Author: Jessica McKnight

Final Project – New Body, New Motion

Here is the link to my documentary I did as my creative portion to the final project. Below it is my written component.

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Jessica McKnight

Professor Magdalena Olszanowski

COMS 324 Communication Analysis of Environment

April 8, 15

New Body, New Motion

            In June of 2010, my mother, Anna-Maria Fiocco, was diagnosed with a common heart malfunction. In July of that same year, she went in for surgery to replace her heart’s mitral valve. 15 minutes after the doctors announced the surgery’s success, my mother went into a sudden cardiac arrest. Eight months later, at the age of 62, she was officially diagnosed as paraplegic after the realization that her legs were permanently paralyzed. She had to re-define what it meant to move, to travel and to live. The re-arrangement of the home and the re-construction of the space were inevitable due to traditional construction. The smallest things, like the height of the sink in inches kept her from the ability of doing her morning ritual. Most architecture isn’t designed and calculated for a body in a wheelchair, or for any other type of body than a “normal” one. Spaces are generally created for a person who is able to stand and walk. This isn’t to say that disability is ignored completely, but it is clear that “seeing disability as a stigmatized social identity and a reading of the body remains largely untaken” (Samuels). In this essay, I am going to address the idea of invisible disability in the construction of social and physical space with the topics of social exclusion and architectural normalities in a need of change.

The social exclusion of disability includes political and economical aspects. The disabled body, in this view, can be defined, as Rob Kitchin quotes, “unable to be as productive as their able-bodied counterparts” (Kitchin), therefore being a drawback to society’s progress. A fully-abled body, in comparison to a paraplegic body, is socially defined as more quick, more flexible and one that is familiar. Psychological theories, such as the studies of one’s nature vs. one’s nurture, are able to analyze the exclusion of disability as a way of protecting the self. We are born with and taught, from human nature and/or cultural experiences, to keep boundaries from the Other out of “fear or repulsion” and to embrace sameness (Kitchin). These traditional thoughts are embedded in our social creation of space. Through the eyes of society, Kitchin defines the disabled body through the eyes of society as “powerless,” “exploited,” “denied,” and “marginalized” in mainstream thinking and in turn, social hierarchies are created between dominant and marginalized groups. “People who do not hold the same values or live the same way as the dominant group are repressed through physical violence and imprisonment” (Kitchin). It can be seen in the streets when crowds of people are dumbfounded when encountered with a body in a wheelchair. “If people’s comportment seems out-of-the-ordinary, being too slow or taking too long, […] then the risk is that they become treated with suspicion or even hostility” (Hansen). As an example, my mother and I have always loved to journey around and shop downtown. Wheeling on the sidewalks and into the stores takes time and planning as most stores have doorsills. Even though they are only an inch tall, my mother cannot wheel over them independently. Upon entering a clothing store, heads turn, and reactions are upon us. It is clear to see that they are thinking of my mom’s body as an ill one: one that is not appropriate for fashion. Another reaction is the look of pity: a face that does not know what to do or say when encountered with a different body, therefore decides to ignore it. As an example, common responses involve a concept called “microaggression,” initially related to race and defined by Derald Wing Sue, a Columbia University professor, that blogger Laurence Parent relates to disability. The term is how it sounds; microaggressions are subtle and brief, intentional or unintentional, insults towards “different” bodies (Parent). Nearby people roll their eyes at a body in a wheelchair as it takes up more room than someone standing would. At home, unintentional spastic comments are made in situations of anxiety or tension towards my mother about her obstruction of space and the long amounts of time it takes for her to do everyday simple tasks for the “normal” body. My mother no longer uses her legs: she uses wheels. She understands the change in her size and the new way she must navigate herself, yet it is still seen threat. As Laurence Parent puts it, “We are viewed as potential dangers because we are assumed to be unfit to move in the way that we move. The way we move challenges the ways bodies should be moving” (Parent). The microaggressions are due to these “normative” spaces that are the ones that cause her “abnormality” within a space.

