We should continue offering hybrid in-person and online schooling even after the pandemic is over

C/O Mikael Kristenson

By: Belinda Tam, Contributor

Having the option of an in-person and online semester for fall 2021 should continue to be offered to students even after the pandemic is over, whether they are domestic or international.

The flexibility that comes with having this option can impact many students’ university experience and since the pandemic began, the university has shown that they have the flexibility that is required to transition from in-person to fully online.

In terms of course content, having the option to re-watch lectures, having lecture slides beforehand and booking time with professors and teaching assistants are three key beneficial things that have helped my own personal learning and development.

During a so-called “regular semester”, some professors do not record their lectures and if students miss that class, it is up to the student to catch up with other resources. This could include getting a peer’s notes, doing the readings or going to office hours. 

However, with online learning, most professors post their recorded lectures and as a result, students are more efficient at studying. They can easily refer back to what the professor said during any point in previously recorded lectures for assessments such as assignments, midterms and final exams. This can be a great benefit for students who may miss classes for a variety of reasons.

For international students, having a hybrid option can be beneficial  — for example, if an international student opts-in for online school, they won’t have to worry about housing. In addition to the hefty tuition price that international students have to pay, housing is a major cost to consider.

An obvious downside to doing online school; however, is the time difference. But as previously mentioned, since many lectures are being recorded, this could alleviate the burden of staying up at bizarre times.

Going forward, having online courses should always be an option as online learning can be more accessible for disabled and international students. As some students may be unable to leave their homes or aren’t comfortable with in-person learning quite yet, they should have the option to take course content online.

Going forward, having online courses should always be an option as online learning can be more accessible for disabled and international students. As some students may be unable to leave their homes or aren’t comfortable with in-person learning quite yet, they should have the option to take course content online.

In addition, having an option for both online and in-person schooling is something that would benefit everyone when it comes to time management. We only have 24 hours in a day, after all.

If you choose to live off-campus, time must be dedicated to things such as grocery shopping and potentially long commutes. In comparison, having the option to do online school gets rid of that time running errands and allows one to dedicate it to schoolwork.

As vaccinations are still rolling out, it is important to note that students’ situations can vary and change at any moment. By offering both an online and in-person option, we will be able to be more inclusive and accommodating for each students’ situation.

How the Silhouette helped me through this difficult year

Graphic by Sam McBride

I’ve always loved stories. There is something incredibly brilliant and beautiful about the ways in which you can string together ordinary words to create extraordinary tales — tales that challenge, comfort, encourage, inform and inspire.

Last year, after the pandemic was declared in Ontario, classes were cancelled and I moved back to my hometown to be with my family. One of the first things I did was raid the house for any and all books in the house I hadn’t read yet. Stories have gotten me through some of my most difficult days and I knew I would need them to get through this too.

Stack of books
Photo by Nisha Gill

Fast-forward just over a year and I’m still living at home. I’ve read dozens of books, I am halfway through half a dozen more and the stack beside my bed is still growing, albeit at a slightly slower rate.

I’ve read about the fate of unsent letters and The Authenticity Project, the romance between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, the adventures of Hobbits, nurses in Ireland during the Spanish flu, psychotherapy and a hundred more things but it hasn’t just been my books that have helped me through this year — it’s the stories I’ve had the privilege to tell as well.

it hasn’t just been my books that have helped me through this year — it’s the stories I’ve had the privilege to tell as well.

This is the second year I’ve written for the Silhouette; I started out as a contributor last year. I had never written for a newspaper before but was amazed by how much I enjoyed it. I worried that the feeling might dissipate the more I wrote and the less novel the experience was, but it hasn’t.

Maybe in part because there’s always something new. While there are always the same deadlines, there’s never a dull week. I’m always learning something new, getting to interview different people and hear about new projects. This year, especially, I’ve been grateful for the interviews and meetings in particular that break up the monotony of my pandemic days. It gives me something to look forward to as well as a tangible connection to the world outside my home.

