Exhibition review: Outside the Palace of Me

Shary Boyle’s exploration of the connection between society and the individual

This is a special show — the Toronto-based artist Shary Boyle has designed her exhibition on a stage setup at the Montreal Museum of Fine arts.

The moment visitors walk into the exhibition, they are standing in the middle of a huge stage. This implies that each individual not only observes society, but also participates in it. Shary Boyle’s artwork exposes a variety of phenomena in this society that we choose to ignore, which poses complex and sometimes paradoxical questions to visitors about our understanding of human nature.

The first sculpture visitors see is “The Potter”. It depicts an image of an artist’s process of making porcelain. However, the interesting thing is that this artist does not have a head, and there are six different porcelain pieces stacked up in front of them. Upon closer inspection, each piece has a different style that represents a different country. From the bottom up, they are China, Ghana, France, Greece, Peru, and Egypt.

Boyle is also very strict in the selection of materials: terracotta, porcelain, underglaze, china paint, luster, and brass rods were all used in her installation.

The headless artist of “The Potter” is captured making a gesture of lifting the porcelain as if they are trying to put these civilizations on their own head. This is a reflection of us being in a culturally diverse society. It also represents the ideology of each culture within society.

“Oasis,” another piece on display, is a woman sculpture that has both male and female sexual attributes. Although her face is covered by her hair, she is sitting sideways and presenting her sexuality in a confident pose. 

The idea of gender nonconformity created by this sculpture explores the people who break the gender norms that are expected for them. Her sexual organs look slicker than other parts of her body, because Shary Boyle uses luster as a representation of the gender stereotype, which is a beautiful and fragile material. This work poses the question to the viewer — why should the gender stereotypes in our minds be so solid?

Moving to the right side of the stage, visitors see a huge white statue sitting on the right side of the room, named “White Elephant”. Its whole body is painted and dressed in white. It is staring forward with no emotional expression on its face.

In a flash, its head suddenly turns around. Many viewers were shocked by this art installation, while others did not even notice its movement. According to Boyle, the title is inspired by the proverb “elephant in the room,” which refers to the phenomenon of people ignoring a very obvious fact. 

Shary Boyle sarcastically illustrates the whiteness of society, in which many politicians are aware of history of genocide, and the white privilege but choose to ignore it. The white elephant stands out in this dimly-lit exhibition room. According to my personal understanding, white has the ability to embrace any colour, just as this society can embrace any distinct being.


Diary of a fat kid: deconstructed

Learning to accept yourself and deal with trauma as an overweight person

TW: Eating disorders, body image, body dysmorphia

First, let me get this straight: being fat is not wrong. It’s not because you do not correspond to the ideal conception of beauty set by Instagram influencers that you are not worthy of living, nor are you responsible for anything. If you feel at peace with your body, good for you, and you should never feel pressure because your kind of beauty is different from others’ standards.

“Hey, fat guy!”, “Are you the guy from Super Size Me?” Yes, I’ve heard these phrases directed at me. “Susan Boyle,” “Big Mama,”—these were just some of my nicknames. On Jan. 31, 2018, I was 18 and weighed 287 pounds, almost twice the normal weight for a boy my age. My BMI was 42 at the time, and deemed me morbidly obese.

Being overweight is tough, especially as a teenager. Teenagers are cruel and immature. Some will try to hurt you—these ones, you’d better ignore altogether. Others will try to fight with you, and I fought back, which I do not recommend since it almost got me expelled. Most of the time, people don’t realize they’re hurting you. In this case, you have two options: say how you feel, which requires an extraordinary amount of courage, or hurt in silence, which is the option most people choose, and the most destructive.

Depending on the characters, some people will be very affected by mockery, and some just won’t care. I belonged to the first category. One time, I was coming home from school when an old woman stopped me to comment on my sweater, and as she left, she yelled, in front of my friends, “And don’t get any fatter!” I’d never been so humiliated, and I spent the rest of the afternoon crying on my couch.

Harassment is one thing, but what’s worse is isolation. When you’re fat (let’s call a spade a spade), you don’t go out, because people might notice your double-chin; you don’t go to parties because girls might reject you; you don’t go on vacation because you’re uncomfortable being shirtless, it goes on and on. You stay at home, so you feel miserable, so you eat to forget. And once you enter this vicious circle, it’s very difficult to get out.

