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  • Ode to Winona Ryder

    By Jordan Currie Funny how monsters can keep praying on the bodies of the young and beautiful in exchange for spotlights (or, in exchange for nothing, nothing but bloody lips and vomit and runny mascara) but a shoplifting incident eighteen years ago while depressed and high and panic and a broken elbow can cut the stream a blemish which turns into a scar until the typewriters shout, “Comeback! Comeback! Comeback for the disgraced!” as though we weren’t the ones disgracing. Winona, princess of darkness and eye roll, ruler of lonesome goth girls in the cafeteria corner human woman whose pain was put on a display like pastries in a window sill branded crazy doe eyed and lashing out proceed with caution You did not need to “come back” you did not need relevance to breathe you did not need to tightrope walk on the edge of a pedestal while poked and prodded with pen caps and blinded by flash You were here all along.

  • Raised on fire

    By Zanele Chisholm My head keeps spinning until I feel the blood-moon howling at me. Was it my mother? Begging me to come… Home. Could it exist in two dimensions? My own dimension seems to slip onto the tongues of scarred men, locked-jaws cracking the foundation and broken windows, cutting my skin, piercing their throats. You must break them in, grandmother Eve says. People have to be taught to destroy the things they love. My lover is a homebody. Fucked until extinguishment, blood drawn from the fullest lips putting out the flame. The lover lives in the dark. Hold on to me, I beg. I can’t stand to love in translucency with a lover's touch disembodied. Her kiss, it’s spiritual. But my God is lost. And that is the most terrifying thing about love — the way it parks itself into your soul, spreads its limbs like the branches of a fig tree, filling the land of dirt with its bark and its secrets. Whispering them to you as you stare into passing mirrors until it is not only yourself you see but the face of the woman you love. Our love is performative. It takes the shape of women most desired by her. We become a part of endless bodies, floating from frame to frame performing acts of docility each night. Yielding ourselves to the half-crescent moon. Eve was the first woman to teach me how to become a craving, how to cement your voice into skin ,how to make a lover’s dreams your own. Their world, your world. Her bones laid me down, placed the floor onto my stomach and told my lover, “walk.” Concave ribs carved to make a love-ditch out of you. We begin as the sun sets. Our backs curled around the half moon’s spine, the weight of our ascendance toward the space in between born by women who came before. Eve says I must let go of all that commits me to the present if I wish to see where time rests and the grieved lay. This is not my first experience crossing into the ditch of stillness. Every woman feels the tug, the pleading of the soil, of the roots and seeds, to leave this life behind for the greatest sacrifices only asked of a woman. But we don’t all go. Those of us who stay, roam at night. During sex, after he comes and leaves her to create the child, she wanders. Those of us who leave only come back when our lovers are dead and the world has been rebounded around the fists of another great man claiming to know what it is to have the eyes of God watching you. I used to imagine him as a spider, with a thousand orbs cratered into the deepest layers of his flesh, but I know now that God is just as blind, just as small and quiet as the great men wailing in the wallows of stillness. Just as dead and lost as the women they leave to be killed in the grips of power. Eve was shivering. Nights like these are the hardest for her. Grandfather used to be her stabilizer, her constant. As if he had raised her to belong to him, he was her father in so many ways. His eyes, how thorough they were, the way they dug relentlessly, shamelessly until she was undressed of borders, open land to reign free. They grazed on her, fed on her like wilted meat to a bull. She admired them, him, he had always been so careful, to fool her. His wicked tongue spinning the greatest tale of love she had ever known. Her father without a doubt. Her husband, too. When she begins to unwind the storyteller's rhythms she finds the holes, the lies, the quiet, the anger. She fills them with earth from her garden, grows a different narrative. Ones where the children never heard the screams, where destruction did not paint his face, ones where the love was as true and as felt as his touch. She begged God to give their daughter her eyes. But she learned long before I did, all the things that God could not do. As she lay bones to the gravel, I hear them shake. She tries desperately to make herself a part of his home. Burying herself in the trenches of his yard till she hit the graves of past lovers—they are old friends. They hold her there, cry for her as she continues to dig deep as his eyes to find some truth hidden beneath all of his lies. The graves understand. But her bones and the dirt are pieces of her and of the world that he never reached. They did not know him as her mind once had. This is where the rage is held. “Let go,” I tell Eve. Let go of every place that he touched, get him out, Eve, tear him out.

