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The journey of a professional women’s hockey player

Toronto Furies forward Danielle Gagne talks her life on and off the ice

The journey of a professional women’s hockey player

The faint scent of stale hockey equipment emanates from Danielle Gagne’s bag. It’s an aroma that, while generally unpleasant, can trigger memories of past victories and dressing rooms. Gagne admits the smell could be far worse, alluding to her swollen left ankle visible above her low-top sneaker.

“I wish I would’ve hurt it doing something cool, it was the stupidest thing, we were doing a warmup for CrossFit, we were doing hurdles, and I was clearing them all no problem,” she says. “I didn’t jump as hard, and it was just that stupid thing that my toe clipped it, it landed, and I landed and I immediately felt like I was going to throw up because it hurt so bad.”

“I’m tough, I don’t cry,” she adds.

In mid-November, the Toronto Furies boasted a .500 record ahead of their two-week trip to China. The 2017–2018 Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) season marks the first time in the league’s history that players will be paid, a step forward made possible by an influx of cash from new sponsorships and the league’s new Chinese teams, the Kunlun Red Star and Vanke Rays. Still, the salaries — ranging from $2,000–$10,000 — don’t provide a livable wage. As a result, Gagne works full-time at a software company in her hometown of Bolton, Ontario.

In her second season with the Furies, Gagne has steadily grown into her role, developing a brand of confidence that only comes from hard work and overcoming adversity. Her first CWHL career goal came in a 4–2 loss to the Boston Blades. “I still can’t believe it took me that long to score, but I’m glad I finally broke down that mental block in my head,” she says.

The journey that changed her life

Despite hockey’s place at Gagne’s core, it’s not everything in her life. She defines the 4K for Cancer bike ride across America she endured in 2015 as the most important moment of her life. Gagne began the ride with the intention of honouring her late grandfathers, who both died of cancer. That all changed eight months from the start of her trek, when she learned her then-three-year-old cousin Otis Spencer had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

“My cousin Alex, they have three kids… and ended up having [another child] Darius when Otis was in the hospital going through chemo,” she says. “It’s always nice to celebrate him because he’s an amazing kid and my inspiration.”

The daunting ride presented Gagne with a daily opportunity to triumph over adversity. The Baltimore to San Francisco route saw her bike up and over the Rocky Mountains and sleep on an air mattress on various church floors in Nebraska. She even got lost for eight hours in the Oregon desert.

“We were so dehydrated, I felt drunk for the next two days and I got so sick, but that was the worst part. Everything else was awesome,” she adds.

“Everything we ate for the whole trip was based on donations, so we’d go to restaurants and asked if they’d give us food,” she says. “Utah was beautiful… I remember the biggest incline was 15 per cent, and you’d have to keep moving because you’d fall over.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF DANIELLE GAGNE

“The day that my bike ride ended, [Otis] was said to be clear as of that day, which was the weirdest coincidence ever,” she says. “I just started bawling my eyes out.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF DANIELLE GAGNE

Teammates that inspire

Each CWHL franchise has felt the effects of Hockey Canada’s Olympic centralization ahead of the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang. Natalie Spooner, Erin Ambrose, and Renata Fast are all absent from the Furies. A combination of factors contribute to the Furies’ 11-game winless streak, but it mostly stems from their inability to score — the team is second from last in the league in goals scored.

Toronto has also struggled to find the back of the net in the absence of Spooner, the team’s leading goal-scorer with 13 in the 2016–2017 season. Alongside Olympic captain Marie Philip-Poulin and fellow alternate captain Brianne Jenner, Spooner serves as one of the faces of women’s hockey in Canada. This time of year, Spooner’s image can be found on cereal boxes as Canada’s women’s hockey team is poised to earn its fifth consecutive Olympic gold next month.

Spooner’s talent and leadership isn’t new to Gagne, who played alongside her during her freshman year at Ohio State. “She’s just unbelievable,” recalls Gagne. “I remember being at U18 tryouts for Team Canada and she was U22 at the time, and she had the highest score for strength and one of the highest scores for cardio. That’s unheard of.”

The college experience

The warmth in Gagne’s voice increases as she reflects on the people she’s played with during her collegiate career. “God, she’s so fast,” she whispers, referring to the speed of Amanda Kessel, the former Minnesota Golden Gophers star who routinely terrorized Ohio State.

