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I tried free bleeding into cloth period pads. This is what really happened

Presented in partnership with Lunapads.

I have been wary of reusable pads because they seem unsanitary, inconvenient, or both.

Although I know people who have tried alternative products with great results, I mostly stayed away from reusable pads and menstrual cups.

Partly because I’m stubborn about changing my ways, but mostly? Because I’m lazy. Throwing out – and quickly forgetting about – an old tampon or pad always seemed much easier than going through the trouble of washing a reusable menstrual product.

But I also recognize just how bad disposable pads and tampons can be. For one, women’s bodies suffer: there has recently been more research on the chemicals in traditional, disposable tampons and pads, and the results are alarming, to say the least. Dioxins, chemicals that are known human carcinogens and the byproducts of the bleaching process, are found in tampons and of course, pads and tampons are expensive: a woman will spend about $1,800 throughout her lifetime on period products.

So, I caved in.

I decided to give Performa Pads by Lunapads a try. I’m all for normalizing the period and I wanted to challenge my own preconceptions about washable pads (while also saving some money).

Another disclaimer: I hate pads – have since I was in high school. I usually stick to tampons and light liners, because wearing a pad literally feels like I’m wearing a diaper. Which is a totally uncool feeling when I’m trying to work, go to class, hit the gym, hang out with friends, or literally any other waking activity. So I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Performa Pads.

I chose the Performa Mini and the Performa Maxi: both are super absorbent, and one of these pads is equal to three tampons or three disposable pads. As soon as I took them out of the package, I was skeptical. The pads felt too… normal. 

Here’s how my four-day period week went down in my new pads.

Day 1: Heavy flow means…possible leakage?

The first few days of my period tend to be the heaviest for me. On the first day, I used the Performa Mini, because it’s smaller and more discreet than the Maxi. I decided to go all in and continue about my day as I normally would. I was worried about the pad sliding around or being uncomfortable at the gym, but there were no issues.

I worked out, as usual, doing cardio, abs, and doing several different weight machines, and the pad stayed in place the whole time.  I immediately noticed how soft and unobtrusive they are, even while doing harder physical activities, like exercising.

I wore the pad to work later that evening. I work at a retail store, and my job includes a lot of walking, bending, and general activity. I noticed throughout the day how little I thought about the pad; it wasn’t annoying like a disposable pad. It was comfortable and super absorbent, and I forgot I was even wearing it while rushing around at work.

And, as much as I love to exercise, I also love to sleep, and the Maxi ended up being perfect for nighttime (and taking casual midday naps). In the past, I’ve found that disposable pads move out of place during the night, but the pads never leaked, and my underwear was spared.

Day 2: The ultimate test

I washed the Mini that morning and continued to wear the Maxi until the other pad was dry. Washing the pads was much easier than I anticipated, so I definitely don’t have a valid excuse anymore to keep tossing out used pads and tampons. I machine-washed them in hot water with my regular clothes.

Looking back, I realize that at least some of my discomfort with these sorts of pads was my misconception about the lack of sanitation, but in reality, they’re not difficult to clean, nor do they stain the rest of my laundry. They air-dry quickly without losing shape, becoming lumpy, or losing their soft texture. Lunapads includes cleaning instructions with your package of goodness, and there are actually several ways to wash the pads, so you can choose which method works best for you.

I wore the pad during a horseback riding lesson and it turned out better than expected. Riding, and particularly jumping, guarantees a lot of movement for the rider.

Walking on a treadmill is one thing, but flying over jumps with your ass sticking out in the air? That is quite another. I’ll be honest: I was shocked by how the pad stayed in place. And since it didn’t get bunched up or lumpy like a disposable pad, I could ride without being distracted by any discomfort.

The author rides a horse.
[Image description: The author rides a brown horse.]
That night, I switched out my pad again. I didn’t mind washing them every day for this trial week, but if you decide to go the route of the Performa Pads, I would definitely recommend starting out with a decent supply so you can go a few days without running out.

Day 3: The lighter days are here again

By day three or four of my period, my flow tends to get lighter. So far, I had not experienced any leaking, and the heaviest days were over!

The pads truly are absorbent and keep you feeling dry. On day three, I worked an overnight shipment at my job, meaning I had to put boxes of new shoes and replenishment out on the floor. This means that I’d be hustling all over the store, quickly putting shoes in their proper places and helping my manager lift boxes. The pad didn’t restrict my movement, and once again, I continued with hard physical activity without any problems.

And unlike a disposable pad, the Performa Pads don’t crinkle or irritate the skin. Some disposable pads have given me small rashes in the past, but these pads were barely noticeable – and didn’t hurt me in the least.

Day 4: We’re almost done!

My periods are short due to my IUD, so by day four, my period was almost done. I wore my Mini to another riding lesson, and then swapped that out for a wash and changed into my Maxi for dinner with friends. I wore a dress and had no problems.

A group of five women standing together.
[Image description: The author stands in front of a tree with four of her friends.]
I might have shamelessly plugged Performa Pads to them over drinks, but can you blame me?

I also like how there is no foul smell associated with them. I feel like disposable pads aren’t absorbent enough and they end up smelling bad after a few hours, which used to make me very self-conscious. Or they’re scented, which is almost worse. But the pads easily wick moisture away and don’t smell bad.

The final verdict: 

Overall, I had a great experience with my Performa Pads, and I’ll never scoff at reusable menstrual pads again. These are not messy and they’re more convenient than I thought they would be. I like the fact that they don’t get in the way of all the activities I do. I’m giving these a 10 out of 10.

I am constantly moving, whether I am at my riding lessons, at the gym, or fixing the sales floor at work. I’m really active, and I don’t want to feel restricted by the menstrual product I use. I also felt less wasteful because I wasn’t throwing out pads and tampons. Yay, environment!

