With Jake Stika of Next Gen Men, Fay Slift and Fluffy Soufflé of The Fabulous Show with Fay and Fluffy, Shree Paradkar of the Toronto Star, and Angela Sterritt, national bestselling author of Unbroken. Today’s episode features four of seven incredible speakers at The Walrus Talks Gender-Based Violence, presented by the Canadian Women’s Foundation and held on November 16, 2023. Speakers addressed pressing issues and solutions to end gender-based violence.

Listen to learn how we can become allies to survivors of abuse and work as agents of safety and care from the ground up.

A note about content: this episode addresses gender-based violence.


00:00:00 Andrea

Welcome to Alright, Now What? a podcast from the Canadian Women’s Foundation. We put an intersectional feminist lens on stories that make you wonder, “why is this still happening?” We explore systemic routes and strategies for change that will move us closer to the goal of gender justice.

The work of the Canadian Women’s Foundation and our partners takes place on traditional First Nations, Métis and Inuit territories. We are grateful for the opportunity to meet and work on this land. However, we recognize that land acknowledgements are not enough. We need to pursue truth, reconciliation, decolonization, and allyship in an ongoing effort to make right with all our relations.

00:00:44 Andrea

I’m Andrea Gunraj at the Canadian Women’s Foundation.

Today’s episode builds on our last episode. It features four of seven incredible speakers at The Walrus Talks Gender-Based Violence, presented by the Canadian Women’s Foundation and held on November 16, 2023. Jake Stika at Next Gen Men, Fay Slift and Fluffy Soufflé of The Fabulous Show with Fay and Fluffy, Shree Paradkar at the Toronto Star, and Angela Sterritt, national bestselling author of Unbroken all spoke to pressing issues and solutions to end gender-based violence.

Listen to learn how we can become allies to survivors of abuse and work as agents of safety and care from the ground up.

A note about content: this episode addresses gender-based violence.

00:01:31 Jake

It’s an honour to be doing a Walrus Talk, which is why I grew my best walrus mustache. Good evening. My name is Jake Stika. I use he/him pronouns and I’m the Executive Director and Co-founder of Next Gen Men.

We’re a nonprofit organization focussed on building better men through youth and peer engagement, education, and empowerment. With a background like that, you’re probably expecting me to spend the next 7 minutes talking about how men can be allies in the fight against gender-based violence.

Not quite. Absolutely —the engagement of men and boys is crucial to ending violence and advancing equity for girls, women, and gender-diverse peoples. But being an ally doesn’t capture the role we need to play to move forward. To help illustrate our approach, let me share a quote from renowned Black feminist bell hooks in her book The Will to Change, when she wrote:

“The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.”

I love this quote. What I take from it is that men are not male allies. Men are not adjacent to the issue. Men are in the thick of it. Men have experienced gender-based violence their whole lives, every inadequate performance of masculinity resulting in a paper cut of patriarchy in the form of:

Man up. Boys don’t cry. That’s so gay. You throw like a girl.

Attacks on our sense of self, our sense of safety, our sense of belonging and worth as we are. This leads to statistics that show men are not only the primary perpetrators of violence, but aside from gender-based violence as defined across genders, we are more likely to be victims of all other forms of violence at the hands of other men.

At this point, I think we can say a couple of things with certainty. Everyone in this room wants to end gender-based violence, and anyone engaging in violence is likely not fine and has not been fine for a while. As I see it, to end gender-based violence, we need to start where it begins. Our approach is to meet boys and men where they live, learn, work, and play and turn those into more positive spaces for them.

What does that look like? It looks like starting a discord server for teenage boys during the height of the pandemic to stay connected, that not only hosts Minecraft missions and Dungeons and Dragons dynasties but creates space for open and honest reflections on what it means to mature from a boy into a man in 2023. One youth went so far as to say it is the safest space for boys on the Internet.

Safe. Boys. Internet. Those are three words rarely heard in one sentence.

