All posts by Tiffany Makovic

Hidden Noodles

by Thuy Anh Tran from Lehigh University

   Hidden Café, which was located on the lower level of building B in my high school, was an ideal place for anyone who needed an escape. This café was not recognized by my high school as an official dining hall, but it secretly opened to serve the growing demand for a small get-away. For straight A students, they came here with the hope of escaping from the cacophony in the hallway to figure out how to calculate the atomic mass of an element. For teachers, they desperately wanted to get away from all the troubles that students created. For rebels, this place was perfect for skipping classes.
   The owner of Hidden Café was Bac Huong, a middle-aged woman who was a high school teacher but then discovered that cooking was her passion. She had a small and slim figure; her short curly salt and pepper hair was meticulously hidden behind a ridiculously giant chef’s hat, and she possessed one of the most high-pitched voice you would ever hear, probably because she used to teach in many classes with sixty students. I called her “Bac,” which means aunt in Vietnamese, as my way to show my respect as well as my endearment to her. “If I had not been a teacher, I would have become a Michelin-star chef!” – Bac Huong confidently claimed. This café was opened as a result of many spontaneous moments.
   “What do you want today? Mian tiao?”
   “Yes, but it is miàn tiáo.”
   “I’m no Chinese. Wait five minutes.”
   Bac Huong enjoyed using some Chinese words that she picked up to tease me as I was a student in Chinese-English class. “Miàn tiáo” means noodles in Chinese, but it was not just any kind of noodles. It was noodles with beef jerky, sausage, mayo and ketchup. Weird. The combination of diverse ingredients could magically blend together, and it turned out to be one of the best dishes that I had ever tasted.
I loved watching Bac Huong making noodles. The main ingredient for this dish was obviously noodles, or Hao Hao noodles, which was only ten cents. The fastest way to cook was to pour hot water into a bowl of raw noodles. Bac Huong never forgot to add some spices, some onions and especially her special sauce (soy sauce). She put a plate on top of the noodles’ bowl so that it would keep the heat inside to cook the noodles. After five minutes, she went to check on the noodles. Then, she cut some boiled sausages that she woke up at 5 a.m. every day to prepare, and added some beef jerky. On top of the noodles, she put some mayo or some ketchup, depending on her mood. This dish had such a special smell that I could immediately recognize before I even arrived at Hidden Café. Within ten minutes, Bac Huong made noodles and eagerly interrogated me about my school life.
   “How’s school?”
   “Do you get a 10 out of 10 on your Chinese quiz?”
   “How did you do on your Math test?”
   The most dreadful question was yet to come.
   “Where are your friends? Call them here.”
   I stayed silent.
   You would not think that such a simple question could hurt you internally. Little did Bac Huong know that she played many roles in my high school life: my “Bac,” my emotional counselor, my teacher and my only friend.
   Who was I in high school? I was a fat kid (yes, I use the F word). I was bullied because my body figure did not comply with the standard measurements for a normal high school girl. Who came up with that anyway?
   That day, a girl in my class who was a close friend of mine suddenly asked me to tell her my body measurements for her “research purpose,” and I was gullible enough to tell her. Classic Mean Girl’s prank.
   The next day I went to class, she greeted me with a special nickname that I would try to forget every now and then: “square” (because my height and my weight looked quite the same). Then, there were “fatty”, “pig”, “rectangle”, “girl without curves”, “fat ugly girl”,… At that moment, my body was heated up with embarrassment. I kept looking down to the floor and closed my eyes so that I could keep my tears and my anger inside.
   I was not ready to face with such a challenge as I never knew there was something called confidence. The feeling that I was missing something inside my soul which needed to be fulfilled haunted me. Later, I discovered that it was validation. There was no class that taught me how to stand up against bullies in high school, which I think it should have had. Therefore, I kept myself safe by creating my own bubble, and never dared to step outside. What choices did I have? Many, but the easiest choice was to hide myself in this little corner of the Hidden.
   How wrong I was.
   The advantage of living in a bubble was that it created a strong shield to protect me from getting hurt, but bubbles could pop at any time.
   When I left for college, I chose not to say good-bye to Bac Huong and the Hidden because I did not want that chapter of my life to end. I would never imagine how difficult it could be to give up eating those delicious noodles.
   Six o’clock. Lower Court. Located in the lower level of the University Center, which reminds me of the Hidden. Lower Court is much more crowded than the Hidden, and students come with the purpose of seeking companions, not hiding. I choose a seat at the corner of the room. I tell myself not to think about Bac Huong’s noodles but it is impossible for me to do so as in college, spaghetti with beef sauce is the closest to what I used to have in the Hidden. Right now, the cooks are busy making spaghetti, but the way they make it is far different from what Bac Huong did. Spaghetti is already cooked from the kitchen before being placed in a large tray. The sauce is separated from the spaghetti, and each person will serve themselves with the amount of sauce that they want. I am struggling to calculate how much sauce I need for one dish of spaghetti, while Bac Huong always knew exactly how much soy sauce I needed for a bowl of noodles. All the cooks are friendly, but no one can speak Chinese to tease me.
   I learned the hard way that leaving was an essential part of growing up. As I grew up from a teenager, I left my favorite teddy bear in the basement. As I grew to become an adult, I left the Hidden and my favorite noodles in Vietnam. Growing up means that we have to leave things behind so that every time we look back, we will say to ourselves: “Oh, how I miss those good old days!”
   I guess I have to grow up now. I have to grow up from Bac Huong’s noodles and start to live my life here at college.
   I realize that I am still in the process of stepping outside my bubble.

How Gun Reform Will Help Women

By Kelsie Merrick

After every mass shooting, there is a heightened concern over gun laws and an increasing push for gun reform. But why does this conversation need to happen after a mass shooting? Yes, mass shootings are horrific; however, mass shootings do not even makeup half of the deaths by guns per year in the United States. One of our major issues in the gun industry is our lack of ability to guarantee background checks at every possible gun dealership, which creates a major risk for women against domestic violent threats. Compared to women in other high-income countries, women in the United States are eleven times more likely to be murdered with guns. What makes it worse is in 2011 an alarming 53 percent of women were killed by an intimate partner or family member.

