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Remembering the Montreal massacre

Dec 6 marks the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This event is commemorated each year to mark the deadly Montreal massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique in 1989. A gunman went on a shooting spree, killing 14 women, most of whom were engineering students.

This somber day raises awareness of gender-based crimes. The shooter, who later turned the gun on himself, proclaimed his hatred for feminists and was actively targeting women enrolled in the engineering program, since in his mind he believed it should be a field of study for men. This senseless massacre left Montreal wounded, but all people in Canada, especially women, feel the loss as well. It is unfortunate that we still endure crimes based on gender and sexuality.

The good news is that the shooting did not deter women from enrolling in STEM ( science, technology, engineering and mathematics). In Toronto, a community gathering will be taking place hosted by the Department of Engineering. This is just one example of many small and private remembrance ceremonies that will be held around Canada.

Professor Deepa Kundur was a first year engineering student at UofT when the massacre took place in 1989. Today, she is the chair of Engineering Science and a professor at the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In the official press release, she noted the importance of her not being deterred by the shootings to leave an area of study.

“The university, the educational system is a very special and important place and it’s important to value education in fields like STEM where it provides opportunities for people where diverse backgrounds and opinions are needed very much.”

In Montreal, citizens are invited to attend the ceremony this evening at 5pm at the chalet on Mount Royal, which will feature 14 beams of light illuminating the night sky in memory of the 14 women who lost their lives. This is the 28th anniversary of what is still the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau will be present to mark the ceremony and interact with other survivors of violence. The symbol in the campaign to end violence against women is a white ribbon.

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women is part of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, which started on Nov 25. This year’s theme is #MyActionsMatter and calls on people to speak up against gender based violence. The final event for the 16 days of activism is International Human Rights Day on Dec 10.

Share positive thoughts in the movement towards ending violence against women. Comment below

The power of connecting with your vagina

One Word: Vagina.

Do I have your attention yet? Or better yet, how are you reacting to the word? Are you cringing, panicking, or is it arousing?

Discussing the vagina can cause various reactions. Rarely is it a topic of open discussion at the dinner table. In fact, thinking about this vital tool of female sexuality as a powerful source of healing, creativity, and happiness most often causes nervous giggles or averted gazes rather than furious clapping or high-fives. How is it that we regularly listen to men drone on about their penis sizes (and even use it in pick-up lines with expectations of rousing applause), yet any mention of female genitalia must be avoided at all costs? Society is abysmal.

In an effort to reinvent the wheel my fellow women, prepare yourself and get deeply excited about the secrets I am going to divulge in this article. If you want to giggle or roll your god damn eyes, get out of here! Otherwise buckle up and come for a ride.

The first thing you need to understand is that women deserve to have a relationship with their vaginas. I don’t mean the type of partnership that comes from a 20-year marriage where you sleep on opposite sides of the bed. Instead, each and every woman should strive for a thriving and vibrant connection with her vagina because it holds the secrets of our “yoni”, a Sanskrit word meaning source of origin. Ask yourself, how do you feel about your vagina? When you feel aroused by someone or something (or you don’t), do you listen to that intuition? If we pay attention to the signs our bodies are trying to give us, we can learn a lot from our vaginas. Pay attention, listen, feel, and, you will be surprised.

Holistic sex and relationship coach, Kim Anami, has several free videos and immersive courses that explain the importance of how to vitally connect with your vagina. With meditative work and focus, it is possible to harness your creative sexual energy and use it to heal your body and promote creativity and new ideas. Whether through masturbation or sex, allow yourself to come to a point of almost orgasming and, instead of achieving climax, breathe slowly and focus the energy inward. This practice is known as manifesting the microcosmic orbit, and can be a healing practice for the body. When channeling the energy inward, simply visualize a ball of energy moving up the spine to the crown of your head and back down through the front of your body back to your pelvic area. The energy will help promote healing in areas of your body or chakras that need energy or attention, and you will feel an increase in creativity and inspiration from the practice.

Want more? A daily yoga-like practice that will help further create a connection with your vagina and inner-creative power is a 5000-year-old traditional Tibetan practice known as the five Tibetan rights. These five exercises should be done daily while meditating on the power of your pelvic core. Begin by spinning in a ‘dervish whirl’ until you are slightly dizzy and then lie down on the floor. The second exercise includes lying down on the ground and bringing your legs up together to a 90 degree angle as many times as comfortable. The third rite is to kneel with your toes curled up, and place your hands on your outer thighs as you stretch your chest towards the sky, stretching your back. The fourth repetition involves lying on your back and raising your body to a table-top position. Lastly, complete the cycle by doing downward and upward facing dog repeatedly. These practices promote clarity and open up the chakras to receive the sexual energy from the microcosmic orbit.

If you are having trouble focusing or manifesting creative energy, invoking the powers of the vagina will help regain the inner power to create and inspire. Instead of struggling for several hours to focus on a project, simply enact the five Tibetan rights or practice the microcosmic orbit, and you will be surprised how much energy comes out of the experience. Sexuality is empowering and enlightening, if used in a healthy way, and manifesting a personal relationship with the vagina is an inspiring path towards self-love.

