The Story Behind The Storyteller

The Storyteller Logo

The Storyteller Logo

I think the Internet is full of trolls and it’s not necessarily the safest place to share things, that’s why I love the idea behind The Storyteller.

In a nutshell, The Storyteller is an online platform that gives people the opportunity to speak about things they might not be open about sharing with other people. It is not affiliated to Ryerson or the RSU. The only relation The Storyteller has to Ryerson is that it was started by Ryerson students.

I had the honour of meeting up with the creators of The Storyteller and learning about the inspiration behind it all.

Banner with 'The STORYTELLER' written on it

Banner with ‘The STORYTELLER’ written on it

Trisha Rolfe is a fourth year Child and Youth Care (CYC) student here at Ryerson. She told me that she learned a lot from other people’s stories and that’s why she wanted to start the blog. She’s found that she tends to be a person people come to when they need someone to talk to and it’s made her realize how much she’s learned from being an open ear. She wants to give people an opportunity to learn about aspects of peoples’ lives that they may not necessarily share openly with others. The original plan was to start a blog with her friend however that kept getting pushed back so she just ended up spearheading The Storyteller alone. Now there is a team of four working together to maintain the blog and various other social media sites.

The team! <Jamie Lupie, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar>

The team! Jamie Lupia, Kiri Witmer, Trisha Rolfe, Deanna Aguiar

Trisha first recruited her friend Jamie Lupia, a 3rd year student double majoring in creative writing and labour studies at Brock University. Initially, Jamie was just to help with the blog’s illustrations but she eventually started contributing posts based on some of her own experiences as well. She is the one responsible for the beautiful illustrations found throughout the blog. Afterwards, two more CYC students, Kiri Witmer and Deanna Aguiar, joined them.

Around the same time the blog was started Kiri had posted a video talking about her experiences with suicide. Kiri expressed how important it is for people to talk about issues however she felt that she keeps a lot to herself. Trisha saw this video and approached Kiri because she thought that she embodied ideals that would fit well with The Storyteller. Similarly, Trisha approached Deanna as well because she also thought that she would also be a good fit as she is extremely supportive. Each of the four members contribute to the blog in their own way.

Trisha started The Storyteller blog back in April 2015 and it is amazing how much it has grown since then. They have had several events one at Brock University and an open mic night in Niagara as both Trisha and Jamie are originally from there. They also showcased The Storyteller here at Ryerson during the FCS Student Achievement event. Trisha told me that this was her favourite event as there were a lot of people interested in reading stories. Also, it was a great way to bring awareness to our faculty to inspire people to do things outside of the classroom.

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

The Storyteller booth at the FCS Student Achievement Event at Ryerson University

However, the classroom has helped fuel some of the ideas behind The Storyteller as Kiri has told me that they use concepts they’ve learned throughout the CYC program. One extremely important concept being self-care which is something that we can all relate to and should practice. It’s meant to be an outlet for not only sharing experiences but also to educate as well as to be a sort of therapy. The Storyteller also incorporates a strength-based approach because they want to focus on one’s strengths as well as celebrate the challenges or barriers one was able to overcome.

The Storyteller stresses the idea that “You are not alone” and that all of us are The Storytellers. That’s why submissions are strongly encouraged as sharing may find the solution or sharing might very well be the solution. It’s a way for people to get things off their chest so they want your rants! Submissions can be about any topic and in any form of media: stories, poetry, art, songs, etc. You can choose if you want your posts to be anonymous. They will be accepted and shared as long as posts aren’t racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ablist, sanist, or discriminatory in any way. If you’re interested in making a submission click here! 

