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.

Confronting Flaws One Facebook Message at a Time

By: Marie Cantor

In today’s media, we have seen many realistic women enter our screens. Film and television production companies are finally seeing the value of creating three dimensional, complex female characters. Now, the flaws of these female characters are central to their behavior, which is quite different from the past where women were either seen as perfect or as victims. In this new era of media and female representation, we are beginning to accept women for their flaws. Women, just like everyone else, are humans, and are therefore flawed as well.  

On December 19th, 2018, I confronted my middle school bully. And when I say “confront,” I mean I wrote a lengthy message on

Me in elementary. Done for an art project in the 8th grade
Me in elementary. Done for an art project in the 8th grade

Facebook. When I say “bully,” I mean a girl that loudly insulted me in my 8th grade English class. It’s not the most conventional bully story, but nonetheless, it affected me in more ways than just one. 

Let me set the scene for you. I am 13 years old, wearing an ill-fitting t-shirt and low-rise jeans. My English class smells as if every adolescent drowned themselves in expired Axe body spray. When I stood up from my seat, “Susan” shouted an insult at me pertaining to my appearance. Looking back, I can almost justify the remark since I did take fashion advice from the early 2000s, despite the fact that it was 2012.

The class grew quiet. All eyes were on me. I felt like a street performing monkey who had just failed the magic trick. From what I remember, I laughed awkwardly in order to appear as if I were in on the joke.

Even though this might seem insignificant, this moment stuck with me. As the years passed, I grew more curious as to why Susan did this. We were never enemies, friends, or even frenemies. We barely knew each other. Of course, I can now attribute her anger to the awkward years of middle school, or maybe to the fact that she needed an outlet for that anger. But I wanted an answer.

So, I found her on Facebook and decided to send a message. I attempted to write the best message a person could write in this situation—unaccusatory and understanding. I had immediate senders regret, but there was no turning back.

A couple days pass and I get a response:

Hey love, even though I may not remember I still want to apologize. That was very rude of me and I can only imagine how bad my comment made you feel I am very sorry. I hope you know that you were beautiful and talented and all that you do always believe in yourself and strive for your full potential.

That wasn’t the response I had wanted.

To be frank, I expected too much from the situation. I can’t deny that her message was kind, but it was also safe. And safe in the way of disingenuousness. I realized that the message was in response to drama from 8 years prior, and that I shouldn’t have been surprised that I didn’t receive as satisfying of an answer as I had hoped for.

I may never get a why from Susan, and that’s perfectly fine. She doesn’t owe me any explanation for something that was trivial middle school angst.

I think what struck me was the overwhelming positive support I received by others on Facebook. No one questioned my morals. There were just blind compliments. The positive reinforcement, however nice it was, felt strange.

It felt strange because I am not a perfect individual. I am flawed. I am not the airbrushed and groomed femme-fatal of cinema’s past. I am not a victim. I, the bullied, was also a bully. I have been confronted by someone who I had bullied 10 years ago. Fortunately, we were able to talk, move past it, and build a strong friendship.

One slogan used by many feminists is “Babes Supporting Babes.” To many people, it is used to support other women. And while I am wholeheartedly for female empowerment, this phrase is support at a surface level. Support should not mean blind reassurance of ourPicture1 beauty and our talent, as Susan had told me. Support is accepting the flaws that are found within us and grabbing them by the throat. We must embrace our flaws through moments of self-conflict and self-reflection–– like the urge to message a bully at 3am. A babe supports another babe by challenging her to overcome the obstacles that society brings.

Women are taken advantage of when they are seen as perfect. Women should be seen as flawed individuals who have to prove themselves just as much as the next person. For decades, the image of the “flawless women” was an excuse to see her as inferior–– “The flawless must be dumb.” I want to be challenged as a whole being, even by my flaws. I find that empowering. We get enough of the superficial from the posters in corny teenage magazines. It’s time for true support.

#FeministFriday: An Interview with Lul Mohamud (Pt.1)

By: Maria Ordoñez

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This semester, HoochieACTIVE launched a new social media campaign called #FeministFriday. For those unfamiliar with HoochieACTIVE, it is The Hoochie Media Project’s sister group, which focuses on intersectional feminist activism and outreach. Of course, if you already follow HoochieACTIVE on social media, you probably know that every day is a feminist day, but there’s something special about Fridays.  

