expect to find such a feeling of togetherness through this craft.

“I found a sense of community and support. People are inviting you to shows and people want you to meet other comedians,” she said. But it was more than that for Gerasimov: she noticed that people are interested in specifically seeing her do stand-up. She says that most people that do stand-up are 35 years old and over, and are typically male. She loves surprising people on stage because she doesn’t look like your typical stand-up comedian.

Gerasimov explained that this surprise comes from a lack of representation. “You are constantly put in a box as a woman,” she said. “You’re either smart, pretty or funny. You can’t have it all. You can’t be multidimensional and complex. You have to be one thing.”

“During my last set, a 50-year-old guy came up to me after and was grazing my arm for four minutes,” she recounted. “This was before he gave me advice on how I should go forward with my set and telling me that my tone was too monotone. He also said he found me to be extremely hilarious.”

Her routine often includes men and sexism, although not without repercussions from the audience. When she does certain jokes, she sometimes gets bombarded by unwanted suggestions at the end of her shows.

A few times, Gerasimov has been heckled or cat-called during a performance. While this can be quite alarming, she explained it’s important to try and tie the comment into her joke somehow. If she’s doing a bit about how men are frustrating and a man yells “I love you,” she can use this to help her own joke and make her point. This helps her regain control, because problems can arise when she lets something like that destabilize her.

One of Gerasimov’s favourite times performing was at LadyFest, a female-run comedy festival in Montreal that’s been going on for five years and showcases female performers. She attended as a guest and didn’t expect to be performing, but then received a last minute opportunity.

“I think it went well because I didn’t have so much time to psych myself out, which I normally tend to do,” said Gerasimov. “I analyze a joke for so long it becomes unfunny to me.”

Sometimes Gerasimov suffers from imposter syndrome; she often questions if she is even allowed to call herself a comic.

“Men don’t have a problem calling themselves comics after a few times performing, and women constantly have to prove they are funny to an audience,” she said.

If Gerasimov could become very successful, she would do comedy as a career, but otherwise, it is a difficult thing to pursue professionally.

“It’s either you’re doing comedy and several other things to keep you afloat or you’re super successful,” she said. Gerasimov is also interested in script writing. She’s written a few episodes for a web series, and hopes to continue to develop skills that she’s learned from writing stand-up routines.

“[Comedy has] given me so much more confidence in day-to-day interactions, networking, approaching people and putting myself out there for different opportunities,” said Gerasimov.

She also explained that comedy can be terrifying because it’s so vulnerable. It’s not like a music show where it’s polite to clap whether a performer is good or bad; it all comes down to audience responses. It’s automatic, and you don’t have any control over it. You are truly at the mercy of your audience. “It almost seems pathetic to be like, ‘let me make you laugh’,” she said. “I’m basically on stage begging for people to laugh at me.”

“If you really must joke about something that might offend, be ready for the commentary,” said Gerasimov, noting that accountability in stand-up is becoming more of a priority. “But to be quite blunt, if you feel as though you have nothing to joke about because ‘everyone is so sensitive,’ then you’re just a lazy writer.” She explained that this doesn’t mean issues shouldn’t be addressed in comedy.

“There are ways to write jokes that offer a commentary on the state of the world, I think it just comes down to intention,” she said.

This past week, Gerasimov performed twice at the Diving Bell Social Club. Keep an ear out for her next show on Facebook – it might just be the study break you need right now!

Photo by Cecilia Piga


Poli Savvy: The growing presence of women in power politics

The Trump presidency has allowed for a constant state of spectacle and amusement in the political sphere; these political spectacles have shed light on many issues, including the treatment of women in politics.

Two women who have had a huge impact on female representation and female empowerment were Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Ford’s testimony in 2018 gave courage to more women to speak up about their sexual assault experiences. Yovanovitch’s testimony was one of the major highlights of the impeachment hearings on Friday, Nov. 15.

Yovanovitch was removed from office a few weeks prior to Trump’s allegedly incriminating phone call. The speculation around Yovanovitch’s removal from her post in Ukraine was because she would not cooperate with the unconstitutional requests between the two countries that would help Trump’s chances of winning the 2020 elections.

Her testimony reinforces the power of women in politics and high levels of competency and professionalism. The same cannot be said about Trump’s rhetoric through his about Yovanovitch , which were labelled  “intimidating” by Adam Schiff Chair of the house intelligence committee.

