People Celebrating Things Women Do (or Did)

11 April 2018

Written By: Melissa Fernandes (500759489)

I never really defined myself as a feminist before this year. It seems kind of bizarre thinking about that I wasn’t rooting for my own team. The idea of the man-hating, angry feminist was not an image that I identified with, but from discussing feminism in such an open way in this class made me realize that feminism is about sharing stories and voices that are often overlooked and underrepresented. It is also to be confident in the choices you make and being unapologetically yourself. Last night’s event at Glad Day Book Shop had me in awe at the multitude of mediums and stories shared by fellow women.

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Never had I ever been to an event where I was immersed in such provocative feminist stories. The idea that all these different forms of media, even the low budget pieces were able to communicate the complex and deep ideas about living queer was inspiring to watch.

I was opened to the idea of different types of feminism and a quote from Saba Mahmood really resonated with me and that is: “Not all women, not all people desire the same thing.” We all have our struggles and as people it is understanding that the cause that you’re fighting for is important but maybe not to everyone’s idea of an ideal life. In one of the films we watched in class Sisters in the Struggle, I was reminded of the ways feminism is embodied by different groups. There are different ideas of the ‘good life’ and that there exists inequality even amongst women; women of colour, women who identity as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and the intersectionality between these groups that produce unfair circumstances.

I was really inspired by the work of Kativa Dogra, particularly when she was talking about the work that she does is just the minimum. She believes that what she is doing is what everyone should be doing, and that people should get angry and disheartened by the injustices in the world. I sometimes feel numb to hearing stories o the news because we are bombarded with sadness; the shock effect has worn off. I think that what she was saying about simply retweeting an activist is important, but we need to remember that that is barely one step towards creating social change. Social media and social justice media can only do so much. The idea of eliciting “moral shock” in people to move them to act is interesting but what is needed in the stories seen online is a critical perspective that challenges the audience to question the state of the world we live in and dream of a better one (Bociurkiw).

“Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because its not a problem to you personally.” I am thankful to be able to call myself a feminist and hope to see a world that creates spaces for conversations that people are afraid to have and supports people to be unapologetically themselves.


Sources Referenced

Bociurkiw, Marusya. “Big Affect: The Ephemeral Archive of Second-Wave Feminist Video Collectives in Canada.” Camera Obscura, vol. 31, no. 3, pp 5-12.

Exploring the Politics of Death Through Film & TV

6 March 2018

Written By: Melissa Fernandes

The conversations around the subject of death – a natural part of human life, is often taboo to raise. Death is the unavoidable end of human life that we all encounter and when we talk about the end of life that is death, the focus tends to be on the life of the person and the discourse surrounding a ‘good life’ is to be youthful and able-bodied. But how does the conversation shift when a person has a disability or lives outside the normative view?  How is their life valued? And how does film and television perpetuate these norms? The Death Café presented by the ARTivism Lab raises concerns about the relationship media makers have with death and how it is represented.


Eliza Chandler proposes the issues that arise when representing minorities and racialized bodies in the media. How do we include them without using them as a means for aesthetic purposes of having “diversity?” The talk in the media about representation in film is very prevalent. In order for a film to not be ostracized by the media, there needs to be an emphasis or inclusion of people of colour, people with disability, and overall people whose stories, historically have not been told by the media. While it is important to be inclusive, Chandler points out an idea that I have only recently come to realize; while having a person of colour in a film looks good, what is more important is the way in these bodies are presented in the medium. Hayes describes the way disability is presented in film as a something to pity and to fix.  Death is seen as the solution and we are challenged to think about alternative ways “a good life” is approached.

As a creator of media, it is important to be genuine and authentic in the ways minorities and racialized bodies are represented, especially when the media maker does not personally familiar with the life of that person. We cannot use people as means to progress personal political agendas. The way in which it needs to be done, like discussing the idea of death is in safe spaces and open spaces – meaning spaces in which people do not go in with pre-conceived judgemental ideas.

What I have and still do struggle with is how to find that medium between acknowledging a visible difference; and glossing over their difference and assimilating that difference into the “norm.” When is the appropriate times to celebrate and acknowledge their differences and their struggles, and when is the appropriate time to demonstrate that ‘they’ are just like ‘us.’ I feel like normalizing a disability is not the solution because it enforces an unfair power relation and reinforces the idea that their way of living is not challenging and devalues their real struggles to live in a world that was constructed for able bodied people. Living a life in a space where one is not a welcome guest is what Walcott refers to “refusing a life that is a living death” (Walcott 196). Where living is tolerated and living a life that is invisible by means of disregard.

Sources Referenced

Chandler, Eliza & Ignani, Esther, “Strange Beauty: Aesthetic Possibilities for Desiring Disability Into the Future” (unpublished)

Hayes, Michael T., “Troubling Signs: Disability, Hollywood Movies and the Construction of a Discourse of Pity”, Disability Studies Quarterly Spring 2003, Volume 23, No. 2 pages 114-132.

Walcott, Rinaldo, “Black Queer Studies, freedom and Other Human Possibilities” in Queer Returns, Insomniac Press 2017

A Reform of The Neoliberal Education System

By: Melissa Fernandes |

7 February 2018

“Dream Big” says Dr. RM Kennedy at the ARTivism Lab; A phrase I would hear throughout my education to figure out what I wanted to do with my life; to choose my plan and define my aspirations.

From where are my dreams formed? This is a question the speakers at the ARTivism lab posed in my mind.  Who or what are my dreams and aspirations supporting? Where do I go to pursue these dreams? Post-Secondary Education is glorified as the epitome of academic success and a gateway to. “knowledge is power” is a recurring mantra. But what is knowledge and who holds the key to its gate? University knowledge can be a powerful resource; however, I appreciate the remark Sandra Jeppesen – an associate professor at Lakehead University – on the value of people outside the field of traditional academia.

The education system pushes its students to “innovators” and entrepreneurs to contribute to the be economic drivers in society.  Where is the critical thought that makes me question the systems in which I take part in? What kinds of social issues are we taught in class? What is the contributions of such academic work to better not only the privileged metropolitan citizens? Susanne Nyaga – a Social Work student at Ryerson University and on-campus activist for black rights – speaks of needing a space where people can have “deep” and meaningful conversations on social issues. Only when active discourse is mobilized and normalized can attitudes towards social issues change. The university can be a place for this discourse.

Preston’s ideas on multi-disciplinary courses and the general trend of disengagement in their social work class speaks to the idea that social justice is not at the forefront of everyone’s minds nor is it a motive for pursuing their careers. What if it were a suggestion to implementing social work into all aspects of education; making people – specifically in STEM programs to think about their work and how their contribution forms the society that we live in. Each discipline to use their unique positions in society to spread social change like a wanted infection.


I am not suggesting to completely derail the idea of a free-market system and one’s individual right to earn a living for themselves. For the university cannot exist without it’s students (‘money). But can there be a way to be innovative and also contribute to the betterment of society? I feel fortunate as a Creative Industries student at Ryerson who is taught how to integrate arts and culture into a capitalist setting and trying to find the right balance on how to ‘win’ inside the system. In a role of privilege as a student, I identify with Hudson’s notion of “giving back” when one is in a role of privilege.

Sources Referenced

Preston, Susan, and Aslett, Jordan. “Resisting Neoliberalism from within the Academy: Subversion through an Activist Pedagogy.” Social Work Education, vol. 33, no. 4, 2014, pp. 502-518.