Community Posts

This is a space for fellow community members to write their opinions, thoughts and even submit cool essays. Of course, if you are interested in submitting your work please email it to me at

I will note right at the get go, that I will not post anything I deem derogatory. This is a space for conversation, not for exclusion. Furthermore, when reading essays and assignments from community members, the names and other important information will be blocked out but know that plagiarism still counts for online posts, so don’t copy please

Time Machines, Refrigerators, Supers and Sex An Analysis of Comic-book Troupes Through Barbara Gordon

Original Essay written for a university course on Disability and Sexuality-

Using popular culture to analyze a moment in time from the dominant societal perspective can be a powerful tool of cultural analysis and comic-books are arguably one of the most lush bodies of this kind of evidence. Comic-books have been criticized for the sexist and racist imagery over the course of their existence and yet there is very little scholarly critical analysis of the medium. Yet when exploring the cultural analysis surrounding comic-books, bloggers and online reviewers are diving into the deep intersectional problems and triumphs of their beloved literature. When considering sexuality and disability within comic-books, one character is commonly regarded as the treasured disabled heroine: Oracle. Irwin and Moeller identify the top ten stereotypes used commonly in the media to depict disabilities including the object of violence, the “super crip”, the nonsexual and the invalid (3). By exploring Oracle’s complex history we see various troupes which weaken disability stereotypes and perpetuate them, including sexy heroines, women in refrigerators, the “super crip” and the magical time machine.

Sexism within comics-books has been a large issue since their inception, however it is only with feminist critical analysis that we see the complex role that women play within comics and furthermore, how disabled women are used. Heroines often become sex objects throughmalegaze-comics the heteronormative male gaze of comic-books and while female readership is increasing, the depiction of women in comics is still reliant on male readers wanting sexy heroines. Whether it be the provocative costumes, poses and interactions with other characters in the story, women are often melted down into super sex symbols. These female heroes are meant to be sexually accessible by not only male characters but also by the male reader. At times, the only reason why a female hero is introduced into a story is to add sex appeal and a motivating factor; you can see this often times with the various women moving through playboy super hero Bruce Wayne/ Batman’s life. While these women are often powerful, they serve a purpose which lies within a patriarchal system of objectification and disempowerment. Barbara Gordon is one such character that was created to diversify audiences and add sex appeal to the Batman crime fighting team. Starting out as a teenager, Gordon became Batgirl and the love interest of co-sidekick, Robin. While extraordinary for her physical prowess and intelligence, Batgirl was not a well liked character because of her one dimensional construction. It was only when she was shot and paralysed in 1988 by the Joker in The Killing Joke does her character get a dramatic restyling and growing fandom. Her role as a heroine and sex symbol was extremely complicated by the violence she endured. Furthermore, her role as a sex symbol was forever changed because it was implied that she was also raped repeatedly after the attack, which effectively destroys her “super” status as a sex symbol, an innocent girl and a superhero. Her various statuses were effectively melted down to victim and her character dismissed by The Killing Joke writer Alan Moore. Yet, it is fascinating to look at how disability is factored into the sex symbols that heroines are often portrayed as.AR6mvUi

A popular and damaging stereotype of those with disabilities is that they are asexual due to their disability, and characters like Oracle complicate this stereotype significantly. Often those with disabilities are burdened by an asexual stereotype which “relies on impressions of disabled people as undesirable; disqualified for marriage or any sexual partnership and reproduction,” essentially a dehumanizing construct (Kim, 482). In Kattari’s article, she notes that “sexuality… love and [expression of] various desires is not usually recognized as a valid expression for people with disabilities” (501). Furthermore, Kim argues that the process of desexualization effectively “separates sexuality from disabled bodies, making it irrelevant to and incompatible with them” (483). While we can see evidence of desexualizating the disabled body in various other popular culture, comic-books and specifically Gordon’s transformation from Batgirl to Oracle, on and off the page is especially complicated. After The Killing Joke, writer Alan Moore had dismissed Gordon’s character, simply using her as motivation. However, writers Kim Yale and John Ostrander chose to takeover Gordon’s character in an attempt the correct the injustice they felt Moore had done to her character. Yale and Ostrander created Oracle, a disabled heroine who became extremely influential due to her technical abilities and strategic intelligence, arguably Oracle became a more powerful heroine then Batgirl ever could. In the hands of writers like Alan Moore, Gordon would have remained a footnote and arguably would have embodied the desexualized stereotype as her status as a sex symbol was forever compromised by her disability. Yet with Yale and Ostrander, they chose to complicate Oracle’s character as she suffered from PTSD, and continued to be a sex symbol for readers. Her relationship with Robin grew as they both took on new names and roles, further
complicating the asexual troupe as she was constructed as sexual, date-able and capable. As a character, Oracle became a triumphal representation of the disabled community with a complex storyline, character development and sex appeal, yet in some senses the win for disability is a win for sexism as well in this case. Further complicating the Oracle character is the objectification and male gaze still used when she is depicted and how the women in refrigerator troupe is a problem for disability and sexuality.

The women in refrigerators troupe in Gordon’s story combines objectification and the use of disability to create more complicated storylines for male characters like Batman, Robin and later Nightwing. Gail Simone describes this disturbing troupe as “super-heroines who have been either depowered, raped, cut up or stuck in the refrigerator,” to motivate or 152make more complex story arches for male characters. Simone published an online list in 1999 of all of the female characters in comic-books who were used for this purpose and recorded almost two hundred at the time. Feminist critics like Anita Sarkeesian with her YouTube channel Feminist Frequency popularize the critique of the women in refrigerators troupe for today’s readers. Barbara Gordon is a classic example of this troupe as she was used to motivate Batman to seek revenge after the Joker shot Gordon, and because Gordon’s original use was to motivate without gaining any of her own complex storylines. Yet Gordon’s character is even more complicated because of the direction that writers Yale and Ostrander chose to take. Their choice to make Gordon’s character into Oracle falls more actually into what many would expect male superheroes images (5)to experience: dead man defrosting troupe. John Bartol describes this troupe as “cases where male heroes have been altered or appear to die, they usually come back even better than before, either power-wise or in terms of character development/ relevancy to the reader”. Yet this greatly depends on whether one takes the dominant perspective on disability which is usually abliest or whether one chooses to view disability as not a kind of death sentence. Essentially, by seeing Barbara’s attack as a women in refrigerators troupe, one acknowledges dominant abliest ideology which constructs disability as the end of someone’s life or the end of their usefulness. Much like how Moore perceived Gordon’s character, disability becomes a tool to end a woman’s life or usefulness in favour of a man’s storyline. Yet, if one chooses to see Gordon’s fate as the dead man defrosting troupe then disability is no longer a personal disaster but is instead how Gordon becomes the more powerful and complex character Oracle. From this perspective, Oracle exemplifies how disability is not a death sentence in the literal and symbolic sense but can actually be a doorway to empowerment.

Yet even viewing Oracle as an empowered heroine embodying the dead man defrosting troupe is filled with tension as arguably this triumph can turn into another negative stereotype of disability: the “super crip”. The “super crip” “stems from the belief that life with a disability must necessarily be horrific and unsatisfying, and as such, we must admire persons with disabilities for being able to live “the way they do”” ( In the case of Gordon, her ability to overcome her disability and excel despite her body makes her a figure to be admired and arguably her greatest super-ability is her tenacity to be able to live with her disability. In a sense, taking the dead man defrosting troupe too far and creating a superpower through admiration of being able to live with a disability, turns a possible positive to a negative. Her extraordinary “super crip” status allows her to remain sexually accessible to readers because admiration for heroes and admiration for heroism because of disability can be a fine line. Irwin and Moeller suggest that “those characters with physical disabilities that possessed special abilities were portrayed in such a way as to explain how a person needed to be exceptional to overcome the perceived barriers of physical disability” (4).Exploring the tension which rests between seeing empowerment due to disability or empowerment despite disability is especially complicated by the Oracle character because her original purpose was never to inspire any kind of admiration but merely to act as a plot device. Furthermore, exploring how the return of Batgirl and Gordon’s ability to walk adds another layer of disability and sexuality.


Batgirl’s return in all of her able-bodied glory marked a dramatic twist for fans and comic-book characters alike as the presumed permanency of Gordon’s disability was erased and her former sexually immature self comes back into the foreground. Despite the large fandom that the Oracle character had gathered over the twenty years she was in action, DC Comics choose to erase Gordon’s disability and bring back the iconic Batgirl in 2011. They originally choose Gail Simone who noted the women in refrigerator troupe to write the comic, later fired and then rehired her after fan outrage. This relaunch of the Batgirl character comes after the New 52′ initiative was started across the DC universe. A rather sudden, and slightly muddled turn of events saw Barbara Gordon “restored” to her former able-bodied self. While many fans were stunned by DC’s decision to “cure” Gordon’s disability according the multitude of blog posts and online forums, some were excited to see how the more mature and influential Oracle character would be channelled into the side-kick Batgirl. While opinions seem to be mixed according to my online research, it appears that Gordon lost her influence when giving up the wheelchair and donning the cape. The choice to change Gordon back into Batgirl and to remove some of her technological prowess is questionable at best. Arguably, becoming Batgirl is, in a sense, a way of “going back” to the “good old days” of able-bodiedness, a time machine if you will. As Gordon was shot at the age of eighteen, her sexual and personal maturity was greatly different then what fan have grown to love of Oracle. Essentially, the rebirth of Batgirl marks a negative turn back towards the medical model of disability where the focus is on curing and personal disability rather than societal based inaccessibility. While Oracle was arguably an empowered heroine, becoming Batgirl once again is perpetuating the idea that wanting to be “normal” and able-bodied is the ultimate goal. Yet, by going back to Batgirl, Gordon exhibits the kind of lack expected of those with a disability because she is no longer as influential nor can she erase the years living with her disability. While blogger fans have noted that Simone’s focus on Gordon’s PTSD and the repercussions of regaining her able-bodiedness is positive, the loss of Oracle as an active and powerful disabled heroine is mourned by many.

