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September 2018

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Vegan meat is the future to a greener Earth

There was a time in my life when I tried to go vegan.  I gave up meat and turned to tofu and a lot of soybean based products in the hope to replace the meats with a more plant based and healthier option.

I failed.

The tofu taste was disgusting to my sensitive palate and even now, the thought of its scent makes me very, very sad.

So imagine my amazement when I found out about Beyond Meat, the 2009 founded company that just won the 2018 Champions of the Earth Award, which is the UN’s highest accolade for the environment along with, Impossible Foods. Both are producers of revolutionary plant-based meats which are alternatives to beef.

What is even more interesting is that these plant-based meat alternatives are outperforming grass fed beef in the fast food arena around the world, including the USA and Canada.

This is great news for anyone who understands the need to preserve and nurture the Earth as livestock cultivation is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

This is a distressing fact in and of itself as greenhouse gases are basically responsible for and the hole in the ozone layer and thus climate change.

With the advent of these plant based meat alternatives having proven to be sustainable choices, it means that being ecologically conscious no longer translates into  giving up on taste and enjoyment.

“This proves that positive climate action can taste even better!” Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment said. “Saving the planet requires something of a gastronomical rethink in some parts of the world, and Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods prove that this doesn’t mean our taste buds are making the sacrifice.”

Founder  and Chief Executive Officer of Impossible Foods Dr. Patrick O. Brown, explains that he knows that the big global problems are not the responsibility of someone else and agreed that in order to save the planet, it would be important to pleasantly appeal to the world’s tastebuds.

“This problem wasn’t going to be solved by pleading with consumers to eat beans and tofu instead of meat and fish. And it wouldn’t be enough just to find a better way to make meat; to succeed we would need to make the best meat in the world.”

The vegan meats by these companies have already outperformed grass-fed beef burgers by at least 40% at Luna Grill, and were sold out at Taco Bell in the USA, as well as at  A&W locations in Canada and was recently added to a burger chain in Italy, called ‘WellDone’.

So how can a vegan meat switch really make any difference? Is it just because it tastes better?

Well not only has many reported that the vegan burgers actually still taste like burgers, but this seemingly simple food choice equates to a greener world.

Here’s how.

Americans switching from beef to plant-based patties would be the equivalent of taking 12 million cars off the road for an entire year–or saving enough electricity to power 2.3 million homes.

A study coming out of the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, which conducted a ‘cradle- to- distribution’ life cycle assessment of the popular vegan burger, discovered that the Beyond Burger generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, requires 46% less energy, has 99% less impact on water scarcity and 93% less impact on land use than a quarter pound of U.S. beef. That means a 41-square-foot plot of land can produce just one beef burger for every 15 Beyond Burgers.

 

 

 

FIN Atlantic International Film Festival wrapped for 2018

Attending a film festival has an integral social impact  and offers the opportunity to experience more than just sitting in a theatre and watching a presentation, which is what the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival offers its patrons.

Having just wrapped up its 38th year, the film festival has been well established as a premier event in Halifax, Nova Scotia. They do more than highlight the best in film, by presenting unique ways for people to enjoy the screen presentations and exciting special events.

You may be surprised to learn that ‘FIN’ is not an acronym.

Wayne Carter, Executive Director of the festival, explains, “Although ‘FIN’ does not represent three words, ‘FIN’ itself has meaning. Halifax is on the Atlantic Ocean, which is full of fins and it is the word that appears at the end of French films.”

FIN is also a stroke of branding genius, since it comes up at the top of search engine results.

 

 

For the second year in a row, FIN partnered with Autism Nova Scotia to offer relaxed screenings and the films presented at these specialized venues were, ‘designed to be attended by anyone on the spectrum.”

Autism Nova Scotia provided free tickets which encouraged people with varying abilities to see films in more comforting environments, as the theatres offered soft lighting, subdued sound and a safe and calming atmosphere.

People seem to want more from theatres, which has led to the emergence of 4DX films that incorporate effects such as motion, rain, wind and even scents into a movie. Carter suggests that this type of film will appeal, ‘to a certain type of audience looking for a specific experience.”

