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Here’s the graduation advice nobody will ever tell you

I never thought I’d be writing a letter to college graduates, but considering the world that we live in today, and the many terrifying fears I remember going through in the day of and weeks/months/year after graduation, I think it’s definitely more than time for me to plunge into this.

I’ll lead with a disclaimer: take these nuggets of advice and see whether they apply to your life. Not everything will.

I’m not a fan of writing blanket statements, and hell, it’s okay if you’re not in the place many are today. If so, kudos!

1. I know everyone and their mother is already asking what your next steps are, and it’s probably reached a fever pitch, now that you’ve got your diploma in hand.

Here’s the truth: if you don’t know yet, that’s okay. One of life’s biggest secrets is that even the people asking you don’t know what their next steps are. Hell, sometimes they’re just asking in a desperate attempt to get some sort of advice or validation about their lives.

Another secret: once you graduate college, life is fluid. You don’t have to do what others are telling you. Which leads me to my next point…

2. Everyone has a plan for your life post-graduation – but the only one that has the real power is you.

I get it – I’m the oldest child of parents who have big, big dreams for my siblings and myself. I faced a lot of heated discussions the weeks leading up to and following graduation, all of which had the same tone: why aren’t you doing anything with your life?

 Know what that means? It means that your value is inherently determined only if you’re doing what your parents/relatives/friends/strangers deem to be appropriate. And that’s a load of crap.

Know that there will be a different future out there.

It’s a known fact that I worked at Princeton University for two years after graduation, but the thing I didn’t tell those who knew me was that I worked in Staples, struggling to apply to jobs and keep my head up, for the summer following graduation. I had even put in an application for a second job at Chipotle when I received the job offer from Princeton.

I do want to make this clear: in no way did my time at any of the three locations matter more or less than the other. Ultimately, it came down to keeping my head up, surviving incoming bills, and trying to still go after my dreams.

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I was okay with every moment, grateful for the opportunity – even if those who knew, weren’t – because I knew that there’d be a different future out there.

3. Your life in the year after graduation does not determine your worth or future or opportunities. 

Yeah, we all know about that wunderkind that’s got four incredible job offers, acceptance at five Ivy Leagues and a Truman Fellow. Want to know something? They’re just as unsure and insecure about what’s going to happen next, just as you are. And that’s okay. 

The reason “roadmaps” after college don’t really work is because – to be frank – you don’t know how your self and life will shift and morph and grow post-graduation.

You are incredible, no matter how you might feel right now.

What intrigued you during college won’t make you blink in the year after, or five years after. I graduated with a minor in education studies.

Newsflash: I haven’t really used it since then, but that’s okay.

I take it for what it was.

4. It’s okay to be afraid of what happens next.

I’m going to repeat it, just in case you haven’t really understood it: it is more than alright to be afraid of what life looks like ahead.

The biggest crime you could commit in this scenario is to let that fear hold you immobile, hold you back from trying. Don’t let that happen.

Throw yourself into things that just might pique your interest. Try out that internship, pick up a job, do what you can to remind yourself of your value – but don’t give up.

It is okay to be afraid of what life looks like ahead.

Don’t let the fear swallow you up – and if it does, confide in a friend you trust, a mentor – or a therapist.

5. The best part about being done with college is you now have the ability to make your life truly your own.

Regardless of whether you’re back living with your parents, crashing with friends, or living on your own, this is it.

This is life. You’re in full control.

No matter what people might tell you/advise you/berate you/try to drag you down – you’re the one in the driver’s seat. Never let someone strip you of that power. You are incredible, no matter how you might feel right now.

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You have your whole future ahead of you, to make of it what you will.

And that, that is truly empowering. I promise you.

But sometimes it’ll be lonely – which is okay. Hit me up on Instagram if you want to talk things through – even though I graduated years ago, I believe in helping those who need it.

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Introducing Don’t Get Us Started

Two stubborn best friends. One marriage. A whole lot of fun. Every week, Laila Alawa and Afif Rahman tackle everything from cancel culture to spicy food struggles, all with a heavy dose of laughter, real stories, and the occasional guest. Subscribe now and follow the show @dontgetusstartedpodcast on Instagram or at for more information!

The first episode drops on September 17. Tune in every Tuesday!

Produced by The Tempest Studio, an arm of The Tempest

Gender & Identity Life

I’m here to tell you it’s okay to be weird.

Dear back-then Laila,

I’m here to tell you that truly believing in yourself is the most powerful thing you can do.