Barbara Gordon’s character transformation from Batgirl, to Oracle and to Batgirl again marks the tension which rests between many disability stereotypes and troupes, while also negotiating objectification and sexism within comic-book storylines. The story both on the pages and off of them of the development of Gordon’s character allowed for empowerment of a disabled superhero while arguably those wins where undermined by the women in refrigerator and the “super crip” troupes. While the scholarship on comic-books is dismal, the importance of analyzing today’s dominant perceptions of those most marginalized is extremely important and comic-books are the gateway to that kind of analysis. How the new change to Gordon’s character and the “miracle” of able-bodiness will effect the interaction between sexuality, gender and disability is yet to be fully realized.


Sarkeesian, Anita. #2 Women in Refrigerators (Tropes vs. Women). Video. Feminist Frequency. Uploaded Apr 6, 2011.

Kim, Eunjung. “Asexuality in disability narratives” Sexualities 14(4), (2011) p. 479-493.

Kattari, Shanna. “Sexual Experiences of Adults with Physical Disabilities: Negotiating with Sexual Partners.” Sexuality and Disability 32.4 (2014): 499-513. Web. 12 Feb. 2015

Irwin, M., & Moeller, R. “Seeing different: Portrayals of disability in young adult graphic novels”. School Library Media Research Volume 13. Chicago: American Association of School Librarians (2010). Web. 8 Mar. 2015. Retrieved from:

See short Cultural Artefact analysis here

 See a related story here

Defining the British Self Through the Racial Other in Greene & Fleming

Defining the British Self Through the Racial Other

in Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana and The Human Factor, and Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die

(A Submitted Essay)

Identity building is an especially hard task and cultures of whiteness and constructions of Otherness impose much of its own perceptions about who one should and should not be to further complicate this process. Within British spy fiction, Britain’s colonial history saturates how white characters interact with racialized characters. These racialized characters become Others within the language of whiteness as they are constructed as completely opposite to the more respectable and “Enlightened” English men in these novels. Using stereotypes and binaries of difference, these Others are portrayed as criminal, sexually perverse and pitiful within British spy fiction. Ian Fleming in his 1954 novel Live and Let Die features James Bond as a symbol of white Britishness against the Other crime-lord Mr. Big. In Graham Greene’s novels Our Man in Havana (1958) and The Human Factor (1978), the Other is used to highlight what British white men are not by comparison with racialized Others and the constructed “natural” difference between them. Fleming and Greene’s novels display how in a culture of whiteness the binary of difference created between the Other who is beastly, depraved and pathetic are used to construct the British man as intelligent, powerful and heroic.

Whiteness and the binary construction of the Self and the Other in Western society is largely facilitated by the historical events and ideologies of imperialism and colonialism. British spy novels act as a cultural indicator of the anxieties within these cultures of whiteness. To understand how whiteness and Otherness functions within Greene and Fleming’s novels, one must first explore what these terms are and how they create a culture of binary difference. Whiteness itself is a flexible state of being which is neither explicitly nor solely connected to white skin but is instead a way of performing racial superiority in “a position of social dominance” (Levine-Rasky). Whiteness allows for a privileged access to “power, resources, rewards, meaning, status and futures,” which is used to further solidify superiority (Levine-Rasky, 18). As Tim Christensen notes: “the limitations of essentialist notions of identity from a performative notion of identity becomes the exclusive privilege of whites” (11). Western culture in many ways exists on differences within a system of binaries, which essentially limits identity and social interaction, for example: male and female, black and white. Whiteness and Otherness are constructed as complete opposites and each identity must rely on each other to exist; however, within cultures of whiteness, there is massive power imbalances which leads to the perception that whiteness is in fact better than Otherness. Stereotyping is a pervasive tool of whiteness which allows for institutionalization of discriminatory practices of difference while also normalizing it. Tim Christensen writes that:

The stereotype therefore sets a process of misrecognition into motion, through which the racial self is uneasily and re-iteratively created in opposition to the racial or colonial other, whose imagined characteristics conceal the lack of self-consistent being at the centre of the white, or English, self. (12)

The stereotype thus becomes a tool of self-identification and Otherness-naming while functioning as acceptable and in some cases true. Whiteness then becomes a symbol of normality, and being natural, along with being “identified with cleanliness, an idea that penetrates to behaviour, progress and morality” (Levine-Rasky, 46). Whiteness has the power in many ways to refuse to be “named and arrogates to itself the power of the norm and the universal” (Tsou, 585). Otherness and its stereotyping relies on exoticism, infantilism, and hypersexualization, while whiteness is connected with power, rationality and enlightenment (Levine-Rasky, 46). Creating a disproportionate power dynamic dictated by difference facilitates exploitation, conquest and discrimination. As Levine-Rasky argues, “whiteness and Englishness became conflated in London popular culture and in elite discourse of religion, politics, science, and philosophy” (27). England’s colonial history specifically saturates the British spy genre and the binary of difference between the British self and the Other is based on whiteness and the power inherent in being able to define who is the Other.

Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming depicts the black Other as a fundamentally unintelligent criminal in opposition to the constructed wit and heroics of James Bond. The Bond series is extremely important as a cultural indicator, as it explores the anxieties created by “social, cultural, and political changes Britain underwent in the 1950s and 1960s” (Bererich, 14). Mr. Big is the main antagonist who “is probably the most powerful negro criminal in the world,” regardless that “they don’t seem to take to big business” (Fleming, 16). Mr. Big is a powerful, intelligent and wholly unique black Other within Bond’s world and his black attributes largely outweigh his white heritage which allows for him to operate intelligently. How Mr. Big is described by Bond’s first person narrative in dehumanizing terms where he is melted down to a beastly “it” creature who has “a great football of a head, twice the normal size and very nearly round… it was hairless” (60). Furthermore, Bond must remind himself of Mr. Big’s human existence when he reflects that “he had heard its heart pumping in its chest, had heard it breath, had seen sweat on the grey skin” (209). Mr. Big’s appearance groups him with the “clumsy black apes,” according to Bond, as Mr. Big cannot escape his black heritage. Likewise, Mr. Big uses his Otherness to his advantage as he employments “the fear of Voodoo and the supernatural, still deeply, primitively ingrained in the negro subconscious,” to control his employees (20). Mr. Big is further dehumanized as the dangerous black Other when rumours establish him as the “zombie or living corpse of Baron Samedi himself, the dreaded Prince of Darkness” (19). Mr. Big uses stereotyping and the anxieties about the black and specifically male Other to further his criminal objectives. The characterization of Mr. Big relies on many perceptions of the specifically black Other, yet his intelligence and visibly grey skin positions him as partially white and illustrates what an aspect of whiteness is.


In Fleming’s book, he portrays Mr. Big as a legitimate challenge for Bond and Britain to overcome as he is far more intelligent then constructions of the Other should allow, and this is because he is partially white. Firstly, Bond is the image of the British self and his “strait-laced, stiff-upper-lipped Englishness can be upheld only by comparison with his enemies, who, mostly and emblematically, are not English” (Bererich, 26). Throughout the novel, readers are struck by the “black” language Fleming uses to show difference and ultimately stupidity as “guess ah jist nacherlly gits tahd listenin’ at yuh,” is highlighted as black Otherness speech (43). All of the distinctly black characters other than Mr. Big and Solitaire speak this kind of broken English; whereas Bond and his partner Leiter speak flawless English in opposition to the Other. The reason why Mr. Big is such a threat to Bond and he is able to communicate in sophisticated and flawless English is because he is not entirely black. Mr. Big has a grey muddled complexion and his “nose was wide without being particularly negroid, the nostrils did not gape at you” (60). Mr. Big’s ethnic and racial heritage also complicates his Otherness as “he’s not pure negro. Born in Haiti. Good Dose of French Blood,” which is why he is intelligent regardless of his blackness (16). In essence, it is Mr. Big’s small amount of whiteness which allows him to become a more realistic and challenging opponent for Bond, as Bond is above dealing with petty and unintelligent criminal Others as equals. Bond’s character attempts to solidify British superiority and “advocate British dominance over the rest of the world,” as he ultimately overcomes all foes, Others or not (Bererich, 24). Mr. Big and Solitaire both act as racially complicated characters which highlight both the blackness of the Other and the whiteness of Bond.