A survey was conducted on women living in California’s domestic violence shelters. The results found that almost “two-thirds of the women who lived in households with guns reported that their partner had used the gun against them.” The most common ways were threatening to shoot or kill the woman. This study found that the addition of a gun in a domestic violence situation “increases the risk of homicide for women by 500 percent.”

If a domestic abuser has been convicted of a felony, federal law prohibits them from buying or possessing guns. However, if a state does not include a similar ban, “state or local prosecutors cannot bring state gun charges against the abuser.” Federal law also prohibits domestic abusers from buying or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” or if they are “subject to certain domestic violence restraining orders.” In accordance with federal law, nineteen states and the District of Columbia have state laws in place preventing non-felony domestic violence offenders from having guns.

These laws may seem ridiculous to those who have never been affected by domestic violence, but, in my opinion, they are necessary. The FBI must agree since almost 16 percent of the total firearm transfer denials are based on domestic violence. On top of that, “convictions for domestic violence misdemeanors are the third leading basis for dealers to deny gun sales after running a NICS check.” I’m not saying that women should be the sole reason for ensuring better gun control, but when women alone make up “13 percent of victims of gun homicide nationwide” and between 2009 and 2014 they were “51 percent of victims of mass shootings” I think their safety should be a major concern to our government.

Un espacio en Australia

by Caroline Brantley

This past October, I wrote a short, contemporary scene inspired by “La casa de Bernarda Alba” by Federico García Lorca, a Spanish playwright and poet assassinated during the Spanish Civil War for being gay. My scene sought to relate these events and the uphill battle of the LGBTQIA+ community to Australia’s current nationwide postal survey for marriage equality. By November 15, 80% of Australian voters submitted their postal surveys, with 62% voting in favor of marriage equality. This past Thursday, the Australian Parliament officially accepted the postal survey’s success and voted overwhelming in favor of legalizing same sex marriage across the country (!!).

In celebration of how far the LGBTQIA+ community has come and in recognition of the barriers we still have to tackle, I present the scene I wrote (in Spanish and English) a couple months back. Here’s to Lorca and all those who have risked or sacrificed their lives so that others may now live with pride.

Un espacio en Australia

Todos los papeles de esta obra (Bernarda, Adela, Angustias, Martirio, Pepe) reflejan los papeles originales de “La casa de Bernarda Alba” por Federico García Lorca.

Arriba el telón para una casa en un suburbio conservador de Perth, Australia, 2017. En Australia, hay una encuesta postal este mes sobre la legalización del matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo. Esta escena específicamente está en un cuarto oscuro que es tranquilo y vacío con la excepción de ADELA. ADELA se sienta en una silla en el medio del cuarto, escribiendo en la computadora portátil con una cara de consideración y estrés. La única luz es de la computadora, y brilla en la cara de ella.

(Entra BERNARDA, encendiendo una lámpara)

ADELA: (suspiro)

BERNARDA: (severamente) ¡Adela! ¿Por qué no estás durmiendo? Es muy tarde y no quiero ver que estás cansada mañana durante la cena para Angustias y Pepe.

ADELA: Estoy cansada, pero no puedo dormir. Necesito el espacio para pensar.

BERNARDA: ¡Eres demasiado dramática! Duerme porque nosotras vamos a tener un problema mañana si tu estás de mal humor. Es la cena antes del matrimonio de Pepe y tu hermana; es un día feliz y no me gustan ánimos malos.

ADELA: (con vacilación) Mamá, tengo algo que necesito decirte.

BERNARDA: No estás feliz por Angustias.

ADELA: ¡Qué!. . . No, mamá. Yo—buenas noches.

BERNARDA: (escéptica) Igualmente.

(Cierra la portátil. Se apaga la luz.)

El día siguiente en una cena antes del matrimonio entre ANGUSTIAS y PEPE. La atmósfera es alegre mientras la familia de Angustias y los invitados hablan sobre chismes y nuevas cosas de la comunidad.

MUJER: Ay, Bernarda, ¡es una fiesta muy grande! Y yo sé que Angustias estará bonita mañana cuando ella se casará con Pepe. Pues, ¡claro! Todas tus hijas son hermosas. No tendrán problemas para encontrar un esposo.

BERNARDA: ¡Por supuesto, no! Pero mis hijas piensan que es una idea anticuada, especialmente Martirio y Adela. Ellas no quieren novios ahora—a veces son demasiado liberales y modernas para mí.

ADELA: (un poco amarga) Martirio no es liberal. . .

MARTIRIO: Sí, estoy de acuerdo con ella. Es una idea loca.

MUJER: Bien, Martirio, si no tienes un novio, ¿Qué te gusta hacer? ¿Trabajas?

BERNARDA: Sí, Martirio ha estado trabajando para la campaña de “No” contra la loca encuesta postal. ¿Pueden creer que las personas quieran implementar la habilidad para la gente homosexual para casarse?

MARTIRIO: No es “un derecho”, es horrible. Quieren terminar la importancia del matrimonio.

ADELA: Voy a tomar una bebida.

(MARTIRIO sigue a ADELA)

MARTIRIO: (tranquilamente) Flaca—fue una noche muy tarde.

ADELA: (con sorpresa) ¿Qué?

MARTIRIO: ¿Estabas hablando por teléfono a las cuatro?

ADELA: No es importante para ti.

MARTIRIO: Dime con quien te hablaste anoche.

ADELA: Vete.

MARTIRIO: (pausa) Con una chica. (ADELA mira a MARTIRIO, están enojadas) Eres homosexual.

ADELA: Y tú eres homofóbica. Mi cuerpo y mi vida me pertenecen, y no hay nada que puedas hacer. ¡No es el lugar para crear una escena, pero yo sé que tú quieres atención!

MARTIRIO: (Mas ruidosa) Cállate. Cuando le diga a Mamá—

ADELA: ¿Por qué necesitas decir a madre? ¿Porque no tienes nada interesante en tu vida? Si estás tratando a arruinar el día con mi sexualidad—

MARTIRIO: Pues, si ninguna de nosotras tenemos un novio en el matrimonio de nuestra hermana, al menos mi amor por hombres es auténtico. Va a ser muy interesante—cuando yo le diga a madre sobre tu secreto y tu “novia”.

