“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Unpublished, Writing | Comments Off on “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.”

I’m sure, by now, many of you have seen this video of Australia’s army chief’s reaction to an, at the time, ongoing investigation regarding “17 military personnel, including high-ranking officers, [being] under investigation for allegedly creating and exchanging “explicit and profane” emails and images that were demeaning to women.” He doesn’t mince words or try to justify their behaviour – he categorically slams their actions. More importantly, in my opinion, he calls for everyone to take a stand and speak out.

The bystander issue goes beyond misogyny and sexual assault and harassment. It trickles all the way down to grade school bullying and intimidation. As long as we nuture a culture where those who stand up for their own rights or the rights of others are called tattle-tales and snitches, as long as we accept “kids will be kids”, “boys will be boys”, and “it was just a joke, honey, don’t take it so seriously” as valid excuses, no real progress can be made.

What we need in order to enact greater social reforms are more people of the exact same attitude as David Morrison. High ranking, prominent individuals who are willing to take a stand – reassuring those who have witnessed abuse or been victimized by it that they can step forward, and clearly and assertively telling the perpetrators and those who support them that their attitudes will not be tolerated in our modern society.

Let’s hope his stance is infectious.

Read More

Girls will be girls

Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Unpublished, Writing | 1 comment

For years now, I’ve treated the word feminist, and many of the people who are ardent members of the movement, with a bit of a sideways glance and a healthy dose of skepticism. I had fallen for the belief that fighting against the system radically will only make it worse and is therefore counterproductive. I had looked at the progress that has been made in the past decades and been able to be like, well, it’s better now, so why are we still complaining? In both of those stances I now see the very reason why we need feminism. As a human being I should feel empowered to stand up for ALL of my rights – without concern for society thinking I had “gone too far” or “was asking too much” or “was hormonal and cranky”. The very fact that I was hesitant, due to possible backlash is symptomatic of the power the patriarchy has over society. In my aversion to  fighting for what is equal, fair, and just, I was unwillingly and unquestionably submitting to the societal norm. The same applies to my willingness to accept the progress that has been made as “good enough”. I am, as are all women – and men – and those who don’t fit into the gender binary, an awesome human being. I am entitled to and deserving of more than “good enough”. I am deserving of a society that equally values all people – regardless of their gender or sex.

And from now on, I’m willing to fight to get that.

I’m sure many of you have seen this, a blog post about one woman’s experience waiting in the lunch line – including sexual harassment and assault. This is what did it for me – this is what made the little cogs in my brain click into place. There are so many things wrong with what she had to experience.

I was wearing a short dress and my breasts are a bit larger than most peoples, so in a low cut shirt, they are more noticeable (but they were not so noticeable as to pop out of my dress).

I was struck right away by how she spent the first paragraph detailing her clothing choices – even including a picture of her outfit. It struck me as profoundly sad that her choice of how to dress herself would even have to be part of this story. She also details her breast size – making sure to mention that they weren’t so big as to pop out of her dress. I hate this double standard more than anything. Despite it being legal where I live (Ontario, Canada) for women to be in public topless (just as men can), I don’t know many – if anyone who would feel 100% comfortable walking around exposed. We are taught to ensure that we are covered, to prevent the men from getting swept up and acting crudely or whatever. Strange, I’ve seen many men topless and have still get to be overcome with an urge belittle them, jump them, or anything else. The girl in the story wasn’t even topless – she was fully dressed – not that it should matter anyways.

It’s easy to chuckle and cast aside the fact that they pointed at her breasts, not with their hands, but with lasers. It’s easy to see it as a silly joke and as something immature done because it’s funny. What puzzles me is why is it funny? Why would anyone think that pointing a laser at someone’s breasts is amusing? Pointing a laser on the floor for the cat – hilarious. A professor using a laser to highlight important slides – useful. Pointing a laser at a stranger’s body – why? Why have boys been taught that there is something funny about breasts? Would they react the same way if I stood across a public room and pointed it at their penis? I brought this up with a (male) friend who correctly reminded me that society praises the penis and the boys might actually relish the attention. I have my doubts – but the thing is, I’d never even think to do that.