While I’ve appreciated living at home again, especially given the pandemic, I’ve missed campus and I’ve missed Hamilton. Last year, writing for the Sil meant that I got to explore downtown and Dundas, to visit artist centres and book stores that might have never been comfortable enough to seek out on my own, whether it was for my own articles or after reading others’. It was an adventure.

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A post shared by City of Hamilton (@cityofhamilton)

This year even though I’ve hardly gone more than a few kilometres away from my house, never mind back to Hamilton, I still feel like I’ve been able to explore Hamilton and learn about some of the wonderful people who make it up.

I used to dread doing interviews — the process feeling even more awkward over Zoom — but the more I’ve done, the easier it’s gotten. It helps that I get to interview so many fascinating and wonderful people about projects and work that they’re very clearly passionate about. I’ve had the chance to learn about travelling tea trailers and how to make chocolate, beading and murals, wigs and the wellness industry, photography and theatre and so many more things. 

It’s something really special to have someone trust you with these stories that are so close to their hearts. I’ve had the privilege and the pleasure to share stories not only about these projects but also about the creativity and resilience of the people behind them.

The people I’ve interviewed inspire me but more than just that, these people and their stories give me a lot of hope. Not just during their interviews but also over the course of the week, as I’m writing my articles, it’s a continuous reminder that even in the craziness and uncertainty of everything there are still good things and good people. 

These people and their stories restore some of my faith in the goodness of the world because if there are this many brilliant, dedicated and passionate people who are doing so much to hold space for and support their communities in just this one city there must be more out there, right?

These people and their stories restore some of my faith in the goodness of the world because if there are this many brilliant, dedicated and passionate people who are doing so much to hold space for and support their communities in just this one city there must be more out there, right?

So many of the stories I’ve written this year have been about the businesses and passion projects that have helped people through these difficult days, so it seems fitting in a way that my final article as A&C Reporter is about the work that has helped me through.

Glasses on book
C/O Trent Erwin

Even when there are a million other things to worry about, all I have to do is open my article drafts of the week and I feel a little bit more at ease. Even when I’m stressed by deadlines and interviews that fell through and articles that still don’t feel quite right, I’m happy. It sounds so simple said like that, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. There is no shortage of complicated things in the world, it’s been good to have something that makes me simply, uncomplicatedly happy.

I’ve been dreading this last article because in a way it means the end of that. But now that it’s actually written, it feels a bit more bittersweet than just sad because it’s not really the end. I still have two years left at McMaster and there will always be more stories out there. Maybe I won’t be the one telling them but I’ll get to read and hear about them and that’s just as good.

 Having safe spaces around the university allow marginalized students to feel less alienated

Graphic by Esra Rakab

cw: mentions of racism, hateful political rhetoric, child sexual abuse

If you’re on any part of political YouTube where the titles appear to be “Feminists REKT!!! Compilation”, or “Man Speaks FACTS, DESTROYS Emotional Liberal,” then you have likely heard of how safe spaces, also known as closed spaces, are for “snowflakes.” Moreover, closed spaces are framed as being a “new type of segregation” enforced by the radical left” on campuses.

The main contesters against these spaces appear to be predominantly white professors at post-secondary institutions and (mainly white) right-wing pundits who frame the concept of having spaces closed to only certain marginalized groups to be a step backwards. In turn, they argue that there would be outrage should the tables be turned and there were spaces closed to white people.

Well. Despite all the controversy surrounding the newly emerging safe spaces on campuses across North America, I honestly feel that the main motivations for why safe spaces were proposed as a solution in the first place go largely ignored.

Even in a university as accepting and as open to improving its measures towards inclusivity as McMaster University, there have been countless instances in my primarily white program where I’ve felt degraded and humiliated as a visible woman of colour.

Even in a university as accepting and as open to improving its measures towards inclusivity as McMaster University, there have been countless instances in my primarily white program where I’ve felt degraded and humiliated as a visible woman of colour. 

