Hear me out Opinions

Hear Me Out: There’s No Need To Flip The Table

How toxic masculinity plays on men’s emotions when watching sports

My friend came up to me the other day and started talking to me about her boyfriend’s sports-watching habits. She said that he becomes so violent when his team loses, that he has to take a 30-minute break before being able to have a conversation with her where he will not be verbally aggressive or loud.

How do I respond?

The short answer would be: send him to therapy. The long one is what I’m trying to unpack in this article.

This got me thinking about the culture of sports and how it ties into men and their emotions.

I love the idea of a community coming together to show support for a sports team, which is an important part of our culture and identity as a population.

In a digital age where we tend to not know our neighbour, literally and figuratively, sports can be a way for people to find communities, as they’re linked with territorial identification. Go Habs go, am I right?

But, was I the only one growing up scared of walking in front of a screen hypnotizing a group of men, or worse, to stereotypically ask them if they wanted another beer or more chicken wings in the fear of getting yelled at?

In a study on football hooliganism, six features are identified in the culture of sports and violence: “excitement and pleasurable emotional arousal, hard masculinity, territorial identifications, individual and collective management of reputation, a sense of solidarity and belonging, and representations of sovereignty and autonomy.”

As a sports fan myself, I understand the feeling of your favourite team winning. But I still cringe at the over-the-top reactions from men watching sports — whether it’s getting up from the couch to scream at the screen or making comments out loud on certain athletes’ performances as if they could hear them. Sometimes they even hug, but only because they’ve been made to believe that this is an acceptable time to show physical affection to another man.

If you’re having a hard time picturing what I’m describing, I’ll refer you to this Pepsi and Lay’s 2003 commercial where four men are watching a football game, taking touching each other in the slightest way too much to heart; but after a touchdown, they break into an orgy of hugs, butt slaps and grabs on the couch.

I won’t get into too much of a rant on homoeroticism and men’s sports, but in what other circumstances have you seen heterosexual men grab each other’s butts than in a football league?

In an even surprising yet probable instance, they also cry.

This cleverly goes against the way patriarchy brainwashes boys from a young age to think that their emotions are not valid or, at least, shouldn’t be shown in public.

Even male athletes crying or showing emotions that are deemed too “feminine” is accepted by society as the context of sports somehow gives it a stamp of masculine approval.

I’m not just saying that from personal experience.

In their study, Heather J. MacArthur from the department of psychology at Hamilton College presented participants with different scenarios of men and women crying in different contexts that were stereotypically masculine, such as firefighting and weightlifting, or stereotypically feminine like nursing and figure skating.

The results showed that men who cried during sports or professions that were deemed masculine were perceived as more emotionally appropriate and emotionally strong than the ones who cried in more stereotypically feminine settings.

Now I’m all for men showing their emotions. It’s just sad that they need an entire sports league in order to do so.

It somehow makes sense why men would cry watching sports because it’s something they are taught to care about.

After all, according to Michael Messner’s Televised Sports Manhood Formula, “boys are taught that paying the price, be it one’s bodily health or one’s money, gives one access to the privileges that have been historically linked to hegemonic masculinity — money, power, glory, and women.”

In their study, Messner also identified a link between violence and sports as he states that the stereotype of aggressive players getting the prize, and nice guys finishing last is impacting young boys’ views.

This is what concerns me the most about men watching sports.

Although Professor Daniel Wann attributes sports fan aggression mainly to alcohol consumption, he also points out that a personal identification to the team is an extension of the fan himself.

With that narrative, a sports fan watching their favourite team lose can be seen as a personal failure, or even worse, a personal attack from the winning team.

That is where the violence comes in.

Although I don’t personally feel the need to identify with a team so much that it would define who I am, I understand if that’s what someone else is into (though I might cringe a little).

It’s just frustrating as a woman to always be told that our emotions are uncontrollable, when men will flip a table or be verbally aggressive out of the blue because some other men in uniforms’ bodies did not perform well enough.

So now, what do I tell my friend? That her boyfriend is just another victim of patriarchy and that his handling of his emotions is just a result of that? No, that’s much too academic and pointless to be honest.

However, it’s the real answer that I found in my research. Even though it’s no small task, we need to address the general attitudes on gender dynamics and sports before ever getting to the case of my friend’s boyfriend.


Pro-democracy protests turn deadly in the Kingdom of Eswatini

At least 29 killed, hundreds wounded in the nation’s fight against monarchy

Since June 2021, the southern African nation of Eswatini has been fighting for democracy and economic justice while King Mswati III deploys lethal force against protesters. Having been in power since 1986, the king refuses to step down as the country experiences one of the most violent unrests in its history.

Officially known as Swaziland until 2018, the citizens of Africa’s last absolute monarchy are rallying for major government reforms. These include a democratic selection process of Eswatini’s prime minister and the release of two members of Parliament, Mduduzi Bacede Mabuza and Mthandeni Dube, who were detained when the protests began.