SO. Now that you know what worked for me (yay Performa Pads!), take this cool matchmaker quiz and see what works for you. Because nobody’s body is the same – and I definitely figured that out the hard way.

Having your period is not fun for anyone, so #treatyourself, right?

Editor's Picks TV Shows Pop Culture

ABC only cancelled “Roseanne” because the truth behind the reboot came out

If we’re being completely honest, I’ve avoided writing about the reboot – and now, much-deserved cancellation – of Roseanne, because I’m tired of racists, xenophobes, and Trump supporters getting a platform and receiving validation.

I wanted to ignore the topic altogether because I didn’t want to give Roseanne the attention Trump so avidly believes it deserves. I didn’t want to contribute to Roseanne Barr’s Google searches. I didn’t want to seek out the episodes and give them more views than they were already racking up. I refused to give Barr, her coworkers, and the producers of the show any more time in the spotlight; I was attempting to deny Roseanne the affirmation the rest of the world seemed to be bestowing so carelessly upon it.

But ABC’s decision to cancel the show spurred me to thoroughly trash Roseanne 2.0 because of the network’s decision to bring it back in the first place.

I’m not buying ABC’s statement about Roseanne Barr’s racist, Islamophobic tweet about Valerie Jarrett, in which Barr says of Jarrett: “Muslim brotherhood and planet of the apes had a baby.” ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey insisted that Barr’s heinous Twitter tirade is “abhorrent,” repugnant,” and “inconsistent” with the network’s values.

If this is true, why did ABC give her this reboot in the first place?

Trump’s treatment of women and his defense of white supremacists is abhorrent. His supporters’ public, violent mistreatment of Muslims, immigrants, and anyone who isn’t white and/or doesn’t speak English as a first language is repugnant. And Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and his subsequent silence of the slaughter of Palestinians, is inconsistent with world values.

Living in Trump’s America isn’t a comedy. It’s hell for millions of people.

Roseanne, as we have seen, runs with stereotypes and uses degrading language, such as on the episode “Go Cubs,” when Roseanne expressed her fears of her Muslim neighbors, Fatima and Samir, saying they are from “Talibanjistan.” She thinks her new neighbors are going to “blow up” the neighborhood. At another point during the episode, Dan blames “illegals” for his loss on a big contract. If this sounds like a mess, it gets better: in a bizarre turn of events that is supposed to somehow redeem Roseanne for her bigoted behavior in the beginning of the episode, she actually pays for Fatima’s groceries and tells off the cashier, who told Fatima to “go back” to her country, in front of the whole store.

I don’t care that Roseanne suddenly felt the urge to stand up for the very person she had been harassing at the start of the episode. That boils down to little more than respectability politics, anyway. I realize that the show’s writers and producers were trying to make this a lesson about humanity and tolerance, but, they miserably failed because of the blatantly racist, anti-Muslim, and xenophobic language the characters use throughout. It’s more than cringe-worthy; the words we use to demonize and dehumanize others have lasting consequences.

ABC was fine airing this episode, which completely missed the mark (and to be honest, I’m not even sure what “the mark” was? To prove that awful, hateful white people can occasionally step up and do the right thing when they want to make themselves look good in public and cause a scene?).

This tells me that Channing Dungey, and ABC as a whole, never worried about the damage this reboot could cause.

The new Roseanne has shown us, from day one, that it is foul, destructive, and caters to viewers who, even if not Trump supporters, are willing to ignore the show’s implications for the sake of nostalgia. Roseanne has been upfront about and proud of its ignorant content, but ABC still stood behind it.

Normalizing Trumpism is dangerous enough already. Using comedy as the medium by which to validate the behavior and mindset of Trump supporters, not only ignores the white supremacy that put Trump in the White House, but advocates for this ideology’s mainstream acceptance by shrugging it off with a laugh and a cozy family sitcom.

This is for Channing Dungey, the producers, writers, and executives at ABC, and anyone who worked on this garbage project: if you produce film, music, or any other form of art that normalizes tyrannical behavior, you are then complicit in the oppression of others. If you give bigots a space to display their hatefulness, you are advocating for violence against marginalized peoples. If you make a joke of someone’s poisonous bigotry for the sake of “showing a different opinion,” you are encouraging a nation that has already shown how much it hates black and brown folks to continue its violence against them.

If you give a racist a platform, then you’re a colonizer, too.

The World

Black kids experience racial violence too often, and Brennan Walker is another example

By now, you may have heard the story: On April 12, 2018, 14-year-old Brennan Walker missed his bus and found himself running late to school in Rochester Hills, Mich. When he stopped at a random house to ask for directions to the school, Jeffrey Zeigler’s wife opened the door and started yelling at Walker, asking why he was trying to “break in” to the house. Moments later, Jeffrey Zeigler, who is a 53-year-old retired white firefighter, grabbed a shotgun and shot at the teen. He missed, and Walker fled.

Zeigler’s violent response to the boy asking for directions has been met with heavy criticism from Brennan Walker’s mother, Lisa Walker, as well as Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard. Zeigler has been charged with assault with intent to murder and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He appeared in court on April 24, where his attorney argued that since he was a retired firefighter who had dedicated his life to saving others, Zeigler had no racial bias at the time of the shooting. Zeigler is due back in court on May 22.

The disturbing reality, however, is that Jeffrey Zeigler and his wife immediately assumed that since Walker is black, he was trying to break into their house. Had Walker been a white kid, the situation undoubtedly would have played out differently. Believing that a black youth is trying to break into a home simply because he’s ringing the doorbell on the front porch plays into racist stereotypes and the bigoted trope that black people are trying to “steal” white people’s property. In an unreleased security video that police and Lisa Walker viewed, Mrs. Zeigler is heard asking, “Why did these people choose my house?” Her immediate reaction to a kid asking for help, combined with her husband’s violent outburst, seems to solidify that race had everything to do with this.

