The Thing About Male Lyft Drivers

By: Maria Ordoñez

source: Mercury Insurance Group
source: Mercury Insurance Group

The thing about male Lyft drivers is that I’m trapped in their car.

I’m acutely aware of it the second I close the door behind me. It’s like a palpable transfer of power that happens when I entrust my safety to a stranger. It’s a transfer that I consent to when the bus doesn’t show up on time, when I’m late for work, or when I don’t want to walk home alone in the middle of the night. However, this power is often abused by male Lyft drivers who see my vulnerable position as an opportunity to say things like:

“How old are you?”

“Is this where you live?”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“I would love to take you out sometime.”

“You should give me your phone number.”

“You are so [insert unwanted compliment here].”

“You have such nice [insert body part here].”

I receive comments like these more often than I ever should, but I never say anything about them, because if I reported every time a male Lyft driver made me feel uncomfortable or objectified, I’d never have time for anything else. That is, until a few days ago:

I had gotten out of class late and had fifteen minutes to get to my job across campus. My job was a 30-minute walk away and the bus was 47 minutes away. And so, I decided to order a Lyft.

From the moment I got into the car, my Lyft driver began complimenting my appearance. It started with my eyes and how special they were. Then, it continued with how “hot” I was making his car. After that, he asked me questions, like how old I am, where I live, and if I smoke weed.

At this point, I’m beginning to feel uncomfortable, praying that no other passenger get added to my shared ride, if only to get out of his car as soon as possible. He then offered to take me back to his place to smoke weed with him, saying how bad he could “fuck me up.” I nervously laughed off the offer as we arrived at my destination. I was relieved to get out, until I noticed his car lingering at my drop-off. I left as quickly as possible, questioning what made him think any part of his behavior was ok.

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So, tell me, Lyft driver, how exactly did you expect this to play out?

Did you expect me to forget about the paying job I was on my way to and go home with you instead?

Has that worked for you before?

Has that worked for anybody?

Ever?

Because all I know is that it’s been days since I felt trapped in your car, and I’m still angry.  

I’m angry at you for having the power to make me feel unsafe.

I’m angry at myself for not speaking up in the moment.

And I’m angry at Lyft for not doing enough to put an end to this kind of behavior.

You see, that day, as soon as I got home, I reported this Lyft driver for his inappropriate behavior. The next day, I received a generic email from a Lyft representative apologizing for the incident. The email went on and on about how much they value my safety and comfort, but in the end, the only thing they had to show for it, was a promise that I would never be paired with the same driver again.

And that’s the problem.

The lack of action taken by companies, like Lyft, is what perpetuates cultures of sexual harassment. Lyft drivers know that there are no real consequences to their actions and that they are at liberty to continue treating young, female passengers like potential conquests instead of customers.

Any Lyft driver, male or otherwise, who takes advantage of the unbalanced power dynamic between a driver and a passenger, should not be paired with anyone at all.

When I use shared ride services, like Lyft, I deserve to feel safe and respected every second of the way – whether I’m going to class in the middle of the day or to my dorm room in the middle of the night.  

And that is the thing about male Lyft drivers.

But, most of all, that is the thing about Lyft.

source: Twitter @AnnaGillcrist
source: Twitter @AnnaGillcrist

The Evolutionary Purpose and Significance of Anxiety in Women

By: Emily Cioch, Eleni Constantinou, Morgan Farrar, and Vartika Govil

Abstract

Anxiety is defined as a strong emotion or feeling that causes an individual to fear an event either in the present or in the future. This type of fear is often illogical and induces a number of symptoms, including increased heart rate, dizziness, and sweating. The causes and sources of anxiety, which is statistically more common in women than men, have evolutionary origins. In the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA), individuals feared stimuli such as venomous snakes, which threatened the viability of humans. The anxiety-like behaviors needed for survival in the EEA are in an evolutionary mismatch with current industrialized societies. Additionally, due to hunter-gatherer models present today, women in the EEA likely experienced higher levels of fear and anxiety-like symptoms in order to remain sensitive to their environment and protect themselves and their children. We propose that, due to the change in technical, professional, and personal expectations and stressors that women experience today, this predisposition to fearful thought has been over-amplified to produce chronic anxiety in women. To test our hypothesis that women in the EEA experienced a different and more mild form of anxiety, we propose to study the Aka people, a group of hunter-gatherers, in comparison to industrialized Bostonians. Through a set of observations and surveys, we hope to determine common stimuli that trigger anxiety between both populations, as well as the frequency of anxiety in men and women of both populations. Through conducting this study, we expect to find similarities in the broader types of fears and worries across populations, but differences in categories of fears and worries between genders. With such research, health providers will have a more complete understanding of why anxiety exists, which will pave the foundation for more effective approaches in treating the underlying mechanisms of anxiety across genders and populations.