This has mainly been in the form of tone policing, where if I express myself with the exact same emotion or words as another white classmate, I have constantly been told that I’m “too aggressive” and that I need to “calm down” by numerous students.

There have been instances where when I shared my status as a child sexual abuse survivor in confidence to explain how it only strengthened my convictions in feminism and as a result, I was labelled as being “too much,” and was pushed into isolation from the get-go.

With all of the hashtags, the “BLMs” and the “support small businesses” stickers plastered across the social media of the students who unknowingly engage in deeply damaging behaviour, I cannot help but lament with disappointment.

So many seemingly “non-discriminatory” people appear to be very disconnected when it comes to actually engage in the small actions within their day-to-day life that make 2SLGBTQIA+ students and Black, Indigenous and students of colour feel safe.

I was formally introduced to closed spaces at Mac while volunteering with the Women and Gender Equity Network, a survivor-centric organization dedicated towards empowering those experiencing gender-based violence and educating Mac on such issues. While I was initially confused as to why many of WGEN’s events were closed to different groups, I soon understood why. 

Like myself, there are people out there who experience microaggressions and discrimination for an identity they cannot control. Just like me, they are emotionally exhausted at having to bite their tongues when a snarky comment is made about their existence in university, a historically white institution, or when they make white people around them uncomfortable when they don’t fit into a neat little box of how a model minority should act like.

Like myself, there are people out there who experience microaggressions and discrimination for an identity they cannot control.

Even if a remark here and there may not appear to be the end of the world, from my personal experience, these small, yet deeply painful moments build up until they’ve become a full-fledged trauma and they build up until you feel as though maybe you really don’t belong on a campus like Mac.

That is why we need closed spaces. Marginalized students who are at risk for identity-based discrimination need a space to simply talk about their experiences with other students who share these experiences. They need a space with other students who will understand each other without having to do a million, painstaking explanations to set the context.

Many universities are already notorious for not taking allegations of sexual assault, racism and any other forms of discrimination seriously. However, given that instances of discrimination frequently happen in a subtle, systemic form where the student has a lot at stake socially should they react at all, there is almost no way for students to deal with and talk about these very real issues.

Yes, the real world is not this nice, but offering safe spaces to students as a therapeutic tool to cope with these injustices is the least we deserve.

McMaster students are gathering virtually for the university's first climate strike with the call for divestment as its primary goal

C/O Ronan Furuta

As more people have come to recognize the threat of climate change, climate advocacy movements have grown around the world. At McMaster University, there are many student organizations that aim to protect the environment, such as Zero Waste McMaster, Mac Climate Advocates, McMaster Divest and others.

On Friday, March 19, students will gather on Zoom for McMaster University’s first virtual climate strike. According to Grace Kuang, a representative from the McMaster Climate Strike Team, the strike is aligned with Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement and is being organized by representatives from 13 different environmental activist groups on campus. Its primary goal is divestment from fossil fuels. 

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A post shared by MacDivest (@mcmasterdivest)

As Mymoon Bhuiyan, a representative from McMaster Divest, explained, students are advocating for divestment for a variety of reasons.

 “It's important for environmental reasons, but not only that. There are also humanitarian reasons; fossil fuel companies are notoriously bad in terms of human [rights]. There are also financial reasons; McMaster is going to lose money if they continue to stay invested in these companies,” said Bhuiyan.

 “It's important for environmental reasons, but not only that. There are also humanitarian reasons; fossil fuel companies are notoriously bad in terms of human [rights]. There are also financial reasons; McMaster is going to lose money if they continue to stay invested in these companies,”

Mymoon Bhuiyan

According to Adeola Egbeyemi, a representative from McMaster Divest, the conversation about divestment between the McMaster administration and climate activist groups on campus has been ongoing for years. 

“We are not the first ones on the divestment scene. This has been a longstanding movement since 2015,” said Egbeyemi.

