“Portrait de la jeune fille en feu”


“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” is a French film, written and directed by Celine Sciamma. This film is a beautiful art piece that celebrates women in a million different ways. 99% of the cast for this film were female, and any men who are in this movie are blurred, in the background and noticeably an intrusion. This film centers around a lesbian love affair as it deals with abortion, forced marriage and women as artists.


Set in the 18th century, in coastal France, we meet a young painter following in her fathers footsteps.portrait-of-a-lady-on-firemotherdaughter She has come to a manor to paint the portrait of a lady who has just been forcibly removed from her convent life so that she can marry a man who has been chosen for her. Immediately we are met with patriarchy at its finest. Heloise has been enjoying her pious life until she is expected to fulfill her roles as a daughter after her sister commits suicide. Even Heloise’s mother is so deeply ingrained in the patriarchal construct that she sees nothing wrong with the situation and expects Heloise to believe it also. Her betrothed has never met nor seen her, therefore her mother commissions a portrait to be done of her to send to this stranger. Heloise resists and at the moment Marianne arrives, we learn that Heloise has already refused to pose for one painter therefore Marianne must paint her without her knowing.


Marianne is the daughter of a very famous painter – she is known only for her relation to him instead of being known for her incredible talent. During the 18th century it was not common for women to become artists. Women were expected to marry as soon as possible, start a family and become wives and mothers, upholding patriarchal expectations of what it meant to be female. The only reason Marianne was able to follow her passion, was because of her fathers fame and fortune – the family was rich enough that it was not necessary for Marianne to seek wealth and security from marriage. She is a unique exception for women at that time, and it is brought up between Heloise and Marianne many times, especially when Heloise is upset at not being able to choose her own future.

One of the most poignant moments of this film is when the character of the housemaid, Sophie, finds herself pregnant without any other option but to terminate the pregnancy. 18th Century society did not condone abortions – they were considered a sin and medical professionals did not perform them due to social and religious stigma. Sophie confides in Heloise and Marianne, and together they are able to find a woman who performs them in her house – not very sterile, not very safe – however, during these times it would have been impossible for Sophie to have a child and not lose her entire livelihood. This scene is raw, dark and emotional. It is difficult to watch, but Heloise is fascinated and forces Marianne to watch the procedure – she later instructs Marianne to paint the scene, using poor recovering Sophie as the model of herself. The act of reproducing this scene, as a form of art, really calls to light how women’s suffering has historically been swept under the rug and considered taboo. There are no images from history that tell this very real story – women were continuously forced to sacrifice themselves for their own survival. Turning that horrific experience into a piece of art acts as a catalyst for Sophie, and women in general, to claim this painful experience as their own – as a woman’s experience.

Heloise, Marianne and Sophie are left alone in the house for a week while Heloise’s mother visits a nearby city. During this time, the three women form a very close and unique friendship. There are some beautiful scenes where each of them seem to switch roles with each other.


Heloise, the aristocrat, is seen preparing a meal – cutting vegetables and handling a knife. This role is typically done by the house staff, yet Heloise has her sleeves rolled up and is enthusiastically consumed by her task. Marianne, the artist, sips wine and surveys the scene – looking over the other’s shoulders and observing. This role would typically be played by the aristocrat, yet Marianne looks poised and perfect as she holds her glass. Sophie, the housemaid, is sitting quietly at the table working on an embroidery – carefully stitching with a delicate needle, creating art. Customarily, the artist would be creating art, yet here we see Sophie, the hired help, sitting calmly and peacefully stitching away. This scene shows the importance of female friendship, and when all men are gone, when no one else is watching, the women become just that – women. No preconceived roles or expectations are present, each woman is doing what each of them wants to do without any pressures to conform or act a certain way. It is a beautiful display of female friendship, showcasing the undeniable bond that links all women together.

I could probably talk about this film forever and ever – it is truly a wonderful piece of art. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that if you see this film, make sure to have some tissues handy, especially near the end. It is a heartbreaking story that really champions the importance of female unity, friendship and understanding. Also – the story behind the muse and inspiration of this film could be made into a film itself….I’ll let you discover that one on your own.

Portrait de la jeune fille en feu. Director: Celine Sciamme. Pyramide Films, 2020. Film.


Blog 5: AMAB = a violent youth

As a queer person, topics of homophobia are always very close to heart having experienced it myself many times, but mainly because of the impact that it STILL has on my community. Michael Kimmel’s article “Masculinity as Homophobia” and bell hooks’ article “Understanding the Patriarchy” brings to light some of the underlying sources of homophobia, and discusses some of the ways we can combat these issues at the roots of where they are born and grow.

Spoiler alert: Patriarchy is at fault YET AGAIN!

Gender boundaries that are repeatedly enforced by patriarchal values are thrown upon us before we are even out of the womb. The day our parents receive ultrasound photos that reveal what biological anatomy we possess is the day gender rules, regulations and expectations are put in place. Born with a vagina, I was immediately bought pink dresses and cute little bows for my hair. I would have no say, no choice on what I could freely wear without being judged or ridiculed for straying from the societal ‘norm’. Men, or people who are assigned male at birth suffer similarly in that they constantly have to “check the fences we have constructed on the perimeter, making sure that nothing remotely feminine might show through.” (Kimmel 148).

