Dismantling the Gender Binary

Gender binary is the classification of both sex and gender into two distinct and disconnected categories. The unrealistic expectations that go along with the labels boy and girl, leave people striving to meet standards that harm others and themselves. Take masculinity for example;  “[Society] constructed an idea of masculinity in the United States that doesn’t give young boys a way to feel secure in their masculinity. So [they are made to] prove it all the time.” (Dr. Michael Kimmel, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hc45-ptHMxo) This creates hypermasculinity, which causes gender based violence, and low self-esteem. Now let’s switch to femininity. It is displayed in media with violent and oppressive images that shapes how women are viewed; as objects to be utilized by men.

The gender binary also hurts those who do not fit the binary. They do not meet societal expectations, and therefore face ostracisation and become victims of bullying and violence. The exclusive gender binary creates a divide which disconnects genders completely. Colonialism views gender as an either/or, not as fluid scale. This is an issue as the expectations are of the extreme ends of the scale, which leaves people in the middle to pick a side or risk exclusion.

For myself, it was interesting to discover the extent that gender binary hurts all people. I had assumed that without the pressures of femininity and masculinity, that scrutinization would be minimized, not magnified. It is important to undo the gender binary so that it gives people the ability to feel secure in themselves. Undoing gender is difficult, but it starts with simple changes such as using non-gender specific compliments, encouraging people to experience emotions across the gender spectrum, and uplift the voices of those who reject the gender binary. I also try to reassuring the men in my life that masculinity does not rely on proof, and I create my own expectations of what it means to be my best self. It is through hard work and conscious effort that the gender binary will be dismantled.

How do you plan to or already partake in the dismantlement of the gender binary?



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Immigrants Are Stealing Our Jobs

The popular myth that immigrants are stealing our jobs has recently come back into circulation since the Canadian election. Justin Trudeau raised the number of newcomers let into the country per year significantly, and it has many people fearing for the state of the job market. This belief that immigrants will flood the job market stems from real fears. The video below hopes to combat this popular saying that often accompanies the debate that Canada should not let people from other countries gain Canadian citizenship.


The link above will take you to a video produced to combat the myth that immigrants are stealing our jobs.

Writing the Self 4: The Time I Felt Most Beautiful

The chair spins and I am once again face to face with myself in the mirror. Except this time, I don’t recognize the person staring back at me. I gawk in wonder at the creature in front of me. She has a face as smooth as glass, big lashes, high cheekbones accentuated with highlighting blush, and lips painted a rusty pink that would match my teal dress that I had bought months before. My hand reached up from my lap to touch my face, as if I needed the physical proof to know that this human exists; that this is me.

Just as I ran my fingertips over my skin, my hairdresser’s hands knock them away while adjusting my hair. “Don’t you look beautiful?” She asked. I nodded in agreement. I’m sure I did look very beautiful. I looked as done up as every other girl would be later that day. This was graduation after all. I was supposed to look like a princess, celebrating my success of four years of hard work and overcoming obstacles with… makeup? A trip to the salon? A dress worth hundreds of dollars right before I go on to spend thousands of dollars in post-secondary?

I had allowed myself to become swept away in the beauty of the ritual. Every year the senior class celebrates their new graduate status. Every year the senior girls will throw special parties themed pink to signify our femininity. As if people had forgotten that the upcoming generation of girls is breaking the glass ceiling of inequality, but don’t forget, we’re pretty too. Every year the girls wore dresses and put on makeup because we are not truly graduates unless our success can be measured in beauty.

“You should wear makeup more often, you look so much more beautiful.” My hairdresser spoke again. Her comment numbed me. She wasn’t the first person to say this to me, and she certainly wouldn’t be the last. In the moments later that day, walking across the stage to receive my diploma, I felt I had performed my gendered expectations perfectly. I was still left feeling that I had done myself a disservice.

Erasing the Stigma Around Treaty Education One Day at a Time

One of the biggest issues facing Saskatchewan teachers is teaching treaty education. It’s ironic how something so embedded in the birth of a nation and so crucial to Canadian history, can be so difficult to teach. In an effort to aid future and practicing teachers in the task of covering this tricky subject, the University of Regina hosted the third annual TreatyEdCamp. This all day event is put on in an effort to end the stigma that comes with treaty education.

In the morning, keynote speaker Charlene Bearhead took the stage. She spoke of her life’s work concerning Aboriginal rights and treaty education. She also gave attendees the skills to educate children, parents, and grandparents of these children. She didn’t always boast about the success of her methods. She also took time to outline her missteps; such as when she couldn’t reach every single heart in the room, and times when she couldn’t find a way to change a heavily rooted opinion. Charlene humanized herself in the most humble of ways, and reminded all of us that no matter successes we achieve in life, we are all somebody’s mother, or brother, community member, and most of all we are ourselves.