  • Mia Yaguchi-Chow

    By Emma Buchanan There is vibrancy in the clutter of Mia Yaguchi-Chow’s home. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, there’s another piece of eclectic art, another shelf of records, another old movie poster — or a spare giant pencil leaning precariously against the wall in the corner of the living room. Yaguchi-Chow says this is the only house she remembers. “I've been living in the same house pretty much my whole life, so it's kind of cool as I'm growing up to experience how the neighborhood changes, the house changes, [and] how me in the house changes.” Yaguchi-Chow is a second-year fashion communications student, a painter and photographer. She’s creative director and photographer for Ryerson’s design magazine, RADmag and she’s run two pop-up shops over the past year, selling t-shirts that she designed with painstaking detail and made on silk screen prints through her instagram and online brand, bitchfits. She says then name was originally taken from a scene in her favourite movie, White Chicks, but over the years it’s taken on multiple meanings, with her interest in fashion linking the word to “outfits.” “I don't know, I feel like I've always been kind of a bitch.” Yaguchi-Chow says she is more of a rational, practical thinker than an emotional one. “You know, you have practical thinkers, who are less emotional, and then emotional thinkers who may be less practical, and then everyone in between. My practical thinking may come across as bitchy….[but] who I am is subjective to everybody.” Yaguchi-Chow says her godfather, friends and family got her excited to show her work when she was a kid, and that their enthusiasm has translated to things like her pop-ups and paintings. “I like to share my work also to get any outside perspectives from friends and family, or anyone that I don't know, and to see how they interact with things.” There is some of her work on the walls throughout the house, as well as her older sister’s paintings and many art pieces from her dad’s collection. The house is over 100 years old and the entrance is narrow. Yaguchi-Chow is generous with her descriptions of her home and her work, like she’s overflowing with the same creative spirit that fills the house. “Constantly, things are rolling through my head, whether I'm out on the street doing class, or at home. It's something that is both a burden and a blessing, because I get some really good ideas from it, but…the switch that controls the thinking is always on...if I wanted it off, it won't go off.” Yaguchi-Chow lives here with her mom, dad and a 6-year-old husky named Mochi. She says her home and her family and have both subconsciously and consciously affected her art. Yaguchi-Chow says she loves how her parents created the vibrancy of her house — everything from the orange dining room, the pink, purple and teal bedrooms and the blue hallways. The shirts from her first pop-up collection “coincidentally matched the house.” Large, striking, cartoon-like eyes are a consistent motif in Yaguchi-Chow’s work, and were the theme of her second collection of shirts. A painting of a singular eye with thick lashes and a star for a pupil hangs over her living room. The signature she’s been using for about a year is a stylized character that is written the same in Japanese and Chinese — which is Mia’s background. It’s also followed by a star to represent the A in her name. The eyes are representative of the concept of multiple perspectives for Yaguchi-Chow. “I did this sketch once, sometime last year. It was a girl's face...I did multiple [eyes] on the top, multiple on the bottom.” “Just by chance I drew eighteen [eyes] total. So I'm like, you could have all these eyes, but still not be able to see everything in front of you, right?” For Yaguchi-Chow, this means that every person has the capacity to see a singular thing multiple ways — a theme echoed in her conversations about her mother. “How I think is reflective of how she thinks,” Yaguchi-Chow says. Yaguchi-Chow says she talks about everything with her mother, and that her mother instilled a sense of balance in her. Because of that, “I’m able to consider perspectives outside of mine,” she says. “My mom isn't much of a stuff person, so her things don't fill houses much. But I think she's pretty artistic...she has a lot of creativity, but she works full time, so she doesn't really have time to pursue any of it.” Yaguchi-Chow says her dad is the opposite. “My dad grew up poor in Hong he didn't have much. I think now that he' adult, and he has the opportunities and the ability to live more freely, our house is full of stuff. He loves stuff.” Their house sits on a piece of land surrounded by the University of Toronto campus. Their family moved to Toronto when Yaguchi-Chow was one. At the time, her parents owned a diner down the street called Room 338. “I wish I could have lived it,” Yaguchi-Chow says. Eventually the university forced the diner off the land. The walls of the Yaguchi-Chow home are filled with old 50s movie posters from the diner, mainly of her dad’s inspiration. “His taste is really good...I feel like as he adds those things to the house it kind of impacts me too, how I experience the house,” she says. A large calligraphy banner sits high on the orange wall of their dining room. Yaguchi-Chow’s parents got it at a calligraphy booth at a Chinese fundraising event about a year ago where you could commission a word or phrase on a banner. “[My dad] asked to get ‘Ho loves Mariko’...because Ho is my dad's name and Mariko is my mom's name,” Yaguchi-Chow says. The calligrapher “got a good kick out of that, because people normally come for ‘beauty’, or whatever, and then this guy comes along and gets ‘Ho loves Mariko.’” In a photo the two took afterwards, Yaguchi-Chow says her dad and the calligrapher were smiling ear to ear.