The only time Gagne defeated Minnesota was via a nine-round shootout in early 2014, a miraculous result that upset a high-ranking program. The win earned her team a shoutout from ESPN’s SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross and a place on the network’s top 10 college plays of the week.

The Buckeyes celebrated with ice cream and milkshakes at Annie’s Parlour in Dinkytown, while Kessel — absent from the Minnesota roster — was training with the US national team ahead of the Sochi Olympics.

“We were pumped, I don’t think we got undressed for about 45 minutes we were just running around the dressing room,” she laughs. “Minnesota was always the worst because you always thought, ‘Yeah we’re ready,’ and they’d just come and kick your ass so bad.”

Gagne says that every game against the University of North Dakota (UND) was competitive, mentioning in particular her experience battling against the Lamoureux twins.

“One time I went for a Hail Mary breakaway pass, [one of the twins] caught it and tried to bring it down, and I should’ve gotten a penalty for this, but I two-handed her in the arm and the puck went through her legs, and I picked it up went on a breakaway and scored, so that was unreal.”

She questions UND’s decision to cut its women’s hockey program last March, a program that developed a wave of Olympians, including the Lamoureux twins, who contributed to its initial stardom both transferring to UND in 2010 and after their freshman season at Minnesota.

“Again that goes toward helping women’s hockey grow, just kidding, we don’t want you at our school anymore,” adds Gagne. “[UND] women’s hockey is top five in the nation every year but they had to cut it… But the men’s program is still there.”

Gagne couldn’t imagine a life without hockey. She admits she cried when she visited Ohio State’s campus in early November, overwhelmed by the incredible memories she made over her four years in Columbus.

She asked for more: Ashley Wagner, the sports media complex, and female anger

What the Wagner controversy shows us

She asked for more: Ashley Wagner, the sports media complex, and female anger

 

Ashley Wagner is a mainstay of US figure skating — a veteran of the international competition scene and a household name. She left the Sochi Olympics with a bronze medal, placed second at the 2016 World Championships, and is a three-time US National Champion. At 26, Wagner is one of the most senior athletes involved in the US figure skating program — which made her qualification bid for the upcoming Olympics all the more critical. But Wagner failed to qualify on January 6, coming in fourth behind rising up-and-comers Brandie Tennell, 19, Mirai Nagasu, 24, and Karen Chen, 18.

Besides her elegant and performative style, Wagner is known for her outspokenness — at the Sochi games, she broke with official US policy and openly criticized the Russian government’s discriminatory policies toward their LGBTQ+ citizens. This tendency was sparked again after her failure to qualify, unleashing a storm of media attention. Following the event, she told reporters, “For me to put out two programs that I did at this competition as solid as I skated and to get those scores, I am furious, and I think deservedly so.”

Wagner acknowledged that judges should be strict on technique, and she attempted to explain that her issue was with the specific segment of scoring that impacted her overall result — the subjective component score. Wagner received a 68 on her component, or artistic, performance, while winner Bradie Tennell landed a 69.71. Tennell, though technically strong, has the “emotional range… from the bottom to the top of a shrug,” according to journalist Dvora Meyers.

This discrepancy led USA Today columnist Christine Brennan to lambast the US Figure Skating Committee on Twitter, writing, “Tennell is an amazing jumper and talent, but not in Wagner’s league on components, not even close. Judges here clearly wanted to dump Wagner.”

The compelling aspect of this controversy is the broader reaction to it. Wagner has been virulently attacked on Twitter. This response exemplifies how frequently public expressions of female anger or frustration are vilified. Compounded by the institutionalized gender inequalities in sport — which include unequal distributions of funding, media attention, and a male monopoly on perceived biological norms that underscore athleticism — Wagner’s outspokenness is a challenge to general patriarchal norms of female behaviour and perceptions of female athletes.

Prominent women in sport are often treated as if they arrived by chance — and as such, should display eternal gratitude for being awarded the right to exist on such a plane. A strong consensus exists among the scholarly community, expressed by Eoin J. Trolan at the PSU-USM International Conference on Humanities and Social Sciences, that women are “still viewed as women first and athletes second, while their male counterparts have no such concerns.”

