Yoohyun Park/Production Coordinator

Feeling comfortable in our own skin is hard, but dance is one way we can express ourselves freely

In 2015, the concept of body neutrality began to emerge in contrast to the concept of body positivity. Body positivity advocates for a world where all people should have a positive body image despite what anyone else says. However, body neutrality proposes that people should focus on what their bodies can do for them rather than what they look like. It requires a state of mindfulness and listening to the reactions of your body, whether it is saying to eat more, less or to take a walk.  

Shiny Huang is a dancer with the Mac Dance team and has danced for nearly her whole life.  

“There’s definitely been instances where I don’t feel comfortable dancing in my own body, especially with the perfect body type and shape that has been discussed within the dance community . . . It was definitely more challenging during my time in high school when I was beginning to be conscious of how I looked physically and when I was dancing competitively, I would often compare my own body to other dancers which would emphasize the flaws I saw in myself,” said Huang.  

“There’s definitely been instances where I don’t feel comfortable dancing in my own body, especially with the perfect body type and shape that has been discussed within the dance community . . . It was definitely more challenging during my time in high school when I was beginning to be conscious of how I looked physically and when I was dancing competitively, I would often compare my own body to other dancers which would emphasize the flaws I saw in myself."

Shiny Huang, Mac Dance Team

This “perfect body shape” differs among each dance style. In ballet, the ideal shape is slim, long-necked, short torso and long limbs. This is where the divide between body positivity and neutrality exists. Body positivity would advise one to do whatever it takes to feel positive about how they look. However, this can be interpreted as forcing your body to fit that specific ballet mold. In body neutrality, one accepts that their body can move and express itself without idealizing that body type.  

In a dance studio, there is a huge mirror in the front where you can stare at everyone and everyone can stare back at you. You might end up comparing yourself to the person next to you — their form is a little better, the costume fits them just a little tighter or their arms are just a little longer. Similarly, in life and in our university career, we can find ourselves constantly comparing our grades, extracurriculars and even the way we dress to our peers. What we don’t see is the constant swirling of similar thoughts and comparisons going through their heads.  

“I think maturing in my faith has also really helped me to love my body as it is. Being a Christian, I learned to really put my identity in God and to focus on what's in my heart rather than letting myself worry about what's on the outside,” explained Huang. 

This concept of body neutrality focuses on a personal mindset. One can’t change the way others think and it takes a lot to conform our personal mentality that has been shaped by constant external pressure implemented over our entire lives. However, people shouldn’t let this stop them from expressing themselves.  

“Dance has always been an outlet of mine, when I'm stressed and needing a break from studying or feeling sad or feeling down from a bad day . . . a way to, I guess, tell a story or to just let my body move however it wants to or needs to. And since I’m not the best with my words a lot of the time, I think my body does it for me whether it’s for someone else to hear or to feel or just a reminder for myself,” Huang explained. 

“Dance has always been an outlet of mine, when I'm stressed and needing a break from studying or feeling sad or feeling down from a bad day . . . a way to, I guess, tell a story or to just let my body move however it wants to or needs to. And since I’m not the best with my words a lot of the time, I think my body does it for me whether it’s for someone else to hear or to feel or just a reminder for myself."

Shiny Huang, Mac Dance Team

Dance isn’t for everyone but finding a way to release that internal stress and express oneself is important for anyone’s personal journey. What works for someone else may not work for you, just as what worked for you in the past may not work anymore. It’s all about listening to your body and keeping an open and ever-evolving mindset.  

How your so-called “quarantine weight” is really a damaging idea

Graphic by Esra Rakab/Production Coordinator

cw: discussions of eating disorders, food and body image

As spring and summer roll around, the rhetoric we grew up hearing about the “perfect summer body” also comes around. Despite the dialogues about body positivity and eating disorders that are increasingly creeping up in our social dialogue, the societal norms of what is an attractive body still dominate our narrative.

Many people have always experienced a certain level of pressure to have a certain physical appearance and if one does not have what we can now call “pretty privilege,” they may be discriminated against.

Studies have shown that a bias against people who are not conventionally attractive is a very real phenomenon associated with how you are perceived on dating apps and even more surprisingly, one’s ability to gain promotions at work.

Studies have shown that a bias against people who are not conventionally attractive is a very real phenomenon associated with how you are perceived on dating apps and even more surprisingly, one’s ability to gain promotions at work.