  • The shrinking woman

    By Emma Sandri The heat was sweltering. It was June and the air conditioning didn’t extend into the seventh and eighth graders’ hallways. My classmates clamoured to get their yearbooks signed, to have their last conversations and pick up games before school was out. I was alone in our small corner classroom, savouring my last moments of middle school. “I’ve always considered asking you out,” my classmate Jonathan* said, interrupting my thoughts. “You’re really smart and pretty, but…” He paused. Over our last eight years in school together, I had never gone out of my way to talk to Jonathan. In fact, I did my best to avoid his company altogether. Yet, his admission would stick with me until this day. “You’re just too smart,” he said. I felt his eyes on my face and I blushed. I had always excelled in school. I was the first to throw my hand in the air, the first to shout out answers, the first to finish tests. My intelligence had been a badge of honour and I wore it with pride. I had never once felt ashamed — until then. That hot, icky feeling stayed with me as I started high school. It crawled under my skin every time a teacher called on me, when a test was dropped onto my desk, when I was partnered up with a boy. I made myself dumber and smaller — I chipped away at myself to fit into the mould of perfect femininity. It’s a reality many young women face: the battle between being desirable or ambitious. That’s the feeling Liza* carried with her throughout her first year of university. “OK, he just wants me to shut up,” Liza said about her ex. “Well he’s an ex for a reason,” Liza says. "He would put me down for wanting to go to school. [He said,] ‘Oh, I don’t understand why you should be putting in that much time and effort when in the end you’re just going to be caring for your husband anyways.’” Liza has a bachelor of life sciences from the University of Toronto. Today, she’s in a fast-track program for public health at Ryerson as she prepares for medical school. In her first year of university, she dated Steven, a sociology major she met in high school. During their relationship, Liza’s main academic interest was neuropsychology and neurobiology. “If I was talking to his friends or him, I [couldn’t] even talk about what I [was] learning in class because they passed it off as too boring. So, I always had to keep everything to myself.” Liza and Steven’s relationship lasted for just over a year. During that time, she says she felt pressure from him and his friends to make herself less intelligent. So she made herself smaller. “For him I felt like it was more of a threat.” Consciously, Liza says she changed her behaviour to make things easier on her partner. She stopped talking about class and about the things that she had learned, hiding that part of her herself when she was with him. Liza left Steven because she said he made her feel like she shouldn’t enjoy things that he didn’t — namely, her program. Yet, it wasn’t just with Steven. There have been “multiple times” when Liza has had to make herself seem less intelligent for both partners and friends. “If I’m getting super well in a course, I can’t go out and say it,” she says. “I feel like I’m spraining their ego. Like if I got an 90 and they got a 70 or something like that, they usually get really upset over it and say I’m showing off or something like that. So I just keep everything to myself.” Research shows that Liza and I are not alone. A 2017 study published in the American Economic Review shows that single female students minimized their ambitions for the sake of their marriage prospects. The female MBA students reported less desire to travel and work longer hours when they thought their classmates could see their survey answers. They also asked for lower salaries. They made themselves smaller. Women make up slightly more than half of the population in Canada, yet of the country’s top 100 listed companies, only 8.5 per cent of the highest-paid positions were held by women in 2015. Today, only a record 27 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons are held by women. “What we tend to see with young women who are are high school or university age is that they will have lower levels of political ambition compared to young men,” says Ryerson University politics professor Tracey Raney. “Young women are less likely to be encouraged into thinking about running for office — by their mom, by their dad, by their other relatives, by their peers, by their religious organizations — compared to men.” A study conducted in 2014 showed that college women’s political ambition were significantly less than their male counterparts. The study suggests that college campuses in the United States are still “rife” with the traditional gender roles which can negatively impact the career choices women make. “People are talking about the way [a female politician] wore her hair, or that the heels she wore didn’t match her bag, or her marital status or her status of being a mom...I think that sends a message to young women,” says Raney. “Pop culture is a reflection of where we are at in society. So you know, it will give us a sense of the level of gender equality in a particular society,” she continued. Raney’s own research, published in 2015, delved into the 2004-2009 revisit of Battlestar Galactica. According to the professor, an undertone of the show was that it was problematic to be a woman and in power. “What we saw with these female characters was there was always this undertone of them being unhappy,” says Raney. “[That] you can’t be a whole and complete human being if you are a woman and assume power in society…that it is problematic to be a woman in [a] position of power.” In my experience, society makes women smaller. It tells them that they aren’t good enough, that they have to sacrifice their position as a mother, as a wife or as a friend in order to be successful. As women are continually told to be smaller and less threatening — whether it’s in their relationships or through a TV show — women continue to resist. They call out sexual harassment in the #MeToo movement and they make history in record elections. It is in our resistance that I find comfort for the next girl — the next me — who is told to shrink. I hope she keeps putting up her hand first. *Names have been changed to protect individuals’ identities