Introduction

Anxiety, a prolonged sensation of stress and worry, is a phenomenon seen in approximately 19.1 percent of U.S. adults (NIMH »Any Anxiety Disorder). The disorder has a similar physiological response to fear, which prepares the individual for immediate action: muscle tension, increased respiration and heart rate, and a rise in blood pressure (Fredric 2014). Proximately, these bodily changes contribute to an ability to handle immediate stress, heightening alertness and a physical readiness to respond to threats. However, there is a significant difference between fear, which is an adaptive function, and the anxiety we see today. Fear is a normal response to an unconditional stimulus, usually something dangerous, while anxiety is the result of an individual linking a neutral stimulus to a fear-producing unconditional stimulus, thus causing that what was neutral to evoke fear (Marks and Nesse 1994). With the introduction of industrialized communities, humans today seemingly encounter a constant amount of environmental and mental stressors, which ancestral humans did not face. Although stressors present in our industrialized society are usually not as dangerous as the ones faced by our ancestors, anxiety and fear surrounding stressors relative to the EEA, such as snakes, spiders, and injury, are still present, suggesting that these fears are evolutionarily ingrained (Lebron-Milad et al. 2012).            

The earliest remains of modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens, are approximately two hundred thousand years old and have a brain relatively similar to that of modern humans. In particular, the neocortex—the newest part of the brain and the region responsible for higher functions like sensory perception—was roughly the same size as it is today, which indicates it functions today in a way similar to that of our evolutionary environment. However, within the last five-hundred years, society has shifted to be more industrialized and into becoming a predominantly Delayed Return Environment. A Delayed Return Environment (DRE) functions in such a way that the reward, or outcome, of an action is not received immediately, a result driven by the rate of technological and societal development within the last one-hundred years. In contrast, the human brain evolved in the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation (EEA), which is an Immediate Return Environment (IRE), where actions deliver instant, clear, and immediate outcomes (Scott 2013). A delay in outcomes paired with the human brain’s programming to be highly active and sensitive to stimuli creates a mismatch between modern industrialized society and humans today, as seen in the presence of high levels of anxiety. Stress and other traits associated with anxiety were useful functions in the EEA, because they helped individuals to survive and take action in the face of immediate problems (Daskalakis et al. 2013). Humans are biologically programed to give into a “fight or flight” mode in potentially dangerous situations, but our current lifestyle leads us to experience more stress and worry, thus feeling less in control of our environment (Bateson et al. 2011). When the rational brain is unable to deal with the stress of conspecific danger, primitive de-escalating strategies are activated and can present themselves as anxiety disorders (Bateson et al. 2011). Chronic stress was not experienced in the EEA since an IRE did not allow for long-term problems or stresses. Unfortunately, current industrialized societies often delay rewards until some point in the future, as well as prolong problems over long periods of time, thus creating uncertainty, and fueling anxiety (Clear 2016). One such example of this is the presence of income inequality, which is a social determinant of health and a large determining factor in causing anxiety in humans. Evidence shows that larger differences in social statuses lead to worse social relations. This contrasts to hunter-gatherer societies, which are largely egalitarian (Hewlett 1993). In these groups there is little to no competition amongst individuals regarding resources or status, allowing for extremely healthy social relations and thus decreasing anxiety. Industrialized societies unfortunately prioritize and compete over resources, wealth, and status, creating additional stressors that were not present in the EEA (Wilkinson 1999).

The properties associated with anxiety were likely present in some form in the early human ancestral environment, especially for women. Having a heightened sense of awareness and fear would have been extremely helpful, as women were responsible for gathering essential foods and supplies, as well as caring and protecting their children (Altemus et al. 2014). Research shows that the way a new mother acts can be linked with activities in prefrontal cortex, midbrain, parietal lobes, and limbic system. An increased activity is noted in these regions of the brain that control empathy, anxiety, and social interaction, indicating that the maternal feeling of overwhelming and consistent worry is a result of reactions in a mother’s brain (LaFrance 2015). Furthermore, while the primary physiological human stress response is considered to be “fight or flight”, behaviorally, females are more inclined towards the pattern of “tend-and-befriend” when compared to males. Tend and befriend is an attachment caregiving system that has shown to play a role in maternal bonding and child development, where tending includes activities and behavior directed to promoting safety by protecting the offspring , and befriending aids in this process by creating social relationships, especially with other females. Since females are usually the more invested parent, particularly under stressful situations, their stress response has evolved to maximize survival of both self and the offspring (Taylor et al. 2000).

