The Penthouse is rumoured to be the oldest continuously operating nightclub in the land we now know as Canada and is without a doubt the oldest exotic nightclub. Owned and operated by an Italian family who emigrated to Vancouver, British Columbia, The Penthouse has survived numerous waves of moral crackdown in the city as well as many offers to buy the prime location in the face of aggressive development. A staggering number of nightclubs in Vancouver, exotic or otherwise, have not shared the same fate. Through conducting an institutional history of The Penthouse I locate it within changing local politics related to feminist activism, policing, and the sex industry as well as larger shifts in cultural attitudes towards sexual labour and sex workers’ bodies. Further I assemble a social history of the dancers, looking at their experiences in the club and their perception of the intersections between feminism, identity, performance, and sex. Feminist theory, women’s and gender history, and performance studies inform this multi-method project, which includes results and analysis from archival research and oral history interviews conducted with dancers employed at the club from 1978-2012. Overwhelmingly, the narrators reflected on their time as dancers as valuable to their lives in a myriad of ways, including helping to foster healthy relationships with their bodies and sexualities. Nevertheless most felt that the stigma they faced as sexual labourers impacted their lives in a negative way and was in conflict with the way they experienced their work themselves. This ongoing stigma was often a driving force for abandoning striptease for more ‘square’ or respectable work. Others continue to work in the sex industry. Eleven dancers shared their stories for this project, as did one member of the serving staff at The Penthouse, booking agent Randy Knowlan, and current owner/operator Danny Filippone. These stories offer a history of the Penthouse which places it as a central part of Vancouver’s history. At a time when conventional striptease seems to be in decline and other facets of the sex industry seem to be under attack by new forms of criminal regulation, the interviews with dancers, staff, and the owner/operator suggest that future possibilities for Vancouver’s contemporary striptease communities might lie in the evolving local neo-burlesque scene.
Epidemiological research suggest that regular physical activity is beneficial for overall physical, psychological and mental health but more specifically, as a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, physical activity, done a regular basis, has been shown to be positively associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease (Pate et al. 1995; Tremblay et al. 2011). Unfortunately, research on physical activity participation rates suggests that a significant percentage of Black women are not sufficiently active (Bryan et al 2006 and Chiu 2010). However, since much of the existing research places emphasis on the barriers to physical activity for ‘inactive’ Black women, less is known about the experiences of the women who are physically active. Using a feminist cultural studies framework that integrates the critical insights of anti-racist feminism, Black feminist theory and postcolonial feminist studies, this study seeks to understand and explore the behaviour patterns, and their associated meanings, for a small group of highly active Black women. Fifteen women participated in the study; three of whom are non-Black women. The women’s narratives suggest that their perceptions and experiences of their body was a major determinant in how they participated in physical activity. The women received, processed, and interpreted messages about the benefits of physical activity in the maintenance of healthier lives in ways that motivated them to be physically active. The implication is that Black women are paying attention to their bodies and to health messages about their bodies. The challenges that the women experienced, related to issues of race/racism and ideas around Blackness as well as disparities in cultural expectations. The extent to which the women were physically active had a bearing on how well they had learned to work around issues of Blackness, evidenced in how they chose to strategize and negotiate around possibilities to be active. This study has served as a starting point for dialogue around the participation of ‘ordinary’ Black Canadian women in physical activity. It has established that the diversity that exists among Black people/women as well as the complexities around ideas of a Black community require strategies that are sensitive of these issues.
