Category Archives: Awareness

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.

Fast Fashion and its Environmental Effects

By: Mylene Oyarzabal

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

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

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

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

 

“You:” The Flip Side of the Rom-Com

By: Maria Ordoñez

Warning: The following article contains multiple spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) is a charming bookstore manager who reads to kids, saves old books, and keeps his young neighbor out of trouble. He’s practically the perfect guy, except he’s still recovering from his latest heartbreak. Just when he’s about to give up on love for good, a beautiful, young poet named Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) walks into his life. From the moment she picks out his favorite Paula Fox novel, he knows it’s meant to be. And so, embarking on a series of crazy antics, Joe will stop at nothing to get the girl of his dreams. 

And when I say nothing, I mean nothing.

See, what sounds like a synopsis for the perfect rom-com, is in fact the plot of Lifetime’s latest psychological-thriller series,“You.” The series, which was recently renewed for a second season, has seen a dramatic increase in popularity since being picked up by Netflix in December. With over 15,000 total posts in the last month, one thing is clear – viewers everywhere are hooked on this addictive new drama, and more importantly, they’re hooked on Joe.

Why wouldn’t they be? After all, I did say he’s “practically” the perfect guy. Except for the part where I forgot to mention that he’s an obsessive stalker, and that his “crazy antics” include everything from breaking and entering to the occasional murder. And yet, the template of this story feels oddly familiar…

That’s because “You” is everything we’ve seen in every rom-com ever. The only difference is that it depicts what would happen if instead of on a movie screen, these scenarios were playing out in real life. It’s what would happen if the barista from Starbucks actually showed up at your house in the middle of the night to profess his love for you based on a handful of conversations about the weather. “You” portrays this flip side of rom-coms that we need to start talking about.

In its subversive exposé on the dark side of these movies, “You” has multiple moments of self-awareness where the characters reflect on rom-coms as they make morally questionable decisions. And by characters, I’m referring to Joe.

Take, for example, Episode 1 where he spends his first day “with” Beck. After following her everywhere from yoga class to work, he ends up breaking into her apartment, where he hacks into her computer and steals a few personal items. Then, when Beck comes home earlier than expected, Joe finds himself hiding in her shower, thinking to himself:

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This is problematic, mostly because it’s true. I mean, we’ve all seen movies like There’s Something About Mary. The plot of that story involves, not 1, but 6 different guys stalking the same girl. The worst part is that they actually succeed in winning her over. The normalization of this type of behavior onscreen unintentionally sets an example for day-to-day relationships. It makes guys like Joe think, “Well, if it worked for Ben Stiller, then it can work for me.”

That brings us to the scene in Episode 6, where Joe, having followed Beck up to Peach Salinger’s (Shay Mitchell) estate, finds himself in a similar predicament. This time, though, he isn’t trapped in a shower, but rather under a bed, bearing witness to Peach’s latest sexual encounter. Here, he makes a reference to the classic movie When Harry Met Sally, saying:

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Although Harry never does this per se, some would argue that he and Joe have some similar issues with boundaries. I’m not saying that Harry is a murderer, but he doesshow up to Sally’s party uninvited, he doesn’tleave when she asks him to, and he doesn’ttake her “I hate you” as the explicit rejection that it is. It’s like Joe is taking pages straight out of Harry’s playbook, and just taking them one step further.

To top it all off, in the surprising season finale, there’s no doubt that Joe is all about going big or going home. I mean, when Beck finds out what a creep he really is, he literally keeps her prisoner in a glass cage. As if this wasn’t concerning enough, Joe goes on to justify his behavior as an act of true love. He claims:

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You got me again, Joe. It ithe stuff of a million love songs. The Police told us “Every breath you take, I’ll be watching you;” Lady Gaga sang “I’ll follow you until you love me;” and even The Beatles said “I’d rather see you dead, than to be with another man.” Everywhere we look, the media is telling us that if love isn’t obsessive, then it isn’t true love.