#FeministFriday was launched in an effort to connect with people outside of HoochieACTIVE that identify as feminists and have a passion for diversity, inclusivity and, most of all, intersectionality. And so, every week, a new feminist is showcased, whether it’s a public figure, a professor, a student, anybody.

This week, it’s Lul Mohamud, a senior at Boston University (BU). Born in Maryland, the daughter of Somali immigrants, Lul grew up surrounded by a strength and diversity that has shaped the way she moves through the world. Today she is an active member of the BU community and is involved in Student Government, 16,000 Strong, Residence Life, and the Minority Connection Initiative (MCI).

I met with her this past week to discuss, well, feminism.


 On what intersectionality means to her…

Lul: (Sigh) That’s a great [question]. Intersectionality means I get to exist, because when people see me, they’re like, “Ok, what are you?” And, if you look at me, the first thing you can say is I’m a woman. Someone can also say the first thing that they see is “black”. Then, someone else can look at me and say the first thing they see is that “she’s a Muslim.” These three worlds are not separate from one another, they influence one another at all times. It’s a tapestry, it’s interwoven. They depend on one another. [If] you pull one string, what happens? The rest fall apart. We can’t be defined as a part of who we are, we have to look at the whole, but unfortunately, we live in a society that focuses on a single part… especially if it’s different from theirs.”

Me: The easiest one to swallow.

Lul: That’s exactly what it is! And so, intersectionality – that term in itself is empowering for those of us that who have layered identities, layered existences. We work on multiple planes. We move through multiple dimensions at all times. And to be pin-holding [us] to one singular lane, is limiting and, in some ways, it’s also disrespectful, because it’s putting a greater value on one over another, and I value all of them equally because that’s what makes me phenomenal.

Me: You are!

Lul: I try my best. I still struggle with it to this day, every day, but, you know, you got to –

Me: Fake it till you make it?

Lul: Exactly, that’s what they do! My dad always says, “We just trynna beat the white man at his game.” (Laughs) I made a label of that [and] I put on my laptop. I love watching people get uncomfortable when they read it. Like, “Huh? Excuse me? What?”

On her feminist icon…

Lul: Ah jeez… Ooh, I have a long list. Umm… Honestly, I would have to say my father. My father is my feminist icon, and I’ll tell you why: Because, my father has 4 girls, right? And he also comes from a family where he has, I think in total, ten brothers and one sister. Unfortunately, my aunt passed 2 weeks ago, but my father –.

In Somali culture, which is actually very common in other cultures, the male is [usually] more important than the woman. And I say male, specifically, not man. I say male, because it’s literally just that biological distinction that makes them greater than us, nothing else. Womanhood in itself is something that’s invaluable because, it’s priceless. It’s something that anybody can hold if they have that capability, that inner greatness that comes with womanhood…

When my oldest sister was born, and when I was born right after her, and my other sister, and my other sister – when we were born, uncles would come over to the house and kind of give their condolences to my father for having a daughter, and my father’s instinct, immediately, was: “You can leave my house.” He’s like, “You may not see the worth of what God has given me, but I do, and I want you out of my house before you realize it.”

Even in Islam, it teaches us that when a man has a daughter, she gives him a path to heaven. A daughter, specifically. Even in Somali proverbs and stories, you realize that when a man has a daughter, he has a second family for life, because she is the only one capable –. A woman, someone who embodies womanhood, not just biologically – has the ability to care for generations. For humanity. And so, when you don’t see that worth, you are ignorant of one of the greatest gifts that exists and is known to human kind.

And my father was the first person to teach me that, and to this day, my father is so proud of every single one of his daughters. Since the day we walked, since the day we started talking, everything we did, to him, was exceptional. Because it was his daughters, the people that will continue his legacy. To this day, my father will be the first to tell any man who says in any way [that] he is greater than any woman, my father is the first to object him. And he will have the last word, he refuses [not to]. And so, my father really embodies [this]. He’s the one that tells us at all times, you women– he usually calls us “Women of God” or “Women of greatness” – you are going to be the ones that change the world and you are going to be the ones that make me proud.