 The onset of anxiety disorders peaks during adolescence and early adulthood, the same period at which ancestral females would start having children. There are also researched sex differences that promote reproductive success that likely increase vulnerability of women to mood and anxiety disorders. For example, adaptive behavioral differences in terms of childrearing seem to include, in females, superior social cognition and capacity for attunement with others, important for cognitive and social development of offspring (Altemus et al. 2014). However, these sex differences are also thought to result in women experiencing more sensitivity to rejection, criticism and separation, which are key features of anxiety disorders (Altemus et al. 2014). Additional research illustrates that although men generally have more traumatic experiences, including serious accidents, violence, and war, women are more vulnerable to situations that are unpredictable, such as sexual assault and abuse, which makes them more susceptible to anxiety disorders (Craske 2003).  Another study suggests that women have more persistent amygdala responses to negative material, especially familiar negative material, in comparison to men. This is correlated with negative mood, anxiety, and depression, thus suggesting that women might be biologically more vulnerable to anxiety (Andreano et al. 2017). This is further supported by studies that found men and women fear the same stimuli, but feel that fear in different ways (Lebron-Milad et al. 2012).

Taking these factors into consideration, we hypothesize that women in the EEA, due to environmental and social conditions, constantly considered the safety of themselves and of offspring. Due to the change in expectations and stressors that women experience today, this predisposition to fearful thought has been over-amplified to produce chronic anxiety.

Broader Impacts and Conclusion

Understanding the evolutionary explanation for causes of anxiety will allow scientists to focus on new research perspectives in the treatment of anxiety disorders in women. Currently, research has shown that the common practice of cognitive-behavioral therapy and pharmaceutical medication is not nearly as effective as once thought to be (Hoffman et al.2013). In fact, typical treatment often leaves remnants of anxiety that have debilitating effects later in life (Hebert and Dugas 2018). Considering the consequences of untreated anxiety on women today, it is necessary that more appropriate forms of therapy and medication be used to address the evolutionary basis from which anxiety stems. Because of the pervasive and constant nature of unnecessary fear, current treatments focus on addressing the tolerance of uncertainty and evaluation of fear-based worries. These new forms of therapy have shown to be incredibly effective in helping individuals eliminate almost all of their anxiety, and give them the tools to address any remaining anxiety. (Hebert and Dugas 2018). This effectiveness is also reflected in the success of practices of mindful meditation, as it allows individuals to take time to cope with their stress and stress hormones (Hoge et al. 2018). By examining the basis from which anxiety stems in women, that of fear necessary for survival of oneself and others, we are able to more accurately treat the mindsets that perpetuate anxiety, not just the symptoms or the surface level issues.

Furthermore, by understanding the differences in industrialized societies and the EEA, our society can better understand what triggers anxiety, and how to possibly minimize such triggers. After all, more women in industrialized societies generally suffer from anxiety in comparison to women who live in more egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies. For example, in industrialized societies where higher male status and power through a patriarchal organization underlies societal functions, women feel more pressure to subdue their emotions and are repetitively taught that they have less control over their lives, thus causing anxiety in women, which they are ultimately not allowed to express (Craske 2003). Furthermore, technology poses another threat to mental health, especially because humans evolved in a societal organization of approximately fifty people. Today, through technological advancements, humans now have access to almost seven billion individuals, a significantly greater amount of people than our immediate ancestors; the amount of negative information and other anxiety-inducting stressors have massively increased, adding to an already stressful world (Cartwright 2016).

With such information, our community has the tools to realize the dangers that our modernized society poses on women, and determine improved treatment for women to diminish anxiety. Women themselves can understand the cause of their anxiety when it occurs and can have better control over their lives, as well. More specifically, women from certain societies can utilize various techniques that will quell their anxiety, as well as have the ability to realize which specific stimuli may trigger their response. Through studying the Aka population and their anxietal triggers, as well as the prevalence of anxiety, anthropologists may better understand the impacts of the mismatch between the EEA and our industrialized society. Especially if, as hypothesized, the Aka people suffer from anxiety at a significantly smaller frequency than Bostonians, then perhaps industrialized people should attempt to adopt some of their cultural norms. For example, domestic violence is rare, and the society is egalitarian between men/women (Hewlett 1993).

The study of anxiety across populations and between genders can give us a broader understanding of the impacts the disorder has on different people and societies. Examining the evolutionary significance of anxiety, heightening awareness and preparedness for dangerous stimuli, allows for a in-depth perspective of how anxiety functions and therefore a more appropriate treatment of the mismatch between current industrialized societies and our genetic programming. Through examining the purposes and impacts of anxiety on women in the EEA and today, comparisons can be made to help further apply effective treatments on the uncertainty mechanisms driven by anxiety. Analyzing the evolutionary foundations to anxiety in women will change not only the treatment, but the social understanding of the impacts it has on all populations.

 

 

 

References

Altemus, M., Sarvaiya, N., & Neill Epperson, C. (2014). Sex differences in anxiety and depression clinical perspectives. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 35(3), 320–330.