It’s difficult, I know. You spent your childhood surrounded more by books, siblings, moving boxes and animals than you did around your two friends (who were long distance, but that was okay because you spent hours on the phone with them every week). You were homeschooled since the second grade, you embarked on your own projects just because you were interested in insects or the digestive system or words. You didn’t know what it meant to wait for deadlines and opportunities because you always went ahead and created your own. You grew up surrounded by a self-defined world that most people couldn’t really understand. It was a reality that you thrived in, but as you grew older, the people you ran into told you that you were not allowed to be proud of it.

At first, their words didn’t matter. But they kept being repeated. By people you looked up to, by people you wanted to be friends with, by people you didn’t even really know. Your weirdness was something to be begrudged. Your differences weren’t something to be proud of. You were too other to be a part of us.

The words dug deep underneath your skin, forming roots and self-doubt where there didn’t use to be any. You began to close yourself off from what you could be, intent only on ensuring that you were what others could find palatable. It became a game you played, figuring out what you should be this time, to fit into this group or that cause. You became the ultimate people-person. But you lost your own self.

I know you just wanted friends, but true friends don’t make you change.

I know you wanted to fit in, but fitting in isn’t supposed to mean losing you.

I’m here to tell you that your story is not as strange as you have been led by others to believe. It’s okay to have to work towards accepting yourself but know that the words of those around you mean nothing when you aren’t giving your own self the chance to thrive and be.

I want you to know that your weirdness will be a source of pride for you one day and that your words, once laughed at for being so big, will be words that are read and passed on by those who once scorned you.

It’ll take time. You’ll have to work through the vendetta you are undergoing against yourself. Some days you’ll move forward in self-acceptance, and other days, you’ll fall back on self-doubt. But on the day that you finally regain the joy and thrill of being truly you, you’ll find the world finally lights up around you with the knowledge of your self-worth.

There’s something about embracing yourself that is so full of freedom, of joy, of light. I know you aren’t supposed to take pride in your weirdness, but I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to embrace yourself.

You owe it to yourself to welcome the unknown.

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GIVEAWAY + 7 networking secrets everyone should know

Presented in partnership with Naseba. 

 Let’s face it: meeting people outside of the social space can be a hit or major miss.

Networking events can be one of the scariest parts of being in the workforce. After all, you typically have to be in a cramped space trying to make small talk with people you don’t know, all in the hopes of making better connections for later on. We’re here to change all that, though.

This year, we partnered with Naseba to give you the ultimate ticket to fast-track your career – plus we’re sharing our top tips around how to make the most of networking. Scroll to the bottom to check out our giveaway, where one lucky reader can win a $995 ticket to the 2017 WIL Economic Forum to jumpstart their professional life. Good luck!

Here’s the link to the giveaway.

1. Always, always, always give before you receive. 

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One of the biggest networking mistakes people make is jumping the gun when asking for a favor. One cardinal key of successful networking: Give before you can get. So think of networking like a bank account—you have to make deposits and shore up social capital before making a withdrawal. Immediately add value: how can you help them? What can you offer them? Take the time to learn their goals, and then work to help them achieve those goals – no matter how scrappy you need to be to do so.

2. Instead of trying to connect with everyone, work to connect in an authentic way.


Focus on the person across from you – not on yourself. Everything you do signals who you are and what you stand for, and this move signals that you have empathy.  Take the time to figure out who the “keepers” are in your network, by asking yourself a few questions: Are they generous and do they keep their word? Do your values match? Are there any yellow flags? If so, run – don’t walk. As Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

3. Most networking events are a waste of time – so choose wisely. 


I wish someone told me this years ago before I put down money to enter those events. You know which ones I’m talking about: there’s a half-hearted introduction to the day by the host/ess, then everyone goes back to eating food and staying with the friends they came to the event with. You meet maybe one person if that, and leave disappointed and tired. Instead of that, get in the right room. Where do the people you want to network with hang out? Go places where there are people smarter than you and have the resources you need in order to be able to achieve your goals.

4. Understand that everyone’s probably feeling as awkward as you are. 


Do you ever go to an event or a conference and just look around the room? While you probably see lots of people talking to each other, you will also probably see several people sitting at tables looking through the event guide or talking on their phones. These people are probably nervous about talking to new people, so they are avoiding it by looking busy. You can help these people by introducing yourself. See, they probably want to approach total strangers, but they just find it hard to break the ice. You can come along and make life a little easier for them, which could lead to some interesting opportunities.

