Category Archives: Social Media

Q&A with Gladys Vargas

IMG_9138NAME: Gladys Vargas // she, her, hers

MAJOR: Journalism
MINOR: Visual Arts

PROJECTS:
Yoni Ki Baat // Tech, Performer

ABOUT:
I am a student, writer, and artist! I’ve lived in the Greater Boston area my whole life, born to immigrant parents from Venezuela and Puerto Rico (Caribeños wya??) I got involved with activism through my school, community, and church. Being raised Christian especially motivates my work because though it’s been a challenge to reckon with the violence of the church as an institution, as well as exploring my identity as a queer person, I think that loving unconditionally and serving the most marginalized communities is something that the gospel and true social justice work have in common. The work I do right now is through groups on campus, as well as using school assignments as an excuse to learn more about the causes I’m interested in!


Q: Could you explain what Yoni Ki Baat is and your involvement in it?

Gladys: Yoni Ki Baat was brought to BU last year by Ina Joseph (she is a graduating senior this year) and it’s a part of The Vagina Monologues. It’s like the sister show to The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler. But it’s put on by students who write their own monologues, and specifically, they are students of color and non-binary people. Yoni Ki Baat was made to highlight more issues within sexuality at the cross-section of being a woman or being non-binary or being a person of color, because The Vagina Monologues, while necessary, is like a bit dated in it’s content and it’s very white focused and woman focused. I started out doing Tech for The Vagina Monologues and then wrote a piece for Yoni Ki Baat. I wrote it really fast one night and then I didn’t think that I was gonna share it with anyone, really. Then my friends encouraged me to join Yoni Ki Baat and I just felt like sharing anything. So I chose that piece to audition with. And then I kept editing it and it became a really amazing process of working with this amazing group of people. And then also just like coming into my own and realizing different things about the piece that I hadn’t realized before. It became really empowering and fun. We were supposed to have a performance, but that was canceled because of Coronavirus, so we adapted the episodes into a podcast on Spotify

Q: What are some challenges that you see as a student activist on campus? 

Gladys: One of the things that discourages me the most is when people say that they’re supportive, but then they don’t show up with support or when their support is not where it should be. When people post on their Instagram story in support of something, but then they don’t actually do the work of donating or learning more about a certain community it feels like they don’t actually want to get involved in the work. It feels like they’re more invested in trying to appeal to a group of people that are criticizing them for not being involved. 

Q: How do you think we can encourage people to take action beyond just posting on social media in a way that isn’t performative?

Gladys: People have to open themselves to learning because you can’t force someone to learn if they’re not willing to. I think that a really important part of activism is being willing to know that you don’t know everything, even if it’s about a community that you’re a part of. So it’s just being willing to listen to other people’s perspectives and entertain their ideas. Even if you at first are like, oh, that doesn’t seem right at all. Just be willing to listen to it in its entirety and absorb it and really think through it.

Q: What are some right and wrong ways social media can be used as a tool for activism? 

G: I’ll start with the wrong ways to get the negative out of the way. Social media can be such a time suck and something that can make us really stuck in our own heads. It can make us insecure if we’re not using it smartly. We can become really easily jealous of other people or really shameful about ourselves and just feel guilty. There are a lot of negative feelings you can associate with social media and also the laziness that we acknowledged earlier about people posting and thinking that that’s activism in its entirety, or thinking that they know everything about an issue because they saw a video on it. I love social media as a tool for activism because it’s such a great way to learn about other things that you wouldn’t normally learn about and to be connected to people you wouldn’t normally meet. It’s such a global, international platform that allows you to learn about something going on in a different country and see how it relates to something going on in your community or in a state around you. I love that. I think it’s a beautiful way to network. And I’ve been able to connect with people that I wouldn’t otherwise. 

Q: Do you have any favorite Instagram accounts or recommendations?

Gladys: I really like following @ndn.o. They are a graffiti artist and activist who often makes stickers and does work that highlights Native issues. They are someone who does research and takes information from what they know from their community and their experience and highlights it on their page publicly. That was one way that I learned a lot about how the US government is still oppressing Indigenous Americans. So that’s one account that I really like and then I think people should support. But also, @queerappalachia is a great account to explore this huge group of white people that’s oppressed, which is the Appalachian people or people who live in that area. We stereotype Southern people as hillbillies who don’t know anything, but there is a real harm in that stereotype and there are real living, breathing people who aren’t super conservative harmful people living in the South and they are disadvantaged by the same people that people of color and low income people are. I like that account because it highlights that issue in its entirety, especially being queer in Appalachia. I also really like @thefatsextherapist. Her name is Sonalee and is a therapist who does trauma and sex informed work. I found her account really eye opening because we struggle as a society with fatphobia. Her work is so unapologetic in that it says what needs to be said. And then you absorb it and you learn it and you think about how it’s influenced other things in your life. I think that’s really powerful. 