Andreano, J. M., Dickerson, B. C., & Barrett, L. F. (2014). Sex differences in the persistence of the amygdala response to negative material. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9(9), 1388–1394.

Anxiety Disorders. (2013). In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. American Psychiatric Association.

Bateson, M., Brilot, B., & Nettle, D. (2011). Anxiety: an evolutionary approach. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie, 56(12), 707–715.

Cartwright, J. (2016). Evolution and Human Behavior: Darwinian Perspectives on the Human Condition. London: Palgrave.

Clear, J. (2016, March 22). The Evolution of Anxiety: Why We Worry and What to Do About It. Retrieved February 25, 2019, from https://jamesclear.com/evolution-of-anxiety

Craske, M. G. (2003). Origins of Phobias and Anxiety Disorders: Why More Women than Men?Elsevier.

Daskalakis, N. P., Bagot, R. C., Parker, K. J., Vinkers, C. H., & de Kloet, E. R. (2013). The three-hit concept of vulnerability and resilience: toward understanding adaptation to early-life adversity outcome. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38(9), 1858–1873.

Fredric, N. (2014, April 5). The Evolution of an Anxious Feeling. Psychology Today. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fighting-fear/201404/the-evolution-anxious-feeling

Hebert, E. A., & Dugas, M. J. (2018). Behavioral Experiments for Intolerance of Uncertainty: Challenging the Unknown in the Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpra.2018.07.007

Hewlett, B. S. (1993). Intimate fathers: The nature and context of Aka pygmy paternal infant care. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Hofmann, S. G., Wu, J. Q., & Boettcher, H. (2013). D-Cycloserine as an augmentation strategy for cognitive behavioral therapy of anxiety disorders. Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders, 3(1), 11.

Hoge, E. A., Bui, E., Palitz, S. A., Schwarz, N. R., Owens, M. E., Johnston, J. M., … Simon, N. M. (2018). The effect of mindfulness meditation training on biological acute stress responses in generalized anxiety disorder. Psychiatry Research, 262, 328–332.

LaFrance, A. (2015, January 8). What Happens to a Woman’s Brain When She Becomes a Mother. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/what-happens-to-a-womans-brain-when-she-becomes-a-mother/384179/

Lebron-Milad, K., Abbs, B., Milad, M. R., Linnman, C., Rougemount-Bücking, A., Zeidan, M. A., … Goldstein, J. M. (2012). Sex differences in the neurobiology of fear conditioning and extinction: a preliminary fMRI study of shared sex differences with stress-arousal circuitry.Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders, 2, 7.

Maeng, L. Y., & Milad, M. R. (2015). Sex differences in anxiety disorders: Interactions between fear, stress, and gonadal hormones. Hormones and Behavior, 76, 106–117.

Marks, I. fM, & Nesse, R. M. (1994). Fear and fitness: An evolutionary analysis of anxiety disorders. Ethology and Sociobiology, 15(5), 247–261.

McLean, C. P., & Anderson, E. R. (2009). Brave men and timid women? A review of the gender differences in fear and anxiety. Clinical Psychology Review, 29(6), 496–505.

NIMH » Any Anxiety Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml

Scott, J. (2013). An Evolutionary Perspective on Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders. In F. Durbano (Ed.), New Insights into Anxiety Disorders. InTech.

Taylor, S. E., Klein, L. C., Lewis, B. P., Gruenewald, T. L., Gurung, R. A., & Updegraff, J. A. (2000). Biobehavioral responses to stress in females: tend-and-befriend, not fight-or-flight. Psychological Review, 107(3), 411–429.

Wilkinson, R. G. (1999). Health, hierarchy, and social anxiety. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 896, 48–63.

 

5 Black-Owned Makeup Brands To Keep On Your Radar

By: Hannah Xue

There’s no denying that our society is becoming increasingly racially conscious. Now more than ever, businesses are being held accountable for their politics and are heavily criticized when they make problematic statements.

For those unfamiliar with the industry, the makeup world might seem relatively removed from these issues. But in recent times consumers have demanded increasing diversity and representation from makeup brands.  

Several businesses have recently come under fire for offensive or insensitive messaging. Last July, Beautyblender released a foundation that was criticized for not carrying enough darker shades. In the same month, 3CE was accused of painting a model’s hand brown instead of using an actual dark-skinned model.

Rather than support makeup brands that fail to recognize the importance of inclusion, perhaps it may be better to invest in businesses that were built with diversity in mind. Black-owned makeup brands, aka B.O.M.Bs, were created to serve a historically marginalized group with products that meet their unique needs. Read on for a list of B.O.M.Bs that are currently killing the game.

  1. Fenty Beauty

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A conversation about representation in the makeup industry is incomplete without mentioning Fenty Beauty, Rihanna’s makeup line. Since launching with 40 shades of the Pro Filt’r Foundation in 2017, the line has truly set the standard for inclusion in beauty products. As Fenty Beauty’s tagline suggest, these products truly create “Beauty ForAll.”