There’s the circumstantial evidence that points to this, but there’s also the well-known trend of policing black children much more harshly than white children, both by law enforcement and civilians. Whether it be 14-year-old Emmett Till who was brutally lynched in 1955, Tamir Rice who was shot at age 12 while playing with a toy gun, the 16-year-old girl who was thrown from her desk by a school resource officer when she refused to hand over her cell phone, or 19-year-old Renisha McBride, who knocked on a neighbor’s door in a Detroit suburb after crashing her car nearby, black children and young black adults are continuously seen as a threat by white people. And of course, as in the case of Trayvon Martin, there are neighborhood vigilantes who use intimidation, policing, and murder against young black people as a way of safeguarding white supremacy.

Studies show that black boys are seen as older and more violent by society. And black girls are 5.5 times more likely to be suspended from school than white girls. It’s bad enough that cops, and many people in the public, already see black adults as a threat. It’s horrifying, however, that this distrust and hatred extends to black children as well. The criminalization of black youth leads to more death, violence, and higher imprisonment rates against black children. White boys are allowed to act immaturely and irresponsibly well into their adult lives; black boys are profiled and presumed dangerous when they are barely teenagers.

Walker escaped with his life, but this incident is a painful reminder that modern-day lynching is real. Walking while black can end in death. Going to school while black can end in death. Asking for directions can end in death. And as long as society continues to see black people as the “other,” and as inherently dangerous, we will continue to witness barbaric acts of violence by white people against black bodies under the guise of “self-defense” and “protection.”

The World

Six months later, Puerto Rico still struggles to recover

Nearly six months after Puerto Rico was pummeled by Hurricane Maria, the media seems to be quieter than ever about the situation on the island. Granted, news coverage and public concern were sparse when the hurricane first besieged the island in September; the Trump administration was notoriously sluggish in its relief efforts, and Trump spent most of his time tweeting offensive things about San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, instead of promising adequate aid or showing any genuine concern.

Now that Puerto Rico is slowly recovering, there are still many questions and concerns about how to move forward, who is still affected by the extensive damage, and Puerto Rico’s future as residents leave the island. Although, by some reports, Puerto Rico is getting back on its feet, there is still a long road ahead.

What’s the situation with the electricity?

An ongoing issue has been the lack of electricity on the island, and the slow process of repairing the electrical grid. According to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, around 75 percent of people living on the island had working electricity again. Of course, that statistic is from February, but another account shows that as recently as December, half of the island’s population was still without power. Still, more rural areas will not have power until the end of May. Being without electricity is especially dangerous for the elderly, sick, and impoverished, because of the difficulty in cooking, cleaning, and receiving adequate medical treatment. At this time, close to 200,000 people still have no electricity.

What is the official death toll?

It was originally estimated that 64 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria, but the Center for Investigative Journalism released a report in December that puts the actual number of deaths over 1,000.

How much aid is Puerto Rico receiving?

President Trump signed a disaster recovery package in February that allocates $16 billion in federal aid to the island, although Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello originally asked for $94.4 billion. $4.9 billion will help sustain Puerto Rico’s Medicaid system and $11 billion under the Community Development Block Grant will be put toward repairing the electrical grid, homes, and businesses.

What about FEMA?

A large issue that many residents are facing is the difficulty of receiving aid from FEMA. In Puerto Rico, many people do not have the deeds or titles to their homes because they have built their houses on property owned by friends or relatives. The transactions have been sealed verbally, so there is no legal paperwork to show. Other homes have been built in squatter communities, with no permits. FEMA has rejected 60 percent of the 1.2 million applications for FEMA’s Individual and Household Grants and a large reason is due to “applicants’ inability to verify that they own the homes for which they are claiming damage.”

Has tourism bounced back?

According to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), tourism is slowly making a rebound, and over 125 hotels were open for business as of February. In fact, the PRTC is encouraging travelers to consider Puerto Rico, as tourism can bring an influx of money to local restaurants and other businesses.

How many people have left the island, and how many more are expected to leave?

Over 200,000 Puerto Rican residents left the island for Florida alone after Hurricane Maria, and Puerto Rico’s government estimates that another 200,000 may leave before the year is up. People fled the island to Florida, Texas, and New England in the wake of the disaster, and while Hurricane Maria was definitely a catalyst, it is worth noting that unemployment has been high in Puerto Rico in recent years, and many people point out that the hurricane was the final nail in the coffin for the island’s population, where nearly half live below the poverty line. Puerto Ricans left, and continue to leave, in search of schools for their children and better job opportunities on the mainland.

All in all, the circumstances in Puerto Rico are still difficult – and seemingly overlooked by those not living on the island. Vulnerable communities, such as women, the elderly, the sick, the disabled, and the impoverished face harsh repercussions after natural disasters. Medical resources are already slim due to the (until recently) power outages, and sickness, injuries, and lack of money and/or transportation can further hinder those needing medical attention. Even leaving the island completely is a form of luxury; one must have enough money for a plane ticket, or tickets, to the mainland or elsewhere.

Without a doubt, Puerto Rico is in better shape than it was six months ago. It is not fair to overlook the progress the island has made, lest we fall into the patronizing, unhelpful pit of white saviorism. However, we still need to work to keep Puerto Rico in the news and on our politicians’ radars. We must keep speaking out about Puerto Ricans’ needs because the aftermath of Maria is still playing out for millions of people every day.