The Swazi police have fatally shot over 29 demonstrators this year, seized personal belongings, and brutally interrogated journalists in an attempt to silence the pro-democratic movement, according to Swazi journalist Cebelihle Mbuyisa. The protesters also responded with violence, looting grocery stores and committing arson in the country’s two largest cities.

Tracey Dlamini, a 19-year-old university student in the capital Mbabane, described the gravity of the unrest to The Concordian, having witnessed these events unfold first-hand.

“I was really shocked, I’ve never seen anything like this in Swaziland in my entire life,” she explained. “The police were shooting the whole night, using tear gas, throwing protesters in vans like they were animals. I couldn’t even sleep hearing those gunshots. […] They shot even those who didn’t carry a weapon: small kids, mothers, fathers — everyone. All because we want one man to step down.”

On Oct. 21, the kingdom shut down internet access nationwide amid the new wave of protests, while also restricting movement under the current curfew from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Mswati III continues to rule with an iron grip, attempting to monopolize Eswatini’s economy for the royalty.

“King Mswati is the law himself, he can’t be arrested. People are dying of hunger, some regions have no water, […] and if you start a business and it’s successful, then the king will take it from you. He sees you as competition if you try to become rich,” Dlamini added.

In 2019, the Swazi monarch purchased 19 luxury Rolls-Royce cars for his 15 wives, which amounted to $30 million. While Mswati III continues his lavish lifestyle, 63 per cent of Swazis live under the poverty line with an alarming 41 percent of the population being unemployed.

The king himself referred to the protests as “satanic,” saying they are turning the country backwards. Still, the manifestations show no signs of slowing down, notably among high school and university students, while the path towards democracy remains complex for Eswatini.

“We’re fighting for a democracy that has been deemed futile in so many African countries, like the neighbouring Lesotho,” said Georgia*, a Concordia student who grew up in Swaziland. “We need a system for ourselves which encompasses both the current system and a somewhat democratic one, and it’s intangible right now since emotions are high.”

The student added that Eswatini’s humanitarian crises have often been overlooked by the United Nations and the West, causing the landlocked country of 1.2 million people to deal with rampant poverty on its own.

“We need external forces to help, we need more awareness from the western world. They are the only ones who can actually bring democracy to reality in a country such as ours,” said Georgia.

Earlier in June, Canada expressed its commitment to strengthen democratic institutions throughout the world at the G7 Summit in Cornwall, England. However, the Trudeau government has yet to address Eswatini’s ongoing violence or provide support for the fellow Commonwealth member.

*To protect the subject’s identity, we are using their preferred pseudonym.


Graphic by Lily Cowper


NHL season: vicious hits coming with a rise in intensity

Could a condensed hockey season and a smaller number of opponents mean more questionable hits?

This 2020–21 NHL season is different than any season we have ever seen before. That includes modified divisions, including the all-Canadian North Division, in order to abide by travel restrictions between the Canada–United States border due to COVID-19.

Each team is expected to play 56 games exclusively against their respective division teams. This means that all American teams will be facing each team eight times, while Canadian teams will face their opponents nine or 10 times. This should be done in a period of five months, but could take longer because of postponed games due to COVID-19 protocols.

While this format should allow the regular season to be over by May 10, many questions have been raised about the short rest time for players, and the risk of injury.

This shorter season also means a lot of consecutive games between the same teams, which can create more tension between teams, compared to a regular 82-game season. This is looking a lot more like the playoffs; the rivalry, the hits, and the fights are all there.

There have been multiple cases of dangerous hits this season, leading to injuries and sometimes suspensions for the offending player.

The Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks faced each other for three consecutive games in Vancouver earlier this season. During the second game, when the Canadiens were up 6-3 with less than three minutes left in the game, Canucks’s defenceman Tyler Myers made a huge hit on Montreal forward Joel Armia and received a 5-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.

Armia was diagnosed with a concussion after the game, which raised many questions as to what kind of additional discipline Myers could get. The next day, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced that he would get none, as it was a “bodycheck.” This eventually led to Canadiens defenceman Joel Edmundson and Myers dropping the gloves in the first few minutes of the third game, adding even more violence to the situation.

St. Louis Blues forward Sammy Blais also made a dangerous hit on Colorado Avalanche defenceman Devon Toews. On the ice, the call made was a minor elbowing penalty. Toews left the ice after the hit, but later returned to the game.

However, the Department of Player Safety later made the decision to give Blais a two-game suspension for an illegal check to the head. The calls given to Myers and Blais — on the ice and from the Department of Player Safety — were both different, which shows how hard it is to understand punishments of vicious hits.

Another big hit this season was Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie on Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Marcus Pettersson, a few seconds after Oshie was tripped by Pettersson. The referees made the call on the ice for a major penalty, but then changed it to a minor interference after review. Oshie received no additional discipline.

Some might say that these consequences make sense, and some might argue they don’t.