Once they open their mouths and unleash the tidal wave of sexual comments – it becomes more apparent that these boys don’t see any problem with their behaviour. They are audibly discussing her “attributes” in such a starkly open way. Exactly as if they were appraising a commodity or specimen of livestock that was placed in front of them for sale. Never mind the fact that she is a human being and is standing right in front of them. But the best part of this story is that she doesn’t just stand there and accept it – despite society preferring women to be meek and demure. She goes and calls them out on their shit – and they listen and seem to apologize…

And in a truly progressive, transitioning world, this story would stop here. The boys would realize they had been being vile jerks, apologized and then the whole world would have moved on. But, spoiler alert, that’s not what happened. Instead, one of them offered a hug because she stood up for herself (which, I honestly can’t help by find a little patronizing at best) as a guise for sexually assaulting her but grabbing her bottom, going inside of her dress. I don’t see how you can get a more clear example of unwanted touching / assault.

I pushed him away, and FREAKED OUT. I couldn’t hold back my foul language anymore—I was absolutely livid. I was swearing up a storm, screaming at the top of my lungs, making a scene (which I know is immature, but I was so angry I couldn’t help it) as people turned heads and teachers and security began to approach us. I went on, and on, pulling out every what reason as to why rape culture continues to exist because of their actions, to which I believe the one who hugged me got offended as he then called me a “motherfucking dumb cunt, stupid whore, fucking bitch,” etc.

I don’t know how else he expected her to react. I also don’t know how he could grab someone’s ass who had already called him out for verbal comments and not expect her to stand up for herself again. She got angry, she got up in his face – what other reaction do normal human beings have when their personal space and their body is violated. Sure, she -could- have taken a deep breath and internalized her rage, but he could have also NOT grabbed her ass. Why should she be expected to “handle” the situation? Push came to shove, he grabbed her arm and then moved in a way that she thought she was going to be struck – so she struck first. He had already proven that he had no issue with touching her – so why wouldn’t she think it was feasible that he would strike her for getting up in his face.

So people intervened – teachers and security. And this is the part of the story that makes me want to rip out my hair and cry.

The officials dismissed the entire thing, including the sexual assault, as “boys will be boys”. Last time I checked, baby boys aren’t born with a card that says they can manhandle women however they like, or treat them like livestock. It’s sad enough that these boys did what they did, but dismissing their actions and not ensuring consequences are quickly and fairly dealt out not only reinforces to these boys that their behaviour is acceptable, but also tells everyone else who was witness that this sort of behaviour towards women is acceptable and is the norm.

But then, just when misogyny was running rampant, it’s friend victim blaming decided to come along for the ride. The security guard who intervened had the nerve to say:

 “Maybe you shouldn’t have worn such a suggestive attire.”

Yes. Because her choice of clothing should have anything to do with their actions. And let’s face it – when are women adequately clothed as to not tempt these apparently weak minded males? Nuns wear pretty conservative outfits – habits cover everything put the face…but a quick Google search brings up a vast amount of porn containing just that. If that sort of extreme doesn’t work, what hope is there for the rest of us? I choose to believe that men have more self control than society gives them credit. I’m fairly confident that they have working brains just like women and are responsible for their own choices. We don’t rationalize people murdering someone because they were wearing a particular outfit – we’d still consider that murder. Why is it any less of an assault when someone is wearing a dress as opposed to anything else?

There is a little bit of light in this story. After the administration decided to do nothing, a teacher stepped in and protested until the police were involved.

I am so unbelievably thankful and fortunate that there are people willing and able to fight for themselves (the student) and others (the teacher) to tell everyone that “good enough” is not actually good enough and that this utter bullshit cannot stand. The administration laughed at her when she then insisted that “well then, girls will be girls”. Girls aren’t expected, it seems, to stand up for themselves and to fight for their rights and respect. Clearly, being quiet about it isn’t working. Telling people nicely to respect us for our minds is only getting accepted at face value. Kicking, screaming, and fighting – that’ll give them something to talk about.

I’m sick of it. Let’s end it.

Read More

The right to unplug

Posted by on Sep 11, 2013 in Published, Writing | Comments Off on The right to unplug

Originally published in The Fulcrum: August 29, 2013.

A debate over technology-free zones in parks

THE SUN IS rising, slowly burning up the morning mist while you stand at the edge of a clearing. This moment makes your early morning hike worthwhile. You can see a doe at the other edge of the clearing, enjoying the dew-wet grass. All you can hear is the sound of the birds singing their—

“No, I can’t do it right now! I’m in the middle of some godforsaken forest—the kids want to see something wild.”

The deer’s head snaps up and she flees, white tail flashing briefly before she is gone. The serene morning is broken, the birds now silent. Furious, you turn to see who has the audacity to ruin such a perfect moment, and there they are: the epitome of how far humanity has strayed from nature.