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OR if you would like to know more or if you would like to contribute in other ways you can email thestorytellerweb@gmail.com or visit any of their social media platforms: the blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

Ontario’s New Sex-Education Curriculum

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I write this the day before the Liberal government will reveal a new sex-education curriculum that will be rolled out in Ontario schools next September.  Ontario’s sex-education curriculum has been outdated and in desperate need of modernizing for a long time.  Five years ago, the Liberal government put forward the idea to update the sex-education curriculum but backed down after outcry from political and social conservatives.  I have no doubts there will once again be outcry from political and social conservatives.  While sources say there will be no backing down by the Liberal government, I will believe that in September when the curriculum is in schools.  As for the outcry from political and social conservatives, the government needs to do what’s best for Ontario and its students and that is updating the curriculum.

We need an updated sex-education curriculum because Ontario is not doing so well in any area regarding sex.  A large piece of this update is to include consent in the curriculum.  Every sexual assault offender, unless from outside of Ontario, has sat in an Ontario school classroom for sex-education.  With sexual assault rates rising while all other violent crime is decreasing, there was clearly a gap in learning about sexual assault and consent.  It’s actually very frightening that people from all age categories are unable to explain or define what consent is.  What’s even more frightening is the blatant disregard of consent.

One of the news headlines today read that students in the 4th grade will learn about the dangers of sexting.  Many of the comments that followed were outraged that 9 and 10 year olds will be learning about sexting.  Children this age and much younger are being given cell phones and webcams.  If a child has a cell phone with a camera or a webcam, they need to learn about sexting no matter how young they are.  In my opinion, if you don’t want your child learning about sexting at that age, don’t give them a cell phone or webcam so young.

We also need a sex-education curriculum update because we have multiple generations of people who don’t understand what healthy relationships are.  People of all ages do not understand what an abusive relationship looks like or when they are being abusive in a relationship.  Among the younger generations, it seems to be the idea of being controlling means that my partner cares and that I have a right to control the person I am dating.  An outdated sex-education curriculum is setting up children for failure in their romantic relationships.

I would also like to see the sex-education curriculum become less heternormative (focusing on male-female relationships as the norm).  Despite gains made by the LGBTQ community, homophobia and transphobia is still widespread and is present in schools.  Sex-education should be inclusive of all gender identities and sexualities.

I’m looking forward to reading what the new sex-education curriculum will include.  I’m even more excited to see updated sex-education being taught in our schools.  There will be outcry but the bottom line is Ontario’s children will one day become Ontario’s adults.  This change isn’t just for children; it’s for the province as a whole to move towards positive changes in sex and relationships.

Sources: Martin Regg Cohn: The sex-ed update Ontario badly needs in the Toronto Star (February 22, 2015).
Photo from: Wellness Education Consiglio

Avoid Fighting with Constructive Talking

2192928_f496It hit me one day when discussing a fight one of my girlfriends had had with her boyfriend… My boyfriend and I had never had a fight. Sure, we had our disagreements and there were certainly times when we didn’t see eye to eye, however, this had never resulted in a typical girlfriend/boyfriend fight. I would be lying if I said my relationship was perfect, and there are some interests and lifetime goals both big and small that we end up on opposite sides of the spectrum regarding, but no matter how different our views may be, we choose to talk it out. And when I say talk it out, I mean TALK. No yelling, no name calling, no negative tones, no storming off, no pointing fingers. In the same light, there is no brushing the issues under the carpet either.

It took a long time to get here. Past relationships would result in ongoing arguments that would escalate to fighting. They very much involved pointing the finger and placing blame. If you expect for your significant other to actually LISTEN to you, then you need to speak to them in a way that to them, is worth listening to. As soon as we begin to point fingers in statements such as, “You don’t do this”, “I don’t like when you do this” we automatically disregard any responsibility we might have in the problem, and place full blame onto the other person. It takes time and practice to get in touch with your inner self and learn to talk to others as you wish to be spoken to. Sure, I’ve flown off the handle before, I’ve been in sour moods before, I’ve lashed out before. One thing I have done with this current relationship and what I hope to continue to do is that when things like this do happen, I apologize. I am lucky that these scenarios have not happened often as I have learned to analyze situations prior to reacting to them, which allows me to fully understand what exactly is bothering me, to differentiate whether it is a NEED or a WANT, and to decide what exactly I wish to gain from having the conversation. It is based on this analysis that the lack of fighting has occurred within my current relationships both with significant others, friends and family.

