A Canadian comedian is voicing her frustration over the way a controversial charity event in Saskatoon is being characterized.
The Saskatoon branch of the Canadian Progress Club put on the Boys Lunch Out event Dec. 1 at TCU Place.
Some complained the annual charity event was sexist because it featured models wearing lingerie.
The Progress Club has since said it won’t put on the event in the future after outcry went viral online and a number of organizations returned donations.
Nicole Arbour, an Ontario comedian who served as emcee at the fundraiser, said she thinks the event was misrepresented.
“When you have a bunch of dudes, who are just beer-drinking guys trying to do their best, it’s not going to come out looking like the Victoria Secret fashion show,” Arbour said in a Facebook video posted Thursday.
She believes the event was wrongly vilified as a strip show.
“There was no strip show. Everything was very above-board. It just wasn’t the most tactful thing ever and they tried their best,” Arbour said.
Some of the money raised from the event was given to St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation, but the foundation returned the funds and then issued a statement saying the event wasn’t in keeping with its Catholic values.
Arbour said the intent was simply to raise money for a good cause.
“Charities need that help. There’s a lot of inner-city kids in that community who don’t have a lot,” Arbour said.
Arbour said she would like to see the event continue.
Local model speaks out
A model involved with the event also spoke out against the criticism Thursday.
Ying Tan, a model and business owner in Saskatoon, posted a lengthy defense of the fundraiser’s structure on Facebook.
“There were no strippers, no escorting,” she wrote.
“(There were) men in suits, and a fashion show on stage, and a standing Ovation at the end.”
Tan said in the post she’s been involved as a model with Boys Lunch Out for seven years and organized the fashion show portion of the 2017 event.
She said the goal was to create a local Victoria’s Secret-themed presentation, “and that is exactly what happened.”
The entrepreneur added she felt empowered by the show.
“I felt like I could embrace my body and my sexuality, safely,” she wrote.
“I felt close to women, as if we were all sisters.”
Tan also took issue with the Canadian Progress Club’s decision to discontinue the event, where a statement said the fundraiser no longer had “a place in today’s society.”
“This Charity is exactly with the times,” Tan said.
“This is the year where women step out and celebrate their bodies, their sexuality, and each other. This is the year that we own our bodies and NOBODY else does, and we can express that however we wish to.”