5. If you’re trying to get an “in” with someone specific, do it carefully. 

The Fader

Stalk them–gently. Scour the company website. Search for local and national news stories about the firm. Identify that one person (the asset), preferably a sharp, hungry someone well short of the C-suite, but whose star is on the rise. Start with her bio, then dig deeper. You can learn more than you think from Twitter and Instagram feeds: Think food porn and article postings don’t matter? Study those, and you learn what really matters to someone. This might sound weird, but you’ve probably done it once or twice before in other circumstances – you’re just being smart about how you’re approaching the situation.

6. Drop the small talk – nobody really wants to talk about the weather, anyway. 

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After that initial “hey!” it’s okay to be yourself. Ask the other person what their goals are, instead of asking them what their job is. Share your dreams, goals, and challenges – and then ask how you can help them. It might take your contact by surprise, but her answers will tell you a story. Stories lead to a real conversation – and that real conversation leads to a sincere connection. During the conversation, know that your efforts won’t work if you aren’t being sincere. Always keep your eyes trained on the person across from you, put your phone away, and listen intently.

7. Pull – never, ever push.

Networking is all about conversation. It is also about finding out more about the other person than telling them about you or your company. Napoleon Hill tells a story about how he went to a dinner party, and afterward, the hostess thought he was the most charming man in the world. Why? Not because he talked about himself, but because he kept the conversation focused on the hostess by asking her questions. You have to earn the right to be heard about what you do and what you want to accomplish. People really don’t care about what you do until they know that you care about what they do. So, don’t push a conversation. Instead, gently pull on it by asking people about themselves.

I can tell you the number of times I’ve sat down with an aspiring entrepreneur or media personality, only to be bored to tears forty-five minutes later with their stories. Don’t make it about you. Make it about the both of you.

In case you missed it earlier in the piece, here’s the link to the giveaway.

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The Tempest is committed to leading the accessibility movement in media

When we first began The Tempest in early 2016, our company ethos was crystal-clear: evolving global conversations using inclusivity and diversity through every facet of our work. It is an ethos that has allowed us to compete alongside older, more established media entities, a set of values that every person on the team espouses on a day-to-day basis.

Through the lens of inclusivity and diversity as core values, growth took off – and continues to do so – with the conversations, realizations, and messages our platform fosters daily reaching millions from more than ninety countries across the world. Between 2016 and 2017, our audience grew by 500%. Our audience is composed of engaged, enthusiastic individuals who are seeking out their place in the world – mostly women, mostly politically engaged, and tapped into a larger reality that stretches far beyond their zip code.

Quite simply, our audience reflected our team at Tempest HQ – people we’d love to grab a coffee (or chai!) with to discuss anything from technology to travel, beauty to cultural realities.

As a young media company, our team consistently makes an effort to step back and gauge how we’re doing – and what we can do better. To stay stagnant is to strip our mission of its effectiveness, and besides – experimentation and smart pivoting is part of how The Tempest thrives.

[bctt tweet=”Tempest HQ has decided to actively incorporate accessibility into every initiative.” username=”wearethetempest”]

With that in mind, we came to the realization that while we were practicing inclusivity for much of our audience, we were falling short for a significant demographic: people with disabilities. With more than 1.3 billion self-identifying people with disabilities in the world, we were doing a disservice to crucial members of the world by failing to fully optimize our offerings for their consumption, too.  

Rather than attempt to brush this realization under the table, Tempest HQ has decided to actively incorporate accessibility into every initiative and product offering. Our pivot is spearheaded by our Co-Founder and CTO, Mashal Waqar, who notes that, “As a company, we have a considerable amount of power in shifting norms and expectations. As such, we are prioritizing and employing techniques to make sure our content, in all formats, including audio and video, will now be fully accessible. Quite simply, we are here to prioritize accessibility because it is a human right.”

[bctt tweet=”With inclusivity and diversity as core values, growth took off and continues to do so.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Through this shift, we hope to see more corporations, media outlets, and organizations move in a fully inclusive, accessible direction that brings the entire world to the table. We are still a ways from a world in which everything is accessible, but things are changing.

The Tempest is committed to being at the forefront of the accessibility movement.

Love Life Stories

My father decided to ruin my life when my parents got divorced

I always thought that seeing your parents getting a divorce would be easier when the children were older, more accomplished, and on their own.

At least, that’s what I had hoped for last year when my mom and dad decided to split up after almost 33 years together.