That’s how I went from being a perfectly healthy 13-year-old boy to becoming an 18-year-old teenager with no girlfriend, no real friends, and for whom tying shoes was a struggle.

Because being overweight is such a painful reality, I think some people tend to find excuses: “I have big bones,” “It’s genetic,” or “I have a hormonal problem.” And sometimes it’s true, but in most cases, I think being overweight is the result of bad eating habits, not enough exercise, or both. And even if you have to accept this responsibility, it does not make you any less valuable of a person. As a matter of fact, I tend to consider overweight people victims. Yes, you might snack too much sometimes or find excuses to avoid the gym, but this is not due to you having an abnormally large stomach or lower physical abilities. Eating is often compensation for trauma.

In my case, it was an unfortunate, routine doctor’s appointment that started it all. I was six years old and in perfect shape. The quack pediatrician checked me and told my parents, “If he’s not skinny now, he is going to become fat later.” At that very moment, he implanted that idea in my dad’s brain like Leonardo DiCaprio implanted the idea that the world was not real into Marion Cotillard’s head in Inception.

I recall a ski trip with my cousins. It was lunch time and we decide to go to a restaurant. Everybody savoured a raclette except me—my dad forced me to eat salmon with straight beans. I was only 10 and unknowingly, he created a complex in me.

As I said earlier, there’s no guilt to feel about being overweight, whether you’re slightly overweight or obese. However, because it is a disease that can put your life at risk, I’ll never blame someone for wanting me to lose weight. My dad used to tell me, “You know I don’t care about your appearance, as long as you’re healthy.” We live in an era of self-acceptance, which is great, but if you want to change, it’s your right to.

So, if you want to lose weight, here are my Four Fight Commandments (because it will be a fight): First, talk with the people who care about you. Believe me, nothing will bring you more comfort than their support. I know the loneliness of being overweight, and it’s too much pain to endure for one person. Vent as much as you need; they will never judge you and it’ll be a huge load off your shoulders.

Second, talk to a therapist. I know it can be scary. I refused at first, but you must identify your trauma to be able to treat it. A therapist will listen to you and give you a professional and educated opinion.

Third, find the right diet for you. We all have different bodies and taste buds. You have to find, with the help of a dietician, the diet most adapted to your body type and eating habits. Last, if you feel like you can’t do it alone, surgery is one solution. It’s called bariatric surgery: gastric band, sleeve or bypass. These are major and irreversible surgeries, so you want to think twice before going through that. I’ve considered this option, and there is no shame in that.

Don’t get me wrong, it will be a long road, sometimes you will want to quit, but if I did it (and I was a desperate case) everybody can. And don’t forget, whether you are skinny, fat or somewhere in the middle, the only thing that matters is that you are at peace with who you are.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee


Trade school shouldn’t be frowned upon

One student’s thoughts on trade school versus a university degree, and why we should have a choice

Since elementary school, my parents have always told me that in order to be successful, I would need a university degree, and that I would amount to nothing without it. Whenever I failed a math test, I was threatened with the possibility of working at Walmart for the rest of my life––because somehow failing grade 7 math means that the furthest I’ll get in this world is being a cashier in a blue vest.

A university degree is considered the best thing you can have. While it can be, university isn’t for everybody—and that’s okay. We aren’t all built for university life. Some of us prefer to work manual jobs as mechanics or plumbers. Some of us want to use our creativity to become makeup artists and hairdressers. But some of us will be happier spending four years and thousands of dollars in school for our dream job.

There is nothing wrong with pursuing a trade. If we want to spend our lives working a manual job where we’ll inevitably have a bad back then that’s okay—we’ll be happy with our career choice and broken back.

In April 2018, the pressure to attend a four-year college remained so strong in American society that many high-paying jobs in the trade were currently sitting empty, according to NPR. In an article by VICE, Queens Tech principal Melissa Burg said, “I think those [trade] jobs go unfilled because skilled labor is looked down upon, even though those skilled labor people make more money than I do.”

Yes, a university degree is regarded highly in today’s society. Yet, while a degree is important in the eyes of employers, not everyone is built for academic life and no one should be forced into it.