Q: What role do you think that student activists can play in terms of making a change? 

Gladys: I think that if anybody is aspiring to be an activist or considers themself an activist, whether they’re a student or not, what it really means to me personally is paying attention to the ways that people are being marginalized in your space and listening to people when they complain about marginalization. Listen to the most vulnerable populations where you are already and learn how you can help them, because that’s what honest to real activism is. It’s paying attention and being real about what people are struggling with and acknowledging that you may have had a role with it in the past and moving on and learning about it. I think activism is a lot of learning. 

Q: What do you think it means to be an activist? 

Gladys: For a profile I was writing, I interviewed Fiona Phee, who is a great organizer in Boston. She’s the executive director for March for Our Lives in Boston. I asked her a similar question. She was really, really smart and said that there’s a difference between being an organizer and being an activist. Her work is organizing work. But anybody really can be an activist, because if you are surviving the system that you are in, if you are going up and going to work every day or providing for your family or taking care of the people around you, then you’re surviving in a system that wasn’t built for you and that is activist work in itself. Especially because we can often gatekeep the word activist and say you’re not an activist if you don’t do these certain things. And then it becomes a source of shame or anxiety, and that’s not what the work is about. It’s about welcoming people and being ready to see how everybody can fit into this new vision that we have for the future.

Who the #MeToo Movement is Leaving Behind

by Anu Sawhney

This weekend, while watching the Golden Globes, one which left most awestruck by Oprah Winfrey’s fiery acceptance speech, it was another – some might say less glamorous – speech that left me overwhelmed by its importance and clarity. Sterling K. Brown, the star of the NBC series This is Us, made Golden Globe history in becoming the first-ever black actor to win the award in the Best Actor in a TV Drama category. In thanking the creator of the show, Dan Fogelman, he explained how Fogelman “wrote a role for a black man that can only be played by a black man. What I appreciate so much about this is that I’m being seen for who I am and being appreciated for who I am, and it makes it that much more difficult to dismiss me or dismiss anybody who looks like me.”

Herein, I believe, Brown was able to articulate the key to authentic representation on screen. At a time when the most powerful women in the industry wore black in solidarity with those who were silenced by their assailants, I cannot think of anything more important than ensuring that no one feels like their identity is something that can be dismissed. While we can sit here at the precipice of a what feels like a new era and view the MeToo movement as a product of important progress, intolerance, and recognition of the importance of reclaiming our bodies, I’d be one to argue that it is far too little for us to move forward as a society where no one – and I mean no one, is left behind.

As a disabled woman of color, with every “first-ever” moment I can feel my heart race at the ordeal, because somewhere in my mind this means that Hollywood – and, by extension, society – is normalizing diversity and change. And there are strides of progress that have been significant, not only for women but also for women of color. Somehow, though, almost every mainstream conversation in regard to diversity manages to leave out an important minority. 19% of Americans are people with disabilities, making us the largest minority group there is, yet somehow a latent issue outside of activist circles and sometimes, politics. On screen, disabled characters are almost always played by able-bodied actors who are awarded for portraying a disability as a costume that one can simply wear on screen or learn about through others who’ve lived with the disability for a long enough time – only to return to an able-bodied lifestyle. All of those things will remain true as long as roles aren’t given to actors in the way that, as Brown explained, doesn’t allow for the dismissal of the actor’s whole, intersectional identity.

What makes this dismissal harder to accept in the year of the MeToo movement is the findings of a recent NPR study, which shows that people with intellectual disabilities are seven times more likely to be assaulted than people without a disability. Not only is this an epidemic, the victims are described as “easy targets” and it is largely underreported, especially among women who live in group homes. We cannot seriously be having a national discussion about changing mindsets or having a cultural reckoning if we’re not giving the group who have the most to win or lose a seat at the table. This would be a disservice to the victims who have been brave enough to come out, voice their stories to all those they have paved the way for, for whom the movement is created – including the most vulnerable. The harder we are to dismiss, the more important it will be for our voices to be heard.