(Llega ANGUSTIAS con BERNARDA)

ANGUSTIAS: ¡Están ruidosas! Dime el chisme.

ADELA: No es chisme.

BERNARDA: No tengo tiempo para sus problemas.

MARTIRIO: Es solo el problema de Adela. Mi hermana loca tiene a correr a Nueva Zelanda para casarse, y todavía ella no sería normal.

ANGUSTIAS: ¡Martirio!

ADELA: ¡Basta! Mi sexualidad no es vergüenza. No debería una cuestión política. Ustedes me tratan como una enfermedad, pero pronto puedo casarse en Australia. Y, Martirio todavía sería soltera porque ella siempre pone su nariz en los asuntos de otros. (ANGUSTIAS empieza a llorar, BERNARDA está enojada) Y madre, mamá . . . he tratado a decirte, iba decirte, pero era demasiado—

Bernarda: Basta.

Corta el escenario a negro.

La escena final: un cuarto oscuro. Tranquilo y vacío con la excepción de BERNARDA, quien se siente en una silla al lado de un escritorio. ANGUSTIAS entra.

ANGUSTIAS: (con hesitación) Son las dos en punto.

BERNARDA: Sí. Deberías dormir. Necesito pensar.

ANGUSTIAS: Pienso sobre ti, mamá. Estoy preocupa por ti.

BERNARDA: Estoy bien—es cierto. Y te quiero una montaña, y necesitas volver a Pepe.

(ANGUSTIAS sale)

BERNARDA: (murmurando) Es cierto que amo a todas mis hijas. (Completando la encuesta postal sobre apoyo para el matrimonio homosexual de Australia y sellando el sobre) Sí, Adela.

Fin.

A Space in Australia

All the roles in this work (Bernarda, Adela, Angustias, Martirio, Pepe) reflect the original roles from “The House of Bernarda Alba” by Federico García Lorca.

 

Curtain up to a house in a conservative suburb of Perth, Australia, 2017. In Australia, there is a postal survey this month about the legalization of same sex marriage. This specific scene is in a dark room that is quiet and empty with the exception of ADELA. ADELA sits in a chair in the middle of the room, writing on her laptop with a face of consideration and stress. The only light is from the computer, and it shines in her face.

 

 

 

ADELA: (sighs)

BERNARDA: (severely) Adela! Why aren’t you sleeping? It is very late and I don’t want to see you tired tomorrow during Angustias and Pepe’s dinner.

ADELA: I am tired, but I can’t sleep. I need space to think.

BERNARDA: You are too dramatic! Sleep, because we are going to have a problem tomorrow if you are moody. It is the dinner before Pepe and your sister’s wedding; it is a happy day, and I don’t like bad spirits.

ADELA: (hesitantly) Mamá, I have something that I need to tell you.

BERNARDA: You are not happy for Angustias.

ADELA: What! . . . No, mamá. I—good night.

BERNARDA: (skeptically) Same to you.

(ADELA closes the laptop. She turns off the light.)

The next day at the dinner before the marriage of ANGUSTIAS and PEPE. The atmosphere is happy while Angustias’ family and guests talk about gossip and new things for the community.

MUJER: Ay, Bernarda, what a big party! And I know that Angustias will be pretty tomorrow when she marries Pepe. But, of course! All your daughters are beautiful. They will not have any problems finding a husband.

BERNARDA: Of course not! But, my daughters think that this is an outdated idea, especially Martirio and Adela. They don’t want boyfriends now—sometimes they are too liberal and modern for me.

ADELA: (a bit bitterly) Martirio is not liberal. . .

MARTIRIO: Yeah, I agree with her. That is a crazy idea.

MUJER: Well, Martirio, if you don’t have a boyfriend, what do you like to do? Do you work?

BERNARDA: Yes, Martirio has been working for the “No” campaign against the crazy postal survey. Can you all believe that people want to implement the ability for homosexual people to marry?

MARTIRIO: It is not “a right”; it’s horrible. They want to end the importance of marriage.

ADELA: I’m going to get a drink.

(MARTIRIO follows ADELA)

MARTIRIO: (Calmly) Flaca (skinny girl)—It was a very late night.

ADELA: (surprised) What?

 

MARTIRIO: Were you talking on the phone at four?

ADELA: It’s not important to you.

MARTIRIO: Tell me whom you were talking to last night.

ADELA: Go away.

MARTIRIO: (pause) With a girl. (ADELA looks at MARTIRIO, they are mad) You are a lesbian.

ADELA: And you are homophobic. My body and my life belong to me, and there is nothing that you can do. It is not the place to create a scene, but I know that you want attention!

MARTIRIO: (louder) Shut up. When I tell Mamá—

 

ADELA: Why do you need to tell our mother? Because you do not have anything interesting in your life? If you are trying to ruin the day with my sexuality—

MARTIRIO: Well, if none of us have a boyfriend at our sister’s wedding, at least my love for men is authentic. It is going to be very interesting—when I tell our mother about your secret and your “girlfriend”.

 

(ANGUSTIAS arrives with BERNARDA)

ANGUSTIAS: ¡You are so loud! Tell me the gossip.

ADELA: It’s not gossip.

BERNARDA: I don’t have time for your problems.

MARTIRIO: It is only Adela’s problem. My crazy sister has to run away to New Zealand to get married, and she still would not be normal.

ANGUSTIAS: Martirio!

ADELA: Enough! My sexuality is not shameful. It should not be a political question. You treat me like an illness, but soon I will be able to marry in Australia. And, Martirio still will be single because she always puts her nose in other people’s business. (ANGUSTIAS starts to cry, BERNARDA is mad) And mother, mamá . . . I had tried to tell you, I was going to tell you, but it was too much—

Bernarda: Enough.

Cut the scene to black.

The final scene: a dark room. It is quiet and empty with the exception of BERNARDA, who sits in a chair next to a desk. ANGUSTIAS enters.

 

ANGUSTIAS: (hesitantly) It is two o’clock.

