Blog 4: Living as a “non-binary” person.

The event I attended revolved around the backlash attached to people who live outside the gender box. Four individuals gathered on a stage to freely talk about their personal experiences and share them with the wide public. This event featured individuals who are not a part of the binary genders that are featured in the world. Those four explained how they defined the “non-binary” term, how culture interacted with their gender identity, the responses they received from their families, their relations with the LGBTQ+ community and how they manage their lives publicly. The group composed of people that were born mostly during the 70-80s, but one was around the same age as the audience which was around 19 years and they came from very different countries which were a great addition.

The talk included some experiences that the four individuals lived throughout their lives and how difficult life has been because they considered themselves as non-binary. Some of them mentioned that most people labelled with gender but in reality, they just wanted to be known by who they are which was themselves, their name, not the constitution of their bodies or sexual orientation. Others stated that there were no such terms that defined non-binary individuals which made it very difficult back then to illustrate or define how they felt. One of them mentioned that their grandparents were very homophobic people; Even if they wanted everyone to know how they felt, they preferred not to tell their grandparents.

When we think of difficulties non-binary people receive, we think of the way they are referred to as, or how society treats them as alien, from the experiences that the 4 individuals received, we can understand that it is because many think that male and female are the only “normal” genders that the people who do not correspond to these suffer. Overall, it was very interesting to listen to such unique but believable stories. The difficulties these individuals faced were terrible and shows how such people are still treated in today’s society. I have spoken to many in the audience and they have all enjoyed listening to the experiences the four shared with us because we were able to understand better how it is to live in a world being “non-binary”. I would strongly suggest attending such talks because you will be able to meet people that have actually been through those stages of life or maybe still are, but their experiences are something everyone can learn from.

Blog 4 (Part II): International Women’s Week

The event that I attended for the international Women’s week was the “Sex, Lies, and Evolution: Debunking the “Human Nature” by Jacky Vallée. Who is a teacher at Vanier college in anthropology.  The talk was focused on the misconceptions of men and women evolution and their “respective” roles. Vallée used the anthropological perspective to explain that these gender roles are created by society and aren’t based on human nature. It is not written in our genes that men are more dominant or powerful than women, for instance. He explains that these are “just so” stories that are based on a culture humans have created for themselves over the years.

Vallé, explained the backlash feminists are receiving for wanting the termination of gender roles and the claims for human nature. He explained the misconceptions that we have when it comes to gender roles. For instance, back in the olden days, men were portrayed as the ones who were hunting for food, creating the tools, making fire, etc. While, women would be portrayed as cleaning their caves, taking care of the children or doing lightwork such as picking berries and fruits. Which is in fact a misconception. Through the anthropological way of thinking, Vallé, tried to debunk these ideologies through stories and making his listeners understand that men aren’t in fact the more dominant ones, they are just portrayed as so.

Unfortunately, we still live in a “men dominating” society. For instance, gender roles are still present nowadays. Vallé, asked his audience to raise their hands if their mothers are still the ones doing the chores, cleaning and cooking food for the family and almost everyone raised their hands. He also gave the example of the human evolution picture that goes from an ape to a man. Which makes you realize how imprinted this ideology where men are “more superior” to women is, even to this day. Image result for human evolution

Some of my friends who have attended the conference with me all had the same response afterwards. We all agreed that we have learnt that gender roles aren’t biological but all made up by society. Which definitely makes me think about gender roles differently.  This event made me realize certain things I haven’t necessarily thought about before (which is also sad how were so used to living in a society like this) for instance, the underrepresentation of women in photographs (like the human evolution). Which makes it seem like the men has been the one conducting the human evolution by creating new tools, coming up with new ideas, rational thinking, etc. And that is not necessarily factual. Moreover, this is an event I would recommend to others since it makes you think out of the box. Making you question things about human evolution, culture, society, etc. That we wouldn’t necessarily think about on a normal day basis, because of such strong influences that have built our community. Jacky Vallé, did a great job at explaining these misconceptions we have about gender by introducing us to an anthropological way of thinking.