While hits are an essential part of hockey, I think consequences regarding players’ safety should be more consistent, especially with such a condensed season where teams get even more competitive as they face the same six or seven teams for five months.


Graphic by Lily Cowper


The man before the villain: a controversy

A man bought a ticket to watch a movie. He went in before the screening, propped open the emergency exit, and hid something inside.

About half an hour into the movie, the man came back into the theatre wearing a ballistic helmet, bullet proof vest and leggings, a gas mask, and gloves. He detonated smoke bombs into the crowd, who thought it was all special effects; part of the movie experience. Then he unloaded four weapons full of ammunition, killing 12 people, one of whom was a six-year-old girl, and injured 70 people.

“I’m the Joker,” he told police upon his arrest minutes after the massacre.

That was James Holmes in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012, when The Dark Knight Rises was released. Prior to that horrible night, reports said that neighbours and families saw nothing out of the ordinary in his behaviour. Nothing that pointed to the disturbed individual who lied behind the Honours student and PhD candidate persona. Neighbours said he was geeky, but didn’t seem anti-social or angry.

He’s a white man who has a high education, a ‘normal’ childhood, is social, talks about football, buys guns legally. Pretty much your average American white male – but with a tendency for cold-blooded murder. Holmes has more in common with Ted Bundy than Arthur Fleck.

Still, it’s well-known that the Joker is admired and even glorified by internet trolls, incels, and people with violent tendencies. They relate to the character that’s a  “man who wants to watch the world burn.” It might even feel like they’re being represented on TV – it almost gives validity to their feelings, like they’re not alone, like what they feel matters.

The thing is that humans create connections and see patterns in things that really are not connected at all. According to an article in Time, even Pepe the Frog turned into a symbol of hatred for the alt-right. People see what suits their previously set beliefs and biases. They ignore the fact that Joker is a villain, and just see the resonance of their sentiments with his. Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is no different in that sense.

It’s different, however, in the fact that it’s humane.

Everything about Joker is humane. The setting, the cinematography, Arthur Fleck – Joker only makes an appearance at the end of the movie. Naturally, it’s an origin story. The thing is, it’s a vividly violent and realistic portrayal of the humane. And it revolves around a white man.

What I liked the most about Joker was that it was highly visual. You could see the violence forming in Fleck’s eyes, you could see the hatred brewing – you could feel it. Contrary to what I’ve read, I didn’t feel sorry for him from the moment he killed those men on the train to the rest of the movie. Before that, I did sympathize. Everyone should. Had his mental illness been taken care of, had the system not been so broken – there might have been a chance of innocence for Arthur Fleck.

The movie is about everything that could have put a stop to Fleck’s transformation into Joker. People were disturbed by Todd Philips’ realistic setting, rather than the comic-book version, according to a piece in Time. Is it not a ‘realistic setting’ when Arabs are constantly portrayed as terrorists on TV and film?

Joker is not an ode to incels. It’s a shout to a broken system. Fleck’s behaviour is not excused – he becomes a horrible person. Apathetic and sociopathic, but he was not born that way. The broken system begins with an unfit mother adopting a child. The head trauma Fleck suffered at a very young age was definitely not properly taken care of – even today, head traumas are complicated and you can’t always know what side effects might appear. He was not given a proper education, the court-ordered therapy was inefficient, and he’s an anti-social, awkward, bullied incel.

I’m not a psychologist, but I’m positive that there’s a lot more in his head than his Pseudobulbar affect – the mental disorder where the physical reaction doesn’t match the actual feelings. Most critics claiming Joker is a danger and might instigate violence are American.

These critics are forgetting one thing: you’re still deviating from the real problem, and that’s your own version of a broken system. There might be proper healthcare, and proper background checks for those who want to adopt – but your gun laws are lenient, to say the least. Mass shootings and white, male violence didn’t start with Joker, or Fleck, nor will it end with them.

I wonder. Are you upset that the origin story is grossly violent and realistic, or are you bothered at the fact that a white man is being portrayed that way?



The fine line between entertainment and reality

Florida rapper XXXTentacion had just left a motorcycle dealership on June 18 and was about to drive off when two masked men approached his car, robbing and fatally shooting him, according to CBC News. It was an incident as tragic and heart-wrenching as it was controversial.

While devoted fans mourned the loss of their favourite artist, others showed no sympathy, largely due to the rapper’s cumbersome heap of criminal charges which range from harassment to domestic violence. But this isn’t the first time a rapper has been in hot water in the eyes of the law. According to Complex Magazine, in 2016 Famous Dex was sent to jail after hotel footage was released showing him beating his girlfriend; something similar happened in a case earlier this year when NBAYoungboy was indicted on assault and kidnapping after a haunting video of him with his partner at the time surfaced on the web, according to TMZ. TMZ also revealed that rapper Tekashi69 currently faces up to three years of jail time due to sexual misconduct—and these are among the most celebrated voices in today’s rap scene. Many of these rappers came up from nothing and are riding off a wave of instant success, which is great. But this also means the spotlight can be placed on people who don’t realize the power they hold, or simply take advantage of it.