The many diverse options that were provided for the sessions left me struggling to choose, as each covered a different area within the classroom. I ultimately chose to attend “How to Resist the Resistance to Teaching Treaty Education”. The overly full room of eager students excited me. Not only was I surrounded by students in the same stage of their careers as me, but the information that the presenter Brooke gave, was extremely helpful. She shared her struggles through university, her internship, and her first teaching contract. Although her admissions of absolute stress and defeat when challenged with teaching Treaty Education did not make the process appealing, it allowed me to feel comfortable as I am constantly learning new things everyday.

The second session I attended was “White Allies”. It is here that we discussed the low expectations of white people concerning minoritized matters. All too often, a white person just has to show up to an event, or post a heartfelt comment on facebook and they will be patted on the back. Mike, who was hosting this event, told us his story of how he earned the effortless title – white ally, and the outrage he felt upon examining his lack of effort. Upon sharing his feelings on how minority communities have low expectations of white people, he received a response from his Aboriginal friend that resonates with me, “Don’t think we don’t.” What he says is that he does have high expectations, and others that belong to minority groups do expect more of white people. What I took away from this was that having a title of a white ally and acting like a white ally are two separate things.

I have gained plenty of new information from this camp. I learned how to reason with people who resist teaching treaty education, how to listen responsibly to keynote speakers, and how to look deeper into the praise that I receive. I enjoyed this day very much, and cannot wait to learn more information relevant to my future profession when I attend next year’s TreatyEdCamp.

Writing the Self 3: Not That Different

The bus barrels down Sherwood Drive, and all too predictably comes to a halting stop. I look up from my phone when I hear the doors begin to open. The fumes from the bus’s gas exhaust comes through the door, and threatens to choke me. I live far from the University, and the distance has only one benefit – I am always guaranteed a spot on the bus.

Today is a Monday, the busiest day of the week for this particular bus. My backpack sits on my lap, and when I look to my left, across the aisle is a girl that mirrors my stance. We are poised within our small seats, waiting for somebody to sit next to us. My eyes take in this girl. I have seen her before on this bus and she gets off at the University stop, which I do too. We are very similar in many ways. She looks to be young, in her first few years of study. She wears converse, just as I do. She keeps what would normally be in her purse, in her backpack as I do. She listens to music the whole way there just as I do. There are so many similarities between us that I am surprised that I have never it before.

As the bus makes its way across the city, more and more people come on. Soon, a stranger is sitting beside me. I expect this. The doors close and the bus begins to move with people still searching for a seat. I swivel my head back to see that the rear of the bus is full. There are several people exasperated because standing on public transit in the morning is almost worse than missing the bus entirely.

My gaze travels to the left, and through the heap of heavily clothed bodies standing in the aisle, I spot the girl I had examined a few stops before. The girl who I feel to have so much in common with, is sitting alone. The seat beside her stands empty and her small form rests against the wall of the bus. She has pushed herself up against the rattling metal, as if she is sitting alone because she is taking up too much space. I envy her lonesome ride, as the person next to me reeks like smoke and looks as if they had slept in their clothes the night before. My mind puzzles over why she would get to ride alone, even with a fair amount of people struggling to keep from falling over as the bus moves closer and closer to the University.

I become curious, and shift forward in my spot to see around the packed bodies. Her hand moves from her lap, to adjust her black hijab. The jarring movements of the bus causes to the fabric to slip backwards, revealing a small portion of dark hair. The girl who has so much in common with me shifts the fabric forward until it is framing her face. Her face is probably only a few shades darker than mine. The hijab that conceals her modesty, repeals the other bus riders in a way that my curls do not. Her darker skin unnerves the passengers in a way that my light skin does not. Her existence as a thriving minority figure scares the other patrons in a way that my threat of success would never do.

My life encompasses a narrative that fits comfortably into people’s minds, while this girl’s prosperity and future triumphs doesn’t taste familiar in people’s mouths just yet. This girl does not get the luxury of escaping her skin in times as simple as a bus ride. Nobody on this bus knows anything about her or me, but through systemic privilege I can be defined by my actions, and uplifted by my anonymity.

Writing the Self 2: The Day of the Sandbag

      My sleepy eyes opened before I raised my head from the bundle of sweaters beneath me. My dad had steered the car off the highway, and we were no longer travelling at lightning speed. The abrupt change had woke me from my light slumber, and I knew we were getting close. I sat up, the sound of my seat belt retracting, notifying my parents that I was awake. They began to talk and I barely listened. They said something about being respectful and not getting in the way. All I could think about was why my entire family hadn’t worn rain boots, after all, we were going to help with the flooding of Katepwa lake.