Yovanovitch’s highly respected testimony echoes the same composed and professional decorum that Ford had when she testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, during the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States. Kavanaugh was under investigation just like Trump, albeit for different allegations. He also conveyed anger and hate through his demeanor and words.

The connection between Ford and Ambassador Yovanovitch is important to pay attention to because of their public positions against powerful men. Trump and Kavanaugh had their political power questioned by these women. Yovanovitch and Ford did not attack these men or their reputations; these women only spoke with facts and honest recounts.

It is important to draw this correlation between Trump and Kavanaugh, not just because of the ideologies they’ve expressed, but because of their public rhetoric and behaviour towards women. They both symbolize female oppression through public displays of aggression, whether it was verbal or indirect.

Yovanovitch had her reputation and career publicly attacked by the president. Ford was the target of death threats and public shaming after her testimony. Yet, both stood in public televised hearings to speak up for justice. It is essential to highlight their endurance and courage despite the attacks because they can be considered symbols of female power in the political sphere.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


The role of the audience in comedy

In 2019, people claim comedy is “under attack.” Is this true?

The short answer is no, but I seem to be writing an article here, so let me explain.

Comedians such as Bill Maher, Louis CK, Kevin Hart and Dave Chappelle are experiencing a change in their careers. This most definitely does not mean that their careers are over, so, let’s take a closer look. Chapelle fans – stay with me.

I’m assuming that you have heard this argument being circulated for quite some time and although this might feel frustrating, I don’t think it’s necessarily negative.

Comedy and comedians represent laughter, happiness and, more importantly, growth and learning. There’s a reason why people look at political memes more than political policies: humour can be accessible, clever, and most of all, it has an impact.

Comedy is changing. People are no longer laughing at things that make them feel small. Social media and other large platforms are giving previously silenced communities a voice in the comedic world. We are speaking truth to power and this all feeds into one thing: the evolving role of the audience.

Yes – that’s us, the audience!

We have more control than ever before. It’s exciting, but naturally quite unnerving for comedians that have spent most of their lives writing jokes and not thinking about how they could offend people.

Despite acting like they don’t care, we have seen evidence that the opposite is true. Let’s take a look at Chappelle for a moment. He’s undoubtedly a very successful comedian who has been called out for his tone deaf demeanour for the past two years. He’s a powerful figure, re-emerging as a comedian in a world very different than the one he’s used to.

Jenna Wortham and Welsey Morris, New York Times writers and hosts of the podcast  Still Processing, highlight that in his newest standup, Chappelle is just plain lashing out at the audience.

He says,“If you do anything wrong in your life, and I find out about it, I’m going to try and take everything away from you and I don’t care when I find out… Who’s that? That’s you!”

The shift here is obvious. The audience is clearly impacting the way Chappelle normally functions. He is making a joke out of his fear for his career.

Listen, I am aware that I’m yet another chia seed eating, avocado spreading, social media savvy, left-wing millennial preaching about why Chappelle is a sore loser, but hear me out.

I’m not trying to promote cancel culture or tell you what you should or shouldn’t watch. I understand that in this social climate things often sway to an extreme. This being said, I think it’s important to understand the reality of where comedy is going.

Comedian and actor Kevin Hart is another public figure who has voiced his frustration with the audience.

He said in an interview, “I don’t understand why there’s a push to destroy what you just don’t have to support or like.”

Even though he is using oversimplified vernacular to describe backlash he received about homophobic comments, I think the important thing to note in this comment is the word “destroy.” Comedians are fearful that the audience can control their careers and instead of adapting, they don’t know how to handle it.

Nazeem Hussain, an Australian comedian speaks openly about understanding the audience’s fluid role.

In an interview with Eureka Street, he said, “’the audience doesn’t buy that homophobic, racist and sexist stuff anymore. It’s lazy comedy, they should find new jokes and get a laugh.”

Hannah Gadsby, a writer and comedian also from Australia spoke very eloquently about the dissonance certain comedians won’t stop complaining about, in an interview with Esquire.

“So many comedians expect control of the room when they’re onstage, because they’ve got the magic stick that amplifies their voice, and everyone has to listen,” she said. “Comedy no longer exists in a vacuum. To be relevant, you have to speak with your audience. You don’t get to just tell them how it is.”