It also looks like taking some of these extremely online boys on hikes in the Rockies or canoe trips in the Kawartha Lakes. Perhaps bear country and portages are not as safe as the discord server, but imagine becoming a man through challenge by choice, and the spirit of collaboration, courage and connection with a whole group of other boys.

This work also looks like running a book that is B.O.O.K. (Beyond Our Own Knowledge Club) for over 650 men in male dominant industries over the past three years, reading works from authors outside the dominant narratives of white, straight, cisgender males in the business world.

It also looks like meeting men where they’re at — literally in the refineries of Alberta and the mining sites of BC, translating lofty DEI goals of anti-oppression and intersectionality from office towers into relatable goals in the field like safety and belonging. Answering, “What’s in it for me?”, when presented with apathy or agitation.

This work looks like creating decks of cards to spark conversation about changing the meaning of masculinity for when we’re too scared or nervous to start from scratch. Just shuffle the deck and a transformative talk awaits you. I could keep going, but what I hope you walk away with is that we do not need more programs for problems that treat boys and men solely as perpetrators. There exists a male positive pro feminist possibility in engaging boys and men for their own liberation from patriarchy.

Phil Christman wrote in a piece titled, What Is It Like to Be a Man?: “To put it simply: Every social encounter between men is potentially a fistfight. You learn this in elementary school and never forget it.”

If we’re serious about the prevention of gender-based violence, I hope we can be serious in preventing the first act of violence that patriarchy demands of boys and help men heal from the paper cuts of patriarchy they’ve sustained.

The fact that we are experiencing changes in how we see, act, and think about masculinity from generation to generation gives me hope that we are building a future where boys and men feel less pain and cause less harm. Thank you.


00:07:27 JP

Hi everyone. We’re going to start off with our chat with the words that we say at the beginning of every episode of The Fabulous Show with Fay and Fluffy.

We’re on a mission to be fabulous,

00:07:45 Kaleb

bring joy, and most importantly,

00:07:47 JP & Kaleb

read the house down.

00:07:52 Kaleb

My name is Kaleb Robertson. My pronouns are he/him and I’m a transgender masculine person. I am also Fluffy Soufflé, a non-binary drag performer whose pronouns are they/them. I am the gender diversity you’ve all been hearing about.

I have then of course faced gender-based violence as a young girl, as a masculine-presenting women, as a transgender person, and most unexpectedly, as a drag performer who just wanted to read some stories to kids.

I have also had to recognize my own privilege as someone who now presents as a white man—ish, and my responsibility now to be aware of other people’s safety and comfort. This week right now is Transgender Awareness Week, which ends on November 20th, which is internationally recognized as Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Sadly, it began in 1999 and my community was given this day to specifically remember the lives of people who have lost their lives in the previous year due to anti-transgender violence. And so, each year, we read the names of the people who we have lost. And unfortunately, that doesn’t include everybody because we also have a lot of people in our community who may not be recognized, who don’t get recognized in their deaths as who they lived in their life, and so, we’re taking that time this week to acknowledge all of those people of our community.

00:09:21 JP

My name is JP Kane. My pronouns are he/him. I’m an educator with the TDSB, celebrating 27 years. Currently I am a kindergarten teacher. I am also drag performer, Fay Slift. I began my performance career in 2007 at Buddies In Bad Times Theater.

My first experience of being exposed to gender-based violence occurred in a place where all children should feel ultimately the safest. It occurred at home. I was a soft and gentle little boy. This very fact shook the foundations of my father’s notion of masculinity.

I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of two different priests and also an uncle.

At the age of 10, I was watching a documentary. I believe it was called, The Human Animal, hosted by Desmond Morris. They were talking about homosexuality. I turned to my dad, and I just asked, “what does it mean to be homosexual?” He paused. And his response was, “if you are one, tell me now and I will put you out of your misery.”

It was in that moment that I knew I was truly alone in my family. But over the years, I have found unconditional love and support in found family.