2. Juvia’s Place

Juvia’s Place is well known in the beauty community for its highly pigmented eyeshadow palettes, which all retail for $20 or less. Chichi Eburu, who created the line in 2014, draws on her African heritage in the visual branding of her products; the brand’s most popular palette,The Nubian, features an illustration of Queen Nefertiti on the inside cover.

3. Iman Cosmetics

Created by legendary 90s model, Iman, Iman Cosmetics was founded out of the bombshell’s frustration of having to mix her own foundation for makeup artists to use on set. The brand was one of the first B.O.M.Bs to be carried in major drugstore retailers. In addition to makeup, Iman Cosmetics also carries skincare and beauty tools.  

4. Beauty Bakerie

With product names like Lollipop Liner, Snickerdoodle Lip Gloss, and Cake Mix Foundation,Beauty Bakerie’s unique products sound just as phenomenal as they perform. CEO Cashmere Nicole, a breast cancer survivor, also uses her pink-themed business to support awareness of the illness she overcame.

5. Pat McGrath Labs

Once proclaimed by Anna Wintour as “the most influential makeup artist in the world,” Pat McGrath created her eponymous makeup for use by makeup professionals and novices alike. The artist’s distinctive editorial style is evident with products such as Blitztrance glitter lipstick and Fetisheyes mascara.

The makeup industry has quite a long way to go in terms of ensuring equitable representation for all of its consumers, but these black-owned businesses are doing their best to empower themselves and the communities they hope to serve.

What We Can Learn from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl

By: Avery Serven

manic

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a film trope that most of us are familiar with. If not, here’s a quick definition coined by Nathan Rabin: “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an all-or-nothing-proposition.” Some of the best examples are seen in the lead female characters from films like Elizabethtown, Garden State, Paper Towns, Almost Famous, and (500) Days of Summer.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl continues to be a character created by white, heterosexual male writers to satisfy a trope that they deemed absent from film. A character trope that, I might add, was designed to satisfy these writers’ own pipe dreams of a girl who could fill their emotional voids. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists for the purpose of bringing the brooding cynical “sad boy” male character out of his sheltered world so he can embrace all that life has to offer. She is often white, slim, beautiful, and, of course, quirky; the kind of girl that these heterosexual male characters might call a “cool girl.” She probably has dyed hair, crazy piercings, or listens to The Smiths (see Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer).

I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. For women, even a mention of the word “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” will probably elicit some eye rolling. Although she is “not like other girls,” she still only serves one purpose–to change the male lead’s cynical way of living. This ideology is dangerous, because even though the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is just a character on a screen, she represents the larger societal notion that women must complete men. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl does not seem to have any real goals of her own. Instead, her only goal throughout the film is to completely alter the male character by the time the credits role.

I will give the Manic Pixie Dream Girl some credit, though. Many of the female characters that have been placed into this category by film scholars have interesting personalities. They might like unconventional music, wear eccentric clothing, or think about life through a different lens. While these traits often serve as the only basis for the male character to fall in love with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, I believe that these girls break the mold by creating three-dimensional female characters, who do not fit the standard “Sexpot” or “Brainless Beauty” tropes that most female characters fall under. Unfortunately, while the Manic Pixie Dream Girl definitely doesn’t fit the stereotypes that other female characters often adhere to, her unique outlook on life is usually exploited by the male character for his own needs.

 Additionally, although many Manic Pixie Dream Girls only seem to care about their boyfriend’s dreams, many of the girls initially have dreams of their own. While these dreams are rarely fulfilled, the fact that they exist in the first place signifies hope for a change in the future of female film characters.

I believe we can learn a lot from Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Yes, these characters often perpetuate the notion that women, with their spunky attitudes and quirky demeanors, are supposed to help men achieve their goals. And yes, even though they have complex personalities and dreams, they often channel all of their energy into helping the men in their life. However, if in Hollywood writers continue to create three-dimensional female characters and allow them to be passionate about achieving their own dreams, the romance genre could be completely transformed. 

Sources

https://film.avclub.com/the-bataan-death-march-of-whimsy-case-file-1-elizabet-1798210595

Why Don’t We Have a Men’s History Month

By: Sabrina Schnurr

March 1st marked the beginning of Women’s History Month, an official recognition of women’s contributions to civilization, culture, and humanity throughout history. I commend lawmakers for establishing Women’s History Month in 1987. Women, after all, are chronically under-represented in textbooks, and women’s achievements are often ignored or minimized by historians. Having March officially designated as Women’s History Month puts a focus on women’s overshadowed role throughout history, and forces many to recognize that women drove a large portion of technology and culture. The existence of Women’s History Month begs the question that if Women’s History Month exists, shouldn’t we also have a Men’s History Month? After all, isn’t equality the driving force of the progressive movement?