Love your vagina, love the power of creation it has, and most of all, don’t be afraid to shout the word from the rooftops. It is about time we open the floor to a conversation about the power of female sexuality and all of its potential.

Jessa Crispin regains focus in new book “Why I Am Not A Feminist”

Feminism is the new black. And although that’s not necessarily a bad thing – not at all, actually – there are a few concerns with this not-so-new concept of women’s equality. Unfortunately, instead of a movement, feminism has largely become a brand, a buzzword albeit. And it’s being used on literally everything. Hats, sweaters, mugs, and even stickers for your laptop. Your laptop. So, it’s no surprise that the definition of feminism is losing its meaning between the merchandise and arguments between you and bae about ‘who pays for dinner’ next.

Nowadays, everyone is a feminist. Jessa Crispin, however, argues otherwise. In her new book, “Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto”, Crispin explains the importance of bringing back the true meaning of feminism.

Her inspiration behind the book was simple. After reading up on modern feminist writing over the past five years or so, Crispin claimed to be constantly filled with despair on the content of the writing. And with the ongoing issues around the world, including the rise of the far-right worldwide, mass deportations in America, the shutting down of abortion clinics, she noticed that feminist writing still continues to be mostly concerned with lifestyle choices and pop culture. And that’s not the main priority right now.

“It led to occasions where I had to scream into a pillow. So writing this book was just my way of doing something with that anger so I wasn’t overwhelmed by it anymore.”

“Why I Am Not a Feminist” reminds readers what feminism is really about. As a feminist, men and women should be fighting for the political, economic, and social equality between the sexes. A feminist should recognize that women are oppressed by complicated systems. A feminist should realize that the oppression of women is not limited to the wage gap in North American society, or the prevention of girl on girl hate, or on dress codes that dictate what women should or should not wear.

Upon first glance, one may come to the conclusion that the book is actually calling out ‘white feminism’ – a concept which has gotten an increased amount of attention in recent years. While not outright exclusive, white feminism is about the failure to consider the problems faced by the “average woman” who are often alienated due to their colour, sexuality, cultural practices, and religious beliefs.

Be careful though. It’s not. In fact, Crispin hates the term “white feminism” as she so boldly told Women’s Post.

“It doesn’t really convey the meaning it’s trying to. What it should be is “power feminism,” a kind of pro-woman stance that is interested in the amassing and holding of power. Yes, white women have the most power these days. But the problems related to power feminism — a kind of blind selfishness, a focus on individual success over societal reform, a value system based on money and power and greed — are problems with our whole culture.

Maybe just call it patriarchal feminism!

But yes, feminism has been blind for too long to issues of class and race and sexuality, and it has been reluctant to look at the times when feminism and feminist leaders were racist, homophobic, and xenophobic. You still see this nonsensical resistance to associating themselves with the trans advocacy movement because they can’t move past a biological view of gender, or their lack of empathy and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. And that’s a symptom of anxiety, that if they admit the humanity of other people — despite the fact that they themselves are begging to have their own humanity recognized — there won’t be enough attention for their own issues.

We’re all in this together. We are suffering under the same system. There has to be a solidarity that transcends race, sexuality, religion, class, and every other marker, so that we can fight effectively.”

So what exactly does Crispin hope you take away from her manifesto? Well, that’s not her job to figure out.

“I write the thing, then it’s up to people to manage their own responses. I’m not trying to abdicate responsibility for the work, I absolutely stand by it. But I don’t really have any expectation that this is going to change feminism. I think the best thing a writer can do is simply to write the material and then get out of the material’s way.”

She’s unapologetic. She’s pertinent. And her new book is a reflection of that. It’ll leave you feeling rather angry, and Crispin’s gallant, at times ranty way of explaining her point of view will only fuel this anger. This is not the type of book you’ll want to read with a cup of tea in your pajamas. It’s the type of book for when you’re looking for that extra jolt of passion required to seek the change you need.

Whether you agree with her views or not, readers should admire the Crispin for her unconventional, yet highly relevant, way of thinking. Essentially, “Why I Am Not a Feminist” is a not-so-friendly reminder that being a feminist isn’t just about wearing a “this is what a feminist looks like” shirt or about re-blogging a gif from a Taylor Swift interview on Tumblr. It’s about looking past that, and focusing on what is important to truly bring about the change towards equality.

“Why I Am Not a Feminist” is now available on Amazon!

What are your thoughts on the book? Let us know in the comments below! 

An exploration into the world of Pansexuality

“Gender identity is diverse and there are no binaries. Look into the etymology of “gender” and the word itself means nothing more than genre or kind,” says pansexual and transgender advocate, Sabbina Gibson. “This kind of binary perspective on it has been opposed and imposed on us. As a pansexual, all genders are embraced, not both. It is not one or the other.”

Gibson is a transgender woman living in Toronto. Taking a break to talk to me from personal training at Pursuit OCR, an adult obstacle course located at a converted industrial building in Parkdale, I begin to understand the hurdles Gibson and other pansexuals have to climb to help others understand their sexuality.