Over the course of this semester, the conversation has progressed significantly. On Feb. 24 the McMaster Climate Strike Team sent a letter to President David Farrar, calling for divestment. In an email to the Silhouette, the McMaster Climate Strike Team explained that they expected McMaster to address this call for divestment at the Investments and Infrastructure Town Hall the following day.

Members of the McMaster Climate Strike Team expressed that the town hall did not provide the opportunities for engagement that they had expected. According to Kuang, the question and answer period was filtered, giving moderators the ability to choose questions without participants knowing what other questions had been asked. Further, there were no opportunities for students to show their video or unmute themselves.

“I think we came away feeling really silenced and really disappointed,” explained Kuang.

“I think we came away feeling really silenced and really disappointed,”

Grace Kuang

“It's not clear what the university's intention was, but it doesn't really matter what the university’s intention was. Universities are places of open discussion and free thought, so there should have been a method for students to voice their thoughts,” said Bhuiyan.

Farrar said that the intention of the town hall was not to silence student voices.

“I think that the people who organized it were honestly trying to have a dialogue and that this technology doesn't allow the kind of dialogue that needed to happen,” said Farrar.

Following the event, Farrar asked the Board of Governors to put a strategy in place for divestment.

“I think we need to take the added step of divesting from fossil fuel companies and I've asked the board to look into it,” emphasized Farar.

“I think we need to take the added step of divesting from fossil fuel companies and I've asked the board to look into it,”

David Farrar

The McMaster Climate Strike Team expressed that they were aware and appreciate the university’s recent commitment to divestment, but that they were hoping to push the university towards releasing a more concrete plan.

“There were no steps, there were no timelines and there was nothing concrete that they wanted to move forward with; it's just talk,” said Egbeyemi.

“There were no steps, there were no timelines and there was nothing concrete that they wanted to move forward with; it's just talk,”

Adeola Egbeyemi

“We need to convince the rest of the board of governors to be on our side, so there's definitely still work to do and that's what the strike is hoping to accomplish,” added Kuang, emphasizing the importance of the upcoming climate strike in the divestment movement at McMaster.

Egbeyemi highlighted the accessibility of the strike.

“You don't have to be 100 per cent vegan and go thrifting every weekend. Calling for institutional change is something that we can all do and it is an important part of improving society, in addition to individual change,” said Egbeyemi.

“You don't have to be 100 per cent vegan and go thrifting every weekend. Calling for institutional change is something that we can all do and it is an important part of improving society, in addition to individual change,”

ADEOLA EGBEYEMI

“I am striking to show the strength we have when we stand together. We stand in support of McMaster divesting from fossil fuels; we stand in solidarity with those experiencing the devastating effects of climate change; and we stand as a symbol of unity and strength,” said Gabriel Lonuzzo, a representative from the McMaster Climate Strike Team, in an email to the Silhouette.

Photo C/O Erik Mclean

Students’ lives have rapidly changed with the COVID-19 virus closing campus doors. On March 13 David Farrar, McMaster’s president, announced that all graduate and undergraduate classes were cancelled and no in-person exams would take place this April. The days following this announcement have brought updates including the closure of all non-essential services on campus. 

Many students found that not only were their studies interrupted, but so were their on-campus jobs. 

The McMaster Students Union employs students in more than 30 departments with over 300 paid part-time jobs. The university employs students across departments including Athletics and Recreation and Housing and Conference Services. Now, many student roles have been transitioned to remote work or let go entirely. 

Two students whose on-campus workplaces closed share their perspectives. 

Toni Asuncion, a fourth year PNB student, has worked at the MSU’s 1280 and the Grind for the past two years. Now she is graduating and ending her time at McMaster without being able to say goodbye.

“I am really sad that I didn't get to say bye to my co-workers because it was so sudden [. . .] I've been working with some of them for two years now, and a lot of them are like family,” said Asuncion. 

The MSU had to close its food vendors along with other services on campus. Currently, Centro is the only food service open on campus, which is open for students and staff who are unable to move off campus or work from home. 