This study is about—and beyond—the unprecedented revival of cross-gender performance in theatre, especially the male-to-female cross-gender performance of jingju (Beijing Opera), known as nandan. Through years long pre-investigations of the scene, archival work of its history, and case studies of individuals, this project examines the specificity and universality of the (in)coherences between sense of gender, sexuality, gender identities, gender mannerisms, transgressive desires and cross-gender performance behind the advocate of “historical authenticity” and “the return to the social and cultural norm.” Over twenty informants have contributed to the research with their narratives and observations in the scene. The project ends up with the observation that the transgressive potential of performing out of one’s biological sex is peculiar not only to one individual or one theatrical form, but to humankind in general. The conclusions drawn from the qualitative analysis may subvert some of the prevailing epistemologies of gender and sex. Firstly, there is no singular gendered subject. Gender discourse only exists in a “signifier-and-signified” relation to the subject’s perception of other gendered bodies. Secondly, it is not precise to claim that gender is socially or culturally constructed. Gender is reconstructed or amplified out of its ontological attributes based on biological differences, whose existence should be acknowledged. Reiteration does not precisely “do” gender, but may affect it to some extent, as there is a core sense of gendered self, albeit unsettled oftentimes, which is “inalienable” and “inseperatable.” Thirdly, gender may be performable, as in jingju, while gender performance and gender performativity are interchangeable only when they are not placed in a context to discuss their association with identity. In this sense, incoherence does not only exist between gender, sexuality and desires, but also between gender identities, gender mannerisms and gender behaviours. It may be concluded that gender transgression should not be understood on its own terms, but in a context of all social and cultural regulation and institutionalization that regard the interchangeability of signifiers of maleness and of femaleness as a threat to mainstream perception.
This thesis interrogates the ways in which Intimate Partner Homicide is represented by mainstream news media in Vancouver, British Columbia. By conducting a close reading of articles related to the murder of Maple Batalia between September 2011 and December 31 2012, this thesis examines how ethnicity, citizenship, and immigrant status inform news media coverage of violence, and asks whether these representations challenge or reify the dominant gendered narratives surrounding Intimate Partner Homicide. In particular, the thesis explores how South Asian masculinities are constructed by the mainstream news media via the representations of Batalia's father and her accused killer.
Citizenship is more than a set of legal rights and includes social and cultural components that are actively negotiated; yet such negotiations often take place within a range of limited options. Without denying the individuality of immigrant experiences, it is important to observe the patterns that have emerged in South Asian women’s encounters with Canadian citizenship and immigration policies. Most South Asian women migrated to Canada as dependents and faced similar forms of subordination after moving to Canada. Mainstream society marginalized South Asians for their skin colour and ‘foreign’ accents, superficial indicators that were undergirded by a profound perception of racial difference. This study will explore how the meaning of citizenship has changed for South Asian Canadian women by focusing on two periods: 1919-1949 and 1967-1997. This thesis will argue that various legal, social, and cultural factors have constrained South Asian Canadian women’s citizenship experience but they have utilized their agency and autonomy to overcome the secondary status that these barriers have imposed on them.
This thesis explores the possibilities of cross-generational oral history interviewing as a pedagogical tool for intergenerational conversation and broader historical understanding in queer communities. Through an analysis of the experiences of five younger queer women ages 19-30 who interviewed 15 older lesbians active in the lesbian feminist community in Vancouver during the 1970s and 80s, this research examines differences in identity formation and community building between these two ‘generational cohorts’. While lesbians in the 1970s and 80s created a vibrant and unprecedented culture and historical presence, few younger queer women are familiar with this history. This thesis argues that linear historical and generational thinking coupled with dominant heteronormative notions of kinship impacts queer communities, which tend to be uni-generational. These factors prevent or serve as barriers to cross-generational queer community building; prevent youth from knowing their connections to a shared queer history; and leave important legacies- such as lesbian feminism- in the forgotten past. This project disrupts these barriers to intergenerational connection and historical understanding and argues for the importance of re-examining the lesbian-feminist past.
The creation of the women’s poverty-empowerment nexus in development discourses has legitimized the widespread use of microfinance. Despite the success of microfinance in supplying credit, the evidence to suggest it has substantially reduced poverty and increased women’s empowerment is mixed. This thesis examines the link between trends in the global political economy, microfinance, and gender. To reveal this link, a critical discourse analysis of development discourses and a content analysis of impact studies of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and BancoSol in Bolivia are employed to assess the gap between rhetoric and impacts of microfinance. Insights gained from Tanzania provide a deeper understanding as to why, despite the success of microfinance in delivering credit, poverty and gender inequality persist. This research reveals that far from addressing economic and social inequality, microfinance exists and functions within gendered power structures and relationships rather than resolving them.
