Category Archives: Feminism

Unfair and Not Lovely

By Riya Gopal

My earliest memory that I can recall is trying to figure out why the terms “dark” and “beautiful” were inversely related. During frequent trips to India with my family, posters of light-skinned women littered each billboard, advertising a brand called Fair and Lovely. I remember feeling confused, noticing a disconnect between the porcelain models on the poster and my own darker complexion. Why were there no models with my skin color on the billboards? I asked my mother what Fair and Lovely was, and she explained to me that it was a bleaching product that whitens skin. Having grown up in the US with its white-washed media, this revolting product somehow made sense to me.

Since then, I felt incredibly insecure in my darker skin, believing that beauty was only achievable through being light. My aunt would chide my mom for letting me play in the sun, as it made me tanner. Boys at school started telling me I was “pretty for an Indian.” I would watch Bollywood movies that seemed to only cast actors based on how white they looked. I had the audacity to believe that fairness of skin tone equated to how lovely you were, and I let it consume me for years.

The Fair and Lovely epidemic is not specific to India. According to a recent study published by World Health Organization, 77% of Nigerian women have admitted to using skin lightening products. Why is this product so prevalent? The colorism connoted in the ads for these products portrays lighter skinned people as more desired and successful. The psychological implications of this are serious, with young women facing low self-confidence that negatively impacts their personal and professional successes. Such beauty standards can essentially direct the course of someone’s life, making them feel too worthless to pursue certain goals.

The bottom line: change needs to be made in the societal perception of beauty and product marketing. I think a lot about how I want the prevalence of colorism to change for the next generation. I think a lot about my future children, and it is scary to consider how this standard of beauty will make them feel in their own skin. I am terrified that whiter people will persistently dominate the workplace, and that the dark-skinned children of future generation will be too scared to pursue their dreams. As women of color, we have the right to sovereignty over our bodies, and the right to unapologetically embrace our melanin. Dark is lovely.

ASHES TO ASHES

A Prose Poem by Mackenzie Arnold

“Beloved,” he spoke, with eyes that looked to me and then to the black bible open in his hands so that he could taste the word of God in his mouth again. “I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. First Peter. Chapter Two. Verse Eleven.” He had to part his jaw like a gasp, teeth grazing bottom lip, tongue rolling to form the words, “passions of the flesh.” I thought they sounded so romantic until it was my flesh that he wanted.

Afterwards I burned my own bible, and I stayed to watch the ashes stir until I realized that they must have done the same at the end of all the witch trials. The fire was already out, but tears fell from my eyes anyways and so I cried in bitter irony. I imagined they were holy water—the tears—and as they ran down my cheeks I parted my lips so that they could wash his hypocrisy from my tongue.

I realized too late that it was not God I wanted to burn, but the one who liked the taste of God’s words in his mouth—if only to trick himself into thinking that he was                                                                                                                                                                  Divine.   

———

Abstract:

I never thought much about religion as a child. Despite growing up just outside of Dallas, Texas, where mega-churches and celebrity pastors reign supreme, I remained largely untouched by the dogma of these institutions because my family simply didn’t go to church. When I began high school at a private Christian academy though, I was suddenly plunged into a very suffocating environment that made it very apparent that my existence as a girl, and any form of feminine sexuality, was wrong. 

I wrote this prose poem in hindsight, looking back on my experiences in a place that was supposed to educate me, and yet insisted upon waging war on my body. In my poem, the emphasis is on the hypocrisy of the male figures I encountered during that time, and how confusing it was to be both punished and desired for my body—of which both outcomes were somehow my fault, and because of which it was often hard to distinguish between the two in the moment. These experiences led me to hate religion and any type of spirituality in general, and it’s taken me a long time to realize that it’s not these beliefs that are toxic, but some of the people that practice them. I now find it gratifying to be able to use spirituality and what I suppose you could call religion, which was so often used to shrink me, as a way to empower myself—especially as a woman.

Five Great Female-Curated Podcasts

By Thea Gay

Looking for something interesting to listen to? Although it can be hard to find a podcast amid the more than 30 million episodes of podcasts to listen to, this list delves into 5 great podcasts centered around intersectional feminist history, issues, and health. This list compiles some of the best female curated podcasts available on either Stitcher, Spotify, or Apple Podcasts.

1.) The History Chicks

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Dynamic duo Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider cover the history of women throughout all time periods and in folklore. They do so through the analysis of historical and factual evidence explained throughout the podcast and through the show notes. Beginning with an introduction and overview Beckett and Susan explore the lives of women who changed the course of history like Phillis Wheatley, Ching Shih, and Hypatia of Alexandria.