The physical organization of space is produced through social means and architectural means, such as blueprint manuscripts for building planners. “Barriers to inclusion are clearly evident in the urban environment” (Kitchin). Many buildings are concerned with beauty within the design and practicability for “normal” bodies rather than for all bodies. Urban geography “prioritizes” the able-bodied, and divides disabled people from the public street with, for example, rehabilitation centres. These isolations are in place in order to “normalize” the disabled for the ableist environments they are bound to encounter. “As such, policy is aimed at trying to make disabled people more ‘normal’ rather than changing the system to accommodate disabled people for who they are” (Kitchin). During the search of an adaptable living space for my mother, it was clear that there were very limited spaces available. In the end, the location choice was an apartment building with an elevator. Though it was the best option, much construction and re-adjusting was needed in order for her to be able to sleep, cook, and use the bathroom. Anna-Maria was sent to a rehab centre for 1.5 years of her life in order to be taught how to live in the “real world”. She has designated areas in public spaces such as work, schools, cinemas, etc, where her type of body is “accepted”. These separations from “general” space are a digression to the societal inclusion of disabled bodies: they only support the boundaries. “The space of the disabled body must also be thought of as a space of the contradictions of neoliberalism – it is at once privileged as a site of inclusion, but that inclusion is also the promise of its exclusion” (Sothern). These accommodations or add-ons are not natural space – they are made so natural space isn’t disrupted.

Needless to say, spaces are in constant transformation: “produced and constructed, dynamic and ambiguous, claimed and contested” (Kitchin) through active social interaction. A request for geographical change and new construction guidelines asks for disabled inclusion in all spaces, not just particular ones. Rather than disabled bodies adapting to normalcy, normalcy should be adapted to them and all bodies. In its traditional sense, the word “disability” contains negative connotations and consequently, the overall response from the sight of disabled bodies is with pity or disgust – and that is not right. Nancy Hansen quotes one of her respondents, “We’ve been given the wrong label, ‘disabled’, it makes you sound as if there’s something terribly wrong and I don’t thing there’s anything wrong with disability, I…se myself as getting around differently. I can’t use my legs, so I use wheels, it’s that simple” (Hansen). My mother’s attitude is a strong one and looks forward to encountering new obstacles, over-taking spaces and turning them into her own.

Works Cited

Hansen, Nancy, and Chris Philo. “The Normality of Doing Things Differently: Bodies, Spaces and Disability Geography.” Tijdschrift Voor Economische En Sociale Geografie 98.4 (2007): 493-506. Web.

Kitchin, Rob. “‘Out of Place’, ‘Knowing One’s Place’: Space, Power and the Exclusion of Disabled People.” Disability & Society 13.3 (1998): 343-56. Print.

Parent, Laurence. “We Are The Danger.” Web log post. M.I.A, 24 Nov. 2014. Web. 5 Apr. 2015. <;.

Samuels, Ellen. “Critical Divides: Judith Butler’s Body Theory and the Question of Disability.”NWSA Journal 14.3 (2002): 58-76. Print.

Sothern, Matthew. “You Could Truly Be Yourself If You Just Weren’t You: Sexuality, Disabled Body Space, and the (neo)liberal Politics of Self-help.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25 (2007): 144-59. Web.

Thank you



Pro Infirmis, a Swiss charity organization, aims to raise awareness of body diversity and inclusion of all bodies.

Here are a couple of their awareness campaigns that have gone viral. Whether you’ve already seen it or not, what do you think?


Post #3 – “Inappropriate” V.S “Private”

I’m deciding to focus on the example of the menstrual collection by artist Rupi Kaur for the analysis of online bodies, while also refer to the ideas of public vs. private space. On her interview with Huffington Post Canada, Kaur talks about her intentions behind the piece and the message she wanted to send to her viewers. The series of images she released on Instagram was her attempt to represent the menstrual cycle in its day-to-day reality in the lives of a woman. For the most part, the images included a female body with menstrual signs either on the woman’s body or their sheets representing the simplest tasks a woman must do day-to-day during the monthly cycle. In her interview with Huffington Post Canada, Kaur introduces the subject and states, “I see in my own community and in the larger Western context, menstruation is something that so many of us go through but it’s completely silenced” (Zamon). Instagram took down these photos due to the breaking of the Instagram codes and conducts of “inappropriate” images. The thin line between the “forbidden” and “taboo” images is a line that cannot clearly be seen in the discussions back and forth between Kaur and Instagram representatives.

Instagram @_rupikaur

Instagram @_rupikaur

Instagram is a social platform: it is quite simple. It is advertised as a place to share your stories and share your lives with your friends and with the world. It designed for users who have Smartphone’s with the application to post images in any format they would like and any content they would like, as long as it properly follows the guidelines. The conditions under which these images were taken were a secret and private part of a woman’s life – yet everyone knows the menstrual cycle exists. These images were a representation of reality. Defining it as “inappropriate” is denying a woman the comfort in her own natural body. On Kaur’s Tumblr page discussing the matter, she states the sad fact in regards to the mass portrayal of the women’s body in terms of defining the word “inappropriate”. Periods are still considered shameful and Rupi Kaur’s art series is to address this fact that she believes to be plain disgusting. “Some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. The sexualization of women. The violence and degradation of women than this. They cannot be bothered to express their disgust about all that. But will be angered and bothered by this” (Zamon). As the Instagram Terms of Use states in one of their regulations, “You may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content via the Service.” As it is clear in the image and as Kaur emphasizes, there is nothing about the photo where it can logically be said that it should be removed from the social platform. After her photo is deleted, Kaur reposts it with a few statements targeting Instagram representatives who took down the photo. She says, “I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak” (Zamon).