Aside from being unable to say goodbye to her coworkers, Asuncion says that it’s a difficult time for students who are graduating as well. Soon to be graduates have had to forego or postpone important events in their university experience, like convocation or end of year festivities, many of which come at a price. Graduation photos, grad school applications, and other expenses make up a costly part of the fourth year experience, so the outbreak makes the circumstances for this year’s cohort more dire. As the expenses of graduating have piled up, the post-graduate job market is also facing the impacts of COVID-19. 

Asuncion describes a “sense of uncertainty” that she and her peers are graduating into. Unable to rely on part-time employment, she and her peers are looking for summer employment opportunities, despite concerns over the uncertainty of the job market.

On April 8, the Government of Canada released a press release detailing changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program, allowing for some clarity during this precarious time. The modifications to the program are intended to create up to 70,000 jobs for youth between 15 and 30 years of age. Job placements could begin as early as May 11, 2020, and end as late as February 28, 2021.

Asuncion says that her managers have been supportive, even helping student staff navigate the application process for Employment Insurance

Amber*, another student who works two jobs on campus, remembered the worry and confusion that she felt as McMaster made plans to close down. While at work, she heard whispers that her job might be affected. 

“You're doing your job [and] at the same time [. . .] you're hearing all the talk about [the closures] going around. And it kind of puts you into a really panicked situation because you really don't know. It's very uncertain if this is your last shift. It is not your last shift? Are you really going to cope financially?” said Amber.

She soon heard that both of her employers would be closed for the foreseeable future and neither job was able to transition online. It was hard for her to hear that her service jobs, which she took pride in, were deemed “unessential”.

“When you don't make that cut, I guess you just kind of feel disposable,” said Amber.

While on shift in mid March, Amber asked her managers about the situation but even they were uncertain. The updates coming from the top of the university left student employees unsure whether they would have jobs the following day. 

“But during this shift, we're hearing that all casual staff are really non-essential staff. And because we're a part-time student [staff] and not part of the union, our jobs would be terminated after our last shift that day,” said Amber. 

As a casual staff member, Amber’s job isn’t covered by a union. Unlike academic workers, many student jobs do not have the security of a collective bargaining agency. It is up to the manager to decide whether or not to rehire student staff members that were laid off during the crisis in the fall, but Amber is hopeful that she will be able to go back to her jobs in September. 

Even with hopes to return to their jobs in September, students still have to contend with tighter pursestrings for the time being. No one knows how long the closures will last, which is hard for students who are financially independent or have others to support. 

Although individual managers have helped student staff navigate the unprecedented circumstances, the crisis shows the structural failings of casual labour at McMaster. Student staff are among the most vulnerable employees on campus, and yet their jobs remain precarious. 

After our interview, student staff found out that their pay would continue uninterrupted until April 5 for jobs where there is no longer any work available. From April 5 onward, only essential employees and those working from home would be paid. 

While Amber understands that tough decisions had to be made by university administrators, she also says that there weren’t sufficient measures in place to help staff cope. 

“I think there needs to be a little bit more security for students on their jobs,” said Amber. 

Without a safety net, students now have to figure out how to make ends meet during a global crisis, while also finishing classes. Graduating students have to contend with extra costs and the disappointment of a final year unfinished. Low income students, students with children or dependents and students in precarious housing, or who are otherwise vulnerable, have the additional burden of finishing a school year without financial stability. 

As the virus progresses and McMaster remains shuttered, only time will tell what the future holds for on-campus employment. 

 

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What did it take to make this year's issue of Sex and the Steel City? Watch the trailer to find out:

 

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Arts and Culture Reporter Lauren O'Donnell sits down with Carrie Russell, owner of With Love Lingerie, an indie lingerie brand located in The Cotton Factory (270 Sherman Ave. N.) to chat about the craft of making lingerie.

Read the accompanying article here.

