Have you ever asked someone if they’re a virgin?
I have, and in hindsight, I have a really hard time justifying why. Why did I feel the need to know if someone identified as a “virgin”? Why was this essential information necessary to help carry me forward in my daily life? Why did I care?
The short answer is that I didn’t. The long answer is that I didn’t know I didn’t care. I thought I cared. I thought the notion of virginity was legitimate and important and a great indicator of someone’s sexual experience (because you should definitely inquire about that)!
Different people have differing opinions around virginity, whether being a virgin is a good thing or a bad thing, a respectable thing or an immoral thing, a choice or a responsibility. The majority of people have some sort of opinion about virginity even if that opinion is “I don’t give a rat’s ass.”
The notion of virginity is often talked about in social circles, most of the time in extremely problematic ways. Even the people that “don’t care” are contributing to the larger problem that the notion of virginity has created with their indifference.
Virginity is an outdated concept rooted in myths and sexism and heteronormativity. It has perpetuated a culture of inequality and exclusivity that we’re trying to leave behind.
Somewhere along the way, virginity became a concept used to shame girls for their sexual lives. It implied that having sex was a life-changing experience, a loss of innocence and purity. The concept has contributed to centuries of oppression against women and has been used to justify innumerable instances of violence. It has perpetuated the idea that women’s bodies aren’t their own and has been used to constantly police them.
It’s essential to address the main myth associated with virginity for people assigned female at birth. Unfortunately for the famous euphemism, there ain’t no cherry to pop. Vaginal penetration doesn’t fully tear the hymen as this deceptive phrase would lead you to believe. Yes, you’ve been deceived your whole life, but that’s okay. Take comfort in the fact that this isn’t the only thing our society has lied to you about. Hymens are as diverse as people – they come in different thicknesses and levels of elasticity, as well as different sizes of openings. Sometimes vaginal penetration just makes the opening a little bigger and sometimes it doesn’t. The idea that we can physically tell whether someone is a virgin by examining them physically is, therefore, anatomically inaccurate.
Anatomy aside though, as the concept of virginity was sustained by these false facts and a deeply engrained misogyny in a patriarchal society, it is now serving to sustain these outdates ideas even though our society’s moral progress is to a better place (for the most part). We’re becoming more accepting of queer communities – or, at the very least, we tolerate them – and we try to create spaces where people who have been oppressed feel safer.
Virginity is a concept that very blatantly promotes the very opposite of that. Discussions around queer sexuality have complicated our definitions of sex, exposing some undeniable flaws with our notion of virginity. Queer people might not have sex or even think of sex the way a heterosexual, gender-conforming couple does. A queer person might not identify a “virgin,” but in a heteronormative context, they would be. These invalidations of sexual experiences can be harmful and pose serious threats to our ultimate goal of universal inclusivity. It can be difficult for queer people to even know how to categorize themselves in the first place, creating unnecessary confusion around a concept with a history of oppression.
Virginity places too much importance on having or lacking a sexual life. It pushes some people to the outside and it oppresses others inside. It creates problematic links between virginity and masculinity, or virginity and gender inequity.
The notion of virginity promotes values of a society that our society no longer aims to resemble. It is clinging on to an oppressive past, to lack of sex positivity and education, and it’s about time we left it behind.
In reply to “Hey girl, let’s smash the patriarchy” by Kacper Niburski, published Jan. 16, 2014 on A8 (Posted as “Daily Dose: Feminism without women” on thesil.ca)
Gentlemen, hold on to your boxers.
The idea that feminism is for everyone isn’t new. It’s not revolutionary, it did not grace the world for the first time on page A9 of the Silhouette. It’s an idea that feminists have been repeating over and over for decades. If I had a dime for every time I’ve said it, I would still be drowning in student debt, but at least I’d have enough money for a beer.
We know feminism should be for everyone. We know feminism isn’t a movement only for women. It’s because we know this that we can’t stop talking about it.
So, yes, Kacper is right. Men are and should be part of the solution. Men are important to the movement. Men should be feminists, they should be involved, they should care, because feminism is for them too.