4.5 International Women’s Week

This week I attended a presentation called  (Re)imagining Gender and Sexuality in the Healthcare Field Through Ancestral Inquiry. it was held in the Auditorium from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. and presented by Emil Briones,  a 30 year old Faculty Lecturer in the Doctor of Dental Medicine Program at McGill University where he holds classes about social justice, health and social inequality. In the beginning of the presentation, he talks about how many of his students, especially those who are older and come from a generation with very traditional backgrounds, have difficulty grasping the fact that there are other ways of expressing ones gender since they mainly turn to scientific knowledge and biological facts to determine whether an individual is male or female. In response the close mindedness of his students, he encourages them to question the idea that there is only one way to understand where we stand when it comes to sexuality and gender. His main goal when teaching is to change peoples point of views on the subject of sexuality and “plant the seed” in order for those who have very restricted beliefs to at least think about topics such as racism and gender in a more open manner. Throughout the presentation he stresses the importance of understanding out personal cultural background saying things like “Know who you are. Know your ancestral roots.” as a way of encouraging the audience to gain more knowledge about their culture. He even includes personal storytelling and life experiences that led him the discovery of the Babaylan which are a class of spiritual healers in the Philippines.

After talking to other students, I can safely say that they responded well to the lecture because of how dynamic it was despite the fact that it was an early morning presentation. Not only that but they agreed with many of the issues brought up. For instance, many of the nursing students agreed that in order to understand the needs of patients, you need to know their cultural background. They really related to that statement since in the medical field, they are the workers who build the best patient contact due to the fact that they have the most opportunity to get to know the patients they care for as opposed to doctors and physicians who aren’t exposed to people to people contact as much.

This presentation made me understand the relation of gender and culture to medicine and how it’s necessary for medical practitioners to be knowledgeable of their patients background in order to make better and more accurate diagnosis’. Beforehand, I wasn’t aware that other cultural backgrounds needed to be taken into account when finding better solutions to the patient’s problems. It also, encouraged me to gain more knowledge on my cultural background. I do not know much about my ancestry but this presentation peaked my curiosity in finding our more about it because I do agree with Emil’s statement that it could contribute to the understanding of myself in more depth.

What I know about Emil is that he is a lecturer at Mc Gill University and that he also works as a conflict mediator. He is half filipin and that his grandfather was supposedly a substance farmer and a witch doctor that would cast out evil spirits from peoples bodies. His teaching methods consist of group discussions in order to help others learn from one another. His classes have a pass fail grading system because it encourages less competitiveness between medical students who are generally extremely competitive. Other than that, I also know that he feels privileged to be able to use his platform as a means to reach younger generations and help them open their minds to gender and sexuality.

Finally, I can say that I recommend this event to my friends because it was dynamic and interesting. It touched on subjects I wasn’t aware of like 2 spirited people and people who identify as gender non-binary. The lecturer is also very open to questions and would even answer ones that are very personal to him which is not something many people are willing to do.

Blog 5: Sex Work & The Colonial State

On March 6th, in the Vanier auditorium, Jenn Clamen & Marlène from Stella, l’aime de Maimie gave a presentation that shone the spotlight on patriarchal and systemic oppression against sex workers and how it is misplaced, inappropriate and, I concur, just downright right unnecessary.

Marlène began by giving an in-depth description of Stella, the organization and all about the important work they do and the challenges they face with unwanted intervention and stigma that plagues sex work and sex workers here in Montreal. She made it very clear that all of the representatives of Stella were, or are sex workers themselves and so have that valuable experience and knowledge of the industry to advocate for the rights and needs of Montreal’s sex workers. They offer a lot of services and resources to those who need it, and even deploy “street crews” who will go out and supply sex workers with “crack packs”, condoms and medical assistance to help limit the many dangerous risks involved with sex work. The list of services they offer is incredibly but in short they look out for themselves in a way the government resists to.

Stella marches, they print and distribute newsletters and editorials informing the public about current issues, notifications and events that supports and advocates for the rights of sex workers. Migrant sex workers are specifically at risk as they can be deported if charged with sex work crimes. And because sex work isn’t a recognized source of income, sex workers have a difficult time finding “legitimate” employment, housing and other types of benefits. They are often criminalized and more likely to be approached or harassed by law enforcement officers.

The stigma that follows sex workers is despicable and incredibly closed minded. To quote one of the presenters “Sex work itself, isn’t dangerous – the environment of sex work is dangerous.” The state needs to make more of an effort to create safer working conditions for all people, including those who choose to have sex in exchange for money. Autonomy is important to retain and stripping sex workers of theirs is unfair and unjust.

