Category Archives: Awareness

The Thing About Male Lyft Drivers

By: Maria Ordoñez

source: Mercury Insurance Group
source: Mercury Insurance Group

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

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

“How old are you?”

“Is this where you live?”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“I would love to take you out sometime.”

“You should give me your phone number.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Has that worked for you before?

Has that worked for anybody?

Ever?

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s the problem.

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

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

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

And that is the thing about male Lyft drivers.

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

source: Twitter @AnnaGillcrist
source: Twitter @AnnaGillcrist

The Evolutionary Purpose and Significance of Anxiety in Women

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

Abstract

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

Broader Impacts and Conclusion

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

5 Black-Owned Makeup Brands To Keep On Your Radar

By: Hannah Xue

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

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

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

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

  1. Fenty Beauty

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

2. Juvia’s Place

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

3. Iman Cosmetics

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

4. Beauty Bakerie

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

5. Pat McGrath Labs

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

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

What We Can Learn from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl

By: Avery Serven

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources

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

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

By: Sabrina Schnurr

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

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

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

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

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

Weird flex, but okay.

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#

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

“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.