Men in particular fear appearing or beholding any traits that might be deemed feminine as it might risk confusing others of his sexuality.  And this fear of being perceived as gay “keeps exaggerating all the traditional rules of masculinity.” (Kimmel 148) This results in a vicious cycle that controls the expectations of all males, simultaneously being both homophobic and sexist. Men don’t have the room to experiment or explore their gender expression as freely as women might and this often provokes grandiose efforts to reaffirm their manliness or assure others that they are indeed ‘Man’ enough through acts of violence and the predation of women.

bell hooks’ little brother was taught that “his value would be determined by his will to violence.” (hooks 1). Many of the issues start with the socialization of children and the responsibility is often dumped onto parents – expecting them to be responsible for raising a proper man. Truth is it is parents, other children, society and social institutions that all need to revisit how they socialize and the values they imprint on young minds. Perhaps by NOT measuring value by how violent they are and instead on how they treat others would assist in lowering violent statistics as well as easing the pressure and increasing the overall happiness and well being of young males in general.

“The Crisis facing men is not the crisis of masculinity, it is the crisis of patriarchal masculinity.” (hooks 5-6)

Patriarchy is always messing things up – and I know a lot of guys roll their eyes at feminists because they re always saying things like. But…. its kind of true guys, sorry. BUT this is the point that bell hooks makes that all men need to understand. Feminists don’t hate men, they hate the patriarchal rule that enforces unrealistic expectations gender roles. If more efforts were made to changes these unwritten rules of society, then it would relieve a lot of pressure on men to relax in being themselves without the fear of humiliation.


Kimmel, Michael. “Masculinity as Homophobia.” Toward a new psychology of gender (p. 223–242). Taylor & Frances/Routledge. 1994

hooks, bell. “Understanding the Patriarchy.” Louisville Anarchist Foundation. http://ImagineNoBorders.org

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: Autumn Peltier

Autumn Peltier

Image: Autumn Peltier Instagram

“We can’t eat money, or drink oil.”

Born on September 27, 2004, Autumn is only 15 years old and has already made speeches and presentations to the UN and Prime Minister Trudeau – No wonder they call her a “Water Warrior”. Last year the Anishnaabek people nominated her as the Chief Water Commissioner after her Aunt Josephine, the previous commissioner, passed away.  Autumn was born and raised on Manitoulin Island, Northern Ontario. She is Anishnaabek-kwe and a Member of the Wikwemikong First Nation. 

Autumn is like me only in that we were both assigned female at birth, both feminists struggling to have a voice in today’s patriarchal society, and we both care about the unequal and unfair distribution of resources in Canada. Specifically access to clean water. Many reserves are suffering due to the lack of assistance and supplies necessary to ensure a clean water distribution system. I looked it up today and as of this moment there are 61 Reserves in Canada that don’t have clean water due to the Unsafe and inadequate sanitation systems and most of those communities have been on this list for more than a year. Reserves only make up 1% of Canada’s land so it’s pretty messed up that THAT many communities don’t have access to clean water, even though we do… and we are constantly replacing and upgrading systems here in Montreal. What is going on??!

Autumn and I definitely share more differences than we do similarities, the most prominent one being that I grew up privileged, I AM privileged, I am white and a settler on unceded land and I grew up being able to drink water straight from the tap freely and brush my teeth without the fear of getting sick. Autumn did not have this….She experienced her first Water Boil Advisory when she was 8 years old and it became immediately apparent to her that something was wrong with how the system sidelined her Reserve’s needs for the basic human right to access to clean water. Priorities were clearly being placed elsewhere and so she decided to speak up about the unfair and unequal distribution of resources in Canada. 

I am a little bit older than most of my classmates and I can recognize in their generation, and in Autumn’s generation, a passion and determination to hear that I haven’t seen within my own and the generations before me, ever act with such voracity and urgency that I see in the youth of today. They have a sophisticated voice championing their cause and I am utterly impressed. I think that is how I measure the ability to be inspirational – being so impressive to others that it moves them to respond with action. Autumn has impressed me with her bravery, her tenacity, resilience and determination to be heard. She is going up against the biggest institutions and I am consistently impressed.


Biographical Information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autumn_Peltier

Statistics on Reserves with Water Boil Advisories: https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1506514143353/1533317130660

Autumn Peltier Quotes: https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/canadian-indigenous-water-activist-autumn-peltier-addresses-un-on-clean-water-1.5301559

Blog 3: The Good Old Days

Reading this article really reinforced my hope that one day the patriarchy will be dismantled and a more egalitarian and equal society will exist where women are just as important economically, socially, culturally and linguistically, as men. It has been done before – so why can’t it happen again?

There are some major differences to the more gender equal societies of past indigenous communities, to that of the patriarchal colonial system that we live within today.

Women of the Mi’kmaq people were incredible contributors to society, expected to fish and trap animals for food, set up and break their camp sites, prepared all the food and was responsible for feeding everyone as well as taking care of the children entirely.