Going to trade school should be encouraged instead of looked down upon. We need electricians, plumbers, hairdressers and makeup artists. It is ridiculous to expect everyone to be happy in academics––and it’s time to realize that and promote pursuing a trade as a valid career path.

While having a university degree may make it easier to get a job, it doesn’t mean that job will be in your field of study. You can have a degree in neuroscience and still be working at McDonald’s because there are no jobs in your field.

VICE’s article also touched upon how people often associate going to college with earning more money—an idea that isn’t necessarily true, since sometimes people waste more money going to college than they get out of it.

That being said, both university and trade school can bring someone amazing opportunities. If you’re studying what you love and what you see yourself doing for the next 40 years of your life, then the essays, tests and hard work put into your degree is worth it. Yet, only one type of schooling is stigmatized, seen as less than the other, and that’s not right.

Society should not be putting so much pressure on young adults to spend thousands of dollars on a piece of paper if they want to pursue a trade. A bachelor’s degree does not equal happiness; you can be successful and happy while pursuing a trade.

Spend money on something you actually like instead of something that will make you miserable. Comedian John Mulaney said in his Netflix comedy show, John Mulaney: Kid Wonder, “I paid $120,000 for someone to tell me to go read Jane Austen and then I didn’t.”

Archive Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


A helping hand versus hypocrisy

Why one student believes getting ghosted by an aspiring public figure isn’t okay

Hordes of millennials are trying to become famous. And these aspiring public figures all seem to have one thing in common: they are convinced that they have the potential to positively impact the world. They want fame, not just for fame’s sake, but because they believe they’re more perceptive to society’s problems than mostand whether through music, writing, or simply sharing their personal stories, they claim to have a sincere, overbearing desire to help others.

And yet, many of these same people put their “hustle” above anything else, including friends and family. When you need a shoulder to cry on, or an activity to get your mind off things, do not call an aspiring public figure. Between perfecting their craft and practicing the answers they’ll give Ellen DeGeneres in their success-story interview, many simply don’t have time for your mediocre company. Aspiring public figures also experience extremely unique emotions that only Oprah Winfrey can understand. Trying to express their feelings to small-minded people is exhausting.

For this reason, the aspiring public figure has the absolute right to ghost you. And you’re not allowed to be disappointed or hurt when it happens. Instead, you should automatically support their decision to move onto #BiggerThings.

Ok, enough with the sarcasm. Some aspiring public figures are hypocrites. Behind goodwill hashtags of “authenticity” and “purpose,” these hustlers operate on selfish agendas, and very calculated displays of compassion. Notice my use of the word ‘display’ here. These people jump on social and charitable opportunities that can be plastered all over Instagram, but never take the time to help anyone behind closed doors.

I’m speaking from both observation and experience. I, like most millennials, have befriended some people who are trying to grow their platform. And unfortunately, I’ve found that most have no problem dropping me like a hot potato. I can’t count on them to check in with me.

Instead, I must chase themand if I somehow do manage to squeeze into their impossibly tight schedules, I find myself being treated more like a fan than a friend. The most selfish aspiring public figures will have you believe that their grind is eternally sacrificial. If you comment on how much fun and freedom their lifestyle provides, they’ll follow up with a reminder of the pressures and vulnerabilities involved. This is a clever and profoundly manipulative way to downplay how much fun they’re actually having. They don’t want us to notice the pleasure and freedom involved in chasing big dreams, because that’s how we’d begin to perceive flaws in their integrity. I personally believe many aspiring public figures are using “passion” and “purpose” as excuses to absolve themselves of responsibility. With swollen egos, these people have grown to believe nearly everythingand everyoneis beneath them.

Disclaimer: not every aspiring public figure is like this. Some are genuine, and their grind is sacrificial. But, to those who might see themselves through my words: Mother Teresa once said, “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.” To be clear, that’s not to say you shouldn’t help strangers––but it is to say that you should be willing to help people in private too. If you forget how to be a friend on your way to being that world-renowned public figure, truly, there is no point.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


How bullying is a gendered issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graphic by @spooky_soda



A woman’s worth is beyond her hymen

Society needs to realize that a woman’s value goes beyond her virginity, her body, and her looks

In Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, author Mona Eltahawy writes: “The god of virginity is popular in the Arab world. It doesn’t matter if you’re a person of faith or an atheist, Muslim or Christian—everybody worships the god of virginity. Everything possible is done to keep the hymen—that most fragile foundation upon which the god of virginity sits—intact.”