Of course, most love songs and rom-coms are meant to be entertaining, not to be taken literally. However, the reality is that all media, whether fictional or not, can have an influence on the way people behave in the real world. I’ve met my fair share of “nice” guys who lurk outside the workplace, show up to places uninvited, and think “no” simply means try harder.  

In the era of the #MeToo movement, “You” shows up at the right time to shed some light on the issues of boundaries and the abuse of power. Most of all, though, it leaves us with a lesson for all people of all genders:

Forget what the rom-coms have taught you, you don’t want to end up like Joe.

Surviving R Kelly: Black Girls’ Lives Matter

By: Moriah Mikhail

The Play-book of a master manipulator:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year, New House: Understanding the 116th Congress’s Adopted Rules and What they Mean for the Freshman Class

By Rhian Lowndes

A new year and a new Congress. With 102 women sitting in the House of Representatives and 25 in the Senate, the United States is seeing unprecedented female power in our national government. Nancy Pelosi calls new members a “transformative Freshman Class” with over a third of House Democrats identifying as people of color and a (marginal but auspicious) growth in religious diversity as well.

With new faces comes change; the House of Representatives has adapted to its new found pluralism by adopting some rules and modifying others to ensure safety and opportunity to all members–maybe I’m giving away my naivety by saying I was surprised that a few of these regulations hadn’t already been established. Still, the following directives are a good sign for the 116th Congress.

  • Banning Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity. While discrimination by any Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House is already disallowed, the House has specifically extended the ban to consider prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender identity, creating a safe space for a new generation of representatives.
  • Banning Sexual Relationships Between Members and Committee Staff. Sexual relationships between members and their employees are not tolerated by House rules, but this now includes a prohibition of relationships between members and staffers who are not their direct employees, hopefully eliminating at least some ethical ambiguity surrounding power dynamics in these affairs.
  • Service of Indicted Members in Leadership and on Committees. To avoid leaving corrupt people in positions of power, the House has stated that indicted members, and those charged with criminal conduct for a felony offense punishable by at least two years in prison, should abdicate caucus or conference leadership roles and step down from any committee positions.
  • Requiring Members to Pay for Discrimination Settlements. Members have to pay the Treasury back for any settlement related a violation of sections 201(a)[1], 206(a)[2], or 207[3] of the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995. This makes members more accountable for their own actions within their government positions.
  • Mandatory Anti-Harassment and Anti-Discrimination Policies for House Offices. Each office within the House has to adopt an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy by April 1st.
  • Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The House has created an Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The Speaker and Minority Leader will select a Director (with recommendations from the Committee on House Administration) and within 150 days the Office must submit a diversity plan for approval. The diversity plan has to include:
    • “(1) policies to direct and guide House offices to recruit, hire, train, develop, advance, promote and retain a diverse workforce; (2) the development of a survey to evaluate diversity in House offices; (3) a framework for the House of Representatives diversity report; and (4) a proposal for the composition of an Advisory Council to inform the work of the Office.”

A House of Representatives diversity report at the end of each session of Congress is also required.

  • Title II. Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. The House is creating a Committee to investigate and develop recommendations on the modernization of Congress. By “modernization” they mean they intend to develop a more efficient Congress, taking into consideration scheduling, recruitment, and technology, but it also means the preservation and advancement of diversity.

There’s much more to peruse among the legislation set for consideration in the new year, but it’s good to see that the House is making way for change. Hosting a vastly different staff from previous Congresses means the House is in a position to make an America for women and minorities, as well as groups who have prospered more easily in the past. Hopefully, these regulations will make that task easier, and we’ll see the difference in months and years to come.

 

https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/slideshows/116th-congress-by-party-race-gender-and-religion?slide=5 https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20181231/BILLS-116hresPIH-hres6.pdf

https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20181231/116-HRes6-SxS-U1.pdf

 

[1] prohibiting discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,… age,…[or] disability”

[2] prohibiting the discrimination of veterans and/or denying them employment or benefits if they are eligible employees

[3] prohibiting the intimidation of employees who participate in hearings or proceedings

Is Heterosexual Black Love Attainable?