 

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Cover art by Matty Flader / Photo Reporter and Andrew Mrozowski / Arts and Culture Editor

When I was hired as the Arts & Culture Editor in August 2019, my mind immediately flooded with ideas and concepts of how to approach this year’s Sex and the Steel City issue. For months I stressed myself out as I pondered over ways  through which I can  ensure that this section was something I would be proud of, but I did not know what approach I wanted to take. 

In the past, SATSC  has explored themes of diversity, sex and safety, just to name a few; however, I didn’t want this year’s issue to simply  be a repeat. I looked at my own life for inspiration and thought of identity.

Each piece in this issue explores the theme of identity in some essence, whether it be sexual orientation, community identity, or more broadly the identity of love itself. Each piece has a unique message that can apply to anyone.

It was important to me to make this year’s SATSC cover memorable. The candy theming was not only  a play on Valentine’s Day; each item represents a different theme discussed in  this issue. The rainbow bands on the cover represent queerness; the fuzzy peach rings represents body positivity; the hot lips represent romance; and the gummy bears represent sex.

Accompanying this issue is our SATSC trailer, a take on the season 2 trailer of the Netflix original “Sex Education”. It was important to me to incorporate  this because I believe that “Sex Education” is really shaping the way we engage in conversation around a subject that has been taboo for such a long time—a goal that SATSC has been striving to achieve since its inception.

 To everyone who contributed to the section through written or art submission, to the staff who supported me in the last few months, to those who took part in our video content, to the diligent teams who worked so hard to bring this special issue to fruition, thank you. I would also like to thank my former Arts and Culture Editor (now Online Editor), Razan Samara. Without you pushing me each week to do my absolute best, from being a contributor to now. I could not have done this without your guidance. This is my ode, my ballad, my contribution to the legacy of the Silhouette.

With love,

Andrew Mrozowski

The Silhouette

A&C Editor

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Articles:

Queer politics in Hamilton: a year in review by Trisha Gregorio, News Editor

Compassionate casual sex is blooming by Adrianna Michell, Features Reporter

Mythbusters: Bisexual edition by Lauren O'Donnell, Arts & Culture Reporter

From hosting RuPaul’s Drag Race to advocating for an inclusive city by Andrew Mrozowski, Arts and Culture Editor

Learning love from literature by Nisha Gill, Contributor

When you need to “prove it” by Julia Healy, Contributor

Pressures in love by Rachel Lieske, Contributor

The craft of making lingerie by Lauren O'Donnell, Arts & Culture Reporter

Embodied empowerment through boudoir photography by Lauren O'Donnell, Arts & Culture Reporter

Loud and proud by A. A., Contributor

Queer eye for fashion by Anonymous, Contributor

A day in the life of hook-up culture by Nina Joon, Contributor

Allure Fitness: Sliding down and shaping up by Kyle West, Sports Reporter

 

Artworks: 

Lights Get Bright Tonight by Katie Van Kampen

Untitled 1 & 2 by Kyle West

Pluto’s Heartbreak by Claire Kim

I Am Beauty by Claire Kim

  

Photo by Jaden Lall / Video Editor

Midnight blue velvet covered in snowflakes, or red roses and lace entwined on sheer mesh fabric. These are a few of the pieces you can find within the collections at With Love Lingerie, an indie lingerie brand located in The Cotton Factory (270 Sherman Ave. N.). Carrie Russell, the owner and creator of With Love, says that the brand name was inspired by her process of making every piece with love.

With Love’s Instagram feed and promotional images emphasize body diversity. Before opening her own lingerie business, Russell worked in the mainstream lingerie industry, an industry with a history of leaving plus-size women out of their lines. Russell admits that when she first started With Love, she made pieces only in smalls, mediums or larges, with little wiggle-room for people who didn’t fit into those constraining categories. Even though she is an advocate for body positivity and acceptance, Russell didn’t initially notice the lack of inclusion. Her perspective changed when she realized she wasn’t included in her own line.

