The importance of Feminism in the 21st century

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

Student Life

Taking control of the conversation

The Woman Power helps women around the city embrace their diversity

International Women’s Day is meant to celebrate women all around the globe. It’s a day when we commemorate what women have accomplished and address what has yet to be done. It’s a day when women are celebrated in all their diversity. Hanna Che co-founded a platform called The Woman Power in response to this lack of representation. “I grew up in Montreal-North and when I was younger, I never saw anything on TV that represented me or my reality,” said Che.

The reality is that diversity amongst women isn’t always embraced. In mainstream media, marginalized women, especially women of colour and of the LGBTQ+ community, are often underrepresented. The Woman Power is a platform that gives a voice to anyone identifying as a woman and highlights women of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds through their work. “We wanted to create something positive,” said Che. “We live in an era where it’s easy to be angry at everything and we wanted to change the narrative of the angry black woman.”

The Woman Power started in 2016. At that time, it operated almost exclusively through Instagram and other social media platforms. “Since we existed on social media, we wanted to bring people that followed us online to meet in real life,” said Che, “That’s why we created The Sisterhood.”

The Sisterhood was created two years ago. “It’s a safe space where women get to discuss various subjects and share experiences with each other,” Che said.

Che explained that every month, members of The Woman Power pick a topic for the meeting (such as mental illness, digital identity, etc.) and from there, they formulate questions to lead discussions. The team is there as guidance, not to give advice to the women attending. The meetings are about letting women take control of the conversation and allowing them to share their stories with each other.

“We’re all about positivity,” Che said, “It’s about personal development, learning to love yourself, listening to other people’s stories and coming out a better human being.”

The Sisterhood is not the only way The Woman Power is trying to expand beyond social media. Last November, they launched a bilingual podcast.

On Feb. 22, women gathered for The Sisterhood’s monthly meeting at The Local Lululemon in Mile End where they discuss this month’s theme of digital identity. Photo by Tyra Muria Trono.

For the podcast’s first season, Che explained that they chose to feature female artists from Montreal such as Richenda Grazette, Anick Jasmin, Feza S. Lugoma and more. Each guest discusses their work and talks about the importance of art, culture and women in Montreal. These artists are also contributors to the installation called Les vraies Demoiselles d’Avignon which was presented in the exposition D’Afrique aux Amériques : Picasso en face-à-face, d’hier à aujourd’hui at The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Members of The Woman Power are currently working on the next season of their podcast, set to be released this summer. Che said new artists will be invited to discuss the theme of identity, which will be the main focus of the upcoming season.

The Woman Power is always thinking of new projects to delve into. They want to create more content and grow as a platform to spread their message to more people, Che said. Even if Women’s Day only happens on March 8, The Woman Power celebrates women 365 days a year and encourages them to join the worldwide conversation about issues women still face today.

Feature photo courtesy of Tyra Muria Trono


Updated: Montreal marches on International Women’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

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

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

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

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

Photo by Alex Hutchins.

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


Masculinity and femininity explored: SexEd discusses issues of gender during International Women’s Week

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the co-directors of the VAV gallery present SEXed, an art exhibit on gender. The exhibit is curated by Katrina Caruso, the VP Student Life of the CSU, who is also a Fine Arts student. Caruso contacted the VAV gallery coordinators, Kris Millar and Clinton Glenn, to see if they were interested in doing a show revolving around gender for International Women’s Week. They did not have trouble finding interested artists once they booked the gallery.

Cochon 51 by Shawn Christopher. Artist statement: “Cochon 51 is an exploration of queer expression and a statement about my own personal struggles with ‘masculinity’ and sexual orientation.” Photo by Nicole Yeba

“We didn’t want to focus on like femininity of women, and women for women’s week, we wanted to come and expand that and talk about gender as a larger topic, so [we are] including issues of masculinity and issues of gender and sexuality,” said Caruso.

The art exhibit is part of events that the CSU is hosting for Gender Month in March with other associations. The conference “Feminism for Men” with author and activist Chris Crass was held on March 3 in collaboration with Centre for Gender Advocacy. A panel discussion named “Decriminalization of Prostitution in Canada, Now What?” will be held on March 11 in collaboration with the School of Community and Public Affairs at the Saidye Bronfman Hall.

The exhibit is held at the VAV Gallery in the Fine Arts building until March 8.

Student Life

Maria Peluso: a force to be reckoned with

How do you tell a story like Maria’s?

On the one hand, you might start with her birthday, but then you’d have to clarify: do you mean the date of her birth or the date on her birth certificate?