The space of the home is commonly a private one, shared only with oneself and/or ones close relationships. This definition shifted when individuals decided to live feed their lives within their homes online. Camgirls, such as the “Jennicam”, channeled her privatized home life into online entertainment for the public audience. The concept of the home states there are various ways the significance of the home can be experienced. The photos by Rupi Kaur, for example, combine the idea of the home and gender identity. These images were taken under conditions that are “meant” to be private. The menstrual cycle is seen as a sensitive and disgusting part of a woman’s life. The space Rupi Kaur intended to have exist online was a space where menstruation could finally be represented as the way it is in reality: a natural and beautiful occurrence. “I bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility.” You tell them, Rupi Kaur.

  1. What can women around the world do to naturalize the image of the period, not only online but also in the physical world?
  2. I would want to perform a study on a random sampled audience by showing different pictures of women from the online community, how they are represented, and how they are responded to. I want to find someone who can give me a reasonable explanation for the “disgust” of the period, rather than answering with a simple grunt or unimpressed facial expression.

Works Cited

Zamon, Rebecca. “Rupi Kaur’s Period Photo On Instagram Sparks Change.” HuffPost Living Canada. The Huffington Post, 27 Mar. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2015. <;.

#2: Re-Orientation of My Favorite Space


Quote by Markus Zusak

To re-introduce my “favorite space”, my cottage is my favorite place in my mind, from my memories and from a different time: not in present reality. If I were to visit today, it would no longer be considered my favorite space. The entire dynamic of the space has changed, as it is not part of my immediate family anymore. I am officially disconnected from it as a place of freedom. It exists in my mind and I will use my imagination to discover the space differently. So how do I re-orient myself in a place that doesn’t exist anymore? I will both think back to the time when it did exist and compare it to how I see the space today.

I’ve replaced an old memory. I’ve replaced a space with a new idea of it – and it wasn’t my choice. It gives me a feeling of rejection and loss and I do not want to think about it that way – but if I were to re-orient the space, it would be this way. It is no longer mine, and my body is no longer allowed fully as it was used to – and it makes me hate the space. I’d want to swim to the bottom of the lake amongst the other fish, seaweed, dirt and dead fish remains. Perhaps that is how I feel where I belong after the unfortunate re-orientation of the space. I would look up from the bottom, and see my childhood happening before my eyes – but never able to reach the surface of the water.

I wish I could freeze time and be entirely alone in the space, walk on the water to the other side, and see more of the lake surroundings. I am now being watched and judged by my other side of the family. I am no longer myself when I am there. There are limits and borders to what I can do. To relate to Gomez-Pena in his interrogation of borders and power, it was my home, and my home now is nowhere – it is only present in my mind. Relinquishing my power to the cottage gives me no feeling of belonging. How interesting it is in order to feel belonging within a space – you must have power over it and over your body. The shift in power gives me a feeling of loss of control: something I need to have, to a certain extent, in a home that is mine or partially mine. They have control, they have the power, and they took my ability to manage my happiness through the space. As Sophie Calle emphasizes, “Whenever a system of rule dissolves or is overthrown, the justification for its monuments – at least those which served to legitimize and foster its rule – no longer exists.” My image above sort of mirrors Sophie Calle’s “Detachment” project, where she found 12 monuments, present or historically removed, and replaced them with many passer-bys’ memories in different artistic ways. “The monuments have their own lives in contrast to the official definitions, making meaning in the users’ everyday application and memories.” You could say this monument, from the time I’ve cherished it, is now missing.


Gomez-Peña. (1972). The New World Border: Prophecies for the End of the Century. In Mexico Reader (750-755). Exhibition inspired by Gomez-Peña.

Hansen, Malene Vest (2002). “Public Places – Private Spaces Conceptualism, Feminism and Public Art: Notes on Sophie Calle’s The Detachment.” Konsthistorisk tidskrift/Journal of Art History, 71(4): 194-203.

Slam Poetry: Lily Myers – “Shrinking Women”

I’ve had this specific Button Poetry video in my favorites for a very long time but have totally forgot about it until our focus on slam poetry and Kai Davis’ work last class. Whether or not you have seen this, it’s absolutely breathtaking. This is Lily Myers with Button Poetry titled “Shrinking Women”. The way she, amongst every other slam poet, is able to translate highly tense and complex thoughts and feelings always hits me harder than I expect. Please take time to watch it.