It’s true that our home was not always a happy home; at least within the last 10 years. Growing up, things seemed to be perfect. We took family vacations, we had family dinners, our parents encouraged my two sisters, brother, and I to be outgoing, independent, and intelligent. Then, somehow, things turned around.

And without going into detail, our life started taking a turn for the worse. The arguing between my parents became unbearable, but my siblings and I threw ourselves into work and school. Sometimes things would be great; months would go by without incident. Then the fighting would start again, and throw us all into a whirlwind of emotions.

For the last ten months, I have experienced every emotion possible.

I’ve felt pity for my parents, both having to deal with this crisis after a lifetime together- one that included a family business, four kids, a trans-Atlantic move, and countless medical scares. I’ve felt pain at the memories so devastatingly clear in my mind; memories of just a year ago, living together as a family, laughing around the dinner table. Or remembering our family picture taken at my sister’s wedding in August of 2013, all of us so regal and smiling at the camera.

And I’ve felt shame; shame that I, a 32-year-old woman, now have parents who are divorced.

Oh, I know that many people divorce. Yet there is still a taboo about this subject, and I see it in people’s eyes when we meet for the first time. I hear it over the phone when friends I’ve known for a while find out for the first time.

The shame is so heavy, I feel suffocated by it some days.

I know it’s silly to care what others think. I know that my mom will be happier in the long run, even though she is miserable right now. But I never counted on retaliation from my father towards us all. And I think that is what hurts the most.

For 32 years, I had a father. Yet as of late, he has disconnected himself from my siblings and me, claiming he never had kids. And no matter what anyone tells you, a child needs their father at any age. I can’t imagine living the rest of my life without a connection with him. He has done things that any person would see as unforgivable, but deep down inside, I cannot hate him.

I sit at night and cry over the fact that no matter how awful he has been to me, I cannot let him go. And I know I should because he has done so with me.

I just can’t.

Would it have been easier had this happened when I was a child? Would all those years without him have been unnoticeable if he had left us as young children? Or does it just seem harder now because it is happening right now- in this moment?

Maybe things could have been easier had my parents split up when we were younger, but it also could have been harder since my mom would have had to support four young children on her own. Knowing the sacrifices she has made over the years only makes me admire her more. Her strength served us well through that tough time.

It’s never easy when you see your parents divorce.

A lot of times, even if it is mutual, just the shift in family structure is enough to create a challenge. And when the divorce is anything but amicable, it creates an even bigger challenge.

Even without knowing it, the children are sometimes pulled in the middle, used as pawns to hurt the spouse. So while I know it is definitely not easier to experience divorce as an adult, I am more equipped emotionally to deal with it.

At this point, that’s the only shred of positivity from this experience.

Gender & Identity Life

I got pushed out of my Hillel because I was pro-Palestine

Yes, my Arabic is better than my Hebrew. Yes, I wear jallaba out in public sometimes. Yes, I make my own henna. Yes, Jewish mothers – I have dated Muslim men. I eat kosher and halal. I oppose extreme Zionism. I have close Muslim friends. Because being anti-Semitic is also being Islamophobic.

My experiences in college were really what brought me out of my shell of ignorance. Coming from a Reformed-Jewish, Zionist religious background, I never knew much about Muslims, outside the few attending my high school and what I’d heard in Sunday school lectures.

The first Muslim friend I made in college was a girl named Mariam. We met at a Muslim Student Association icebreaker in 2009. She introduced me to other sisters, and as I met Anisa, Shukri, Amel, and Shamima, I slowly learned more and more about Islam. Then in the spring semester, my world changed.

I registered for an Arab cinema class, where 90 percent of the students spoke Arabic. I met my Kuwaiti gal friend, Hissa, and my Palestinian “sister” Dahlia – though I called her my twin because we looked so similar.

“The world is our classroom,” Dahlia once told me. “We need to get to know our classmates and be nice to our teachers.” Her words were the water that helped nurture my thirst for learning about others. Through my cinema class, I connected with my most loving and open-minded professor: my Arabic professor.

She’s now a second mother to me. She showed me how similar my Jewish heritage is to that of the Middle Eastern and North African cultures, and Islam itself. Being Libyan and Egyptian, she always told me about her Jewish friends from her childhood, how all three religions coexisted, and the stark similarities Arabic and Hebrew have. We bonded over our shared love of traditional dances and music.