Eltahawy’s words resonate on an international spectrum. If one were to read those words without the emphasis on “the Arab world,” it would almost be inevitable to link it to one’s own environment. Society’s obsession with a woman’s hymen can feel suffocating, and the older I get, the harder it is to run away from it.

I have come to realize that a woman’s place in society is often related to her body. As a little girl, she is immediately deemed weaker than her male counterparts because of a different physical build. As a teenager, her outbursts are linked to a “certain time of the month.” As a young adult, her hymen determines whether she is a prude or a slut. Past the age of 32, her biological clock is ticking. Will she be having more or any kids at all? Will she be able to juggle a successful career, as well as a healthy and stable marriage? Can women really have it all?

To quote The Simpsons’s favourite justice seeker, Lisa Simpson, “The whole damn system is wrong!” Unfortunately, such values are embedded in a person’s mind. Even when defending  women’s rights, people tend to take into account that a woman’s body creates life, and maintain that we must respect it.

Isn’t it ridiculous that a man’s physique is never used to enforce reverence, but a woman’s is almost a prerequisite? Granted, pregnancy is no thing to take lightly, and childbirth is not considered a miracle for nothing. However, why must it be a qualification of utmost importance? And why is it that a woman’s sexuality must determine her value in society?

A few months ago, university students at the Lebanese American University in Beirut shared their take on a woman’s virginity on Instagram, via an account called The Daily Question. Men and women gathered around to answer two simple questions: Would you marry a woman who is not a virgin? Would you respect a man who refuses to marry a non-virgin woman?

Although a number of students insisted that a woman’s sexuality is none of anyone’s business, it is the rather sexist responses of some that took me aback. Most importantly, a man comparing a woman to a can of Pepsi. His words were along the lines of, “say you go to your local dépanneur, and ask him to give you a can of Pepsi. Would you go for the one that has been opened and drunk from by various people or a new, unopened can, for your pleasure only?”

Being acquainted with years of female objectification did not lessen my shock when I heard such foul words. True, it should come as no surprise that for some, women are still, to this day, no different from objects, but this was a new low.

I bare no ill-will towards “virgin” men who expressed their need for a “virgin” bride, so they can discover their sexual lives together. What I am appalled by are the men––and women––who agree that a man should be sexually experienced, while a woman must remain pure.

This constant need to tarnish a woman for her sexual prowesses, or lack thereof, has to stop. A woman’s value goes beyond her hymen, beyond her looks, beyond her body. A woman must be measured by her words, her actions, her strength and fortitude. And most importantly, a woman’s actions are nobody’s business.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


Your undergrad is a marathon, not a sprint

Learning how to find your own pace in completing your degree and enjoying the ride

Every semester, around the time of fall and spring graduation, I get uncontrollably excited. It brings me back to June 2017 when I crossed the Concordia convocation stage for the first time. It was definitely a bittersweet moment. Bitter, because, as you near the end of your degree, you still may be unsure about what to do next. Having already graduated once and looking forward to my next graduation in June, I can assure you that the feeling is normal.

But that’s a topic for a different article. I am here to talk to you about the sweet feeling of achievement. Of accomplishment. The satisfying feeling of completing something you’ve given so much of your time to, that has taken the last four years of your life.

What makes it so sweet though? In the memories you’ll look back on from those four years, what will come to mind? Will you think of the tears you shed and the all-nighters you pulled? Maybe. Will you think of how much of a coffee addict you’ve become? Definitely. But then comes everything else. Trust me when I say all those non-academic memories will put the biggest smile on your face.

Keep in mind that everything outside the classroom is just as important as what goes on inside. But while you’re an undergrad, it’s easy to get lost in your books, and the pressure to finish your degree as quickly as possible can be strong. It’s important to recognize that sometimes life gets in the way, and that’s OK. I’d like to share with you some insight as to why it’s absolutely crucial to take your time and finish your degree at your own pace.

