The trouble with “young and beautiful”

What’s up with our fixation on female youth?

Three years ago, I was terrified to turn 18. Now with my 21st birthday approaching, I’m completely unbothered. In those three years, I’ve been able to unlearn what made me so afraid to get older. 

When I was 17, I was painfully aware of the fact that the world affirmed that this was the most desirable age to be. With songs constantly drilling lyrics like “Well, she was just seventeen/ You know what I mean” (“I Saw Her Standing There”) and “Young and sweet/Only seventeen” (“Dancing Queen”) into my mind, I easily jumped to the conclusion that the moment I turned 18, I would be deemed a spinster. In Lana Del Rey’s lyric, “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?” the two adjectives are fundamentally linked: young and beautiful must go together. 

This mentality is one we’re introduced to in early childhood. Disney is (as always) the main culprit: the heroine is the young and innocent princess, and the villain is the old witch who is jealous of her younger counterpart’s beauty. “By reinforcing this binary in popular culture, the media capitalizes on the association that old women are ‘bad’ and young women are ‘good’” writes Reese Martin in The Michigan Daily.  

Point-blank, this mentality is just creepy. The fixation on female youth is indicative of a massive psychological issue with what society considers desirable. Youth is linked to beauty partially because the innocence of youth is linked to naivety. In a male-gaze dominated society, it’s hard to overlook the fact that someone who is naive and demure is more malleable and obedient. Coincidence?

As always, women are held to a completely different beauty standard than men. Female celebrities are constantly scrutinized for aging like normal human beings, whereas male celebrities are applauded and revered for becoming “silver foxes” (gag). Female actresses also get phased out of film roles much faster than their male co-stars. When Maggie Gyllenhaal was 37, she was deemed “too old” to play the love interest of a 55 year-old man. This is because women are taught that their youth is intrinsically tied to their beauty, and their beauty is deemed to define their worth. 

Another aspect of the fear of growing old is the pervasive belief that these are the “best years of our lives.” Countless coming-of-age films affirm that these are the years we should be having unforgettable adventures, making life-long friendships, and falling in love. Supposedly, we’re in our prime. For women, this is especially ingrained due to the “biological clock” that dictates we must marry and have kids by a certain age.

On the contrary, life doesn’t have to follow this timeline. The whole notion of a “prime” is backward, as people are constantly evolving. Valuable experiences don’t have an expiry date, even if you do decide to “settle down.” Life is rarely so linear. 

Here’s what I’ve learned in the last three years: there’s no rush. I’m still young, and besides, getting older isn’t a bad thing. I’m not going to cater my self-worth and life trajectory to some twisted notion of what youth represents. The years will pass regardless—might as well embrace them. 

Student Life

Black History Month 2020

The 29th edition of Black History Month in Montreal kicked off on Jan. 23 at Place des Arts with a conference that introduced this year’s theme, representative spokespeople and laureates, and the events that will take place in February.

This year’s edition of Black History Month is called “Here and Now,” which focuses on celebrating Black excellence through the achievements of the younger Black generation in Montreal, and encouraging unity and action towards Black cultural education in Quebec. 

Michael Farkas, president of the board of directors for Black History Month, said it “allows the opportunity for Black excellence to be recognized, it creates awareness for all people, it brings us together, and it reminds us that Black history is a part of all history.”

For Farkas, recognizing Black youth contributing to Black excellence is vital in empowering the generation of the future. “There is an urgency to see the Black community, and particularly the youth, to come in and really play the vital role that they can, so that’s ‘Here and Now,’” said Farkas. “That means there is a space for them and a place for them and they need to be totally invested in the fabric of our society.” 

Singer and songwriter Sarahmée Ouellet, and comedian and actor Aba Atlas were chosen as the spokespeople for Black History Month. Alongside them, 12 distinguished Black youth from Montreal who excelled in their respective areas, which include teaching, entrepreneurship, and the arts, were chosen as this year’s laureates. 

Shanice Nicole, one of the chosen laureates, is a feminist educator, writer and a curator of free community resources in organizations such as the Black Foundation of Community Networks Scholarship Directory and All Black Everything in Montreal. She is working on a children’s book scheduled for publication in 2020 called Dear Black Girls.

“Young people are revolutionary and throughout history, young people have always been at the front and forefront of movements,” Nicole said of this year’s theme. “[Young people] have such capacity for change and a willingness as well to change that I think is really exciting.” 