00:11:01 Kaleb

We’ve been doing story times together for over 7 years now and have been thrilled to be invited to so many institutions in Toronto — the ROM, the AGO, Harbourfront Centre, as well as many schools, public libraries, community centres, and lots of neighborhood community events.

Our first goal was to read some stories with kids and have some laughs. We also really wanted to take inspiration and provide safe spaces and inclusive spaces for our communities and our allies to gather together and enjoy the art of drag as a family. Drag has been happening for families forever. The experience has been incredible. We get the honour of sending out a message of joy, of celebrating diversity, of being proud of your family and of yourself, and interacting with some of the most incredible human beings out there — kids. Our events are magical and empowering.

On occasion, we would receive emails which were a little bit offensive to us. They were often threatening and sometimes littered with Bible quotes. Instagram gives you an opportunity to block certain words, so I had to sit there and think of every offensive, nasty thing that we could be called so that I could block it.

Occasionally I’d have to revisit that list as a new word would sneak through or people would find creative ways to spell things so that they could also get through. Because we always wanted our Instagram to be a place where families can scroll together. So, we do not have any tolerance for any kind of negativity and hatred. And occasionally we see that on other posts — a library might be excited to have us out there and then we scroll through the comments and it’s disheartening.

00:12:51 JP

There have been so many changes in the Storytimes, particularly around the past eight months. However, with the arrival of the pandemic and the unhinged conspiracy theories and the hate, we have noticed an uptick in threats which have become increasingly violent in nature.

In the past eight months, we’ve been experiencing real life protesters, transphobes, homophobes, and actual Nazis. There is definitely a correlation between the rise of the anti-science, anti-VAX, and conspiracy theorists spewing rhetoric and vile accusations of us being groomers and pedophiles.

A huge, massive shout-out to brave librarians who have championed our Storytimes from the inception of Fay & Fluffy tory time. When we go to events now, we are actually embraced with open arms. We are actually also given detailed maps and clandestine routes in order to avoid the harassment. Often there are police presences in those spaces which totally go against a lot of what we believe in.

Again, we are reading stories to children, encouraging them to be proud of who they are, encouraging them to be proud of their families — sending a message to communities all over Ontario that these spaces are safe and inclusive ones.

00:14:25 Kaleb

Needless to say, these dehumanizing threats have had an impact on our mental health. Raising our already present anxiety as we go into new spaces. Recently, just in the last couple of months in Mississauga, we were there with CBC’s The National, which you can check out that episode that they did about violence against drag storytimes.

We had no idea there was going to be anything there other than a beautiful time. What they actually captured, was an invasion of our space. It was a public space outdoors. As we started our storytime, suddenly we were filled with predominantly men and this beautiful space that was filled with children and families suddenly had massive signage with vile statements, drones recording us, men standing in front of families recording themselves, people yelling out Bible quotes again, and just trying to interrupt and disrupt what was a time — turning these families into activists who were just there to enjoy some stories and have a nice afternoon.

One of the most offensive sights that we saw that day was these groups of people have appropriated orange shirts and they are now wearing orange shirts with the hashtag #SaveOurChildren and a ill-written endorsement of military hero worship, which really just broke our hearts, but we remained, and we did our storytime and we will never back down.

00:15:59 JP

Yeah. So, in a few weeks, we will begin filming our second series for our show. We are recent recipients of the Shaw Rocket Fund Kids’ Choice Award, where children and families across the country voted and we won and we beat out PAW Patrol.

00:16:24 Kaleb

As much as we love what we are doing, as much as we have been embraced by kids and families across Canada and around the world, children are still being harassed in schools. Several of the kids in our circle are being harassed, bullied, and facing physical violence in their schools based on their gender presentations. Families are being verbally assaulted at our shows.

And we refuse to crawl away and hide in any proverbial crawl closet, because what belongs in closets?

00:16:50 JP

Clothes, not people.

