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Montreal makes history with first elected female mayor

Montreal elected the city’s first female mayor this past weekend. Valerie Plante beat out long standing Denis Coderre to gain the leading position. Coderre has served as mayor since 2013 and was elected six times as a Federal Liberal MP.

Plante began her political career as a city councillor in 2013. In 2016, she served as leader of the opposition party, Project Montreal. This historic win for Plante places her in a position to act out her proposed reforms on housing, traffic and transit, key issues that affect the City of Montreal.

During the race, Plante was seen as the underdog with fresh ideas, describing herself ironically as “the man for the job.”  Gimmicks aside, it was Plante’s vision to get the city moving that pursuaded voters to put an “X” by her name. During her campaign, Plante was seen interacting with commuters in the city, discussing traffic gridlock, plans for a proposed ‘pink line’ for city rail transit, and a more solid bike-path network.

At a victory party on Sunday, Plante remarked on her historic success by paying homage to Jeanne Mance, the co-founder of the City of Montreal. “We have written a new page in the history books of Montreal,” she said. “Three hundred and seventy-five years after Jeanne Mance, Montreal finally has its first female mayor.”

Plante’s first movements in addressing her platform include issuing 300 hybrid city busses on the road by 2020 and a fight to lower the metro fares. Her immediate action on transit issues will help voters feel secure in her campaign promises. Near the end of his term, Coderre was criticized for running a one-man show and Plante positioned herself to be in opposition to Coderre’s actions by saying —less ego, more action.

Plante is a Quebec native, growing up in Rouyn-Noranda and attending the Universite de Montreal with a degree in anthropology and a masters in museum studies. Plante is 43 and previously worked as a community activist and organizer before getting into politics.

“League of Exotique Dancers” is a sexy film for bold women

“Power is sexy, confidence is sexy. When you have the years behind you, you’ve been hated, you’ve been loved, you’ve loved, you’ve lost, I think all that comes up to a summation of power. I think at a certain age, women really don’t give a shit and that’s sexy,” said Rama Rau, director of the Hot Doc film League of Exotique Dancers.

League of Exotique Dancers is an inspiring film that teaches women to take their lives and sexuality into their own hands. The documentary is being debuted at Hot Doc’s this year by Rau, who felt inspired to make a film about the dancers after seeing them perform at the Burlesque Hall of Fame, an annual festival celebrating legends of burlesque from the 1960-70s.

The film tells the personal stories of several burlesque dancers from that era and hopes to show how older women can still be sexy and confident performers. Rau demonstrates that each of these women has invaluable information to pass on to the next generation of women.

The two burlesque strippers featured in the film are 68-year-old Judith Stein and 69-year-old Camille 2000. Both have over 20 years of experience in the industry and continue to take part in burlesque performances across Canada and the United States to this day.

Judith Stein. Photo provided by League of Exotique Dancers.
Judith Stein. Photo provided by League of Exotique Dancers.

Stein, popularly named “The Grand Beaver of Canadian Burlesque”, is a classy woman. She was wearing a flowered scarf and had a open smile, as if she was always on the verge of laughing. Stein began dancing in the 1970’s after leaving her hometown in Woodbridge, Ont. to attend the University of Oregon. “I danced mostly in the states for six to seven years and I had a green card. I’m politically active and I got fed up with the Americans and burnt my green card,” said Stein. “I ended up in Vancouver as my home base, [but] I worked all over Canada. Mostly in B.C and in Whitehorse.” Stein also recalls receiving gold nuggets when working in Northern Canada and Alaska early on in her career.

Camille 2000,. Photo provided by League of Exotique Dancers.
Camille 2000,. Photo provided by League of Exotique Dancers.

Camille 2000 was a dancer in the southern United States and began her career in a carnival. When she was young, her successes at the tent show led her to Miami, Florida. “They wanted me to become a headliner because I was young and beautiful and tall,” said Camille 2000.  “I went down to the Gayety Theatre owned by Leroy Griffith, in Miami Florida. It was also the last theatre I ever worked in. I did a complete circuit around the States.”