Solitaire in Fleming’s novel exists within a space of anxiety where she is the black Other through her supernatural abilities steeped in Voodoo, and her white appearance. Fleming and Bond both use Solitaire to illustrate and understand the black Other without allowing for an intimate and dangerously sexual relationship to develop with that black Other, as she is ultimately white in her loyalties and appearance. She is described as being pale, blue-eyed “with the pallor of white families that have lived long in the tropics” (Fleming, 66). Kissing “her white throat,” Bond is instantly sexually attracted to Solitaire, and while he reads about Voodoo and Mr. Big from files and books, Solitaire attempts to act as a safe interpreter of Otherness (105). Her instant trust and attraction to Bond as well as her white appearance allows her to identify within a space of whiteness, and thus she can be an appropriate sexual companion for Bond. She looks to Bond as a protector and saviour as he had saved her from being Mr. Big’s captured fiance as: “I’ve been shut up with him and his nigger gangsters for nearly a year” (92). She is much more white than her captor, Mr. Big, as her allegiance is solely with Bond and “she felt indifferent to the fate of those she judged to be evil, very few of them were white” (114). Bond in fact re-imagines Solitaire’s connection with whiteness as steeped in colonial history as he sees her face as “the face of the daughter of a French Colonial slave-owner” (66). He even recognizes his “romantic picture,” of Solitaire’s past and yet adheres to the idea that she has been in a position of power through her white colonial past and thus is like Bond himself (95). Yet Solitaire is not entirely white which gives her the ability to function within both white and Other spaces. Being born in Haiti already places her as not entirely white, but it is her relationship with the supernatural and Voodoo aspects of the black Other which further identifies her as different. Mr. Big finds her “doing a telepathic act,” just as Bond encounters her doing a visceral Voodoo dance to drums (65). As she can act as grateful interpreter for Bond, she attempts to “explain to someone with that certainty of spirit, with that background of common sense, brought up with clothes and shoes,” what the black Other thinks and will do (101). In fact, Solitaire has a great amount of difficulty in explaining the Other to Bond as “what could this man know of these things (Voodoo) or of her half-belief in them,” as he is so entirely white and functions within a space of whiteness (102). Solitaire and Mr. Big illustrate through their racial difference and likeness to Bond how whiteness and Otherness functions within Fleming’s story and how they are not mutually exclusive identity traits.

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In Greene’s novel Our Man in Havana, the racialized Other is stereotypically homogenized as a beastly sexual being, where Havana is featured as the space of the Other and sex as the currency. The prerogative of whiteness is to label Otherness according to what one does not want to be and in Our Man in Havana, the main protagonist Wormold appears to be almost asexual; whereas the ethnically unspecific Others around him are hypersexual as a sign of both their difference and Wormold’s status as a white man in Havana. The economy of Havana, according to Wormold, is largely run by uncouth or sinful occupations and hobbies such as prostitution, pornography, gambling, alcoholism and the lottery which “was a serious trade uncorrupted by tourists” (Havana, 34). Greene writes that “the sexual exchange was not only the chief commerce of the city, but the whole raison d’etre of a man’s life, one sold sex or one bought it,” and those who do not partake are essentially outsiders within the Other’s space (Havana, 56). While the Other’s space is portrayed as functioning on sinful activities, the white or more specifically British space is ran on bureaucracy, extravagance and “appropriate” activities, so much so that explaining free drinks to Londoners would be “tedious, if not impossible” (Havana, 153). Wormold recognizes the “English snobbery,” and the “kinship and security the word English implied to him,” as he is ultimately an English man in the Other’s space (Havana, 173). For no matter how long Wormold has been a part of the Havana community the “pimps accosted him automatically… they had never got used to him, in their eyes he never became a resident; he remained a permanent tourist” (Havana, 32). Wormold, along with his obvious white skin, is further shunned by the Other community because he does not partake in the economy of Havana and this is confusing to the locals. When Wormold is offered a packet of pornographic postcards he rejects them and in response, the unnamed Other draws out another packet of pornographic cards in the hoping of please him (Havana, 124) Likewise, Greene implies that Wormold is too good for the usual product that the Other enjoys as Raul notes that “for an Englishman in your position places like the San Francisco are unsuitable, even the Mamba Club,” to get prostitutes from (Havana, 56). In fact, the type of prostitutes that Englishmen supposedly look for is also different than the Others as “you are not a Cuban: for you the shape of a girl’s bottom is less important than a certain gentleness of behaviour” (Havana, 56). The economy of Havana simply does not translate between British whiteness and racialized Otherness as “a notice in Spanish and bad English forbade the audience to molest the dancers” (Havana, 124). Even in the context of simple language translating, English and the Other simply do not function or communicate in the same way. By highlighting the difference between Wormold and the racialized Others around him, it illustrates the complex binary relationship that whiteness along with its opposite creates. While the Other is distinctly defined within its own space as depraved through their economy of sex, the British self represented through Wormold is also constructed through perceptions of whiteness and privilege.

While the Other in Havana and the space that it occupies is clearly set and is not explored as explicitly constructed according to the author, the identity of the white British self is questioned and consistently re-imagined, not necessarily for truth but is a necessity. Greene explores the anxiety of white British identity as distinctly malleable yet essential when being confronted by political and racial Others, especially within the space of the Other. By constituting and solidifying what a British man looks and acts like, the dangers of being in the space of the Other seems less threatening. Firstly, one has to consistently verify their allegiance with Britain and the white values that come with that. Wormold is asked repeatedly if he is a legitimate British man with a passport to confirm his trustworthiness as “one likes to do business with a British firm, one knows where one is, if you see what I mean” (Havana, 8). Being a recognizable British and white ally gives Wormold capital within cultures of whiteness and gives him access to the British world of spies. The label of Britishness in itself is cultural capital and allows for a certain level of white privilege as a female Other points out to Beatrice that “we Britishers have to stick together,” yet Beatrice has a name and the woman is called a Negress (Havana, 99). In this case, Britishness as a label does carry cultural capital but the Other can only access the privileges of that in small ways, as visibly racialized individuals cannot truly be British. What British means is complicated and as Greene describes the formulation of Wormold as a British subject according to his superiors, we see the depth of re-imagining and the links with colonial history. Wormold is described as:

Our man in Havana belongs—you might say—to the Kipling age. Walking with Kings—how does it go? –and keeping your virtue, crowds and the common touch. I expect somewhere in that ink-stained desk of his there’s an old penny note-book of black wash-leather in which he kept his first accounts (Havana, 46)

While ultimately, Our Man in Havana is a satire, Greene explicitly connects Wormold with real legendary Imperialist writer Rudyard Kipling. Regarding the formation of Wormold as a good British citizen, connecting him with Kipling, highlights colonial ideologies of difference and Wormold’s place within whiteness. Wormold’s superior takes a limited amount of information about Wormold and creates a romantic image of him, and understands the fictitious nature of his creation and notes that “details don’t matter,” as he is speaking in metaphors to communicate an idea (Havana, 46). While being identified as a British man and thus having access to privileges of whiteness, Wormold is still not beyond constructions of identity. He is expected to be a “patriotic Englishman,” (Havana, 26). By adhering to binary conceptions of whiteness and Otherness, Greene illustrates the problematic nature of racial and ethnic identity as constructions of opposites. Where the Other is positioned in their own space in Our Man in Havana, Greene explores how racial difference and ethnic awareness outside of one’s space affects racial identity in The Human Factor.


In The Human Factor, Greene depicts the African Other as an object of pity as being an Other and being impoverished according to stereotypes. The book is set during the South African apartheid and much of the plot and characters have personal experiences of the apartheid. The focus on the racialized Other is largely who the Africa Other is and how being African is an all-consuming identity. This African Other is a constructed identity of difference, where Britishness is conflated with comfort, abundance and saviour-hood, the African Other is poverty, political injustice and pitiful. Africa in itself is a constructed place where white British men can dictate what Africa was as: “my Africa was a sentimental Africa… How easy it was in the old days when we dealt with chiefs and witch doctors and bush schools and devils and rain queens” (Human, 65). The imagining of Africa is just as fictitious as the poverty-stricken Africa as “my Africa was still a little like the Africa of Rider Haggard. It wasn’t a bad place,” before (Human, 65). A distinct image which appears repeatedly in Greene’s text is “the memory of a famine photograph… a small corpse spread-eagle on desert sand, watched by a vulture” (Human, 27). Africa becomes a romantic image of “the bush” where “the cook would now be plucking a chicken behind the rest-house and the pie-dogs would be gathering in the hope of scraps” (Human, 241). This Africa is a place where a black mistress dies from blackwater fever and where poverty is idealized as an authentic African experience (Human, 248). Just as Fleming had dehumanized Mr. Big, Greene dehumanizes the African Other by creating an object of pity steeped in homogenized perceptions of poverty, which ultimately overrule any other experiences of the African self. The “little black babies,” are always in danger within Africa because they are African, and being a racialized Other living in poverty is perceived as being especially victimizing and in need of a white saviour (Human, 116). Those few who can escape the inevitability of the poverty-stricken African Other are portrayed as incredibly unique as if a man “picked out one piece of achieved sculpture from the all the hack carvings littering the steps of an hotel for white tourists” (Human, 22). Yet ultimately, portraying the African Other as an object of pity or a victim of their own racial identity is dehumanizing. It reinforces a binary of difference where the British white self is superior and feels pity for the Other, while also in a position of power to be a saviour.