So how have the demands of beauty standards changed in our current time of the pandemic? With gyms closed and no need to dress well (albeit just a nice shirt for a Zoom meeting over your pyjama pants), how is it that we continue to be so self-conscious about our bodies, that we dread the moment our baggy winter sweaters leave us when warmer weather comes along?

Many online influencers on YouTube, TikTok and other popular social media platforms constantly preach about the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle through rigorous exercise and an impeccably “healthy” diet. “Quarantine workout routines” dominate the algorithms of all social media we consume, but I believe this trend to be of poor taste. 

Saying that you need to maintain a rigorous exercise routine when all of us are isolated and locked in our house stems from a place of immense economical privilege, misinformation about the human body and a disregard for how our mental health is looking currently.

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with incorporating a reasonable exercise regimen and a nutritious meal plan in lockdown, for many of us, it is incredibly difficult to build a picture-perfect lifestyle as we’ve seen rich influencers do online.

With gyms being closed or inaccessible, not everybody has the means to buy workout equipment, the space in their living area to do exercises or the mental energy to be able to do the latest Chloe Ting challenge

Many individuals are unable to afford nutritious food and are eating what they can to feel satisfied and have enough motivation to fight through another day.

The idea of the dreaded “quarantine weight” is unnecessarily punishing a whole generation of young people who were already greatly impacted by unrealistic expectations from photoshopped social media pictures prior to 2020.

It may be difficult to accept, but your body has allowed you to survive in the middle of a pandemic and it is enduring unbelievable amounts of stress on your behalf.

It is tempting to beat yourself about not having a perfect sleep schedule, a perfect work schedule, or a perfect diet and / exercise schedule like you see many thin online influencers claim to have in their “Get Ready with Me, Morning Routine Edition” videos.

But it’s okay to not have a perfectly aesthetic bedroom to sleep in and most importantly, it’s okay for you to enjoy food and not feel guilty about it.

But it’s okay to not have a perfectly aesthetic bedroom to sleep in and most importantly, it’s okay for you to enjoy food and not feel guilty about it.

Organizations such as McMaster’s own Women and Gender Equity Network even took the time to host virtual initiatives such as “Bodies are Dope” which addressed many of these issues and even provided spaces for racialized bodies to talk about some of their experiences.

If you are feeling alone during quarantine, WGEN provides weekly spaces for Mac students to drop by and talk about anything they feel is weighing on them. WGEN is also able to connect you with a variety of appropriate resources, should you need them.

Please be gentle with yourself and understand that even if you are unsatisfied with your body and wish to change it later on down the line, there is absolutely no rush to do so and you are allowed to take care of yourself at a pace that is right for you.

Photo by Kyle West

On Jan. 26, two days after Josh Marando was elected the next McMaster Students Union president, The Silhouette sat down with Marando to discuss his campaign experiences and goals for the future. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

First thing, how are you feeling, and how have the past few days been?

I think I'm still a little bit in shock. The past few days have been a bit of a wild whirlwind. I wasn't expecting to hear as soon as we did. Last year, I knew that they heard at, around 3:10 a.m, so when Ikram called me at 9:00, I wasn't really sure. I thought she was joking at first. I really expected her to say, ‘Just kidding.’

 

What did Ikram say?

I just remember her saying, ‘Congratulations to the president-elect,’ and then I said, ‘You’ve gotta be freaking kidding me today.’ I really just needed to make sure that she was right…  that she got the right number [and] she got the right person.

 

Who did you tell after? Who was the first person outside of the team?

The first people I told outside of the team were my parents. I sent a nice little text in our group chat just saying that I won. And then after that, a lot of phone calls kept coming in.

 

Was running for president something you’ve thought about for a few years?

So it's definitely something that's always been in the back of my mind. Before I decide to run, I talked a lot to the MSU vice president (Administration) Kristina Epifano. I was like, "What do you think I should do? If I don't run for president, I would likely run for vice president (Administration)." But then I was talking to MSU president Ikram Farah and she said, ‘It just like seems like your goals are bigger than that. It seems like you would really benefit from being in this role and it seems like your ideas would really benefit the students by being in this role.’

 

Over these 12 days of campaigning and several months of planning and deciding that you wanted to do it, what did you learn about yourself?

I learned that I'm more capable than I think. I remember the biggest thing that made me nervous was making a platform. But I think when that started to come together, that's when I really became confident in the idea that I could do this role.

 

Why do you think students voted for you? What about your platform or you personally appealed to them?

Something that we really try to do is just talk to students and see what exactly they wanted, and also some things that they would have wanted when they were in first year. Because in reality, I think that's something that's said very often. People are like, ‘Oh, the MSU president doesn't really do much.’ But that's really not true. They do a whole lot. It's just that there's very few things that can happen in one year. Often times, you see the changes made by a president the next year or the year after.