With that said, what SHOULD we do to avoid a full-fledged fight? Firstly, it is important, as mentioned earlier, to decide whether the reason as to why you are upset is a need or a want. If it is a want, it is important to give the scenarios some serious thought, which is where the idea of “choose your battles” comes into play. If it is a need, meaning that the situation is very important to you and you may not be able to shake how upset, sad, angry or disappointed you are without discussing it, then one must choose to discuss the issue in a calm and appropriate manner. After making the decision and discovering that the issue at hand is a need, then one must figure out why exactly it is upsetting you and to think of possible solutions to the problem. It is upon seriously analyzing your feelings and thoughts and deciding why you are upset and how you might feel better about the situation that you would present the issue to your significant other (or anyone you might have an issue with for that matter). And lastly, once all you’ve had to say had been said, it is important to bring the conversation back to your relationship, why it is important and what you can do yourself to improve your role in the partnership. This also provides the other person an opportunity to say anything they might be holding on to or upset about that can then be discussed and resolved. It sounds so simple when in hind-sight, it’s much more difficult to take the time to go over the situation and analyze how you might present it, then to simply react and say the first thing that comes to mind when regarding the issue.

At the end of the day, who wants to fight anyway? It’s way too much effort, it causes way too much drama, and do we end up with what we want in the end? For the most part, I would like to say no. So put that blame finger away, take a step forward and present yourself with honesty. With practice, only good things should come your way.

Image from: http://livenlearn87.hubpages.com/hub/10-Reason-Why-it-Might-be-Time-to-End-Your-Relationship

Short Hair, Don’t Care

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“Short hair, don’t care”.  Short, simple and my mantra.  I cut my long ponytail when I was 16 years old.  It was damaged, discoloured from all of the hair dye and I loved Mandy Moore’s hair in How to Deal.  It was always chin length until I turned 20.  Since then my hair has been a pixie style, cut around my ears.  It wasn’t until then that I noticed the war against short hair.

I don’t remember the first time a male told me they disliked short hair and thought I should grow mine.  I may not remember the first time but I remember the procession of men that followed that first comment.  I used to argue by telling them that short hair looks a lot better on me than long hair.  There were many times I almost listened and grew my hair out.  It grew a bit, I would get annoyed at how flat it would sit, found a cute short hair cut and that was that.  Now I don’t argue, I simply say “I don’t care”.  It doesn’t matter which length of hair looks better on me.  What matters is if I like my hair.

I like my hair short.  After learning about third and fourth wave feminism I realized that is really all that matters.  My hair is mine.  I’m the one who owns it and looks at it everyday so I will do what I please with it.  I don’t care if anyone likes it other than me.

Women are often afraid to take the plunge and chop off their hair because they fear how men will perceive them.  Yes, men have assumed and asked about my sexual orientation.  To that I say, drop your stereotypical ideas about women, sexual orientation and short hair.  Yes, men have made comments about my hair and how they like long hair on a woman.  To that I say I don’t care about your preferences.  When it comes to my body and how I look, my preference is the only one that matters.  I’m not here to be visually appealing for you.

I’ve been asked how short hair has impacted my dating life or relationships.  It’s been a main tension in some of my past relationships but in my eyes, it’s a good thing.  Having short hair makes it easier to weed out men who care more about what’s on my head than what is in it.  I don’t want to date someone who is more concerned about what my hair looks like than who I am as a person.

Whenever I come across the war on short hair, debate growing it or start to argue I remember my mantra, “short hair, don’t care”.  I think we should all wear and look the way we want.  Women’s bodies and looks are constantly picked apart in the media and in our personal relationships.  By saying we don’t care and looking how we want, we take back our bodies.  Saying you don’t care feels really good.  If you want short hair, cut it.  If you want long hair, grow it.  If you want blonde, red, brown or rainbow coloured hair, dye it!  It’s your body and your hair.  Find your “don’t care” mantra.