Abstinence-only sex education has already failed millions, but now the Trump administration is pushing it again

Growing up in a conservative area of the already politically ass-backward state of Indiana, I received abstinence-only sex education in middle school and it did me – and  my peers – no favors.

Abstinence-only sex education  is an attempt to teach young people about sex by essentially shaming and scaring them into believing that sex is only acceptable for married couples, and that one must wait until marriage to engage in sexual activity. This dramatically skewed view of intercourse and relationships purposely leaves out information about consent, birth control methods, accurate STD statistics, menstrual cycles, respectful and pleasurable sex, and promotes heteronormativity while completely closing the door on any discussions about same-sex relationships.

President Obama cut funding to abstinence-only sex education and instead redirected funding to programs that promoted comprehensive sex education. So as the Trump administration revamps its abstinence-only program, most notably by passing the $75 million “sexual risk avoidance education (SRAE)” program that gives funding to entities that encourage “sexual delay,” I have flashbacks to my seventh grade science class, listening to a woman from a local Catholic hospital talk about how condoms have small holes in them, and therefore, are all but powerless against STDs. Fact: latex condoms are highly effective at preventing the transmission of STDs.

I also remember the slideshows with horrifying pictures of extreme cases of herpes, with our “instructor” telling us that this fate was inevitable if we had sex before marriage. Instead of telling my class about safe sex practices, when and where to get tested, and the likelihood of contracting the various forms of STDs, she used these scare tactics in an attempt to deter us from exploring sex in a healthy or respectful manner.

There was no talk of birth control (unless you count telling us that condoms don’t work), and I specifically remember a girl in my class asking about the pill. The instructor sighed, and began her sentence with, “Well, I’m not really here to talk about birth control….”  so I stopped listening after that.

No lessons on rape or sexual assault. No advice on the various birth control methods available. No discussion on gender identity or homosexuality. No insight about consent, mutual pleasure, or communication about boundaries. Absolutely not a word about abortion.  And of course, no mention of vibrators or other types of sex toys.

The lack of facts had me confused for a long time.

And that’s why I shudder at the thought of abstinence-only sex education being so heavily funded and promoted again, despite the overwhelming evidence that it fails young people. Pregnancy rates and STD rates have only increased under abstinence-only sex education, and in some conservative states that champion the abstinence-only method and fight to restrict birth control and abortion access such as Texas, the teen pregnancy rate is staggering.

Furthermore, withholding information about sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, consent, sexual assault, and those who identify as LGBTQ+ is not only misleading, it is dangerous and potentially life-threatening. The information that abstinence-only sex education pushes is not only often blatantly false, but it also dismisses the sexual and reproductive health needs of young people. It puts a vulnerable population’s wellness in jeopardy, not only at the time of the education, but for years to come, if no credible resources on sex and sexual health are ever introduced.

I remember having to learn about sex, birth control, and pregnancy by Googling all of it. My parents are not sex-positive at all, so I had literally zero resources to figure out my chances of getting an STD, how often I should visit the gyno, what types of contraception are most effective, or signs of pregnancy. I was diligent in seeking out scientific sources because I was so paranoid about the potential harm that could come from having sex, and I knew that the answers taught in my wait-until-marriage lessons at school were not going to cut it. As I got older, I was fortunate to find the resources on my own to obtain birth control, regularly see my gynecologist, and ask questions about STDs. But I had to search for this information on my own, because what I had been taught was biased, scientifically unfounded, and misleading.

We should not have to resort to Google to get the facts about our sexual health.

Bringing back abstinence-only sex education in classrooms is dangerous and is nothing more than the religious right manipulating a normal human activity as a means of control to reinforce gender norms, sexism, and cis-sexism.

Knowledge is power, but young people, particularly women and girls, will suffer from a lack of accurate information if the abstinence model is their only lesson in sex.

Music Pop Culture

Cardi B pointed out the hypocrisy of the #MeToo movement…and it’s a serious reality check.

In a recent interview with Cosmopolitan, Cardi B sounded off on a number of recent issues, including the #MeToo movement’s pathetic shunning of strippers and video vixens in the hip hop industry. She elaborates by saying that when people ask her why she always brings up her past as a stripper, she tells them, “Because y’all don’t respect me because of it, and y’all going to respect these strippers from now on.” She also makes the valid point that “just because somebody was a stripper don’t mean they don’t have no brain.”

She raises important concerns about the #MeToo movement’s lack of concern for women who act and dance professionally in hip hop films: “A lot of video vixens spoke about this and nobody gives a fuck.” She also believes that a lot of the “men in Hollywood” who have seemingly embraced the movement “aren’t woke, they’re scared.”

[bctt tweet= “Cardi B unabashedly forced discussion around issues with the #MeToo movement that have been present since its inception.” username=“wearethetempest”]

Cardi B has unabashedly forced discussion around issues with the #MeToo movement that have been present since its inception, and she is right to do so. #MeToo has rightfully garnered criticism from several communities because it tends to leave out the narratives of black and brown women, Muslim women, sex workers, homeless women, transgender women, and incarcerated women. While #MeToo has been a great place to start when it comes to holding men accountable and exploring the nuances and repercussions of sexual violence, it has decidedly pushed certain groups of women to the margins, essentially silencing their voices.

And while #MeToo is theoretically for all women, the media continues to focus on high-profile white women who fit the “good girl” persona (read: women who don’t engage in any type of sex work). People who praise #MeToo for the good work that has come out of the movement but look down on strippers, video vixens, and sex workers are part of the reason the #MeToo movement has become so elitist. Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lawrence, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Rose McGowen (who is problematic AF) are just a few of the faces that are often associated with the movement. And while many of the leading women of the movement do have important insight and offer steadfast support to women (minus McGowen), there simply must be more women from all walks of life, who inhabit spaces that society is not always comfortable with, or even willing to accept, if we want #MeToo to actually benefit the most marginalized women.