Remember, university is not a race. There seems to be this preconceived notion that if you don’t finish your degree in the minimum allotted time, you won’t succeed as a student or in life. Wrong. There is no time limit. Although you may feel pressure to graduate as soon as possible, remember the only person working for your degree is you. Find a pace that suits you.

Remember, you’re here to learn. You’re attending university because you want to be here, so there shouldn’t be a timer. Rushing through your degree too quickly will leave you more confused than when you started. Take the time you need to retain all you’re learning and ensure your experience is not one big blur.

Remember, the path isn’t linear. Part of the pressure to watch the clock while completing your degree comes from the outside. External expectations to pick a field early on and jump into the workforce immediately are bogus. Now is the time to explore different subjects and find your passion. Just because you chose one field doesn’t mean you’re not meant to do another, and it surely doesn’t mean you can’t do another. If you don’t like your program, change it. If you’re adventurous, take a page from my book: do a double major and master two fields you’re interested in at once. The options are endless, and they’re all yours for the taking.

Remember to find your balance. Make sure to take advantage of the undergraduate experience. When life gets in the way of your studies, take it as a blessing. Find the silver lining. These four years are an opportunity for you to grow both intellectually and socially. You will learn so much about yourself as a student and from other students, so enjoy everything

Concordia has to offer. Get involved, join a sports team or student association, meet other interesting people. Step outside of your discipline and your comfort zone. Now, as you approach the milestone achievement of graduation, and when you walk across that convocation stage, I hope you look back on some of the memories that put a smile on your face. When you do look back on your three or four years as an undergrad student, your experience will leave the biggest impression. So take all the time you need. Don’t rush the journey, and enjoy the ride.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


Poker-faces are pathetic, people!

Why we need to start embracing emotions rather than fiercely rejecting them

If emotions make you sensitive, passionate or compassionate toward others, congratulations, you’re an empath. Plenty of people are glad that the word ‘empath’ exists. And yes, I suppose it is needed. But only in relation to the super messed up society we live in, which tells us that feeling anything other than indifferent is gross.

Think about it: you can’t feel hungry anymore without also being body shamed. You can’t feel shy without also feeling like a loser. And God forbid you feel sad or concerned for someone else, because that sure is useless!

So this word is used to differentiate those who acknowledge emotions from those who pretend they don’t. And now, empaths are made to feel like they’re overemotional. If we get emotional at work, we’re deemed “unprofessional.” Among friends, we’re known as “the sensitive one.” In the dating world, showing emotional depth is equated with vulnerability. But what are we vulnerable to? Understanding? Acceptance? Connection?

Indeed, we empaths seldom look at ourselves (or each other) in a positive light, and that’s a real shame. Because being thoughtful and compassionate is the first step to true heroism. So no, I don’t think it’s fair that the word ‘emotion’ gets tethered to other words with negative connotations, like immature, fragile and, worst of all, weak.

But in a world that worships fake looks over real personality, it’s no wonder everyone is striving to feel as much as a cardboard cut-out. Social media, television and pop culture have done a fantastic job at fooling us into believing life is all about fronts. This hasn’t just propagated unrealistic standards of beauty, it has promoted unrealistic standards of what it means to be human.

Under the example of celebrities, political leaders and #influencers, feeling 100 per cent fierce 100 per cent of the time has become everyone’s main goal. You’re not supposed to feel heartbroken; you’re supposed to feel numbness toward romance, yet with an insatiable need to have sassy sex with strangers. You’re not allowed to feel nervous when speaking in front of a crowd; what you ought to feel is extreme assurance that you own the room. If you’re anything less than certain that your presence is a privilege unto all who cross your path, then you’re not strong, and that’s pathetic.

This is the lie we empaths have internalized, thanks to the sickening logic of self-absorbed capitalists who toy with our emotions to fill up their pocketbooks. And it makes sense for them to trick us; the more walls we build, the more we underestimate the value of immaterial pleasures like true friendship and romance. Indeed, equating emotion to weakness is just another clever marketing strategy used by public figures to keep the rest of us locked in a matrix of chronic insecurity. Feelings shouldn’t be talked about—they should be covered up with a brand-name poker face, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong. Behind even the most decked-out bulletproof vest beats the heart of a living, breathing, feeling human. To my fellow empaths, as you go about your daily lives, being made to feel inferior because of the intensity with which you perceive the world, please remember this: to the right person (i.e. another empath) your ability to be authentic will make you more attractive than even the most airbrushed Kardashian or thick-skinned Hercules.