“Pansexuality is something that people are becoming more aware of, that more people will be able to identify with, and as a result they will not keep it in the closet. Then it will be able to be discussed openly,” says Gibson.

The first step to discussing pansexuality openly is understanding exactly what it means to each individual person within the context of their lives, and what the word means as a sexual label.

“I think sexual labels need to be defined by the communities and people who use them. We can’t define other people’s identities. In my health research I use a definition of pansexuality that draws on the etymology of the word (“pan” means “all” in Greek),” says PhD researcher for indigenous health and sexuality, Margaret Robinson.

Pansexuality is defined as a sexual attraction, romantic love, or emotional attraction toward people of any sex or gender. The term is becoming increasingly recognized in modern society, but still confuses many people. Understanding the label is a primary step to embracing this type of sexual marker and allows people to further identity with it.

Gibson says that heterosexuals look for a person with particular character traits, similar to a pansexual, but the physical aspects that a person looks for can be very superficial.

Gibson adds, “Someone who is pansexual may have an attraction to physical traits, but an attraction in someone’s personality becomes much more overarching than just a person’s appearance or a specific focus on someone’s genitals.”

Gibson also notes that her experience as a transgender woman has played a part in her identity as a pansexual because it can be difficult to find a partner.“Being pansexual, I don’t have gender preference as a way to increase my odds of finding somebody,” she says. “At this point, I don’t care who it is in terms of their gender as long as I mesh with them on an emotional and personal level.”

Logan Facette, a practicing pansexual from Calgary, AB. agrees with Gibson’s definition of pansexuality. He places emphasis on a person’s personality rather than their gender.

“My sexuality happens with the changing of the seasons. I never know who I’m going to be attracted to at any specific moment,” says Facette.

Facette is an open and outgoing person and is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities, having suffered from epilepsy himself. His favourite saying is “the only disability is a bad attitude,” and he is confident in his identity as a pansexual, demonstrating how irrelevant the need to justify sexuality really can be.

“I really don’t know why I’m pansexual.  I don’t need to justify it. I need to be confident in what my mind is telling me,” he says. “This person is hugely attractive and I don’t need to know what their gender is.”

Facette is also married and monogomous. “My partner is female. She has the same attractions as I do. I am very free-flowing with my sexuality and is something I really wanted in my partner,” he explains. “There needs to be total honesty and communication in the relationship. I quickly learned I wasn’t comfortable with being “bi”. I kept looking and I came upon pansexuality.”

University of Toronto professor of philosophy of sexuality, Ronald De Sousa, emphasizes the importance of drawing the distinction between bisexuality and pansexuality to further understand the meaning of “all” in the Pan identifier. “Pan requires thinking of people without bringing in their gender. Bisexuals may be distinguished because they may not be open to people that are in-between genders,” says De Souza.

Bisexuality is defined as an attraction to the same and different, but is often termed as an attraction to two specific genders rather than all genders. That being said, Robinson notes the difference between the two types of sexual labels leads some people to frame pansexuality as trans-friendly and bisexuality as transphobic, which is not the case.

“There’s been a tendency in some circles to frame pansexuality as trans-friendly and bisexuality as transphobic, but that ignores the reality of bi communities, our trans-inclusive history, and it ignores the trans people who identify as bi. I’m bisexual because I have attraction to people with the same gender as me and also to people with genders different from my own,” says Robinson. “Identity is contextual. Identifying as bisexual connects me with specific communities, particular histories, and particular values. I fit the definition of pansexual, but I don’t use that label.”

Pansexuality also attempts to overcome the common correlation of gender and sexuality, rather than specifying sexual orientation towards genders in any way.

Gender is defined as “the state of being female or male, with reference to cultural differences rather than biological ones.” Sexuality is defined as “a person’s sexual orientation or preference”. Too often, gender and sexuality are blended into the same meaning.

“How absurd is it to filter all of your sexual partners within the criteria of gender,” says De Souza. “Freud said, ‘Heterosexuality is much in need of questioning.’ I agree because people’s sexuality should be free. It shouldn’t be bound by heterosexual monogamous relationships. Gender and sexuality have nothing to do with humans in any way except by these ideas about what you are supposed to do as a woman and a man.”

Gibson agrees. “Gender and sexuality is too intertwined for people to distinguish what the difference is. Even in the LGBTQ culture,” she says. “There is not just one gender or the other, and there is no distinct boundary. Gender becomes a grey area and an expression of a much more complex human nature.”

Over the last century, the discursive space to discuss different types of sexualities and labels across the spectrum has increased substantially. With the wake of feminism in the 1970s, sexuality became a prevalent topic and though homophobia still persists, heterosexuality is no longer seen as the only mode of sexuality in western society.

Robison further explains there are a few generations of women and men interested in enforcing gender binaries, which opens up the space to more gender fluid expressions of sexuality. Potentially, the next possible wave of change in the world of sexuality of understanding is the eradication of the need to label sexuality into a category at all.

“The point here is not about whether you are hetereosexual, bisexual, homosexual or pansexual. The reality is that if you are human, you are just simply sexual,” says Gibson. “How you categorize it and contextualize it is your individual decision.”