This is why Cardi B is so fed up with how strippers and video vixens are treated. In our society, many men and women tend to view stripping as not actual work; it is perceived as simply a flaunting of sexuality, and is therefore dirty or inappropriate. A woman twerking in a music video while wearing sexy lingerie is not believed to be doing a “real” job because she is employing her sexuality and body in a manner that many see as low-class, slutty, or pathetic. Sex work  is viewed as a pitiful way for a struggling, oppressed woman to earn money, or as hypersexualized activity that “sluts” with no intelligence perform.

[bctt tweet= “Because of this blatant dismissal of women in these work environments, the general public is less enraged when men assault them.” username=“wearethetempest”]

Because of this blatant dismissal of women in these work environments, the general public is less enraged when men assault or harass them. In fact, there is no outrage, only intentional oblivion. To many people, a woman’s open sexuality is grounds for violence. If the woman is shaking her ass wearing only a G-string, isn’t she kind of asking for it? It is this thinking that silences women in these industries. Despite the fact that because of the nature of their work, they are even more likely to be sexually abused.

[bctt tweet= “If we only care about white, wealthy, mainstream actresses, then we don’t really care about women at all.” username=“wearethetempest”]

I am glad that Cardi B is trying to change the discourse around strippers and video vixens. Just because we are often afraid of, or disgusted by, a woman’s blatant display of sexuality, or her earning power that comes as a result of it, does not mean that we should ignore their very real stories of sexual assault and coercion. It simply means that we need to change our thinking about stripping, women in hip hop, and our perception of what constitutes “real” work.

If we only care about white, wealthy, mainstream actresses, then we don’t really care about women at all.


When we demonize mental illness after mass shootings, we increase the stigma around it

In the wake of the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., where Nikolas Cruz gunned down 17 students on Valentine’s Day, we’ve watched as President Trump, members of the GOP, and right-wing commentators go out of their way to ignore the fact that firearms – particularly semi-automatic weapons – are a major threat to public safety in our nation. Instead of proposing tighter gun restrictions, many politicians have attempted to derail the conversation around gun regulation by painting mental illness as the culprit in these shootings. This is dangerous for many reasons, but for the sake of brevity, I will outline two: first, the problem is, has always been, and continues to be guns and the weak, or even lack of, screening processes that allows dangerous people to access them. Second, and just as important, by increasing fear and hatred toward people with mental illness through use of rhetoric that correlates gun violence with extreme mental illness without exploring the nuances of the situation, we continue to stigmatize and invalidate people with mental illness.

Take, for instance, Tomi Lahren, a conservative political commentator, who tweeted that “This isn’t about a gun it’s about another lunatic.” President Trump has also voiced his condemnation of mental illness on Twitter, writing, “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed…” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has claimed that mental illness is often the main reason for mass shootings. Furthermore, many news and other media outlets have made it a point to highlight Cruz’s mental health.

First and foremost, although mental illness may play a factor in mass shootings, it usually is not the common denominator. Experts have determined that “less than 5 percent of gun-related killings in the United States between 2001 and 2010 were committed by people diagnosed with mental illness.” The problem is that assault weapons are easily attainable, largely unregulated, and of course, extremely dangerous. America had more than 38,000 gun-related deaths in 2016 alone, and we account for 31 percent of the world’s mass shootings.

But besides ignoring the obvious, pushing the blame onto mental illness has devastating repercussions. It demonizes people who are dealing with poor mental health and associates grotesque acts of violence almost exclusively with mental illness. For many people, talking about their mental health is exhausting, nerve-wracking, or shameful. But when others – especially those who have little or no knowledge of mental illness – voice their baseless opinions about mental health and immediately correlate extreme violence with being mentally “disturbed,” we, as a society, lose ground in the discussion around and understanding of mental illness. We literally turn back the clock on productive conversations and instead reduce people with severe mental problems to “lunatics,” as Lahren so callously tweeted. We shy away from addressing a sickening problem head-on by dumping our grief and our anger onto mental illness.

As someone with mental illness, I will be the first to say that living with it is not fun. It is not a walk in the park for me or my family. For many people, myself included, finding effective treatment can be a nightmare, or at the very least, a struggle. And fearing being called “crazy,” “insane,” or “disturbed” can make the search for help even more difficult. We exist in a culture that already dislikes talking about mental illness, its causes, and its treatment options. Perpetuating an oftentimes false narrative that mentally ill people are responsible for mass shootings creates an environment that is that much more hostile toward people combatting mental illness.

Let’s be very clear. America has a gun problem.

America has a white male problem.

America has a white supremacist problem.

America has a domestic violence problem. 

America has a lobbying problem.

And yes, America does have a gross healthcare problem, especially when it comes to providing adequate resources for people with mental illness. But we also relentlessly blame the wrong factors and the wrong groups of people to avoid fixing the aforementioned problems.

People with mental illness refuse to take the fall for America just because politicians can’t stop taking NRA money. We will not have our health ridiculed and made a mockery of because you can’t bear to part with your assault weapons. We will not let you take something that we struggle with on a daily basis and use it as a way to make yourself feel better about the fact that you fine with mass shootings.

Love Life

10 things you can do for yourself on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is coming up – lovebirds and palentines – follow along with our Vday series right here.

Valentine’s Day, is, in my opinion, kind of a trash holiday. The day itself is supposedly rooted in violence and sacrifices, according to one source, and although it has evolved into an opportunity to show affection, Valentine’s Day is so heavily commercialized that it lost its good intentions a long time ago. Think: White Castle reservations and endless jewelry commercials. The holiday is also promotes, almost exclusively, heteronormative narratives, which isn’t cool either.