The One or the One of Many?

Sometimes I wonder, is there one true love out there for each person on this earth? Are we meant to test the waters through dating in order to rule out various men and women until we find the one? And if this is the case, will we all have the opportunity to meet our one and only and live with them happily ever after? If only life were that easy!true-love-00-couple[1]

A friend had once told me about a middle aged woman she knew who had married over 4 times and had divorced over 4 times. She was described as a beautiful woman with a great personality to go with it. Most people would react to this woman’s continuous marriages and divorces with judgmental disgust and distain. I can’t say I didn’t think negatively towards her situation either. But believe it or not, this woman had no regrets about her flames and failed relationships. She got to experience many first dates and first kisses. She got to experience that butterfly feeling you get when first starting off a relationship multiple times. She got to experience the joyful bliss of a wedding and marriage over 4 times. All in all, this woman explains how fortunate she was to have experienced love so many times, and to share those special moments that a couple does with many loves or her life. At the end of the day, she was happy to have loved so many than none at all. When explained that way, it didn’t sound so bad.

So who are we to judge between what is the right way and wrong way? I had always pictured my life in that cookie cutter, Pleasantville kind of way. Dating few men, meeting my one and only and getting married and having children. Yes, this ideology works for many, but who said this was the right or best way? I am lucky to have loved two men in my lifetime as I slowly reach my mid twenty’s. Does this mean that I will love a few more until I find the one? I have no idea. I always thought it would be better to remain single and go through less heart ache while waiting for that one special person but the more I reflect, the more I begin to see that it might not be so bad dating and forming relationships in order to learn what I do like from a relationship and what I don’t like. To learn what kind of men I am compatible with and learn what my deal breakers are. Through relationships, you learn more about the person you are within a relationship, you learn about compromise and you learn about your wants vs. your needs. Is there really a one true love for us all? I think that depends for each person and their belief systems. I think it is possible to love more than one person in your lifetime and I see no flaw in this. As for the one… who knows? But for the time being, lets continue to love with open hearts and open arms because what is life without love?

image from: http://www.lipglossculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/true-love-00-couple.jpg

It’s Time to Talk Consent

consent

Think back to your sex education in elementary and/or high school; the awkward discussions, the diagrams and in some classes, the bananas.  Did you ever talk about consent?  I know my classes didn’t because I can’t recall even hearing the word.  I don’t know where I learned about consent, I guess it was just always common sense to me.  As rates of sexual assault rise globally, it makes you wonder just how common sense consent is.

During Reading Week, I went out dancing with a friend to celebrate being done midterms. I generally dance on my own when I go out because first, I want to and second, I find men coming up behind me and grabbing me extremely creepy.  I usually tell them to go away nicely but that night, the feminist in me had a few questions.

This specific man kept trying to get me to dance with him by grabbing my waist.  I said no several times and yet he persisted.  He was on my last nerve so I asked him if he knew what consent was.  He told me that he knew what it was and I told him he didn’t have it here.  To my surprise he told me that yes; he did have my consent here.

What?! I just told you to go away several times but you think you have my consent to dance with me?  Are you kidding me?  I wish this was a rare tale but several people think that being on a dance floor or having a drink equates with consent.  This specific young man either does not know what consent means or he just doesn’t care.  Either way, that’s not good.

If this young man doesn’t understand consent on the dance floor, he probably doesn’t understand it when it comes to sex.  It’s time to talk about consent; what it is, why it’s important and why on an individual level we should care.  Our sex education curriculum is outdated and not doing us any favours.  Let’s talk about issues around sex such as what is consent, what do healthy relationships look like and the prevalence of sexual assault.  My sex education classes were divided by gender and I recall the long spiels about date rape drugs and how girls are often the victims of these crimes.  They told us to not leave our drinks unattended, not to accept open drinks from others and how to cover our drinks to avoid someone slipping something in them.  I wonder if the boys’ class was being taught about consent and that it’s wrong to spike girls’ drinks or if it was omitted from the curriculum.