The anxieties about political allegiances and how white guilt and sympathy makes the British self untrustworthy is at the core of the Greene’s novel. In The Human Factor, allegiances and ideological position is extremely important and while Castle should be trustworthy as a longstanding white colonial-steeped British man, his supposed romantic and sympathetic feelings for the plight of South African Others marks him as questionable. While Castle “daydreamed of complete conformity,” within the British Intelligence Agency and within the domestic sphere, his relationship with his wife Sarah and her son Sam disrupts that vision (Human, 15). Sarah as an African Other unintentionally corrupts Castle’s whiteness and white image as Castle notes: “I became a naturalized black when I fell in love with Sarah” (Human, 151). Ultimately, it is Castle’s relationship with Sarah that calls his loyalty into question and leads to his discovery as the leak (Human, 247). Whether Castle would betray his country for Sarah, and “her people,” is questioned in terms of romantic sympathy where “the romantic idea of breaking what they think is an unjust law [] attracts them just as much as a black bottom” (Human, 127). Even Sarah questions Castle’s motives and loyalties, as: “I wonder whether you love me only because of my colour,” she highlights the uncertainty and untrustworthy nature of a romantic and sympathetic man (Human, 223). Castle deceived both BOSS and his agents in South Africa posing as a writer of a sympathetic book on the apartheid and he was perceived as “one of those idealistic types who want to change the nature of human beings” (Human, 128). Those around Castle fear he will seek “validation of his actions by empathy with an oppressed race,” rather than upholding his duties as a British white citizen (Snyder, 33). This novel is arguably a “cautionary tale demonstrating how a compunction fuelled by guilt (or sympathy) can lead to morally ambivalent outcomes” (Snyder, 29). While pitying the impoverished African Other is a sign of white superiority, sympathizing and possibly acting against your country in the name of injustice is not acceptable British white behaviour. The white man can only be a saviour in so far as helping the Other in minor ways; however, the white man can not help to make the Other equal within the culture of whiteness. There must remain an imbalance of power for whiteness to still be a privileged and sought after identity.

The construction of the British self with the culture of whiteness is dependent on the likewise construction of the Other. Both identities are intimately linked, as it is through the representation of both the white and Other self that difference and privilege can be analyzed. In Fleming’s novel Live and Let Die, the Other is depicted as beastly, unintelligent and superstitious while the British white man is sophisticated, intelligent and logical. The characters of Mr. Big and Solitaire each carry significant traits of the white and black Other and it is ultimately through these characters that the binary of difference is established within the novel. In Greene’s Our Man in Havana, the Other within its own space deals in sex as an intimate part of its culture, where the British white self cannot fully participate nor fully understand. The main protagonist Wormold highlights the constructed British white self as he is re-imagined to fit an appropriate character of whiteness. In Greene’s other novel The Human Factor, the African Other is explicitly connected and constituted by the perceived poverty of both Africa and the African self. While creating a dehumanizing culture of pity, the British self is restricted in the amount of sympathy and help it can offer the African Other, as the imbalance of power must be maintained. Each novel discussed illustrates the various ways that both the British self and the Other are constructed and how those constructions are dependent on a binary relationship of difference.


Berberich, Christine. “Putting England Back on Top? Ian Fleming, James Bond, and the Question of England.” The Yearbook of English Studies 42 (2012): 13-29. Web. JSTOR.

Christensen, Tim. “The Unbearable Whiteness of Being: Misrecognition, Pleasure, and White Identity in Kipling’s Kim”. Collage Literature 39.2 (2012): 9-30. Web. Project Muse.

Fleming, Ian. Live and Let Die. Las Vegas: Thomas & Mercer, 2012. Print

Greene, Graham. Our Man in Havana. London: Vintage, 2004. Print

Greene, Graham. The Human Factor. London: The Bodley Head Ltd., 1978. Print

Levine-Rasky, Cynthia. Whiteness Fractured. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2013. Print.

Snyder, Lance Roberts. “’He Who Forms a Tie Is Lost’” Loyalty, Betrayal, and Deception in The Human Factor.” South Atlantic Review 73.3 (2008): 23-43. Web. JSTOR

Tsou, Elda E. “‘This Doesn’t Mean What You’ll Think’: Native Speaker, Allegory, Race.” PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 128.3 (2013): 575-589, 855-856. Web. MLA International Bibliography

Anonymous Writer, Published with Permission.

(Note) This essay is open for all to read however, plagiarism still counts- if individuals are caught using this essay as their own they can face consequences.

Oracle- Sexy and Disabled? A Cultural Analysis

An Essay for a Disability and Sexuality Course at Carleton University


My Cultural Artefact is a comic stripe featuring a disabled character named Oracle, entering the shower in three panels. Oracle, also known as Barbara Gordon and formerly the superhero Batgirl was paralysed in the 1988 comic The Killing Joke and from that point was established as the technological, strategic genius, Oracle. This character became a disability champion to many readers craving alternative superheros in comics and her popularity grew dramatically after 1988. In this specific artefact, Oracle is featured as stripping away her clothing and entering the shower in hopes of being on time for dinner plans. I choose this piece of a comic stripe because the representation or lack thereof of superheroes with disabilities allows for a unique analysis of both the visibility of the disabled community and the objectification and de-sexualization which comics have largely been criticized for.


In regards to the context and impact the creators had on my artefact, we must explore the very first appearance of Barbara Gordon in DC comic and the consequent plot-point which saw her being disabled later on. The original creators of Barbara Gordon and her super, alter-ego Batgirl were Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino, and later Alan Moore took the mantle. Batgirl was used periodically in the comics, so when Alan Moore wrote The Killing Joke in 1988, he and editor Len Wein felt that her character was disposable enough to end her crime fighting career permanently. Moore and Wein were critiqued by many for their treatment of the Barbara Gordon character as excessively violent and lacking female perspective. Furthermore, the creators of the Oracle character: Kim Yale and John Ostrander noted the use of Batgirl as an example of the “Women in Refrigerators Syndrome” within comicbooks and videogame storytelling where: “severe injury or death of a female character [occurs] as a means to antagonize a male superhero.” Later on, Yale and Ostrander took the depressed Barbara Gordon and turned her into the techno-genuis Oracle. In this context, the origin of Oracle as a disabled character lies in the laziness of ableist and sexist storytelling but was then reclaimed and embraced as a symbol of alternative heroes and a champion of disability representation within comics.

Critical Analysis

My initial analysis of this cultural artefact is one of mixed feelings, where the visibility of this disabled female superhero is a positive example of progress and yet there are issues of ableism and sexism in the objectification of Oracle within this particular three panel excerpt. Upon viewing the panels themselves, one sees a disabled woman provocatively undressing to enter the shower. The symbol of her disability, the wheelchair, is prominent within the first two frames but increasing the chair becomes invisible as her sexual appeal becomes more emphasized. She embodies the stereotypical sex symbol as she is soapy and wet from the shower and her privacy becomes invaded by the voyeuristic male gaze. Interestingly, she becomes objectified completely, after her wheelchair has disappeared from the frame. The sexism which pervades comicbooks is evident here as Oracle, a powerful, intelligent and independent woman is reduced to her sexual appeal, yet it is the intersection of her disability which is truly engaging.

This grouping of panels shows how ableism and sexism can interact in interesting ways, as the objectification of Oracle is counter to the stereotypical idea that those with disabilities do not have a sexuality and do not feel desire, nor are desirable. In Kattari’s article, she notes that “sexuality… love and [expression of] various desires is not usually recognized as a valid expression for people with disabilities” (501). Therefore, society sends messages of normality and abnormality in regards to sexual identity and expression, where those with disabilities “should be viewed as, asexual and/or deviant, lacking a capacity to be sexual and desirable” (501). Often times, those with disabilities are labelled by damaging stereotypes which hinder their participation in society, including within sexual cultures, such as: objects of pity, curiosity or violence, the “Super-Crip”, as a tool to create atmosphere or laughter, as non-sexual or sexual deviant and a burden on friends, family, society and themselves. Many of these stereotypes are damaging because they create a culture of dis-humanizing and Othering based on ableism that many argue is “natural” due to the construction of physical or intellectual disabilities. Yet, in this representation of Oracle, she is both sexual and disabled. I argue that she is able retain her sexual identity and appeal because she was physically disabled later in her life. As apposed to those who are born disabled, Oracle can be sexual because she was not born “abnormal”, but was instead disabled by an external factor. In essence, she can legitimately keep ties to her femininity and sexual accessibility because she is not a representation of the “horrifying erotic,” but is instead a symbol of the “Super-Crip” (Titchkosky, 78). As a “Super-Crip”, Oracle was physically disabled by an external factor and was able to excel despite her disability. A disability happened to her, and it was entirely out of her or her parent’s control, unlike the perceptions around those born with disabilities where the blame of entire Otherness can be placed on a lack of effort or poor parenting. Oracle was shot at the age of 18, and while she can be an example of an object of pity, her ability to overcome her disability and excel despite her body creates a sexual accessibility to the viewer, as she is different, but only to an extent. Furthermore, because she is extraordinary in her ability to overcome her disability, she gets back to the bar of normality, as her place in society (if she were a “normal” disabled individual) is lower but her “super” status regains some of her lost status as an able-bodied woman. Yet, how to negotiate her ability to retain her sexuality and sex appeal and the obvious disappearance of her wheelchair from the frame within my cultural artefact? While her disability is acceptable to able-bodied readers, the chair is still a symbol of difference. Titchkosky sees the universal sign of accessibility in public spaces as an indicator that for “a sign to point towards access, there must be an assumption of a general lack of access,” and her statement also applies to the wheelchair in the sense of sexual access. Oracle’s wheelchair is a sign of sexual inaccessibility and the increasing disappearance of it in her showering scene, shows the points of sexual access to her body, as if the chair is the embodying of sexual barriers. In this scene, Oracle is not exempted from the sexism which sees “normal” female comicbook characters objectified because her status as a “Super-Crip” and her increasing disappearance of the wheelchair makes her an object of sexual accessibility.