He continues, “Virtual reality could also be an interesting sensory adventure.”  However, it is unlikely that the majority of those going to the theatre would want to be tossed around in their seats and sprinkled with water among other things for a full 90 minutes, making the probability of complete immersive films becoming mainstream nn unlikely expenditure for most film makers.

An exciting feature for film lovers to look forward to is the prospect of a digital pass. Carter explains that, “We are going to adopt a digital aspect to the festival as a way for us to bring FIN to people who cannot attend in person.” As the planning for next year’s festival has already begun, you can be sure adding digital attendance will be on the agenda.

One other way FIN is garnering attention is that women are getting the opportunity to demonstrate their talented filmmaking skills. At this year’s awards ceremony, women were the predominate recipients.

Deanne Foley won The Gordon Parsons Award for Best Atlantic Feature for ‘An Audience of Chairs’, Shelly Thompson won the Best Atlantic Short award for ‘Duck Duck Goose’ and Reneé Blanchar won the Best Atlantic Documentary award for ‘Dans L’Ouest’ (Shadow Men).

Within the film culture, women are definitely forging their own path and being recognized for their efforts.

“I am proud that 59% of our gala performances were directed by women. They are showing their strength and women will continue to be elevated in this profession”.  Carter said during an interview.

There were 194 films on the roster at this year’s FIN and they strive to include a mixture of all genres in order to guarantee there is something for everyone. As quoted on their home page, FIN is “Atlantic Canada’s curator of epic and unforgettable stories” and they have certainly demonstrated their commitment as this year’s Atlantic International Film Festival was a resounding success.

The ugly sneaker trend is celeb gold!

If you’re like me and are prone to scrolling through your instagram and twitter feeds, then you would have seen one of the strangest, yet hottest trends for footwear in 2018 and its ‘ugly’!

I’m talking about the ‘ugly’ sneaker trend that has taken the world by storm with its decisive departure from the sleek, sexy and elegant styles, to that of the bold and un-streamlined look usually reserved for men.

With such powerful female influencers  as Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Hailey Baldwin and even  Bella Hadid rocking  these bulky, 90’s era shoes, it was really only a matter of time before the whole world accepted that this revamped look was all the rage.

The ‘ugly’ sneaker or ‘dad sneaker’ usually features a double or triple sole, adding favourable height to the wearer while offering extra support and minimizing strain on the legs for a more comfortable feel.

The shoes usually come in either all white or all black styles, themed with curvy lines in bright hues or neon colours .

In short the ‘ugly sneaker’ has become the canvas on which many of the well known footwear companies, including Adidas, Reebok, Sketchers , Nike and Puma have all used to lure the female consumer to embracing the sneaker culture for a revolutionalised fashion look.

The sneakers, which honestly have zero seductive appeal on their own, have however a certain curious  charm that creates a fearless fashionable statement, with sneaker wearers mixing the shoes with high end layering and daring styles, including cut off shorts, elegant dresses and some sporty themed clothes, resulting in a fresh, funky and feminine fashion statement.

In an interview with Forbes, Alegra O’Hare, vice president of global communications at Adidas, said their version of the ugly sneaker the ‘Falcon’ has come to represent a new generation of female consumers.

“Its bold and unapologetic DNA is at the core of today’s Falcon and reflects the confident mindset of a new generation of female creative consumers,” she said.

Recently, Adidas also announced its partnership with style royalty Kylie Jenner,  who has over 150 million followers over her social media platforms and is still set to becoming one of the youngest ‘self made’ billionaires, for the launch of the Falcon shoe which was inspired by Falcon Dorf, an iconic model from the 90’s.

By doing this, Adidas has cemented its shoe as a metaphor for fun and fearless feminine confidence. In its marketing for the shoe, the innovative footwear company said “Falcon is for those who do what they want regardless of what anyone thinks. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but for those who know that living unapologetically is the only way to live.”