One day, you’ll meet someone who will love and embrace you, not in spite of your feelings but precisely because of them. So don’t feel ashamed… just feel.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


How to survive in this cutthroat capitalist world

One student’s satirical approach to excelling in a competitive environment

One of the biggest fears of many students is graduation. How does one find a job and survive in this cut-throat, dog-eat-dog world? The “real world” is even scarier if you’ve spent most of your degree studying social sciences or humanities. You’ve been learning about the failings of global capitalism, and then you’re expected to live in this enigmatic economic system after graduation. Without further ado, here are a few general tips on how to win in this capitalist society. Since, you know, winning is all that matters.

The first rule is to constantly assess people by what they can give you. This can’t be stressed enough: people are vessels through which you can find success. Disregard anyone you perceive to be of a lower social standing. Shake the right hands (Tip: when shaking hands, pull the person toward you and ensure your hand is slightly on top of theirs. It’s a fun little way to assert power and dominance). This rule requires a mastery of the social hierarchy upon which every human is immovably placed.

The second rule is to live in utter fear and anxiety all the time. This includes fear of failure, fear of having your ideas stolen, fear of being cheated, fear of not being good enough, fear of falling behind and fear of starvation and/or homelessness. We live in an economic system based on good old competition, and everyone is secretly hoping you fail so their chances of success increase. Remember that people are out to get you, so at your deepest level, you need to truly trust and love no one.

The third rule is to lose any sense of morality or empathy you’ve ever had. You need to get out there and take what you want—and you are going to have to do some morally questionable things to get it. This may include intentionally slandering, sabotaging or even worse. At the end of the day, only one person can get that promotion you’ve been hoping for, so you’d better decide where your priorities lie. You will often see people who have less than you—quite possibly not even enough to survive—and your gut instinct will be to feel sympathy for them. But before you act too rashly, you need to remind yourself that they didn’t work as hard as you. Everyone gets exactly what they deserve, and there are no existing systems that benefit some people more than others.

Following these three simple rules will make you the winner of capitalism in no time. You will develop an unquenchable thirst for consumption in your pursuit for success, but surely happiness lies somewhere at the end of that, right? If you develop an anxiety so deep and fundamental that you can no longer function, you may consider rewiring your brain to be less concerned with monetary success and rigid hierarchical frameworks, but it’s really up to you. I’m sure you’ll find your own way to cope with the realization that all the plucky promises capitalism tells its youth, like “you get what you deserve” and “there’s value in hard work,” are ultimately propaganda to preserve the machine. Either way, happy job hunting!

Graphic by Ana Bilokin


The feminism we are exposed to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graphic by Ana Bilokin



Keeping up with the chaos of being a student

Why the daunting task of saving up is almost impossible when you’re in school

Does anyone else feel as though the world is rigged against students? I’m referring to the financial pressures to keep up with the trends and behaviours which have been glorified by society. For example, as a student, you have to pay for your tuition, books, public transit, etc. This is just a small list of the necessities. You also have to consider the coffee it takes to survive these long days, the phone plans we all have to pay to stay in touch, and our basic needs such as clothing and so on. Honestly, the daunting list never ends.

Even a student who receives help from their parents will see the bills add up, and fast. Is it just me or is all of this one giant trap set up by the society we live in? How are we supposed to pay for all those basic necessities, while keeping up with the latest travel or fashion trends, let alone save anything? There is so much pressure to be living our lives to the fullest, yet if we do so, we end up broke with an uncertain future.

Another aspect that needs to be mentioned is that we are expected to achieve high levels of education with acceptable grades, but we’re also supposed to work and be productive members of society. On the surface, this is a good thing, since working allows us to gain experience, meet people, become responsible, etc. But the harsh truth is that not all university students have the time to work. Different programs have different schedules that aren’t flexible and make it difficult for some students to work consistently throughout the semester. Yet, the expectations and expenses are the same for all of us. How does that make sense?