By Rachel Harmon

Marriage is one of the oldest traditions that many people still follow and strive towards. The images of this beautiful day make it something that people long for, even as our values today change in terms of what it means for two people to be married. And, from social media and word of mouth, it is clear that it is still the most important status when in a relationship. However, as I get older, I wonder how realistic this is for everyone. In particular, for heterosexual black women, it is not as realistic as for other races and genders.

Many black Americans want black love. Black love is a special kind of love that means something different for the individuals involved. It is one of the reasons why many black Americans strive to marry someone of the same race. However, after reading Is Marriage for White People? by Ralph Richard Banks, it was clear that there are many obstacles and struggles for heterosexual black women if they want black love with a black man. I will discuss one finding that stuck with me; this finding is the most prevalent in my life now.

I will now state that I am analyzing this book from the perspective of a heterosexual black woman. In addition to this, Banks is not the only source of this information, but it is the one that I have read. For a further and deeper analysis of his book, the New York Times wrote an article that can be found in this link. Additionally, this information presented by Banks assumes that the ideal world is a one-to-one ratio for a heterosexual black woman to black man. This is not what society looks like, and is one of my critiques of this book, but I believe that his findings are important to discuss.

One of Banks’s main arguments in his book is that “in college and elsewhere, appealing black men are in short supply, and desirable black women are abundant. That’s the central fact shaping interactions in the relationship market…What this means is that for a black man and black woman negotiating a relationship, the man will have more options and more opportunities outside the relationship than the woman.”

Banks’s finding is not surprising, but reading it makes it real. The fact that there are not enough black men intrigues me. As a college student, I can see this ratio not just from black men but all men in general. On a larger scale, like Banks discusses, this is a commonality for black women who are searching for a black man. Banks found that black women not only outmarry less frequently than black men, but they also outmarry less than any other minority group. In other words, it is most likely for a black woman to be seeking a partner of the same race.

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Banks utilizes simple economics in terms of supply and demand. Clearly, there is a greater demand for black men by heterosexual black women but a lower supply of heterosexual black men. With this, there are simply less options for black women and more for black men. Banks attributes this lack of supply to the fact that the “ranks of black men have been decimated by incarceration, educational failure, and economic disadvantage.” Numerically, two black women have graduated college for every one black man and there are more than 1,400,000 black women in college and fewer than 900,000 black men in college.

As a result of this ratio, black men do possess a greater power in relationship dynamics. This means that men have more options. So why would they stick with one black woman? With this in mind, it can partly explain why many black men are not looking for a relationship, or have several black women in their rotation. This lack of supply has given men the ability to remove themselves from relationships easily, instead of fighting for the particular relationship they are in.

In contrast, black women do not have this same luxury. Instead, they are limited to their selection. This leaves room for either settling with something less than we deserve, or alone if we cannot find someone to our standards. This is an unfair situation that many black women are in. We are stuck with the narrative of the strong independent black woman who is invested in her career, but that is not all that is important to us. We may be accomplished and successful, but that does not mean many of us do not want love. We deserve the same amount of love as everyone else in the relationship market. It is just frustrating to believe that many people see black women as desirable and strong figures, but not deserving of the emotional connection that many of us seek.

Although we may desire this, I feel that there is not much that can be done because the numbers are there. It is just a fact that there are more black women than black men in most spaces. This makes it challenging to find hope in this situation if black love, with a black man, is something that a black woman wants in her life. Even if a black woman does find herself a black man, she is mainly viewed as “one of the lucky ones.” This sentiment is just as bad as not being able to find a black man. Why? Because it makes it seem that you are lucky to have that man, when maybe he should be lucky to have you.

When thinking about my future and marriage, I know that I will still pursue black love, and it has worked out for me. I hope that this can be a reality for more black women who desire to be with a black man, but right now it is not as attainable as it should be. Until the macroeconomic issues and structurally racist institutions that have led us to the inequality within the relationship market between heterosexual black women and black men, perhaps we can hope for any difference in the relationship dynamics we have today.