  • The new definition of school

    By Heather Taylor-Singh Going into a creative career can be challenging. But what if you aren’t taught the skills to sustain a successful career in that field? Almost a decade ago, Chantel Chapman refused to do the final exam for an economics class she was taking. Her decision was undoubtedly a shock to her professors, but she was firm in her choice . “I was only [there] to learn and hear the lectures,” says Chapman. She says she didn’t need the validation from her professors. Instead, she just wanted to learn more about a topic she was already interested in. Now she’s the co-founder of SCHOOL by Kastor and Pollux, an online platform started by Chapman and her business partner, Dani Roche. The pair met four years ago, when Chapman was a financial consultant for a client Roche was working with. She was impressed by Roche’s innovative ideas and the two kept in touch. Chapman and Roche launched the SCHOOL courses in October 2018 to provide people with the opportunity to learn about aspects of the creative sector that aren’t taught in post-secondary. The idea for School was something she had been thinking about for a while before bringing it up to Roche. SCHOOL courses are taught by creators and available at Topics range from how to be mindful with money to tips on working for free. Chapman says she grew up mainly in a single-mother household and says her family struggled financially, so post-secondary wasn’t something she planned on pursuing. She says having access to the right tools isn’t always easy. Chapman says even though she wasn’t sure of her future, she was always a bit of hustler. She worked different jobs after high school, and at 20 she decided to go to university. There she took a licensing program to become a mortgage broker, which led her to becoming a financial consultant. This is where she met Roche and found out about Kastor & Pollux, a creative agency run by Roche. Roche went to York University to study design. Chapman says Roche took some of the skills she learned in post-secondary, but also sought out education from different places. “I was kind of thinking about my own personal relationship with post-secondary education and my own career path and then I was thinking about Dani’s career path,” says Chapman. Chapman says Roche connected with idea of becoming successful on your own. The pair wanted to create a platform featuring other creatives who may not have attended post-secondary, and didn’t necessarily have a straight career path to follow. Along with courses, School offers a one-for-one program. When a course is purchased, that same course is given to a marginalized community for two months. Accessibility is one of the platform’s main pillars, and creating an online platform was the best way to do so. “Instead of saying it’s one person to one person, it’s like one class, one community,” says Chapman. In a study published by Ontario Universities in 2018, 72.3 per cent of graduates employed full-time considered their work either “closely” or “somewhat” related to their program of study. Two years after graduation, the rate increased to 77.2 per cent. Darian Ghaznavi is a third-year advertising student at OCAD University. One of the reasons Ghaznavi enjoys his program because of the amount of feedback he receives on his work in-class. Since the advertising program at OCAD is fairly small, he says the students rely heavily on criticism and feedback, and it’s detrimental if they don’t receive it. Ghaznavi says his focus in post-secondary is building up his portfolio and “self-initiated” projects that will make him stand out in the advertising industry. Ghaznavi hopes to get a job in the advertising sector, and although he values his education, he is more interested than gaining skills than high grades. “With any of the arts programs, you go in to garner skills and also build up a body work,” explains Ghaznavi. “That’s the main purpose.” Students seem to be focused on contributing to projects that interest them, regardless if they’re being taught the skills in their chosen program. Similar to School’s online message of self-made creators who became successful outside of the traditional education system. Claire McCulloch is a third-year creative industries student with a focus in printing and publishing. McCulloch recently started a female-based online publication called Common Mag with a fellow creative industries student and friend, Danielle Howson. Along with being the design lead of Common Mag, McCulloch is the assistant publisher of RAD Mag, Ryerson’s Art and Design magazine. She says the idea for Common Mag came about because the pair wanted to take control and have their own team. So they did. Both McCulloch and Howson are in creative industries with a stream in graphic communications management but McCulloch says their motivation didn’t come from school. “When I’m planning Common Mag, I’m not thinking about the 4 P’s of marketing,” jokes McCulloch. McCulloch says creative industries is “very broad.”and she isn’t too fond of the core classes, because she says she finds them focused on business and entrepreneurship and a bit repetitive. She says she finds it beneficial to take courses in different programs. She wanted to find something that combined business and art, and creative industries was “the only thing like it.” McCulloch says most of her opportunities have started in school, but her “whole resume is stuff that I’ve gone out and done by myself.” Although Chapman didn’t pass her economics class, and doesn’t have much formal post-secondary education, she has built a career path by herself, and hopes to create lasting experiences for others through School. Chapman hopes the platform can help young people who grew up like Chapman feeling lost and unsure of their future. “Your path is the right path, whatever that is. It’s like discovering what works for you and finding your own way,” says Chapman.

  • Asia’s Grandmothers: The Myth of the 'Comfort Women'