The solution could be to make sure students are educated on when and how to spend money, and how to budget. However, if our parents don’t teach us how to save, the difference between bank accounts, and how to set them up, we’re already five steps behind. The banking system is overwhelming and intimidating to say the least, and anyone who isn’t taught how to move within it may be too scared to ask the questions needed to achieve success. Essentially, students who aren’t good with saving money might find themselves torn between wanting to pursue a desirable, luxurious lifestyle that’s promoted in society, versus aiming for a financially stable but ‘boring,’ life.

Where do we go from here? Do we live in the moment, travel and gain memories that last a lifetime? Or do we focus on our future and save for our first car and down payment? The truth is, it’s up to you, and there’s nothing wrong with trying to achieve a little bit of both. It seems the best solution is patience. Hold off for one more summer before going on that trip; skip those unbeatable sales for a few months and accept that this is the choice we all have to make at some point.

The pictures we see on social media of our acquaintances’ amazing travels don’t show how hard they worked or the debt they acquired from that trip. The amazing fashion influencers we try to keep up with don’t advertise the best places to get similar, cheaper alternatives, nor do they acknowledge the fleeting moment of a trend and how quickly it will be replaced.

While a certain lifestyle might seem easily accessible, there is often a lot more hard work involved than advertised. Attention must be given to the negative impacts of these trends.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin



“Boys will be boys” encourages predatory behaviour

The recent allegations against Brett Kavanaugh highlight a deeper issue

On Sept. 27, Christine Blasey Ford testified against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about an alleged sexual assault. After Ford went public, two other women came forward with similar allegations. As a result of the accusations, Ford’s world has been turned upside down. It wasn’t long before Ford, a college professor living in California with her husband and two sons, started to receive death threats.

Victims of sexual violence face an immense amount of pressure when coming forward. The way they’re treated and oftentimes ridiculed is a clear indication that people don’t grasp how serious sexual violence truly is. The alleged assault took place 30 years ago, back when Kavanaugh and Ford were teenagers. But this story is still relevant today. Much of the blame is being placed on the fact that they were young and intoxicated, raising the notion that “boys will be boys,” which places teenage girls in a very despairing position. Present in this problematic societal norm is the concept that men can do what they want and women should succumb.

This notion is even rooted in every girl’s education; if a boy is mean to you, it’s because he likes you. The idea that masculine violence is natural, and therefore should be excused, is a problematic idea that continues to exist even in adulthood. Boys become men, and women, whatever their age or social status, are still expected to accept and endure masculine violence as a sign of affection, as something they should be grateful for. Kavanaugh’s defenders have tried to downplay the severity of the accusations, implying that what happened in high school somehow matters less.

“Isn’t it strange how every woman knows someone who’s been sexually harassed but no man seem [sic] to know any harasser?” tweeted singer Zara Larsson last year. This question in itself is an explanation for how our society operates. Women experiencing sexual violence in their everyday lives has become the norm.

Many men are raised with the idea of legitimate ownership over women and their bodies. This idea becomes even more apparent when men are in positions of power. On the other hand, women are taught to believe that their sexuality is frowned upon. Half of the world’s population is continually shamed for what they wear, how they talk, and whatever else is deemed inappropriate by society.

There’s an obvious problem when addressing how systems of power operate in the professional world. The conversation concerning sexual violence begins with consent. When discussing sexual violence and sexual harassment, there’s a lack of clarity in what constitutes the two.

Don’t get me wrong––both types of acts are horrific and must be condemned. But I’ve noticed that depending on a person’s circumstances, sexual harassment is often undermined because it really has to do with how something makes you feel. What constitutes as sexual harassment can be different for different people, which makes it harder to recognize and condemn it––what one person might feel is harassment might not be felt that way by someone else.

Ultimately, predatory behaviour can be hard to recognize, but even when it’s in our face, we feel hesitant in calling it out because of normalized behaviours and boundaries. As members of our society, we are all responsible for how we call out predatory behaviour. Unfortunately, as shown by the allegations against Kavanaugh, we’re still living in a time where survivors of sexual violence are not immediately believed and are doubted. When something of this nature happens to a survivor of sexual violence, they are reminded that they are not in control, which is extremely upsetting.

Oddly, sexual consent only comes up in conversation when it has already been violated. People’s actions during their adolescent years may not define who they become as adults, but they can permanently change the lives of others. We must remember that.

Graphic by @spooky_soda

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