We have a younger brother (Laughs), but my father is the first to always remind him of the wealth that sits around him. At all times. My father is like, “You have five mothers… I wasn’t lucky enough to have that many mothers around.” But his sister was everything to him, she still is, even though she’s passed. She’s everything to him. Anything that she says goes. He listens, because he says, “A woman has a connection, a special connection to see things in a way a man never will, so I trust her 100 percent.” Any decision my father makes, it’s my mother’s decision: “She’s not only my equal, but her word is invaluable.”

He’s a feminist icon to me, because he does everything he can to make sure that he is actively working to reverse any forces that try, in any way, to stifle a woman’s greatness.

Me: I think your dad is also my feminist icon.

Lul: (Laughs) And he’s not extra! It’s the way he lives, he embodies that notion…. If he hears any uncle of mine say [anything] to his wife or his child, he tells them: “There’s a special kind of ignorance that lives in your soul.” And he leaves. Just like that. Mad chill. He just floats out the room.

When he’s in our house, he likes to just be around us, he likes to just listen to us… Most times, it’s difficult to get a man to listen to a woman, [but] my father is one of the greatest listeners. He doesn’t listen to men [though], that’s just a waste of time. He says, “Ninety percent of the words they say are useless.” (Laughs) He’s such a man basher sometimes, but he, like, owns up to it.


A special thank you to Lul for taking the time to do this interview, as well as HoochieACTIVE’s President, Johannah Coichy, and Social Media Coordinator, Daniela Tellechea. Without them, we wouldn’t have the safe spaces that allow us to have these kinds of conversations.

If you want to read more, keep an eye out for “An Interview with Lul Mohamud (Pt.2),” and in the meantime, stay connected with HoochieACTIVE for more #FeministFriday content:

Instagram: @hoochie.active

Facebook: HoochieActive

Twitter: @hoochie.active

How Does Maggie Rogers Do It?

By Avery Serven

“Cut my hair so I could rock back and forth without thinking of you” might just be one of the most empowering musical lines to come our way. The phrase comes off the song “Alaska” from Maggie Rogers’s debut album, Heard It In A Past Life, which was released on January 18, 2019.

The 24-year-old singer-songwriter has been well-known in the alternative genre since the release of her first EP, Now That the Light Is Fading, in 2017. This EP captures Rogers while she is still a student at NYU, grappling to find her own voice in the sellout world of music. Songs like “Color Song” and “On + Off” show a style of music that is inspired by both folk and pop, with ethereal sounds highlighting her powerful voice.

Heard It In A Past Life moves away from this to signify a new stage in her life. Rogers deviates from her folk/indie roots to produce a record that sounds more like something from Haim or Sylvan Esso. The record seamlessly blends various themes together, such as maturity, heartbreak, and uncertainty. This allows for a personal connection between Rogers and her listeners. The result of this personal connection are songs that can only be described as being “uniquely Rogers.”

An echoing beat calls the listener to the dance floor, establishing Rogers’s distinctive sound in the first track off the album, “Give a Little.” Rogers’s raspy, yet strong, voice admits: “If I was who I was before / Then I’d be waiting at your door / But I cannot confess I am the same.” The upbeat background music, combined with Rogers’s melodic excitement about pursuing a new love, sets a tone for the album that is both nostalgic and hopeful for the future.

Rogers continues to show that she is not afraid of change in “Overnight,” a song about making peace with the fact that people change. “Overnight” is a great example of Rogers’s effortless key changes, which appear in almost all of her songs, giving her a distinctive and genuine sound. The song marks a time of transition in Rogers’s life, with her lyrics emphasizing an acceptance of the unknown.

Rogers’s music is so impressive that the listener should feel honored just to take part in it. This can be felt in “Say It,” a sultry tune about denying your romantic feelings for someone. The song manages to capture the tricky feeling of falling in love despite knowing that it may not be a good idea. A synthesizer beat with a futuristic sound, combined with Rogers’s silky voice sailing through the lyrics, gives the listener the privilege of feeling this emotion at Rogers’s level.

Maggie Rogers is a truly original artist, with both her voice and her words carrying beauty and honesty. She is no longer a young undergrad trying to find her path amidst a whirlwind of emotions. Rogers is mature and reflective now, honing a signature musical style that reveals that she has not necessarily moved past that whirlwind, but rather has come to embrace it.

WMN EMPWRMNT: PHANESIA LAURE PHEREL

By: Melissa Hurtado

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Women empowerment for me includes the liberation of the various intersections of gender from trans gender and nonbinary individuals to the roles of that race and financial strains placed on us.