As the colder seasonal months approach, it is a very safe bet that the ‘ugly’ sneakers are here to stay, especially with the styles already being featured in a plethora of Fashion Week shows, being sold out in Australia and holding pride of place with the millennial fashion icons on their social media feeds.

A review: The Craftsman

 

The Craftsman is a short film that encompasses a deep storyline covering themes of loss, grief, and finally peace. Directed by Cody Wareham and written by Daniel Newton, the film resonates with anyone struggling in life, but also with anyone who enjoys a happy ending.

Set in the depression era, it follows the story of a toymaker who has lost his wife and son to an unnamed illness. And with that loss, he has also lost his passion for his craft. Beside the characters and dialogue, the director makes ample use of lighting and background music to dictate the tone of the story.

The movie opens and the atmosphere is dark and intense. The craftsman sits listlessly next to a rocking horse he’s struggling to work on, sorrow oozing out from him. He has been drinking and passes out. The mood changes and the whole atmosphere brightens. The progression of his memories takes the viewers from family man to the man he is today.  He wakes back up to reality still broken and bitter.

A climactic point in the film follows when his wife Anna appears to him in his dream and speaks to him gently, encouraging him to bring ‘a little beauty to this ugly world’ which is also a good way to describe this short film.

When he wakes up, the craftsman is a changed man, wanting to make things right, he follows his wife’s words. So, he sets out to do just that, moving onto a better and more hopeful chapter of his life. Peace is achieved at last. Even when all feels lost with no reason to go on, there is always something that is worth living for. It’s just a matter to look for it.

The short film played at the Toronto Independent Film Festival where it premiered on September 13, 2018. Prior to that, it was also screened at the New Filmmakers New York Film Festival where it was semi-finalist, and at the Creation International Film Festival as part of its official selection. The director and the writer, both in their twenties, seem to have a very promising road ahead of them if this short film is any indication.

Canada to discuss rift with Saudi Arabia

Ministers from Canada and Saudi Arabia are hoping to meet this week to discuss the rift between the two countries.

This headline making announcement came from Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who on Tuesday announced her plans to meet and discuss the diplomatic dispute with her Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir on the sidelines of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York.

The goal of this meeting is to begin mending fences between the two powerhouse countries following Canadian criticism of the kingdom’s arrests of human activists, which lead to an explosive dispute over the summer.

The global headline making rift between the two countries began when Ottawa called for the release of activists who were detained for urging more rights for women in the kingdom, including women’s rights campaigner Samar Badawi on August 2nd.

Samar Badawi is the sister of well known detainee Raif Badawi who is serving a 10 year prison sentence. His wife and children however are Canadian, thus making Samar the sister-in-law of a Canadian citizen.

“We feel a particular obligation to women who are fighting for their rights around the world, women’s rights are human rights,” said Freeland.

“And we feel a particular obligation to people who have a personal connection to Canada. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.”

To this Saudi Arabia responded by freezing new trade with Canada; blocked grain imports; ordered thousands of Saudi students on government scholarships to leave Canadian universities and relocate to other countries or return home; placed a ban on Saudi flights to Canada, along with orders to brokers and bankers to suspend transactions with Canadian entities and finally, expelled Canada’s ambassador from the kingdom.

At the height of the dispute, it was al-Jubeir who appeared to lecture Canada on its responsibility to defuse tensions, saying at a news conference, “Canada knows what it needs to do. Canada started this, and it’s up to Canada to find a way out of it.”

However, Canada has not back down and Freeland has made it clear, prior to the hoped for meeting that the country would not be changing its fundamental position of standing up for human rights.

The Saudi side has relented to some extent, and has quietly dropped at least one of their more extreme measures, where the medical students and interns who were ordered to leave Canada by August 31st, were allowed to continue at their posts for the time being.

However, at least 7,000 non medical Saudi students were forced to interrupt their studies and some have chosen to file asylum claims in Canada instead of returning home.

Leading up to the hoped for meeting, Freeland disclosed that she was in regular touch with al Jubeir who she disclosed was working very hard to also soothe the rift between the countries.