By stating that “I don’t think there should be an International Women’s Day if there’s not an International Men’s Day, too” is like saying, “I don’t believe in Black History Month without a White History Month to balance it out.” There is no need for balance. The imbalance is the point.

Literally every month is already Men’s History Month. Men have controlled every aspect of civilization for thousands of years, and they are celebrated constantly. Almost every historical holiday focuses on men: Columbus Day, MLK Jr. Day, President’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day. The default is thinking of men as important historical figures.

Nothing about Women’s History Month diminishes men. The fact that men feel upset about celebrating important women simply underscores the male-focused nature of our society. We can’t even talk about celebrating women without some guy grunting, “Yeah, but what about us?”

To the fellas saying that men deserve some time just for them, remind those men that of International Men’s Day! IMD is an annual international event celebrated every year on 19 November; the month of November is also occasionally recognized as International Men’s Month. Jerome Teelucksingh chose November 19th to honor his father’s birthday and also to celebrate how in 1989, Trinidad and Tobago’s football team united the country with their endeavors of qualifying for the World Cup. Teelucksingh has promoted International Men’s Day as a day where all issues affecting men and boys can be addressed. IMD strives to gain “gender equality and patiently attempts to remove the negative images and the stigma associated with men in our society.” The aim of International Men’s Day is generally to celebrate positive male role models and to raise awareness of men’s issues, including topics such as mental health, toxic masculinity, and the prevalence of male suicide.

Weird flex, but okay.

5 Flash Fiction Pieces to Celebrate Women’s History Month

By Annie Jonas

In honor of Women’s History Month, I have chosen 5 flash fiction pieces written by, or about, women. These pieces take no more than 5 minutes to read, and are perfect for any spare moments you have throughout your day.

 

  1. Break, by Rabih Alameddine

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Image Source: Chloe Scheffe, The New Yorker

This piece chronicles the relationship between a sister and a brother who correspond over the course of seven years with just photographs. What is the reason for such a peculiar form of communication, you may ask? The narrator is a trans-woman whose family disowned her upon her transitioning, and threatened her brother not to speak or write to her without consequences. This story is a haunting portrait of the breaking and reparation of family, love, and loneliness.

“He broke first. I received a four-by-six portrait of his son with a slightly bleeding nose, taken hastily, badly lit, likely by a bathroom bulb. On the ten-year-old face, a thread of blood trickled from nose to upper lip, curving an ogee around the corner of the mouth and down the chin. The boy was in no pain; he looked inquisitively at the camera, probably wondering why his father had had the urge to bring it out.

I held my breath for a beat or two or three when I saw the image. On the back of the photograph Mazen had written, ‘I keep seeing you.’”

 

  1. Girl, by Jamaica Kincaid

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Image Source: Jefferson Wheeler

In this laundry list of dos and don’ts, demands, and warnings, Jamaica Kincaid exposes the unembellished realities of growing up as a girl in a patriarchal world. Written in 1978, in the height of the Second Wave feminist movement, Kincaid’s story feels just as personal as it does political. It is not flashy about its brilliance, and yet in its modesty it proves to be a nuanced masterpiece.

“this is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely; this is how you set a table for tea; this is how you set a table for dinner; this is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest; this is how you set a table for lunch; this is how you set a table for breakfast; this is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming; be sure to wash every day, even if it is with your own spit; don’t squat down to play marbles—you are not a boy, you know”

 

  1. The Huntress, by Sofia Samatar

huntress

Image Source: Del Samatar

In this sci-fi fast fiction piece, an impossibly large female monster called The Huntress terrorizes the inhabitants of a city below. The narrator is a foreigner to this place and is fatally unprepared for the wrath of The Huntress. This piece weaves together intense sensory imagery with disorienting ambiguity; we, as readers, feel just as on-edge as the narrator.

“The Huntress left dark patches wherever she passed. She left a streak. In the morning, the hotel staff would find me unconscious, gummed to the floor. The proprietor weeping, for nothing like this had ever happened in his establishment, nothing. Had I not read the instructions on the desk?”

 

  1. Housewife, by Amy Hempel

amy-hempel

Image Source: VICE

In this one-sentence story, Amy Hempel humorously captures the pure delight of a cunning, two-timing housewife rejoicing in her latest affair. Hempel relays the sexual freedom and polyamorous nature of a modern-day woman who seeks her own pleasure first, and protocols second.

“She would always sleep with her husband and with another man in the course of the same day, and then the rest of the day, for whatever was left to her of that day, she would exploit by incanting, ‘French film, French film.’”