Moreover, the sports media complex is instrumental in the reinforcement of this gendered hierarchy of value. Today, sports media extend far beyond television to include endorsements, advertising campaigns, and the more general use of sport-based imagery or rhetoric as a commercial tool. The glut of advertising and overall spectacle of the Super Bowl is a clear example of the normalization of this phenomenon.

Janet Fink of the University of Massachusetts Amherst explains that since “mass media [have] become one of the most powerful institutional forces for shaping values in modern culture,” the images and narratives looped across the world carry incredible power. For example, the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles reports that 98 per cent of American boys between the ages of eight and 17 consume sports media. This means that generations of young men are shaped by misguided and damaging interpretations of sport and athleticism, as well as the role of women more broadly.

When female athletes are portrayed, the focus is rarely on their athletic achievements; rather it is on “their physical appearance, femininity, and/or heterosexuality.” Fink posits that these differences in media coverage create, foster, and disseminate stereotypical gender roles, “producing a variety of economic, social, and political limitations that intensify the patriarchal power structure still so sharply entrenched in our culture.”

The fallout of this patriarchal dominance extends beyond athletes to coaching staff, trainers, and even female reporters, as recent allegations against ESPN highlight. In the summer of 2016, a complaint against the media giant was filed at the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, alleging vast inequality between male and female employees. Beyond fair pay, the allegations included instances where “men have made unwanted sexual propositions to female colleagues, given unsolicited shoulder rubs, and openly rated women on their looks.” In one horrific example of the power of this culture, a former female anchor reportedly performed a scheduled broadcast while having a miscarriage to prove her commitment to the job — that she could ‘tough it out.’

In light of this, the response to Wagner’s comments make sense. In challenging the terms of her judgement, she violated the terms of her acceptable existence as a relatively prominent female athlete. She displayed unfeminine, unattractive attributes: she was not gracious, quiet, or grateful. She publicly voiced anger and frustration. She asked for more.

A conservative analysis of the situation might argue that no, this was not a factor of gender, but rather a violation of basic norms of sportsmanship. Wagner lost fairly, and she shouldn’t have run her mouth about it. However, Wagner never criticized other skaters and has been publicly supportive of the winners, tweeting “Congrats to the lovely ladies of the team, you’ve got me in your cheering squad now!” Further, in an interview with NBC on January 10, Wagner stated that the judges “absolutely made the right call with this team,” but she stood by her initial reaction.

University of Toronto Varsity Blues figure skating team co-captain Lila Asher agrees that it is “important for athletes to be gracious whether they win or lose, out of respect for their competitors.” However, she also explained that considering the timing of Wagner’s initial interview, which immediately followed an emotionally intense performance, “I think she is justified in expressing her genuine frustration.” Asher highlighted the intense pressures faced by female figure skaters to “perform a specific type of femininity,” and she mentioned how damaging this can be for young athletes, regardless of gender. She also pointed out the rampant homophobia in figure skating more generally, demonstrating how prejudice impacts the entire gender spectrum.

Thus the real nucleus of the Wagner controversy is not this obtuse notion of sportsmanship, but the backlash her post-performance comments generated — and the sports media that fed it. The complex is both a reflection of and a contributor to our patriarchal society, which is instrumental in reducing sport to a privilege too few can experience.

Women are not the only victims of these imbalances; men and non-binary individuals are also undermined by constructed notions of gender identity. As powerful men fall from grace across industries, the time is ripe for systemic change in sports media.

Return next week for Kate’s article on the steps needed to make significant and lasting change in sports media.

Inclusivity in sports: the Change Room Project

How U of T is promoting LGBTQ+ participation in athletics

Inclusivity in sports: the Change Room Project

Growing up, sports always made me feel at home — my teams became my family. I thought sports made others feel the same way until high school, when there was outrage when an openly gay male student wanted to join the cheerleading team. There were no gender restriction rules, but the girls on the team were still mad. Their main concern was where he would change.

He eventually ended up on the team. The LGBTQ+ community has experienced extensive abuse and harassment when it comes to sports. There have been recent breakthroughs, including the 2014 NFL drafting of openly gay player Michael Sam and the International Olympic Committee’s 2016 decision to change its policy and become more inclusive to transgender individuals. Though the international sporting community is becoming more aware, there is still more to be done in the progression of LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the sporting community.