Feminism isn’t isolated to “one gender, one lifestyle.” It’s not isolated to one way of interacting with the world. Feminism is diverse, it’s multi-dimensional and complex. Feminism takes into account so many things that a claim like that is hardly justifiable. Feminism has never attempted to alienate men. I’m not saying that there haven’t been feminists who have happened to hate men. I’m not denying that there are people – feminist or not - who will hate a group solely based on their gender. Those people exist, but they’re not really who we’re talking about when we refer to feminists. The perception of feminists as men-hating, men-blaming women is hopefully one that, as reasonable and educated individuals, we’ve all put behind us.
The first feminist that I met was my high school friend Micah. He was challenging our friends, our teachers, and our gender norms before I even knew what feminism was. He was and continues to be a supportive ally, and I love him for it. He was the reason why I felt safe calling people out on their blatant sexism, on their homophobic and slut-shaming slurs, on the idiotic teenage jokes that undoubtedly included the words “kitchen” and “sandwich” somewhere in them.
As a feminist, I’m aware how important men can be to the movement. I’m aware that men will listen more if other men are telling them that feminism isn’t just a bunch of men-hating lesbians whose mission in life is to kill off anyone who gets in their way.
Men can make great allies. They can create safe spaces for women. They can start discussions. They can reflect with their peers about how they might be perpetuating sexism. They can talk about how the current societal norms are affecting them too, how it might be affecting what’s expected of them, what their role in society is, how it’s impacting their mental health. Women should do all this too. Women can also perpetuate sexism. Everyone can. But unlike men, women don’t get the same privileges that men are born with in a patriarchal system.
Since men already have all this privilege, wouldn’t it be easier then, you might be wondering, to just let a few of these men who “get it” be in charge? Wouldn’t that solve all of our problems? Let men “lead the whole damn thing.”
After all, as Kacper put it, “If men are in charge, it often takes them to cause and want the shift in paradigms.”
But why is it that men need to be in charge to want to cause a paradigm shift? Why do we need to perpetuate just what we’re trying to tear apart? Do we really think so little of men? Do we think that they can’t appreciate a cause that they’re not leading, that they can’t make any connections and lack the critical thinking skills to understand why feminism is important even if they don’t see themselves represented in the leadership?
I do want men to walk alongside me and this “flurry of hollering and hooting women.” I don’t, however, want men to lead a movement that’s trying to empower women, trying to challenge male privilege and gender expectations. I don’t want men to be our saviours. I want them to be our allies. The male perspective is present everywhere in our society. It’s present in our literature, in our music, in our politics. So we don’t need men who will try to take over the movement. We need men who will let us speak. We need men who recognize that there are stories to share, that there are voices that have been silenced and need to be heard.
I don’t think I’ve ever met or will ever meet someone who hasn’t perpetuated sexism at some point in their life. Sexist behaviour isn’t a male-isolated phenomenon, but male privilege is.
There are a myriad of ways in which men can use their privilege to bring forth, alongside women and people of all genders, great strides of feminist development. Leading the whole damn thing, however, is not one of them.
Feminism is here to destroy the patriarchy, not men.
There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding feminism – one of them being the idea that feminists hate men. Sure, there may be some women feminists who happen to hate men, but being a “man-hater” isn’t a requirement or value of feminism.
Feminism doesn’t aim to bring men down; it aims to viagra for women online bring women up. In fact, while advocating for women’s rights and dispelling negative gender stereotypes, feminism has also benefited men.
The idea that women are less than or inferior has, for centuries, given the “feminine” qualities that some women (and men!) possess a negative reputation. Things like caring, being sensitive and emotional, liking to dress up, wear make-up, and so on have been seen as characteristics solely and exclusively reserved for women.
By changing the way feminine qualities are perceived, less pressure is put on men not to act likes “girls,” which apparently, in our society, is the worst thing a man can be. The pressure to act the way men are supposed to act - whatever that may be - can be overwhelming.
Cases of verbal and physical violence directed at boys who weren’t perceived to fit the societal ideal of masculine have been endless, and raising little boys to become men who can’t recognize the harmful impact of this isn’t fair to anyone.
This emphasis on masculinity has created a culture of silence amongst men.
Men aren’t supposed to talk about feelings or show that they have feelings – that’s weak. Men aren’t supposed to cry in public – that’s only for girls.