2.) Reset

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Curious about how the world of tech is changing how we live? From algorithms that push certain interests to the increase of robotics in the workforce, follow the reporting of Arielle Duhaime-Ross, a Vox Media reporter searching for the truth in how every story essentially becomes a tech story. Some topics covered so far in the show are: Instagrams war on nipples (specifically those they identify as female) and how Google is attempting to make its Pixel 4 better at scanning Black faces.

3.) Unladylike

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In Unladylike, another feminist empowered duo, Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin, dive into uncovering the truth about the inequality faced by women, girls and gender-nonconforming folks everywhere. Cristen and Caroline cover topics like politics, cursing, and body hair, with special guests such as Rain Dove, Geena Davis, and Elaine Welteroth.

4.) Boom Lawyered!

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Law nerds listen up! This podcast is for you or anyone else interested on the impact of court cases and legislation in the United States. Follow legal experts, Jessica Mason Peiklo and Imani Gandi, as they investigate how the legal system works, look at important issues that take place in courts, and how these issues will then go onto to change our lives. The legal analysis spans across topics regarding: the Bathroom Panic, The 1964 Civil Rights Act, and Abortion Rights.

5.) Confidently Insecure

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Take a look into the life of Buzzfeed’s Kelsey Darragh as she learns the stories of badass women in history and reveals the dynamics of her life as a bisexual woman in an open relationship. Kelsey is not afraid to admit she doesn’t know everything, and that’s why she takes her listeners through a wide range of topics to learn with them. Through interviews and her own life experiences Kelsey talks about having HPV and anxiety, and the humanization of sex work.

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.

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.

5 Flash Fiction Pieces to Celebrate Women’s History Month

By Annie Jonas

In honor of Women’s History Month, I have chosen 5 flash fiction pieces written by, or about, women. These pieces take no more than 5 minutes to read, and are perfect for any spare moments you have throughout your day.

 

  1. Break, by Rabih Alameddine

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Image Source: Chloe Scheffe, The New Yorker

This piece chronicles the relationship between a sister and a brother who correspond over the course of seven years with just photographs. What is the reason for such a peculiar form of communication, you may ask? The narrator is a trans-woman whose family disowned her upon her transitioning, and threatened her brother not to speak or write to her without consequences. This story is a haunting portrait of the breaking and reparation of family, love, and loneliness.

“He broke first. I received a four-by-six portrait of his son with a slightly bleeding nose, taken hastily, badly lit, likely by a bathroom bulb. On the ten-year-old face, a thread of blood trickled from nose to upper lip, curving an ogee around the corner of the mouth and down the chin. The boy was in no pain; he looked inquisitively at the camera, probably wondering why his father had had the urge to bring it out.

I held my breath for a beat or two or three when I saw the image. On the back of the photograph Mazen had written, ‘I keep seeing you.’”

 

  1. Girl, by Jamaica Kincaid

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Image Source: Jefferson Wheeler

In this laundry list of dos and don’ts, demands, and warnings, Jamaica Kincaid exposes the unembellished realities of growing up as a girl in a patriarchal world. Written in 1978, in the height of the Second Wave feminist movement, Kincaid’s story feels just as personal as it does political. It is not flashy about its brilliance, and yet in its modesty it proves to be a nuanced masterpiece.

“this is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely; this is how you set a table for tea; this is how you set a table for dinner; this is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest; this is how you set a table for lunch; this is how you set a table for breakfast; this is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming; be sure to wash every day, even if it is with your own spit; don’t squat down to play marbles—you are not a boy, you know”

 

  1. The Huntress, by Sofia Samatar

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Image Source: Del Samatar

In this sci-fi fast fiction piece, an impossibly large female monster called The Huntress terrorizes the inhabitants of a city below. The narrator is a foreigner to this place and is fatally unprepared for the wrath of The Huntress. This piece weaves together intense sensory imagery with disorienting ambiguity; we, as readers, feel just as on-edge as the narrator.

“The Huntress left dark patches wherever she passed. She left a streak. In the morning, the hotel staff would find me unconscious, gummed to the floor. The proprietor weeping, for nothing like this had ever happened in his establishment, nothing. Had I not read the instructions on the desk?”

 

  1. Housewife, by Amy Hempel

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Image Source: VICE

In this one-sentence story, Amy Hempel humorously captures the pure delight of a cunning, two-timing housewife rejoicing in her latest affair. Hempel relays the sexual freedom and polyamorous nature of a modern-day woman who seeks her own pleasure first, and protocols second.

