Toronto and Gentrification (Blog 3)

When I had finalized my decision to attend the University of Toronto, my decision was not based solely on academics. Due to the fact that I have family in and around Toronto, I spent an abundant amount of time in the city as a child. Choosing Toronto was basically like choosing to stay at home.

This past summer, my friends and I spent more time in Toronto than we did at home. We would search for excuses to come to Toronto for an enjoyable day out with the girls. During our visits, we would try to engage in various events to learn about the diverse culture that Toronto holds within itself. From Chinatown to the entertainment district, this so-called “untidy and unphotogenic” city captures a feeling of unity among the people (Reid, 20).

In Mark Kingwell’s article, I felt that stereotypes are a big factor in determining aspects of social justice. Large successful cities are usually affiliated with success, money, and the wealthy. Normally, educated and wealthy individuals are portrayed as the better, more humane individuals, were in reality, the less educated or “poor people” are not necessarily worse people (Kingwell, 2008). As Reid stated, a city with the creative class culture could simply be a façade, taking away from its natural urbanism (Reid, 2010). I could easily compare his point to a night out at a Leafs game. When purchasing seats rink-side, you are placed with a group of individuals that is clearly on a higher social scale. They are draped in their fancy jerseys, whipping out their Blackberries to take photographs of their amazing seats to share with people on all their social media networks. In contrast, when sitting in the higher levels, you are among genuine hockey fans who maybe came out to catch a live game. Obviously there are expects in both cases. The majority of people can afford rink-side seats, but it is definitely not an everyday luxury. But as in all events, there is a split in social class, and possibly a façade. The rink-side fans that are there simply to display their income can be compared to fauxhemians.

“As fauxhemians move in to gentrify an area, generating Starbucks franchises and Pottery Barn outlets, driving property values up and grotty art galleries down, the “real” bohemians, about to lose their studios, lofts, and self-image, rise up in protest” (Kingwell, 2008).  This statement made by Mark Kingwell illustrates exactly what I would want to express. Social differentiation is quite a dominant issue of social justice within Toronto that bothers me.

Although Toronto struggles with a social class split, the city still demonstrates a positive clash of culture.Nuit Blanche, Pride week, and Luminato are a few of the events that Reid lists within his article which demonstrate a new, social justice striving Toronto Reid, 2010). This argument leads me to think, maybe gentrification is a positive concept. Events such as these allow the majority of people to learn about different cultures and show the art expressed by true low-key, talents artists.

Both Reid and Kingwell contribute to my belief that neoliberalism is a negative political orientation which targets people of low income. Gentrification in contrast, may lead to a positive change, if it can help the low-income residents. Each of them also pointed out that sometimes a messy urbanism is better than an organized one. I agree with that point as well. My only question though: who is to make a decision between gentrification and natural urbanism? Is natural “messy” urbanism worth the possible chaos within the city?

Kingwell, M. 2008. Toronto:Justice Denied. The Walrus, February. Online

Reid, D. 2010. Bless this mess. Spacing (Summer), 18-23. Course Website.

One comment on “Toronto and Gentrification (Blog 3)

  1. aaliya6 says:

    Though I agree with most of your points, I have to say that the idea of the “fauxhemian” as a negative term bothers me. There is an idea among counter-culturalists and other well-defined social groups (such as the bohemians & starving artists) that you must go all-out in order to be “authentic”. This is elitist, rude, and unfair. Yes, it’s true, the wealthy aren’t any better than the poor… but that doesn’t mean that the poor are the salt of the earth, either. We are all human, regardless of income or social status – an argument readily used to defend the lower class but instantly thrown out the window when we want to put down the privileged for not being cool enough to sit at the artist’s table.

    There is also an inherent resentment among the have-nots towards the haves, a resentment that passes the point of mere righteous indignation and goes straight into petty hatred. To use your hockey example, I know plenty of people who could easily afford rink-side seats. Heck, a couple of them might even be able to score season passes. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t get into rowdy arguments over which teams have the best chances of making the playoffs, or that they don’t drive their kid to 7 AM hockey practice every Sunday. Sincerity knows no income bracket.

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