 

  1. John Redding Goes to Sea, by Zora Neale Hurston

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Image Source: Fotosearch / Getty Images

Zora Neale Hurston is one of my all-time favorite female novelists as well as an iconic figure in feminist history. Although she is primarily known and celebrated for her novels, her fast-fiction and short stories are equally deserving of praise. In this piece, Hurston masterfully uses dialect to illustrate the story of John Redding, a ten-year-old daydreamer who imagines his backyard stream is a great sea.

“The little brown boy loved to wander down to the water’s edge, and, casting in dry twigs, watch them sail away downstream to Jacksonville, the sea, the wide world and John Redding wanted to follow them.

Sometimes in his dreams he was a prince, riding away in a gorgeous carriage. Often he was a knight bestride a fiery charger prancing down the white shell road that led to distant lands. At other times he was a steamboat captain piloting his craft down the St. John River to where the sky seemed to touch the water. No matter what he dreamed or who he fancied himself to be, he always ended by riding away to the horizon; for in his childish ignorance he thought this to be farthest land.”

For those who feel like they don’t have the time to read a full-fledged novel, or who desire a fast-paced narrative, fast fiction is the way to go. However, do not assume that just because these pieces are short, they are any less than a novel or a lengthier piece. Fast fiction is an important subgenre of literature because it stretches the expectations of what we perceive fiction to be. It teaches us to be creative and really think about the words we are writing. Fast fiction is a lean and efficient form; nothing is arbitrary. It is important that we read works like these so that we, too, may become better readers and writers.

For more fast fiction pieces, check out:

https://flashfictionmagazine.com/

http://www.100wordstory.org/

http://thecollagist.com/

https://everydayfiction.com/

Congrats, It’s a… Human! The Problem with Gender Reveal Parties

Maria Ordoñez

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Like a scene from a Pinterest board, the expectant mother takes one last swing at the stork-shaped pinata hanging above her. Confetti bursts through the air, raining down on the smiling mother as she removes her blindfold.

It’s… yellow?

Her friends and family stare in confusion, trying to decipher whether yellow means boy or girl. With tears in her eyes, the mother runs into the arms of her partner, both delighted by the reveal.

“It’s a human!” they exclaim.


Parties like these are part of the latest trend taking over social media: gender reveal parties. You’ve seen them everywhere from Instagram to YouTube, elaborate tactics employing pinatas, paint guns, and even smoke bombs to reveal one of two colors – pink or blue. Boy or girl. 

With the increased accuracy of pre-natal DNA testing, gender reveal parties have started to replace the traditional baby showers we know and tolerate. In some cases, they can be organized as one and the same, but there aresome fundamental differences between the two. See, the gender reveal party, held much earlier in the pregnancy, is a co-ed event that is generally restricted to close friends and family. No more of those female-only showers where you have to invite all your coworkers and that one cousin you’ve never even met!

While this all seemslike a perfectly sweet excuse for a party, and an improvement from the classic baby shower, gender reveal parties have proven to be quite problematic. Let me tell you why:

  1. Did you mean “Genitalia Reveal Party?”

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As it turns out, the supposed “gender” revealed at these parties is actually the chromosomal sexof the fetus determined at the time of fertilization. In other words, XX or XY chromosomes, testes or ovaries, penis or vagina. It’s all strictly anatomical and has nothing to do with the baby’s gender. In fact, the baby doesn’t even have a gender yet!

Although often confused with sex, gender is actually a social identity shaped by a person’s own life history and cultural context. For some people it can take years to define their gender identity or come to terms with it, which is why everyone should throw their own gender reveal party when they’re good and ready.

I happen to be ready for mine… I am 20-years-old and I identify as a cisgender female. WOO HOO, SOMEBODY GET THE CONFETTI!

2. Male, Female, and nothing in between.

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Gender reveal parties are binary af.

For those not familiar with the term, binary means relating to two things. In terms of gender, binary refers to the assertion that there are only two genders, male and female. That’s why you’re only allowed to use two colors for decoration (you know which ones).

The thing is that, even anatomically speaking, nothing is binary. According to an article by The Guardian, 1.7% of people are intersex, meaning that they’re born with a combination of male and female biological traits. What color smoke bomb would you use for that? Purple? Yellow? No-colors-at-all-because-it’s-a-problematic-concept? I don’t know…

Gender identity exists on an even more varied spectrum, ranging from transgender to gender queer to gender fluid. But, the truth of the matter is that the fundamental structure of these parties is not set up to consider all the possible variations of gender, so why even have them in the first place?  

3.  You get a gender role, you get a gender role, everybody gets a gender role!

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A list of popular party themes: Rifles or ruffles, ties or tutus, boots or ballet, and so on and so on.

From before these babies are born, their parents have decided what they can and cannot do based on their biological sex. Babies with penises will grow up to wear ties, not tutus, and babies born with vaginas will grow up to wear ruffles, not play with rifles.