A man is on his smart phone talking loudly, while looking at something else on a tablet. His kids are close behind him, one so glued to his gaming device that he plows into his father when he stops. The other listens to music loud enough to hear from 15 metres away. They’ve ventured out to the park to see nature, and sure, they’re in the thick of it, but are they really experiencing it?

We live in a world that is increasingly invaded by technology; there are few spaces left where we are free of these distractions, and we can reconnect with something more simple, pure, and natural. Yet with the increase in portable technology, even these rare spaces are threatened. In response, a movement towards the concept of unplugging has begun. Recently, some Marriott hotels in the Caribbean sought to designate some outside spaces as “braincation” zones free of technological devices and their distractions. Should this designation also be brought to our national parks?

There is something truly wonderful about enjoying the rain instead of worrying about whether or not my assorted electronics will get ruined. I also feel a sense of freedom when I go exploring and see things through two original lenses—my eyes—instead of an Instagram filter.

I’m not denying the huge potential of technology to make nature more accessible. Being able to research species of flora and fauna and read about ecosystems while exploring them is a fantastic opportunity for teachers, parents, and students to expand their knowledge and appreciation of the natural world. I believe that an absolute ban on technology in national parks would be a disservice. The Marriott hotels are on to something: zones are the answer.

Technology-free zones and zones aiming to preserve the natural setting provide compromises to attract people on both sides of the debate. Utilizing technology–friendly zones would attract the plugged in crowd to use technology in a way that increases knowledge. We have the technology to share information electronically and this would expand our understanding of parks and wildlife.

In the United States, there have been discussions about adding expanded WiFi connection to their parks. Nature enthusiasts strongly opposed the idea. The park systems in both countries cannot deny the fact that technology constantly evolves and that people are becoming more attached to their technological devices. It is detrimental for the park systems if they do not adapt and embrace these changes. In order to thrive, they have to allow every person to experience and enjoy the beauty of the natural world, whether or not they rely on technology.

Studies show that the ability to disconnect and be free of these electronic tethers is important to our well-being and psyche. It is also the park systems’ responsibility to preserve areas where people can enjoy the outside world and have quiet conversations with fellow humans in real time, face to face. The balance of compromise—and the ability to preserve the rights of both the willingly plugged in and the unplugged—must be protected and maintained by the park services.

Read More

Bixi now available on campus

Posted by on Sep 11, 2013 in Published, Writing | Comments Off on Bixi now available on campus

Originally published in The Fulcrum: August 29, 2013.

Two bike rental stations relocated to U of O

TWO BIXI BIKE stations have been installed on the University of Ottawa campus: one on Waller Street outside Hagen Hall and one outside of the Minto Sports Complex on King Edward Street.

The stations come at a moving cost paid by the university to have the stations relocated from their previous locations west of Centretown.

According to Daniel Spence, sustainable transportation manager at the U of O, the decision to have stations on campus was made in light of “the anticipated congestion and mobility issues related to Ottawa Light Rail Transit construction adjacent to our campus.”

The Bixi program is a way of providing staff and students with an alternative to driving.

There have been other changes to the Bixi system. Stations at the Somerset Street West and Arthur Street intersection and Preston Street and Carling Avenue intersection have been removed until the end of the season.

During the winter months, the National Capital Commission (NCC) will examine a number of factors to assess where stations should be located in 2014. According to NCC communications officer Emily Keogh, this process is undertaken every year to maximize efficiency and ensure proper management.

Keogh said the target audience for the two new U of O stations is students, staff, and visitors on campus, as well as tourists and nearby residents. Spence hopes students and staff living in communities close to the other 23 Bixi stations in Ottawa will see this as “a healthy, active option for getting to campus even if they don’t own a bike, or they left it at home when they moved to Ottawa.”

The Bixi system uses two options: memberships and access passes. Memberships are offered at both a 30-day ($30.25) and yearly ($80.50) rate. The first 45 minutes of a trip are included in the membership with cost increasing after that point.

Access passes are offered at either 24-hour ($7) or 72-hour ($15) rates, and include the first 30 minutes of each trip. Within any time period, users may rent a bike as many times as they want, and a new trip is started each time the bike is docked into a station.

“The Parking and Sustainable Transportation Division will continue to offer the free Bike-Share program as we consider the use-cases as very different,” Spence said in an email.

According to Spence, the Bixi program will cater to different users than the existing Bike-Share program offered by the Parking and Sustainable Transportation Division. The Bike-Share program is mostly used recreationally by students who live in residence or Sandy Hill, whereas the Bixi program accommodates tourists and commuters traveling from one end of the city to the other.