If you’re single, Valentine’s Day and the hype around it can be stressful, obnoxious, or even triggering. At the very least, it can feel like a day that you’re not “allowed” to participate in, even though that’s completely false. If dating isn’t your thing, if you’re grumpy about Valentine’s Day in general, or if you’re looking for ways to show yourself love on February 14, we’ve got a list for you.

1. Take yourself out to eat because you earned it

A burger and fries.
[Image description: An image of a cheeseburger and fries]
So what if everyone is dining out with their significant others? If you want a medium-rare steak, by all means, go to Ruth’s Chris and order one. Going to a restaurant alone may seem awkward at first, but after you realize that you’re the best date you could ever ask for, it’s a lot less intimidating.

2. FaceTime a single long-distance friend so you can bitch about Valentine’s Day together

A woman looks at her iPhone.
[Image description: A woman sits on a blanket on the grass and looks at her iPhone.]
Since all your friends who are ~in relationships~ will have no time for you on this bogus holiday, this is the perfect time to reach out to friends who have moved away due to work, school, etc. Complain about those shitty NECCO heart candies that are hard enough to break teeth and the fact that capitalism has ruined love for you.

3. Enjoy a glass (or a bottle) of wine by yourself

A bottle and glass of wine.
[Image description: An image of a bottle and glass of red wine on a table.]
I think many of us would be lying if we said we’d never consumed a whole bottle of sweet red or Riesling (it can’t be just me) by ourselves on a night in after a crappy day at work or a week of exams. Or, you know, just because. No significant other? Perfect. More wine for you. Indulge yourself.

[bctt tweet= “No significant other? Perfect. More wine for you. Indulge yourself.” username=“wearethetempest”]

4. Get a massage to relieve the irritation of seeing happy couples everywhere

A woman about to get a massage.
[Image description: An image of a woman on a massage table with a towel over her back and candles in the background.]
On a more serious note, massages do provide many legitimate benefits. They can ease stress, promote flexibility, decrease migraines, and improve blood circulation. They are great for self-care because they have positive impacts on both your physical and mental health. I love lying around and being pampered, so a massage kills two birds with one stone.

5. Take a salt bath and float away from your problems

A woman floating in water.
[Image description: An image of a woman floating on her back in water.]
No, really, float spas are a thing, and I didn’t know this until recently. Float therapy involves pouring large quantities of Epsom salt into water in pods or dark rooms. The result is that you feel completely weightless when floating. Float therapy is good for meditation, joint pain, and stress relief. I know friends who have done it, and they say it’s trippy but amazing.

[bctt tweet= “I love lying around and being pampered, so a massage kills two birds with one stone.” username=“wearethetempest”]

6. Netflix and chill…

A TV with the movie "Gone Girl."
[Image description: An image of a TV with “Gone Girl” on the main screen.]
…by yourself. While other people are giving cheesy gifts to each other and showing uncomfortable amounts of affection, show your Netflix account some love by starting a new show or catching up on a series that you’ve neglected. There’s no shame in loving your TV and your bed.

7. Get outdoors and away from people

A woman on a paddleboard.
[Image description: An image of a woman on a paddleboard in a body of water.]
If it’s warm enough in your part of the world, rent a kayak or a paddleboard and enjoy some peace and quiet on the water. Take a hike, walk your dog, or escape to a park where you can sit and enjoy the stillness and reflect on how great it is to be single. Other humans can get annoying. It’s refreshing to go off the grid, if only for a couple of hours.

[bctt tweet= “Escape to a park where you can sit and enjoy the stillness and reflect on how great it is to be single.” username=“wearethetempest”]

8. Start a new art project

Hands on clay pottery.
[Image description: An image of hands resting on a piece of clay pottery.]
If you’re creative and know how to paint, draw, sculpt, sew, knit, carve, or any other artsy endeavor, use the evening to begin a new piece of work. The best I can do is draw a second grade-esque stick figure with stringy hair and dots for eyes, so if you have the talent, please let me live vicariously through you.

9. Write your autobiography because you’re incredible

A woman writing in a notebook.
[Image description: A black and white image of a woman writing in a notebook.]
Reflect on how flawless your single self is this Valentine’s Day and write about it so the world knows. Or, of course, just write in general. No matter your chosen genre, it can be difficult to find time to write and edit your work, so being alone on Valentine’s Day gives you a prime opportunity to sit down and make progress.

10. Nap because sleep is better than jewelry from Zale’s

A bed.
[Image description: An image of a bed with light-colored blankets and pillows.]
I’m certainly biased, but let’s be real. No one ever said, “I got more than enough sleep last night!” so why would you pass up an opportunity to crawl into your cozy bed and ignore all your responsibilities?

Spending quality time with yourself on Valentine’s Day can be fun, liberating, and stress-free. If you’re single, take time to love yourself.

Pop Culture

James Franco made the cringe-worthy decision to attend the SAG Awards, because of course he did

Women everywhere shook their heads and rolled their eyes after James Franco dismissed the sexual assault allegations against him during an interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Although he’s recently been accused of several instances of sexual misconduct, including preying on underage girls, he believes he’s totally in the clear because “the things [he] heard on Twitter were not accurate.” Disgustingly enough, in the same interview, Franco insisted that he “doesn’t want to shut down” anyone, and wants to make sure everyone has a voice.

He might as well have said, “I support sexual assault victims coming out, as long as they don’t accuse me of anything.” He made it clear in the interview that he doesn’t care about women or sexual abuse. His dismissal of the accusations also shows that his supposed support of Time’s Up is only a publicity stunt, and not a movement he is actually passionate about.