BERNARDA: Yes. You should sleep. I need to think.

ANGUSTIAS: I think about you, mamá. I worry about you.

BERNARDA: I am fine—truly. And I love you a lot, and you need to return to Pepe.

(ANGUSTIAS leaves)

BERNARDA: (murmuring) It is true that I love all my daughters. (Completing the postal survey about support for marriage equality in Australia and sealing the envelope). Yes, Adela.

End.

Men Do It

By Madison Frilot

Center stage, there is a stool.
Beside it, Chelsea stands under a single fluorescent light bulb with a pull chain,
wearing all black:
a loose shirt that falls sloppily off her shoulder, black jeans,
and tall black stiletto heels.
On the other side of the stool there is a small table.
Lying on top the table is a pack of cigarettes and a crystal ashtray.
The stage is pitch black.
We hear a lighter strike and we watch a cigarette be lit, unable to see anything else.
She then pulls the bulb’s pull chain and stands under it for a moment,
scanning the audience.
She walks to the stool and takes a seat, legs crossed, takes a few short puffs and puts out the cigarette in the ashtray on the table. She returns to her position.

CHELSEA: I have a prophecy. A motto. A golden rule I’d call it. Everyone has one. Or maybe a few. It’s something you live by- values, morals, what have you. Maybe it’s religious, maybe it’s not. Ha. Mine sure isn’t. (beat) But I’ll get to that.

{She takes out another cigarette, lights it, takes a luxurious drag,
dramatically puts it out, and continues.}

Charles? Charles was a stunner- at least top 12 in the looks category, I’d say. A total stunner. He had the lightest blue eyes, they sparked. I swear I could even see my own reflection in them. Muscular, tan skin, and golden locks. I even called him Goldilocks once. (beat) He didn’t like that. He came and went.

{She takes out another cigarette, takes a drag, puts it out.}

Steve wasn’t as… charismatic. But he was cute, and he was there. He was there a couple times actually. Longer than most… But he had this horrible anxious vibe and grew out a weird mustache so I stopped returning his calls.

{She takes out another cigarette, takes a drag,
changes her seating position to something more casual, knees apart,
puts out the cigarette.}

Oh, don’t forget about Jonathan. First black man I’d ever been with.

{She stands up, lights another cigarette, takes a drag and puts it out.
Then she walks across the stage.}

Charlie. He was older. Much older. He moved slower and constantly nagged me- (mocking) “Honey can you hand me my Rogaine?” and I had to repeat myself over and over. I felt as though I was constantly startling him too, and God knows I can’t possibly tone this down so I blocked his number.

{She turns to the table, hastily walks to it,
quickly lights a cigarette, takes a quick drag, puts it out.}

Nicolas had this… this hardness about him. I was attracted to his decisiveness and agency. But then he hit me.

{After a moment of silence
she picks up the pack and takes out a cigarette for every name she mentions,
dropping it to the floor and moving on to the next.}

Tom. Zander. Marcus. Another Tom. Thor. Jenna… I was curious ok? Cameron. Jack- or was it Zack? Billy. Sebastian. Claire- (defensive) Look, I’m no lesbo I just had to make sure. Wyatt. Asian John. White John.

{She holds up the last cigarette left in the pack and walks downstage with it.}

I’ve been called things, sure. Many things. Some men stay longer than others. I prefer a weekend fling to a one-night-stand after all. But that’s only so I can have the time to figure out something wrong with them to avoid wondering. But I’m not looking for love, not me. Men do it. So why can’t I? Are they given shit? Tom #2 told me I was his seventh girl of the week. Because of that, I don’t ask many questions, nor do I answer them. Would you? (rest) They’re like puppies- the more attached you get, the harder it is to ignore their calls.

{Chelsea then walks to the light bulb and swivels back towards the audience.}

I’ll quit smoking the moment I meet a decent fucking man.

{Standing under the bulb, Chelsea lights the last cigarette.
She then pulls the pull chain and lights go out.
She takes a puff and we watch the warm light intensify,
then she walks offstage with the lit cigarette, heels clacking.}

Sexual Assault: A Global Issue Part 2

By Kelsie Merrick

In this election, sexual assault has grown to become a controversial topic with allegations coming from all sides. Whether it’s women saying Donald Trump has sexually assaulted them or Hillary Clinton has covered up rape cases. We’ve heard them all, and people and parties from both sides agree with these women or disagree with these women. However, it does not matter if you agree or disagree with any of these allegations because what we should all agree on is that this is an issue that needs to be fixed, not just in the United States but worldwide. The United Nations has been an avid supporter of reducing the violence against women for years. In 1993, the UN General Assembly created the “Declaration for the Elimination of Violence against Women” to provide a framework on how to act against this crisis. However, it’s been over 20 years since that declaration and “1 in 3 women still experience physical or sexual violence.” If that statistic doesn’t sicken you, just know “around 120 million girls worldwide, that’s 1 in 10, have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts” during their lives. The most common perpetrators of these sexual assaults are former husbands, partners or boyfriends.

We can talk about sexual assault all we want, but that won’t change anything. We need action.

 

What Can We Do To End This Violence?

Stand together in protest against our government until they implement better laws like in Argentina. Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) is a movement of women’s rights advocates that began in June of last year. They are fighting against femicide, a crime involving the violent and deliberate killing of a woman, because, in Argentina, a woman is killed every 30 hours. On Wednesday, October 19th there was a mass demonstration held for every woman that has been killed in the past five years, but mainly for a 16-year-old girl by the name of Lucia Perez who was abducted then drugged, raped repeatedly, and sodomized with an ‘unspecified object’ so violently that she eventually bled out from her internal injuries. The United States needs to join the Ni Una Menos movement, and hopefully, together change will occur. In the US, every 109 seconds an American becomes a victim of sexual assault. Every 8 minutes, a child becomes a victim of sexual assault. Think about those numbers for a second. Think about your mother, sister, brother, father, niece, or nephew. In 109 seconds, they could be a victim. Sexual assault happens too frequently for us to not do anything about it.

