The theatre is dark, the rules are announced, and the band breaks into America the Beautiful as a solitary figure in a blonde wig and cape approaches the stage. Waiting is the band and a drag king in leather jacket, denim, and do-rag, with the sad-downcast eyes of a domestic abuse victim. The figure approaches the mic and in a reveal reminiscent of FranknFurter in the Rocky Horror Show, the cloak is opened to reveal a facsimile of the Berlin wall, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s title character breaks into the show’s first song Tear Me Down.

Following a successful run in November 2018, In the Wings’ Promotions’ production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch was invited to be part of Montreal Pride’s official programming. As director and the show’s Yitzhak Noelle Hannibal put it:

“The show is so iconic in the community, that it’s the perfect fit for Pride.”

The venue has changed from Cabaret Mado to Café Cléopatre, but aside from a few enhancements, the show is every bit as riveting as during its first run.

For those of you unfamiliar with Hedwig and the Angry Inch, it is the brainchild of actor John Cameron Mitchell and musician Stephen Trask, who developed the off-Broadway show which then became a cult film and from there a Broadway show starring Neil Patrick Harris. The show is about a slip of a girly boy from communist East Berlin and is a blend of glam and punk rock, politics, and gender bending, with tunes so catchy even the biggest curmudgeon will be dancing in their seat.

Trask was a major part of the first Montreal run, sitting on dress rehearsals and answering Hannibal’s texts as needed. The result is a show that’s more than just pretty makeup, gender-reversals, and catchy tunes.

In my review of the show’s first run, I noted that the relationship between Hedwig – played by New York based actor Andrew Morrissey, and Noelle Hannibal’s Yitzhak was interpreted as one of domestic abuse. In this rendition that portrayal is enhanced with more passive aggression by Yitzhak – there are muttered curses, and spitting, and Yitzhak’s eyes seethe with the hatred of the powerless for their oppressor.

Morrissey’s Hedwig contains more deference for Yitzhak’s talent, as if the abuse comes from the recognition that her talent is no match for Yitzhak’s and she can only shine by putting him down. It provided more nuance to the characters from a script that by Hannibal’s own admission, had very little to guide them.

Morrissey’s Hedwig is much improved from the November run. Though his German accent is on and off and his voice is occasionally pitchy, you see more madness behind the makeup, more sincerity behind the line:

“I’ll laugh because I’ll cry if I don’t.”

With this more nuanced portrayal is all the sass and sex the part requires, and Morrissey pulls that off beautifully.

As important to the production as its stars are the band and costumes. Hedwig undergoes multiple costume changes during the show and designer Sig Moser clearly understood what the show is all about.

“He was very familiar with the show and the film version and brought in some fantastic ideas that would work with our extremely tight, indie budget. He can whip up a dress in an hour,” said Hannibal, whose own costumes were tweaked to work better for this run.

The outfits are an amazing mix of showmanship, denim, leather, lace, and sequins, a true nod to music genres you’ll live during the show.

The band, made up of Ian Baird, Kevin Bourne, Stephen Menold, and Sebastian Balk-Forcione, are not passive background musicians, but people who must actively interact with Hedwig and Yitzhak on stage. Though I wished the tempo of Tear Me Down was a bit quicker, the band did not disappoint. Decked out in punk rock pieces and colored hair, they are an amazing accompaniment to a show that features glam and punk rock in all its glory.

That said, the show is iconic for a reason, so come with an open mind. You won’t be disappointed!

The current run of Hedwig and the Angry Inch finishes tonight. Tickets available through HedwigMontreal.com

I love boobs. All sizes, shapes, colors, big nipples, little dime nipples, hairy boobs, round boobs, perky or saggy, squished in a bra, on my face, or naked in the sun, I love boobs.

It is strange to me how a part of the body is so obsessed over as these bags of fun are. They are mother’s milk, sacred life giving pillows, warmth, comfort, safety, and love.