I believe the escalation of violence in the lives of rap artists is a result of the genre being too aggressive in its present state. This might seem like an absurd claim—after all, isn’t rap music supposed to be hostile from time to time? But I believe that, nowadays, rap music and culture condones (or perhaps even encourages) toxic behaviour, resulting in an escalation of violence, exposing both the artists and their listeners to danger.

I believe that in the age of social media, an artist’s music and their personality are more prevalent in a holistic sense; rappers need to market themselves on platforms like SnapChat and Instagram as much as they need to advertise their actual tracks to gain traction.

It is a time when anybody with a laptop, a mic and a SoundCloud account has the potential to turn heads, and rappers often take a multitude of measures to ensure the spotlight stays on them. This includes changing their appearance with dyed hair or face tattoos, flexing new purchases (designer clothes, jewelry and cars, to name a few) or, of course, getting caught up in a public beef with another artist.

The latter I’ve noticed much too often in recent memory. With each new day, more rappers are livestreaming themselves and talking one another down in what feels more like a desperate publicity stunt than anything else. In a lot of cases, the talk is, well, just that: talk. But other times it gets physical, with one recent example taking place in our very own Montreal, between rappers Killy and Lil Xan after a storm of malicious tweets. Fights and in-person showdowns between rap artists are about as frequent as they are unsurprising; footage of these tussles go viral.

What scares me is that we live in a world where the fine line between entertainment and reality is becoming harder for people to distinguish. Violent behaviour makes the growing popularity of rap even more complex, as this genre has increased by 72 per cent in on-demand audio streaming in the last year, according to global information and measurement company Nielsen. This same company noted that, for the first time, rap surpassed rock as the most popular genre in the United States last year, with the vast majority of its listeners being young adults and teens.

I’m not trying to demonize rap—on the contrary, I’m trying to protect the music I love. Whether it’s the effortless tongue-in-cheek way Lil Pump approaches his bars or Kanye’s hilariously egotistical one-liners, I believe rap is an unfailing method of getting people to vibe together and providing something to talk about. But rappers should be viewed as entertainers, not idols. They have stories and motives that are unknown to us, and it is of vital importance that any rap listener, seasoned or novice, take this into consideration before putting on their headphones.

Graphic by Wednesday Laplante



Refuting violent images of Arabs and Muslims

Media has perpetuated a myopic view of Arabs for years

“In newsreels or news-photos, the Arab is always shown in large numbers. No individuality, no personal characteristics or experiences. Most of the pictures represent mass rage and misery, or irrational (hence hopelessly eccentric) gestures. Lurking behind all of these images is the menace of jihad,” wrote Edward Said, an influential Arab-American intellectual, in his book Orientalism. “Consequence: a fear that the Muslims (or Arabs) will take over the world.”

This is the context in which Arabs and Muslims have been depicted for years, and are still depicted today. BBC News, one of the most popular news organizations in the world, wrote this headline on March 31 about the killing of Palestinians during a peaceful demonstration in Gaza: “Gaza-Israel border: Clashes leave 16 Palestinians dead and hundreds injured.” The word “clash” suggests the Palestinians have equivalent power in the situation, but they do not.

“I want to be shot. I don’t want this life,” Yahya Abu Assar, who participated in the demonstration, told The Washington Post. Palestinians have been living under one of the longest military occupations in recent history. Therefore, people are bound to get frustrated and exhausted living in such a precarious condition, especially those who live in Gaza, which has been described as an “open-air prison” by former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron.

Yet, Palestinians often are portrayed as violent and irrationally angry in the media. And at the same time, some political commentators—both liberal and conservative—without fail try to justify the Israeli government’s disproportionate use of force, with only tangential mention of the historic injustices that Palestinians have faced. Every United States administration, including Obama’s progressive government, has repeated this line: “Israel has the right to defend itself.” What about the right for Palestinians to do the same?

In response to Israel’s intervention in Syria, General James Mattis, President Donald Trump’s secretary of defense, said in a press conference in Rome: “They don’t have to wait until [Israel’s] citizens are dying under attack before they actually address that issue.” On the other hand, when the killings happened in Gaza, Trump’s administration remained silent, not even issuing an official statement. Palestinians are just people, much like Israelis and Americans—curiously enough, many people forget that.

The representation of Arabs and Muslims is not only relegated to the news, but also movies, like Back to the Future where the side villains are Libyan terrorist looking for plutonium, and books from “expert sources.” In his 1996 book, Clash of Civilizations, political scientist Samuel Huntington argued that post-Cold War conflict will be cultural, pinning the western world against the Islamic world. The book paints a grim and unrepresentative image of Arabs and Islam, a picture of culture in constant opposition to the world, and Huntington diminishes the diversity within the Middle East and Islam itself. He wrote: “The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is not the CIA or the U.S. Department of Defence. It is the West.”