With documented cases of male mental health problems rising, this has become much more obvious. The most convincing evidence of what’s being called the “silent crisis” by health professionals can be found in male suicide rates. In 2007, four of five people who had committed suicide in Canada were male. The code of silence that surrounds men’s behaviour has become a barrier that stops men from seeking the help they need, and acknowledging any mental health issues they’re experiencing.
Normalizing the discourse of well-being and self-care for men and alleviating the pressure of acting anything but feminine is just one of the many ways that feminism is creating a better society for men, too.
In addition to redefining gender and the societal expectations of what it should be, feminism also indirectly advocates for men’s rights where the patriarchy has backfired on them and created unfair situations.
One of the most well known examples is child custody. The majority of child custody cases prior to 1970 were won by women. This was mostly a result of the idealization of the mother and child bond and the shift in family structure that took place during the Industrial Revolution. In fact, before the Industrial Revolution, children were seen as property of their fathers, since women couldn’t legally own anything.
The empowerment of women through feminism has had a significant role in the continuous redefinition of parental roles (ex. making it socially acceptable to be a stay-at-home dad), which has made custody cases a determination of what’s in the child’s best interest rather than a gender-biased debate.
Problems with child custody that arise due to gender still continue today, but the push of feminism towards gender equity has definitely helped make procedures fairer than they were.
So if feminism really means “gender equity” and if it’s also important for men, then why does it have to be called feminism?
Because feminism is about empowering women, and in doing so, creates a better society for everyone.
Queer and trans* topics rarely come up in my class discussions (which is an issue for another day), but often when they do, I find that I voluntarily take on the role of makeshift educator.
Just recently in one of my tutorials, someone brought up the Belgian man who was granted permission for euthanasia after an unsatisfactory sex change surgery. What followed could be described as a very awkward, uncomfortable silence and a few unpleasant reactions.
A lot of people aren’t necessarily as exposed to discussions surrounding topics of gender and sexual diversity as I am, which is why I will often reluctantly excuse and overlook these signs of prejudice and ignorance.
While rude and offensive, these moments serve as reminders that there’s still work to do, awareness to raise and people to educate.
I know that a lot of people in the Queer community and other marginalized groups don’t hold the same view about the process of educating privileged folks. I completely understand this perspective; having to constantly repeat your story, the same information; the same facts that are easily accessible online can become frustrating. Sometimes you wish people would take the time to learn about issues that don’t directly affect them.
Unfortunately, as we all probably know, this isn’t the case for most individuals who are privileged in one way or another (myself included with respect to certain privileges I hold).
Becoming an ally to a group is an extensive process – one that never really ends. As someone who isn’t experiencing what the people you’re supporting are experiencing, your activism looks different from theirs.
The process will definitely consist of a lot of mistakes, especially at the start. However, everyone has to start somewhere, and for some people it may be that time they spent five seconds listening to the uncomfortable silence of their tutorial room.
I like to give people the benefit of the doubt during the first few moments of this “process.” Even if I was offended by the reactions, the eye-rolls and the sounds of confusion, I don’t like to point fingers or start yelling (at least not right away).
Privileged people have spent their whole life in a society that has taught them that things are a certain way, and I think expecting a two-second paradigm shift to take place isn’t realistic.
That’s why I like to begin the process by educating. Some people are very receptive, and others not so much.
And I think it’s at this point, after I’ve attempted to educate someone on issues they aren’t familiar with, that I can begin to make the distinction between those who have good intentions and are trying to be allies, and those who don’t. The latter, of course, can be incredibly unnerving, and it can be another reason why members of marginalized communities don’t like having the burden of educating privileged people placed on them.
However, I think it’s important to recognize the difference between well-intentioned folks who might be asking ignorant questions in the process of learning, and those are intentionally offending and refusing to learn/unlearn.
That’s not to say that members of marginalized groups owe anyone any sort of education. In the end, it’s up to the person and not the entire community. Everyone has different experiences with oppression, activism and advocacy, and educating should never be an individual responsibility.
So when someone is talking about a group of people you’re not very familiar with, listen. When you hear terms you’ve never heard before, try to remember them. If someone is getting up the courage to educate a room full of strangers on a topic they’re intimately familiar with, respect them.