I share my boobs for a living, I promote their loveliness and love the unique breasts I am privileged enough to see on a regular basis. I touch my boobs in my shirt often. I haven’t worn a bra in over a year, and the only one who has ever called me out on my nips showing is my own mother.

Boobs are so hypersexualized and that often times a woman’s “worth” is placed on what her breasts look like. I want to compile every kind of human’s thoughts on their own boobs/chest and how society fetishizes them in general.

It is important to think about how others view their own bodies and strive for things that some of us take for granted- trans woman, women with implants, a non binary human who binds their breasts, and a transman who had top surgery. It must be an incredible feeling to have your body finally match the gender of your soul.

My grandmother had one breast, she was a cancer survivor. She told me the story of how she went in for a routine check up and then that day was under the knife, she was so confused and scared. My grandfather didn’t know how significant this was. It was in the 1980s.

No woman should ever have to feel so scared. I have seen burlesque dancers with one breast proudly swinging their tassel. It means they survived, they are proud of their body no matter what people say.

Dahlia Dubois- Stripper, Artist, Badass…

On being a stripper with natural breasts:

“I feel like it really depends on what area you’re working in and what type of club you’re at. Like if you were working at the Hustler club it would be almost expected that you would have some form of breast augmentation. But as far as my experience here, it’s really a 50-50 crapshoot. I’ve only ever had one customer tell me my breasts were too small and that was as I was giving him a lap dance so clearly I must’ve not been that bad hahahaha Although I feel like I do want to get augmentation done but not to an excessively large level. Because I do feel like that would increase my profits.”

 

 

Colleen Dunphy- Writer, Burlesque Dancer , Model…

“I had my breast reduction 11 years ago and I know without a doubt that if I hadn’t done it I’d never be doing the things I do today. I would have never become a half marathon runner, I’d never have done nude modeling and I definitely wouldn’t perform burlesque.

My breasts made me very uncomfortable with my body, and especially the attention I got. I still get some of that now because I am still a DDD, but it’s not like it was before.

Getting the reduction took a huge weight off my shoulders, literately and figuratively. I had some body dysphoria right after my surgery, because it was such a big change so quickly. I lost 4lbs from each side. But eventually I was able to become comfortable in my skin.

I have some mental sensitivity with the scarring when I am first with a new partner, because I had someone have a really negative reaction right after my surgery, but that was the only one. I am actually working on getting the worst ones tattooed over now.

I still have some nerve damage, where it doesn’t feel the same as it does in areas above or below. But I actually have more nipple sensation now than I did before surgery.

I’ve been told I won’t be able to breast feed, and that was something I willingly gave up. Even through everything I’ve never had any regrets about my decision and I know without a doubt I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I welcome anyone that wants to talk about it, or is interested in having one. I wish I’d had more people to talk to before I had mine. But it was before the major rise of social media and I just didn’t know where to go for that.”

Janna Willoughby-Lohr – Mother, Poet, Rapper.. 

“My view of the world as a woman as it pertains to my body has changed dramatically throughout my life…from a pre-teen girl when I didn’t even have enough boobs to hold my training bra down, just begging the great beyond to gift me with some curves…to a supple 20-something with cleavage for days who could (and did) rock any low-cut top I could find and often found myself admiring my own boobs in the mirror…to a 30-something nursing mother with 34G breasts that are no longer the same as they were, trying desperately to find a bra that actually fits and longing for the days where I could get away with low cut tops.

I used to want to be wanted for my body, before I knew better. Now that I’m a mom, I see how many ways the world blames women for being too sexual…or not being sexual enough…all at the same time.

I am proud to be a woman, and I’m proud of my boobs that have been able to feed my child for almost two years and even though I sacrificed my amazing cleavage to do so, I still love my body. As Baz Luhrmann says, ‘Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It is the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.”

Feminism is more than burning bras and not shaving your armpits. Being a feminist means demanding equal pay for equal work, taking charge of our bodies, gender freedom, ending domestic violence and rape culture, and crushing the all powerful patriarchy.