Through my professor, I met my Qatari friend Reem. Reem is a fashionable hijabi and columnist who does diplomatic work, and loves coffee and activism as much as I do. I’d never met a Qatari woman before, and was amazed at her liberalness and her willingness to attend her Jewish friend’s college-budget Passover seder. Before she returned to Qatar, she even joined me at the campus synagogue’s Yom Kippur/High Holiday services. From our beautiful friendship, I learned you can be a stylish, strong and forthright woman in a Gulf country where your editorials will be challenged by many. I always try to follow her example and have learned to embrace my identity.

Thirsty to learn more, I studied abroad for a year in Meknes, Morocco. I assimilated myself with the traditions, the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, and the beautiful people I encountered. I wore jallaba, drank shay bil-nana (tea with mint), hung out with my Moroccan classmates, and attended synagogue with the Sephardic Moroccan Jews. The intangible and diverse culture that is Morocco grew my determination to destroy xenophobia and Islamophobia.

Before I left for Morocco, I’d already been an activist for Palestinians.

I posted a video on Facebook, soon after the movie Avatar came out, where activists from Israel, Gaza, and worldwide painted themselves like the Na’vi natives from the popular film. They were being colonized by power-hungry humans, which activists used to symbolize the Palestinians’ situation under Israel.

My Hillel director was unamused by my controversial posts. Needless to say, they’re now hidden from her news feed.

My Moroccan living bled into the rest of my time back at university. I returned from my trip to a new Hillel director, who saw that I could add some change and spice to our contradictory Jewish organization. Alhamdulillah, she was very tolerant of my views and ideas. Though a lot of my inclusive ideas, such as interfaith Jewish high-holiday celebrations, were shut down at board meetings, I brought my non-Jewish friends to Hillel Shabbat services whenever I could. My friend Lauren, too, brought along international students of various backgrounds: Muslim, Indian, German, Christian, whatever it may be.

Even with our bit of inclusivity, like inviting Muslim friends to attend certain Israel-themed events, I felt like an outcast. My ideals didn’t fit the organization’s platform and agenda. Once the year ended, I had enough and left Hillel’s board. I attempted to start a new organization that included everyone. It fell through, but the spark never died.

Last year, Hillel’s director changed once more. He was less than accepting of Jews with different views. I found that out after I invited Hillel, along with other student organizations, to join a peaceful Solidarity Walk. It was for a group in Israel that does monthly walks with Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, Israelis, Palestinians, etc.

He was the only organization director to ask me not to post “political” events on Hillel’s Facebook page, saying, “Hillel doesn’t participate in political events.” Wow! Little did he know that I was once a board member, and I knew Hillel is really all about politics. The man who facilitated the walks is a Jewish-Israeli himself.

I began to feel like such an outcast in the small Hillel community, and I started coming to fewer and fewer events. I went to Shabbat with my Muslim and Christian friends on occasion but refused to become closely involved with Hillel again after I experienced immense rudeness from the director. Point blank, he didn’t like me bringing Muslims to events.

“Hillel has always been pro-Israel,” he told me. Well, wouldn’t it be better if Hillel was pro-peace and still focused on Jewish-living? He didn’t like my views, of course. That was fine with me, though as a seasoned “Hillelite,” I didn’t expect such blatant rudeness.

Despite falling out with Hillel, my Muslim and Jewish friends always went to one other’s events. I’ve attended Jumma prayer services, while my Muslim friends have gone to the local synagogue with me. The MSA was always welcoming and warm, being the first to reach out and include Hillel to their services and inquiring about starting interfaith events with them. They were named the Most Inclusive Organization on campus in 2013 just as Ramadan ended, which speaks for itself as far as their progress in interfaith action. My Arab friends and I hold dozens of religious and political discussions, inevitably ending with coffee or something halal-slash-kosher. (Honestly, they’re pretty much the same.)

Look: I am a Jewish-American woman with Muslim and Arab friends. I will always have Muslim friends who want to make challah, learn Hebrew and ask about Judaism. We’ll keep getting together with tea or soda, henna, a few Bollywood films, and delicious halal or kosher foods. They’ll keep celebrating Passover with me, and I’ll continue to attend Iftars and protest air strikes on Palestine alongside my Arab friends.

I want to work toward a world where pluralism is the norm, social justice creates love, and where interfaith marriage between Muslims and Jews is not protested. Because I will always fight for peace, social justice, and pluralism. I will call out Israel when I believe an injustice has been done. I am no longer afraid to stand my ground for my beliefs.