As a back-to-school special, Capital Bixi is offering $10 off a 30-day subscription until Oct. 15

Read More

Nostalgic for Nostalgica

Posted by on Sep 11, 2013 in Published, Writing | Comments Off on Nostalgic for Nostalgica

Originally published in The Fulcrum: August 29th, 2013.

Café reopens with familiar food and new layout

Kaitlynne-Rae Landry | Fulcrum Contributor

CAFÉ NOSTALGICA REOPENED its doors Aug. 17, and even in its newness it was strangely familiar. After only two days of dry runs, the new staff was extremely excited for the patio party opening.

“The fries are the same, which is the best,” said Amalia Savva, former president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa. “I really like that they’ve kept a lot of the old.”

The café is trying to find a balance between keeping the things that students loved and creating a unique new atmosphere.

“We are still moving into the new house, and like any move it will take some time to make the new space our own,” said Kate Gauvreau, the manager of Café Nostalgica.

The food was the star of the evening. For the initial opening, the restaurant offered a teaser menu that included student favourites: burgers and poutine. Other Nostalgica classics like the beloved nachos have returned now that the full menu is available.

“It’s good to have it back—that was the best burger I’ve had in months,” said Paul Tower, a third–year history student.

“I never got to experience the old Nostalgica, but this is yummy,” said Mike Burnside, a second–year commerce student.

“I’m also really happy I can use my meal plan and flex dollars here. It’s awesome they’ve implemented that right from the start.”

The move, facilitated by the Graduate Students’ Association (GSAED), provides yet another food and drink option forstudents.

The new layout includes a stage, which was immediately put to use as local musicians played to an enthusiastic crowd on opening night. The layout allows for excellent views of the stage from anywhere inside and from most of the patio.
The only hindrance with the new open design is the pillar in the middle of the stage. This earned a few jokes from the musicians, but the venue seemed well appreciated.

There were also some initial growing pains. Service was a little slow, some orders came with the sides switched, and the restaurant wound up with one overworked debit machine for the packed room.

“We could not have asked for a better crowd,” Gauvreau said. “Without the people, Nostalgica just wouldn’t be home.”

Read More

Café Nostalgica sets a date

Posted by on Aug 5, 2013 in Published, Writing | Comments Off on Café Nostalgica sets a date

Originally published in The Fulcrum, August 1st 2013.

Popular student restaurant to reopen Aug. 17

Kaitlynne-Rae Landry | Fulcrum Contributor

ON AUG. 17, Café Nostalgica will return with a bang: the student-run restaurant will host a patio party to kick things off and welcome back those who have awaited the construction of its new building.

Café Nostalgica was first established by the Graduate Students’ Association (GSAÉD) in 1995 but closed last spring to be rebuilt. The reopening, originally planned for January 2013.

After a year of anticipation, students will notice significant improvements: the café now boasts a doubled interior square footage and the layout has also been improved, allowing patrons to view live entertainment from anywhere in the room. A new sound system will only add to the restored space.

Café Nostalgica is also living up to its name by sticking to what was tried and true. According to general manager Kate Gauvreau, the more popular aspects of Nostalgica will not be changed.

“We’ll be doing the same programming we were doing before,” Gauvreau said. “Live music, arts, and stuff like that. So it’s pretty much the same Nostalgica coming back.”

The first open mic will take place Aug. 22.

Nostalgica will still serve its menu favourites along with a host of new items. The new kitchen will allow the café to keep up with its expanded capacity and menu. Infrastructure has also been put in place to support both meal plans and flex dollars—a valuable option for students, especially those living in residence.

Aside from an elevator technician strike and a looming potential strike by professors, the construction process has been smooth sailing, according to Gauvreau. The threat of a professors’ strike could make the wait a little longer, but Gauvreau is optimistic that the opening will go ahead as planned. The province-wide strike by elevator technicians already caused construction delays, but if everything goes according to plan, the elevator will be up and running well before the projected opening.

“I can’t wait for Nostalgica to be open again,” said Victoriah Haince, a fourth-year student at the University of Ottawa. “It’s my go-to place for great food on campus and I always do my best to hit up open mic night on Thursdays.”

“It’s a good thing they’re opening in August too,” she said, “because that means students will be able to get in a couple more patio days before school gets crazy and winter hits.”

The new building also means new facilities for the GSAÉD, whose services will move to the new building from its temporary location in Déjà-Vu.

Read More