It is also important to note the triumph of having a female super-hero who is disabled within comics and how this cultural artefact may be a positive representation of disability. Oracle herself is a character which has a complex and wonderfully deep, real story as her struggle with depression, identity and a want for revenge after being shot and disabled is refreshing as a counter to the use of disabled individuals as atmosphere or tools for laughter. Furthermore, Oracle is portrayed as still incredibly independent and intelligent, where her disability takes her from being the sidekick of Batman to a super-hero in her own right. As a representation of the disabled community, Oracle is wonderfully empowering. It is important to note that Oracle as a character runs the risk of being tokenized as the sole representation of the disabled community and what other characters and people with disabilities should be considered by. Yet, even within this cultural artefact she is portrayed as living a full and interactive life as an independent woman, even to the point where she is contemplating modding her bathroom to be more wheelchair accessible. Even the consumers of comics have had a largely positive reaction to Oracle as a disabled super-hero as there is many blogs speaking to the positive inclusion of disabled bodies with the creation of Oracle.

My analysis of this cultural artefact is highly informed by a conflict of sexism and ableism as Oracle is a complex object of the male gaze in her objectification and yet is physically disabled and thus counters the construction of disabled individuals as non-sexual or deviant. Her role as a disability role-model or representation within comics is important and yet her ability to “Super-Crip” her way to sexual accessibility shows the progress still left to be made.


Kattari, Shanna. “Sexual Experiences of Adults with Physical Disabilities: Negotiating with Sexual Partners.” Sexuality and Disability 32.4 (2014): 499-513. Web. 12 Feb. 2015

Titchkosky, Tanya. “Disability Images and the Art of Theorizing Normality.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 22.1 (2009): 75-84. Web. 12 Feb. 2015

The Backlash Against African Women –

The Backlash Against African Women


The Backlash Against African Women –

World AIDS DAy: New Doors & Clean Showers by The Velvet Studio

Written by The Velvet Studio

Today the AIDS Committee of Ottawa opened its new doors at 19 Main Street as the world’s media turns its attention to the global AIDS crisis for World AIDS Day.  With a lack of affordable options in ‘The Village’ after the legal dispute with 240 Bank Street, and having to leave their previous location, the ACO is now located in the Sandy Hill area. The move follows a recommendation from a 2012, Ministry of Health and Long Term-Care mandated a safety audit.

In good news for the Capital, the Ottawa Public Health’s recent report ‘State of Ottawa’s Health 2014’ noted that the rate of new infections was down for the previous year, dropping to 60 cases, although still higher than the provincial average. In the UK conversely an all-party group on HIV/AIDS released the ‘Access Denied’ report, which estimated that by 2030 an estimated 55 million people will need treatment. Last year 1.5 million died from HIV related illnesses.The One Campaign estimates that it would cost another $3 Billion a year to effectively tackle the issue on a global scale.

In an attempt to raise some of those funds Jack Mackenroth has helped trigger a new online fad with the Shower Selfies. Although Mackenroth’s attempt to raise funds for the Housing Works, program in New York, has only raised just over $2,249 out of its $1,000,000 goal, the challenge appears to have caught on. The challenge is to take a picture in the shower with the hashtag #weareALLclean. This is designed to tackle the stigma around HIV being perceived as ‘dirty’. The AIDS Committee of Toronto’s Board Director James has recently challenged the ACO in Ottawa to join in with the #weareALLclean drive.  As ACO provides over 30 programs and groups for people living with HIV in Ottawa, it will undoubtedly be hoping that some of the social media donations from this latest fad go to support ACO, you can Donate Here.

Let us know how you raised awareness for World AIDS Day,

And what do you think about the #weareALLclean campaign?

First published online at The Velvet Stuidio

Capital Pride: The 2014 Timeline by The Velvet Studio

Who Know, Knew What, and When

A Run Down of the Capital Pride Drama this Year

Over the past couple months, following Capital Pride’s record breaking festival, there has been media attention directed at the near bankruptcy of Capital Pride. Provisionally saved at the last moment  by the membership due to a technicality of the bankruptcy process, Pride appears to have a future despite this early announcement. That even many of the membership were confused over the nature of the bankruptcy is no surprise, given the complex sequence of events, and surely anyone would be forgiven for loosing track of who knew what and when.

The Velvet Studio hopes to outline, to the best of our ability, the breakdown of the sequence of events, the availability of information, and who knew of what and when, to help better understand why the decision to declare bankruptcy unfolded as it did.


August 15th to 24th 2014

August 18th – Events planner Sebastien Provost provides treasurer Giselle Gardipy with an updated spreadsheet outlining his expenses. He alleges it fell within the approved budget.

Capital Pride breaks previous records with an attendance of 110,000 people along the Parade route, easily beating the previous record of 75,000,. Making Pride one of the top attended festivals in Ottawa.

During the festival, there was no indication of irregularities in need of scrutiny, with the coverage being generally positive.

August 22nd – Unaware yet that bar operations needed a backdraft of nearly $24,000 for alcohol, Capital Pride was faced with a problem as their bank was closed at this time. Capital Pride provided a cheque to Provost who had offered to get a bank draft for that purpose.

In an interview with the Velvet Studio on Saturday the 23rd Stephanie Lavergne, the Assistant Treasurer, and Director of the Week’s Events, said “Everything is going kind of according to plan, and everyone is having a great time and we are really happy with all the numbers”

August 25th 2014 (Monday) 

 A meeting between infrastructure contractor Guillaume Tasse (stage, toilets, tents) and  Treasurer Giselle Gardipy was cancelled. Tasse claims he was owed $42,000 and had not been provided payment or and explanation by Capital Pride. Tasse had also additionally provided Capital Pride with a $10,000 sponsorship.

August 26th (Tuesday) 

The last time that Provost spoke with Treasurer Gardipy. Contractors were informed that Gardipy was in hospital.

August 27th (Wednesday) 

After having deposited a cheque from Capital Pride of nearly $24,000 to cover the festival’s alcohol purchase, Provost , discovers that his account is overdrawn by $15,000, . indicating the original cheque had not cleared.

August 29th (Friday)

Capital Pride releases media release

“However, at this time, Capital Pride is currently investigating accounting irregularities that have come to light upon review of its post-festival finances. A police investigation may be pending.

September 4th (Thursday)

The Ottawa Citizen: “Capital Pride investigating ‘Accounting Irregularities’

Two suppliers and a DJ reveal that their cheques bounced from Capital Pride, and they are still owed.

September 5th (Friday)

Capital Pride releases a statement

“Capital Pride is working with its experts to assess documentation surrounding the alleged accounting irregularities that came to light upon a post-festival review. We are taking this time to thoroughly examine the materials prior to presenting them to our stakeholders, the Ottawa–Gatineau LGBT community and our allies.
As always, Capital Pride will exercise due diligence to this matter.
Capital Pride would once again like to thank all those who made the 2014 Capital Pride Festival a success. We will provide details surrounding this situation as they emerge. We appreciate your patience and cooperation.”

The Ottawa Citizen: ‘Capital Pride working with experts to sort our finances’

The Arc Hotel and TD Bank both reveal that they are not owed money from Capital Pride.

September 8th (Monday)

Daily Xtra!: ‘Capital Pride plans press conference to address finances’

Povost and Tasse state they have contacted the Ottawa Police Service.

Festival Director Jodie MacNamara confirms there will be a press release on the 9th.

September 9th (Tuesday)

Without citing reasons or rescheduling, Capital Pride cancels the planned press release.

Capital Pride releases a statement, in which they thank the community before stating that they are working with experts to gather information related to the emerging situation, stating “Currently our examination centers on invoices from festival site and entertainment providers requesting payments for amounts that were not approved by the Capital Pride Board of Directors. The initial results indicate that House of SAS, through its principal Sebastien Provost, significantly exceeded the agreed-upon budget.” They noted that no sponsorship or donor funds had been implicated.

The Ottawa Citizen: Capital Pride, supplier clash over spending allegations’

The Citizen interviews Provost: “I have no idea what they are talking about,” said Provost, himself a one-time chair of Capital Pride, and long-time bar owner and promoter in Ottawa. “My records indicate I was within the approved budget that was allocated to me.” He goes on to note that he had no signing authority.

Allegra Printing allege they are owed $8,500 by the festival, DJ Stephan Grondin alleged a cheque had bounced, and Producer Entertainment, which represents RuPaul’s Drag Race, also allege they were owed a significant amount. Producer Entertainment stated that the cheque has been sent for collection by their bank.

CBCnews: ‘Capital Pride says some suppliers asking for too much money’

CBC revealed in an interview one of the suppliers, Tasse “A $40,000 budget was agreed to by Capital Pride before the festival took place, Tasse said, and a second, smaller invoice for things the festival forgot to request was agreed to by the site manager. It was about $1,200, Tasse said. He was originally promised 50 per cent of the $40,000 budget before the festival took place, but was later told by Capital Pride that they could only offer 25 per cent up front, Tasse said.

September 10th (Wednesday)

Daily Xtra!: ‘Capital Pride comments on accounting irregularities’

Xtra! interviewed Provost, who revealed more details;

“’When I went to their bank, the Bank of Montreal, to try to have my cheque certified, I was told by the branch that there was actually never any money in the account, that those cheques were knowingly written without funds. And that is when I proceeded to go to the police and press charges,’ he says.”