Notes from the Editor Announcements

The Best of The Tempest: 2016 Edition

Every week, The Tempest publishes dozens of articles, covering everything from forbidden relationships to the latest in computer security. But what makes one truly stand out with our incredible global audience?

The most popular features of 2016 were an intriguing mix of frustrations around today’s cultural norms (think: unjust rulings around campus rape), the useful (like what kind of hashtag your wedding definitely needs to have), and the fun (like what it really means to change a globally-recognized type of food). 

In so many ways, 2016 was the year that The Tempest set its stake into the ground as the media and tech company to seek controversial perspectives, raw narratives, and groundbreaking scoops around current issues. As we look forward to 2017, I am incredibly proud to be able to bring what was once a vow to my teenage self to never let another female-identifying person feel silenced, ignored or marginalized to life.

Before we get into the meat of this roundup, I invite you to explore the special editorial picks for each of our verticals:

Culture & Taste picks curated by Saffiyya Mohammed, Senior Community Editor
News, Politics & Race picks curated by Asma Elgamal, Senior News & Society Editor
Life & Love picks curated by Nadia Eldemerdash, Managing Editor
Tech & Money picks curated by Mashal Waqar, CTO & Co-Founder
Pop & Trends picks curated by Chelsea Ennen, Pop & Trends Editor
Beauty & Vogue picks curated by Narmeen Saiyed, Executive Producer
Science picks curated by Sana Saiyed, Science Editor

Relive the year through the lens of The Tempest in the articles you read and shared the most:

1. Dear rapists, I don’t give a f*ck about your future by Chelsea Hensley

You’re not a “good kid.” You’re a rapist. And your future isn’t more important than justice for the person you raped. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be.

2. I don’t need to “pray about it,” I need to go to therapy by Maya Williams

“It’s all in your head. God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

3. These Babson College frat bros messed with the wrong Wellesley women of color – because we fought back by Jalena Keane-Lee

After a night that can only be described as a horrific emotional roller coaster, Wellesley students awoke to the first day of Trump. This is what went down.

4. Step away from the wedding hashtag generator and try these 10 tips instead by Hannah Alkadi

You don’t have to say “I do” to a basic wedding hashtag.

5. I hope you die from yellow fever by Caressa Wong 

“Yellow fever” was once a potentially fatal virus. Now, it’s a potentially fatal social concept.

6. I had an abusive relationship with my best friend by Anonymous

I was heartbroken when the only person I trusted decided to take advantage of me.

7. We have a serious marriage crisis by Yasmine Shaikh

I called one guy out on all of his lies, and he told me that I was an ungrateful woman who would never get married.

8. 5 women in punk and metal who give zero f*cks about their bitch face by Esther Meroño Baro

They’ve taken on the burden of leading conversations on inclusivity while totally slaying the music biz.

9. My faith is constantly questioned because I don’t wear hijab by Anonymous

There are some words that are hard to forget, words like, “Every strand of hair that I see on your head is a sin.”

10. “Deconstructed” biryani is an embarrassment for us all by Mashal Waqar

Anyone who’s ever had biryani knows it’s a complicated dish. Deconstructing it is not art, it’s an abomination to the world.

Notes from the Editor Life Announcements

Dishing on our cultural trials and triumphs: The best of Culture & Taste 2016

2016 hands down has been one of the most challenging years for so many of us. When it was good, it was incredible, and when it was bad, it felt like the worst, ever.

Since The Tempest‘s launch in March 2016, things have been really busy. So many diverse women want to share their stories and they have, but many others are still hiding, afraid to do so.

This year we’ve led the way in talking about the issues that face us, and continue to be committed to share those authentic narratives The Tempest is known for. From New Zealand to Egypt,  New York City to Grenada, our writers span the globe, sharing their experiences, dreams, and challenges.

I’ve been in awe reading the stories of these phenomenal women, who for so long, have been told that their perspectives and experiences didn’t matter- that no one wanted to read them. The Tempest has flipped that script – you absolutely do matter, and we want to share your tales.

One thing that I’ve learned this year is that there’s so much more waiting for you just outside your comfort zone.

Taking the leap is scary but it’s SO worth it.

It’s difficult to choose just five, but here’s my #BestofTheTempest2016:

1. I won’t apologize for not being married. 

A shameless plug for myself as a writer but I’ve included it because it was something I was nervous about writing and required vulnerability to do it, and I’m absolutely glad that I did. It may just be my favorite piece I’ve written thus far.