    By Heidi Lee Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault I first learned about “comfort women” in my elementary school history class. In my textbook, they were only mentioned in one or two paragraphs. This incomplete narrative made them vague, tragic figures instead of real people in my mind. According to the UN Security Council, sexual violence is used as a tactic to implant fear and to humiliate and dominate a community or an ethnic group. During the Second World War, the Japanese Imperial Army set up “comfort stations” all across Asia*. Hundreds of thousands of Asian women were kidnapped and raped in these “stations,” according to Pei-pei Qiu, co-author of Chinese Comfort Women: Testimonies from Imperial Japan’s Sex Slaves. Qiu said that if these women tried to escape they would be tortured or even decapitated by the Japanese army. The Japanese called these women “ianfu,” where “ian” means comfort and “fu” means women. “Comfort women,” in other words. Young girls and women who were being forced into sexual slavery for members of the Japanese Imperial Army prior to and during the Second World War were labelled with this term. Qiu says these women were often slut-shamed by the locals after the war, which led to headaches, nightmares, depression and some even died by suicide. One of the survivors of the “comfort stations,” Hao Yue-lian, was raped by Japanese soldiers. After she was rescued by her parents, she was captured and put into the “comfort” facilities again by militants, as her hometown was occupied by the Japanese army. Qiu, who knew Hao from doing her research, said Hao experienced nightmares and felt the necessity to carry a knife around with her to protect herself. According to Qiu, the term “comfort women” is inappropriate because it covers up the sexual abuse and exploitation local women experienced in the “comfort stations” built by the Japanese Imperial Army. “This term reveals the mentality of a lot of Japanese soldiers thinking that they are entitled to sexual services from women,” Qui says. “They were being comforted while local women were raped multiple times.” While she says that this problematic term has become widely recognized in historical literatures, researches and international debates, her solution is to use quotation marks when referring to this group of wartime victims. Tiffany Hsiung, director of the award-winning documentary The Apology (2016), gives us a respectful and sweet form of address. She refers to the “comfort women” as “Grandmothers,” a courteous way to call your female elders in Asian culture. The Apology (2016) is a documentary about the Grandmothers fighting for reconciliation and justice. It tells the story of the internal struggle the Grandmothers still experience. Three Grandmothers are the main focus: Adela Reyes Barroquillo from the Philippines, Gil Won-ok from Korea and Cao Hei-mao from China. Grandmother Adela wasn’t able to tell her family about her past. She kept this secret from her husband until he died. “There is a lack of stories out there about survivors not being able to come out to their family,” says Hsiung. Hsiung says Grandmother Cao’s story shows love through action. Grandma Cao adopted a girl because she was unable to give birth after she was raped. She never shared her past with her daughter because she believed there was no need to pass down the painful history to her daughter. “But there is a cost,” says Hsiung. “The next generation would not know there if