When the media portrays Arabs and Muslims as single-mindedly violent and barbaric, people forget about our humanity—the fact that we are just people. Palestinians are people. Arabs are people. Muslims are people. It bears repeating, because violent images of us are being perpetually distributed. We are people who enjoy eating great food, playing sports and having a fulfilling job. We are not irrationally more inclined to be violent and “barbaric” due to our religion and/or ethnicity.

As a person born and raised in Saudi Arabia, the images that liter the media are not representative of my life. Yes, violence exists in the Middle East. However, it’s contextual, historical and affects us the most. Before moving to Canada, I, like many Arabs and Muslims, just lived life; I went to school, hung out with my friends and enjoyed watching cartoons. I also faced discrimination and dehumanization being a Shi’ite, as marginalized people do all over the world. Shia face discrimination on a systemic level and personal basis like many minorities; certain jobs are not available us; we are stereotyped and underrepresented in society. Protests against inequalities caused fear of instability, leading to a police crackdown and checkpoints surrounding the entrances to Al-Qatif, a majority Shia area, reported The Globe and Mail.

Yet, the media continues to misrepresent Arabs and Muslims—this has negative implications. Arabs are discriminated against in airports, in the streets, and in institutions in the West. On a larger scale, the advocacy of western intervention, selling weapons and military gear, and western ignorance on issues happening in Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, have wider implications that are disastrous for Arabs. While westerners are more fixated on the violence of Arabs, their own countries are helping arm and sustain war efforts in the Middle East. The Canadian government sold armoured trucks to Saudi Arabia, which the government is using against the Shia community in Al-Awamiyah, according to The Independent.

In my opinion, more people in the West should read Arab perspectives, and encourage and support Arab journalists, filmmakers, writers and academics. As Said argues, the perception of the Arab world was created through western academics’ eyes. Reshaping this myopic view of the Arab world is important, and it starts by listening to our voices, especially the marginalized voices in the Arab world.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Mass shootings: Why does this keep happening?

Las Vegas massacre highlights the deeper problem of gun control in the U.S.

Fifty-eight people lost their lives when Stephen Paddock opened fire from the 32nd floor in his Mandalay Bay hotel room in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. This was the 273rd mass shooting of 2017—also the deadliest in modern American history, according to Time.

Various conservative news sources have reported that no one could have seen this tragedy coming. It was totally out of the blue. That’s strange given the fact that Paddock bought a total of 33 guns in the last year, according to CNN. In February, President Donald Trump signed a bill into law that forbade the U.S. Social Security Administration from submitting the names of people with mental illnesses to the national background check system. I believe this has no other purpose than to get more guns into the hands of more people.

When a man like Paddock can amass nearly 50 guns throughout his lifetime, the main problem isn’t mental illness or hotel security. The real culprits are the gun laws (or lack thereof) currently in effect in the United States, and the people unwilling to change them.

Even though assault rifles are illegal in the United States, Paddock had bump stocks—small pieces of hardware attached to his guns that help semi-automatic rifles fire nearly as quickly as full automatic ones. The kicker? They were purchased legally. Why are they legal?

The answer is the NRA (National Rifle Association). The answer is always the NRA. For decades, they have pushed for increased deregulation of firearms and even opposed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. The group has so much power through campaign contributions and lobbying efforts that it’s literally undemocratic. They have spent over $200 million in the last 20 years promoting their agenda, according to the U.S. Federal Election Commission, and that somehow seems to drown out the fact that nearly eight out of 10 Americans are in favour of implementing the most basic gun control laws, according to the Pew Research Center.

Even the majority of Republicans (82 per cent) advocate for barring people on the no-fly list from getting guns. More than half of Republicans (54 per cent) approve of background checks for private sales or gun shows and a database that will track gun sales across the country, according to Pew Research Center.

Many Americans will argue that it is their constitutional right to protect themselves. In reality, nowhere in the American Constitution does it say people have the unalienable right to own a gun just because they are American. Word-for-word, the Second Amendment reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Notice a very curious group of three words that is often left out of the NRA’s and many Republican’s speeches: Well. Regulated. Militia. That means if the freedom of the United States is under threat and militias are brought into action, their right to have arms will not be infringed. It does not say anything about private citizens. I imagine the beginning of the Second Amendment is often left out because “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” sounds a whole lot better for gun advocates.

In my opinion, the NRA has ignited this pro-gun fervor by convincing millions of people there is a secret, totalitarian super-government hell-bent on taking away their guns and freedom. Truthfully, what gun control advocates are trying to do is simply make sure gun owners don’t misuse them or put anyone in harm’s way. Like, you know, the nearly 100,000 people who have died in the United States since 2014 from gunshots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Right-wing media and politicians have a go-to tactic when a mass shooting they can’t politicize occurs. They avoid talking about the real problem at hand. Take Fox News’ Sean Hannity, for example. He spent more time talking about how he would have been able to help the people of Las Vegas had he been there, rather than discuss the serious ramifications of the lack of gun control. These commentators and politicians give their thoughts and their prayers, and that’s it. However, they had no problem politicizing shootings when they happened in San Bernardino, Fort Lauderdale, Brussels or any other instance of violence that fit their anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Every time we say “never again,” people seem to think doing nothing will solve the problem. What really needs to happen is a significant overhaul of the current legislation and a bipartisan effort to limit who can obtain firearms to avoid more senseless deaths.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


Whether or not violence can affect positive change

Understanding the place of violence and its usefulness in North American politics

Is violence an effective way of achieving systemic change in our society? This question has been one of particular interest to anyone involved in current North American politics.