These aren’t hard rules to follow, and can make the discussion have a positive tone, while also making the burden of the educating that a lot of marginalized people feel obligated to provide much more bearable.
Ana Qarri / Silhouette Staff
The world as you know it has come to an end. You feel alone, weak and betrayed. You might be tempted to simply give up, but we think you’re great and we want you to be happy. Here are some suggestions on how to survive your break-up apocalypse, as adapted from the movie “Zombieland”:
Rule 1: Cardio
Get out of bed. Wallowing in self-pity is helpful and healthy for the first few days, but once you hit the one week mark, it’s time to get moving. It’s not going to be easy. Everything you do and see will remind you of things that make you sad. That’s fine. Closure and enclosure might sound the same, but while some enclosure will give you time to think and deal with your feelings, too much of it will be ultimately detrimental to moving on. Physical activity also makes you happier and lowers your stress levels. The author can neither confirm nor deny this, but it sounds about right.
Rule 2: The Double Tap
If you have something to say to your ex, always think twice. It’s very possible that they don’t want to hear what you have to say. It sucks and it’s hard, but you have to remember that your objective is to move on. Trying to convince them that they’ve made a mistake, or apologizing for yours, is probably not going to work. They’ve made a decision and if they’re moderately intelligent, they have already considered all options. You shouldn’t have to convince someone to stay in your life.
Rule 4: Seatbelts
(Not actually. This is just a really bad metaphor for your friends.) Remind yourself that they exist. These are people who care about you. Your ex isn’t the most important person in your life, and keeping or resuming contact with your friends will help you take your mind off that one person. Friends always have a way of making you feel better about yourself, so take full advantage of this support system. You deserve it.
Rule 32: Enjoy the Little Things
Start enjoying other things again. Having someone is nice, but there’s someone pretty awesome that you’ll always have: yourself. Take care of yourself. Take yourself out for a movie. Go on a walk with yourself. Make small memories that are yours. Only once you’ve realized that you are enough to make yourself happy, will you be able to move on. Breaking up with someone feels like you’ve had a part of yourself ripped off. The point isn’t to cover it up and wait for someone else to fill the void. The point is to fill it up yourself.
Ana Qarri / Silhouette Staff
Between the workload and the complaining about the workload, I often forget to appreciate your existence. So I’d like to do that now.
I’m thankful that at this very moment you exist. I’m thankful that your existence overlaps with mine, in such a way that your existence makes mine much less depressing.
You, friend, somehow find me to be a pleasant human being. You’ve listened to me talk about trivial and important things alike, and have at some point thought “Hey, this girl is cool.”
That thought right there might not seem like a big deal, but it is. It is the biggest of all deals.
In addition to tolerating my character on a daily basis, you also do nice things for me. You’ve brought me food during all-nighters. You’ve let me sleep in your room when the fear of being alone suddenly hit me on a Tuesday night. You’ve let me cry next to you after arguments and breakups and whatever else it is I do to make my life more complicated.
Not to get delusional here or anything, but it seems to me like you think I’m worth something, which is pretty cool of you.
But, the actual point of this letter is that I think I might be platonically in love with you. It’s the kind of love that is sustained with rare hang-out sessions and the occasional conversation on the way to class. I might not see you often these days, but know that the thought of you makes me smile, or laugh hysterically, or stop and acknowledge your beautiful existence.
Come here and give me a hug.
By: Ana Qarri
Much to our dismay, not everyone has the voice of Adele, or the musicality of Joni Mitchell. (This is probably for the best, as I can’t imagine much would get done if we never stopped singing, playing guitar, and composing tear-jerking melodies about Manhattan hotels.)
This means that when it comes to serenading our significant others, and even our friends, we have to rely on other people’s voices and strumming fingertips.
However, (and don’t let that one musically talented friend tell you otherwise) making playlists is an art of its own.
It all started with the mixtape. The mixtape wasn’t a technological masterpiece. As my parents found out the hard way, its contents could be easily destroyed in the hands of a curious 5 year old. But it wasn’t the design or the structural ingenuity that gave each mixtape meaning.