Blog: 4 Sex, Lies, and Evolution: Debunking the “Human Nature” Backlash to Feminism

Between all the conferences held during the week, I decided to go to the Sex, Lies, and Evolution: Debunking the “Human Nature” Backlash to Feminism. Between all other conferences, this one caught my eye mostly due to the common misconception which I had no idea existed. The speaker Jacky Vallée, made a great powerpoint presentation showcasing a few misconceptions which some took me by surprise.

In this event, the presenter talked in detail about the current backlash the feminist movement is receiving for wanting to challenge the status quo when it comes to gender roles and the claims for human nature. During the presentation, the speaker debunked most of the previously thought ideologies about gender roles. During the conference, the most common misconception showcased was that men lead all the major cultural advances, hunting, toolmaking, and fire. There was also a lack of women being represented, one example that was given was how most images about evolution showcase male evolution and there was a lack of images of women and other gender roles. Contrary to former believe early humans were scavengers making the idea of men doing all the hunting and women staying back a misconception. Another misconception was how technological innovation were created by men which displayed them as being smarter than women, there was also the thought of women weren’t able to make tools due to them being a child-bearer but the truth is mostly the opposite. Most of the conference displayed how ill-informed most of us are about our past.

Out of this conference, this thing that took me most by surprise is how little representation there is about women in things like painting and drawing. Most of them were full of male portrait and male activities. The consequence of not representing women in drawing made is so that they are not able to have a place in history. Making them seem as if they didn’t contribute to human evolution which is completely false.

Blog 4 (02): Women’s international week

Between all the great events during the women’s international week, I decided to go to “sex, lies and evolution”. It was a spectacular experience, I learnt about a lot of new things that I didn’t know or thought about before. It opened my eyes to all of those stories that we have heard ever since childhood but never actually thought about deeply enough to know that maybe they are incorrect. Jacky Vallée, the speaker, mentioned a few of the general misconceptions that exist. He also said that what people have been claiming for too many years as “it is normal” or “it is human nature”, anthropology (a scientific field that studies humans) explains the opposite. I could tell that I was not the only one who was surprised by those facts and who left the auditorium and started questioning everything again.

We all know the answer to those questions; who first made fire, who hunted animals, who first created tools, it is “men”. What Jacky tried to debunk is that behind those stories, there are other answers. With the help of anthropology, there is proof that the answer might differ and it is not always men. Everyone knows men as the dominant gender and that is the “human nature”, but it isn’t. Tools, fire, etc, all these are just objects, how can anyone know who first made them. There is no evidence of such a thing than all those pictures in the internet about men creating them. Our mind is just set to think that it would be done by a man rather than hearing that it may have been a woman, because it is less exciting, which is sad.

Another bitter truth, the human evolution picture, the most known one is the ape that transforms to a man. It also shows how when we think about humans we directly think about men. And that is how from a random picture we get stories and call them “human nature”.

I now think differently about so many things, this event helped me realize that just because the majority believes in an ideology, that it is the truth. Anything can differ from someone’s point of view to another. And before following the bunch, we have to stop for a second and try to look at it from a different angle, so we can actually see the full story, the full truth about it.

Blog 4: International Women’s Week at Vanier

   Last week at Vanier a variety of different activities were held for International Women’s Week. For this assignment, I decided to attend the Collective Care workshop. The workshop itself was held not only for women, trans, and nonbinary people, but also students, staff, etc. This workshop was one that was more interactive as you were to share your thoughts and ideas on different subjects which were centered around gender, how it influences our daily lives and how we can make not only our school but our community a more accepting place for everyone. The event was held by one of our own English teachers, Sarah Yiu who has aided in Politics and Care Collective for Cegep teachers and has been co-sponsored Vanier’s RespectWorks office.

     The event itself was held in one of the classrooms where we then proceeded to sit in a circle all together. Before any discussions took place, it was important for all of us (a small group of 10 people) to establish what would make it a safe space for us and the others in the room. Due to confidentiality reasons, I can’t say anything in regards to the other people in the room involved within the workshop besides myself and my own experience. The workshop itself was calming and liberating as everyone was free to say what they felt in a safe environment without having to worry about being judged or mocked. Another aspect I enjoyed about this experience is the fact that I got to meet different people in the school who I would not necessarily encounter on different terms. This includes both faculty and students. It was nice to see that in this setting both teachers and students were equals, not one superior to the other whilst still voicing out their opinions and respecting one another.

