Category Archives: Activism

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#

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.

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.

Progress within Hollywood: The Top 5 Films with the Best Female Characters of 2018

By: Avery Serven

2018 was a year that will go down in history as a time for change in the film industry. The past year saw countless films that were more intersectional, original, and eye-opening than ever before. The “Time’s Up” campaign, which fights sexual harassment, assault, and inequality, exploded in 2018, bringing a number of important issues to light in Hollywood. As a result, these films were able to provide the industry with storylines, characters, and ideas that were not previously represented; the numbers from the past year speak for themselves.  

In 2018, Black Panther, a Marvel superhero movie with a predominantly Black cast, grossed over $700 million in the United States, making it the highest-grossing movie of 2018 at the domestic box office. Crazy Rich Asians, a rom-com with a predominantly Asian cast, also broke records; the film grossed over $235 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade.  

The past year was clearly a pivotal moment for filmmakers. To celebrate this, I chose 5 of my favorite films, in no particular order, from 2018 that feature strong female characters. Each of these films, I believe, was able to contribute to the recent progress that has been made in Hollywood because of their positive and realistic depictions of women. Additionally, all of these movies struck a chord with me because of their candid, genuine, and nuanced approaches to filmmaking in an industry that is predominantly controlled by white men. I highly recommend you watch these films, all of which had me leaving the theater with a sense of hope for the future of female characters on screen.  

  1. Tully

Tully tells the story of Marlo (played by Charlize Theron), a suburban mother who is pregnant with her third child. After the baby is born, Marlo and her husband hire a nighttime nanny named Tully to help Marlo handle the workload that comes with having three kids. Although she is hesitant at first, Marlo soon learns to appreciate Tully and forms a special bond with her. The film, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, was not a huge blockbuster, but still earned Theron a Best Actress nomination at the 76th Golden Globe Awards.

Many films often glorify or glamorize the lives of young mothers, but not Tully. This film stood out to me because of its honesty in depicting what life is like for an overworked mother of three children, one of whom is on the spectrum in the movie. Tully does not try to portray Marlo as the “mom of the year,” carting her kids around to soccer games and giving into their demands. Instead, Theron plays Marlo in a more subtle way that captures both the fatigue and frustration that comes with motherhood; her character is strong, yet imperfect. The audience is not supposed to see Marlo as the ideal standard of what it means to be a mom, or even a woman, for that matter. This movie captures reality in a way that many films attempt but ultimately fail to do. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of Tully, and I think Charlize Theron did a phenomenal job portraying a realistic female character to whom the audience can actually relate to. 

  1. Sorry to Bother You

Sorry to Bother You is an intriguing film about a telemarketer named Cassius and his girlfriend Detroit as they navigate life through an alternate reality version of Oakland, California. The film is anti-establishment and anti-capitalism, as shown in Cassius’s downward spiral after he becomes a money-hungry businessman. The movie is filmed in a unique way, using voices and visuals that are constantly changing in order to capture the different levels of reality that Cassius and Detroit live in. It was definitely different from any other film I saw in 2018, but one of the things that really stood out to me was the character Detroit, played by Tessa Thompson. 

Detroit is both unconventional and determined, wearing distinctive outfits as part of her performance-art aesthetic and speaking out about important issues. She is an artist in the film, criticizing her boyfriend for becoming a materialistic telemarketer. Detroit stands out as a symbol of Black female power amongst a white, capitalistic society, using her art to voice her opinions about everything from race, wealth, and gender. Although she sometimes takes a backseat to the goals and wishes of Cassius, I believe that this dynamic character represents individualism, strength, and rebellion, which is refreshing to see.

  1. Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians broke many records at the box office this past summer, and for good reasons. It is one of the first American movies with an almost entirely Asian cast in 25 years. The film centers on Rachel, an Asian-American woman who accompanies her boyfriend, Nick, to his friend’s wedding in Singapore. The film is filled with scenes of luxury and excessiveness, making it visually appealing and entertaining to watch. Although it was quite formulaic for a rom-com, the movie was still a lot of fun and kept me on the edge of my seat. 