[bctt tweet= “He made it clear in the interview that he doesn’t care about women or sexual abuse.” username=“wearethetempest”]

Fast-forward to the 2018 SAG Awards and the world saw James Franco waving his white, straight, male privilege like a flag when he brazenly attended the event, despite being fully aware that the event, like many recent entertainment award ceremonies, would foster discussions around Time’s Up, #MeToo, and women’s empowerment.  He had the audacity to show up to a space where he was absolutely not wanted, thereby putting his own self-proclaimed innocence over the safety and solidarity of all the women at the SAG Awards who have been assaulted or harassed.

In another trash move, Franco reportedly skipped out on walking the red carpet and did not give any interviews that night. He didn’t want to get roasted by reporters. Instead, he wanted to have his cake and eat it too by avoiding taking responsibility for his actions while enjoying the awards ceremony.

I was infuriated when I learned about the way he handled the accusations against him, but I was nauseated at his decision to show up to the SAG Awards with zero shame. Infringing on this space was a smack in the face to his victims as well as all the women at the event. His decision to attend reeks of self-righteousness and the type of clueless confidence only white men seem to possess. It speaks volumes about the privilege white men are guaranteed: not only did Franco assert his own innocence on television after multiple sources came out against him, but he also lacked the shame or social awareness to stay away from an event that addressed ending sexual abuse and the intimidation of victims.

[bctt tweet= “He has the luxury of finding his accusers’ accounts more inconvenient than threatening.” username=“wearethetempest”]

He simultaneously absolved himself of any wrongdoing and unabashedly barged into the SAG Awards because he has the privilege of not caring about women or sexual assault.

He has the luxury of finding his accusers’ accounts to be more inconvenient than threatening.

He has the option of hiding out from the press to avoid making himself look like an even bigger predator.

He has peace of mind knowing that other white men in the industry will probably back him up, since actors such as Liam Neeson have publicly called the #MeToo movement a witch hunt.

He can go about his life without reliving any trauma, but I doubt his victims can say the same.

Thankfully, he’s already been called out. Scarlett Johansson ripped into Franco during the Los Angeles Women’s March, demanding, “How could a person publicly stand by an organization that helps to provide support for victims of sexual assault while privately preying on people who have no power?”

Because straight white men rarely have to care about the consequences of their actions. They are almost never forced to evaluate the pain they cause others, particularly women. They don a Time’s Up pin fully aware of their past behavior because they know they can always call their victims liars later on, if confronted.

[bctt tweet= “Straight white men rarely have to care about the consequences of their actions.” username=“wearethetempest”]

We must continue to call out men’s hypocrisy and blatant mistreatment of women. We must also keep examining how white privilege enables so many of these men to avoid or diminish any repercussions from their predatory actions.

Humor Life

7 New Year’s resolutions that aren’t gym-related

It’s 2018, and just like the beginning of every new year, our TVs and news feeds are flooded with advertisements attempting to shame us into buying gym memberships and trying new diets. We are confronted with a barrage of before and after pictures, ridiculously toned people with washboard abs, and overweight folks looking sad and distressed.

I’m all for health and fitness, but this “new year, new body” narrative is garbage because it perpetuates fatphobia by demonizing large bodies and making them undesirable and “other.” If you sign up for a gym membership this year solely because you find the idea of being overweight repulsive or unattractive, you’re working out for the wrong reasons.

There are plenty of other New Year’s resolutions that can boost your happiness and productivity that don’t fuel body shaming. If you want to set some new goals for yourself, consider the following positive habits you can cultivate to make 2018 a better, healthier year.

1. Learn to manage your money

A pink piggy bank.
[Image description: A off-center photo of a pig with a white background.] via Unsplash
This is a huge one for me, and a goal many young adults could probably benefit from. I’ll shamefully admit that I’ve never created – much less stuck to – a legitimate budget. I realize, however, that if I ever want to function as an adult and save for my future, I need to stop spending money on things I don’t need and commit to saving and investing. If you’re also bad with money, there are several apps you can use to start making better spending decisions.

2. Make self-care a priority

A picture of a stethoscope.
[Image description: A black and white photo of a stethoscope.] via Unsplash
By this, I mean putting your mental, sexual, and physical health at the top of your to-do list. If you have the resources to see a doctor or therapist, and you’ve been putting off making an appointment, now is the time to buckle down and see a professional. Don’t let your mental health take a backseat. If you’re experiencing even minor aches or pains, make it a point to see a physician. Even though the visits may be awkward, schedule regular appointments with your gynecologist. It’s easy to push your health aside when you have school, work, deadlines, familial obligations or hobbies, but the reality is that taking care of your wellbeing is too important to ignore this year.

3. Cut out toxic people

A woman with short hair and earrings looks on.
[Image description: A black and white photo of a woman looking away from the camera.] via Unsplash
There is no shame in distancing yourself from, or completely cutting ties with, draining family members or friends. Dealing with people who tear you down, belittle your experiences, demand vast amounts of your emotional labor, poison your sense of self-worth, or hold views that you simply cannot compromise on is unhealthy and exhausting. Ending friendships can be painful, but it is sometimes necessary.

4. Go outside of your comfort zone

A woman stands on a log in a bright blue lake, looking out toward a mountainside filled with trees.
[Image description: A photo of a woman standing on a log that is half in a body of water.] via Unsplash
I’m a pretty shy person, but I’m also learning that I’ll never accomplish anything if I’m always intimidated. Moving beyond your comfort zone doesn’t have to be as drastic as taking a job in a new city – although, if you’re up for it, that’s great too! It can also include learning a skill or hobby, researching a social issue you’re unfamiliar with, volunteering with a new organization, or taking a short vacation by yourself. Baby steps are key.