No, it does not mean we hate men, in fact many feminists actually are men! Yes, it does mean standing together with our sisters and trans sisters, but it does not mean bullying other women into thinking how we think and pushing our ideals on others.

I was offended when Gloria Steinem, a famous voice of the feminist movement, and Madeline Albright, the first female secretary of the state, said that any woman who doesn’t back Hilary Clinton is not a feminist. They went on to say that girls were just voting for Bernie Sanders because he was popular with men.

Albright said “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” She has famously used this phrase for other more appropriate situations in the past. “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie,’ ” Ms. Steinem said.

In 1996, when Sanders faced Republican Susan Sweetser in a bid for re-election to the House, he found himself up against a female candidate. Then Gloria Steinem went to Vermont to endorse Sanders, saying in jest that she’d come to dub him “an honorary woman.”

Even though Bernie Sanders is a cis gender white male he is more of a feminist than Hilary Clinton. I feel the Bern because I did my homework, not because any boy told me to do so.

Women for Bernie
Feminists for Sanders in the Vermont Vanguard. Will You Vote for…Substance or Image? | Vanguard Press | Nov. 2, 1986

Hilary Clinton responded to the female criticism by saying “I have spent my entire adult life making sure that women are empowered to make their own choices—even if that choice is not to vote for me.” If Hilary does win the democratic nod I will still vote for her over any Republican, I do agree with her on some things and definitely don’t think she is as evil as the other side.

Feeling The Bern is a movement that will improve the lives of women. He supports paid maternity leave, calls on men to join in fighting the gender wage gap, and has always supported gay rights.

She stated that she would have supported the Defense of Marriage Act if she was in power and then only “evolved” to support gay marriage later in her career. I do not agree with her corporate strand of feminism and believe that in order for women or anyone to succeed in this country we need a democratic revolution and socialist overthrow.

Clinton has even accepted donations from countries that treat women terribly, while Sanders is being funded by the everyday people. Ideology is more important to me than gender.

I remember being 18, my first time voting. Candidates in the primary included Hilary Clinton and Barak Obama, a woman and a black man, holy shit. I stood in the booth and cried because I knew what kind of moment this was.

People fought for ME and that there was so much more to be done. Change is still brewing. There was a time where both women and people of color could not even vote let alone run for president. I thought of all the suffragettes and civil rights activists that fought for this basic human right.

Barack Obama got my vote that day just as Bernie Sanders will get my vote this coming election. I will never understand why so many young voters don’t show, every voice counts. We must educate ourselves and join together to take charge of our own future while fighting oppression. You can’t complain if you don’t vote.

Feminist Art
Feminist Art in The Brooklyn Museum

There is no answer to why humans judge others based on the color of their flesh, age, sex, orientation, or presentation. We must accept each other’s differences and appreciate unique beauty. Be the change you want to see and never tolerate ignorance or hate. Strive for peace, acceptance, freedom and above all else love. Sexism infiltrates all parts of life.

I was bartending last night and a man came in with two of his grown sons. He said to me early in the conversation ” Are you married?” I said no happily, still smiling, and told him that wasn’t in my cards. He then asked me if I wanted children, I laughed and said NO, “Oh that will change when you find the right man.”

WHAT? The smile was gone. No, I do not need to find the right man to complete my life, I don’t need anyone. I am perfectly happy with my cats and independence.

It was so ignorant for him to assume anything about my sexuality and throw his values on me. He was obviously religious and has money, he mentioned that he had eight children and it was the best thing in his life, especially now being older. I told him that over population was a real thing and I would have no part of it.

A moment later a man playing in the band said to two women sitting at the bar (who were obviously on a date with each other) “Why are these two lovely ladies sitting alone at the bar? Come on men! Take care of these lonely girls!” They looked at each other and said,”No, thank you!”

No woman should ever feel judged or unsafe. Protest the propaganda and spark inspiration and change. Stifle hate with beauty and truth. Be a feminist, a humanist, an informed voter, and a person who stands up for what is just. Make the world a better place to live in by taking an active part in its reconstruction. Choose your candidate based on their history and credentials, not their gender. Of course I want a female president, but it must be the right woman!