Xtra! Also revealed that in a discussion between MacNamara and Tasse, MacNamara objected to a $3,000 LED wall used on the stage, stating it was not board approved. When Tasse offered to drop the invoice to $39,000 and separately discuss the LED wall, he was told ‘No Comment’ by MacNamara who then dropped communication with Tasse.

The Daily Xtra! also revealed that the Ottawa Police had begun investigating. Separately, it was stated that Producer Entertainment had informed Xtra! that its legal team were looking at all options.

September 11th (Thursday) 

Capital Pride reaches out to Daily Xtra! for an exclusive interview.

Provost refuses an Xtra! interview, stating he had begun legal action. It is later reported that Provost specifically took legal steps against Capital Pride.

September 12th (Friday)

Daily Xtra!: ‘Capital Pride speaks out on alleged accounting irregularities’

In an exclusive interview with Xtra!; “’The cheques were returned NSF because right after the festival we found a preliminary, apparent shortfall [of bar revenue] that added up to tens of thousands of dollars,’ says Jodie McNamara, chair of Capital Pride.”

Xtra! further reveals that “’Suppliers have come forward saying they have agreements with Capital Pride when those agreements were never reviewed by Capital Pride,’ [MacNamara] says. ‘We have received invoices for at least $23,000 over the budget we approved to House of SAS for the entertainment on site.’” MacNamara refused to reveal to Xtra! The names of the unapproved invoices.

MacNamara stated to Xtra! that they plan on speaking individually to each of the contractors. When asked if they were able to pay contractors she stated “we have funds.”

September 22nd (Monday) 

In a letter to Allegra Printing, MacNamara informed them that they planned to pay the $8,569.07 it owed for signs and other printing.

October 6th (Monday) 

Capital Pride hosts a Public Consultation Meeting to review Pride Events. The Velvet Studio was informed by the Secretary that nothing related to the finances will be discussed. The AGM is announced for November 5th.

October 10th (Friday) 

Jodie MacNamara, while working as the Chair of Capital Pride, begins to reach out to community members to create a new organization to replace Capital Pride. The public is not officially made aware.

October 15th (Wednesday)

Daily Xtra!: ‘Capital Pride faces legal threat’

Xtra! revealed that, following Capital Pride’s Sept 9th media release, Sebastien Provost filed for libel against the Capital Pride Board of Directors. Xtra! notes “Jodie McNamara, chair of Capital Pride, confirms they’ve received Provost’s notice of intent to sue for libel… ‘The notice requested a retraction, and everything we said was true, so we will not be making a retraction,’”

In the article Provost alleges that MacNamara refused to meet with him and the bar staff prior to releasing the statement on the 9th. He goes on to say “’The damage to my career has been so profound,’ he alleges. ‘I’m not even sure I’ll be able to recover from it. My credibility to book artists right now is shot. My company’s name has been all over the press embroiled in criminality that Capital Pride has alleged, without even meeting with me, without ever discussing it with me.’”

In the article, Provost outlines three possible causes for the drop in revenue: first being a broken beer fridge, with six taps broken leaving them with a single unit with two taps; the second issue was a bar mix order which Capital Pride, he alleged, delayed through error in till  Sunday evening, leaving them without soft drinks and mix in till 5pm; the third issue being the claim that Pride had handed out 235 free passes to the VIP area which included an open bar.

October 20th (Monday)

Capital Pride releases a statement on their Facebook.

“It is with extreme sadness and regret that Capital Pride must inform its membership, stakeholders and community, that after 29 years of operation, the Board of Directors has found itself in a financial situation beyond its ability to alter or repair and is now forced to declare bankruptcy.

The Board of Directors has been working very hard for the last two months to find a viable solution to enable Capital Pride to continue its operations for the sake of the Pride movement, the LGBTQ community and Ottawa residents, but with no success. Operations are now clearly unsustainable.

Capital Pride has had the privilege of working with many dedicated and supportive volunteers, organizations and individuals who worked exhausting hours in order to see the vision of Pride movement be elevated in Ottawa and we have seen some great moments throughout our history.

The AGM will happen as scheduled on November 5th. An email will be sent to our stakeholders shortly with a revised agenda so that everyone will know what to expect from that meeting. Much of the focus will be on the future of the Pride movement in Ottawa, going into it’s 30th year and beyond.”

Daily Xtra!: ‘Capital Pride declares bankruptcy’

CBCnews: ‘Capital Pride festival to declare bankruptcy’

CBC reveals that the Ottawa Police fraud unit investigators have opened a file on the financial issues at Capital Pride.

The Ottawa Citizen: ‘Capital Pride declares bankruptcy as suppliers fume’

The Ottawa Citizen revealed that Provost had been paid back the $24,000 from the liquor purchase. It was noted that Allegra Printing, who was owed $8,569, had not been paid. In a interview with the Citizen, Provost revealed he was out almost $7,000 in legal fees.

October 21st (Tuesday) 

The Ottawa Citizen: ‘Pride will go on despite bankruptcy, gay community says’

Provost reveals he is planning an ‘international’ festival for Ottawa next year. Stating that Capital Pride had lost all credibility.

October 30th (Thursday) 

While acting as Chair of Capital Pride, MacNamara reaches out to community members to form a new organization with the intent of replacing Capital Pride.

November 1st (Saturday) 

Reacting to leaks of a ‘secret committee’, members of the community reacts angrily to allegations, by individuals named in the proposal,, that someone [revealed to be McNamara] within Capital Pride is planning a secret committee to replace Capital Pride.

November 2nd (Sunday) 

Jodie MacNamara, in a Facebook post, refutes that the Capital Pride replacement committee is secret.

November 4th (Tuesday)

Daily Xtra!:Capital Pride chair convenes committee to address future’

In an interview with MacNamara, she states “’This committee has nothing to do with Capital Pride or the current Board of Directors,’ McNamara continued. ‘I have assembled the committee as a community member, not as the chair of Capital Pride. As a representative of Capital Pride I have provided infrastructure and the hands-on support necessary for the collaboration, but neither I nor Capital Pride have been in anyway [sic] involved in their conversation.’ […] McNamara said the new committee involves nearly 20 people, representing 14 organizations, sponsors and community members who have collaborated on a list of recommendations to take the Pride festival into its 30th year.”

November 5th (Wednesday)

The Velvet Studio: ‘Pride Chair organizes ‘Secret’ Committee ahead of AGM

The Velvet Studio releases a number of interviews from members contacted by MacNamara which indicate that she began planning as early as October 10th, and was acting as if representing Pride as late as October 30th. The Velvet Studio also revealed that several members of the Launch Committee had withdrawn prior to the 4th, issuing concerns with the “lack of transparency”.

Capital Pride holds AGM at City Hall

The Ottawa Citizen: ‘Capital Pride pulls back from Bankruptcy filing in surprise move’

The Ottawa Citizen, reporting from the Annual General Meeting (AGM), revealed that, despite a debt of $89,000, the membership of Capital Pride had voted to postpone filing for bankruptcy for 45 days, and called for the mass resignation of the Board, leading to the creation of an interim board.  The Citizen noted “According to the organization’s financial statements, made available Wednesday, it took in $341,907 in revenue in its 2013-214 festival year, but spent about $430,917, leaving it with a loss of about $89,000. […] Often on the brink of tears, McNamara offered her and the board’s apologies. ‘Nobody is claiming nothing went wrong, that we ddidn’tmake serious mistakes,’ she said. ‘I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for a job done poorly.’”

CBCnews: ‘Capital Pride annual general meeting delays bankruptcy for 45 days’

The CBC revealed that the meeting, which held around 200 people, was originally slated to hear the two proposals, one from the launch committee and one from another alternative. However, the agenda changed when it became apparent that Capital Pride had not yet successfully filed for bankruptcy. CBC noted that the board refused to answer questions related to finances, and also refused to speak to the media.

All in a Day, a daily CBC radio broadcast, reports that Launch Committee spokesperson Doyle  noted there had been concerns raised in the community as it had been organized by MacNamara. A separate Pride reformation group lead by Gatineau Pride co-president Zarraga noted his proposal was not in anyway related to the current Pride board.

The Ottawa Sun: ‘Capital Pride cleans house’

The Ottawa Sun noted that, when it became apparent the papers had not been filed, the membership moved to dismiss the 7 member board and replace them with an interim Board.

November 6th (Thursday)

Daily Xtra!:AGM delays Capital Pride bankruptcy’

Following the AGM, Xtra! spoke with former Pride Chair Marion Steele “’I was annoyed, partly because [a debt of $89,000] is not enough to claim a bankruptcy over,’ Steele said. ‘We came in in 2004 with a $200,000 debt, and we did not declare bankruptcy. We held creditors’ meetings. We held fundraisers. We were out of debt in three and a half years. So, it’s doable and you don’t have to lose your branding.’”

Xtra! also interviewed MacNamara; “’It’s felt like being on a ship that’s sinking and there’s nothing you can do to stop it,’ McNamara said tearfully to reporters after the meeting. ‘But maybe there is.’”

