Friday, 31 October 2014

What's the Deal with Slutty Costumes and Halloween?


Remember that scene in Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan walks into the Halloween party dressed as a zombie bride/ex-wife?

In the movie, the only thing more surprising than the scare factor of her costume was that it was not slutty. At all.

She says something really remarkable that highlights a crazy phenomenon in our society:

“In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In girl world, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”

So how did Halloween go from dressing up as our favorite superheroes or fairy tale princesses to dressing up as the sluttiest possible thing we can get our hands on?

And more importantly, why?

TV producer and host Glenn Beck has joined forces with a group to fight the sexualization of Halloween costumes. On his show, The Glenn Beck Program, he spoke with a panel of women to discuss the consequences of gendering young boys and girls so early.

“I think one of the things that we see, Glenn, is that boys are able to run and play with their costumes, and with girls it’s about looking cute,” one of the panel members said.

You see this in the image above with the female and male lumberjacks. The man could actually pass as someone who could cut a tree down at any given time. The woman is not only dressed unrealistically-who goes into the woods like that?-but posed in a way where it is about her being a model rather than a lumberjack. 

The pressure for women to prioritize vanity in everyday life has remained unchanged. But during Halloween, it’s hard to miss the absence of appropriate clothing on women and the hyper-sexualization of rather normal costume ideas.

“That’s why I love Halloween! Because of all the slutty costumes. Slutty zombies, slutty police officers and slutty firefighters…” a coworker said to me when I discussed this blog post with him.

His words highlight the problematic attitude revolving the issue. You might be a lifesaving firefighter, but your sexuality comes first. You might be a heroic policewoman, but your sexuality comes first.

It also illustrates the exact expectation for women. But one thing that needs to be looked at is whether women succumb to it because of the pressure or by choice.

Truthfully, we live in a society where women, particularly young women, are being bombarded with the importance of appearance: what is hot and what is not. Young girls are growing up in a society that strictly revolves around rating the attractiveness of their outward appearance.

Take lip injections for example.  the newest phenomenon as of late due to Kylie Jenner’s recent ‘lip job’. Teenage girls are now under the impression that full lips equate to beauty. But who is setting this standard? And better yet: why are women allowing this standard of beauty to be set?

We are the ones who hold the bar, and we are the ones in control of how high or low we want to raise it – while you can hell as sure wear anything you please this Halloween, perhaps take into account whether or not you allow yourself to become a sexualized object.

The overjoyed reaction from most males this holiday seems to stem from the sexualization of the female body, not about what they are wearing, but rather what’s under it (and before you lash out, note I wrote “most” not “all” males).

I’d rather not be subjected to sexualization this Halloween, just as much as I don’t appreciate having my outward appearance rated by the opposite sex.

Because despite the popular trend of pricing females as “dimes”, we are priceless.

Maybe Lindsay Lohan had a point. The competition between females to constantly outdo each other is a sad reality we face daily. But if this “girl world” we’re living in is now functioning on our ability to “outslut” each other to fulfill the expectations set by men, we have some serious rethinking to do. 

This blog post featured a special guest and friend of mine, Samantha Turchan. Check her out at http://www.samturchan.com

Sunday, 26 October 2014

39 Reasons to Love Fall!

I've scratched just about everything off of my fall to do list. I picked pumpkins, I drank hot apple cider, I went on a nature walk and I took photos of the beautiful fall foliage. 

Sure, I'm not too happy about the sad reality of winter's soon arrival. But considering we're in that short-lived period where everything is really beautiful, I thought I'd take advantage of it. I was lucky enough to capture the following stills at the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto. If you've never been there, I suggest you go and enjoy the summer farmer's markets (in the summer, obviously), take some photos, or just forget you're in the city for a while. 

I sure did.

























 (I love this one! Totally worth almost breaking my neck standing under a willow tree to get the shot)


















Monday, 20 October 2014

Why Young People Need to Vote Next Week. And Always.


Four years ago, I walked into Lucy Maud Montgomery Public School and placed my first vote ever.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t my first vote ever. I had voted for my prom queen, school president, the grade reps, even though I was on that ballot every year except grade eleven because I was the youngest person ever to get the Public Relations position-oops, I digress.

This vote was way more serious than any of that, though. I was voting for who would run our city, or at least play a large part in the running of our city.

Since then, I haven’t stopped voting. Even though this is only the second opportunity to do so, I have made sure that I take part in all elections as a voter. More importantly, though, I have made sure to educate myself on each candidate’s platform so that I vote for who’s vision is best aligned with my own, and better yet-my needs.

So you can only imagine how heart-broken I am when I try to indulge in conversations with people my age who have either no idea who they’re voting for, no idea who is even running, and no idea what each candidate stands for.

Today, while driving home and listening to CBC radio like no other 22-year-old in their right mind, I heard an interesting story about the mayoral election happening in Winnipeg. Although I highly doubt it has been much less fascinating than the circus of events we’ve got going on at City Hall, I was still intrigued by what I heard.