Let me begin by saying that the amount of female characters in this film is abundant. There are so many strong women in this movie to look at in terms of progressive female characters. Although it is a rom-com, there are more substantial storylines related to family, personal values, and loyalty that the female characters have to contend with. With this in mind, Rachel (played by Constance Wu) serves as anything but a two-dimensional leading lady who is only in it to get a man. Yes, she is dating Nick in the movie, but throughout the film, the audience learns more about her personal life, which starts to affect the decisions that she makes in her relationship. The film is a romantic comedy, but it features an ensemble cast of strong women who have their own lives and aspirations that are separate from those of their male counterparts. As far as I’m concerned, that’s pretty groundbreaking for a romance film in 2018. 

  1. Eighth Grade

Eighth Grade is definitely one of my favorites from 2018. Written and directed by comedian Bo Burnham, this film tells the story of thirteen-year-old Kayla, who is finishing her last year of middle school. It shows an honest and, at times, laughable depiction of adolescence in the 21st century. The script is clever and witty, with every one of Kayla’s encounters being both incredibly awkward and relatable; this creates a sense of uncomfortable humor that makes the movie feel like real life.

This film not only stood out to me because of its originality, but also because of the fantastic job that breakout star Elsie Fisher does in playing Kayla, a socially awkward teen that we can all relate to. Kayla is anxious, a little quirky, and doesn’t have all the answers, which was definitely something I could relate to when I was her age. Kayla is only 13 in the film, but she still comes off as mature because her character is so raw and real. In fact, Eighth Grade’s ingenuity reminded me a lot of Tully, as both films show that female characters can be complex and flawedI personally believe that we need more female characters like this on screen for young girls to look up to, and this film does a great job of doing that.

  1. Black Panther

Black Panther undoubtedly changed the landscape for action movies in 2018. Breaking multiple records at both the domestic and foreign box offices, the film became the third highest-grossing film of all time in the United States. Black Panther features an ensemble cast of predominantly Black actors and actresses, as well as an African-American director, Ryan Coogler. The film was not only a huge step for the action movie genre, but also for the film industry as a whole.

 Similar to Crazy Rich Asians, there are so many strong female characters in this movie that I had to choose three, as opposed to just one. The female characters that stand out to me are Shuri (played by Letitia Wright), Okoye (played by Danai Gurira), and Nakia (played by Lupita Nyong’o). All three of these women are badass characters in their own way. Nakia is a peacemaker, executing rescue missions and fighting for those who are oppressed. In the beginning of the film, she makes it clear to T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, that she cannot be his queen because she has to continue pursuing her humanitarian efforts in Africa. Okoye is also a strong character; she is a warrior and serves as the general of the Dora Milaje. She is loyal to T’Challa and defends him throughout the film, appearing in some pretty incredible fight scenes. Shuri is the third strong female character in Black Panther. She stands out because although she is the youngest female character in the film, she is a technical genius, designing the suits and gadgets that are used by the Wakandan army and her brother, T’Challa. At the end of the film, she saves T’Challa’s life and helps her country fight a war. I think this is evidence enough to show that each of the female characters in Black Panther is strong in their own way and fights for what they believe in. I believe that this should be the standard for female characters in action films, and I hope to continue to see progress in this genre.

 

Sources:

https://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Black-Panther#tab=box-office

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3104988/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2

Congress: A Frat ‘House’ of White Men and White Male Interns

By: Sam Johnson

It was my first day interning on Capitol Hill, and I could not – for the life of me – stop mixing up the names of the male staffers in my office. They read off like roll call at an upper class private high school: Dan, Jake, John, Alex, Tim, the works.  