We have a really big problem here.  Sexual assault rates are high, we still live in a rape culture where the victims are blamed, 4/5 university students have experienced abusive relationships and it’s getting worse.  How are we supposed to change this when people come out of school not even understanding what consent is?  How are we supposed to explain sexual assault without the basic understanding of consent?  Revamping the sex education curriculum needs to happen soon.  It needs to reflect the times we live in and the times we live in are rape culture.  All of the issues I’ve mentioned need to be talked about even if it’s uncomfortable.  We’re more than willing to tell young people not to drink and drive so why not don’t rape?

It’s time to talk consent.

Sources Used:
http://upsettingrapeculture.com/workshop.php

“Why Chivalry is Dead”: A Review

            After reading John Picciuto’s entry entitled: “Why Chivalry is Dead, From a Man’s Perspective” on elitedaily.com, a million thoughts popped into my head. In this entry, Picciuto discusses his conservative upbringing and learning the etiquette women should hold towards themselves and towards men. He discusses men’s lack of chivalrous acts that were once considered the norm such as paying for dinner, holding open doors and pulling out chairs etc. He makes a very forward point by stating that in this day and age, that dating realm no longer exists but instead, men and women engage in loose forms of intimacy (if you can even call it intimacy anymore). This has now, according to Picciuto, become the norm, which happens on the regular. I think Picciuto takes this a little bit far as relationships still exist. People meet, engage in conversation, date, and if all is well, establish a relationship. Intercourse may or may not have come to play somewhere in this process, but reality still shows that true relationships still exist that are not based solely off of sex. In addition, even with technology playing a large role in relationships through online dating (which yes, some of which are purely based on a “hook up” nature), traditional dating still exists whether it is going to dinner, a movie, for coffee or for a drink.

beingagentleman             I think Picciuto is valid to some degree, but it was when I read this that a horrible shiver ran through my entire body, which resulted in curled toes and griped fists. “The real problem here is that women, for one reason or another, have become complacent and allowed men to get away with adhering to the bare minimum. We no longer have to put in the effort of flowers, chocolates, dates, etc., and if we do, we come off as stage-five clingers.” What Picciuto is really trying to say is that it is women who are at fault for chivalries demise. What Picciuto neglects to point out is the fact that dating/relationships, whether chivalrous or not, is a two way street. Both parties are to blame here, not just women. I have met both types of women and both types of men: those who engage in common etiquette and chivalry and those who don’t. It’s a matter of values, how the individual was raised, and what the individual is ultimately looking for. Why do men get to call the shots in regard to casual sex? Do men really believe that all women want the romantic relationship and when engaging in casual sex, are merely giving in to men’s needs? This may happen for some, but not for all. Women make choices just as men do. Women choose to engage in casual sex just as men do. This should not be frowned upon, as it is merely a matter of choice. Just as some choose to wait to engage in intercourse until there are in a solid and stable relationship. Whether sex occurs on date one, date three or date twenty, this does not make women receive less or more than they deserve. Just because women engage in casual sex does not mean they don’t believe in chivalry and does not mean that they have lowered their self worth. It means that they are in tune with their sexual needs, which alongside men, need to be met. Maybe a relationship will come further down the road, but women are allowed to be focused on the here and now just as men are.

            Ultimately, relationships, dating and sex are a choice. You decide what you deserve and base your actions on such. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun here and there outside of a relationship. Chivalry is not dead to those who still wish to experience it. We are only lowering our standards if we are going against our values and against what we feel we deserve.

Original entry by John Picciuto: http://elitedaily.com/dating/sex/why-chivalry-is-dead-from-a-mans-perspective/

Image from: http://liveabundantly.ca/r-e-s-p-e-c-t/