Winnipeg has one of the largest Aboriginal populations in the region in Canada, and for the first time, a First Nations female candidate is running for mayor. This has changed the context of the elections, and voting completely.

The leader of a grassroots campaign called Winnipeg Indigenous Rock the Vote says that with a First Nations candidate, other candidates are now paying more attention to the needs of the voters. And since such a large amount of them are First Nations, the overall feel of this election is unlike any other election she’s seen.

Someone with even the slightest understanding of the struggles faced by First Nations people in Canada will know how much of a milestone it is for them to finally have a voice, a representative, and some well-deserved attention from political figures.

This got me thinking. If it took this long for:

     a)   candidates to finally place a value on the votes of First Nations
     b)  First Nations to actually have enough hope that things will change that they do get up and vote
     c)   a First Nations female candidate to run for mayor

How long are young Torontonians going to wait?

Because last time I checked, Ontario universities have the highest tuition in all of Canada. Plus, it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to find jobs even after forking out nearly $7,000 a year to get that degree.

So I vote.

I vote because I matter. I vote because I care. I vote because I was lucky enough to be born into a democratic society where I can actually write a name down on a ballot and have it count for something.

And you should vote too.

Because you matter. And because you really should care. And because the more young people that vote, the more attention we will draw from politicians to the issues that we face, the issues that we know all too well about.

You have exactly one week to decide on a candidate. Visit http://www.toronto.ca to get the full list of mayoral, councilor, and school trustee candidates. Visit their websites, see what their about, but more importantly, find out what you’re about.

You’d be surprised what you can learn about yourself.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A Letter From a "Skinny Bitch"


Few things are more frustrating than annoying songs that are hauntingly catchy.

So you can imagine why I nearly jumped out the window recently after a car ride with my mom when she turned Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” all the way up on the way to our destination.

My mom, a proud plus-sized woman always loves a song that encourages women to feel comfortable in their skin. But as the lyrics marched their way into my ears, I was slightly frustrated at how this artist, who I’ve never heard of before, went about doing that.

The song refers to slim women as “skinny bitches”. Trainor determines that skinny women think they’re fat. She also assumes that skinny women don’t have booties, can’t shake them, and a few other pieces of nonsense not worth repeating, but certainly worth discussing.

I love a cold hard case of irony. But this is the type of irony really gets me questioning society. The same society, in fact, that people seem to be so hell-bent on fixing, despite contributing to the issues while on their quest for change.

Here’s a little anecdote:

Growing up, I had to drink nutritional supplements in addition to my meals because I was what Trainor called, a skinny bitch, even in my adolescence. I ate a fair portion of meat, vegetables, and every other food group, often in excess. Truthfully, I still do. But I am constantly told that I am envied, disliked, and even hated (yes, really) for my body’s ability to ingest food and not suffer typical consequences of weight gain.

The sad part of the story is that during my transition into teenage-hood, I had heard that I was “too boney”, “too scrawny” and “too mawga” (a name for skinny in West Indian culture) so often that I did actually believe that something was wrong with me. I actually believed that I needed to gain pounds and have curves and that I was ugly.

So when I heard this song, I just got fed up with it all. I guess I just thought society was past referring to excess fat as “junk”, be it in the trunk or any other part of the vehicle. I also assumed, perhaps wrongly, that not all skinny women need to be likened to Barbie dolls. Are we still on that? And lastly, I was really hoping that after the word skinny, did not come the word bitch.

But sadly, women as a whole are on our way to being society’s bitch, if we’re not already there. We do exactly what we’re told. Collectively, women spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on breast implants, Botox, medications to slow the natural process of aging, and diet pills. And we just keep going in whichever direction society’s wind blows when they tell us that big boobs are sexy, but not too big of course, that’s gross. Or skinny is sexy, but if you’re too skinny, you’re anorexic. Or short hair is sexy, but only if it’s styled a certain way…

I imagine that there are readers wondering who I think I am to be criticizing this emerging phenomenon of skinny-bashing. In fact, discussing this blog idea with a few friends yesterday, one of them said:

“Ugh, fat people have been bashed by skinny people for like, ever. Nicki Minaj came out with her song calling skinny girls bitches and now everyone’s upset.”

In a weird way, she made the exact point I was trying to.

Do we have to get even before we can stand as a united front against the real enemy?

I mean, who wins when women hate each other based on these differences? Certainly it can’t be our sisterhood, which is more crucial than ever in fighting off the opposition we face from in our domestic lives, the workplace, and in the public sphere. Better yet, who causes this disconnection amongst women? How have we, for years and years, let men dictate what and who is beautiful? How have we relinquished control on how we appear naturally, and furthermore, how that is perceived and accepted by society?

But most importantly, how long is this going to go on?

The same friend also said, "I still think anyone that takes offence to skinny-bashing is extremely ridiculous."

And from that came a point I wasn't expecting to make, but certainly need to.

What determines how a person is entitled to feel about how they are made to feel by society? Are my feelings automatically excluded from this discourse because I'm skinny? If so, I find that type of silencing method to be very tragic.