There was one female staffer in the office, and although disappointed, I was happy to know I at least wouldn’t be the only person with a vagina. I later found out that she was leaving the office in a couple of weeks.

The lack of women in the office came as a shock to me. I’m well aware of the mixed gender ratio of representatives in general, but I (naively) expected better from a small Democratic office.

Two former Capitol Hill staffers, Sara Lonardo and Elizabeth Whitney, apparently also saw the same issue. In July of 2018, they launched the Women’s Congressional Staff Foundation, which awards scholarships to women who might not otherwise be able to intern on the Hill. Both women started as interns and are hoping to get diverse women into offices.

“We’re hoping to open up that world to a broader class, a broader demographic who might take themselves out of the running for a career in public policy,” Whitney said.“As I’ve gotten further along in my career, I have just always shared this passion for helping young women through that very vulnerable time in your life, which is finishing college and starting out in your career,” Whitney said. “We’re really going to be looking for those women who are at that critical path, where this is a make or break opportunity … and they are poised for success if they have that helping hand at that moment.”

Their goal is to fund about 50 young women’s internships each year.

As you might have guessed, the average “hilltern” is not only male – he is a white male.

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Statistically, those who can afford to work for free for an extended internship tend to be white students able to lean on family finances for a few months.

Congressional interns can expect to spend an estimated $6,000 of their own money for housing, travel and food during an internship in the nation’s capital. Interns on Capitol Hill have shared horror stories on how they made it by, including skipping meals and walking miles in the rain.

The issue of diversity (or lack thereof) in DC interns – or unpaid interns in general – has been drawing criticism nationwide, specifically by those pushing for paid congressional internships. Among supporters is newcomer and democratic icon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has recently drawn attention for vowing to pay her interns $15 an hour.

According to Pay Our Interns, 90 percent of House offices do not currently pay their interns at all. In the Senate, about half of Republican offices pay their interns at least a stipend, while Democrats drag behind at 31 percent of offices offering some kind of compensation.

The House and Senate both recently passed spending packages appropriating money specifically for intern pay. For each member’s office, it averages to about $20,000 per year in the House and $50,000 per year in the Senate. However, most members are waiting for new guidelines on using the funds before advertising paid internships.

“I’ll eat your pussy like shrimp fried rice” – how @thefleshlightchronicles navigates fetishism in online dating

By: Hannah Xue

Image via abc.net.au
Image via abc.net.au

As a woman in a monogamous relationship, it’s been some time since I’ve found myself in the online dating scene. But even when I reflect on my short lived days a self-proclaimed Tinder queen, I can fondly recall some of the charming one liners that I used to receive:

“Ni hao ma”

“Hey ling ling”

And my personal favorite, 

“You look like my favorite kpop star before her 2nd nose job”

 Aside from being blatantly unoriginal, these pick up lines all share the quality of using my racial identity as a tool of courtship. It’s grossly offensive, and yet, an experience that many women of color can relate to.

 Fetishism in online dating isn’t a new phenomenon, but Instagram user @thefleshlightchronicles AKA Lillian has been using her unsavory encounters on Tinder to create memes, art, and reclaim WOC sexuality. She juxtaposes the racist, lewd, or just downright distasteful messages she receives from men with captions that contain some of the most incredible clapbacks I’ve ever seen on the internet. But her photos aren’t simply meant to provoke some laughs – she is serious about deconstructing the fetishized dating experiences women face.

Lillian defines fetishization as a combination of sexual prejudice and power, where individuals with greater social and bodily mobility enact fantasies of power over those with less agency. “As dominant figures in our society, White men have the power to dictate the narrative of how our lives go – what our worth is in society.” Historical traumas of war, conquest, slavery and incarceration among non-white peoples form the foundation of racism in our current society, and fetishization replicates those dynamics, albeit on a smaller scale, onto the bodies of WOC today. Sadly, the popularity and accessibility of online dating makes it easier than ever for people to assert their fetishes. The added protection of typing from behind a screen emboldens some offenders and makes them think there can be no physical consequences to their actions.