00:16:54 Kaleb

So, we want children to see their communities reflected around them in what we do. They deserve to see that and the literacy they consume. It is our duty to be there for those children and uplift their voices and celebrate who they are as they have embraced us so much.

00:17:11 JP & Kaleb

Thank you so much.


00:17:14 Shree

Good evening. I’m Shree Paradkar, a Columnist and Internal Ombud at The Toronto Star.

No, no, I didn’t make that face the Toronto Star. I made that face at what I’m about to say. And I wish I didn’t have to share this. But let me begin with a series of things I found in my inbox when I just put in the word “cunt” —

“Shut the fuck up, you stupid race baiting cunt.”

“You disingenuous fake news whore.”

“You’re going to get brutally raped.”

“Go live under Sharia like the slave you are.”

“Drop dead.”

“Kill yourself.”

“I’m going to smash your head in.”

“I’m going to get a rope.”

A few centuries ago, women were burned at the stake. These women were called witches. Today in our digital era, women are being harassed and even killed for expressing opinions. They—we—are called bitches, and as you just saw, far worse.

While what I’ve offered here is a glimpse, just a few seconds long, into my inbox, this is a daily reality for women journalists, especially for Indigenous and journalists of colour. To be clear, reader and viewer feedback is normal and welcome, but disagreement is not abuse.

As a female, the abuse I get is often misogynistic. You can see it in a recent email I got after writing in support of the civilians in Gaza: “Will it be satisfying to see Shree Paradkar driven around in the back of a dirty truck with her leg on backwards?”

As an immigrant woman of colour, the racist harassment I face is deeply rooted in colonialism, anti-Indigeneity, anti-blackness, and Islamophobia. In that same email: “You dirty sand [n-word]. You were warned by me and a dozen of my friends. What did we tell you? We told you how easy it was to get a drunk [s-word] (a slur for Indigenous people) to shove enough of you activist reporters into a wall.”

Abuse of journalists is not new, but where a pre-Internet troll would have had to write something, put it in an envelope, write out the address and post it, today, all of those opportunities for cooling off are gone. What’s new now is the frequency of attacks, their multiple access points to you, their viciousness, the threats of sexual assault, the bone chilling violence they wish upon you, on your children, the threat of being doxed, stalking, and murder.

A landmark report by UNESCO in 2021 titled, The Chilling, which featured journalists from all around the world, said that the abused journalist face is designed to belittle, humiliate, and shame women to scare us into silence and retreat.

Scare us. Silence us.

As journalists, we represent the public. When they silence us, they silence you.

Journalists of colour are canaries in the proverbial coal mine. The first recipients of abuse, whose concerns have long been ignored and dismissed. Around the time COVID hit came abuse, increasing abuse for white women, and now the targets have spilled over into advocacy groups, academia, educators, healthcare professionals, anyone on a social media platform.

As journalists, many of us face a choice: retreat in your professional lives or in your personal one. I’ve chosen the latter. But I don’t know how long that is sustainable. Because there is also a blurring of lines between the digital world and the real world.

A few years ago, when I was alerted that my name and photo were being circulated in white supremacist forums, I had to clean up my social media, take down any photos of my children, make sure my residence could not be identified.

I no longer shop in my own name. Among neighbors, I am perfectly adept at answering the question, “what do you do?”, without actually saying anything. And why would I? A family down the street where I lived until recently, had a gigantic “Q” for QAnon, drawn with chalk on the road outside their house and in the winter, a “Q” built with mounds of snow on their lawn. Did I really need them to know what I do and what I write?

The stress often comes from not knowing who or what could become a threat and when. So, I’m reclusive in my personal life. And yet, the kind of abuse that I’m describing right now is the tip of the iceberg. It’s one that’s easy to see, easy to understand instantly as bad.

The more insidious harassment comes from bad actors. A politician who exhorts his followers to play dirty against the media. Or a fellow journalist who’s offering criticism but tags troll factories abroad, or simply sits back, as their followers unleash hate on you.