In the early 1960-70’s, there were limited jobs for women and the documentary portrays burlesque as an attractive option for women looking for independence and an opportunity to travel. Stein became a dancer for the freedom, not wanting to “trade her soul and pussy for a wedding ring”. The trade was also quite lucrative. Camille 2000 noted that she became involved because “the money was good”.

The industry was not always enjoyable and could be competitive because of the money involved. Both strippers said that women would beat each other up, put cut-up glass in make-up, pee on costumes to ruin each other’s shows in an attempt to make more money. You had to be tough to survive in the business. “It was competitive but they also taught you everything. Older strippers would say “try this hunny or try on that”. There was always the odd one who is insecure, and wasn’t sure of themselves, but most weren’t like that,” said Stein.

The documentary followed the downfall of burlesque with the emergence of pole dancing and live nude performances. “I think burlesque dancers tell a story. They had 20 minute acts. They had these elaborate costumes and yes, they would peel, but I think today’s strippers go right to it,” said Rau.

“It was hard in a theatre to follow porn acts,” Camille 2000 said. “When I first started we had to wear G-strings and pantyhose, towards the end of my career you had to start taking everything off because you had pole dancing. Live nude dancing and pole dancing ruined burlesque.”

League of Exotique Dancers reflects on the strength, humour, and kindness of these burlesque legends and the fall of the industry they loved so much. The film is absolutely worth seeing.

 

League of Exotique Dancers premiered on Thursday, April 28th at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema at 9:45 p.m. and will be playing again on Friday, April 29 at 1:30 p.m at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. It will be screening after May 20.

“Whip them out”: breastfeeding in public

“Whip them out. I will breastfeed anytime, anywhere, any place,” mother and breastfeeding advocate, Jesse Tallent said.

Despite the fact that breastfeeding is one of the most natural and beautiful acts between a mother and her new-born baby, women often feel insecure and ashamed about feeding their child in public. This is something Tallent correlates to society’s misconstrued beliefs about breasts themselves.

“Breasts are used to sell burgers or cars,” she said. “Women are often shamed for breastfeeding or for being too confident and showing too much skin.”

Too often are women reported on social media for posting pictures of themselves breastfeeding their child. These pictures are then removed for being “pornographic” or too revealing. This is something that Anne Kirkham, a spokesperson for the Le Leche League of Canada, a national organization that promotes breastfeeding and offers resources for new mothers, says is increasingly common.

“We live in a society that sexualizes breasts so much,” said Kirkham. “When you show your body in media, it is so overly sexualized. It may take awhile to come to terms with it in a new way.”

Similarly to many other women, I decided to breastfeed my daughter when she was born. At first, it was a bit painful, and it was a bit difficult to get my newborn to latch on. But, once I got past those awkward stages, breastfeeding became a time of bonding. I genuinely felt empowered, like there was a stronger connection between myself and my daughter.

At the same time, I felt like it was necessary for me to stay home to feed my daughter. Breastfeeding in public made me uncomfortable, but I was beginning to feel a bit isolated at home. I decided to start slow, by finding a community of moms who were nursing and willing to share in that experience.

“Seeing other moms’ breastfeeding is empowering,” said Kirkham. “When you start to recognize other mothers’ breastfeeding, you may feel more comfortable yourself.”

Other mother’s take this shared experience to a larger platform. Tallent regularly posts photos of herself breastfeeding on social media and hosts online support networks. The goal? to help women gain confidence when breastfeeding in public and to help break through sexualized trends attached to breasts itself.

“My advice to other moms is to take to social media and find a local support group like La Leche,” said Tallent. “Mothers being more open-minded about breastfeeding has taken to social media and has started a movement to change body image.”

Forums such as breastfeed without fear, normalize breastfeeding, and boobies are for babies provide safe spaces for mothers to proudly and openly share this new stage in their lives.