“He is very engaged on the issue … we are hoping to meet in New York this week and I think that’s a good thing,” she told an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Both Canada and Saudi Arabia have chosen to allow their foreign ministers, rather than heads of state or heads of government, to deliver their country’s addresses to the General Assembly.

That means under UN protocol they must wait until later in the week to speak as Freeland will speak on Saturday morning, and  Jubeir will be the final speaker to give his presentation on Saturday afternoon.

The french airport passport challenge (Pt 1)

I’m about to be very dramatic. It can’t be helped really, as I found out the hard way that having a Caribbean passport in some countries, doesn’t give you a leg up at customs.

This stage-play unfolded as I made my way from Barbados to England. New country, new life, new terrifying experiences.

Okay, let me back up and bring you up to speed. In late March I decided to quit procrastinating about moving to jolly old England, and just do it. What resulted was a flurry of activity, saving and absolute madness – but sure enough I was on a plane to Martinique by August. I can almost hear you ask – Martinique? Thought you said England? That brings me to part two of this backstory.

I’m a lover of deals and in this case, all I had to do for a cheaper fare was find my butt in two other airports before ever setting eyes on balls of fluff – sheep – from above the British countryside. Caught up? Okay, moving on.

After nearly missing my connecting flight in Martinique, as Air Antilles was late, I enjoyed a welcome respite on my XL Airways flight to France. So innocent then, I believed transitioning from flight to customs would be a breeze.

Wrong.

In the past while I’ve travelled on my British passport, I’ve never had any problems and gave no thought that it could be different on the Barbadian blue.

After heading into the security check line for what would be my first challenge, I took my passport out and shuffled on until it was my turn.

The officer took a long, puzzled look at my Barbadian passport, then me, before inquiring about my business in France. I chirpily explained I wasn’t staying and would be leaving in a few hours. He continued to stare at the passport, before asking me where Barbados was, and wondering aloud if I would need a visa to continue. Nonetheless, I managed to pass the inquisition and was promptly off to baggage claim.

Note, I had one piece of carryon luggage and my handbag . . . that’s it. As I approached baggage, I saw people flashing passports and rolling on through. From the looks of it most were British or European (EU) and I figured it’d be the same for me, so I flashed mine like I was on a cop show.

Denied.

This massive officer stopped me in my tracks and carted me over for a more intense check. To be fair, the guy who unpacked everything was pretty nice, even with the added difficulty of the language barrier, since I did not speak French nor did he speak English.

He did a thorough check and all was well, until he came to my makeup brushes. The moment he took them out I knew I’d have another problem. Following a discussion – in French – with his colleague, he went over to the X-ray machine to check my brushes one by one. So I’m standing there, praying to the makeup gods that the manufacturers didn’t have any suspicious-looking substances in the handles for better balance or whatever. I look serene as ever, while in my head I’m like – it’s okay, YOU’RE OKAY!  and explosions of fear are detonating within my stomach.

He didn’t find anything, and after making a bad joke that he didn’t understand, I hurriedly repacked and trotted off – finally -into the main airport area where I almost ended up being lost in translation.

Part 2: Nosey sniffer dogs, men with guns, and you just might have to stay in France.

 

 

 

Woman of the Week: Peggy Van De Plassche

 

Peggy Van de Plassche is a finance professional by trade, who after a varied career as an investor, bank executive, consultant, and entrepreneur decided to bet on herself and set up her own venture capital firm in July 2018.

Peggy is the Managing Partner of Roar Ventures, whose focus is on early-stage data and AI startups that are targeting the financial services industry. Her beginnings in technology go back almost 15 years, well before FinTech broke through in public awareness.

Aside from running Roar Ventures, Peggy sits on a number of boards including Invest in Canada, is a senior advisor to Portag3 Ventures, guest lecturer at Rotman on AI in financial services and she is also involved in the community via Hackergal and the Wild Animal Sanctuary.