“[T]he minute I realized I wasn’t included in my own passion and my love for my business, it made me realize well who else I’m not including, like, what other people are not even able to enjoy the things that I feel really passionate about. And it wasn’t really out of, for me, not loving other people’s bodies. Because I just love people’s bodies. I love talking about self-love and body positivity … But it was not reflected in my line. That was a really big thing for me, and I’m continuing to work with that,” said Russell.

Pieces of lingerie hanging in Carrie Russell's space at the Cotton Factory. Photo by Jaden Hall / Video Editor

Social media—Instagram in particular—can have a negative impact on how people perceive their appearance. The app motivates users to focus on gaining likes and followers, and much of that is rooted in appearance and showcasing the “perfect body”. It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a perfect body, and even those who are considered perfect can still have difficulty accepting themselves. With Love aims to repair the relationship we have with our bodies, encouraging us to feel comfortable in our skin. Russell emphasizes the sense of empowerment that comes with lingerie, and the impact it can have on the journey towards body acceptance. 

“[T]hings need to be made for people with love and to actually do that, you have to include and, and really embrace all different sorts of body types and also embrace and make people comfortable wherever they are in the journey of their body self image or their body positivity . . . I really do think it’s really exciting when I’m able to have someone try something on that they would never have really thought about wearing,” she said.

The majority of Russell’s designs are not very structured, meaning that most don’t have any underwires or corsetry, and she works predominantly in sheer mesh material. The lingerie is designed to move with the natural shape of the body, rather than seeking to restrict the person wearing it. With the ever-increasing popularity of waist cinchers, corsets and Spanx, it can be difficult to celebrate your body without feeling like it should be restrained. The sheer mesh designs aim to uncover and empower the body, emphasizing what’s already there.

“It’s almost better to highlight the things that you see as the assets to let them outshine the things that you may still not be totally in love with yet. And that’s exciting when that light bulb goes off in someone’s mind,” said Russell.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8RfZj1FZ4G/

While many people assume that lingerie is exclusively for younger women, Russell says that most of her clientele is actually more mature women, with an age range averaging between 30 and 60.

“I’m getting women in their 60s wearing sheer bodysuits and just living in them, which is great. And I think that truly is body positivity,” said Russell. 

With Love also caters to demographics beyond older-aged women. Russell says that she recently started working with trans women, gender-fluid and nonbinary folks. She sees a lot of potential for With Love to help people become more comfortable expressing themselves and exploring their gender.

“[I]t’s been really rewarding working with people who felt really timid about expressing who they are. And they feel comfortable coming to me and coming to my showroom, having one on ones with me, and I’m able to see their journey [with] discovering themselves and expressing themselves as well with their creativity and accepting sort of what they see and adorning it with With Love. And I think that’s a really big honor and it’s something that has been . . . a really rewarding learning curve for me,” said Russell.

While much of the response that Russell has received has been positive, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding lingerie and creating lingerie. In Russell’s experience, particularly in North America, lingerie is kept a secret because it is viewed as something inherently sexual or inappropriate. She says that people are very shy, and “Puritan” about it. With Love Lingerie strives to change that stereotype. While lingerie can be sexual, it can also be an empowering form of self-expression.

Russell has also recently launched her second brand, Spill the Tea Consulting, providing social media support and help for other small businesses trying to reach clients. In doing so, she hopes to help grow the community of local artists in Hamilton, and to help them reach their audience and thrive. 

Ultimately, Russell hopes that With Love Lingerie can foster a sense of empowerment in the people that wear her designs, allowing them to be at home and comfortable in their own bodies. She hopes that everyone can experience the same joy she feels when making lingerie, and that they can see that everything she does is made, of course, with love.

 

This article is part of our Sex and the Steel City, our annual sex-positive issue. Click here to read more content from the special issue.