In the hands of love-struck teenagers, the mixtape was the perfect paper for their very first love letter. Between pressing Record/Play/Stop and leaving too many seconds of silence between songs, they started feeling the first pangs of what they thought was love.
Handed nervously on the 61st day of a relationship, the mixtape was the perfect gold to engrave the promise of another 61.
Some say that the beauty of playlists vanished along with mixtapes.
While dragging songs on iTunes doesn’t seem as romantic as spending hours recording a tape, the drawbacks of the technology weren’t the artist’s real hardships. Making a playlist is about spending hours deciding which song to begin with, or deferring this crucial decision until the end of the process. You don’t want to overwhelm them right away, but you do want to let them know that overwhelming is what you’re aiming for.
Making a playlist is about deciding when you want to feel the bass kicking in. Is the fourth song too soon? Do you want the vibrations of your heart beat to resonate across their sound system or does this make you feel too vulnerable? Will you throw in some James Blake or Frank Ocean to let them know what their absence feels like, or will the silence suffice? Will it reflect all you’ve ever felt for them, or will you focus on that one night when all you really wanted to do was sit next to them?
When you’ve placed them next to each other, arranged the breaks in between to give someone time to think and time to breathe, these sounds become yours.
So, if you lack musical skills, don’t despair. There are millions of songs out there, all waiting to be added to a playlist, all waiting for you to give them meaning.
By: Ana Qarri
I’m leaving you.
Don’t exhaust yourself by pretending to be surprised, like you never dreamed this day would come. I know you knew this was coming.
Maybe it was the nights I didn’t spend with you. Maybe it was the mornings I lay down with you just to humour you. Maybe it was the bags under my eyes, becoming more and more commonplace.
As I made my way between friends and parties and last-minute essays, I could feel you trying to pull me closer. I was unconscious of any hurt I caused you. I wanted to stay with you; I do still. I’m not tired of our relationship. I wished there was a compromise we could make, but I know now I was asking for too much.
However, before you start crying and I sit here unsure of how to comfort you, let’s put things into perspective: our relationship was never healthy. Sure, we had our special nights, when it felt like our time together went by faster than second term. We had those few weekends when we were united until the late hours of the afternoon. We have those moments stolen in class, sometimes drawing the disapproving stares of my peers. But between these rare days were periods that stretched, when you and I rarely saw each other. When we did, it wasn’t out of love: it was out of habit.
Sleep, you should know that I find you extremely pleasant. All in all, you’re pretty chill. I still want us to hang out sometimes, preferably on the weekend, preferably when I don’t have other plans.
If you want to talk, I’m here.
It’s not you, it’s actually me.
By: Ana Qarri
Are you crushing? Are you broke? Are you having a hard time believing that money can’t buy you love? Lucky for you, we’re here to restore your faith in popular sayings and Beatles song references. Here are five totally acceptable cheap date ideas:
Candy picnic? Yes, a candy picnic. Now that you’ve read this phrase three times, and it hopefully sounds normal enough, we can talk. What’s cuter that going up to someone and saying “Hey lovely, would you like to eat your favourite candy with me at some park as we look up at the Hamilton sky, where stars could potentially be spotted?”
The ‘lovely’ is optional.
The wink that follows is not.
If you aren’t into watching the stars and reciting poetry on the first date (or ever), walking around the city and finding abandoned sites, old buildings, and hidden spots could be just what you need. You can get to know Hamilton as you get to know your date. If things don’t work out with this one, at least you’ll get a long list of places to choose from for your next date.
Whether or not you’re actually artistically knowledgeable, speak with a fake (or real) British accent and charm your date with your humour and wit. Conversations about art are never boring. Luckily for you, Hamilton delivers with its monthly Art Crawls and McMaster’s own Art Museum. So grab a hand (consensually) and get some (culture).
Skating, Biking, etc…
Take your fairly-significant other skating. If they don’t know how to skate, you can hold their hand and teach them. If you both own bikes, get on them and ride away into the sunset, wherever that may be. Probably west.
Alright, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, but beds can be pretty comfortable; the weather is horrible and you want to stay indoors. So watch a movie, listen to music, bake some cookies, make some tea and talk about your lives - all from the comfort of your very own bedroom.
Making out is totally an option, too.