People are not standing for harmful jokes anymore. This does not mean vulgarity is dead and that audiences can’t handle explicit or shocking material.

It means the role of the audience has changed – and that’s not a bad thing.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Poli Savvy: Misogyny of climate crisis deniers

At the beginning of September, People’s Party of Canada’s leader Maxime Bernier denigrated environmental activist Greta Thunberg in a tweet, calling her “mentally unstable.” Although he later retracted and apologized for his comment, this just  illustrates yet another ugly, misogynistic face of climate change deniers.

Really, why do white men seem to have a harder time accepting the environmental crisis than others? Worse even when a woman is in a powerful position and has a strong voice in the matter?

Research published by Oxford University explored the green-feminine stereotype, where both men and women judged eco-friendly products, behaviours, and consumers as more feminine. Simply put, it showed that men believe climate action is “unmanly.”

What Bernier did by attacking the 16-year-old activist was a demonstration of white fragility. Thunberg isn’t posting photos of what she is eating seeking some kind of instant glory. Her message is not a personal cry, but one that is universal. Inevitably, she confronts us with our own actions – or, mostly, our inactions.

It seems that Conservative white men have found their arch enemy within voices like Thunberg’s, which represent everything they believe is slowing them down; women and caring for the environment.

But truly, how fragile is masculinity to believe that environmental actions are more feminine? Isn’t it ironic that men tend to be considered less sensitive than women, but when it comes to the perception of their masculinity, we are suddenly walking on eggshells?

As Thunberg will be making her way towards Montreal to attend the climate protest on Sept. 27, we can only expect to see more misogynistic comments online. Comments which, sadly, switch the focus of what’s really at stake. The environmental crisis should not be a battle of the sexes.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


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


Just a sci-fi girl in an apathetic world

How attending Comiccon helped me find community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graphic by Wednesday Laplante


Why glorifying drinking isn’t fair to either sex

Regional campaign in York, Ont., paints an overly simplistic picture of alcohol

You’ve cut the tag off your new black dress, curled your hair, paid your Uber driver and finally got past the bouncers in front of the club. Now, all that’s left to do is wait for “prince charming” to buy you the cosmopolitan you’ve been craving all week.

From song lyrics telling us to be on our worst behaviour to Hollywood blockbusters painting alcohol as the cure to a boring existence, pop culture wants us to believe the best nights of our lives are the ones we don’t remember. Partying is labelled as the defining element

of our youth.

Infatuated by the ideas of only living once and the fear of missing out, it’s no wonder so many of us perform the role of partiers willingly. We must be confident, bold and loose—and not just with each other, but with our drinks too.

According to the Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse, women are generally more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol than men for a variety of reasons, including less overall body weight and more fat tissue.

These facts prompted the regional municipality of York, in southern Ontario, to launch a campaign against binge drinking at the end of August, right before frosh week. While this seems like a good idea, many felt the campaign was inherently sexist.

The campaign’s poster depicts a young woman staring at her cellphone in horror alongside the slogan, “Don’t try to keep up with the guys.” At the bottom of the poster, the line reads: “It’s not just about keeping an eye on your drink, but how much you drink.” While done with good intentions, it is a message that shames, guilts and blames women.

The campaign was heavily criticized for suggesting women are at fault for their own victimization. Emphasizing the idea that women must control their drinking insinuates women can prevent bad things from happening to them so long as they don’t drink too much.

As a young woman, I found the ad problematic but not for the reason it came under fire. Yes, perpetuating the myth that drunk women are “asking for it” is undoubtedly problematic and wrong. Nonetheless, I appreciated that someone at least tried to expose the pressure women feel to live up to binge drinking standards.

What disappointed me about this ad was how it completely failed to communicate that this pressure is not put on us by men, but by the media.

By focusing on sex alone, the ad ignores critical factors which impact a person’s drinking habits—what age they started, how often they drink, if they’re drinking on a full stomach. None of these considerations have anything to do with sex, yet they have everything to do with a person’s susceptibility to alcohol.

Both the media and the York ad campaign paint overly simplistic portrayals of alcohol. Cultural media, like television, music videos and song lyrics, paint binge drinking as an amazing escape. But being drunk doesn’t guarantee that you’ll feel bold or happy. In reality, being drunk triggers different responses, ranging from euphoria to depression. The ad campaign fails to communicate this, and instead paints binge drinking as a problem rooted in biology.