The Velvet Studio: ‘Capital Pride saved in M. Night Shyamala Plot Twist

The Velvet Studio revealed the names of the four Directors who resigned, as well as the names of those on the Interim board. The Velvet Studio also spoke with Interim Director Kevin Hatt, saying; “I just couldn’t see Pride disintegrate, and I will do anything I can to get it through this rough patch”. He noted that the delay until December “… will give [us] the time to get our ducks in order”, and also that “It’s hard to say right now what steps will be taken, but proper steps need to be taken before an AGM can be called, we should have our finance statements, preferably audited, at least correct”.

As an editorial note; the Velvet Studio added that the Directors were forced to resign in order to make room for the interim board, and also noted that at least two of the candidates of the Launch Committee, previously organized by MacNamara while acting as Pride Chair, had withdrawn their candidacy upon learning that Pride was not bankrupt.

November 7th (Thursday)

The Ottawa Citizen: ‘Capital Pride called police over missing bar revenue, ticket account changes: chair’

The Citizen reported that Capital Pride had filed a police report that someone had changed the online ticketing information to a different account. It was spotted prior to the almost $10,000 in the account was effected. She is also quoted saying “’We bought X amount of alcohol and then after the festival X amount of alcohol was left over. And the value of the alcohol that was gone, if it was sold at the prices we were selling it at, was $45,000 more than was actually brought in and deposited,’ said McNamara.”

November 8th (Friday)

CBCnews: ‘Capital Pride ex-chair says she’s partly to blame for lack of oversight

In an interview within days after leaving Pride, MacNamara is quoted as saying “’I didn’t insist on the kind of oversight that obviously was needed. I trusted that it would just happen. I’m as much to blame for that as anybody else,’ she said[….]‘We don’t know what happened at the bar. But we have filed a police report so we’re hoping that they will be able to investigate,’ McNamara said. ‘We have no idea. We don’t know.’”

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Capital Pride’s Bankruptcy; Lets not Rupt Pride’s Bank Just Yet: By Sebastien Plante

In a detailed editorial piece the Velvet Studio’s Sebastien Plante writes why bankruptcy might not be Pride’s best idea. What do you think?  Drop us a message through our Facebook

Capital Pride’s Bankruptcy;

Lets not Rupt Pride’s Bank Just Yet

Although the future of Capital Pride has become murky, in light of the recent declaration of intent to file for bankruptcy, the community is beginning to show a highly fractured state of opinions over whether or not Capital Pride is even worth saving.  There are many sentimental and historical reasons for fighting to maintain the continuity of this organization, and these may or may not be convincing to the various individuals and organizations in the community.  In light of the highly dramatic events of the Bankruptcy Postmortem cum Emergency Meeting on November the 5th, there are differing opinions on what to do next, and one question keeps arising; Why not let Capital Pride go bankrupt, then simply rebuild?  Answering this question is more complicated than it may seem at first, and here I hope to address this surprisingly complicated question in relative detail.

The quickest and simplest approach to answering this question is to realize that Capital Pride is, fundamentally, a community fair aimed to unify a once-persecuted community into a slightly less chaotic herd of cats, allowing us to better address the legal and systemic injustices against us, to create a sense of unity within the community, and finally to also serve as a sort of massive family picnic.  So long as these core goals are met by some group, if not specifically the Ottawa-Hull Pride Committee, there are questions on whether there would even be any loss to the community.  Let us call this, for the sake of simplicity, the “rose by any other name” argument – that any Ottawa-based GLBTQ community festival with the same or similar goals, by any other name and with any other structure, would serve just as well.  From an outsider’s perspective – for example some same-sex couple with a dog and a house in the suburbs who attends Pride but doesn’t really participate in any aspect of its execution – the assured continuity of service is really all that matters, but to get at why this is not the full truth we would need to look closely at the dollars and cents of the matter.

Bankruptcy Is Not Always The End

The first step in examining the rose by any other name argument is to acknowledge its validity.  Indeed, to a certain degree bankruptcy can be a good thing, if anything else because bankrupted corporations very rarely simply “go away”.  Often, when a corporation bankrupts, the institute is liquidated.  To put a positive spin on it, the failed (or simply mismanaged) institution is bought out by a more successful organization where it is either fully absorbed or else is kept as a separate-but-owned branch.  One famous Canadian example is the Canwest Global Communications Corporation, which filed for bankruptcy in 2009.  When Canwest went under bankruptcy protection, what occurred afterwards was CanWest was liquidated, ending with a division of assets bought by other interested parties on the market; the print division of Canwest was bought out by the National Post, and the broadcasting division of Canwest was bought by Shaw Media.  Ultimately the apparatus was more or less maintained – surely a few jobs were lost and more than a few people were replaced, but the various studios and offices continue to produce media, albeit under new owners and with new mandates.

Similarly, if the Ottawa-Hull Pride Committee were to declare bankruptcy, the fair itself wouldn’t simply cease to exist.  In the long run, the corporation it represents, the events they run, their name, their contacts and contracts, and their archives would all eventually end up run by another organization – presumably a brand new one with a new staff, new mandate, new bylaws, and new structure, all of which are run with a higher standard of professionalism and which ultimately is less dysfunctional, ideally.  It would be, in its essence, the “punk politics” argument; grab your pitchforks, run the people who have failed you out of town, burn to the ground that which does not work, then from its ashes rebuild a better system.  It is for these reasons that “too big to fail” is (almost) a myth – these things don’t disappear, they just get reborn under better management.

The only people who truly suffer from insolvency where bankrupted organizations are liquidated are the board of directors and the upper management – presumably those whose incompetence, lack of business acumen, ignorance over the facts, or corruption is what led to their company failing in the first place; so good riddance.  In fact, it would be entirely possible that if Pride were to bankrupt, dissolve, be sold, then reform under a new banner, it would not only be possible (but also to a small degree encouraged) to prevent anyone who participated in the collapse of its previous incarnation to participate in its management.  In other words; those currently sitting on the Board of Directors may very well end up banned from holding any position with the new Pride other than “volunteer” – presuming future iterations of Pride don’t even ban them from that much.  The end result would be that not only would the organization be able to completely dump and replace its dysfunctional internal structuring, but anyone with a reputation for being toxic would be equally be banned from ruining the new one as well.  This would be a surefire win for the community, surely.

Looking at the history of bankruptcy, there certainly is enough precedent to hold such an opinion over the Capital Pride festival, but there are complications which make this a festival worth fighting for – or more realistically, which makes it a bankruptcy worth fighting against.

The State of Capital Pride

First and foremost is the reality of the possible future sale itself.  Liquidated companies often benefit from being sold and reformatted so long as there is a larger, wealthier, better run company to acquire it.  Unlike, say, Tri-Star or Columbia Pictures, it’s safe to say that a bidding war between Sony, Disney, and Time-Warner is unlikely to break out over a small municipal community fair.  In fact there are no interested corporations or holdings in the Ottawa region of equal or greater value who are willing to acquire and reform Capital Pride – Pride in Ottawa has no valid angel investors.  As a result, without a bigger and “better” group around to absorb Capital Pride, there is no valid  punk politics argument here; once the locally-grown, amateur-but-hard-working, independent volunteers who “ruined” Pride are driven out, they will only inevitably be replaced by other locally-grown, amateur-but-hard-work independent volunteers, with no guarantees of them being better than the first round.  Given the benefit of the doubt, it’s likely that Pride could improve under liquidation and reformation, but there are no guarantees.  In fact, a new Pride would not be the existing Pride but under new management, it would both be a new Pride and under new management.  Put simply: the old regime is dead; long live the new regime.

This may not seem like a relevant point, but it goes a long way when it comes to donations and other funds.  A new festival with new management would be more than a fresh start, it would be a start-up.  A new Pride hitting Ottawa would be no different, financially-speaking, from a new restaurant or boutique and as a result the same realities would apply – namely that there is a significant chance that it would fail and go under within the first five years.  A Pride on the brink of bankruptcy, on the other hand, would be a pre-existing entity established within the community – albeit one with a shaky chequebook.  Pride as-is is the devil we know, the “new Pride”, whatever it would end up being, would be the devil we don’t.

That said, Capital Pride and the Ottawa-Hull Pride Committee have shown their ability to deliver already – from our assessments of publicly available financial summaries of the 2014 year, they indicate that if the various accounting irregularities and lawsuits had not happened, Capital Pride 2014 would have walked away with a profit of at least $15 thousand, likely more, and this is after paying off, in completeness, all debts remaining from the previous time Capital Pride almost went bankrupt.  In other words, the Ottawa-Hull Pride Committee can concretely show its capacity to overcome major financial hardship, and the irregularities of the 2014 will amount, in the long run, to no more than a bump in the road.  This history of financial stability, over the long term, of the current Pride committee could be used as a form of leverage in negotiations and fund raising, and any future committee members can convincingly show that Ottawa Pride always pays its debts… eventually.  No new organization, without external backing, can make such guarantees.  The rose by any other name argument is beaten by the better the devil you know that the devil you don’t argument.

Bankruptcy’s Impact on the Community

One final argument in favour of maintaining the current Pride comes from the perspective of the creditors to whom Ottawa Pride currently owes.  From the perspective of those contractors and organizations who are owed money by Pride, saving Pride in its current state is the much greater option.  Should Capital Pride declare bankruptcy, the corporation will be liquidated and auctioned off, with all income from the sales to be divided among its creditors.  For the community; good riddance.