Born in Lille, France, Peggy’s French native accent carries the classic elegance of the language. She left France when she was 26 to relocate in Montreal where she joined CGI and contracted the technology bug.

Following seven happy years in Montreal, she and her husband decided to relocate to Toronto to get closer to the financial services centre. After working at BMO as a Director Strategic investments, Peggy joined a wealthy software entrepreneur with the mandate to seed/launch fintech startups and used the countless experiences she gained to become a freelance consultant working with the likes of Omers VC. Subsequently, she spearheaded innovation initiatives at CIBC as a VP in 2016-17.

This July she started fundraising for Roar Ventures with a target close of $35 million. She focuses her efforts on strategic corporate investors – banks and insurance companies aiming at accelerating their transformation. Her fundraising is global with a significant traction coming out of Switzerland where she will be joining the Canadian delegation to present her fund on the stage of Fintech+.

She is collaborating with a team of professionals that she is proud to call “The most creative, bold and energetic people in the industry”. Peggy admits that like anyone starting something brand-new, she has encountered some challenges along the way. First of all, the act of raising money is a notoriously hard task as “Canadian investors tend to be very conservative and funds are allocated to people who are well known in the industry” she said. In addition to that, “being a female immigrant in a very male-dominated area of work does not really play in my favour” Peggy continued.

On the bright side, she has applied to a government initiative called Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative (VCCI) that supports VC firms financially while also addressing gender imbalance and diversity in VCs. While still waiting for the results, Peggy was happy to mention that this initiative was really the catalyst for her to decide to go on her own.

The companies Roar Ventures focuses on are “gender-diversity friendly” startups, with women in the management team, on a Board or as founders. Empirical research shows that greater gender balance generates superior returns.

The person who inspired her the most is her mother. Peggy describes her as a dedicated and hardworking woman with a strong work ethic and the ability to build good relationships. She taught Peggy a love for learning and always pushed her boundaries. Outside of home, she finds inspiration through reading biographies of people who from humble beginnings, took risks and managed to get through life challenges and turn their life around — Andre Agassi, Serena Williams, Sam Zell, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to name a few. A European immigrant like her, Schwarzenegger has done it all, from champion bodybuilder, to a successful actor, to governor.

Peggy acknowledges that it is a more empowering moment to be a woman in business now than ever before. This is due to a radical transformation that is taking place within individuals as well as the within the community as a whole. This transformation is shifting everyone’s views to a higher level of awareness. As she states, “For many years, we accepted certain behaviours as normal. Now we need to relearn a new model and reject the old one which does not work anymore”. Peggy thinks that the patriarchal model of society takes a toll on men as much as on women. She has known many successful men who suffer from a tremendous pressure to support the whole family and a wealthy lifestyle.

Aside from work, Peggy reads, spends time with friends and family, and enjoys cultivating her spiritual side through meditation, brain, and energy work. She said, “I’m very intuitive, but I am well aware that I only use a small percentage of my brain. I’d like to access more of my brain and increase my capability to be in a state of flow.”

When asked what tips she would give to women who want to embark on similar ventures, recalling her own path, she recommended, “Prepare, take action, and network.” She warns that fear of not being ready may delay action. “Women tend to be more cautious in business, due to lifelong social conditioning. But you need to believe in yourself, avoid anyone who is negative especially when you start a business because you’re at your most vulnerable” Peggy continued.

Last, she added that networking is more about building relationships with people over the years than having ten-minute conversations at conferences. “You must allocate time to meet people who matter to you. It has to be a deliberate choice. You need to build that precious time in your schedule.”

A whole new digital money world for Barbados

A new digital currency pilot project may just be the thing to stop the potential standoff between Bitt -a financial technology (fintech) company in Barbados and some of the commercial banks, while allowing Barbados to move further onto the world’s digital money stage.

For years tension has run deeply between the commercial banks and newer fintech company,  Bitt, where banks have faced the ongoing dilemma of whether to collaborate with this company, or to develop their own in house, money transfer systems.

