Category Archives: Feminist Friday

“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.

The Influence of Race on the Gender Wage Gap

by Mylene Oyarzabal

Within the setting of a rather liberal university, the topic of wage inequality comes as no shock to any student. Especially over the course of the past year, the overhanging statistic is a familiar phrase to many Americans: for every dollar a man makes, a woman is expected to earn 80 cents. Throughout the past semester I have heard this echoed countless times, from conversations at the dining hall to lectures given by reliable professors. While I agree that it is beneficial to bring attention to this statistic, it is essential to realize that this number does not accurately depict the reality that many women of color face within the workforce. Although white women only make an average of 79 cents to the white man’s dollar, black and brown women tend to consistently earn lesser than their white counterparts, producing a wider and more disparaging difference when it comes to income. While this is certainly a cause of concern, the issue is rarely brought up when discussing the gap. The influence of race is a component that has become greatly ignored, erasing the plight of many struggling women within the United States.

            To assess the full complexity of the issue, we must look at the numbers. On average, black women working full time throughout the year tend to earn 63 cents to each dollar earned by a white man[1]. Native American women fall behind at 57 cents, while Latinas follow with a mere 54 cents per dollar. When comparing the 2018 Equal Pay Day[2]date for each of these groups, the disproportion becomes even more obvious. For white women, the date lies on April 17, symbolizing the sixteen months it takes for a white woman to make the same amount as a white man did in the year 2017. However, for black women, the date lies on August 7th, a full twenty months. Equal Pay Day for native american women lies over a month later on September 27th. The final date falls far behind on November 1, taking the average woman of latin american descent 23 months to make the same amount as a white man made in 12. Screen Shot 2019-01-03 at 11.00.50 AM

            On the other side of the spectrum, asian-american and pacific islander women in particular seem to be at the head of equal pay, with the average being 87 cents per dollar- a full eight cents more than white women. Although this seems to be a major leap for women of color, it is also necessary to discuss the imbalance of income when broken down by ethnicity. Many fall far below the 87-cent mark, a majority being south-east asians and pacific islanders. Burmese women in particular fall at the lowest cent value, earning 51 cents compared to the white man’s dollar[3]. This equates to a difference of roughly $27,000 a year, having a larger imbalance than any other ethnic group. With the poverty rate of the United States’ asian population being 12%, the income gap is a debilitating to many households, 26% of which contain multigenerational families.
            Even with the severity of these statistics, many reports fail to mention the struggle confronted by non-white women. The 80-cent number has been integrated as the norm, disregarding the racial factor that heavily has restrained our black and brown populations. By overlooking these essential figures, we are contributing to the system that has time and time again shoved women to the margins of the workforce, and one that has consistently worked against those of racial minority groups.
            Taking an intersectional approach to these issues is fundamental for understanding the state of current affairs within our country. If we are to recognize the gender wage gap, it should be with all women in mind, not just those at the frontlines of this inequality. Recognizing and demanding just treatment for all is a necessity for closing the famed gap, and can only be achieved by addressing the racial disparity in honest and public conversation.

[1]http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/01/racial-gender-wage-gaps-persist-in-u-s-despite-some-progress/

[2]http://www.equalpaytoday.org/equalpaydays/

[3]http://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/resources/workplace/fair-pay/asian-women-and-the-wage-gap.pdf

8 Feminist Instagram Accounts You Should Be Following

By: Naomi Gewirtzman

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

 

  1. @liberaljane

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

  1. @ocasio2018

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

  1. @bopo_blossom

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

  1. @nowthisher

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

  1. @the_tinder_queen

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

  1. @sheratesdogs

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

 

  1. @catcallsofnyc

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

  1. @florencegiven

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

WMN EMPWRMNT: ISABEL PAILLERE

 

Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?

A: Personally, women empowerment seems to only exist in Dove commercials, rather than an element incorporated into daily life. However, to me, women empowerment is a unification of the female species, wherein our independence and equality are celebrated. I only hope that woman empowerment will become a theme prevalent in daily life and not only existent in commercials. 

 

Q: What does being a woman mean to you?

A: In my perspective, being a woman means being a leader. The fact that we bear novel life with our bodies barely scrapes the surface of what we women have the power to do. Yet, I feel like many people forget that factor, leaving women to be considered as less than. I think individuals will always underestimate us. But as a woman, I believe our duty is to ultimately prove them wrong.