We need to encourage victims to speak out against the violence done to them and with this, we need to encourage society to not shame them. According to a study by RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, 20% of victims do not report sexual assault out of fear of retaliation and 13% don’t report because they believe the police wouldn’t do anything to help. Often when a victim speaks out about assault we hear the excuses of “you were drinking too much” or “you shouldn’t have worn such revealing clothing.” What we should be hearing is “we are here to help you” or “they will not get away with this.”

On top of that, we need to start holding offenders accountable. Out of every 1,000 rapists, only 344 are reported to police. However, from that 344 only six rapists will be incarcerated. Six. Imagine being a victim and knowing these statistics. It’s understandable for them to think nothing will happen. Combine the lack of punishment and victims not reporting, 994 perpetrators walk free. 944 people have gotten away with a disgusting crime. 994 people are able to assault another innocent person.

I was raised learning that we should respect each other and to live by the “golden rule” that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Especially being taught from an older generation that believed men were supposed to treat women respectfully and protect them. Many women from the Feminist Movement will take offense to that statement now because we as women can take care of ourselves and protect ourselves, but honestly, only to a certain extent. When you’re a young girl or are intoxicated, willingly or unwillingly, you are not able to protect yourself against a man that is two or three times your size. Together, every country, every nation, every man and women and innocent child needs to come together so that people don’t get away with these vile and torturous crimes and that they serve the correct sentences.

La Vie en Rose

By Eleni Constantinou

Growing up, I never liked the color pink. I always associated myself as a tomboy, particularly because my three brothers, male cousins, and my male friends influenced me. I wanted to seem like someone who was tough, and who knew what they were doing. I never wanted to be “that girl:” the girl with the frilly clothes and the obsession with princesses and Barbie’s. Girls like that cried a lot. They needed help with everything. And they depended on boys. Pink was a color of weakness, and I wanted to be like my aunt: a strong, independent, and single , successful businesswoman. I know that I was not the only girl who thought this way. I remember seeing my classmates wrinkling their noses and exclaiming “ew pink!” because pink w as reserved for the “annoying popular girls,” therefore marking pink as a forbidden color to be ashamed of.

I remember the exact moment when my opinion on the color pink completely changed. I was in my sophomore year of high school. I was reading Malala Yousafzai’s book I am Malala. When asked her favorite color, Malala declared something along the lines of “pink is my favorite color because it is feminine.” I wish I could find and present the exact quote. The point is, when Malala an inspiration to me fo r her humanitarian work posed pink as a feminine color, I stopped viewing something feminine as something I should be ashamed of. Yes, pink can be a feminine color, but that’s the best part about it. If Malala can be feminine and dedicate her life towards promoting education for other girls, of course I want to be feminine.

Feminine, associated with the color pink, is now associated with fighting tirelessly for humanity. Pink can be hardcore and competitive, but it can also be frilly and dainty. Pink is no t weak. Pink is strong. Pink is not something to be ashamed of, and neither is women or girls’ femininity.

I recently discovered that everyone is gravitating towards the color pink, or otherwise labeled as “millennial pink.” According to the blog Britton, “pink speaks so much to consumers that Digiday reported it has been mentioned more than 32,000 times online in 2017 alone.” The bottom line is, our generation’s mindset has already shifted from viewing femininity as frail and repelling to something truly beautiful and powerful. It is simply incredible that so many millenials choose to unite through the color pink.

Sexual Assault Around the World

By Kelsie Merrick

On New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany, hundreds of women reported being sexually assaulted. I, along with many other people, heard about this and was quite disgusted. It was uncertain as to what would happen to these women and if, when the perpetrators were identified, what would the punishment be. Unfortunately, for them, no one will be held accountable for these actions. When I found this out, I was completely shocked because I know in the United States, for the most part, people are reprimanded for their sexual assault actions. I chose to look more into this topic and here is what I found.

Chantal Louis, an editor at Emma, one of Germany’s oldest feminist magazines, says, “the German law accepts that a man generally has the right to touch a woman, to have sexual intercourse with a woman. It’s his right unless the woman shows her resistance very, very strongly.” In the logic of German law, if touching of a woman’s breasts or vagina happens quickly, the law will not punish the perpetrator because the victim did not have enough time to resist the action. As far as the law is concerned, the issue is not verbal consent. The law requires that there be a “threat of imminent danger to life and limb.” That is, if a woman, or any person for that matter, cannot prove with their body (with bruises or other injuries) that they fought back, then the assault is not a crime. In Die Zeit, a German newspaper, a male German defense lawyer reported, “a woman must carry her ‘no’ through. We [men] can hardly know with a simple ‘no,’ whether she really means it.” According to national statistics, “between 7,000 and 8,000 rapes are reported every year.” BFF, a national association of women’s help groups based in Berlin, believes these numbers only represent 5% of the real number of cases. BFF also states, “only 13% of rape cases result in convictions.” One possible explanation for this is the law’s limitations.

Interestingly enough, in German workplace it is clear that “it’s not OK for someone to touch you, to try to kiss you, to lay a hand on your back.” This is called “sexual harassment at the workplace” and every women and man knows it is unacceptable. Heike Lütgart, a criminologist and career police officer with decades of experience investigating gender-based violence, says that not having a law outside of the workforce is a tremendous problem for women because they do not realize that they do not have this protection.

After reading about the laws in Germany surrounding sexual assault, I became curious about how the three most populated countries handled sexual assault. In China, they recently overturned a law that “mandated a more lenient punishment for men who had sex with girls under the age of 14 if they could ‘prove’ that they paid the girl for sex.” There is now a heavy mandatory penalty for this crime with the highest punishment being the death penalty. India passed a new Anti-Rape bill in April of 2013. This bill includes crimes such as acid violence, stalking, and voyeurism. Attackers can be charged anywhere between 14 years in prison to the death sentence for extreme cases. The bill states that even if the victim does not physically struggle, that does not constitute as consent. Unfortunately, marital rape is still legal, but the age of consent was raised from 16 to 18.