At the University of Toronto, one of the most visible campaigns is the Change Room Project, a joint initiative with the PanAm Pride leadership group and spearheaded Caroline Fusco, an associate professor in the faculty of kinesiology and physical education at U of T. The project involves displaying comments or stories, written by LGBTQ+ students, around and outside the change rooms at the Goldring Athletic Centre. All the statements reflect on individuals’ experiences in the locker room, shedding light on the troubles that they have faced and continue to face.

The project “places the words of LGBTQ students in the very spaces where they are underrepresented,” reads a brochure. It seeks to build awareness of and investigate how social and physical experiences of LGBTQ+ people in athletic facilities impact their participation levels, giving a platform to marginalized people who would otherwise feel uncomfortable or fearful entering or using the facilities.

One of the more publicized comments was made by Luca Nagy, a lesbian student with more masculine features. In her statement, she explains the harassment she has endured, including unwanted stares and people telling her she doesn’t belong in the women’s locker room.

Recently, the university stated that it is “committed to equity and wellness” and acknowledged that “there is still much work to be done when it comes to creating safe, inclusive locker room spaces.”

Editor’s Note (March 23): This article has been updated to reflect that the Change Room Project was spearheaded by Caroline Fusco. 

Overlooked: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Despite its Golden Globes success, the show remains under the radar of most audiences

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Overlooked is a new feature in the Arts section where a contributor makes the case for a piece of pop culture they feel doesn’t get the acknowledgement it deserves. It can be anything — an album, a book, a film. Have something in mind? Email [email protected] to argue for your pick.

For a show that has received widespread critical acclaim and numerous accolades, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is still something of a tough sell. Sure, ‘It’s a show about a Jewish Upper West Side housewife in the 1950s whose husband leaves her, so she pursues a career in stand-up comedy’ doesn’t exactly sound like prestige television, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching.

Despite winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy, and lead actress Rachel Brosnahan snagging the award for Best Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy, it seems like the show has remained under the radar in terms of popular success.

On one hand, this is unsurprising, as it mirrors the mediocre popularity level of Mozart in the Jungle, another Amazon Video series that received the same number of Golden Globes two years prior yet has not found a wider audience. On the other hand, it’s disappointing since, to be frank, Maisel is absolutely astonishing.

It’s thoughtful and inspiring, showcasing a significant aspect of Manhattan culture that is often unexplored in media. The show is actually a period drama that places an emphasis on creativity, activism, and creating a dynamic cast of characters. Brosnahan as Midge, Marin Hinkle as her mother, and Tony Shalhoub as her father do a wonderful job playing off each other, creating a vivid family dynamic that hasn’t been seen since creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Gilmore Girls.

Maybe Maisel is such a hard sell because it’s relatively niche. The show adopts a brand of understated feminism that works well in its 1958 setting but that wouldn’t be as resonant today. Its premise isn’t necessarily exciting or riveting, though the show itself is. Its humour is of that distinct Sherman-Palladino style of fast-talking, pop culture references, and peculiar characters — the traits responsible for both Gilmore Girls’ cult following and the disdain and mockery it received from some viewers.

If you were to ask me whether or not I would recommend The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to everyone I know, the answer would be no. It’s not for everyone, and I would definitely understand if someone disliked it. However, for those who would love the type of female-driven quirky comedy that it provides, the show is magical. You can decide for yourself, as the first episode is free to watch on YouTube. Hopefully, you’ll fall in love with this show as deeply as I did.

Exploring the potential of superhero comic books to shape our morality

Whether as propaganda or ethics lessons, the impact of the medium is worth thinking about

Exploring the potential of superhero comic books to shape our morality

As children, we tend to absorb the things we hear and see around us. Now, in a culture of constant consumption, today’s children are hooked on some form of media from an early age. The stories depicted in superhero comic books are a perfect example — having been transposed onto the big screen and brought to large audiences, they can be powerful messaging tools.

Though children may be more susceptible to the influence of media messaging because they are impressionable and trusting, comic book culture can subtly influence individual and collective opinions on right and wrong among adults and children alike.

It is no secret that comic book characters were used as instruments of state propaganda during the Cold War. The evils that these fictional crusaders took down were derived from the real world.

Captain America encouraged patriotism among young Americans by taking on Hitler. Similarly, Superman was once depicted as flying Hitler and Stalin to the League of Nations to be tried for their crimes — this was published even though Stalin’s Soviet Union was an ally of the United States during World War II.