Women today are beginning to champion their independence more and are taking on more societal responsibilities as feminism take effect. But these changes are recent and are still only in their infant stages. Typical family models are still based on patriarchal ideas and there is a definite difference of an individual mindset versus a community one. Society isn’t setup to support communities but rather the individual or pairs of individuals and makes it very hard for women to be able to support herself entirely where as the single man, or bachelor idea, is more popular and accepted as normal.

The Innu of Northern Quebec had societies that effectively balanced the gender relations and where “men’s and women’s roles were complementary and equally essential.” (Keough, Campbell 17) Western society enforces a standard that prevents something like this from happening. centuries of subordination and oppression makes it difficult for women to overcome the boundaries that enforce the binary divide.

The idea of Two Spirit really lifts my heart and makes me wish with all my might that it was a universal idea. Growing up as a Tomboy myself, I consistently felt pressured to adhere to certain ideas of what a girl was supposed to be. It is a pressure that has plagued me my entire life and I can’t help but wonder if the idea of “masculinity and femininity were accommodated in one body.” (Keough, Campbell 19) was a universal idea, then maybe I wouldn’t have had such a hard time and feel more comfortable with my gender expression and identity.


Campbell, Lara & Keough, Willeen G., “Gender and Cultural Diversity in the Early                Contact Period.”, Gender History: A Canadian Perspective, Oxford University Press. September 23rd, 2013.

Blog 2: Imagine living in a Matriarchal society…

Well, if we want to know exactly what that would look like then we just need to read up on the history of First Nations communities that are actually the rightful inhabitants of the very land we stand on. The Kanien’Kehake nation once lived on and cultivated these lands, with thriving communities and efficient and culturally rich societies where women were expected to fulfill very important roles of power and responsibility. All women were revered and respected for their ability to create life, but they were also expected to make laws, choose male leaders and handle issues of property and agriculture (Freese-Maire). Families were matri-lineal and the women elders would command over their longhouses, filled with their daughters and grand daughters and great granddaughters families. Sons who found relationships would be expected to move into their partners long house and traditions and historical teachings were the clan mothers responsibility to maintain and share (Luger).

All of this came to a screeching halt, of course, once colonialism happened and the Western infectious patriarchy invaded and served major damage to so many innocent communities (Luger). Many First Nations creation stories include women being the ones responsible for the beginning of life, as compared to the many other religions who consider the main creator a man. Many of those same cultures also live within patriarchal societies (AJIC).

Historical reports show that within these matriarchal communities, the idea of family was first and foremost. The teachings of their traditions and the recounting of their stories were an essential part of their culture and community. The punishment of children was effective enough through the shame and disappointment of other family members and violence was never an option – in fact they would apparently just splash bad kids with water in an attempt to ‘wash the bad away’ (Haudenosaunee Confederacy). It was a peaceful and effective societal model that I would love to see rise again. If only…

Works Cited

Aboriginal Justice Implementation Commission. “Women in Traditional Aboriginal Society.” Aboriginal Women – AJIC.  http://www.ajic.mb.ca/volumel/chapter13.html#2 Accessed February, 2020. 

Freese-Maire, Roseanne. “Women in Iroquois History.” Iroquois Women – Womens History Blog.http://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2008/05/iroquois-women.html Accessed February, 2020

Haudenosaunee Confederacy. “Family Structure.” Culture & History – Haudenosaunee Confederacy. April 17, 2018. https://www.haudenosauneeconfederacy.com/historical-life-as-a-haudenosaunee/family-structure/ Accessed February, 2020.

Luger, Chelsea. “5 Indigenous Women Asserting the Modern Matriarchy.” Yes Magazine!, March 30,2018.https://www.yesmagazine.org/social-justice/2018/03/30/5-indigenous-women-asserting-the-modern-matriarchy/ Accessed February, 2020.

Blog 1: The “F” Word

bell hooks and Jessica Valenti both argue that feminism currently has a bad reputation and distinct stereotypes that are incredibly tunnel visioned and inaccurate. People recoil when they hear the word and its often a taboo subject in some circles. Both also argue that women are also complicit in rejecting and demonizing the feminist agenda.

Jessica Valenti effectively dissects some of the most popular feminist stereotypes and explains how ridiculous they are to apply to all feminists. Valenti intends to break some of the stigma surrounding the fear of being called a feminist by debunking some common myths, including the one that says “all feminists are ugly”.

bell hooks graciously shares her perspective as a black woman feminist, emphasizing the importance of intersectional experiences. This article serves to remind the privileged to include and care about how other people might suffer more due to double and triple whammy effects of oppression related to gender, race, class etc. I have known about bell hooks for a while and I have always loved and appreciated her work.

I have been a feminist my whole life but I only started calling myself one for ten years as I was ignorant to what it truly meant to be a feminist. The definition in the dictionary is good but I love bell hook’s definition even better.

My favourite part of the articles was in bell hook’s where she talks about how Christianity is enforcing ideas that women should be subordinate to men. Its heartbreaking that some women feel obligated to conform to such ridiculous notions.