The Joke That’s No Laughing Matter

By Sabrina Huston

There’s been a joke going around social media lately. “I have PTSD-President Trump Stress Disorder. Impeachment is the cure.” The joke has become popular enough that there is now a t-shirt for sale on websites from sunfrog to amazon including Prime shipping. Articles about “President Trump Stress Disorder” have appeared in numerous publications, including USA Today, the Huffington Post, the New York Daily News, and the International Business Times, often in a mocking light. To use an acronym such as PTSD, which has significant meaning, for this political joke and reality is despicable and inhuman.

Political anxiety is real. Many people are concerned about losing health care or family members and Republicans in Washington continue to ignore the calls of the people. Politically caused anxiety, while it can often be debilitating, is not the same as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and conflating the two is helping no one.

People seeking therapy for anxiety caused by the possibility of their parents or siblings being deported an increasing occurrence should not be mislead into believing they have PTSD. That misbelief can hurt chances of therapy being successful or helpful at all.

But the main problem here is not the serious discussion taking place on some media sites and within the psychological community over how to best assist those who fear family separation through ICE. The problem is that mental illness, especially PTSD, has increasingly become a punchline.

Triggers are a real thing for many people. Some people with depression are triggered by graphic descriptions of violence, as it can remind them of episodes of self-harm. Many veterans with PTSD are triggered by loud explosions, such as fireworks, which can send them into traumatic memories. Memories of my suicide attempts are often triggered by classical music. Not all triggers make sense, but they are all legitimate and should be recognized as such. Despite this, a popular meme has been making fun of people who object to racism or graphic imagery with the phrase “triggered” overlaid on an often blurred picture. The mocking of a serious mental health concern has caused many college classes to stop giving trigger warnings due to a lack of understanding by the administration and professors as to what triggers and trigger warnings are. A trigger warning, or content warning, is a brief blurb of what may cause or trigger someone’s mental illness symptoms. For example, someone with PTSD will often relive a traumatic memory, including emotions, compulsions, and feelings of anxiety or panic. To not give someone a warning and the opportunity to avoid or mentally prepare themselves for whatever is coming is indeed inhuman and uncaring.

Mental health is a serious issue, especially in the US. In 2014 42,826 people committed suicide in the United States, and 383,000 visited emergency rooms from self-inflicted wounds. The number of suicides is still rising, with an estimated 44,193 committing suicide in 2016. Despite this epidemic, we still treat mental health as a joke, on both the right and the left, as can be seen by the “triggered” memes and the “Impeachment is the cure” t-shirt. Mental health is a serious issue that affects people of all races, genders, sexualities, socio-economic backgrounds, and ages. It is not a joke, it is not something that can be used as a scapegoat for gun violence, nor something to be turned into a horror trope. It is a serious issue far too many people are afraid to deal with properly, often for fear of being mocked or harassed. So, the next time you think of reposting a “triggered” meme, or saying you have “President Trump Stress Disorder,” remember this: you’re making it harder for people to take care of themselves.

“Daddy Issues”

As a “daughter of a father” I sometimes think it would be hard to understand men, what they want, and why they behave the way they do, if I didn’t have one. I can understand when the daughters of gay parents (moms) — or in the seriously unfortunate cases where dads end up in jail, leave, or die — find it hard to make sense of them. I get that it can be hard to imagine they would have wants, needs, and boundaries similar to those women have, but you know, they’re people too.

Tati, tata, baba, papa, daddy, dad, father, whatever you call him, it is personal. The devolution of “daddy” to a taboo can attest to this. Over the summer, I was talking to my dad while we made the drive to and from my sister’s college in New York City. The trip was long, and I’m sure it made him more aware than ever that he was losing the women in his life that allowed him to function at an unhealthy intensity at work. You will later see why without us it would not only have been unnecessary, but impossible. We talked about a lot, though most of it was redundant and distressing because it clearly lacked any release. Slowly, I began to realize that his incessant criticism about the way people act was dictated by the priorities society encouraged him to accept. Socializing for what seemed to be the sake of talking was reserved for women, or my mom in particular, and his only job was to work in order to take care of his family (parents, wife, and kids — brothers when he feels like being generous.) Speaking to anyone needed good reasons: sharing political ideas, health, information, business, connections, formalities. Of course, these weren’t invariable missions he set out on as he initiated any conversation, but they were definitely reverberating in the back of his mind.