Atlas said his race never came into question in Ethiopia, where he grew up, as it is a predominantly Black country. 

“Once I immigrated to Canada, that reality changed because the environments are different,” said Atlas. “That led me to want to know more about what it means to be Black, and I think it led me to where I am today; the importance of my race, the importance of my identity in general, and how it helps me to navigate the world,” he added, crediting his journey of education and empowerment.

According to the Canadian government’s webpage on Black History Month, the lack of any proper Black history was what inspired historian Carter G. Woodson to found “Negro History Week,” in 1926, which became Black History Week in the 70s. In 1976, it finally became Black History Month. According to the Mois de l’Histoire des Noirs’ website, the month of February was chosen because it was the birth month of two celebrated slavery abolitionists: Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. The purpose of this event was to educate the public and to empower the Black community by teaching Black history objectively and fairly, and to advocate for Black history to be taught in public schools.

Black History Month has been celebrated in Montreal for decades by public and private institutions. Despite this, it was only officially adopted into law by the Quebec National Assembly in 2007, inaugurating February as Quebec’s official Black History Month, according to the Mois de l’Histoire des Noirs’ website.

Catherine Verdon Diamond is a local weather and traffic presenter, and media personality at CBC. As the main public speaker and host of the event, Diamond invited the public to “get to know Black culture in all its forms, as infused into all of these shows, exhibitions, conferences and screenings more than 150 cultural and social activities themed around the achievements of Black communities will be in the spotlight.”


Photo courtesy of Napoleon Communications


NDP Concordia strives to boost student engagement in politics

Student group says NDP leadership candidates need to inspire youth to vote

Members of NDP Concordia, the party’s on-campus student group, held a leadership candidate meet-and-greet at McKibbin’s Irish Pub on Bishop Street on Saturday, Aug. 26. The group organized the event in the hopes of engaging students in the party’s leadership race and giving them the opportunity to speak with the candidates before Sunday afternoon’s debate.

To encourage students to voice their opinions and eventually cast their votes in October’s NDP leadership election, the group has remained active over the summer. Members said they have continued to grow in popularity by focusing their efforts on producing social media content — such as live-tweeting Sunday’s leadership debate — and planning events to help the Concordia community become more familiar with the candidates.

With the NDP leadership election rapidly approaching, the student group is also seeking to lift the youth voter turnout.

“Youth participation needs to be improved,” said Patrick Quinn, NDP Concordia’s vice-president of external affairs. “We have the power to make decisions in our democracy. We should be using it as a tool to promote a Canada that we want.”

According to Elections Canada, voter participation for Canadians aged 18 to 24 surged from 38.8 per cent in 2011 to 57.1 per cent in 2015. Despite the large increase, the 18 to 24 age group has the lowest voter turnout of all the nation’s demographics.

“There is a disconnect,” Quinn said. “[It is] caused primarily because parties tend to focus less on youth issues.”

This year’s NDP leadership race has featured one youth-centred debate. However, it took place significantly early in the race, in March, long before candidate Jagmeet Singh had entered. While NDP Concordia believed the youth debate was beneficial, they mentioned that bad timing could contribute to young voters not feeling like valid members of the electorate.

However, in terms of engaging youth in politics and focusing on issues that matter to students, one leadership candidate stands out from the rest. Niki Ashton, the Churchill—Keewatinook Aski MP, prides herself on being a millennial. Much of her campaign has been focused on youth and student issues, such as providing free postsecondary education.

“Inequality has different faces in our country, but one face [is the] intergenerational inequality and, particularly, the kind of marginalization the millennials are facing,” Ashton told The Concordian. “If we tackle some of these key areas […] we would be making a huge difference in terms of bringing up the standard of living of young people.”

Ashton has also put forward the idea of creating a national student advocate position to work with LGBTQ+ youth in particular. She told The Concordian she recognizes “so many young LGBTQ+ folks are disproportionately affected by mental illness and suicide” and that “it’s a national issue” requiring proper leadership.

While NDP Concordia will not collectively endorse a single candidate, Quinn expressed that Ashton’s impression on Canadian youth is undeniable. However, he also pointed out that he believes leadership candidate Guy Caron’s policies would be more beneficial to students and easier to implement than Ashton’s proposed elimination of post-secondary education fees.

For more information about NDP Concordia, meet the team at the Concordia Clubs Fair on Sept. 6 or follow them on social media.

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