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: Being a woman is holding all the power in the world but not being sure how to use it.

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

A: I bring to the table a passion to see the world be a better place.

Turquoise

By: Eleni Constantinou

My favorite color is turquoise. I realize this as I allow my feet to dangle off the side of a high cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Paphos, Cyprus, where the goddess Aphrodite was supposedly born out of the seafoam.

My mind flashes back to a few summers ago, when I had my first camp counselor experience at Agios Nikolaos Tis Stegis Camp in the Troodos Mountains of Cyprus. I remember seeing my cabin for the first time—a group of twelve middle school aged girls, their faces resembling Cyprus’ long history of colonization. I take a moment to reflect how even though these girls may have Venetian, Assyrian, and/or Phoenician ancestry, we all identify as Greek Cypriots. We are all unique patches of that turquoise Mediterranean Sea.

This moment of reflecting upon the mixing of genotypes in Cyprus is contrasted as my mind reels back at the memory of ninth grade French class. My French teacher would continuously dock points off of my exams because even though I answered correctly, I was somehow not good enough. Growing up in Easton, Massachusetts, I was often the darkest skinned student in my class. Some people thought I was Indian, and others guessed Egyptian. I tried explaining to my French teacher that my favorite color was turquoise, that I was just one example of what a Cypriot looked like. I desperately assured her that my mother was pale with green eyes, that Cyprus was actually a White European country, that my olive skin tone was not a threat. But my dark curls and brown eyes did not fool her prejudice.

I then remember my first camp counselor experience again. Irene stuck out. Her mother was Philippino and her father was Cypriot. Her mother left her at a young age. I remember comforting Irene as she cried herself to sleep every night. Every morning, I assured her that she is loved, and that her nightmares would not come true. When Irene felt inadequate to include herself in the company of her peers, I told and retold Irene why my favorite color is turquoise. We are all drops of life in the Mediterranean Sea. No matter our specific shade of turquoise, we are all made of two hydrogens bonded to one oxygen.

I learned everything I taught Irene from my first-hand experiences. When I was in second grade, a boy named Jacob started pretending to sneeze when he came near me, claiming that he was “allergic to Black people.” I sat there stunned and confused, because prior to this experience, I thought I was White. I wish I knew that in a few more years, I would discover that my favorite color is actually turquoise instead of naïve red.

Before my first camp counselor experience ended, Irene entrusted me with a heavy secret. This young twelve-year-old girl has endured years of bullying for the most ridiculous, blood-boiling reasons. Irene has constantly been told by her fellow classmates that she is dirty, an outsider, someone who was not—and will never be—good enough. A few months prior, Irene attempted to commit suicide, but stopped herself when she realized the substantial physical pain caused by stabbing herself in the hand with a sharp kitchen knife. It was in that moment that she considered the emotional pain her grandmother would have to endure seeing her beloved grandchild dead. I have not talked to Irene since that summer, but I hope she remembers why my favorite color is turquoise.

As my mind focuses back to my present task of writing my honors thesis, I take a more analytical approach to my Cypriot identity and heritage. For centuries, populations have interacted and mixed, creating one Cyprus filled with diversity, yet unity.

The Missing Ballot – Why Asian American Women Don’t Vote

By: Hanna Xue

Image Description: Clara Chan Lee and Emma Tom Leung become 1st Asian American women to register to vote in 1911. Image via Smithsonian APA
Image Description: Clara Chan Lee and Emma Tom Leung become 1st Asian American women to register to vote in 1911. Image via Smithsonian APA

Since gaining the right to vote 100 years ago, American women have become as politically active as, if not more than, their male counterparts. In the last few decades, women’s voter turnout has slowly but surely matched and then exceed the turnout rate for men – women have comprised a majority of the electorate since 1964[1]. This pattern is reflected in the voting habits of all racial groups – Black, White, and Latina women consistently outvote men in their respective groups – except for one – Asian Americans. Asian American women and men have voted at similar rates for the last two decades[2]. At a first glance, this may indicate parity in the political behavior of Asian men and women. One might assume that if they show up to the polls at roughly the same rate, then they likely possess the same resources and attitudes towards political activity. However, a more comprehensive analysis of factors related to voting reveals that this is hardly the case. So why do Asian American women, who comprise half of the fastest growing minority population in the United States, show up to the polls so slowly? Well, the answer may have something to do with a phenomenon called immigrant socialization.