* Featured image Meredith Nierman/WGBH

Most girls go gaga for a good beard. The longer, and bushier the better. Hey – I even admit that most of my Tinder swipe lefts are of the furry faced persuasion. Guys love having them, because they can hide behind them (or hide stuff in them). Ron Burgundy and Tom Selleck give a great mustached face, but there is something less pervy uncle and more burly lumberjack about a well groomed beard. Men gain instant sex appeal and credibility once the whiskers and 5’o clock shadows become a full blown beard. But, only the scruffiest manliest men have beards, right? Wrong. Most hipsters, who can grow them, have them these days – along with tattoos and the coolest bicycles. It’s practically a right of passage. Another group of even less manlier men are rocking beards these days – WOMEN!

Bearded ladies have been sideshow attractions in freakshows for years, such as the infamous Josephine Clofullia, Jane Barnell, and Annie Jones of the early 19th century circus circuit. Women who grow natural facial hair often suffer from a hormonal imbalance, usually an androgen excess, poly cystic ovarian syndrome, or a rare genetic disorder called hypertrichosis. Many women are saying fuck electrolysis and waxing, and are now embracing their real beards – face beards and bearded clams alike! By doing this, they challenge beauty standards and societal expectations of what a proper woman should look like. I remember reading about a girl who had a beard by age 11. She was tormented by her peers and even had death threats. She eventually embraced her body hair, and couldn’t be happier, feeling more feminine with it! She will find love because she loves herself. Follow this link to read the full inspirational story of Harnaam Kaur, a young woman who embraces her facial hair.

Then there are the fakers. We wear our whiskers proud, and support charities and women’s rights by becoming beardos. A whiskerina is a female who wears a faux beard. Fake beards are usually crazy and handcrafted monstrosities, made of everything from real human hair or yarn, to moss and flowers or even rubber snakes. Whiskerina competitions started, so that women can have their own voice in the beard competition world, and not just be a side attraction in the male beard world. Watch the story of the First Annual Whiskerina Competition for Breast Cancer Awareness – it’s awesome.

On stage I have done drag for years, and iconic facial hair is a must. I often sport a moustache and 5’oclock shadow, which looks like everybody’s dad. Some other styles I have rocked are the strap on beard (fake hair molded like a beard with a convenient strap that goes around your head that I used for Boobs Ross, my Bob Ross burlesque skit), the sunglasses with dangling mustache, the pencil on (used for the Walter Sobchek chin strap in The Big Lezbowski show I was in), and the most effectively real looking mustache and crepe hair glued to the face with spirit gum. I was even in a music video with my burlesque troupe, The Stripteasers, dedicated to women with moustaches! Check it out here:

I will be competing in an annual beard competition on St. Patrick’s Day at the Essex St Pub in Buffalo, NY. Last year, my friend Melissa Campbell and I arrived at the competition – faces full of fur – and we looked damn fine. We caused a stir just by being there, people didn’t quite know how to handle us. It felt wonderfully empowering. The “real” beards were all very supportive, and gave us great beard stories and advice. It felt like we were allowed into a secret society. Neither of us won, but we were inspired. Because of that fateful day, I now know a little bit more about being a true whiskerina. So, GAME ON BOYS! This year I predict a win for all womankind.

On December 6th, 1989, 14 women lost their lives simply for living them the way they wanted to, while being female. The anniversary was yesterday, but you probably already know that.

It’s important to remember what happened and remember the victims. If we can avoid mentioning what’s-his-name in the process, all the better. But we should never forget why he did what he did.

If this was an isolated incident that we, as a society, have really learned from, and our annual commemoration of it has successfully prevented anything similar from happening, then we should just pat ourselves on the back, keep the 6th sacred and go about our lives the rest of the year.

