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Success: Don't Be That Guy Campaign

This week, the Globe and Mail reported the first success of the Don't Be That Guy campaign in Vancouver. Faced with a rising sexual assault rate, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) introduced the program on July 8, 2011, and saw a rapid turnaround in statistics in just six months. The incidents of reported sexual assault fell by 10%. Vancouver is the campaign's first success story.

Originally developed in neighbourhing Alberta by the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) under the Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton (SAVE), the Don't Be That Guy campaign puts the blame on the perpetrator of sexual assault rather than on the victim. SAVE, a diverse coalition of individuals and groups from various professional backgrounds working for women’s safety, developed the posters to raise awareness about sexual assault, in particular, drug and alcohol-facilitated assaults. The three posters featured on this page are from the campaign.

According to EPS Police Superintendent Danielle Campbell, "A recent study out of the United Kingdom involving 18 to 25-year-old males revealed that 48 per cent of the males didn’t consider it rape if a woman is too drunk to know what was going on." Campbell added that "these statistics validate what we have here in Edmonton."

Since the program was introduced just 14 months ago in the Alberta capital, four other cities, including Vancouver, have adopted the program.

Faced with a rising number of rapes, particularly in the summer months, the VPD used the poster campaign to make it clear that sex without consent was sexual assault. In addition, the VPD, along with BarWatch, created training sessions for bartenders and wait-staff to help them identify potential victims who were temporarily vulnerable due to the consumption of drugs and alcohol. The VPD also assigned additional personnel to Vancouver's entertainment districts to specifically focus their attention on predatory males who might be targeting temporarily vulnerable women.

The success in Vancouver is welcoming news. However, yesterday it was reported that rapes in Edmonton had risen year over year. In 2010, there were 600 rapes reported, compared with 687 in 2011. According to Karen Smith of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, there are at least two reasons for this: victims are now less reluctant to report assaults and young people have greater access to drugs and alcohol. The spokesperson added that the number of reports on a weekend at the Centre is about 15, but when there's a rave or an all night dance party, the number can go as high as 40.

"When young people are under the influence of intoxicants, they seem to commit more sexual assaults," said Smith.

Although the number of reported cases of rape increased in Edmonton, change always involves a few steps forward and a few steps back. The Don't Be That Guy campaign is a positive step towards changing attitudes and placing the blame where it belongs--squarely on the shoulders of the sexual aggressor. Increased awareness is the first step in effecting change, and the EPS and SAVE should be applauded for their forward-thinking campaign. On Friday, I will be writing about how the Don't Be That Guy campaign came into being. Please stay tuned.

Related posts:

A Legal Definition of Consent
Sexual Assault: Victim Blaming
An "A" for Sexual Assault Awareness Campaign

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The Covergirl is Really a Boy

Andrej Pejic Collage by Taxcha

While at the hairdresser`s last week, I was leafing through, what else, a fashion magazine, when I found myself doing a double take. In the February 2012 issue of FASHION, a 16-page photo shoot features Bosnian-born Australian model Andrej Pejic. The 20-year-old blond bombshell has become a sensation in the modelling world in the last year working for such A-listers as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs. In fact, Pejic is reportedly the 11th highest paid model in the world. But the model did not have an easy start breaking into the fashion world because agencies found that Pejic wasn`t a perfect fit for either men's or women's modelling. Yes, Andrej Pejic is a man.

Well, androgyny is no stranger to high fashion, and most of us are used to seeing curveless, emaciated boyish models, but to have a man modelling women's clothing is something else altogether, and I don't think that it has anything to do with forward thinking. Yes, we are all aware that many people fall outside the straight male-female mainstream, and the last decade has been somewhat of a coming-out time for transgender individuals. But I doubt that the fashion industry is that high-minded or is in any way trying to raise awareness about transgender issues.