Immigrant socialization refers to the process by which immigrants learn to reconcile their original cultural identity with the host culture in which they find themselves[3]. Adaptation can be facilitated with increased length of residence and can result in a higher sense of social belonging, which is critical to political participation. A 2018 study by the Journal on Race, Ethnicity, and Politics reports that social belonging precedes political engagement in the sense that an individual must feel integrated into a country before becoming involved in the political system[4]. It should be noted that nearly three quarters of the Asian American population is comprised of immigrants, and Asian Americans are poised to become the largest immigrant community in America by 2055[5]. Thus, immigrant socialization factors affect a majority of the Asian population, and therefore a majority of current or future voters. Moreover, a survey on the identity choices of Asian Americans shows that female Asian Americans are significantly less likely to form a U.S. based identity in comparison to their male counterparts[6]. In other words, Asian American women are more likely than men to self-identify as “Asian” or as part of their specific ethnic group (e.g. Chinese, Indian) than as “Asian American” or “ethnic American” (e.g. Chinese American, Indian American). This subtle preference in word choice could indicate a less salient sense of American identity among Asian American women which, as stated previously, could hamper involvement in the political process. Asian immigrant women may have more trouble forging an American identity than men because, in addition to all of the usual obstacles immigrants face when moving to a new country, women have the additional trouble of confronting sexism. Upon arriving in the United States, many Asian immigrants, regardless of gender, have to adapt to a new linguistic, cultural, and geographic environment to develop that sense of belonging, but unlike Asian immigrant men, women must also navigate a completely new set of sexist and patriarchal oppressions. This unique experience of adaptation means that immigrant Asian women may participate in politics at a completely different rate and with different means than their male counterparts[7]. Even if Asian American women possess the same resources and skills as men, this added layer of gender oppression may make it more difficult for them to adapt an American cultural identity, and therefore participate in politics. This observation holds when ethnicity and education level are accounted for; foreign born Asian women are still less likely to vote than foreign born Asian men that possess an equal level of education[8]. Immigrant socialization is a process that most Asian Americans must go through, but existing systems of oppression create more obstacles for Asian American women to overcome. As a result, their rate of political participation is compromised.

There are a host of other factors that might contribute to the generally low voter turnout rates among Asian American women, however, one cannot deny the impact that poor levels of immigrant socialization have on the group’s voting habits. Existing social, economic, and cultural factors intersect in unique ways to make the process of immigrant socialization, and therefore political participation, even more difficult for Asian women than men. Low voter turnout for Asian American women is not necessarily a result of personal apathy towards politics. Rather, they are the result of systematic barriers to their participation.

[1]“Gender Differences in Voter Turnout,” Center for American Women in Politics, accessed January 9, 2019, http://www.cawp.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/resources/genderdiff.pdf.

[2]“Gender Differences,” Center for American Women in Politics, January 9, 2019.

[3]Qingwen Dong, Dean Phillip Gundlach, and John C. Phillips. “The Impact of Bicultural Identity on Immigrant Socialization through Television Viewing in the United States,” Intercultural Communication Studies, 15, no. 2 (2006): 63, https://web.uri.edu/iaics/files/06-Qingwen-Dong-Dean-Phillip-Gundlach-John-C.-Phillips.pdf.

[4]Natalie Masuoka, Hahrie Han, Vivien Leung, and Bang Quan Zheng. “Understanding the Asian American Vote in the 2016 Election,” Journal of Race, Ethnicity and Politics, 3, no. 1 (2018): 190, doi: 10.1017/rep.2017.34.

[5]Gustavo Lopez, Neil G. Ruiz, and Eileen Patten, “Key facts about Asian Americans,” September 8, 2017.

[6]Pei‐te Lien, M. Margaret Conway, and Janelle Wong. “The Contours and Sources of Ethnic Identity Choices Among Asian Americans,” Social Science Quarterly, 84, no. 2 (2003): 471, doi: 10.1111/1540-6237.8402015.

[7]Nadia E. Brown. “Political Participation of Women of Color: An Intersectional Analysis,” Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, 35, no. 4 (2014): 317, doi: 10.1080/1554477X.2014.955406.

[8]Christian Dyogi Phillips and Taeku Lee, “Superficial Equality,” 381.