As pointed out by Bitt CEO Senator Rawdon Adams, the company has had to deal with  commercial banks in Barbados being ‘obstructive and anticompetitive’ while conversely they were developing more partnerships in the rest of the Eastern Caribbean than in Barbados -the country that ‘arguably needs fintech the most’.

At this year’s Bitt  annual blockchain conference, held at the Hilton Resort, Adams, spoke about the reluctance of some of the local commercial banks to embrace Bitt’s proposal to partner with them in introducing blockchain and distributed ledger technology to facilitate secure peer-to-peer transactions in moving money between clients.

In a call for Barbados to not be “stuck” in time, Barbados’ first female Prime Minster, Mia Amor Mottley, has stepped into the fray and announced her plans to launch a mMoney pilot programme. This pilot will be between Bitt, the Central Bank of Barbados and the Financial Service Commission (FSC) that facilitates electronic and digital payments for those on the island.

Mottley spoke at the annual conference which was held under the theme Central Bank Meets Blockchain: From the Ground Up, saying there was  a need for Barbados and Barbadians to bring an end to ‘this unfortunate debate and tension between those who want to hold onto a status quo and those who want to move forward’.

“Our people want digital money and …want the ease and security of electronic payments, and as a result, what must happen is face to face discussions with urgency…such that we can launch the Barbados mMoney Pilot,” she told those who had gathered for the conference.

Mottley also soothed the concerns of the commercial bankers about the new programme, after one of the bankers referred to the mMoney wallet as a ‘potential danger to the financial system’ claiming that she would be leading the program herself and that the legitimate concerns of this new payment method from all sides would be addressed as they were not going to launch this pilot project recklessly.

Mottley explained that Barbados would not be held to their old ways of banking due to the fear of the unknown, rather they would be looking to improve development because Barbados would not be left behind as the wider world continued to evolve.

News on when the planned mobile wallet pilot project would be  officially launched has yet to be presented, however Mottley assured that Barbados would remain in agreement with anti-money laundering laws and customer fairness guidelines.

Banning plastic straws: Only the first step

 

When I saw that haunting , viral YouTube video of the poor sea turtle with a plastic straw lodged in its nose, I shuddered.

When I witnessed a Good Samaritan prying the plastic out of the turtle’s nasal cavity, with a pliers no less, my brain and heart hurt.

I was ready to never touch another plastic product again and so it came as no real surprise to me when I saw the first headline touting the ban on plastic straws in America and around the globe.

Finally, the world was realizing just how much damage plastics were doing to marine life and to their communities.

And as the ban picked up steam and more companies and countries got on board, switching out their plastic straws for other variations such as  paper, pasta and even metal, I realized quickly that the focus was on the wrong thing.

It was not about just the plastic straws. That could only be the first step of many to come, if the marine and agricultural life was to continue to thrive.

The real problem with plastic pollution is not just the use of plastic products, but the mindless way in which they are disposed of as well as other trash items and the  harm that occurs as a result

While I am happy that this ban on the straws campaign has taken off, with so many seemingly understanding that their daily actions have far reaching consequences, I am left wondering if this will translate into a decisive progression into taking more responsibility for proper trash disposable strategies.

So while the ban on straws is an amazing start, the campaign must not stop there, rather more people will have to take responsibility for properly disposing of their trash, or risk further poisoning of the planet.

While plastics have had the most media headlines, due to it taking years upon years to break down and the immediate threat it poses to wild and marine life who are vulnerable to choking as they consume it or being entangled within it, other materials also pose a threat.

Trash items such as tires, steel rims and other man made products that are unceremoniously dumped into the oceans, unfortunately can end up in the stomachs of other fishes, sharks and whales.

The oceans are the life blood of the planet — not only do they provide the human population with employment, they also provide nourishment, secure borders and the oxygen needed to fuel all living creatures.

The increasing challenges of climate change, have given rise to more flooding of coastal communities and harsher hurricane seasons, along with less fishing opportunities as marine life seek out calmer waters.  All of these things impact the daily lives of the world.