But that’s not the case, now is it? Gendered violence is still very much a part of our society. I could sit here and bring up Julien Blanc, GamerGate and the countless native women who go missing and turn up dead to prove my point,  but I don’t want to and I shouldn’t have to. If you don’t believe that misogynistic violence is still a very real threat, then you’re either an idiot, a perpetrator, or you just haven’t been paying attention.

If it’s the latter, then maybe one day a year isn’t enough. We’re still living in a world where what happened at Ecole Polytechnique on December 6th is still a possibility and variations of it are a frequent reality. This isn’t restricted to a single date on the calendar. Violence against women and tragedy can happen just as easily on December 6th as it can on December 7th, January 23rd or June 14th.

We should keep commemorating the anniversary of this tragedy, but if we want to change a fundamental flaw in our society, we should realize that any day, including today, December 7th,  is a good day to remember:

Geneviève Bergeron
Hélène Colgan
Nathalie Croteau
Barbara Daigneault
Anne-Marie Edward
Maud Haviernick
Maryse Laganière
Maryse Leclair
Anne-Marie Lemay
Sonia Pelletier
Michèle Richard
Annie St-Arneault
Annie Turcotte
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

May they rest in peace

Every year, the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) at McGill University and the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) hold a series of events and workshops called Culture Shock. This year’s Culture Shock will be held between November 5 and 9, and, as always, will aim to explore myths surrounding immigrants, refugees, indigenous people and communities of colour. The purpose is to create discussion around these topics, let members of these communities share their experiences with one another, but also to educate non-members about the issues faced by communities of colour in Canada and beyond.

What makes Culture Shock especially exciting is the fact that it is open to anyone and everyone, and not just students; which is precisely why we at Forget the Box have decided to give you an overview of the many workshops and events of Culture Shock! Here’s the twist, though. We have compiled the list based on topics that will be discussed, and not the schedule. This way you will be able to focus on one specific subject. Most event descriptions are based on those found on QPIRG McGill’s website.

The workshops are not the only events done under Culture Shock, there will also be a book launch of Nahla Abdo’s Captive Revolutiona keynote event by Dark Matter, a trans south asian art and activist collaboration; a fundraiser party held by Solidarity Across Borders; an anti-colonial dinner; and a Convergence for Indigenous peoples and people of colour.

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If you want access to the schedule, you may find it here.

You can also click on the names of the events to reach the associated Facebook events, for further details on location and times.

Migration 

Migrant Workers in Canada: Why Everyone Should Care

“Canada currently accepts more migrants under temporary permits than those who can immigrate permanently. Barriers to permanent residency for refugees, skilled workers and family members are increasing, while citizenship for migrants is becoming harder to get and easier to lose.” – Why everyone should care about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Harsha Walia

This workshop by the Immigrant Workers’ Centre (IWC), the Temporary Agency Worker’s Association (TAWA) and the Temporary Foreign Worker’s Assoication (ATTET) offers an overview of the history of temporary foreign work and migration in Canada. Think of it as a crash course and introduction to the topic. The workshop and the discussion around it should prove to be invaluable for those who wish to acquire a broader understanding of troubles facing migrant workers.

Immigrants With Disabilities In Canada: Discrimination, Segregation, Suicidal Deportation

“Though it is illegal to discriminate against a person for their disability (stated in Article 15 of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms), this protection is contradicted by Canada’s Immigration Act where Article 19 (1)a,  refuses to grant  residence to immigrants with disability who are confirmed by at least two medical officers to be a threat to public health and public safety or are deemed an excessive burden to health/social services.”

To be held by the Committee-to-be for Immigrants with Disabilities of Solidarity Across Borders, this workshop will also focus on the topic of migration, but from a more focused perspective (compared to the one above), by focusing explicitly on the concept of being “an excessive burden” in Canada.

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Decolonization and Indigenous Rights

Oh Canada, our home on Native Land: Discussing Decolonization

It is no secret that Canada is built on Indigenous territories. For that reason, it is important to learn more about Indigenous histories, and position ourselves on the land that we work and live on, and call home.