To him, my mom helping her brother by letting him live with us and finding him a job didn’t make any sense, and wasn’t worth it because her brother was ungrateful. But, my dad knows how women work. Even though he’d constantly remind her that giving anything without foresight wasn’t right, he expected her to “act out.” It didn’t stop there. His degree in economics couldn’t be wasted, so he would analyze each relationship to measure how much they’d cost. In this case he owed my uncle nothing except resentment. He would never communicate to someone who “wronged” him because he was sure they were aware of how they were impacting and insulting him. Additionally, they were easily discarded, because they weren’t part of the work/family deal he signed up for. This would happen with people in and out of the family, and he would act as though it didn’t affect his mental health. I was slightly infuriated by his inability to see the intrinsic value of relationships — that can’t be quantified by ideas or knowledge or money or power, but as a woman I was taught to be tactful in these circumstances. I turned to look at him, and I think I was the first to ever ask him sincerely, “Are you happy?” Seconds ago a flaming rage filled the car, but now I was answered with the chill of silence.

The more distance I have from home, the more objectively I can see these situations. My dad’s personal views about how my mom generally handled things shaped the way I view what is considered “feminine.” Because he was both an expert at assuming the dominant and more knowledgeable role, and because she survived on submission, my views were shaped in such a way that I equated femininity with weakness, passivity, lower intelligence, and being overly nurturing (to the point of neglecting yourself.) More importantly, I saw that he deplored of every one of those qualities. I never hated women, especially not my mom, but I did hate what it meant to be feminine.

I wasn’t the only one. As an adolescent, everyone around me seemed to suddenly start hating pink, admiring heartless “Sherlock” characters, judging based on intelligence and aggression (throwback to king of the hill,) and acting as if they were ok with the fleeting relationships they felt they had with people. Yes, the “I hate pink” phase has faded, yes, we have begun to tell men to “embrace their emotional side,” and yes, some have begun to realize how unrealistic and destructive it is to glorify Sherlock characters. Yet, I fear we are still holding on to the tainted ideas that we should welcome feminism by embracing masculinity and rejecting femininity.

I don’t know about you, but “fierce” and “black woman” have nearly become synonyms in my mind for reasons I’m pretty upset about. Among them is that it’s a reminder that they’re too vocal, that it’s surprising they have shit to say, and that whatever they’re doing is abnormal. I don’t know about you, but I still have problems figuring out how to dress, and rarely consider putting on makeup. This is not for fear of promiscuity, because lucky for me that’s not something I’ve internalized (is it because I haven’t been harassed enough or my weight issues? you tell me,) but for looking too “girly” to be taken seriously. I don’t know about you, but I still feel pride knowing I’ve worked myself too hard today or didn’t sleep yesterday. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure anyone else is more anxious when talking about their feelings than our own generation. In this instance I’m comparing my current experience with my experience in an isolated region of the Balkans, in addition to what I’ve heard coaches say about the 80’s and 90’s. Both tend to be behind in the social scene, but in neither case would people feel awkward saying “I love you” or showing affection in any way. Note: talking about feelings is not the same as sharing personal information, which we tend to do instead. People here and now are more guarded, and superficial things like social media and “hook-up culture” endures, despite everyone being aware of the caveats. Wouldn’t you rather scroll mindlessly through twitter than even attempt to make plans that likely require ridiculous coordination, time spent away from work you should be doing, anxiety about whether you’re worth spending time with, and probably more money than you’d prefer to spend? We are desperately searching for ways to be ok with the deterioration of long-term relationships, and mostly what we have right now is detachment.

What I didn’t realize while marinating in my indignation in the car with my dad, was that women adapted to be exactly what men needed them to be while they were setting out to meet society’s demands of them. For one thing, wives are the single person they are bound to. The single relationship they are obligated to maintain  which should, according to game theory, indicate an optimization of social welfare. Both parties seeking to maximize each other’s outcome to ensure the relationship remains perpetual. Women are not weak, passive, stupid, emotional, or nurturing by nature, but when the only priorities your partner has in life are to work and support the family, the things holding them together are the perceptions that they are strong, aggressive, smart, emotionless, and don’t need support. The same dynamic that may occur in gay relationships leads ignorant people to ask “who is the ‘man’ of the house?” Under the right conditions, these role fulfillment expectations perpetuate themselves. The delicate illusion that gender is related at all to intrinsic qualities continues to wear thin as feminism rises. No gender can be happy with these fundamentally flawed molds they’re expected to adapt to, and moving past them shouldn’t be questioned. But, listen to teachers when they tell you the movement began when women joined the workforce. The implications are significant, because right now we are all facing these ridiculous expectations and have no one to properly fill the shoes of the feminine role — with only a partial exception of pets (insert Rick and Morty reference here.) We can’t forget to analyze what was effective, what wasn’t, and why this discrimination emerged the way it did. Otherwise, we can easily fall into patterns of the past.