This is not only potentially damaging to these babies as they grow up, but it also perpetuates a culture of female domesticity and toxic masculinity. Not to exaggerate or anything, but gender reveal parties are single-handedly reinforcing the patriarchy. Just saying…

As surprising as it is, as much as cultural norms surrounding gender have evolved, problematic traditions like gender reveal parties still exist. It seems like with every increase in awareness and acceptance of identities outside of the binary, the patriarchy finds a way to reinforce what it defines as the norm. The worst part is that it does this by hiding behind hashtags and confetti and a lot of cake.

But I see you, Patriarchy.

You can’t fool me.

Women in Tech Breakfast

By: Rhian Lowndes

Bringing Diverse Thinkers Together on International Women’s Day

 

At the General Assembly training center on Summer Street, a networking event kicked off International Women’s Day for over fifty attendees. The Women in Tech Breakfast hosted three speakers who shared their own experience of sexism in the workplace, how they overcame it, and how they’re using their positions to change to game.

Gabriela McManus of Drizly, Roxanne Tashjian of Monster, and Sanam Razzaghi Feldman of Rapid7 emphasized to a largely female crowd–with just three men in the audience–that changes can be made in small steps, as long as women advocate for ourselves and our values, while creating a community of support.

They pressed issues such as Referral System hiring, which encourages the consistent employment of similar candidates with similar backgrounds and experience. Job descriptions also pose a problem, and can be redesigned to be more inclusive.

Mei Li Zhou, Partnerships Specialist at General Assembly, explained that the importance of collaborating with the International Women’s Day campaign lies in shared goals. For these two groups, a focus on “thought” is key: “The International Women’s day team has been a major player in shedding light on these issues and their #BalanceForBetter campaign really resonates with our goals of promoting a workforce that is diverse of thought, gender, and race.”

Events like the Women in Tech Breakfast are not only held for women on International Women’s Day, but for everyone who needs a leg up in their careers year round. They enable people who struggle to advance their careers to share concerns in a community of support. For Zhou, the event was, “from beginning to end, a very safe and warm environment where women can connect and share their struggles.”

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/women-in-tech-breakfast-building-inclusive-teams-for-success-tickets-55789399596#
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/women-in-tech-breakfast-building-inclusive-teams-for-success-tickets-55789399596#

Tina Belcher, an Iconic Animated Character

By: Rachel Harmon

If you have not seen Bobs Burgers, you need to start. Not only is this an iconic animation series for young-adults, but also has one of my favorite animated characters ever: Tina Belcher. She is the oldest of her two siblings and her family owns a Burger Shop. She is the awkward girl we all were at some point in our lives (or still are). She gives us many cringy but hilarious moments in every episode. She may have minimal social skills and may not understand what is socially acceptable as a teenager girl, but she is happy with who she is and refuses to be like everyone else. Some of her most notable quirks are her fantasies about Jimmy Junior, her erotic friend fiction, AND her obsession with BUTTS. She is definitely one of the most empowering animated female characters I have ever watched because she expresses her real feelings, even if they are “weird.” It is difficult for a teenage girl to be herself unapologetically, but Tina owns it. Tina is my animated icon and she should be yours too.

Please enjoy one of my favorite Tina moments, because like her, I appreciate a good butt.

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WMN EMPWRMNT: ZAYRHA NICOLE RODRIGUEZ

By: Melissa Hurtado

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: For me, empowerment is the idea of standing up together. Rome wasn’t built in one day and neither was women rights. Also, empowerment should not be limited to those close to us, but in order to change the world, we need to empower women outside our physical and mental borders. All women should be able to get an education if they wish to do so, be able to choose what happens in their bodies, and have a say in their future.

 

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: I was raised with the traditional ideas of how a lady should behave and do, yet I have tried to rebel it against it since I can remember. When I was 5 or 6 years old I didn’t like the color pink, and I tried to be adventurous leaving me with a few scars on my knees because I was clumsy. And the idea of being a girly girl seemed strange to me. I thought being girly would only limit what I could do in the future.

However, as I grow up, I have realized that just because you are feminine, it doesn’t limit your power. You can feminine and kick-ass at the same time. So having a definition of what a woman is, I think it limits the idea of what a woman can do, and feel. Womanhood is express in multiple ways, impossible to put it in one sentence.

The same goes for men. The idea that men cannot cry because it shows weakness is stupid. Women and men should be able to do whatever they want and express anyway their heart desires as long the person is not hurting themselves or others.

In other words, “You do you, honey!”

 

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: There is a lot of power over who and how a story is told. I believe it is my duty as a future journalist to give anyone a platform, especially women of color,  tell their story that is authentic to their experiences. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit the traditional narrative. Along with that, I think an open heart and an open mind creates room to have the tough conversations that come with empowerment.

feminist thought and action at boston university