It is not difficult to determine good and bad in a comic book, but that black-and-white determination does not often transfer well to real events. A consumer of comic lore might easily identify the Nazis or the Japanese as the ‘bad guys’ and the Americans as the ‘good’ ones, glossing over the many shades of grey that constituted the historic conflict. This further underlines the power of these depictions, as unwitting consumers might begin to view history in binaries and fail to think critically about damaging Allied actions such as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Another aspect to consider is the stereotyping of certain groups within comics, which has the potential to influence popular opinion. The medium has historically included discriminatory portrayals of ethnic minorities, including caricaturing their appearances, depicting Black characters as uncivilized, or Asian ones as shifty and calculating.

These stereotypes are not limited to comic books. In the post 9/11 era, many western movies, such as the popular Clint Eastwood film American Sniper, showed their heroes taking on terrorists from the Middle East, contributing to the idea that all terrorism stems from the region.

Regrettably, such portrayals connect a phenomenon that can occur in any part of the world — war, destruction, and the loss of innocent lives — solely with Islam, making it seem as though Muslims and Arabs are the single largest threat to humanity.

The emotions and conflicts conveyed in comic books are another reason we should study their impact closely, through their depiction of how certain choices impact their characters. The famous line uttered by Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility,” is something most people are introduced to early. The fact that Peter loses his beloved uncle, prompting him to don his crime-fighting costume, draws attention to the price of ignoring this advice.

Bruce Wayne’s alter ego, Batman, is another example of a traumatized hero who is unable to let go of his past, using it to fuel his current fight for justice. Even the villains in these renditions are as interesting and recognizable as the heroes; for instance, Batman rogue Two-Face displays a dual personality and an obsession with duality.

These conflicts represent the intricacies and frailties of human interaction, making superhero comics compelling forms of media. Comic books have the ability to teach morals — this teaching may be intentional or unintentional, and the morals may be commendable or less so. It would be unwise to ignore their impact in either case.

Why nice guys finish last on television

Cynical characters hate everything, but we can't help loving them

Why nice guys finish last on television

An increasingly popular American television trope is the archetype of the lovable cynic. These are your Bojack Horsemans, your Harvey Specters, your Tyrion Lannisters and Bronns of Blackwater, and your Ricks of C-137. They hate the world, yet the world adores them for it. It’s counterintuitive that such unlovable men are such lovable characters — so why can’t we stop watching them?

Take Bojack Horseman, with its titular character playing the quintessential Hollywood cynic. Writer Raphael Bob-Waksberg imbues Bojack with all of his own political mistrust and existential angst, making Bojack a successfully angry voice of reason.

Despite all his personal issues and career failings, he is generally one of few characters within the show who can aptly critique life, Hollywood’s failings, and Todd Chavez’s ridiculous business plans. When Bojack compares people to marbles “bouncing around… in the game of Hungry Hungry Hippos that is our cruel and random universe” and notes that “life is just a series of closing doors,” the audience is left with a question: is the world worth braving at all?

We celebrate Bojack and his contemporaries because he’s a mouthpiece to express what we are often too afraid to express ourselves. The lovable cynic is symbolic of our own nihilism, our own anger, but also our own latent badassery. His flaws, in particular fury and hatred, are compelling because they are relatable.

The cynic shines not because he is good but because he is rarely good. We view this light-through-the-crack goodness in relation to all his other actions. Once you’ve established that a character does not care about others or what they think, softening those traits throughout the series becomes an easy way to draw a compelling character arc.

And yes, the lovable cynic is nearly always a guy, because the notions of masculinity and its subversions are closely intertwined with his character. Californication solidified the trend 10 years ago with David Duchovny’s portrayal of Hank Moody, the alcoholic, sharp-tongued, and aloof author of God Hates Us All.

Moody is a serial womanizer, adulterer, and statutory rapist, sleeping with a girl he later discovers is 16. Among his best known quotes is, “I probably won’t go down in history, but I will go down on your sister.”

Yet for all of the accusations of misogyny leveled against Moody by fictional and real-life activists alike, what draws people to his character are the moments in which he displays genuine care for women. It may be his loathing of self and all else that make him interesting, but it’s his love for his daughter, Becca, and ex-wife, Karen, that redeem him.