In FASHION, Editor Bernadette Morra pens a letter in which she magnanimously states "I would hope that in this age of same-sex marriage, gay characters on Glee and Ellen DeGeneres as a Cover Girl Spokesmodel, the world is ready to accept Pejic with all the love and humanity he deserves." This issue also features an interview with Pejic with some commentary from Toronto Certified sexuality educator Cory Silverberg which sheds some more light on Pejic's "situation" or anyone who strays from the straight male / female mainstream. Sounds all very inclusive. . .

However, I don't believe that the fashion industry thinks about anything other than sales and what better way than through controversy. It peddles shock value, pure and simple.

I bought the magazine and showed it to a few of my work colleagues just to see their reactions when I told them that Pejic was a man. I watched them with their fingers pointing and eyes widening, but the knee jerk reactions and frowns were reserved for the captions written on the pages of the Pejic's 16-page fashion spread. On a page where he is modeling a $925 banana yellow wraparound dress, the caption reads: "Very chic. When I'm a rich housewife, this is what I'm gonna wear. I'll wear it when I'm cooking." On another page where Petric's thinness is emphasized and he's wearing a beige jacket that further washes out his fair complexion, the caption reads, "Golden Girls on crack." Funny, he doesn't look like a senior.

My reservations about Andrej Pejic modelling women's clothes is the message that it sends women, particularly girls and young women. Not only does the fashion industry suggest that they will never be thin enough to be beautiful, but now it appears to be saying that in order to really be a great fashion model you have to be a man. In FASHION Editor Bernadette Morra's letter, she quotes the director, Suzie Sheffman, as saying "[Pejic's] His ability to bring the clothes to life out-supers the supermodels." So, there you have it.

Although I have nothing against Andrej Pejic, I wish that I had never bought the magazine. I hate the idea of supporting an industry that continually targets women's insecurities. We are just starting to see the impact of how the media undermines women's power through its images and commentary. If you don't believe me then think of all the times you've wasted worrying about your appearance or weight when you could have been doing something to advance your career, develop an interest or work for your community. A great documentary on the subject is Miss Representation. See the trailer below.

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Buying Local: Slak on Villeray

A few weeks ago when my father was visiting from Vancouver, we walked past Slak, a women's clothing store where the articles are sewn right on the premises. At the time, we could see four young women busy sewing through the storefront window and a few women shopping on the other side. "You'd never see something like that on the West Coast," said my father. "Because you'd never be able to pay the rent in a similar neighbourhood of Vancouver."

As I was running an errand this week, I had a chance to drop in and speak with the store's designer Mélanie Duhaime. She told me that Slak had been open for seven years and that everything was made locally, including some of the work that she outsources to people working from home. I also learned that Slak articles are sold throughout Canada via KA Agence.

Initially, as I walked around the store, I wasn`t sure if I would find anything in my size. But the store did offer a much larger range in sizes than I expected. The cut of the designer`s clothes are typically asymmetrical, but refined nonetheless. Obviously, they are more expensive than what you would pay in a large retail outlet, but in addition to supporting your neighbourhood`s economy and a young designer, your new clothing will be one of a kind.

To see the fall and winter collection, click here.

Fortunately, they were having a sale, which I took advantage of. And in keeping with my 8-week resolution, I paid cash, which didn`t kill this week`s budget.

There are a number of stores affiliated with Slak in Quebec, as well as stores in Manitoba, Alberta and Ontario. For a full list of the affiliates, click here (points de vente).

The Side of Slak Where the Clothing is Made
352 Villeray
Montreal, QC
H2R 1G9

Other hood-related posts:
Churros: The Uruguayan
Who's a Cyclopathe
Neon Icon: Miss Villeray
Café Cuzcatlan: Roasting Local Coffee Beans
Creole Cuisine
Oriental Pastry Delights

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3D: "Pina" by Wim Wenders

Model of Tintin in the Theatre Lobby
An unusual occurrence for us, a movie on a Friday night, but it wasn't your regular box office blockbuster. After seeing the Tintin models in the lobby, I was tempted to see the Golden Globe winner for best animated feature, a misnomer according to my significant other. Tintin was not animation, but motion capture, damn it! Instead we went to see a tribute to the late German modern dance choreographer Pina Bausch by Wim Wenders. What made this film so special is that it was filmed in 3D.