we refuse to tell them the truth.” Grandmother Gil was protesting on the frontline in front of the Japanese embassy in South Korea when Hsiung first met her. “She is an activist, a fighter fighting for the apology,” says Hsiung. “Not only she is an advocate for herself, she is also doing to prevent history from repeating itself.” Another documentary Twenty Two (2015) shows the Grandmothers life after the war in rural areas. It is named after the number of the survivors left in China. Director Guo Ke says he had the idea of this documentary came from the unique mother-son relationship of former “comfort woman” Wei Shao-lan and her half-Japanese son, Luo Shan-xue. Wei gave birth to Luo at a time when abandoning or killing half-Japanese was a norm; they were seen as a disgrace. Wei is now one of only 14 Grandmothers left in China. Guo says it is important for future generations to remember the past by “getting to know” the Grandmothers.“Once young people get to know them, they would definitely get emotionally attached to the grandmothers and develop an intimate relationship with them,” he says. “Our crew want to show their human side to the audience and stop isolating them from our society.” Hsiung says “the correct way” to connect with the Grandmothers is to understand the obstacles they have been living through, and that learning about the Grandmothers’ stories can “break the cycle of shame silence:” “The Grandmothers are brave enough to talk about it, so we learn from them,” she says. “If we don’t choose to learn from them, we are enabling decades more of silence.” Many have heard the term “comfort women,” however, few have asked what actually happened to them or cared about their lives afterwards. Educating yourself is a way to tear off that degrading label that was stuck onto the Grandmothers. After ripping off that label, I can now see them clearly. Recommended readings and resources: Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women (2000) Thirty Two (2013) Twenty Two (2015) The Apology (2016) Spirits' Homecoming (2016) Chinese Comfort Women: Testimonies from Imperial Japan’s Sex Slaves, by Peipei Qiu, with Su Zhiliang and Chen Lifei Juju Project

  • Deconstructing Gender Binaries: The Power of Femininity

    Photos and words by Amber Dror Growing up, we learn about two gender constructs: male and female. While sex is a biological concept, gender roles are something that was created by us. They consist of groups of adjectives that we believe correspond to different sexes. While the concept of gender can help us self-identify, it must be understood that gender isn’t binary, it is an extensive range of identities. But if gender is a human-designed construct, how come some of us fit the constructs and some of us don’t? Unfortunately, it seems as if women are required to exhibit socially constructed femininity in order to be perceived as feminine. The concept of femininity is empowering. From the suffragettes to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, femininity has always represented an aspiration to question norms and fight for human rights. Femininity doesn’t mean having to choose nurturance over taking charge and empathy instead of self-sufficiency. Femininity is about the opportunity to decide who you want to be. Femininity is power. This photo series explores the concept of femininity and its associated strength and how to define what it means to be feminine.

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