Rick of the animated series Rick and Morty also embodies the concept of growing out of one’s cynicism. The show varies between portraying Rick’s love for Morty and complete disinterest. Another alcoholic egotist, Rick is careful never to show much positivity or emotion, even for what may be the only thing he actually cares about: his stuttering grandson.

The best evidence we have that Rick feels anything for Morty is in the episode “Close Encounters of the Rick Kind,” in which Rick is about to die and cries watching videos of himself and Morty. But scenes like this are often counterbalanced with claims that his true motivation throughout the series is his quest for Szechuan sauce, or his drunk confession that a minor character named Noob Noob is the only one person he truly values.

Discerning which is the true Rick is part of the fun. We love Rick’s cynicism and existentialist attitude, but we also love not knowing if that’s really who he is.

The arc of Community’s Jeff Winger, another Dan Harmon creation along with Rick and Morty, follows this format too. A disbarred lawyer, Jeff enrolls at Greendale Community College so that he can graduate quickly and return to the legal profession — I’m not certain that Harmon understands how the bar works.

Jeff begins the series as a manipulative, selfish narcissist, creating a fake study group in an attempt to sleep with a girl. He proclaims in the pilot, “If I talk long enough, I can make anything wrong or right. So either I’m God or truth is relative.”

But for a god, Jeff becomes incredibly benevolent as the series progresses. He befriends the study group, saving them many times over from rivals and from one another. The tension of Jeff’s character development hinges on straddling the line between benign leader and selfish asshole. The less savoury aspects of his character keep us on our toes, making his moments of kindness seem all the more special.

So yes, nice guys finish last in television, and yes, we are guilty of falling in love with characters that hate the world around them. But it’s not a coincidence that bad people make great characters. What these shows have in common is their anger, but also their message of underlying humanity. Though the anger scratches an itch, the humanity makes everything a little more bearable.

How to survive cuffing season at U of T

Could we possibly have been cuffed all along?

How to survive cuffing season at U of T

Cuffing season is upon us, which means millennials are sliding into DMs at 2:00 am on a Wednesday night, trying to convince themselves that being ‘cuffed’ isn’t as bad as they initially thought. Or they’re tweeting Tumblr quotes and reposting Insta-poetry to combat the emptiness of being incredibly single.

Cuffing season refers to the period of fall and winter during which singles will attempt to find a relationship in an attempt to be cuffed during the colder seasons. In the past, non-University of Toronto students have told me that the best way to survive cuffing season is to party all day, every day. The internet’s suggestions include buying body pillows, binge drinking, and going for brunch.

But none of these tips are suitable for the average U of T student taking a full course load, overworking themselves with endless extracurricular involvement, and setting their hearts on finding the cure to a rare disease.

Since there are still at least two more months left until cuffing season is over, here is a guide to surviving cuffing season at U of T.

Go on ACORN and look at your GPA

U of T is a prestigious school, and only the smartest, brightest high school students are admitted each year. Despite being the most intelligent group of individuals in the country, U of T students are not immune to the feeling of loneliness and the overwhelming weight of singledom.

When feeling sorry for yourself due to your lack of a significant other, log onto ACORN and admire your 4.0. Non-U of T students find us intimidating because of our genius minds — it’s not our fault people can’t handle our brains. A 4.0 will always be sexier than being cuffed.

Find love with Northrop Frye

The saying goes, “Men always cheat and, eventually, leave,” or so I’ve been told by the Polish ladies at my job. But living at Victoria College has assured me that this sexist statement is inaccurate. Since my first year at U of T, a lot of men have disappointed me, and many did abandon me.

But Northrop Frye has always been my constant. He’s always been there for me. When I fail to make time for him, he doesn’t take my absence personally. He has definitely cheated on me, but cuffing season only mandates a relationship — not a serious, monogamous one. More importantly, he’s a great listener.

Recall Ivan Reznikoff

Romantic love and U of T don’t always work well together. We have to maintain our GPAs and keep making ignorant and hurtful memes based on our mantra of being the number one school in the country.

When you start to feel an inkling of loneliness, remind yourself how romance has historically ended at U of T — like Reznikoff, for example. If he and another man hadn’t fallen in love with the same woman, he wouldn’t be haunting the halls of University College. The correct lesson to draw from this is that U of T students who try to pursue love will end up haunting the campus for the rest of their lives.

Remember: at convocation, you will acquire a U of T degree

Shortly after graduating, you will be receiving pamphlets from U of T asking for alumni donations. U of T is in it for the long run, and everyone knows commitment is important for a healthy relationship.