2. Don’t let anyone shame your wedding fantasy.

Being feminist doesn’t mean you can’t be romantic, which I think can be a common misconception with the label feminist. I loved the way this article showed that it’s not an either or situation but you can easily be both feminist and romantic, and being romantic doesn’t detract from that. Something I can completely relate to.

3. I come from a long line of women who disobeyed society’s rules.

2016 made you want to throw your hands in the air and give up. There are so many gems in this powerful piece which I think embodies so much of what The Tempest is about; for one, smashing the patriarchy. I think it’s inspiring when we can look to women in our family as trailblazers and when we think of hard times remember what they endured, and that gives me strength to continue.

4. My skin might be brown but my mother thinks that my mental health is white.

As the Senior Community Editor, there are some pitches I receive which gives me chills, and this is one of them. This piece talking about a life long battle with mental health issues, is so raw and encapsulates the authentic narratives The Tempest is known for. I was honored that she wanted to share her story with us.

5. Being broken down was the most freeing moment of my life.

I love this article because it was spot on about going out of your comfort zone, and taking things one at a time when you feel like your life has completely fallen apart. I know exactly how she feels and reading this gives me hope and helps me remember how to take those first steps to mending those broken pieces.

Reading the life stories and thoughts of our array of writers this past year, has given me motivation to keep moving on. Now more than ever, the voices of diverse millennial women who’ve been othered need to be told, and we’re here to tell it.

Gender & Identity Life

The problem with being first: The dangers behind being the token hijabi

The undercurrents of this issue have been rumbling throughout the community, and it’s time for someone to get up and speak up about it. Granted, don’t read this if you’re looking for something sugary sweet and devoid of reality. I don’t have time to waste when it comes to an issue as tangible, problematic and immediate as this. Nor am I here to backbite, so if you’re looking for quick gossip, check out Perez Hilton.

Last I heard, he’s still going strong.

I’m here to confront the issue of the phenomenon that has begun gaining traction in our Muslim American community, the chance to be the first hijabi to do SOMETHING. I’m talking about the women that want to be the first hijabis to be news anchors, the first to be professional photographers, basketball players, the list goes on. These women aren’t shy about sharing their dreams, either, and people go wild over their goals. She wants to be the first hijabi to fly a plane? LET’S FEATURE HER EVERYWHERE. The women gain fame quickly, their fans doting Muslims from within and outside America, predominantly young women that look up to these girls.

[bctt tweet=”She wants to be the first hijabi to fly a plane? LET’S FEATURE HER EVERYWHERE. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

But there are a few serious repercussions as a result of this phenomenon, and it’s time someone says something about them.

The beautiful thing about being Muslim American women is that we have women of all walks of life, backgrounds, levels of faith, and interests. Our community boasts women that choose to wear hijab — and those that choose not to wear hijab. In the “journey” to be the “first hijabi something,” our community has begun conflating that with being the “first Muslim American woman something,” in effect, telling Muslim women that do not cover and are already first at the scene of achievement that they weren’t Muslim enough. Alienating part of our community is a loss to us all. There are so many in the community who have “made it” on the basis of work and talent, but we choose not to bring them to the forefront, passing them over instead for those that fit more nicely in the perfect Muslim American woman paradigm.

In calling out these women, it is important to recognize that this is not an attempt to delegitimize the advancements that we, as Muslim Americans, are making as a community. I believe that trying to be the “first hijabi to do something” fails to allow for a more genuine discussion of our progress. What one person achieves does not take away, ultimately, from the infinite pool of potential achievements.

In trying to advance the community, however, we need to begin critically examining what we give merit to. Instead of giving prizes to every individual trying to make it in the world based on faith identity (and that includes the hijab), we need to begin fostering the advent of hard work and perseverance.

Claiming your identity (faith or otherwise) as being the impetus for your success instead of your hard work and skills means, quite simply, that if you fail in the endeavor, it’s so easy to accuse the world of failing you because you are a hijabi/Muslim/vegetarian, rather than failing because you just are not there yet.

[bctt tweet=”Serving as the diversity quotient means that you will not be able to create true change.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Furthermore, it’s time that we move our community beyond being happy simply with the “rah! rah! diversity feature!” phenomenon that many of us fall into. This happens when you put your identity first, instead of letting it peek through around the talent and work you put in to get to the next level. While many argue the benefits in tokenization, the truth of it is remains that making it based simply off your hijab/faith/ethnic identity and not your experiences, work and skill creates a hole from which you cannot escape: forever will you simply be a token of your identity, tapped to speak ONLY on your identity.