Even from a biological standpoint, though, the ad completely misses the point. I guess its creators forgot that tall women exist. Being 5-10 myself, I can attest to the fact that some women are able to take in more alcohol than “the guys” before ever feeling a thing.

The York campaign is problematic because it assumes that binge drinking is a pressure felt only by women. In reality, binge drinking is a pressure placed on both sexes by media which glamorizes the effects of alcohol. Pop culture places binge drinking on a pedestal. We are taught to praise alcohol for its ability to make us “go with the flow.” What many fail to realize, however, is that the media’s glamorization of alcohol instills pressures on us to behave in gender-specific ways. The stereotypical view perpetuated by mass media is that binge drinking is bold, confident and expected. Saying no is weak, boring and odd. These stereotypes apply whether you are male or female.

I believe the success of a responsible drinking campaign lies in exposing one very simple truth: the media profits off our compliance to gender stereotypes in nightlife culture. It’s up to us to reject the myth that masculinity and femininity are measured by how much you can or can’t drink.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the organization that created the binge drinking campaign. The campaign was launched by the regional municipality of York. The Concordian regrets the error.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Undermining female reporters

Confronting sexist rhetoric and gender-based obstacles as a female reporter

Pry your eyes off my legs—I am not here for your gaze, I am not just an object to stare at. Don’t call me sweetie, I’m not here to be your date. I’m here as a reporter—to interview you, not to put up with your excessive and inappropriate passes. I’m not here to have my credibility undermined by your overt sexism.

I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons in my two years working for The Concordian and in my first year of journalism school. However, a hot topic I find lacking in the curriculum is how to deal with sexism, harassment and constantly trying to be taken seriously—all things that seem to come with the territory of being a female reporter.

It’s not uncommon for my attentiveness and eye contact during interviews to be interpreted not as traits of a diligent reporter, but rather, as flirting that encourages inappropriate behaviour from some. This has often made me extra vigilant when I have to interview men.

In the last year and a half as a news reporter, and naturally as an intuitive person, I’ve become familiar with the insinuation of certain types of eye contact and non-verbal communication. Oftentimes, the interviewee’s body language and eye contact are just signs of attentiveness to my questions. Other times, it’s almost impossible to ignore I am being sexualized and thought of in an objectifying way when I’m trying to do my job.

Body language is one thing, but the commentary is another. Whether it’s before, during, or after an interview, it’s never an appropriate time to ask if I’m single, free later or pose any other questions about my personal life. While my interviewee is always informed on the nature of the interview and article I’m writing, I’m never given the same outlines for the way I will be hit on or undermined as a female reporter.

The thing I love most about being a journalist is meeting and speaking with people who have a variety of opinions and aspirations. However, sometimes those in positions of power have been troublesome. I’ve found myself in situations where male faculty at Concordia think it’s appropriate to ask me invasive questions, or even to ask me out on a date. I’ve even encountered people who will request coverage of an event as a sly attempt at getting to know me better, hoping an interview will turn into a date.

There have been many times where I’ve gotten the impression that my gender undermines my credibility and judgement in the eyes of the people I collaborate with and report on. I once had a source question my choice of words in an article, only to ignore my response for a month, then eventually respond with an apology—followed by asking me out on a date.

Not only are some of my own experiences as a reporter troublesome, the language used towards female reporters is also problematic.

Too often, the response I receive when I mention I’m a journalism student or a news editor is, “I can totally see you on camera,” or “You would be a great news anchor!” Yes, these are nice comments—but when you break it down, it’s easy to see there is an immediate assumption that how I look is what makes me fit to sit in front of a camera. It undermines my capability and my work as a journalist, and is essentially presumptuous, sexist rhetoric.

Since this issue seems to be deeply rooted in our society, I believe media outlets and schools with journalism departments should take it upon themselves to better tackle sexism and address gender-based obstacles that non-male counterparts may face in the field. It’s important and necessary to learn how to professionally handle instances of sexism, racism or any other kind of mistreatment.