Maria Peluso was born on January 22, in a small town in Italy. On the day of her birth a great snowstorm raged and Maria’s mother was trapped inside her home.

At that time, a child’s birthday was recorded as the day they were registered with the town administration. It was eight days before the storm let up and her mother was able to make it to the village. Thus, although she came into this world on the 22nd, her birth certificate and legal documents state her birthday on January 31.

On the other hand, you could begin with when Maria first came to Concordia University.

Photo by Keith Race

After finishing her undergraduate degree in political science at York University in 1975, Maria came to Concordia.

In 1980, she completed a graduate diploma in community politics and the law and in 1986, a Master’s in public policy and public administration.

Following the completion of her studies, Maria’s professional career began by teaching at Concordia as well as several other institutions.

However, Maria’s contribution to Concordia goes far beyond the classroom. From 1994 until this past October, Maria was president of the part-time faculty association (CUPFA). Although Maria also sat on many committees at Concordia, it is how she carried out her role as CUPFA president that has left a lasting impact on members of the Concordia community.

“Maria Peluso could be considered much like a de facto Provost of part-time faculty. In this role she has contributed so much, not only to the association’s faculty members in all the faculties but also to an academic mission, her students, staff, and the university as a community. She has brought indefatigable energy and effort to so many university initiatives over the years, such as the annual charitable campaigns, services to students and the like,” wrote Lorraine Oades, vice-president of professional development at CUPFA.

Members of CUPFA agreed with Lorraine, “She is extremely proud of her members and her membership in the union and she’s somebody who really wants to do her best both for students and for her union members at Concordia,” said Kathleen Perry, former associate dean in the faculty of fine arts.

“She really is the person who takes everyone to heart. [A] great advocate for anything part-time teachers needed,” said Father John Walsh, a former professor at Concordia.

Marcel Danis, a former vice-president of the university, describes Maria as a fierce campaigner for her members’ rights. In his role as vice-president, Marcel sat across from Maria at the negotiation table.

“She’s probably the toughest labour leader that we’ve had in the university. She’s extremely determined and never lets go. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, if she has an issue that she wants to get and she really believes in, she’s really tough,” he said.

Maria credits her fighting determination and resolve to having grown up as an immigrant, poor, and on welfare. In particular, she cites the actions of her parents.

Her mother worked as a seamstress until she was fired for trying to start a union. Maria, eight years old at the time, helped her mother to find a new job.

Her father was not an activist by birth but simply believed in doing the right thing. While working at a steel mill in Ontario, Maria’s father was bothered by the soot that fell from the smoke stacks and onto the workers’ cars. The workers at the mill were required to park their cars underneath the stacks and Mr. Peluso was concerned about the damage the soot was doing to the cars, the environment, and to the workers. Mr. Peluso brought his grievance to the company’s attention and as a result, the company put pollution control methods into place which kept the soot off the cars and out of their lungs.

Maria has not only shown care and support for members of the Concordia faculty but for the students as well. She played a large role in the creation of two scholarships for women students at Concordia, the Judith Litwack Scholarship, and the Visible Minority Women’s Scholarship, and later the CUPFA Endowment Scholarship. As well, she was a staunch supporter of last year’s student strike, despite the diversity of interests.

Her leadership was a win-win for the university and for the students during the protest.

On the one hand, Maria supported her teachers who were trying to do their jobs, but she also supported the rights of those who wanted the freedom to protest. Additionally, she also supported those students who didn’t want their classes disrupted.

Her respect for diversity and freedom, a feature noted by all of her friends and colleague, was likely the source of this conflict.

In the greater Montreal community, Maria has acted as a mentor and guide for women in business. She was president of the Montreal Business and Professional Women’s Club from 1986-1989 and continues to serve on its board of directors. In addition, she is remembered by former employee, Ruth Pelletier, as being instrumental in her success in rejoining the workforce.

“I had been out of the workforce for some time … so she took me under her wing and really taught me the ropes … she mentored me very, very well. From that I ended up sitting on boards of many different not for profit organizations. I was in media, CJAD radio, CFCF radio, I finally ended up being executive director of Alliance Quebec,” said Pelletier.

Alexander Antonopoulos, a professor at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute, describes Maria as a “Concordia University feminist powerhouse.”

“Maria never shied away from engaging in a way that was not always ‘safe’. She was comfortable in discomfort and that’s the kind of thing that those who are doing feminism today have to become better and better at because feminism is not necessarily what media crack it up to be ..] And so, from that perspective, she wasn’t really being a man in a man’s world, she was bringing her feminism into political action as a way of interfacing with power.”