“She would always sleep with her husband and with another man in the course of the same day, and then the rest of the day, for whatever was left to her of that day, she would exploit by incanting, ‘French film, French film.’”

 

  1. John Redding Goes to Sea, by Zora Neale Hurston

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Image Source: Fotosearch / Getty Images

Zora Neale Hurston is one of my all-time favorite female novelists as well as an iconic figure in feminist history. Although she is primarily known and celebrated for her novels, her fast-fiction and short stories are equally deserving of praise. In this piece, Hurston masterfully uses dialect to illustrate the story of John Redding, a ten-year-old daydreamer who imagines his backyard stream is a great sea.

“The little brown boy loved to wander down to the water’s edge, and, casting in dry twigs, watch them sail away downstream to Jacksonville, the sea, the wide world and John Redding wanted to follow them.

Sometimes in his dreams he was a prince, riding away in a gorgeous carriage. Often he was a knight bestride a fiery charger prancing down the white shell road that led to distant lands. At other times he was a steamboat captain piloting his craft down the St. John River to where the sky seemed to touch the water. No matter what he dreamed or who he fancied himself to be, he always ended by riding away to the horizon; for in his childish ignorance he thought this to be farthest land.”

For those who feel like they don’t have the time to read a full-fledged novel, or who desire a fast-paced narrative, fast fiction is the way to go. However, do not assume that just because these pieces are short, they are any less than a novel or a lengthier piece. Fast fiction is an important subgenre of literature because it stretches the expectations of what we perceive fiction to be. It teaches us to be creative and really think about the words we are writing. Fast fiction is a lean and efficient form; nothing is arbitrary. It is important that we read works like these so that we, too, may become better readers and writers.

For more fast fiction pieces, check out:

https://flashfictionmagazine.com/

http://www.100wordstory.org/

http://thecollagist.com/

https://everydayfiction.com/

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#

Tina Belcher, an Iconic Animated Character

By: Rachel Harmon

If you have not seen Bobs Burgers, you need to start. Not only is this an iconic animation series for young-adults, but also has one of my favorite animated characters ever: Tina Belcher. She is the oldest of her two siblings and her family owns a Burger Shop. She is the awkward girl we all were at some point in our lives (or still are). She gives us many cringy but hilarious moments in every episode. She may have minimal social skills and may not understand what is socially acceptable as a teenager girl, but she is happy with who she is and refuses to be like everyone else. Some of her most notable quirks are her fantasies about Jimmy Junior, her erotic friend fiction, AND her obsession with BUTTS. She is definitely one of the most empowering animated female characters I have ever watched because she expresses her real feelings, even if they are “weird.” It is difficult for a teenage girl to be herself unapologetically, but Tina owns it. Tina is my animated icon and she should be yours too.

Please enjoy one of my favorite Tina moments, because like her, I appreciate a good butt.

Tina Belcher giphy

WMN EMPWRMNT: ZAYRHA NICOLE RODRIGUEZ

By: Melissa Hurtado

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: For me, empowerment is the idea of standing up together. Rome wasn’t built in one day and neither was women rights. Also, empowerment should not be limited to those close to us, but in order to change the world, we need to empower women outside our physical and mental borders. All women should be able to get an education if they wish to do so, be able to choose what happens in their bodies, and have a say in their future.

 

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: I was raised with the traditional ideas of how a lady should behave and do, yet I have tried to rebel it against it since I can remember. When I was 5 or 6 years old I didn’t like the color pink, and I tried to be adventurous leaving me with a few scars on my knees because I was clumsy. And the idea of being a girly girl seemed strange to me. I thought being girly would only limit what I could do in the future.

However, as I grow up, I have realized that just because you are feminine, it doesn’t limit your power. You can feminine and kick-ass at the same time. So having a definition of what a woman is, I think it limits the idea of what a woman can do, and feel. Womanhood is express in multiple ways, impossible to put it in one sentence.

The same goes for men. The idea that men cannot cry because it shows weakness is stupid. Women and men should be able to do whatever they want and express anyway their heart desires as long the person is not hurting themselves or others.

In other words, “You do you, honey!”

 

Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?

A: There is a lot of power over who and how a story is told. I believe it is my duty as a future journalist to give anyone a platform, especially women of color,  tell their story that is authentic to their experiences. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit the traditional narrative. Along with that, I think an open heart and an open mind creates room to have the tough conversations that come with empowerment.