The discourse of far-right and even mainstream media outlets have demonized the radical left for some of its recent approaches to political protests. Take for example Donald Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protest, in which he condemned the violence of Nazis and those who protested against them in the same breath.

For the record, violent leftist protestors are a much smaller group than the media would have us believe. According to The Atlantic, “of the 372 politically-motivated murders recorded in the United States between 2007 and 2016, left-wing extremists committed less than two per cent […] right-wing extremists committed 74 per cent.”

However, there is a valuable conversation to be had about the effectiveness of violence—ranging from the destruction of property to the physical harm of individuals—as a response to hateful groups on the extreme right. This article will mostly leave out the question of morality because I believe that pacifism under a state that supports systemic violence is at least as immoral as taking up arms against it. I will instead consider whether violence is an effective means of dismantling the oppressive systems and groups in society.

One positive effect of violence from the left is that it sends a message to hateful ideologies that they are unwelcome in society. This was seen on the UC Berkeley campus where student protesters prevented Milo Yiannopoulos, a British political commentator for the extreme-right, from speaking in February, and again only a month ago, led to the cancellation of a right-wing event.

The cancellation of extreme-right gatherings for fear of counter-protesters has become a trend in American politics lately, which, in my opinion, is likely sending an unwelcome message to both supporters and anyone susceptible to these ideologies.

In a foreword to political activist Ward Churchill’s essay, Pacifism as Pathology, Dylan Rodriguez, an author and political activist himself, pointed out that violence against “a toxic social order has life-affirming possibilities for disempowered people.” It has the power to show these people that the social order can indeed be challenged and that they have the power to do so.

Consider what is being asked of the dominant class in society, when we say that we want to “change the system,” or “overthrow the social order.” It’s calling for an end to systemic oppression and inequality, which would require those powerful groups to give up their dominance over disenfranchised groups. Rodríguez has claimed the goal of these powerful groups is to preserve their own power. In the contradiction between their goal to maintain all of their power, and activists’ goal of redistributing the power in society lies the need for violence. Pacifism only represents tolerance of the current social order.

There are, however, convincing arguments against the left’s tactical use of violence. First, it could cause others to associate the left with violence, resulting in a loss of support among the more mainstream, less radical public who are turned off by such behavior. Right-wing news sources love when the left acts violently, because they can use it to discredit the morals—and thus the politics—of the entire group.

Violence is a chaotic force, and it can be difficult to control and use productively. It is my opinion that violence, when it is excessive and not properly thought out, does more harm than good. It should be reserved for times when it will positively benefit political goals—as an exclamation point to political rhetoric that won’t be heard or properly addressed through other tactics.

Violence may also prove tactically effective when openly hateful groups are preaching their ideologies. In these instances, violence will positively associate the left with an ideology that will not tolerate racism. I think that if no one is listening to a particular political group, then violence can be the only way to be heard, thus it would be unwise to completely rule it out as a method.

The challenge lies in using violence infrequently enough that it continues to be taken seriously, doesn’t spiral out of control and doesn’t soil the reputation of the left. For me, the question of violence is not whether we should use it or not, but rather when.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth


This is not a conflict, this is a genocide

Western media has the power to highlight the injustices in Myanmar—if they pay attention

My sister was the first to inform me about the ongoing genocide happening in Myanmar. She only found out about it through an Instagram post. This revelation left me in complete shock. The fact that this unforgivable violence has been going on for more than three years is astonishing. But most shocking is that it has barely received any coverage in Western media, until now.

According to Al Jazeera, the Rohingya people are a Muslim minority living in a state originally known as Burma. There are currently 1.1 million Rohingya people living in Myanmar, and they are considered one of the most persecuted groups in the world. The Rohingya make up five per cent of Myanmar’s 53 million citizens, and mostly live in the state of Rakhine, which is described as one of the poorest states in Myanmar, “with ghetto-like camps and a lack of basic services and opportunities,” according to the same source. In addition, the Rohingya have been denied citizenship since 1982, making them illegal residents and stateless.

The majority of the population in Myanmar is Buddhist. This is a religion that honours life and is dedicated to living humbly, while doing as little harm as possible. Yet according to The Guardian, Ashin Wirathu, a nationalist Burmese Buddhist monk and leader of the country’s anti-Muslim movement, is allegedly parading across Myanmar spewing hate messages and inspiring violence against Rohingya Muslims. Labeled the “Face of Buddhist Terror” by Time magazine, Wirathu claims he is only “warning” his people about Muslims, when he is truthfully inciting hatred against them, according to The Guardian.