The UNESCO report that I referred to earlier on online violence calls this phenomenon, which is very common in Canada, dogpiling. It involves not just fringe networks but publicly identifiable political actors and male journalists.

That means friends or friends of friends could be unleashing venom.

That brings it closer, doesn’t it? It takes away from the comfort of our imaginings of the peddlers of hate as being strangers, losers sitting in their basements, or even in a sterile troll factory in Russia or in India. It’s easier to repudiate online hate by rejecting its incivility and its vulgarity. Far more difficult to call our own to account.

I once wrote about a Canadian radio host who was told: “If you like the illegals so much, you should go have your clit burnt off and your ass torn up through ritual gang rape before being sold off.”

It’s horrifying, but it’s not enough to be perpetually horrified. Often, trauma comes, not just from the abuse, but also from the lack of support around it. There are pieces of accountability around industry support, government action, and social media accountability, but this is about all of us.

What can we do? What can you all do?

First, a couple of things not to do.

Don’t censor or tone police a journalist by saying, “if you write this, what do you expect?” Descent, even rude descent, is not a pass for abuse.

Don’t say, “maybe avoid social media.” For journalists, especially for freelance journalists, these platforms offer scope for assignments and livelihood.

Don’t say, “ignore it” or don’t say, “it’s a badge of honour because it means you’ve arrived.” Don’t say, “toughen up buttercup.”

If you see… What you can do is, if you see a provocative rights-based story in the media, especially covered by someone from a marginalized background, write to the head of the media organization and say, “what are you doing to take care of the journalist who will be facing backlash today?”

CC the journalist. It makes them feel seen. I get these and every one of them is worth a dozen, dozens of hate mails that I receive. It tells the establishment that the public is watching and the public cares.

And lastly, introspect continuously: Why do I think what I think? What assumption did I just make about that Black person, that homeless person, that disabled person, that trans person? And how would I have responded if that same person was a white man in a suit?

Doing this in the privacy of your head will clarify your own lens, help you recognize dog whistles, and eventually find the courage to stand up against all injustices.

I am safe when you become safe. Thank you.


00:26:48 Angela

…Hello honoured guests. I’m very happy to see you this evening. My name is Angela Sterritt. I’m Gitxsan on my father’s side. I’m also white with English and Irish roots on my mother’s side.

On the day I received my Gitxsan name … and I am a proud member of the House of Wiik’aax, the House of the Big Wings, I also quit my job at CBC. Ending a long career as a television and radio reporter, and I learnt my Gitxsan name that was given to me by my elder who’s also my cousin ad my language teacher, was …, which means “woman who works in television and radio.”

So, it’s just a funny thing that I always will carry with me because I’m not going back to that hell.

There’s a saying that goes: if you say something enough, it becomes the truth. Actually, it’s not just a saying, it’s a well-established phenomena in cognitive science known as the illusory truth effect. When it comes to Indigenous people, that illusion has had a strong hold on Canadians for decades.

So today I want to talk about the power of story, the power of belief, the power of speaking up, and the power — the supernatural power — of change. Because we definitely need change, right? We’re living in a very polarized time.

We surely need stories about Indigenous people, Indigenous women and girls in general to shift. And we absolutely need to speak up. No more silence. As the colonial hangover of systemic anti-Indigenous female violence means that each day we leave the house, we might not make it home alive.

Even though we make up only 4% of the female population in Canada, we made-up 25% of all female homicide victims in this country. And stereotyping, those myths that victim-blame also often result in impunity for crimes against Indigenous women.

So, what does this mean? What does it tell us?

This January, a CBC report found that of the 231 calls to justice put out by the National Inquiry looking into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, out of 231, only two were completed.

Someone asked me, “well, what does that mean?”

And I said: “Well it sends a strong message out to the world, doesn’t it? That we don’t matter.”

But women are the backbone of Indigenous communities. We’re the ones that hold the knowledge. We’re the ones that carry the stories. We carry the strength. We carry the children.