 But @thefleshlightchronicles proves that no one should assume they are safe from being held accountable for their misogyny. The series of “Ego Death” story highlights on her page publicize reactions to a post she wrote about a man named Ivan, who was well known around his college campus for exclusively dating WOC as a means of gaining faux-woke social capital and then unceremoniously ghosting them.

Images via @thefleshlightchronicles
Images via @thefleshlightchronicles

Many of the replies to the post were from other women who Ivan had used. They shared information about how he lied to and manipulated them, and they thanked Lillian for validating their experiences. And in the end, that’s all @thefleshlightchronicles was originally intended to do – create a safe space for WOC to address racial traumas and reclaim their online space.

Fast Fashion and its Environmental Effects

By: Mylene Oyarzabal

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From H&M to Zara, fast fashion is defined as inexpensive clothing rapidly created as a result of demand for contemporary trends. Targeted primarily to women between the ages of 18 to 24, these clothes are typically categorized as “trendy,” only to be of low quality and never to be seen again following the initial wave of demand. While we’re surrounded by it every day, a majority of Americans are not familiar with the consequences that surround this phenomenon. Although these items tend to be beneficial for the large companies that produce them, the amount of unused and discarded clothing that often results from this has contributed to the pollution of our planet, and is continuing at an alarming rate.      

Since the year 2000, the production of clothing is believed to have doubled in size, and has in turn damaged the state of our planet dramatically. Fast fashion has been at the forefront of this spectacle, encouraging mass market stores to appeal to what is commonly known as “seasonal collections.” Starting with Zara’s bi-weekly collection releases, many brands from Forever 21 to Wet Seal have replicated the practice: redesigning and releasing new clothes at every major location on a weekly or monthly schedule. These enormous shipments and mass productions have in turn taken a toll Picture1on natural resources affecting the environment more than ever before.

And while the amount of clothing produced may seem balanced by the continuing growth of the human population, studies have found that clothing is discarded even quicker than ever before. A majority of Americans own 60% more clothing than they did in the year 2000,Picture1 but only keep hold of them for half as long. The amount of discarded clothes tends to be baffling; on average, 5800 pounds of clothing are burned or landfilled per second. As a result, this amounts to around 182 billion pounds of clothing a year, with the United States alone contributing 26 billion pounds to this obscene number. Taking over 200 years to decompose, our actions are causing clothes to pile up for an indeterminate amount in these landfills and are causing great damage.

The question that we must ask ourselves is how do we resolve this growing issue? An important component to preventing the curse of fast fashion lies in simple inaction. Maintaining our clothes for longer periods of time and refraining from purchasing “hip” new clothing not only saves money, but also helps save the environment. Donating clothing, instead of simply throwing it away, allows clothes to remain in use for longer periods of time and directly maintains them out of landfills. Conscious thinking on our part is essential to breaking the cycle of pollutant clothing, and is becoming a necessity in our consumer-run world.

 

Surviving R Kelly: Black Girls’ Lives Matter

By: Moriah Mikhail

The Play-book of a master manipulator:

Lure, charm, ensnare, lie, coerce, abuse, lie some more, compliment, abuse again, threaten, control, cover up, and then lie again. repeat.

After watching the Surviving R Kelly Lifetime documentary, it seems Kelly has not only mastered this play-book but may have written it himself. The disturbing reports of pedophilia, sexual and physical abuse, as well as manipulation the girls recounted from their experience with the R&B pied piper were enough to make any viewer physically ill. And yet the most disturbing component of Kelly’s systematic manipulation is how he specifically chooses the girls he preys on. This once idolized Black artist utilizes the oppression experienced by Black women and girls to his advantage, successfully (until now), silencing his victims. One Survivor featured in the Lifetime series, Asante McGee, alleges that the singer preys on super fans specifically, employing his power as an R&B superstar to sexually manipulate vulnerable fans. McGee became involved with R Kelly at the age of 32, but she describes that regardless of age; “if you are vulnerable and he knows he can control you, that’s who he’s gonna go for.” The significance of that tendency is this—the R&B molester’s main goal with these girls is to seek control and exploit them with little threat of repercussions. He preys on the very community that has helped him achieve stardom, and worse, many young girls from that community. Because of this, survivors have been hushed by their own community and their reports against him have evoked little outrage. As Chance The Rapper described, and an opinion many unfortunately hold: “I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were black women.”Kelly is utilizing a racist societal ill to his advantage, and it cannot be stressed enough how problematic that is, especially for a black artist idolized by the black community.

For those that have not been able to tune into the series, I will summarize a few critical points. Disclaimer: some of the stories mentioned below may be triggering for certain viewers that have experienced sexual or domestic abuse; please use discretion as you read and prioritize your mental health.

1994 marks the start of R Kelly’s apparent trail of pedophilia with his illegal marriage to the then 15 year old, Aaliyah, considered the princess of R&B. As described in the docuseries, those in his inner circle considered his relationship with Aaliyah to be an anomaly in Kelly’s sexual history. They believed he loved her and that he thought she was “different,” “mature,” and “beyond her years.” I use quotes not to say she could not have exhibited those characteristics but that coming from Rob it sounds more like a cover-up to convince his peers that their relationship was an exception and not an obvious red flag that he was (and still is) a pedophile. Recently, Kelly’s lawyers have come to his defense claiming Aaliyah lied about her age saying she was 18 but recently a video clip resurfaced, proving R Kelly was in fact aware she was 15 at the time of their marriage. He was 27.

Sparkle (Stephanie Edwards)describes a different side of a familiar scandal in Surviving R Kelly. The trending upcoming singer introduced her niece to R Kelly when the young girl was just 12 years old. Her hopes were that Rob could do for her niece what he did for her—help her achieve stardom, as the girl (whose identity has been kept confidential), was an aspiring young female rapper. This same girl that Sparkle clearly holds a sister-like protective love for is more widely known as “the girl R Kelly peed on.” Yes, a girl introduced to Rob at the mere and vulnerable age of 12 is the same girl from the “sex tape” (filmed rape) that Kelly faced child pornagraphy charges for in 2002. When the tape was taken Sparkle confirmed her niece had to be 14 years old because she recalls her hairstyle in the tape was the same she wore when she was around that age. Kelly was 35. The girl and her family, paid off and embarrassed, did not testify against the girl’s rapist. Sparkle, even after overwhelming discouragement from people in the music industry, spoke out against R Kelly and all that came from the trial was the ruin of Sparkle’s music career and charting songs for R Kelly. The Jury found him not guilty.

During the course of the 2002 trial, R Kelly’s superfans display their support from outside the courtroom. One young female supporter catches his eye—an underage Jerhonda Pace. He exchanges numbers with her outside the very courtroom he is entering to face child pornography charges. The two begin communicating via text and phone call immediately. The young girl is swept into Kelly’s house where he harbors his cult of underage sex slaves. We watch the once star-struck superfan walk off the set, crying, as she recalls the abuse she experienced from him. Lisette Martinez meets Kelly in the mall at the age of 17 and is pulled into his cycle of manipulation and abuse. Dominique Gardner connects with R Kelly through her fellow superfan friend, Jheronda, and remains a prisoner to the house for 9 years after. Countless women describe eerily similar experiences of being star struck, flattered, charmed, built up, tore down, coerced, threatened, controlled, abused, and emotionally drained in their abuser’s sick cycle of manipulation. The survivors that ended up in “the house” describe his harsh control of degrading rules where the women would have to knock or stomp to ask permission to enter parts of the house, perform sex acts he requested for himself or on others, call him ‘Daddy’ and relieve themselves in buckets in their rooms. Some names mentioned like Jocelyn Savage and Azriel Clary are still prisoners under his control, along with countless other women and girls.

Surprisingly, there is even more disturbing accounts that the documentary covers but in summary Kelly displays a 20 year long track record of pedophilia, abuse and manipulation. Not to mention he hints at admitting to these accusations in his songs and even released a 19 minute song titled “I admit” where he mentions his cult, sex slaves, and having sex with “the younger ladies.”

The #MuteRKelly movement is stronger than ever with the emergence of this unveiling docuseries, and I stand behind this movement 100%. We cannot conveniently “separate the art from the artist” as the money this man makes from music royalties on the radio and streaming platforms, and ticket sales from concerts go directly towards his cause of covering up his trail of pedophilia, molestation, and abuse. Predator Kelly is not an “artist;” he is a professional serial rapist and abuser, R&B is simply his means to support his true demented career. When you Mute R Kelly, you contribute to the cause of supporting these survivors, freeing his current victims, and achieving some sort of justice for every life broken by this man. Stop playing his music at your BBQ’s for the ‘nostalgia’ and wake up—stand for these survivors that have been neglected for too long by their own community.

8 Feminist Instagram Accounts You Should Be Following

By: Naomi Gewirtzman

Recently, I decided to reassess the way I use social media. I found that, like all of my peers, I was wasting countless hours a day mindlessly scrolling through feeds that largely consisted of fashion and fitness “influencers,” and it was getting exhausting. Studies show that social media is detrimental to mental health, especially in girls, largely due to the tendency for women to compare themselves to what they see on social media. This toxic Instagram culture advertizes unattainable lifestyles and promotes unrealistic and unrepresentative beauty standards; and the pressure of comparison promotes unhealthy competition between women. I decided to make a change. I wanted to be more mindful and intentional with the media I was consuming, so I went through every account I was following, and considered whether it was benefiting me and reflective of my values. If it wasn’t, I unfollowed and replaced it with accounts belonging to an array of diverse women with positive messages. Now, my time spent on social media is informative, intersectional, and empowering. Here are some of my favorite feminist Instagram accounts.

 

  1. @liberaljane

 Caitlin Blunnie is a feminist activist who makes gorgeous pieces related to feminism. Her feed is filled with drawings of diverse women, and she educates her followers about feminist issues through her art.

  1. @ocasio2018

Alexandria Ocasio Cortes is not only killing it in our House of Representatives, but she’s also killing it on Instagram. Known for her livestreams in which she interacts with her followers and explains current events and the duties of congress members, this New York representative is the perfect example of a politically engaged, empowered woman.

  1. @bopo_blossom

Jillian Leigh is a Columbia student on a mission to tear down diet culture. Through her posts, she educates her followers about body positivity, building a healthy relationship with food, and how every woman of every shape, size, and color is beautiful.

  1. @nowthisher

NowThis Her is a media company that posts videos highlighting stories relevant to women from all over the world. Following this account is a great way to stay up to date on global women’s issues that are underrepresented in other news sources.

  1. @the_tinder_queen

The Tinder Queen posts submissions of some of women’s worst experiences on Tinder. She educates men on the app about feminism and consent, and teaches her followers how to use dating apps safely and respectfully.

  1. @sheratesdogs

SheRateDogs is “like WeRateDogs but the dogs are your exes.” She exposes toxic ex boyfriends through followers’ submissions, and encourages women to leave unhealthy relationships and to acknowledge their worth.

 

  1. @catcallsofnyc

 CatCallsOfNYC takes submissions of her followers’ experiences with street harassment and in New York City. She then goes to the place where the harassment occurred and writes the quote in chalk to bring attention to the issue of catcalling. 

  1. @florencegiven

Florence is another artist who empowers women through her pieces. I love the use of color and sass in her artwork while she brings important feminist issues to attention.