Most public areas —like malls or restaurants — offer a designated nursing station or area for mothers who want to feed their babies. But the whole idea that breastfeeding should be equated with a public washroom is questionable. Is the act considered a bodily function needing to be concealed, or are people genuinely as uncomfortable with the sight of a breast as the sight of a sexual organ?

When my daughter was a bit older and had finished breastfeeding, we were out with a friend who had a newborn baby. He needed to be fed so we went into one of the nursing stations. It was on the other side of the washroom, completely separated by a wall. The sound of the hand dryers was irritating the babies and the washroom smell as difficult to handle. The mothers looked miserable and I will never forgot how ashamed my friend felt as she kept apologizing that we had to be in that space.

Of course, there are nursing stations that are more welcoming and not exclusively attached to the washroom. A private nursing setting can even be helpful for breastfeeding mothers who are more comfortable in an isolated setting.

“I’ve used a nursing room at a mall. It is hard to get him to feed in public because he is so curious. Sometimes you run into other moms too, which is great,” said Tallent.

Another common issue is the general expectation that mothers should cover their babies with a blanket when they feed in public. Kirkham reports this is a common concern for new mothers.

“A lot of mothers complain that their babies get too hot under the blanket or swat at it which distracts the baby and makes the feeding difficult,” she said. “People should think about what it would be like for them to eat under a blanket.”

Tallent was pressured to use a blanket while breastfeeding at her own engagement dinner when her son, Rylan, was two months old. Rylan, she explained, needed to be fed often, but was struggling to latch. A woman she didn’t know approached her and tried to put Rylan’s blanket over his head.

“She was trying to help, but it was inappropriate.” said Tallent. “I had to go into a bathroom to feed him because she wouldn’t leave me alone.”

Most women are unaware that legislation exists protecting mothers and their newborn babies under the Code of Human Rights. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, “you have rights as a breastfeeding mother, including the right to breastfeed a child in a public area. No one should prevent you from breastfeeding your child simply because you are in a public area. They should not ask you to ‘cover up,’ disturb you, or ask you to move to another area that is more ‘discreet’.”

As a mother who previously breastfed, I am glad these rights are being protected. I can only hope that society becomes more accepting and that people can learn to view breasts less as sexualized objects and more as a means of providing for a new life. That amazing and natural phenomenon is what truly makes breasts sexy. And that is something we should all embrace.

 

Men’s activist group causes international uproar

UPDATE: The gatherings in Toronto (and around the world) have been cancelled, according to a tweet and website post by Roosh V. “I can no longer guarantee the safety or privacy of the men who want to attend on February 6, especially since most of the meetups can not be made private in time.”

A highly contested men’s activism group has revealed there are at least three group meet-ups scheduled in Toronto. The location of these meet-ups has been removed from the website, returnofkings.com, but founder and rape-legalization advocate, Daryush “Roosh V” Valizadeh confirmed the location in a comment asking about the Toronto meetup.

“I merged 3 hosts into the Queens Park location because all of them submitted central locations that were near Queens Park. I think the turnout will be over 20, so you may have to split up into 2 or 3 groups and then re-join later.”

The group is garnering negative attention after Roosh V’s announcement that he is organizing gatherings in 165 locations in 43 countries around the world, all happening on Feb. 6.  The groups are known as “tribes” and the purpose of the initial meet-up is to try and create more permanent men’s activist “tribes”.

The event has garnered outrage worldwide in the media and on social networks. Roosh V removed the locations of the gatherings from his website, citing scheduled protests in a few of the larger cities. He had previously specified the Toronto location as being at Queen’s Park, and later confirmed this fact in a comment inquiry.

“I have created a private Central Command for meetup hosts and other trusted insiders to device protocols that allow all meetups on Saturday to proceed as planned. I will publish protocols for meetup attendees here by Thursday,” Roosh V writes. “Not a single meetup will be cancelled. We will not be intimated by the actions of the lying media and leftist political establishment.”