It is for that reason, that the ban on plastic straws is a great start and it is my hope that this amazing campaign is the first proper step towards a global consciousness more inclined to use less harmful materials in products and to dispose of them in a non toxic way.

Splitting hairs in the Quebec provincial election

 

Perhaps you’ve heard, or not, what is going on in Quebec right now? After Ontario, it is now Quebec’s turn to elect a new government and there are quite a few options available to the voter. But, without talking politics, what I find most interesting in the 2018 Quebec provincial elections concerns one candidate in particular: the co-spokesperson of Québec Solidaire—and the only woman running for the position of Premier of Quebec—Manon Massé.

Massé and Québec Solidaire have, for sure, left-leaning ideas and want to shake things up by offering substantial tax reductions for everyone, accessible public transit, and free schooling, from daycare to the doctorate level. They have a different approach to doing politics, starting with the idea that there should not be a single party leader, but rather two co-spokespersons. What drew me to Massé in particular, though, was not her separatist stance, but how people reacted to her looks. Yes, if you look carefully, you will see in interviews and pictures that Manon Massé has visible facial hair and wears it with pride.

Her ‘moustache’ has been talked about in the past and ridiculed to such an extent that, for some in the media, it is now considered old news. However, I was in the belle province this summer and I realized during discussions that her permanent movember is still the subject of some dire remarks, and that it, quite frankly challenges people’s expectations of what should be the outward appearance of a politician. One thing I noticed in those discussions this summer was that certain people cannot get past the capillary facial fence, a fact that prevents them from even considering the party’s political message, so offended they were by it.

Such an attitude truly saddened me, since I realized that some people’s notion of a woman’s appearance is so restrained and controlled by social normative expectations that this prevents them from listening and questioning the political message at hand. The silver lining, however, to such political entanglements with family and friends, was that my curiosity was piqued: I had to read up on the subject and see if Manon Massé had ever spoken up about her appearance.

Manon, an intelligent and articulate woman with experience in the political arena, is very conscious that she sports a white ‘stache’, but she has decided to remain true to her idea of what it is to be a woman and not fold under the pressure of public expectations and gender conceptions as prescribed by the media and the general public. Not considering her political agenda, I find such a position a strong and admirable one that should perhaps even serve as model for generations of younger people.

This issue touches me in particular because, when I was twelve years old, I was mocked once by someone for having a moustache. I was so offended and hurt by the boy’s comments that I came home crying and feeling that the core of who I was at that time had been attacked. As a result, I proceeded to dye my own upper lip capillaries, only to learn a few years later that one could use wax (my first attempt at this was a disaster). Usually, at a very young age, indeed the very age my son is now, we teach our children the differences between the sexes. In my household, we were confronted with this when my son asked where my ‘penis’ was. Point being, when quite young, we come to learn our gender and what constitutes the outwards signs that define these concepts. In Western cultures, feminine hair is one of the most recognizable differences between the sexes. And, yes, if I let all my body hair grow, I will have less than my partner’s, but it is still expected that what partly defines me as a woman is that I don’t have a beard, or chest hair, as my two year old so aptly pointed out.

But, as a mother, I find myself too busy sometimes to shave my legs. And yes, I’ll admit, I sometimes walk about with hairy legs. When I do, I feel a sort of guilt and shame and I crumble under the pressure of our Western notions of feminine beauty. Women in Canada no longer follow rule books on good behavior such as L’Encyclopedie de la Femme Canadienne, and yet we still operate under certain unwritten rules, perhaps one of the cardinal ones being facial hair. It seems as though facial follicles are undermining the very nature of what it is to be an independent, intelligent, woman nowadays.

And this is why, if only for this gesture, I admire Manon Massé’s demeanor, integrity, and respect of her own set of standards for what constitutes being a woman. In this day and age, when we proclaim that we accept trans-gender people and non-gendered people, I wonder to what degree do we also accept ourselves, our appearances and those of others. Specifically, I think it is important to question those insidious beauty norms that have been imposing themselves over the centuries so that the choices we make are not those of a beauty industry but truly led out of our own accord.