I got to a point where I, like many plus-sized women have at one point in their lives or another and said screw it, this is who I am.

My question is: why is that such a bad thing?

I cannot train my body any differently than the average person can on what to do with what it is fed. I cannot dictate to my metabolism what pace to digest the food I eat at. And I cannot for the life of me pack on pounds any faster than you can shed them.

I have interesting and very old news for everyone that assumes the same thing Meghan Trainor or Nicki Minaj does.

1. We do not think we're fat.
2. We are not all anorexic Barbie wannabes.
3. We are not all bitches.

Ultimately, it’s getting harder and harder to feel beautiful. Not to be beautiful, but to really and truly feel that we are. And to every woman out there who can still look in the mirror and find something she doesn’t feel the need to fix, I applaud you.

But for all the people, men and women, who in some way contribute to the never ending list of why women aren’t good enough no matter what they do with their bodies and themselves, and to everyone that ever told me I was “too this” or “too that”, in similar words to Tyra Banks:

Kiss my skinny ass.

  

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Here's Why Everyone's Talking About Nyesha

Every once in a while, a story breaks and it gets people talking.

Could it be the crisis in Syria? Thousands of people are left with nowhere to go because Turkey has closed its border to refugees. Could it be the story that predicts that the Ebola virus will have affected upwards of 1,000,000 people by January if it continues at the current rate? Or could it be that Canada was recently threatened by ISIS who are suggesting Jihadists start killing Canadians too, and that we “will not feel safe in our bedrooms”?

It couldn’t be any of that stuff. All of those issues are too far away from home for young people to actually be concerned about. And young people are much too na├»ve to believe that any of that stuff will actually affect us in anyway.

So instead, we find something that doesn’t require a lot of intellectual capacity to discuss. And if you’ve been following up with the story as much as I have, you’ll notice that very few developments have been made to the story.

And do you want to know why?

Because there really isn’t much more to it.

Nyesha McPherson was arrested at JFK attempting to smuggle weed, guns, and ammunitions with a ticket to Barbados. Whoopty-doo.

So out come the social media users who are struggling to add to it. They talk about things she did in high school, who she hung out with, how bad of a person she must be, how stupid of a person she must be for thinking she could get away with it. And they go on and on and on until they exhaust themselves of possibilities and start back at square one. We become engrossed in determining her character and feel the need, as well as the authority to judge her entirely based on a news story. How wrong is that?

Meanwhile, life is happening. People are dying. We are dying. Seconds of our lives are passing us by that we will never get back but who cares? Let’s gossip anyway. Let’s blow this thing way out of proportion anyway.

Because we have nothing better to do.

Over the last two days, I have seen horrendous displays of character and immorality from strangers, people close to her, people who had no idea who she was, and people who, quite frankly, shouldn’t speak about an issue they know nothing about.

As a media student, I know that we only know what the news tells us. Where does the news find out their information? Official sources like airport security and police. And gee, we ought to trust what they say. 

This is how messed up the world we live in is. We overlook the issues we need to commit ourselves to fixing so that the children we birth can have a better life to spend a couple days laughing and making jokes about a situation that really isn’t all that hysterical.

And you wanna know how I know that?

Because if that was your friend, you wouldn’t be laughing.

And that’s the irony of it all. The irony of all the pictures, all the statuses, all the comments people make whenever someone from our community gets thrown in the gutter. You laugh, you make jokes, you make memes, but when your friend gets locked up for something ridiculously crazy like rape, murder or assault, “free up!” shouts everyone.

Did anyone watch Emma Watson’s speech on feminism? No. Did anyone read a book over the weekend? No. Did anyone watch CNN for a half hour segment? Listen to CBC radio to hear the six o’clock newscast? When was the last time you read a newspaper? And not just a snippet shared on your timeline because there was a mugshot of someone you think you know on it.

You think you know. But you have no idea. There are much more important things going on in the world and I really and truly urge you to get in touch with those matters instead of constantly refreshing your feed to see if anyone else said anything. Or to see if that little orange block with a quote bubble or a heart or a follow has appeared. There is so much more to life.

I didn’t write this because I feel bad for her.

I wrote it because I feel bad for you. 

Kensington Market in 23 Photos

As a journalist, writing simply doesn't cut it anymore. With tons of different platforms to present our work on, I have to be skilled in a lot more than just knowing how to throw a story together. So over the summer, I purchased a Canon T3i and tried my hand at photography. While picking up this new hobby has been extremely refreshing, what is even more refreshing is how differently a camera causes you to look at things; the simplest things. 

All of the photos below were taken on a field trip (exciting to still have these in my fifth year of post-secondary schooling) to Toronto's Kensington Market. The instructor suggested we think of a theme. A seemingly impossible task, I thought, "I'll just photograph everything and let the pictures speak to me." But it wasn't the pictures that spoke to me, it was the things that I captured that did all the talking. And I hope that I told their story the way I would my own. Here are 23 photos that summed up my adventure in the K.