Now consider the perspective of a contractor; you are an individual within the community who provided services to Pride, most likely at a reduced rate.  Now let’s say you’re a contractor owed over $10 thousand (alas, with at least two known such claimants – The House of SAS and Guillaume Tasse – this is not merely hypothetical).  The existing Pride corporation is liquidated; the name, the rights, the archives, and all other value is auctioned off.  If the sales go well, your awarded share by the courts will probably be anywhere from $100 to $800 – if the sales go well – as whatever profits earned are split among all of the creditors.  Now consider the following year, where a new Pride organization is formed with new management and a new internal structure.  The business, service, or firm which you run is now down $10 thousand relative to last year, and you’re approached by the new Pride organization who now has your contact information and list of donations from previous years – as they bought the right to access this information in the liquidation auction.  Whether or not you’re willing to donate is even aside the point; are you even capable?  Providing services at reduced rates to new community organizations with no history is a highly risky move, a risk which few business owners and service providers would be willing to entertain if they’re already struggling with an uncollectable loss of several thousand.

In addition to Pride’s ability to garner donations, these various local small businesses may become destabilized by their inability to regain funds.  As it currently stands, The House of SAS appears to have already closed its doors due to its inability to reclaim lost money.  Most other contractors and sub-contractors are unlikely to be hit quite as hard, but it does mean that others owed money, such as DJ Grondin or Gauillaume Tasse, may not have enough capital behind them to safely take the kind of day-to-day risks that small business owners need to take as a matter of course.  Capital Pride going bankrupt would likely begin a financial ripple effect felt throughout the Ottawa valley.  Realistically, it’s unlikely that jobs will be lost – other than those at the house of SAS – though small businesses in the Ottawa region, especially by queer-owned businesses involved in Pride, would at least risk having their financial growth stunted.

Should Pride not declare bankruptcy, on the other hand, it could enter a debt management agreement through various means.  In this case, Capital Pride’s debt is now spread out throughout an agreed period.  The various firms owed money are now assured, under court supervision, that they will definitely be repaid their outstanding $10 thousand, albeit now over a period of several years instead of all at once.  There would certainly be a chunk taken out of their bottom line for their 2014 financial year, but their long-term ability to grow would not be hindered half as much.

The individuals and organizations that Pride owes stand to gain much more in the long term under a debt management program than they ever could under a bankruptcy claim – in the first year alone they could very well collect that same $100, if not more, than they could have from Pride’s liquidation.  What’s more, if the reformed Ottawa-Hull Pride Committee can restructure and concretely demonstrate a new and more effective internal management system, not to mention its established ability to run a good festival and pay off its debts, these individuals and organizations owed may, in an act of good faith, forgive portions of the debt (i.e. write them off as a donation/tax credit instead).  This is not merely hypothetical, it’s common practice, and depending on the creativity of their accountants and the state and organization of their finances, tax credits can be almost as good as profits.

More importantly, the various organizations who have worked with Pride in the past are far more likely to continue doing so in the future, meaning the five-year rule of new businesses is bypassed.  Though a new Pride is more likely to be a fresh start with little if any “contamination” from the previous incarnation, it is also a far less stable investment, from the perspective of local small businesses, than a Pride on the brink of bankruptcy but which is under tight scrutiny of the courts and its auditors.

Overall, in the long run, not only would the festival itself benefit from being saved, but the community as a whole would as well – perhaps not in a dramatic way, but certainly to a relevant degree.  Additionally, without an angel investor to swoop in and save the day the debts and money owing from Pride would, in this case,  simply disappear – leaving many small businesses in the Ottawa valley in a less financially stable position, and far less likely to invest in the newer, possibly (probably?) better Pride committee.

Using the Momentum of the Bankruptcy for Improvement a.k.a. Polishing the Turd

The benefits of keeping the existing Pride committee afloat rest quite squarely on a short list of very important factors; should Pride seek externally-monitored debt management, and should Pride completely restructure itself internally, its ability to assure continued existence will outweigh the risk of dissolving the festival and reforming it under a new name.  This doesn’t even include the notion of expansion; an often overlooked point (not by various disenfranchised members of the community, but by past Boards of Directors of Capital Pride) is that they are (were?) the “Ottawa-Hull Pride Committee”, and not the “Centretown-and-Maybe-Hintonburg-and-I-Guess-Vanier-Sometimes Pride Committee”.  Given a thorough expansion outside of Centretown and into Hull-Gatineau, not to mention the rest of the Ottawa region, even if only for individual events during Pride Week if not for the weekend of the festival itself, there is a massive untapped market of potential investors, neglected demographics, and potential-but-unactualized future events.  Reformatting Pride’s structure and gaining debt management is only half of the equation, the other half being expansion.

For Pride to survive the bankruptcy, it may need to stop looking at itself as a mere festival, and it may need to look at its future not as same-as-before-but-a-bit-better, but as a small business under new management.  The new management side is simply a matter of debt management and restructuring.  What’s key here is the business side, which is more an issue of pure entrepreneurship; increasing stability through spreading into untapped markets, bringing in new customers and investors, and appealing to new audiences – the Quebec side in its entirety, not to mention the various international communities with a strong presence (but history of neglect) in the Ottawa GLBTQ community (the Afro-Caribbean and Latin American communities, for example).   Over the past year there has been a dramatic increase in the community organizing its own events to coincide with Pride, even if not directly or officially affiliated.  Pride Guide 2014 saw over 75 events added by groups outside of Capital Pride – what can only be the tip possible new markets.

Whether Pride has it in itself to take these essential steps is yet to be seen, but given that the interim board of directors for the month of November is largely made of small business owners (or directors of organizations which operate not unlike small businesses do), the possibility of a proper reboot is more likely than not to be successful, and is way more likely to succeed than a burn-and-regrow approach.  In fact, taking into account the advantages of not declaring bankruptcy, in terms of the financial impact on the community, debt management finds itself clearly being the better option, especially considering that externally-monitored debt management is usually accompanied by an internal reconstructing of the organization anyway.  If a brand new punk politics-driven organization has the advantage of having a totally different structure, but comes with great financial risk, the advantage is dissolved away given the relative financial stability of debt management, on the condition that the current Pride dramatically restructure itself.

Either way, if a fresh start – from a structure and policy perspective – is inevitable.  why not take the option with the least financial risk to the community?

Written By: Sebastien Plante

Originially published on

On the Films of Catherine Breillat by Ranylt Richildis

Few things are more provocative than a camera in a subaltern’s hand, especially when she turns it on her oppressor. The films of Catherine Breillat do just that, reproving the scolds and taking aim at those who impose rules on women’s bodies, who claim to be their stewards, who make them ugly by calling them ugly, who insist that men know best when a female body is ready for play, who deny us a right to our own sexuality or (something we aren’t always allowed) a right of refusal. It’s discomfiting stuff for viewers of any sex and sexuality, but it’s rewarding if we accept that we still need to be challenged. And we do. Breillat explodes the myth of a post-feminist society by the very fact of her presence; her films could only be inspired in a lopsided culture.

With her rep gaining traction year by year, and with the arrival of Bluebeard on North American shores this summer, the InRO staff decided to crack open Breillat’s body of work and squint inside — no flinching. If her movies are lumped in with the New French Extremity school of cinema, it isn’t just because her frame embraces intimate body fluids and hair — those inescapable phenomena Margaret Atwood described as the marks that distinguish adults from kids. It’s also because her subject matter is hatred — hate as visceral as orgasm. Misogyny (internal or institutional) is Breillat’s target, and she’s noted for being able to capture the loathing that steals across a room between two figures who ought to revel in each other. Detractors argue that Breillat’s position is too ideological for the time, when some societies are relaxing ancient strictures — and yet her films could hardly be made before now. They certainly weren’t tolerated in 1976 when she screened A Real Young Girl, which was subsequently banned in France and elsewhere until a few years ago.

Some of Breillat’s films are oozy and wet-edged, some are allegorical, and some are less shocking than their content might suggest. By literally shining a lamp on the human crotch and by shifting subjectivity away from the lusting male, Breillat demystifies and normalizes female — and indeed all — desire. A novelist and songwriter as well as a filmmaker, Breillat creates rich cinema that communicates mood and message in manifold ways. She combines graphic shots with contemplative voice-overs and jars us with the frankness of being. Her sex stories are anti-romantic comedies that study motivations generated from earthy insides without reducing gender politics to mean essentialism. The war between the sexes is arbitrary, her work argues, and individual sexuality should never be compromised by the desires of others. It doesn’t matter how crazy that girl’s body makes you — it’s hers and hers alone. Her cunt can only disrupt society as much as society insists it does, and her desire is free to appear in increments or all at once. Breillat insists on this not just through story but through her women, who make defiant faces at the lens that declare to each their own.

Breillat isn’t denying that some men grant personhood to women. She’s addressing those who don’t and the women who accommodate them. She’s considering the larger systems that continue to feed these attitudes, which is her artist’s prerogative. Why do some viewers dispute Breillat’s right to critique a common enough predisposition that’s on the wane in only some parts of the world, and only within our own lifetimes? Critics who adopt a not my Nigel! stance obtusely sidestep the discussions these films are designed to provoke. Working outside of academe, Breillat is one of the most important feminists we have; women have reported not hating their sexuality as much after watching her movies, and that’s huge. That’s power — and one that obviously continues to agitate the props of tradition. In this way, Breillat’s nay-sayers validate her argument despite themselves. – Ranylt Richildis

Related: A retrospective of Romance

(Originally published on July 7, 2010 as part of In Review Online’s “directrospective” on the works of Catherine Breillat.

Go check out Ranylt Richildis’ website: