In light of recent events involving the death of George Floyd, UMOJA: The Black Student Union, Boston University Student Government and 50+ Boston University clubs/organizations are coming together to fight for social justice by donating to the following organizations:
Black Visions Collective Color of Change Showing Up for Racial Justice
Our goal is to fundraise $10,000. Any donations are appreciated.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS FUNDRAISER & DONATE HERE or go to the link below.
PROJECTS: -Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) // English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Classroom Assistant -BU Students of Caribbean Ancestry (SOCA) // Public Relations Chair and Member
ABOUT: I’m a Haitian-American who wants their voice and actions to be heard regarding issues that are happening to the underrepresented, racial and ethnic minorities in the world. I’m passionate about LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, incarceration, and civil rights issues that people of color, especially Black people, face today.
Q: You’re a part of JVS and SOCA, could you explain how you got involved and why these organizations interest you?
Sam: Sure! So, I’ll start with JVS. I was in Paris [studying abroad] and I was looking for a legal internship because I want to be an attorney in the near future, and JVS showed up and I thought it sounded really interesting. I feel like the first step [to immigration law] is to start working with immigrants and refugees, so I decided to become an ESOL classroom assistant. I have a little experience teaching English because my parents are immigrants from Haiti. And being in Paris I also realized how hard it is to learn a different language in a different country that you’re new to, that shits hard, and I felt like I could relate to these people [ESOL students], so I interviewed in Paris and they basically gave me the job! I was an intern until COVID-19 when my internship stopped, so now I volunteer on Mondays. I call people from 12 pm to 5 pm and help with homework and interview practice. Same thing on Thursday, I just started last week, I’m in a Zoom classroom helping them with grammar. I joined SOCA freshman year spring semester. At first, I was scared because I’m not used to being around so many Black people because I went to a private white Catholic school from kindergarten to 12th grade in southern New Jersey. I didn’t feel in tune with people when I came to college. I joined SOCA hoping that I could spread awareness for West Indian and Caribbean culture and get to know my culture more, honestly.
Q: How has activism influenced you and in what ways has it affected your future goals?
Sam: Since becoming an activist, I’ve had more serious and difficult conversations with people, like family members. Before, I used to be quiet about my stances on most everything because being in the neighborhood that I am and being with the people I’m with for mostly my whole life made it difficult to fight for immigration and LGBTQ rights. It’s very difficult, but I realized that just speaking up made me more comfortable with who I am as a person and as an activist. It is hard to have difficult conversations with people you’ve been friends and family with for forever, but I think it’s really important as an activist to have it known that you are here to fight the system, discrimination, everything that’s happening in the world, especially America.
Q: What role do you think student activists can play in terms of making change?
Sam: Honestly, having their voice heard. Something that happened fall semester was when Ben Shapiro came to campus. Basically, Black BU and everyone against him was like we are not standing for this, and even though he ended up speaking on campus, even though we didn’t succeed in having him removed from campus, we succeeded in coming together as a community. Realizing that our voices should be heard and that you can’t just ignore us because we are here we are present and that we don’t stand for injustices, especially a person who is denying the racism and discrimination people of color, especially Black people, have faced for hundreds of years, is a real testament to what students can do on campus.
Q: What do you think it means to be an activist and how do you define it for yourself?
Sam: I think being an activist means you fight for a social or political cause that you believe in and you try to take steps that will further better other people’s lives, wherever you are. I’m an activist by being in SOCA and being an ESOL classroom assistant because I want to help the transition from coming from a different country to coming to America be easier for people because I know how hard it was for my parents and I understand how hard it is to learn a different language, to come to a new place not knowing anyone, and to try to figure out your spot in life. I don’t think we should discriminate or be mean to these people who just want a better life and better opportunities than they had before. It’s wrong, honestly, that so many people are in disagreement about how people should have equal, basic human rights in America just for being from a different place.
Q: How are you feeling about the upcoming election?
Sam: The system has been broken since the beginning, we’ve known this, and people are surprised that this is happening with Trump against Biden, but I’m not. As a person of color, as a Black person, as a Black queer person you realize that this shit’s been happening since the beginning of time and that people are just now realizing that oh we’re fucked, but no, we’ve been fucked forever, now it’s effecting you and that’s the problem. Hopefully people realize that shit has to change. Keep speaking up because we know that speaking up helps in the long term, we get laws changed, shit happens, but right now the future of America is kind of dim. We’ve got to try and strive on.
MAJOR: Public Relations, minoring in Political Science and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Man Eater Radio Show // Creator & DJ
The Vagina Monologues // Co-Director
Yoni Ki Baat // Co-Director
I am a student activist from Brazil who is passionate about intersectional feminism and gender equality. I strive to empower womxn and uplift marginalized voices through radio and fundraiser spoken-word performances. Through femme-focused projects, I aim to create safe spaces that highlight womxn while attempting to rebel against patriarchal ideologies.
Q: You’re a part of VAGMO+, could you explain what that is and how you got involved?
Bruna: I got involved in the Vagina Monologues my sophomore year when one of last year’s directors, Ina Joseph, encouraged me to join. I got cast and then three years later I was chosen to direct with Christina Bissereth. Me and Christina co-directed the two performances this year (the Vagina Monologues and Yoni Ki Baat) and it was so wonderful and I’m so proud of it. VAGMO+ is an umbrella term encompassing two feminist productions, the Vagina Monologues and Yoni Ki Baat. The Vagina Monologues was a play written in the nineties by Eve Ensler. It was considered to be a radical piece of feminist literature at the time. But at the same time, since it was really in the nineties, it can be very, very outdated at points and problematic as well. We do acknowledge it’s great benefits but also that it is problematic. To make up for the lack of inclusivity and to add another dimension and another layer of perspectives, last year’s directors, Ina and Alina added a second performance, a sister performance, called Yoni Ki Baat or commonly known as YKB. This is a platform that attempts to create a space for women of color, queer women and non-binary folks to share their own experiences with intersectionality through storytelling. These performances were a bit like spoken word. This year, even though we didn’t have the opportunity to do the in-person performance, we came up with an alternative plan, the YKB podcasts, now available on Spotify. The best part about this whole community and about the performances themselves is that 100 percent of the proceeds go towards nonprofit organizations in the greater Boston community that support women in need. This year we partnered with Women’s Lunch Place, a nonprofit that supports women who are currently facing homelessness, and we were able to donate about $4,000 from fundraising.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit more about your feminist radio show and how it has added to your experience at BU?
Bruna: I co-created Maneater, which is my radio show on WTBU in the fall semester of my sophomore year with Emily Roe. After we interned together freshman year in an alternative rock radio show on the WTBU called Brain Drain, we decided that we both wanted to create a radio show together because we’re both minoring in women’s studies and we saw that WTBU was oversaturated with Indie and alt-rock radio shows––and there is nothing wrong with that, but a lot of them primarily featured male artists. We saw a real lack of female representation, not only in WTBU but also lack of spotlighting of women artists in the music industry, so together we created what is now Maneater. Maneater became WTBU’s first and only feminist radio show that exclusively highlights women and centers itself around femme-based topics and current events like body positivity, sexuality, sexual empowerment, gender roles, ad stereotypes, politics and abortion. Maneater has also allowed me and the other DJs to dive deeper into the music industry and focus on women artists that don’t often get the highlights that they deserve. This is currently Maneater’s sixth semester on WTBU. I’m graduating this year so I will be leaving it, but I’m really, really proud that it will stay at BU as my legacy.
Q: What was your favorite theme/topic that you have done on Maneater?
Bruna: My favorite theme is Black History Month. For the four episodes that compose February, we do it entirely dedicated to different aspects of the Black identity, such as Black love, Black female artists, and Black female rappers. We always like to come up with different things and then we have different discussions. This year, right before the pandemic broke out, we had a cool discussion about Black love, the portrayal of love in the media, why films are always whitewashed, and why content and media are whitewashed but also wealth related.
Q: What does inclusive feminism mean to you?
Bruna: I love intersectional feminism, inclusive feminism, however you would want to call it. I am drawn towards intersectional feminism because I come from a family of predominantly women and a very strong line of women. And that whole narrative that women are meant to be submissive, that women are weak, that women are secondary to men, all these stereotypes that are perpetuated by patriarchal ideals, that are deeply ingrained in our society are honestly just fabricated bullshit that was made to create a hierarchy of genders. I think that it’s really important that we work towards flipping that script and advocating for gender equality, advocating for women’s rights, advocating for the protection of minority communities. And I think that only through that will we be able to flip the script and make women included and make minorities included in the greater dialogue. I think that work through student activism is really, really important because you’re starting from your classroom and then you can dive into the greater world.
Q: What do you think it means to be an activist or an advocate?
Bruna: I think that being an activist is very, very crucial. I always liked the phrase if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention and if you’re not angry, you’re not creating change and you’re not fighting for things that are negative to then benefit people. So I think that being an activist is someone who actively strives to create change in their environment, not only, or not entirely, or not at all in their benefit, but for the greater good of others and to uplift marginalized voices who don’t often get the platform to talk about their experiences and don’t often get the rights and the recognition that they need.
Why Our Current Interventions May Be Worsening The Problem
By Lul Mohamud
We know college has much more to offer its students than what’s displayed on brochures and websites. Behind their advertisements lies the worst kept secret on America’s college campuses: sexual assault. Sexual violence has not ever been a feature colleges or universities are eager to discuss – and there’s yet to be a school that steps up to become the exception. And waiting any longer will not solve our problem.
On every college website you’ll find an office dedicated to the sexual assault problem, and a few clicks away awaits a bystander program. Bystander interventions remain the weapon of choice utilized by administrators in the battle against sexual assault. Colleges across the United States have been rewording the same message of stepping up to protect your fellow student. This may be an effective effort from an ethical standpoint, but it is not a practical one. However, it has served as an effective mouthpiece to protect these institutions from accusations of an inadequate response – or from the financial or reputational consequences that would result. But this response has had a more detrimental consequence on its most burdened with the task of sexual assault prevention, their students. In the largest survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct in 2019, the Association of American Universities found a significant increase in the rate of nonconsensual or forced sexual contact amongst all students when compared to their last climate survey in 2015. We owe it to our students to fix what’s broken, and not only readjust the bandage of an under-utilized training or sentimental PR campaign.
Yes, we all agree in common place conversation that sexual violence is wrong and should be stopped. Up to two-thirds of the American public view sexual assault and harassment as a widespread societal issue, and about 74% see this as an important problem in the United States. But no matter how comforting these findings may sound, sexual violence and misconduct remain on the rise, revealing this “we all know better” rhetoric to be a smokescreen we’ve relied on to keep from viewing the true extent of this harrowing crisis. A crisis birthed by our complacency and historic reluctance to fight at the roots of sexual violence – and keep that life-saving fight alive.
Current campus sexual assault prevention programs rely on the assumption that sexual assault is inevitable – an occupational hazard of being a student. It is time to abandon this ineffective reactionary approach that awaits assault. A proper crisis response employs eradicative and preventative measures first. As reported by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the extent of the American sexual violence problem desperately calls for a new approach – an action plan that addresses its pervasive, widespread, and devastating nature.
That plan must begin with accepting that at the root of sexual violence lies power. Sexual violence is a purposeful violation of physical liberty, gutting its victim of the basic right of agency over their body. And to belittle the gravity of the decision to commit sexual violence to an “indiscretion” or “lapse in judgement”, is to revoke the validity of agency over your body. We, as the American public, are guilty of minimizing the nefarious nature of sexual assault by calling it a “mistake” in defense of perpetrators, and by placing the weight of the assault on the victim. We commit the latter through our cultural colloquialisms regarding sexual assault, and more despicably through indoctrinating ourselves and our children with the belief that only those “at-risk” are responsible for mitigation – and when they are assaulted it is due to their failure to take adequate precautions.
Sexual violence is an abuse of power. Not an accident or misjudgment, but a choice that abusers have been emboldened to make. The solution needed is a strategic intervention that cuts out the decision-making process and removes sociocultural factors that lead to the choice of assault. This strategy begins with reorienting who we define as “at-risk”.
Only with a consensus that identifies those “at risk” to be the people given the choice to perpetrate sexual violence, will we begin to develop and implement successful interventions. With this method we will erode the outer layers, and gain access to the epicenter of this crisis where we then can initiate generational behavior change.
We must develop nationwide educational and accountability campaigns that focus on sexual agency, with the collective goal being to incorporate them into American culture. However, the impact of these campaigns are entirely contingent upon the inclusion of collective action against the abuse of authority and the wrongful bestowal of societal power. Speaking up and fighting against our historically institutionalized white, male, heterosexual, and class supremacies in our homes, schools, workplaces and courts will catalyze the societal change we seek.
It is a change that will alter the lives of our families, friends, and fellow strangers. But, until sexual agency is rightfully woven into the fabric of American liberty and freedom, our sexual violence crisis will no longer remain a problem to solve – but a shameful pillar of American livelihood.
Support Your local Rape Crisis Center and RAINN here.
If you’d like to contact the author, Lul Mohamud is available for comments and questions via Instagram @thelulmohamud.
The thing about male Lyft drivers is that I’m trapped in their car.
I’m acutely aware of it the second I close the door behind me. It’s like a palpable transfer of power that happens when I entrust my safety to a stranger. It’s a transfer that I consent to when the bus doesn’t show up on time, when I’m late for work, or when I don’t want to walk home alone in the middle of the night. However, this power is often abused by male Lyft drivers who see my vulnerable position as an opportunity to say things like:
“How old are you?”
“Is this where you live?”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“I would love to take you out sometime.”
“You should give me your phone number.”
“You are so [insert unwanted compliment here].”
“You have such nice [insert body part here].”
I receive comments like these more often than I ever should, but I never say anything about them, because if I reported every time a male Lyft driver made me feel uncomfortable or objectified, I’d never have time for anything else. That is, until a few days ago:
I had gotten out of class late and had fifteen minutes to get to my job across campus. My job was a 30-minute walk away and the bus was 47 minutes away. And so, I decided to order a Lyft.
From the moment I got into the car, my Lyft driver began complimenting my appearance. It started with my eyes and how special they were. Then, it continued with how “hot” I was making his car. After that, he asked me questions, like how old I am, where I live, and if I smoke weed.
At this point, I’m beginning to feel uncomfortable, praying that no other passenger get added to my shared ride, if only to get out of his car as soon as possible. He then offered to take me back to his place to smoke weed with him, saying how bad he could “fuck me up.” I nervously laughed off the offer as we arrived at my destination. I was relieved to get out, until I noticed his car lingering at my drop-off. I left as quickly as possible, questioning what made him think any part of his behavior was ok.
So, tell me, Lyft driver, how exactly did you expect this to play out?
Did you expect me to forget about the paying job I was on my way to and go home with you instead?
Has that worked for you before?
Has that worked for anybody?
Because all I know is that it’s been days since I felt trapped in your car, and I’m still angry.
I’m angry at you for having the power to make me feel unsafe.
I’m angry at myself for not speaking up in the moment.
And I’m angry at Lyft for not doing enough to put an end to this kind of behavior.
You see, that day, as soon as I got home, I reported this Lyft driver for his inappropriate behavior. The next day, I received a generic email from a Lyft representative apologizing for the incident. The email went on and on about how much they value my safety and comfort, but in the end, the only thing they had to show for it, was a promise that I would never be paired with the same driver again.
And that’s the problem.
The lack of action taken by companies, like Lyft, is what perpetuates cultures of sexual harassment. Lyft drivers know that there are no real consequences to their actions and that they are at liberty to continue treating young, female passengers like potential conquests instead of customers.
Any Lyft driver, male or otherwise, who takes advantage of the unbalanced power dynamic between a driver and a passenger, should not be paired with anyone at all.
When I use shared ride services, like Lyft, I deserve to feel safe and respected every second of the way – whether I’m going to class in the middle of the day or to my dorm room in the middle of the night.
For those unfamiliar with the industry, the makeup world might seem relatively removed from these issues. But in recent times consumers have demanded increasing diversity and representation from makeup brands.
Rather than support makeup brands that fail to recognize the importance of inclusion, perhaps it may be better to invest in businesses that were built with diversity in mind. Black-owned makeup brands, aka B.O.M.Bs, were created to serve a historically marginalized group with products that meet their unique needs. Read on for a list of B.O.M.Bs that are currently killing the game.
A conversation about representation in the makeup industry is incomplete without mentioning Fenty Beauty, Rihanna’s makeup line. Since launching with 40 shades of the Pro Filt’r Foundation in 2017, the line has truly set the standard for inclusion in beauty products. As Fenty Beauty’s tagline suggest, these products truly create “Beauty ForAll.”
2. Juvia’s Place
Juvia’s Place is well known in the beauty community for its highly pigmented eyeshadow palettes, which all retail for $20 or less. Chichi Eburu, who created the line in 2014, draws on her African heritage in the visual branding of her products; the brand’s most popular palette,The Nubian, features an illustration of Queen Nefertiti on the inside cover.
3. Iman Cosmetics
Created by legendary 90s model, Iman, Iman Cosmetics was founded out of the bombshell’s frustration of having to mix her own foundation for makeup artists to use on set. The brand was one of the first B.O.M.Bs to be carried in major drugstore retailers. In addition to makeup, Iman Cosmetics also carries skincare and beauty tools.
4. Beauty Bakerie
With product names like Lollipop Liner, Snickerdoodle Lip Gloss, and Cake Mix Foundation,Beauty Bakerie’s unique products sound just as phenomenal as they perform. CEO Cashmere Nicole, a breast cancer survivor, also uses her pink-themed business to support awareness of the illness she overcame.
5. Pat McGrath Labs
Once proclaimed by Anna Wintour as “the most influential makeup artist in the world,” Pat McGrath created her eponymous makeup for use by makeup professionals and novices alike. The artist’s distinctive editorial style is evident with products such as Blitztrance glitter lipstick and Fetisheyes mascara.
The makeup industry has quite a long way to go in terms of ensuring equitable representation for all of its consumers, but these black-owned businesses are doing their best to empower themselves and the communities they hope to serve.
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.
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:
Did you mean “Genitalia Reveal Party?”
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 cisgenderfemale. WOO HOO, SOMEBODY GET THE CONFETTI!
2. Male, Female, and nothing in between.
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 transgenderto gender queerto 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!
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.
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.”
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
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 our 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
“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.
“Gender Differences,” Center for American Women in Politics, January 9, 2019.
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.
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.
Gustavo Lopez, Neil G. Ruiz, and Eileen Patten, “Key facts about Asian Americans,” September 8, 2017.
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.
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.
Christian Dyogi Phillips and Taeku Lee, “Superficial Equality,” 381.