Graphic by Florence Y


Ex-CJLO employee files labour complaint

Former employee claims CJLO as a sexist work environment

A former employee of CJLO, Concordia University’s campus radio station, recently filed a labour complaint under the Canadian Labour Code, claiming the station’s executive team created a hostile work environment for women. The former employee also claims she was fired without just cause.

Ellen Smallwood, who served as the station’s director of promotions, fundraising and sponsorship from January 2015 to November 2016, filed the complaint on Tuesday, March 28. Smallwood will be represented by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), a Montreal-based civil rights organization.

Smallwood claims tensions began between her and the station’s executive board and management team in June 2016. At the time, a group of employees, including Smallwood, suggested putting up posters around the radio station’s office to promote it as a safe space. The posters would have condemned sexism, racism, transphobia and other forms of bigotry. According to Smallwood, certain employees opposed the poster because they felt it interfered with their freedom of speech, as well as freedom of the press. She claims this was an indirect form of oppression against minorities.

According to Smallwood, in the weeks that followed, the pro-poster employees created multiple designs for the poster with various anti-oppression messages, but all of them were taken down or opposed. She said the station manager, Michal Langiewicz, eventually decided to hold an online vote for the station’s volunteers and staff on whether they approved of the poster. While Smallwood claims the staff overwhelmingly voted in favour of displaying the poster, she claims Langiewicz still refused to put it up.

Also speaking out is another female former employee, who wished to remain anonymous. The anonymous employee corroborated some of Smallwood’s claims regarding the work environment and tension created following the safe space poster debate.

“The problem is not only that the safe space poster has not been put up,” the anonymous employee said. “Proudly stating that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and, in general, any abusive language or actions will not be tolerated at the station should never even have been up for debate.”

Smallwood claims, after the poster debate, tensions grew and the workplace environment became increasingly hostile towards female employees.

Smallwood did not name any particular board executive when outlining her complaint, although she did describe Langiewicz’s leadership as being “paternalistic and sexist.”

Smallwood said the official reason she was let go was because the executive board believed a non-student would be able to commit more hours to the station. Smallwood added she was not informed in-person, and she received no advanced notice or warnings regarding her performance or behaviour.

“I was told I didn’t have to go back to the station after that,” Smallwood said. “I was told that they had everything taken care of, and I was never able to go back after that.”

Smallwood also claims an employee told her she was not fired in-person or given advanced notice because she would have “cried like a baby.” It is a statement Smallwood said she feels exemplifies the sexism she faced in her position. She did not disclose the name of the person who made this comment.

In addition, Smallwood was allegedly presented with a written document by Langiewicz full of “legal jargon” that offered her minimal compensation if she agreed not to discuss being fired.

“This is the first labour complaint in 17 years we are dealing with,” Langiewicz said. “We cannot comment on any details at this point for reasons of confidentiality, except to say that we are seriously disputing the allegations.”

Fo Niemi, the executive director and civil rights defender representing Smallwood said that the purpose of the complaint was not only to correct past actions, but to protect future employees from the same conditions Smallwood faced.

“[CJLO] treated an adult woman like a young, fragile girl, and created a toxic environment for women… this is not only corrective, this is preventative. It’s making sure these things won’t happen to other workers,” Niemi said.

Despite the complaint, Smallwood spoke positively about the majority of the station’s staff, and specified that she is speaking out not to attack the radio station as a whole, but to protect its current and future employees from facing similar circumstances.

“The volunteer community at CJLO is diverse, talented and does amazing work—they deserve better than the board’s toxic and dehumanizing processes, negligence and groupthink … They deserve to know the truth of why certain employees are no longer there,” Smallwood said.


Catcalls can’t continue: stop street harassment

Recent events highlight the need for allies against sexual comments

Ever since the video “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” by the Hollaback! collective gained notoriety, catcalling and street harassment seem to be all over everybody’s newsfeeds. In Montreal, some people took the matter into their own hands. About two weeks ago, the city was wallpapered with anti-catcalling posters, an initiative taken by collaborators of a blog called OntWatch on WordPress. The writers invite people to take back our public spaces and to “reiterate that it’s not our responsibility to alter the way we dress, where we walk, (and) at what time.”