I then looked at the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 30 percent of U.S. women experience some kind of unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime. The Model Penal code, the go-to documents for lawmakers rewriting their criminal laws, still allows for men to rape their wives, but this “marital exemption” has been outlawed in all 50 states since the 1990s. It was not until about the middle of the 20th century that victims needed to prove their chastity for their cases to be taken seriously. In the United States, forty-three states and the District of Columbia specify that unwanted sexual contact is prohibited. Five states have laws prohibiting battery, public indecency or “lewd and lascivious” behavior. Mississippi and Idaho, on the other hand, do not have “criminal laws that clearly forbid unwanted sexual touching such as groping and fondling.” In 2013, Mississippi’s Democratic state Republic Kimberly Campbell proposed a bill to create a misdemeanor crime called “indecent assault.” This bill would handle adult fondling cases, which could prevent future crimes by stopping the act early. The bill died due to the fact the bill was too vague with the explanation of intent and opponents feared that the bill could “criminalize accidental touching or bumping.” On the other hand, there has been an indecent assault law in Pennsylvania since the 1970s. Deputy District Attorney Janet Necessary says that she takes several dozen of these cases a year. Her office has used this law to prosecute cases involving supervisors who have sexually harassed their workers in a physical way.

We, the citizens of the United States, need to work together to first, create a universal law across all 50 states to protect unwanted sexual touching/assaults against women and men. Second, eventually, spread this idea to other countries so that no human being has to live through such an uncomfortable situation.

The Importance of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

By Kelsie Merrick

In 1973, Roe v. Wade was, and still is, a controversial case that passed through the Supreme Court. The ruling in Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationally unless a woman was in the third trimester then the state had a right to enact abortion regulations to protect the fetus. The only exception to this rule was if the pregnancy was a threat to the mother’s life. Then in 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey reintroduced the controversy around abortion this time about whether consent from a spouse or parent and a 24 hour waiting period is necessary before an abortion. In this case, the court ruled that “states may not impose an ‘undue burden’ on access to abortion: a law is invalid ‘if its purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.'” Now, abortion has reentered our court system with the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case.

In previous abortion cases, there has been a clear argument with two clear sides: pro-life and pro-choice. That is, the concern has generally been about the baby not about the mother, but with the introduction of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt the conversation is shifting from the baby to the safety of the mother. This case began in 2013 when Texas created a law requiring “doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital no more than 30 miles away, and set clinic standards that are similar to those of surgical centers.” Whole Woman’s Health, an abortion provider, argues, “the law isn’t medically necessary, is demanding and expensive, and interferes with women’s health care.”

Since 2011, “at least 162 abortion providers have shut or stopped offering the procedure” with at least 30 of those closures coming from Texas alone. One of the main reasons behind the closures was the new state regulations that have made these facilities too expensive to remain in operation. Texas is the primary case study of these new regulations and the repercussions of stricter regulations are already noticeable. According to certain providers, “full implementation of the law would leave almost a fifth of Texas women 150 miles or more from a facility.” Texas has already dropped from 42 to 19 clinics since 2013 and if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the new law, Texas would be left with nine abortion clinics. This is a problem for women who need an abortion, whether it is for personal or health reason, and are incapable of traveling that far. A more serious problem caused by the extreme distances of abortion clinics is that “more women would now die of complications from self-induced abortions.”

Another issue facing the abortion world is the discriminating views that then lead to the vandalism of buildings and clinics. Susan Cahill from Kalispell, Montana was unable to rebuild her practice after it was vandalized due to the cost of repairs. Planned Parenthood, one of the leading abortion clinics, has had their fair share of tormenting and vandalism from people protesting outside to fires being started at their facilities. About a third of the facilities that closed or stopped performing terminations were operated by Planned Parenthood. This is detrimental to Planned Parenthood’s operation as a whole since their main goal is not to give abortions but to education society, mainly young adults, about safe sex and contraceptives available to the public.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were “210 abortions for every 1,000 births in the United States.” Even with abortions being almost one-fifth of the births that year, abortions are decreasing without implemented regulations. Since 2010, the Associated Press estimates abortions have decreased 12 percent. Possible explanations for this could be that teen pregnancy rates are decreasing which leads to the reason for more access to birth control. If abortion rates are already decreasing, is it necessary to regulate the clinics? On the other hand, verifying that clinics are safe and healthy and that properly trained doctors are performing the surgeries is also highly beneficial to women that need and want an abortion. Hopefully, the Supreme Court can figure out how to ensure women’s safety without the closure of abortion clinics.

Why Mother’s Day is a Bullshit Exercise in Appreciating Women

By Alice Elbakian

Let me begin by explaining, as best as I can, an eye-opening, world-changing phrase that I learned about only too recently: emotional labor. It’s difficult to pinpoint it in our lives because it includes a myriad of daily tasks that are easily ignored. But broadly construed, emotional labor means caring; it means taking care of whatever needs to be taken care of, or attending to our daily human and social responsibilities. It encompasses actions and tasks that are necessary for living an independent, functional human life. Typical chores of a housewife come to mind: cooking, cleaning, tending to children. But more importantly, emotional labor applies to the concealed logistics of these tasks: it’s not just cooking, it’s discerning what and when to feed everyone that you cook for according to their dietary and nutritional needs. It’s not just cleaning, it’s being able to tell what needs to be cleaned, or fixed, or replaced, and then doing the needful. It isn’t just driving your children to school, it’s helping them to get ready in the morning, and then listening and speaking with them about their day once they’ve come home.

Emotional labor goes beyond the common strife of housewives in ways that are probably more relevant to the lives of all you people reading. It’s is advising your guy friend for the millionth time about a girl who just does not, and will probably never like him back. It’s being the one roommate who changes the toilet paper and replaces the garbage bag when it’s full. It’s being the one in your partnership who plans social events and actually entertains and interacts with the guests who are kind enough to attend. It’s being the one who chooses, buys, and wraps all the presents, and writes the heartfelt cards to match for special occasions. Emotional labor even includes reminding others of their obligations, like telling your forgetful dad when your mother’s birthday is, or worse yet, the date of their anniversary. If it feels like work and you’re not getting paid for it, it’s probably emotional labor.

Why did I bring this up? Emotional labor is gendered: women are overwhelmingly the ones who are burdened with the stress of emotional labor. Given the large scope of daily tasks and responsibilities that constitute emotional labor, the fact that it’s gendered is a huge problem. Well, for half of the population anyway.