Serving as the diversity quotient means that you will not be able to make a true change to the community, since you are stuck in your inherent identity, unable to cause real ripples in the larger community, beside your initial diversity debut. It was something even the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) saw, underscoring the need for Muslims to be enmeshed in the larger society they are a part of.

[bctt tweet=”You cannot just jump the system and expect things to be anything short of precarious. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

In any aspect of life, regardless of where or who you are, this remains true. In order to get to where you want to be, you first have to lay down the groundwork. You cannot just jump the system and expect things to be anything short of precarious. Granted, this route is the harder one.

Making it based on talent, experience and work is more difficult that the quick burst of fame gained through identity. Yet that is the only way we can expect the Muslim American community to make strides forward. When the day comes that we have a Muslim American woman make it, it’ll be the day that her identity is just another part of her, not the reason she was catapulted to fame. Otherwise, we really have not made it. We just will think we have, and that’s what needs to be changed. Period.

Politics The World

I need more than just your safety pin

I’m not sure how to best convey this message to those who have consolidated their regret, remorse and perhaps guilt at voting/not voting/wasting their vote down into the tiniest possible form of resistance: a safety pin.

You know, the thing you can get in any convenience store? The product that’s never sold in a pack of one, that’s worth close to nothing to purchase?

Yeah. That one.

I don’t need your cheap, low-commitment, ridiculous attempt at showing “solidarity” with myself and people like me. See, here’s the thing: when I’m out and about in the real world – you know, the one off of social media, the one where a demagogue is quite literally assembling an administration that rivals history’s most horrific leaders – I’m focused on not just surviving. I’m focused on thriving.

And I have learned, time and again, that those who say that they’re on my side during an instance of assault, harassment, or taunting only come out and say it after the hate incident finishes.

See, I’ve been here in the United States since I was six years old. As a teenager, I had men harangue me on buses and trains, and had to swallow my fear and stand up for myself because the people around us in those packed buses and trains all seemed to be busy during the harassment.

I know people whose scarves have been ripped off publicly, and nobody in their vicinity did or said anything. My friends have been stalked and harassed in person and online for their faith, and nothing was done.

This past summer, I was attacked by thousands of alt-right evangelicals, and I was told by officials sworn to protect the public that “everyone dies” when I showed them the death threats.

And you’re telling me that your moment of solidarity, your attempt to assuage your guilt, your only action is to put on a safety pin? And that this solidarity is only happening because that shit’s viral now?


Who’s going to look for that safety pin on those around them when they’re fearing for their life? Nobody, that’s who.

That’s because that safety pin is as useless in the real world as our President Elect’s plan to force another country to pay for a massive wall.

Without your organizing, public speech, action, donations, and efforts to ensure that our country doesn’t move hundreds of years back, that safety pin means nothing to me. I showed up and voted against hate – where were you? Did you work to get out the vote prior to elections? Did you speak out against hate speech of all forms among your friends, family or coworkers?

Hell, if you’re wearing that safety pin, are you standing up for my rights even when you’re in a conversation that turns bigoted, and it’s not really that trendy to speak up?

Are you holding your elected officials accountable for their complacency amidst what might just be a hellish next four years for people of color, undocumented immigrants, religious minorities, and the LGBTQI community?

And by that, I don’t mean writing a cute little Facebook status or comment. I don’t mean tweeting at your official. I don’t mean buying a coffee.

I mean doing something. Standing for something, even if it terrifies you. Making a difference.

Because, guess what, my dear-safety-pin-wearing-friend? Standing up for the rights of the disenfranchised might be terrifying, but it’s even more painful being one of them. So your weak attempt at “making a difference” isn’t something I count.

Your solidarity isn’t enough. Your smile isn’t enough. Your half-assed whisper to me about “standing strong” following a hate incident I have to stand through on my own isn’t enough.

I don’t need your damn safety pin. I have my own.

I don’t need anything from you. In fact, more than ever before, the person who needs support the most is you: person who feels the need to wear the pin. But you won’t get it until you start showing up for everyone else, and choose to set aside your cheap attempt at self-congratulating-at-being-such-a-great-ally.

Because we don’t give a damn about safety pins when hate crimes are on the rise. And we won’t give a damn about cheap solidarity as long as there’s action that can be taken.

And trust me, if I needed a safety pin to save me from a hate crime, I have more than enough hiding in my turban to use.

There. I said it.