So how do we get to a place where we matter in Canada?

For me, it’s through the truth. We’re not at reconciliation yet. We’re not even close.

I think of Ramona Wilson. She was 16 in 1994. She had a mother, a sister and nephews, friends, a community that loved her. She was the responsible one in her friend group. She was a poet. She had a belief in a higher power.

When she went missing, she was headed to a graduation ceremony, a privilege that all youth should be afforded. But because of the lack of an affordable transportation system that didn’t come to fruition until 2018, she had to hitchhike.

The police didn’t believe the family that she was missing. Instead, they typecast them as irresponsible. The public also didn’t care. Instead, the township fundraised for a white woman who was missing from a community thousands of kilometers away in Vancouver.

Melanie Carpenter’s killer was found three days later.

Ramona Wilson’s case is still unsolved.

But what could have happened if her family was believed? If the city, if anyone, spoke out? If the narratives about Indigenous women were not riddled with stereotypes?

I could have easily been her.

When I was a young girl, in photographs and testimony in court, my relatives stood in full regalia, fighting the white man’s laws in the white man’s courts, using the white man’s words in the largest Aboriginal rights and title case of the time, the Delgamuukw.

I was so proud to see members of my nation, my elders, my uncles. They were strong. They were wise. They were brilliant. They were creative. They were fierce. I was so excited to turn on the TV and see my people represented.

But when I turned on the TV, all I saw were untruths: “These lazy, dirty Indians. What do they want now? They’re violent, belligerent.”

And so, I decided then, it was my fight. It was my time to turn the narrative around, using my voice. Only, I was becoming a stereotype, myself. At barely 13, I was being abused in the home. I was being brutally bullied at school. And not long after I was forced on the street. Living under bridges, group homes and abandoned buildings became my norm.

So, there I was, boiling over in rage, becoming the stereotype I fought so hard against. And no one believed me. No one wanted to hear about it. “Just get over it”, they said. No one cared.

And so, I decided then to take my own life. I was in a group home in East Vancouver. I was in the bathroom. I’d locked myself in, and I’d left a pretty long suicide note outside in the living room. And I heard the group home parent Tom Littlewood coming in and he was shuffling through the papers. And I stopped him before he could say: “We love you. We care. Don’t do it.”

I said: “F off. Get the hell out of here. Leave me alone. I’m doing this no matter what. There’s nothing you could say to make me stop this. No one cares about me. No one wants to hear my truth. No one believes me.”

He didn’t say any of that. He didn’t say, “I love you.” He didn’t say, “we care, don’t do it.”

Instead, he said: “I’ve got your suicide note here and I’ve read it. And you’re a really great writer.”

Someone believed in me. Not just believed in me, they believed me. They believed my pain. They believed when I talked about colonial violence. They believed in my journey. And they believed in my gifts.

There was light at the end of the tunnel.

And that hope planted a seed in me to become a journalist in an arena where that pen would go from a counselor to an agent of change. Through my writing, through my writing in television, online, in radio, I flipped the script about the narrative about Indigenous people in Canada and showed Canada the real, undiluted truth — facts about Indigenous women and girls — that we do have a right to live in safety.

We do have a right to be honored in our lives just as much as we do in our deaths.

We also deserve to love, to have peace, to have joy.

And so, my message to you today is that if I could find my voice with no friends, no family, hell, sometimes not even a sleeping bag, so can you too. See the truth. Hear the truth. Believe the truth.

Believe Indigenous peoples’ stories and use your voice to create the change that is so desperately needed today. Thank you.


00:35:51 Andrea

Alright, now what? Get educated on the facts about gender-based violence by visiting fact pages on our website, canadianwomen.org.

Please listen, subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. If you appreciate this content, please consider becoming a monthly donor to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. People like you will make the goal of gender justice a reality. Visit canadianwomen.org to give today and thank you for your tireless support.