But what does 3D really offer the viewer? It definitely makes you feel that you are much closer to the performance, plus there is definitely more pop to the movement. It might not beat seeing modern dance in person, but it is much better than seeing the flat version on TV or in a movie theatre.

Wender's "Pina" combines footage of the choreographer with her dancers and their performances, obviously among them Café Müller and Rite of Spring. Bausch is credited with creating what is known as Tanztheater, combining movement, sounds, elaborate stage sets and close collaborative work with her dancers. Some of the performances were staged outdoors in Wuppertal, Germany, at intersections, in public transit, next to factories and in parks. Her dancers ranged in age from 20 to 50, and I must admit that a dancer performing in her 50s is nothing short of stunning. The filming of "Pina" was intended to start just before Bausch's unexpected death in 2009. In the film, each of her dancers had something special to say about Bausch. One of the most moving messages was from a dancer who wished that Pina would visit her in her dreams.

Overall, the 3D "Pina" was a beautiful new experience, which leads to the next question: what other performing arts might be better experienced in 3D?

The following is the trailer for "Pina:"

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Fab Art in the Vicinidad

"André the Giant has a Posse," later aka "OBEY Giant"
Last Tuesday as we were driving home through Little Italy, I asked my husband to stop in front of a large, brightly lit art gallery. For what seemed like weeks, we had been driving past a print of what I believed to be a copy of "André the Giant has a Posse (1989)," by Shepard Fairey, the famous graffiti street artist best known for his pop art portrait of Obama, entitled HOPE. A graduate of the renowned Rhode Island School of Design, Fairey creates works with strong political overtones and has apparently been arrested no less than 15 times for vandalism. Obviously, this is no longer the case. He now has a team he directs to put up his murals. The artist has been criticized for copyright infringement, which Fairey defends citing fair use. I'm referring to controversy surrounding the original photo of Obama taken by an AP photographer.

As I walked in the Yves Laroche art gallery at 6355 St-Laurent, I saw many Shepard Fairey silkscreens, and then learned that last June, Curator Justin Giarla had held Looking East, an exhibition featuring work by Shepard Fairey, Clayton Brother and Rob English. Guess, I missed it. That happens when you're a mother and in the midst of moving house.

"Wolf Noir" by Jon Todd
Anyway, I "attempted" to do a quick tour of the Laroche gallery, as our 4-year-old slept in the car with his father and sister patiently waiting. Unfortunately, I had to stop a number of times to get a closer look and experienced that excruciatingly painful pull between family responsibilities and blatant selfishness, otherwise known as guilt. In other words, I really wasn't expecting the gallery to be this good.

Not only did the gallery carry a lot of local artists, but it also had a significant number of work by women (Kathie Olivas, Lola and Cathie Bleck), which we all know is rare.

I was struck by the work of Jon Todd, a Canadian painter and graduate of Sheridan College. I particularly liked "Wolf Noir" (above.) But then of course, my daughter came in to get me. She told me it was time to go, but then she too got sucked into the gallery's creative vortex. She walked around with me wide-eyed and mouth agape pointing at the various works.

Anyway, you get the picture. This is a well-lit, spacious gallery that you will not want to miss. I've signed up to receive invitations to upcoming vernissages, which apparently can attract up to 500 people.

Click here for a list of Fairey's silk screen posters on sale at the gallery, ranging in price from $725 to $3,800.

Drop by and see for yourself.

Galerie d'Art Yves Laroche
6355 Saint-Laurent,
Montréal QC H2S 3C3
info(at)yveslaroche.com 514.393.1999

Other hood-related posts:
Review: Blue Dragon by Robert Lepage and Marie Michaud
Cent motifs, un passage by Annie Hamel
The Art of Mosaic
Expozine 2011
Churros: The Uruguayan
Who's a Cyclopathe
Neon Icon: Miss Villeray
The Haitian Barber

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My Date With Cash

This is the first time that I've written about personal finances, which makes everyone a little uncomfortable. We are all painfully aware of the shortcomings of our spending habits and we fear the judgement of others. But maybe our fear to disclose, like that of the abuse victim, lets someone else off the hook, ie the banks.