But what’s the big deal about street harassment? A quick Google definition search will tell us that a catcall is a loud noise or comment of a sexual nature and that it is a form of sexual harassment. If you are a woman, this probably rings a bell. In fact, 65 per cent of women in the USA report being victims of some form of street harassment (compared to 25 per cent of men, with LGBT-identified men reporting more street harassment than heterosexual men) according to In Canada, the number reported of female victims escalates to 80 per cent, according to a study by Macmillan and colleagues in 2000.

The problem with catcalling is not necessarily the intention of the catcaller or the actual words that are used; it is the underlying assumptions behind it. What are just harmless comments for some, for me and for many women is a really unpleasant experience. Catcalling perpetuates and promotes the idea that women’s bodies exist mainly for the purpose of pleasing men, that we owe them something for giving us what they might consider a compliment; that being men somehow grants them the power to scrutinize or even have a say over our bodies. The bottom line is that this practice, which tends to be the precursor of more severe forms of street harassment, is not justified by a woman’s outfit, her physical appearance or the time and place she happens to be out and about.

Although these posters around the city may come across as aggressive or even radical—and are probably not the best way to address this issue—they are a reflection of the frustration and feelings of powerlessness that many women experience daily as victims of street harassment.

Like many, I wonder if there is a solution to this problem. I think that the best way to fight street harassment is to raise awareness, to speak up, to let others know how catcalling makes women feel, and to expose both men and women to testimonies of sexism and street harassment; such as those on the site Everyday Sexism.

It is important to keep in mind that in the fight against street harassment, and other gender inequality issues, men are our indispensable allies: only by understanding, educating and supporting each other will we get rid of this increasingly troubling practice.


Cheap shots over cheap tickets at Guzzo Cinema

The company’s hockey widow ad is much ado about nothing

Guzzo Cinemas’ “hockey widow” ad campaign has caused a stir lately, with many calling it sexist. At the heart of the accusation is the claim that the photo ad—which promotes a movie discount for women on evenings that the Montreal Canadiens play—implies that women do not watch hockey.

But really, it doesn’t at all.

The backlash for Guzzo Cinemas is a classic case of reading too much into what is actually a pretty straightforward message.

“Are you a hockey widow?” reads the photo ad. “You know… Left alone to regret wasted evenings while he watches the game?”

In fairness, for the ad’s detractors, the interpretation of the ad’s message was likely impacted by its visuals.

“Guzzo Cinema’s newest promotion on hockey widows offers women a discounted price on nights the Montreal Canadiens are playing. The ad is accused of being sexist. (Source: Guzzo Cinemas)

The picture accompanying the ad features a man glued to his TV during a hockey game. Next to him, his neglected girlfriend looks very much like she is being held hostage from puck drop until the final buzzer. The bottom of the ad shows the same woman, happily eating popcorn at a Guzzo movie theatre with her girlfriends.

Nevertheless, it strikes me as odd that an ad filled with clear, probing questions would be interpreted as a definitive statement on gender roles.

Merely asking those questions suggests an openness to the idea that there are indeed women who do love hockey, yet Guzzo Cinemas was accused of narrow-mindedness.

Imagine that this wording was used, for example: “Are you a woman? Left alone to regret wasted evenings while he watches the game?”

Not only is this fictional ad too broad to truly resonate with a prospective customer, it implies that no woman watches hockey and is certainly deserving of the backlash that the “hockey widows” campaign has received.

Clearly, the target market for Guzzo Cinemas’ promotion is much narrower than just women—it is women who do not love hockey and have significant others who do. I strongly doubt that anyone can deny the existence of such a group.

Sensitivity towards the portrayal of women in media is not only understandable, it is needed. But how can such a blatant misunderstanding arise? How can an advertising campaign so specific be seen as a sexist generalization of women?

But mainly, this kind of rush to judgment is due to the importance we tend to give to the images and messages shown on media platforms. It is the fear of the media’s power to influence others and legitimize certain norms, beliefs and values. It is the fear that if a message or image is in a movie, commercial or television show, some will conclude that not only must it be true, it must be the only truth.

Members of groups that have historically been stereotyped can be weary of how they are portrayed regardless of how harmless the portrayal is. Add the reality of the social responsibility of businesses and, in this case, Guzzo Cinemas’ margin of error was ever so small.

“Are you a hockey widow?”

It is a question that gives options to women in the audience. It does not pigeonhole them into a certain identity. We are all entitled to our opinions. However, I question the act of reading into something that simply isn’t there.

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