Although Maria stepped down as president of CUPFA this past fall she has not slowed down in the least. Maria is currently serving on Concordia’s board of governors as the part-time faculty member representative and continues to pursue other projects around campus and throughout Montreal.

A tireless crusader, Maria will no doubt continue to fight, advocate and work on the behalf of women, members of the Concordia community and humankind as a whole.



The art behind the science of the heart

They say sometimes you feel an emotion so intense, words can’t describe it — this is especially true when talking about matters of the heart.

Photo courtesy of

Until March 15, the Old Port’s Phi Centre will be showing Hybrid Bodies, an exhibition that delves into the culture, emotions, and psychology of the post-heart transplant experience and recovery. The works range from recorded interviews and projections to prints and a soapy surprise in the bathroom.

Through the works of four contemporary artists working in a variety of mediums, the exhibition goes beyond the material surgical procedure of the heart transplant. Instead, the exhibition explores the hidden meanings, contradictions and disorientations that arise from having the heart of a stranger inside your body. The artists were invited by the interdisciplinary academic research team, the Process of Incorporating a Transplanted Heart (PITH), to produce works based on a series of video interviews with transplant recipients.

Heart transplants are not commonplace, yet the field is medically and technically quite robust. There is however very little work done on the existential issues related to the transplant. In the PITH interviews, most recipients expressed significant distress when discussing issues such as the donor and their gift of life, as well as a disrupted sense of bodily integrity and identity that could only be appreciated by other heart recipients.

One of the featured artists is Ingrid Bachmann. The internationally exhibiting multidisciplinary artist is the founder of the in everyday life art-lab, co-editor of Material Matters and a Concordia University professor of Studio Arts.

“It seemed like there was such a gap between what people were saying and what their body language was saying. People would say ‘I’m great, super great.’ So if you have a written transcript of that you think ‘oh they’re great.’ But their body language would be ‘oh … I’m great … ,’ sort of huddled over. There was this gap. I took what I thought were the main themes that came out of that,” Bachmann said on her involvement in Hybrid Bodies.

Photo provided by Ingrid Bachmann

Bachmann’s artwork at the exhibition deals primarily with the many contradictions and disconnects of heart transplantation through the themes of gifting, kinship, and boundaries. Bachmann’s art generally deals with the extraordinary and impossible that exists in the everyday. Working with a range of mediums, her interest lies in the unseen and the smoke and mirrors of the world around us.

Her Hybrid Bodies exhibit, “The Gift,” entails a series of recorded dance performance pieces that deal with the theme of gifting that arose during many of the interviews.

“One is the idea of the gift, a real gift that is something that makes you happy and changes your life,”explained Bachmann.“The other is the notion of gift as a weight or a burden. How could you ever repay it? The last is a real form of reciprocity between two [people]. The notion of the gift is also used in promoting people for organ donation. It’s called giving the gift of life [yet] when recipients receive it, they’re told well, it’s a pump. A machine.”

On a physiological level, their life has been significantly altered, as simple everyday acts of walking and sitting down can be quite exhausting.

“I learned a lot of pragmatic things that are really good. Most galleries are set up for able-bodied people … they’re often difficult to get to,” said Bachmann.

Her point highlights how understanding post-operative life is as much an experiential and emotional issue as it is a medical issue.

Recipients will often think about their donor families. Patients may wonder about the person whose heart they have inherited and what the person was like.

“There is the sense of the body being changed a bit. It’s nothing like the sci-fi horror movie of being taken over by another personality [yet] some people have the sense of an intruder,” said Bachmann. This leads to a re-conceptualization of the notion of kinship, as suddenly you have this intimate, material, or even spiritual connection with a stranger. Similarly many transplant recipients experience a sense of disorientation with their bodies as they negotiate what is part of them and what is not, and when their body ends and begins as the body becomes understood as this porous and changing entity.

Through these different inquiries into listening and teasing out the hidden contradictory and ambiguous insights on the heart, their research brings to light unspoken and unseen experiences.

This is not only a work in improving post-operative life but also a work in empathy.

“It puts these ideas out in the public realm in a different way [. . .] Scientists have a very different process. They work in a quantitative way while we work in a qualitative way,” explained  Bachmann.

Shedding light and understanding these shared but unspoken experiences can be a very humanizing process.

“We put it [our work] out as propositions and hope that this exhibition functions more as an artifact for some of these ideas and concerns to be discussed in a different way,” said Bachmann.

The Hybrid Bodies exhibit will run until March 15 at the Phi Centre.

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