 

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

A: When it comes to women empowerment, I make my own contribution by uplifting women. I am not afraid to positively “hype” someone up if I see a fellow female living their best life. For example, if I see one of my girlfriends working hard and doing well, you must believe that I will applaud her. I think it’s important to support one another because a sweet gesture like that can make someone’s day and as females, I believe we all need to be more proud of each other

Hidden Noodles

by Thuy Anh Tran from Lehigh University

   Hidden Café, which was located on the lower level of building B in my high school, was an ideal place for anyone who needed an escape. This café was not recognized by my high school as an official dining hall, but it secretly opened to serve the growing demand for a small get-away. For straight A students, they came here with the hope of escaping from the cacophony in the hallway to figure out how to calculate the atomic mass of an element. For teachers, they desperately wanted to get away from all the troubles that students created. For rebels, this place was perfect for skipping classes.
   The owner of Hidden Café was Bac Huong, a middle-aged woman who was a high school teacher but then discovered that cooking was her passion. She had a small and slim figure; her short curly salt and pepper hair was meticulously hidden behind a ridiculously giant chef’s hat, and she possessed one of the most high-pitched voice you would ever hear, probably because she used to teach in many classes with sixty students. I called her “Bac,” which means aunt in Vietnamese, as my way to show my respect as well as my endearment to her. “If I had not been a teacher, I would have become a Michelin-star chef!” – Bac Huong confidently claimed. This café was opened as a result of many spontaneous moments.
   “What do you want today? Mian tiao?”
   “Yes, but it is miàn tiáo.”
   “I’m no Chinese. Wait five minutes.”
   Bac Huong enjoyed using some Chinese words that she picked up to tease me as I was a student in Chinese-English class. “Miàn tiáo” means noodles in Chinese, but it was not just any kind of noodles. It was noodles with beef jerky, sausage, mayo and ketchup. Weird. The combination of diverse ingredients could magically blend together, and it turned out to be one of the best dishes that I had ever tasted.
I loved watching Bac Huong making noodles. The main ingredient for this dish was obviously noodles, or Hao Hao noodles, which was only ten cents. The fastest way to cook was to pour hot water into a bowl of raw noodles. Bac Huong never forgot to add some spices, some onions and especially her special sauce (soy sauce). She put a plate on top of the noodles’ bowl so that it would keep the heat inside to cook the noodles. After five minutes, she went to check on the noodles. Then, she cut some boiled sausages that she woke up at 5 a.m. every day to prepare, and added some beef jerky. On top of the noodles, she put some mayo or some ketchup, depending on her mood. This dish had such a special smell that I could immediately recognize before I even arrived at Hidden Café. Within ten minutes, Bac Huong made noodles and eagerly interrogated me about my school life.
   “How’s school?”
   “Do you get a 10 out of 10 on your Chinese quiz?”
   “How did you do on your Math test?”
   The most dreadful question was yet to come.
   “Where are your friends? Call them here.”
   I stayed silent.
   You would not think that such a simple question could hurt you internally. Little did Bac Huong know that she played many roles in my high school life: my “Bac,” my emotional counselor, my teacher and my only friend.
   Who was I in high school? I was a fat kid (yes, I use the F word). I was bullied because my body figure did not comply with the standard measurements for a normal high school girl. Who came up with that anyway?
   That day, a girl in my class who was a close friend of mine suddenly asked me to tell her my body measurements for her “research purpose,” and I was gullible enough to tell her. Classic Mean Girl’s prank.
   The next day I went to class, she greeted me with a special nickname that I would try to forget every now and then: “square” (because my height and my weight looked quite the same). Then, there were “fatty”, “pig”, “rectangle”, “girl without curves”, “fat ugly girl”,… At that moment, my body was heated up with embarrassment. I kept looking down to the floor and closed my eyes so that I could keep my tears and my anger inside.
   I was not ready to face with such a challenge as I never knew there was something called confidence. The feeling that I was missing something inside my soul which needed to be fulfilled haunted me. Later, I discovered that it was validation. There was no class that taught me how to stand up against bullies in high school, which I think it should have had. Therefore, I kept myself safe by creating my own bubble, and never dared to step outside. What choices did I have? Many, but the easiest choice was to hide myself in this little corner of the Hidden.
   How wrong I was.
   The advantage of living in a bubble was that it created a strong shield to protect me from getting hurt, but bubbles could pop at any time.
   When I left for college, I chose not to say good-bye to Bac Huong and the Hidden because I did not want that chapter of my life to end. I would never imagine how difficult it could be to give up eating those delicious noodles.
   Six o’clock. Lower Court. Located in the lower level of the University Center, which reminds me of the Hidden. Lower Court is much more crowded than the Hidden, and students come with the purpose of seeking companions, not hiding. I choose a seat at the corner of the room. I tell myself not to think about Bac Huong’s noodles but it is impossible for me to do so as in college, spaghetti with beef sauce is the closest to what I used to have in the Hidden. Right now, the cooks are busy making spaghetti, but the way they make it is far different from what Bac Huong did. Spaghetti is already cooked from the kitchen before being placed in a large tray. The sauce is separated from the spaghetti, and each person will serve themselves with the amount of sauce that they want. I am struggling to calculate how much sauce I need for one dish of spaghetti, while Bac Huong always knew exactly how much soy sauce I needed for a bowl of noodles. All the cooks are friendly, but no one can speak Chinese to tease me.
   I learned the hard way that leaving was an essential part of growing up. As I grew up from a teenager, I left my favorite teddy bear in the basement. As I grew to become an adult, I left the Hidden and my favorite noodles in Vietnam. Growing up means that we have to leave things behind so that every time we look back, we will say to ourselves: “Oh, how I miss those good old days!”
   I guess I have to grow up now. I have to grow up from Bac Huong’s noodles and start to live my life here at college.
   I realize that I am still in the process of stepping outside my bubble.