     One of the reason why I decided to choose this event instead of all the others was because it was not like any other on the list. Unlike those that were held in the auditorium with a bigger crowd, this one was one with a more intimate and close setting. As previously mentioned, there were only 10 people, including myself. For someone like myself, I enjoyed the fact that it was a smaller group of people I could share my thoughts with rather than in a big crowd. In addition, it was also nice to hear from different people and of their experiences. In regards to what they experience personally in their daily lives and as well as their points of view on different subjects.     I believe that anyone would enjoy this workshop as it gives you the chance to speak up on your own behalf. Sometimes, its easy to question whether or not we could make any sort of impact or difference in our lives or even others. The workshop allows you to express yourself freely with others who not only go to the same school as you but are apart of the same community as well. Furthermore, this event has something appealing to anyone. If you’re someone who likes to take charge of the conversation then you can do so through the different discussions and it you’re someone who likes to be within a smaller crowd, then this is also goof for you. In the end, I truly enjoyed the experience and was glad I had the opportunity to be apart of it.

Blog 4: Slav & Kanata

  I chose to go see the Slav and Kanata presentation. The presentation exposed a major issue in the modern artistic world. This issue is the fact that cultural minorities are not present enough on the scene and their culture is being exploited in an unfair way. The two women talking about this issue accuse Robert Lepage of being insensitive to the first nations, in particular by not leaving room for the members of these communities whom he had to represent on stage. The same criticisms of cultural appropriation for Slav, a show which denounced slavery in good faith, but which presented very few black actresses on stage and expressed black culture in a false way. These pieces are very controversial because of cultural appropriation and for their predominantly white distribution. Also, much of the information on which these plays were written is completely false and does not represent the reality of the cultures and of the stories represented.

  Most people in the public agreed with the views of the two women who presented this critique. It makes sense because they explained to us that some facts in these two controversial shows are simply false and completely irrelevant to the real cultures that the stories were supposed to represent. But, the main argument of the writer of these shows was that these shows were artistical presentations and he can present whatever he wants, because it’s his imagination and his artistical ideas. Some people may agree with this statement even if most of the people in the public didn’t, including me.

  One thing that I found very interesting, is how much coverage this scandal got. After doing some research, I found out that a lot of people and even entire communities criticized this “piece of art”. Mostly black and western Canadian first nations communities. These communities expressed their frustration and didn’t support these shows at all. It is very understandable.

  To conclude, I would highly recommend this presentation to everybody, because it shows how art can make people believe things that are false and take possession and modify different cultures. This presentation really shows how unfair these shows are to the black and Aboriginal cultures.

Blog 4: International Women’s Week

The presentation that I attended was called, “Art in Response to Backlash”: a presentation by Sonya Stefan. Sonya Stefan is a media artist that aims to create work using real-time electronic glitchery and she is very interested in the deterioration of objects. She uses damaged materials and transforms them into contemporary new media works. Sonya Stefan is the curator at Lux Magna, Pop Montreal and Suoni Per II Popolo. She is the cofounder of La Lumiere Collective and Ibrida Pluri. She is full of adventures and is a very hard worker. Apart from collaborating with many artists, Stefan is a professional dancer and she performs with Animals of Distinction, Estelle Clareton, The Toronto Dance Theatre, etc. She also enjoys filmmaking and has proven to be a very successful filmmaker. While filming, she focuses on single framed works, insolation, music and DIY (Do it yourself) films.

The key message that Sonya Stefan conveyed during her presentation is to have courage to not be afraid to push the boundaries and to think outside the box. She taught us that weird is cool and that normal is boring. She also spoke to us about collaboration and how important it is to work with people that can teach you new things and help you explore new concepts. She enjoys collaborating with musicians because she knows little about music and they teach her how to mix music with filmmaking. She also loves including children in her events and festivals because she loves when families are brought together. She has children of her own and realized that they were not able to attend art events, therefore she began creating events that would allow parents to bring their kids along with them.

During the presentation many students asked her questions about her determination and courage. We were all very inspired by her hard work and dedication. I would recommend this presentation to others because of the will power that was shown through the eyes of Sonya Stefan. She has proven that anything is possible and that if you set the right goals, you will be able to achieve them and leave a print on the world. She has participated in so many events and has changed the lives of many people including filmmakers, musicians and families. Before this event, I did not know much about filmmaking or any of the events that Sonya Stefan spoke about during her presentation. She opened my eyes to many things that are happening here in my own city that I did not even know about. She made me think about the different activities that are currently going on that can help others find their right path. Sonya Stefan is a very powerful woman that has paved the way for many artists and it is thanks to people like her that the art industry continues to grow and leave a mark on our society.