The Mix-and-Match Misguide to Concordia University

Daniel mixnmatchBedard and Jessica McKnight

Below are the instructions to our game (activity sheets are not included – only available in physical copy):

Main Instruction Page-page-001


The reason we chose to make our tour a game was to create a sense of randomness and fun; however, we understand that, depending on a person’s level of shyness or anxiety, they may not want to participate in some of the required actions. While embarrassment is certainly not our goal, we would like to have people become slightly more self-reflexive when it comes to how they carry themselves in public spaces such as this university. One of our primary concerns is the possibility of others reacting negatively to what our participants will be doing. Still, regardless of the outcome, others’ reactions are something we want to explore. Regarding campus security, for instance, we would like to discover how authority reacts to things that some might consider irregular in these spaces.

Presentation on Sexualities and Spaces

This week, we are focusing on gendered sexualities in public spaces. We are focusing on four authors that define this relationship in regard to representation, politics and social norms.

Gill Valentine focuses on what she calls the “Heterosexual Street”. She prefers to use the term “street” rather than “public space” as she believes the latter term has specific connotations she does not wasnt associated with her text. Valentine’s article is divided into four sections. In the first, she defines the heterosexual street by referring to 2000px-HeteroSym-pinkblue2.svgJudith Butler and her concept of gender regularity through repetitive gender performativity. She begins her article by referencing a 1991 incident in Nottingham where two lesbians were kicked out of a supermarket for kissing in public. In the second and third sections, Valentine describes two ways in which homosexuals create their own space within the heterosexual street. She discusses subtle cues in ways that lesbians communicate and relate to each other, such as music or language. She refers to other authors and agrees with them when stating that there are certain “ways” to find another lesbian on the street. In the next section, she begins to discuss the more “in your face” ways of representing homosexuality on the heterosexual-leaning street such as pride marches. She believes these are more effective in gathering attention. In the fourth and last section, she concludes with the title, “A kiss is not just a kiss,” comparing the public views of gendered performance of heterosexuality and homosexuality in the “heterosexual street.” It is unfortunate that many people see homosexuality as present only through these acts instead of being a natural everyday occurrence.

Ik8601109n the XIXth century “the prostitute” was considered an identity, not behavior. The trans prostitute heroes of Stonewall were unsung. Leigh stood up against Dworkin’s slut-shaming. Millet means well but believes prostitutes’ problem is self-image. The transphobia of sex-negative reformers is not incidental. Reformers target representations of prostitution instead of its social causes. Official transnational organizations favor decriminalization, and shared stories represent a risk of incrimination in trials. Sex work consists of escorting, hustling, domination, stripping and camming. It is overlooked as a female criminal service work. Labor range allows for the negotiation of exposure. Sex panic creates work for investigators and uncomfortably exposes the nature of work in general. Reformers can’t imagine girls as sellers themselves. Targeting advertising stands in for help while removing control from working women and risks affecting all online speech. Reformers have relied on bogus studies against prostitution, and sex work migrated online when its neighborhoods were gentrified.


In The Lesbian Flaneur, author Sally Munt describes the difference between living in the U.K. towns of Brighton and Nottingham; in the former, she is comfortable and confident in expressing her lesbian identity in public spaces, while the town of Nottingham makes her feel humiliated and stared at. Munt begins navigating her sexuality through literature (or “fictional voyages”) since she can no longer roam literal spaces with the same freedom she once had. This can be compared to author Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel Fun Home, in which the protagonist discovers and explores her sexuality through books, using literary spaces to grow.

Lawrence Knopp defines two terms, sexuality and space, through a field of study within human geography. He discusses urbanism, gentrification and sexual codings within this field of study. Gender based divisions of labour characteristic of many cities both shape and are shaped by people’s sexual lives. Knopp develops a framework of relationships between certain sexualities and certain aspects of urbanization in the contemporary West. To understand urbanism, Knopp divides it into three terms: materialist, idealist and humanist. Knopp refers to the train of thoughts of Henning Bech, a humanist, and Elizabeth Wilson. Both Bech and Wilson suggest one link between these sexualisations and power relations: changes in gender relations.


1. Can you give examples of gay gentrified communities?

2. Do you agree with Gill Valentine that ‘in your face’ tacts are the most effective in modifying the heterosexual street? What are other ways can you modify heterosexual space?

Daniel Bedard

Jean-François Bussier

Jessica McKnight

Frederique Rajotte