The civilian leader of Myanmar is Aung San Suu Kyi. She actually has a Noble Peace Prize, and according to the Washington Post, she’s a “democracy icon.” Yet, Suu Kyi has been criticized for refusing to acknowledge the violence taking place in her country as an actual genocide. When asked in interviews about the violence, she often claims the media is “exaggerating” and refuses to criticize the country’s military, according to the Washington Post.

In my opinion, labeling violence as a genocide makes it more urgent, and it takes us back to the horrors of colonialism, the Indian Act, the Rwandan genocide and, of course, the Holocaust. Discussing any kind of ethnic cleansing as genocide makes it more real because it reminds us of history, and of how many people have been murdered for being different.

For a long time, the violence in Myanmar has been considered a conflict of ideologies, a religious dispute between Buddhist Nationalists and Rohingya Muslims, without being labeled a genocide. It also wasn’t being investigated by Western media for a long time—I suppose Western media overlooked the issue because we’re so concerned with social justice, healthcare, President Trump and climate change in our own nations.

I don’t really blame us—we’ve got our own problems to deal with. But it’s sad to realize that it wasn’t until the conversation shifted and some outlets, like Al Jazeera, started using the word genocide that we suddenly became all ears.

Human Rights Watch has released a report criticizing Suu Kyi for doing nothing about the excessive violence against Rohingya Muslims. According to the Telegraph, a recent military crackdown caused almost 90,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh, where they are in desperate need of basic necessities. Not only are the Rohingya people unwanted in Myanmar, they are also unwanted in Bangladesh, according to TRT World.

In my opinion, this marginalized group needs a safe zone and international intervention. But this will not happen without global acknowledgement. On Sept. 16, Concordia alumnus Majed Jam, organised a demonstration protesting the treatment of the Rohingya Muslims. This was not only a way to protest the genocide, but a way to capture the attention of the world, or at least Montreal’s attention.

The Western world’s attention is an extremely powerful tool that can shed light on this ongoing violence, and it is our responsibility to make sure people pay attention.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


It’s all violence, and it’s all wrong

Recognizing that sexualized violence against women of colour is an unacknowledged crime

Andrea J. Ritchie is a lawyer whose speciality is police misconduct. In her 2017 book, Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Colour, she reveals that there are no clear statistics on the violence perpetrated by police against women of colour in the United States. “Although national data show more black men are killed at higher rates than women,” Ritchie writes, “those numbers don’t tell the whole story […] There are no numbers counting police rape or police sexual harassment or unlawful strip searches.”

Women of colour face incidents of police violence in statistically smaller numbers than men of colour, but they are targeted in a particular way. According to the Huffington Post, in 2015, a black woman named Charnesia Corley was stopped by Texas police for allegedly running a stop sign. The officers who stopped her said they smelled marijuana in her car, which, in Texas, is grounds for a cavity search.

Corley said she “felt raped” after the officers publicly searched her vagina for 11 minutes. Her lawyer, Samuel Cammack III, said a police officer “body slammed Miss Corley, stuck her head underneath the vehicle and completely pulled her pants off, leaving her naked and exposed in that Texaco parking lot.”

The officers involved in Corley’s case were charged with “official oppression,” but those charges were later dropped. Corley is currently pursuing a civil case against them, according to the same article. This case is an example of how police violence against women of colour often takes on a sexualized tone.

The lack of statistics available on sexualized police violence seems to point to the conclusion that sexual violence against women is not considered a form of police violence in American society. In my opinion, this lack of information is to be expected in a society that, as a whole, doesn’t take sexual violence, especially against women of colour, as seriously as it should.

Here in Canada, according to Sexual Assault and Rape Statistics Canada, only six out of every 100 sexual assaults are reported to the police, suggesting that many victims don’t trust police or the judicial system. If the government doesn’t even consider it necessary to categorize these actions as violence and gather statistics on them, should we be surprised that they fail to press charges against the officers accused of committing them?

This case reminds me of a situation very far north of Texas, in Val d’Or, Que. In 2016, the Crown decided not to convict six police officers accused of sexual misconduct against a number of Indigenous women. According to the CBC, there were 37 complaints filed against local police by members of the community, including sexual harassment and rape. As with Corley’s case, this situation involved a specific type of police violence, one that is both sexualized and racialized.

These cases demonstrate that women of colour are often the victims of not only violence but a dehumanizing form of sexual violence. Both Corley’s and the Val d’Or cases reinforce the notion that sexual violence is not really considered violence in North American society, and that public officials still fail to be properly reprimanded for the disgusting acts they commit.

Graphics by Alexa Hawksworth


Violence during protests will not get your message across

Whether you’re right-wing or left-wing, violence abuses the value of protests

Recently, many people feel there is a lot to protest. Whether you’re on the left and want to protest Trump’s presidency, or on the right and want to protest the anti-Islamophobia M103 motion, there’s been a lot of activism in the air in Montreal.