 

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Graphic by Elisabetta Paiano / Production Editor

By Julia Healy, Contributor

CW: Mentions sexual violence

Sex and I have a fraught relationship with one another. As a girl growing up as a lesbian in a fairly conservative religious environment, my parents, teachers and peers frequently insinuated that queer attraction, particularly attraction between women, was attention-seeking and a phase. This stereotype made me constantly doubt my feelings and kept me securely in the closet during my high school years. But, once I left home and entered the secular world of university,  I was determined to come out. 

In first year, I began to feel like I had missed out on a lot of romantic experiences by remaining closeted for so long. While I hadn’t even tried flirting with a girl, my 2SLGBTQ+ friends would tell stories about their past high school flings and recent hook-ups at parties. One story that that I would hear and unfortunately internalize starred straight girls who had supposedly just wanted to “experiment,” and had left my queer friends feeling heartbroken and used. 

Being told that my sexuality was “just a phase” by people back home and by society at large was enough to make me doubt myself. Having this sentiment seemingly confirmed by the experiences of fellow members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community was terrifying. I internalized the idea that I could be misunderstanding my feelings, and that I was just constructing these attractions to seek attention, or approval from my 2SLGBTQ+ peers. I became fixated on the need to validate my identity and thought that having sex with a woman was the only way to settle the nagging fears inside my head.

I became fixated on the need to validate my identity and thought that having sex with a woman was the only way to settle the nagging fears inside my head.

Unfortunately, as an awkward first year who had never even kissed anyone, this plan was easier said than done. I worried that I would somehow mess up and embarrass myself, or, even worse, that I would realize I was straight all along. This idea made me so anxious, I didn’t even try to date. First and second year went by without a single a kiss to show for it. 

In the summer of second year, my sexual life completely shifted. After just one lacklustre date with very little chemistry, I went back to a girl’s apartment and stayed the night. She didn’t know that I had experienced my first kiss and had lost my virginity  within minutes of each other that night, and she didn’t seem to care about my nervousness. Although, in hindsight, I recognize that this encounter was not very healthy, I felt immense relief at the time that my attraction to women was not a figment of my imagination.

Despite this experience, I still hadn’t fully dispelled the negative stereotype about seeking attention, or the fear of falling behind on sexual experiences, from my brain. I started to seek out sexual encounters to validate not just my identity, but also my desirability and my self worth. The fears that I held onto have led me into some unsafe situations. I’ve rushed into sex with people before I was ready, to prove that I am, in fact, a lesbian. I’ve had sex with people before talking about STI status because I didn’t want them to feel like I was stalling out of disinterest, or for them to lose interest in me. I’ve never been able to properly communicate not being in the mood for sex, wanting to slow down or wanting to stop, even with partners who I knew would have  respected my boundaries. I’ve had people hurt me during sex and, perhaps most damaging of all, I have frequently verbally consented to situations while my brain screamed at me to run away. 

My lack of sexual experience once seemed like nothing but an obstacle between myself and the formation of a healthy queer relationship with a loving partner. However, after ignoring my own boundaries for so long, I feel like I’m farther from forming whatever a “healthy relationship” is than ever before. 

My lack of sexual experience once seemed like nothing but an obstacle between myself and the formation of a healthy queer relationship with a loving partner. However, after ignoring my own boundaries for so long, I feel like I’m farther from forming whatever a “healthy relationship” is than ever before.

The unhealthy attitudes that I have developed towards sex started with the desire to not only  validate my lesbian identity for myself, but to have that identity recognized by other queer women. My conservative upbringing started my self-doubt, but it was ultimately the emphasis placed upon sexual experience and the suspicion surrounding virginity within my own community that pushed me to seek validation through sex. I am only beginning to unlearn my unhealthy attitudes towards sex and to reconcile with my identity on my own terms.

At the intersection of sexism and homophobia, queer women face a lot of pressure from society to perform our sexuality in specific ways, often for the gratification of others. Rather than reproducing these pressures within our spaces, we as queer women should uplift one another, no matter where on our sexual journeys we happen to be.  

 

This article is part of our Sex and the Steel City, our annual sex-positive issue. Click here to read more content from the special issue.

 

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