Thanks to the international press, every country and city labelled as a location for one of these meet-ups has the opportunity to take action and make it known they do not condone this hate speech. At the same time, it appears that Roosh V is enjoying all of the attention. However, on Feb. 1, he tweeted “Number 2 trending topic in all of Australia. This is the first time a man stood up to their puny establishment.” Roosh V has also tweeted several threats to Australian authorities, indicating that he will sneak into the country via boat because “the border is like swiss cheese.”

The opinions, writing, and actions of Roosh V clearly denote the inner-workings of an unstable man; yet the fact that men support his beliefs is troublesome. The nature of many of the articles on the website are violent and even go so far as to threaten anyone who wants to disrupt his worldwide event.

“I will exact furious retribution upon anyone who challenges you in public on that date,” he writes.

Roosh V’s meet-ups also potentially delegitimize other men’s groups. There are groups that exist to help single parents (including dads) or men who have experienced abuse, but by creating an exclusive group that is violent and works to facilitate hate speech deters from these goals. It can also makes men feel less comfortable gathering without being seen as anti-feminist.

Hopefully, these meetings are a bust due to international pressures and Roosh V will instead seek much-needed medical help for his deep-set hatred of women. In the meantime, let us celebrate the massive solidarity that both men and women have demonstrated to rid the world of misogynist, exclusive meet-ups — including people such as Roosh V.

The Time I Dated Myself

Masturdating (v): the act of dating yourself by going out alone to a movie or restaurant

When I first heard this term I, like many of you, cringed. It’s hard enough to watch senior citizens eating alone in a restaurant. Their old, brittle hands attempting to cut through their steak might as well cut through your heart. And then there’s the fear of the cashier at the box office judging you when you ask for just one ticket to Channing Tatum’s new movie. Not to mention the added horror when you end up sitting beside a couple still in their ”honeymoon phase.” Blegh.

However, with the concept of dating yourself becoming more and more embraced (recommended, even), I became drawn to discovering the fascination behind it. Even though I consider myself to be an independent person, the thought of masturdating never occurred to me. I’m all for a night in with a cup of tea, my favourite PJs, and 45 hours of Netflix. But to go to dinner and a movie alone– with 3 dimensional people? Interesting. So one rainy Wednesday afternoon, I decided to masturdate.

Wearing a black, lace dress and some red lipstick, I strolled into a busy downtown cafe for lunch. Mumbled conversations of business meetings and friendly coffee dates filled the air along with delicious aromas of expensive lattes, waffles and pasta. “Fancy, aren’t we?” I thought, as I ordered the $18 plate of carbs with a side of salad, eyeing the waiter for signs of judgement. None. I was already impressed with myself. Financially stable and pretty? Score!

There were a lot of things I learned while I sat at this table for two. For one thing, people do notice you. Within the hour, one man, also sitting alone, asked if I was waiting for someone while an elderly woman proceeded to ask where I was from. No, and oh, hell no. I gathered enough courage to smile at two other women at the table across from me to let them know how obvious their staring was. “Sorry, we’re in love with your bag.” They admitted, as I quickly changed the subject before they asked me where it was from. They all seemed to be thinking something different about me. And then I realized- I didn’t care.

The food was good. I looked good. And there was no awkward small talk to fill the silence. In fact, it was rather emotionally stimulating being lost in my own thoughts in such a busy restaurant. The vulnerability of being alone added some spice to the elements of a successful first date. The feeling was similar to going out with someone you’ve had a crush on for  a very long time. Even though you think you know everything about him or her, including where they went on vacation back in 2006 (thank you, Facebook!), you still end up getting a little nervous trying to impress them. Masturdating, I learned, is the idea of impressing yourself instead of trying to impress the one across from you.

I would like to address some concerns before I masturdate again. I proved to be a little less than perfect when I found myself mindlessly scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, forgetting my line of thought. Or- when my thoughts were diverting somewhere I didn’t want to go. It was like texting your best friend when your date says something weird. It was rude.

All in all, I would definitely say yes to a second date.  I already have an outfit in mind. Dinner, maybe? Can’t wait.

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