 

What are the first platform points that you’ll address after your term starts?

Obviously there are some projects that are easier to do than others. I have no doubt that we'll be able to make the MUSC student lounge and I would love for that to happen by the start of next year, so I'm probably going to start working on that.

 

What is your message to students now?

The first thing is, thank you to the students who did vote. Even if they didn’t vote for me, I’m still happy that students were engaged and I just want students to know that my care for students didn’t end when election night ended. Now that the election is over, that’s when I feel like I need to talk to students even more because, in reality, I’m here to represent them, not only during the election, but for the rest of this year and next year.

 

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Photo by Kyle West

One of the biggest talking points that most candidates make when running for a seat on the Student Representative Assembly is transparency. The word has been tossed around so much that it has basically become a buzzword. But transparency is more than just a talking point; it’s an incredibly important behaviour that the SRA needs to adopt.

During the SRA meeting on Jan. 20, the SRA discussed how they can make their assembly more survivor-centric. Namely, a motion was passed to task the vice president (Administration), in collaboration with the sexual violence response coordinator Meaghan Ross, to develop an amendment to the constitution which includes an emergency response procedure for sexual violence.

This occurred after an SRA member was accused of engaging in sexual assault and another member supported that member. As of now, the SRA cannot ask these members to step down from their positions, only suggest that they should.

The proposed changes to the constitution could allow the SRA to remove such members from their assembly. This is important news in support of survivors, but unfortunately this information has not been made widely available.

Navigating the SRA website is far from an easy task. While the interface itself is user-friendly, information is difficult to find. For example, one would think that meeting minutes from SRA meetings would be listed under SRA minutes but this webpage only contains broken links from April 2018. The actual minutes from SRA meetings are posted under SRA documents amidst other documents and memos.

The minutes themselves are lengthy and filled with unfamiliar jargon that the average student should not be expected to know. This length and volume leads to the vast majority of students not reading the minutes and remaining unaware of the changes that are occurring within the university.

Beyond the content of the minutes, it is also unclear when the meeting minutes are posted. Two weeks ago, on Jan. 9, I was searching for the Jan. 6 meeting minutes, found nothing, and was forced to watch the hour-long livestream to understand what happened.

Though the Jan. 6 meeting minutes are posted now, they are posted under the Jan. 20 heading. I’m not sure when they were posted considering that nowhere on the SRA site do they state when they post meeting minutes after each meeting. Students should not be expected to consistently check the site or watch hours of livestream footage to stay informed.  

Instead, minutes should be posted as soon as they are available. A three-day turnaround seems more than reasonable.

If the meeting minutes take long to post, at the very least the SRA or its individual caucuses should create summary documents for students to review. These documents can forgo the jargon and essentially list the important details that were discussed.

Students interested for more information can then consult the meeting minutes, or better yet, review a transcript of the livestream, which remain available to view after the meetings occur. I understand that it is difficult to transcribe a live meeting however, in the interests of accessibility, SRA meetings should be transcribed afterwards to allow individuals who require accommodations the ability to access the livestream videos.

Moreso, when watching the Jan. 20 livestream, a comment was made that some of the information that was discussed would not be included in the meeting minutes. There must be a reason — not all comments made are deemed important enough to include in the minutes — but if the SRA would like to be considered transparent, these comments should be made available for students to interpret on their own. A transcript of the meetings could provide this transparency.

This is not the first time that the SRA has been called out for its lack of transparency. As a governing body that is meant to represent the entire student body of McMaster University, the SRA has a responsibility to do better. The SRA is making some important, positive changes for the university — if only students were aware.

 

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Summer is approaching fast, and that means it’s either time to bring the dusty old razor out again, or leave your body hair as it is. Judgemental looks from other women or raised eyebrows from men are bound to make an appearance along with hairy legs. Women are expected to be hairless everywhere aside from the tops of their heads. It feels like the only alternative is to let everything go au natural, and be fiercely proud about it. I’ve got a third option: why don’t we stop caring entirely about other people’s body hair? Shaming someone for the way they manage their body hair says a lot more about the shamer than the shamed.

I have a lot of hair. I’ve been told that I have been blessed with a thick head of hair and should be thankful. While I am quite grateful, what my admirers tend to overlook is that when you have thick hair on your head, you probably have it everywhere else too. I’m not a fan, so I do what many other girls do and shave or wax it — as is my choice. Still, like many others, I remember a not-so-fond memory of being teased for having to shave back in elementary school. It had an impact on me.