If you’re not on board with me so far, you may be tempted to say that women should just shut up and stop their whining. Sending out a reminder to your partner about their next doctor’s appointment is a task the size of a text message, certainly not a “burden.” Sure, maybe the one visible part of this one example from a whole day’s worth of work takes the form of a single text message. But this ignores the fact that it takes effort, focus, and attention to willingly and extemporaneously consider your partner, and their health, and their next doctor’s appointment, and it takes even more effort, focus, and attention to remember their appointment for them, to know that we will have to remind them, and finally to actually do the task of reminding them. How can women have their own full lives if they’re spending all of this mental and emotional energy on people who can’t do basic tasks for themselves?

Emotional labor is for the most part invisible because it focuses a lot on planning and taking others into consideration, which all goes on in our minds. We all know how taxing it is to keep track of all of our obligations and daily tasks at once, and most of us only do these things for ourselves, without the added burden of performing emotional labor for other people. People are a lot to be responsible for. And it’s true that in most cases, nobody is holding a gun to our heads and forcing us to do things like send out reminders. But women are expected to do so nonetheless. And if we don’t, you’ll probably forget your appointment, and then blame us for not reminding you.

So emotional labor is work that needs to get done but that nobody wants to do, and women are primarily the ones who end up buckling down and getting it done. We hardly notice or even count what women do as actual work. For these reasons, being a woman also means being taken for granted, daily. Don’t believe me? Go ask your mom. Women are the ass-wipers and tooth-brushers of the world. We’ve convinced ourselves, and have therefore grown comfortable with telling ourselves, that women just are the ones to do these things.

We might believe this for any number of reasons. Some people believe women perform emotional labor because they’re supposed to, or they’re just naturally better at it. Either one of those reasonings makes you a sexist prick. If you act as though you are entitled to women’s time, energy, focus, and attention, this is likely the problematic line of thought from which you operate. Work is work for everyone. Being “better” at something doesn’t mean we actually want to do it, or that we should do it more than anyone else does. And, surprise-surprise, getting good at something is a direct consequence of repeated practice. It has nothing to do with natural ability, and certainly not when the task in question is basic caring and taking on responsibility.

Others believe women perform the bulk of emotional labor because “they’re just nice enough to do it.” No. It’s not an issue of kindness, it’s doing what needs to be done and that means staying calm enough to put up with your bullshit. For example, do I want to be the one in my relationship who changes the sheets for the twelfth time in a row? No. Will I? Yes, but not because I’m being nice, rather because these sheets that my partner and I both sleep on are clearly dirty and need to be laundered, and in order for that to happen, they need to be taken off the bed, and when that happens, new sheets need to go on for sleeping.

“Why can’t you just ask your partner to change the sheets for once?” I could, but that doesn’t actually do much to address the problems for women like me or problems of emotional labor in general. Ironically, it would be a further expenditure of my emotional labor to teach my partner about bedding and sheet hygiene, for instance. Shouldn’t an adult know that by now? Do you want to know the secret to adulting? Performing emotional labor. Being responsible for things that you don’t want to be responsible for, but doing them anyway because they need to be done; because you owe it to yourself and the people around you to meet the basic requirements expected of you as a human being so that someone else doesn’t have to pick up your sack of slack, because it is a very heavy and unnecessary sack at that. The point of emotional labor is that you find it within yourself to care, and you take initiative. It is unfair that I should be burdened with even more emotional labor for trying to get someone else, my “partner”, to do the bare minimum.

Second of all, knowing if and when the sheets need to be changed is half of the emotional labor of changing sheets. If I’m going to tell him every time it’s time to change the sheets, I may as well save myself the headache and aggravation and hire a scheduled maid, or just do it myself, since I can’t afford a maid. There’s a pattern to heterosexual relationships: it starts with man-children who never learned to perform emotional labor on their own, probably because their mothers did it for them and they never bothered to learn because they didn’t acknowledge their mother’s work as work in the first place. Then – best case scenario – the man-child conveniently puts in just enough emotional labor in the beginning stages of courtship to reel women into this unbalanced relationship dynamic. Ah, so you do know what’s expected of you, you just stop doing it once you’ve won your prize. Then, the women in the relationship are tasked with raising their own adopted man-child to reach the basic standards of human functioning so that they may now apparently be considered worth their time and effort in the first place. I’m exhausted just imagining that. No wonder so many women simply prefer to be single.

It seems like there are a few options to get away from this kind of pattern, whether in a romantic relationship or not. The one that I suspect is on most peoples’ minds is to get the heck out of that relationship. Friend, boyfriend, family member, doesn’t matter. Just end it. There are some cases where women do have the opportunity to end their role as the free-ride-providing camels of life. We hear and read a lot about ending toxic relationships, cutting ties with people who demand too much of our valuable time and attention without reciprocating much, if anything, of their own. Maybe in some relationships it is possible to walk away like this. Ladies, if you’re his mother more than his girlfriend, friend, or whoever you actually are, if he’s not showing any signs of growth, if you have to pull teeth to get him to do for you what you do for him, dump his ass. Let it be a lesson to yourself in self-respect.

But of course things aren’t so easy and there are complications with this fix. What about women who don’t want to be alone but are sick of investing the necessary emotional labor to keep their relationships afloat, only to finally learn once more what they’ve already learned from all the men before? How much longer should we pretend that the problem is women’s standards instead of men’s behavior? [1]

So walking away from a relationship still has problems attached. It will only succeed in lucky cases, which are mainly romantic relationships and perhaps friendships. For a lot of women – and this is especially true for working, lower, and lower-middle class, colored, and/or multicultural women – the option of leaving the relationship really isn’t there. For example, cutting ties with family members who need you isn’t a “suck it up and do it” kind of thing. Families rely heavily on mothers and daughters to complete tasks ranging everywhere from filing taxes and balancing the checkbook, to picking up and caring for younger siblings after school, to the strenuous task of planning meals for a diabetic in the family. Most of these families would fall apart without the women there to do what they do.