And that’s great. The right to protest is a part of free speech—something I strongly support. But recently, I have noticed that this right is being abused by both ends of the political spectrum.

On the evening of Jan. 20, I attended an anti-Trump protest organized by Collectif de résistance antiraciste de Montréal (CRAM). I had initially intended to counter-protest as a joke with my Make America Great Again hat and an “Art of the Deal With It” sign—a parody on Trump’s bestselling book.

I decided against it, however, after reading reports from the Montreal Gazette about a man who was knocked to the ground for wearing a “Hillary for Prison” shirt during an earlier protest.

Instead, I attended purely to observe. The evening protest seemed to be going peaceful at the start. It was lawful for nearly an hour before masked vandals began defacing property. This culminated in several smashed store windows, a lot of graffiti and, ultimately, a rock being thrown at police and shattering a police station window.

I find behaviour like this incredibly disheartening. Whether or not you think there is corruption within the police force, I find it hard to understand why anyone would support this behaviour.

Instead of being able to go out and help people who are actually in need, six or seven cops had to remain by the shattered station window to ensure rioters did not destroy anything else. In other words, local cops were prevented from saving local citizens because people were abusing their right to protest.

During riots, left-wing anarchists and right-wing populists alike think they are punishing a “system,” or that the only people being hurt are those in positions of authority.

But who do you think is going to wash the “Fuck Trump” or “Kill Cops” graffiti off the Koodo store or the HMV? The answer isn’t some rich corporate giant. It’s going to be someone making near-minimum wage outside in the dead of winter. They may even be a college student who agrees with your views.

Personally, I’ve never felt that protesting does much serious good because of the violence I’ve seen it bring. However, I respect that many feel differently. Protesting, then, must not make anyone feel entitled to be violent, destroy property or attack those with whom they disagree.

Last weekend saw another protest—this one involving both the far left and far right—and it too turned violent, according to an article by CBC News. What could’ve been either an opportunity for two sides to debate and come to an understanding, or simply for each side to promote its beliefs to onlookers, turned into a brawl—completely delegitimizing both sides.

If we want a free and civil society, we must allow people we disagree with to spread their message, or counter-message, without violence. We must not destroy our own communities in order to prevent others from speaking up.

Student Life

Making city living responsible living

University of the Streets Café hosted a talk on urban health, environment and social problems

University of the Streets Café held a discussion on the impacts of city living for Montrealers, and invited attendees to share their thoughts, experiences and ideas about how to improve all aspects of city living.

“We tend to forget that we live in the city at the cost of someone else,” said Baijayanta Mukhopadhyay, a guest speaker for the bilingual conversation, which took place at Montreal’s downtown YMCA on Oct. 10. Mukhopadhyay is a family doctor in Northern Ontario, a volunteer physician with Médecins du Monde Montreal and the co-coordinator of the Canadian chapter of the People’s Health.

Mukhopadhyay said that people tend to believe that cities like Montreal are self-sustainable urban organisms.  However, he said most resources come from outside the city, and cities may not actually be the healthiest places to live. “Cities are not the centre of our society,” he said.

For example, he explained that a lot of food travels a long way to get to cities, and as a result, it is often more processed than the food that gets shipped to rural or suburban areas.

Other factors, such as housing and public transit infrastructure in cities, can be damaging to physical health and have major influence on people’s well-being, said Mukhopadhyay.  These factors can result in sickness, such as asthma in kids.

Robyn Maynard, a Montreal-based activist, educator and writer, addressed the social and economic inequalities suffered by communities within Montreal every day. Maynard’s research focuses on gender and race issues, and her fieldwork experience includes street work within the disadvantaged communities of Montreal.  She said the city can be a discriminating place for minorities, and the at-risk population, which includes homeless people, drug addicts and sex workers. She noted that part of the population is often denied security.

She and Mukhopadhyay agreed what people think makes a city healthy may actually make it unhealthy.

Attendees discussed who is responsible for addressing these problems, and brainstormed solutions for making the city a better, healthier and safer place to live.

One of the proposed solutions was for people to attend their neighbourhood and city council meetings. Attendees discussed this solution as a good starting point for getting involved in the conversation of city health and security, and opposing elitist urban planning.

Abby Lippman, the event moderator, discussed violence and its toxic effects on Montreal and other cities. Lippman is an associate researcher at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute and a long-time feminist activist.

“I think about violence as what the system is doing to people. I think the system is being violent by taking money, by taking health away, by putting up lousy housing,” she said.  She suggested that if society and authorities worked on bettering people’s health, then violence control would naturally occur.

The next University of the Streets Café conversation will take place on Oct. 27 at Aux Deux Marie, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aux Deux Maries is located at 4329 St-Denis St. The conversation will explore the topic of rebuilding communities.

Graphic by Thom Bell

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