Body hair shaming is entirely socially constructed. We teach our daughters from a young age that they need to get rid of their body hair. Just as we wouldn’t force a woman to wear make-up against her will, we shouldn’t be forcing women to remove or keep their body hair.

I was a victim of the body hair double standard: make sure it’s beautiful atop your head, but pretend it never exists anywhere else. I’m not sure who came up with the absurd notion that women are magically endowed with hairlessness, but I’ve got news for you: most human beings have some form of embarrassing and inconvenient hair somewhere on their bodies. Why is our head-hair considered so much more acceptable and attractive than our leg hair?

I was a victim of the body hair double standard: Make sure it’s beautiful atop your head, but pretend it never exists anywhere else.

The way you treat other people based on their body hair can have a very serious impact on how they feel about their bodies. This is not a decision to be made by anyone other than the owner of said body hair. It’s a matter of respecting people’s choices and allowing them to make their own decisions. When people are unhappy with their bodies, they make an effort to change them. Similarly, if a woman is unhappy with their body hair, then who are we to make statements about how much of a feminist she is based on her choices? No matter how feminist your politics, you do not have the right to tell a woman what she does with her body. We need to quit the body hair shaming and let women choose whether they want to love it or lose it.

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By: Mia Kibel

This week we’d like to talk about a topic you might expect from your friendly neighborhood feminists: periods and birth control.

Compared to other normal health events, there is a lot of ignorance surrounding contraception and menstruation. Most people can only name two or three kinds of birth control and one or two menstrual products. There is a lack of available information about cheap, environmentally friendly and equitable products. This is a huge disadvantage for anyone with a uterus; period-havers deserve choices that reflect the huge diversity of experience surrounding menstruation and contraception.

Everyone knows someone who feels that the pill made them crazy, who bleeds through tampons, or who can’t afford to be buying this stuff every month, which is just a few of the reasons why we need to know about as many of our options as possible. In the spirit of publicizing alternatives, I want to tell you about a method of birth control and a kind of menstrual product that are radically different from the kind we normally see.

Pregnancy can only occur when a person is ovulating, which normally happens once a month. Users of the “fertility awareness method” (FAM) prevent pregnancy by tracking their ovulation cycle, and avoiding pregnancy-causing sex on fertile days. It is possible to predict fertility to a high degree of accuracy using just a thermometer — there are even apps and thermometers available specifically for tracking fertility. However, when combined with other fertility tracking techniques, a regular thermometer is just fine. When tested in academic studies, the fertility awareness method (when used properly) shows pregnancy prevention rates similar to the pill — around 99.3 percent! It is completely hormone-free, creates no waste — except for possibly thermometer batteries, and paper for period-math — doesn’t cause heavier bleeding or cramping like some IUDs, is cheap and is comparative to other contraception in terms of safety.

Much like the lack of awareness surrounding FAM, most people also don’t know that a period doesn’t have to last five to seven days. Menstrual extraction is a process by which you can have your entire period all at once, not over a week. It can be done by a regular person — you! — not just medical professionals, with cheap and easily accessible equipment. If you’re interested, search around; there might be a feminist group or a midwife in your area that teaches the practice. This could make a huge difference in the lives of many. Currently for people who don’t use hormonal birth control, period skipping options are slim. There are those who might not want to have a normal period; it might be someone with severe cramps and an upcoming vacation, someone who is made uncomfortable by their periods, a sex worker who doesn’t want to lose a week’s worth of income, or an athlete with an upcoming event.

The only way to spread these revolutionary practices is to talk about them. Common arguments against these ‘radical’ solutions are that they require too much work, or that people do not yet have enough knowledge about their own biology. These are not good reasons to avoid the conversation. Individuals can decide for themselves if something is too much work or too hard, and we can’t just assume people are “too grossed out” or “too lazy.”

These options are radical not because they are different from the norm, but because they assume that period-havers are capable, intelligent and responsible owners of their own bodies. They take the control away from companies and doctors, and give primary responsibility to the individual. Current discourse around menstruation does not even begin to cover the full diversity of period-havers. Without these conversations, people who don’t fit the ‘normal’ menstruating mould will have no one to ask for advice, because doctors, friends, and parents aren’t always informed about the whole range of options. We all deserve solutions that put us in control, and that allow us to experience normal life events with dignity and empowerment instead of secrecy and shame. We are not going to stop talking about our uteri.

Photo Credit: MariGurumi

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