1. Pretty, Witty and Femme: Negotiations of Gender and Sex in Sartorial Representations on Tumblr. This paper addresses the primacy of visual representations of queer femme-ininity on the microblogging platform, Tumblr. Three femme styles are analyzed using a qualitative queer and feminist intersectional theoretical framework. The analysis revealed that sartorial expressions of femme-ininity on Tumblr reflect a postmodern approach to conscious gender presentation that re-defines. Sartorial negotiations of femme gender and sexual desire are complex and varied, and visibility as a sole sartorial strategy for subversion is restraining. 2. Smoking Hot Dykes: Smoking Imagery and Lesbian Style on Tumblr. This paper discusses the role of the cigarette as a component to a lesbian sartorial style on the website Tumblr, called pomo dyke style. The investigation examines how the cigarette fashions the pomo dyke in a qualitative analysis of images depicting this style. Findings revealed themes in imagery depicting the pomo dyke style, including melancholy, whiteness, thinness, and class rebellion. Fashionable deviance materializes on the queer who values wilfulness in self-presentation while disregarding factors influencing her privilege.
Reality TV has become a source of entertainment as well as scorn for North American audiences and critics. While American reality TV and their contestants have received much attention in media studies, very little has been written about Canadian reality show participants, despite the popularity of this type of programming in Canada. Women on both sides of the border who participate on reality TV are particularly scrutinized and those with high public profiles have faced an overwhelmingly negative backlash. Using a feminist cultural studies framework, this dissertation examines Canadian women's motivations and understanding of the reality TV process, from audition to post-show life. A total of 14 women from across Canada, who competed in such shows as Canada's Next Top Model, Canadian Idol, Project Runway Canada, So You Think You Can Dance Canada, Rock Star: INXS, and Popstars: Boy Meets Girl, were interviewed using a combination of online and in-person interviews. The women’s narratives of reality TV participation reflect and extend contemporary scholarly concerns and debates about women and celebrity culture, media power, television audiences, and new media technologies. Specifically, the interviews complicate current assertions and assumptions about women’s participation as either ‘empowering’ or ‘victimizing’ by illustrating how such participation cannot be isolated from economic factors and gender dynamics at play in contemporary models of television production. While the women have little to no control over how they are represented in these shows, they find ways to assert their agency that disrupts (but does not stop) the production process, while simultaneously ‘domesticating’ the space of reality TV in order to make it a habitable and liveable place. Finally, this dissertation makes two major methodological interventions into the study of television. Firstly, using a cultural studies approach to television research, the author understands reality show contestants as a distinct category of research respondents who challenge and blur rigid divisions between audience and text, and audience and producer. Secondly, the author draws on the tradition of self-reflexivity in feminist research in order to examine and theorize to what extent the interview process may position the researcher as a ‘scholar-fan’.
Paid domestic labour in China revived in the early 1980s after the state began its transition from a socialist centrally planned economy to a socialist market-oriented economy. This dissertation focuses on what happened to gender relations as well as class equality in the wake of the development of private domestic service during this economic transition. Using a socialist feminist framework, the analysis of the current marketization of domestic labour is situated in both the context of global capitalism and the reconfigured nature of patriarchy under neoliberal governance, albeit in a socialist state. The current market-oriented labour system and specifically paid domestic workers’ situation in China can be understood through the inter-related nature of emerging capitalist markets, and historical patriarchal institutions related to both state socialism and the family. This dissertation analyzes the ways that market reforms in China have affected women and the state and their relationship to paid domestic work. The consequences of the marketization of various aspects of domestic life that used to have a more communal character have radically changed social reproduction responsibilities and have put them even more squarely on women in the private sphere. Economic and state policy changes related to social reproduction create both the new supply of and demand for paid domestic work. Based on interviews with domestic workers, their employers, their social advocates, and government officials, this investigation examines the economic and social security of domestic workers and provides information about their precarious work circumstances that could be improved through public policy. China is rapidly reconfiguring its regime of social reproduction and is in a period when new policy needs to be considered: the economic and social securities that had been provided by the pre-reform social reproduction regime are substantially weakened through the marketization of domestic labour.