      Since I lived in the prairie province of Saskatchewan, where water is not typically a large scale issue and hurricanes and high tides are not even in my vocabulary, I had conjured up some obscenely disastrous scene of what the small coastal community would be going through. My child-like imagination pictured a storm blowing ten-foot waves against the delicate sides of houses, feet of water where land had once been, dragging people mercilessly into the inky darkness. Which is why, for the life of me, I could not understand what my family could possibly do to help the disaster stricken people of Katepwa.

      My dad drove the car over a turn we had made many times before when we came to visit our family at the lake. Except this time there would be no boating. The scene that awaited me when we approached was nothing like I had thought. I could see the water’s edge from where we parked the car. It glistened and sat still in the sun’s rays. The bright blue hue that made people smile in happiness was still there. The houses were still intact, in fact, people were still living in their houses, some people even continued their everyday routines. All the difference I could notice was that the water’s edge was closer to the houses than normal.

      I heard my parents in the front of the vehicle, they had just spotted my cousin, who was running the sandbagging operation. His reddened skin dotted with sweat signaled the hard work he was doing. He’d sweated through his entire shirt, and his hands looked as if he would never get rid of the gritty sand that coated his skin and grinded under his fingernails. He heaved breath after breath, never stopping to take a break because his community relied on him to protect them from the melting snow that was making the water levels rise. When he spotted our vehicle, happiness joined the tired glassy look that coated his face, he probably couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept.

      As he trotted towards my family, my attention became riveted on the large, yellow machine behind him. At the top was a large opening overloaded with sand, which led to a tinier spout that was spilling out sand into lumpy, beige bags. These sandbags were then carried directly to the waterfront, they were stacked one on top of the other to make a wall so long I imagined it to be similar to the Great Wall of China. The elaborate system seemed hard to understand, all I knew was that people were doing what they could to help. If somebody didn’t have the strength to carry a sandbag, they got help. If the industrial sized drink dispenser needed more iced tea for the workers, somebody provided it. People from all walks of life and differing attributes helped where they could in an effort to preserve the community. This is the day I felt Canadian. Watching people around me give all that they had and expect nothing in return. Even if all I did was serve pizza and sandwiches to the workers because I didn’t have enough strength to lift the sand-filled bags, I was still contributing, I was Canadian.

Writing the Self 1: Power Outage

It is nothing new for the power to go out. Living in the North/West end of the city, on what seems like the tip of civilization, results in these mishaps often. It is these unpredictable times that keep us on our toes. Will we notice, if the light of day shines through every open window? Or will we be plunged into darkness as we are now.

My brother is in the basement. A power outage would not be complete unless he is alone with the musty scent of forgottenness wafting into his panic-filled head. My Mom is watching television, disappointment over the delay downturning the features on her face. Not that anyone could see in the darkness. My Dad is outside in the pouring rain and lightning trying to fix the eaves troughs that he could never get just right. As for myself, I am half asleep with a book in my hand, letting the pelting rain on the ceiling lull me to sleep.

Upon the outage, every family member’s initial reaction is to meet. Congregate. To the upstairs living room. Murmurs of disappointment and confusion become background noise as we melt into the worn couch. One on top of the other, a tangle of limbs and laughter, we struggle to get as close to each other as possible. The plans of the night are forgotten. We would have ebbed and flowed into each others paths. Sitting down to watch a television show with each other, making warm popcorn to enjoy. We would have then separate again, going off and doing our own activities. Finding something to do that would distract us from the red warnings that flash across the television like a reminder that we are not as invincible as we had thought.

Darkness has a way of revealing insecurities and fears. The closeness of others helps keep these feelings at bay. Except, we would ever admit this. The dark is to be feared by small children, who have imaginations the size of elephants, and hearts made of pure gold. These notions seem frivolous for an adult, until the lights go out. Our imaginations run wild.

Candles placed meticulously around the room look puny next to the large lamps that would normally light the space. The empty bulbs look ominous in the faint glow of the flame. In this moment, I forget what it looks like for these lamps to have energy running through it’s cables, and for the light to chase away the darkness. Making do with what we can, we eventually settle into a semi-comfortable position. The rain outside picks up it’s pace. Somebody squirms. A hand is placed in front of a flashlight directed at the maroon coloured wall, making shapes on the wall. An outlet for our imagination. We laugh and use funny voices for each shape that vaguely resembles an animal.

This time of complete abandonment, where our fears are on display, gives me more warmth than the candles that light the room and the bodies around me. Warmth that runs along my skin, and into my heart until all I can feel is full. In the unforgiving darkness, when I cannot even see the very walls of this house, I feel at home.