Indeed, statistics show that widowers are 30 % more likely to die than widows (Ferness, 2012). This is likely because without women to care for them, widowers suffer in both their emotional and physical health, and without anyone to maintain their social lives for them, they suffer with no support system. This also explains why widowers are three times more likely than widows to remarry after losing their spouse. (Isaacs, 2015) Men literally die without us there to care for them, because they don’t know how to take care of themselves.

A few things should be relatively clear by now: emotional labor is work that is necessary for maintaining human relationships and a functional life, it is work that is primarily performed by women for both themselves and others around them, and it is work that, if performed by women, is not acknowledged as work at all. [2] I’ve offered a handful of examples and a couple of statistics that show the extent to which men and families are reliant on women and on the emotional labor that they perform. If there were any doubts about it until now, it should be an easy, albeit unpleasant pill to swallow that we are aware of all of the daily labor that women perform, but we seldom acknowledge or consider it as work.

Mother’s Day, then, seems like the perfect holiday for someone like me. How could a feminist oppose a holiday devoted to celebrating some of the hardest working women on the planet? Without saying so, Mother’s Day seems to exclusively focus on the emotional labor of being a mother. Some Mother’s Day celebrations involve performing emotional labor for our mothers while we give them a break, such as preparing breakfast in bed. Other activities serve to finally acknowledge her labor, like writing her a heartfelt card confessing how much we appreciate her and all the little things that she does for us. Still, other activities relieve her of the emotional labor that otherwise would have been expected of her on this day, such as when we gift her a “day off” with something like a mani-pedi or a movie marathon.

I like Mother’s Day in that it focuses on women and honors the impossible task of being a mother. I don’t have a problem with any of these activities. Do treat your mom however she likes to be treated, because she probably deserves it. Do not, however, delude yourself into thinking that this one day of appreciation sufficiently makes up for an entire year (and lifetime) of invisible, unacknowledged, and likely unreciprocated labor.

I certainly have a problem with people who treat Mother’s Day as a one-off holiday. This is on some level a personal decision, and therefore the people making it are at fault and are to blame more so than the name of a particular day. But my problem with Mother’s Day first of all, is that in virtue of being one of the only holidays that acknowledges emotional labor, it attributes all of this kind of labor to mothers only, when in fact most women in general perform emotional labor. Where is their holiday? Moreover, since emotional labor is the responsibility of everyone, let’s stop gendering celebrations of it. Even if the U.S. officially recognized International Women’s Day, we would still end up celebrating emotional labor as part of being a woman. Wrong message. We love that you want to thank us for doing this stuff for you. But if you really want to show appreciation, start doing this stuff for yourself.

My second problem with Mother’s Day is that is allows us to believe that the appreciation that our mothers and other women deserve can be squeezed into one day. We think that because we have this designated day, then on other days it’s not important that we show any (or much) appreciation; we don’t need to help them or lessen their burden on any other day. In assigning ourselves this one day out of 365 to acknowledge, appreciate, and most importantly, reciprocate our mothers’ work, we tacitly absolve ourselves of what is actually a daily responsibility to not only our mothers, but likely all the women in our lives.

If you’re thinking, “This isn’t me, I appreciate my mom on a daily basis”, I’m not doubting that you do. I am doubting however that you even realized how much she does for you and others, and therefore I’m doubting that you’ve shown her the adequate level of appreciation and reciprocation that she deserves, since you probably didn’t have the full story beforehand. I’m also doubting that you realized that women who aren’t mothers perform similarly large and stressful amounts of emotional labor for friends and partners who stay silent about their appreciation, assuming that they aren’t an entitled asshole. Emotional labor deserves daily recognition in virtue of being performed daily. And sheer acknowledgement is only one step up the hill. An important one, but still only one step.

I suspect that part of the reason it’s convenient to hold Mother’s Day annually is because it takes effort, and is perhaps difficult, to show someone that you care about them. It takes more effort to show how much you care when you have more reasons to care and more love to give, because you have so much to thank her for, and so many ways of doing so. But if this emotional labor is so hard, and if our mothers and other women don’t get to take a break the other 364 days a year, then neither should we. Mother’s Day is the only day of the year that we can finally put some name or understanding to what exactly our mothers and other women do for us, daily. But now with the phrase “emotional labor”, we can identify and reciprocate this work year round—for any and all women who deserve it, not just our mothers.

So the next time you celebrate Mother’s Day and feel proud of yourself for sending your mom a fragrant bouquet of roses with a spa voucher strategically slipped in, do your mom one better and actually make a difference in her daily life: if there’s something you can and should be doing for yourself instead of having her do it for you – and there probably is – then don’t wait for Mother’s Day, own up and accept your own responsibility. The same goes for any girlfriend or partner. Educate your lazy little brother (or father!) about what emotional labor is, and tell him to get his act together because your mom (or you) deserves better. Heck, maybe it’s your sisters who managed to escape the load of emotional labor, in which case they could learn a thing or two also. Tell your mom that you appreciate it when she does your laundry for you. And then learn how to do your laundry yourself because you are a grown ass adult. Your mom is not a personal laundry-doer. If your girlfriend does any of this for you, you owe her a paycheck and also probably much better sex.

Perform more emotional labor for yourself so that your mother and the other women in your life can have their own lives. No, scratch that, perform emotional labor for yourself because that is what is expected of you as a human. But also, don’t disrespect your mom and the other women in your life by making your problems and your daily tasks their responsibility. Women have their own lives, too. If you find yourself performing copious amounts of emotional labor with no reward, I urge you to demand the acknowledgement and reciprocation that you deserve. Take note of who stays and who goes.

 

[1] There are of course women who do not perform emotional labor, and this would cause similar problems in homosexual relationships, but since women generally do perform emotional labor, as we are socialized to learn it and perform it, it’s more likely that this is an issue that applies to heterosexual couples and possibly homosexual male couples.

[2] What I mean by this, is that people will jump at the opportunity to acknowledge and praise men for doing the bare minimum, but offer nothing to women. This is because the task is expected of women but not of men, despite the task’s status as ordinary and non-gendered. For example, a father who braids his child’s hair or cleans his home is likely to be acknowledged and admired. A woman who does the same is a prop that fades into its rightful surrounding.