This workshop, to be co-facilitated by Canadian Roots Exchange – Youth Reconciliation Initative and KANATA McGill Indigenous Studies Community, will strive to build cultural solidarity through an interactive dialogue about our relationships to the land and its histories.

Creating a Culture of Resistance, Decolonization as a Weapon, Rebuilding Nationhood, Land and Freedom, Indigenous Liberation

This workshop and film screening will be facilitated by Kanahus Manuel (Secwpemc). Kanahus is a mother and warrior from the Secwpemc Nation in the Shuswap region of “British Columbia.” She has been active in fighting against development projects and corporations such as the Sun Peaks Ski Resort and Imperial Metals. Recently, she has been involved in organizing to raise awareness about the Mount Polley gold-copper mine tailings spill, possibly the worst mining pollution disaster in Canadian history. For her efforts, she has been named as a defendant by Imperial Metals in a court injunction to stop blockades of the mining company’s operations.

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Colonialism and its Accomplices: A Critical History of the Colonization of Turtle Island

Colonialism is an inherently violent system which marginalizes and oppresses Indigenous people on Turtle Island, and people of colour. This workshop will explore the historical processes from which colonialism arises and how this is deeply tied to capitalism. Historically, Capitalism has been the motive for colonial policies. Colonialism has disempowered and dispossessed Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island through genocide, dislocation, and assimilation. Colonialism has been used to justify the exploitation of people, namely racialized and Indigenous bodies, as well as Indigenous lands and resources.

Molly Swain and Lindsay Nixon of the Indigenous Women and Two-Spirit Harm Reduction Coalition will critically explore processes such as racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity and how these concepts are derived from and enacted within colonialism. Settlers need to understand their positionality on Turtle Island and work towards a decolonized way of thinking so not to participate in harmful behaviors towards Indigenous peoples, and people of colour.

Race

Race @ McGill: Film Screening and Discussion

Race @ McGill is a film produced between 2012 and 2014 by student of colour, Sha, about the experiences and observations of students, faculty, and staff of colour at McGill.  It seeks to highlight and connect the shared struggles and resilience of racialized and indigenous community members at McGill.

While the film itself may be focused on McGill, the discussion afterwards should prove to be invaluable to those who wish to share their experiences, or to hear about these experiences to reflect upon themselves.

Giving Birth to Yourself: Revolutionary Storytelling for People of Colour, by Kai Cheng

According to Kai Cheng Thom aka Lady Sin Trayda, the facilitator of this workshop, racialized, Indigenous, and mixed-race folk very often come into the world with a story of what they are not: white, whole, beautiful, enough. This story is the soul of colonization: it drains them of the will to struggle, of the confidence to name themselves and their ancestors, the vision to see each other and act in solidarity.

The potential of stories as both revolutionary and therapeutic will be explored, as will the possibilities and limitations of writing/storytelling in indigenous versus colonial languages. Participants will experiment with the use of story tools, including meditation, visualization, play, story-listening, and group creation. Poets, writers, rappers, spoken word artists, slam poets, storytellers of all kinds and at all stages welcome.

Also, note that this is a closed workshop; meaning only Indigenous persons, mixed-race folk, and people of colour may attend.

Oppression & Design

White Space: A look into the relationship between graphic design and systems of oppression

Sajdeep Soomal, who is a self-taught graphic designer and a history student at McGill, will be facilitating this workshop which aims to trace out how graphic design contributes to the perpetuation and formation of systems of oppression. The topics to be discussed include Typefaces and Racial Formation, Minimalism and Economic Privilege.

Think of the wispy strokes and the diamond shaped dots used in Aladdin in order to create an aura of mysticism, which then becomes central to Western conceptions of brownness and contributes to the racial formation of brown people in the West. Or, in terms of Minimalism, the extensive use of whitespace, or empty space is a result of a level of economic privilege, where people do not feel the pressure to use that empty space. Come to the workshop to discuss these topics and more.

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