In the book Is He or Isn’t He?, John Hall claims that “sometimes what you’re looking for is right under your nose and you don’t even know it.” That could not be truer for U of T students — U of T has literally always been here for us. We wear U of T’s clothes, talk about U of T to our friends and family, and all of us have been inside U of T. Maybe we’ve been in an intimate, committed relationship all along, and we didn’t even know it.

Happy cuffing season!

Free pharmacare — if you’re younger than 25

Is the new OHIP+ program really a step in the right direction?

Free pharmacare — if you’re younger than 25

If you were to ask random passersby for examples of distinctly Canadian things, you would be sure to collect an eclectic mish-mash of responses. These would likely be topped by maple syrup and hockey, perhaps with an honourable mention of colourful money and the CN Tower. Among these answers would likely be our universal healthcare system.

Given that nearly all developed nations, with the noticeable exception of the US, have adopted some form of free, accessible, universal healthcare, it may be considered odd that Canadians take such pride in a system that is not unique to them.

Statistics Canada reported in its 2013 General Social Survey that our health care system was our second greatest source of national pride, tied with Canada’s armed forces, with 64 per cent of Canadians polled reporting being proud of it.

Yet, despite the lavish praise, Canada’s national health care system lacks what many systems in other developed countries have: a subsidized prescription drug program.

Approximately one in 10 Canadians are forced to forego prescribed medication due to financial difficulties. Such difficulties are one of the many issues that the Government of Ontario chose to tackle in its 2017 budget with the introduction of the new OHIP+ program.

Having come into effect on January 1 of this year, OHIP+ provides more than 4,400 medications — that were only partially covered by the existing Ontario Drug Benefit plan — free of charge to anyone under the age of 25 in Ontario with a health card number.

“Young people aged 19-24 are less likely to have access to prescription drug coverage or the financial means to pay out-of-pocket due to higher unemployment and lower incomes,” wrote David Jensen from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care’s Communications and Marketing Division. “The unemployment rate for youth (aged 15-24) in Ontario is almost three times higher than the unemployment rate for adults over the age of 25.”

Dr. Danielle Martin of U of T’s Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation and the university’s School of Public Policy and Governance sees OHIP+ as a step forward for the province.

“The introduction of OHIP+ is an amazing accomplishment for young people and their families in Ontario. Doctors often see families in our offices who cannot afford to pay for their prescription medicines, and sometimes those medicines are lifesaving or critical to a child or youth’s quality of life,” explained Martin.

Martin is one of the authors of the Pharmacare 2020 report, which calls for universal national coverage of some medications, and she has defended single-payer health care systems before the US Senate.

She made it clear, though, that this program is just the first step. “Covering prescription medicines for people up to age 25 is a critical step on the road to universal pharmacare in Canada, and it will make a big difference for a lot of people. Now we just need to close the gap between ages 25 and 65.”

Painting OHIP+ as the best step toward a universal pharmacare program is not the most accurate depiction. A recent Parliamentary Budget Officer report shows that introducing a fully universal program right off the bat would in fact be cheaper than OHIP+ in the long-term.

This has prompted some criticism of OHIP+. U of T’s Dr. Jessica Ross is among its critics, stating that “OHIP+ is a small step forward, but not a smart one” in an opinion piece published by the Toronto Star. Instead, Ross supports the adoption of free pharmacare for Ontarians of all ages.

There are also concerns about how the province will pay for OHIP+ — with a $465 million price tag, the expansion will not come cheap.

Despite being included in what the Liberal Party describes as a balanced budget, the $465 million figure is dubious, as a breakdown is not included in the budget document itself. This caused Ontario New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath to postulate that the expansion was a last-minute addition to the budget.

Regardless, the reception among some U of T students has been warm. “OHIP+ is a net positive for students everywhere,” said UTSU Vice-President Internal Daman Singh. “We expect it to complement the UTSU plan, and we don’t foresee any negative impact.”

The more cynical among us may wonder about the timing of the expansion. It is not out of line to think that the introduction of OHIP+, in conjunction with the minimum wage hike and recently improved OSAP benefits, is a play by the Liberals to woo young voters before the upcoming provincial election this summer.

How effective is this move? Only time — and the ballot boxes — will tell.