I try to hold off on my New Year's resolutions until my birthday, which is today, because this is usually when I have a better idea of where I stand (read: the bills have come in). I have a decent job, my husband works and we live relatively modestly. Because we have young children, we don't go out that often. Instead, we tend to stay in and read or work on our computers. In other words, we're not big consumers because we have everything we need. Yet, come bill time everything seems tight like when I was a student.

Unlike most of my fellow educatees at university, no parent was footing the bill. I paid for everything through summer employment and a part-time job during the school year. I applied for grants and loans and I lived a very simple existence, buying bulk food and used text books, and only splashing out on a daily cup of coffee. I watched my finances closely and kept a running tab on my desk of everything I spent. Clothes were bought either on sale or with small imperfections so  that I would get a discount. And let's not even talk about some of the living arrangements I endured for the sake of cheap rent. I also discovered the joy of haggling, which is not a common practice in Canada, but you'd be surprised how often people are willing to go down in price. Besides, the worst a retailer could say was no.

I was really proud of completing university with only a small amount of student debt, which I paid off two years into the repayment schedule. But what has happened since then?

I spent a considerable amount of time poring over my finances this month. I discovered that I pay at least $5.00 a month in interest on my credit card, and in those few ridiculous months when I've taken a small cash advance, I've paid in excess of $20 a month in interest. And this was just one of the problems. The other was using a debit card too often. I'd always worked on the premise that if I carried cash I'd spend it, so I opted for debit. But here lies the problem. Every time, I go into my overdraft I pay interest effective the day this transaction is posted. But I usually don't know that I've gone into my overdraft until after I receive my bank statement at the beginning of the next month.

I spoke to my husband about this, and he too had noticed something similar. We decided to stick to just using cash and writing the odd cheque for the next eight weeks to see how we fare. Will this forced use of cash make us more conscious of our spending habits or will we rack up ATM fees because we're never close to a bank machine at our bank branch? We'll be keeping tabs. At any rate, this will certainly be a test of strength. January is after-Christmas sale season. . . .

 I'll report back. Click here to see what I discovered about two months later.

Other posts you might like:
Death of World Music Star Lhasa de Sela
Occupons Montréal in Photos
Bixi: 2012 Recap
Churros: The Uruguayan
Who's a Cyclopathe
Neon Icon: Miss Villeray
New Digs and Swedish Thrillers
The Haitian Barber
Good Morning Villeray
Creole Cuisine 

Read more »
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New Year's Chocolate Pudding

Nothing like starting the New Year with a little decadent comfort food.

It's a mild Montreal morning. From my window, I see the snow reflected in the puddles in the street. And then there's silence, the absolute best part. It couldn't be a finer day to make chocolate pudding from scratch and eat it while it's still warm. This recipe brings back some childhood memories and is a huge hit with my kids.

Don't worry, there are only 194 calories in the quarter cup of sugar required, and it will be split among four servings, six servings if you're going to be a goodie goodie.

The entire recipe takes 10 minutes. Exact calorie count - if you divide it into four servings 157 calories, and if you divide it into six servings, 97 calories.

Homemade Chocolate Pudding

You'll need a saucepan and a whisk.

4 tablespoons of cocoa, 1/4 cup of cornstarch, 1/4 cup of sugar and 2 3/4 cups of milk,
1 tsp vanilla and 1 tbsp of butter.

1. Mix the cocoa, cornstarch and sugar in the saucepan.
2. Put saucepan on medium heat and add the milk to the mixture while continuously stirring.
3. Bring the mixture to a boil so that it thickens. Then remove from heat.
4. Stir in the butter and vanilla.

Serve it hot or cold. I prefer it hot in the winter. You'll see why.

Happy New Year! I have so many plans for 2012, and obviously, dieting isn't one of them.

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