5. Get political

A picture of a glass door with a "polling station" sign taped to it.
[Image description: A photo of the door to a polling station.] via Unsplash
This is no time to be passive. Advocate for marginalized communities, stand up for equality, call out injustice, contact your representatives, support grassroots organizations, and vote. If you are white, straight, cis, and/or able-bodied, it is especially important that you educate yourself about your privilege(s) so that you know when you’re actually helping, and when you should check yourself. Trump’s presidency isn’t over yet, and we are only aiding his administration if we become complacent.

6. Stop comparing yourself to others

A woman with long dark hair and a nose ring looks directly at the camera. She is wearing a blue shirt and a jean jacket.
[Image description: A black woman looking tough and staring at the camera.] via Unsplash
Everyone is at  different stages in their lives, and that’s okay. You’re not alone, or a dysfunctional human, if you are still trying to find the right job or get accepted into a certain college or program. It’s normal, although sometimes scary, for friend groups to change or dwindle. No one is better than you simply because they take vacations to exotic places or landed a great job with full benefits right out of college. You are a great person with a unique set of skills and talents. Don’t let the perceived success of others make you feel inadequate.

7. Take breaks from social media

A woman with pink nail polish holds a phone. A laptop is present.
[Image description: A photo of a person holding a cell phone with a laptop in the vicinity.] via Unsplash
This goes hand-in-hand with number six. Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram are fun ways to connect with others, but they are also breeding grounds for anxiety and self-doubt. Don’t be afraid to temporarily delete some (or all) social media accounts if you are feeling overwhelmed. It’s understandable that you don’t want to see what everyone on your friends list is up to every second of the day.

New Year’s resolutions don’t need to be unrealistic. They need not be borne out of some insecurity that society tells you must be “fixed.” If you do want to set, and stick to, resolutions this year, pick some that are empowering and promote self-care.

2017 was a rough year. Let’s make 2018 better.


My mom is the perfect “selfless” woman, but I’ve learned that’s not actually a good thing

My mom is good at putting others’ needs before her own; so good that she often forgets to say “no” and struggles to make time for herself. She has always tended to my brother and I before herself.

She made incredible sacrifices, such as leaving her job, when we were small, and she continues to help us, whether that involves packing for a large move, straightening out medical bills with the insurance company, or assisting us with our taxes.

She helped my aunt find a job and gave her rides to and from work when my aunt’s car was in the shop. My mom goes out of her way to make sure everyone is taken care of.

She is selfless. Which is great, but as I’ve learned, also problematic.

As a culture, we tend to believe that women – and particularly mothers – should be selfless, caring, and emotionally available. Women in the workforce are accused of being “bitchy” if they are assertive, rebuke male colleagues, or simply do their job well.

Trolls from around the world shame mothers daily on Facebook, blogs, and other social media for their parenting styles. Working moms get blasted for “abandoning” their children for a career, and stay-at-home moms are demonized for not providing “enough” for their kids.

If a woman appears in anyway cold, selfish, distant, or intolerant of bullshit, society pounces.

Even in my own home, I’ve listened to my dad criticize my mom for not getting a “real” job while simultaneously complaining that the house isn’t clean enough. So what should she be? A career-focused “bitch” who will stop being the dishwasher and the cook, or a stay-at-home mom who gives everyone in the household the privilege of some amount of laziness? Should she be “selfish” or selfless?

Because either way, it still won’t be good enough.

I’ve seen what the end results look like for selfless women who give themselves tirelessly. It’s exhaustion. It’s silent bitterness. It’s knowing that you must continue to put up with men’s ineptness because without you, they can’t function. It’s constant emotional labor. It’s being stuck as the bill payer, the finance manager, and the deadline keeper in your house because everyone has gotten used to you keeping track of important documents.

Not all women or mothers find themselves in this burdensome cycle, but those who do seem to live in a reality dictated by everyone else’s needs.

My mom is a “good” selfless woman. She thinks of her kids and relatives first, and is willing to offer support whenever its needed. But now that I’m older, I’ve realized the underrated importance of saying no, of cancelling plans when you are simply too tired or too overwhelmed, and of leaving others to their own devices when you have nothing left to give.

As I am learning my own emotional boundaries, I still sometimes struggle with the guilt of feeling “selfish.” Simple instances of not staying later at work, cancelling dinner plans when my anxiety is out of control and I don’t want to go into public, and not buying more Christmas gifts because I have student loans to pay off make me second-guess myself.

I know that my reasons for saying no in these scenarios are perfectly rational, but once in a while I feel a pang of guilt: should I be doing more? I make it a point to communicate with my friends and support them during their triumphs and setbacks, but am I doing enough? Am I really there for them in a large enough capacity? Should I have been the one to initiate dinner in the group chat?

But then again, I know the consequences of putting yourself last. I will not end up in a marriage where I enable my husband’s laziness. It’s not healthy to constantly place my friends’ emotional needs before mine. In a world where we are judged on how productive and successful we are in the workplace, I am absolutely aware that we need mental and emotional breaks from our jobs.

It can be hard to distinguish between “selfish” and “reasonable requests to keep one’s sanity.” Being decent to other humans is important, but we must make time for our self-care, our goals, and our hobbies outside of our families and even friend groups.

We are allowed to say no as often and as loudly as we need.

Love Wellness

Girls trips with my ladies give me life when I just can’t deal

When I transferred from my first college in Texas to one over 1,000 miles away, I left behind a close group of girlfriends that I was used to seeing on a weekly basis. We ate the shitty dining hall food together, we went out to questionable frat parties together, we studied together. When I moved back to the Midwest I found it difficult to keep in contact on a regular basis; I texted them when I could and we FaceTimed on several occasions, but the reality is, when you live across the country and have a million school-related deadlines, it’s hard to keep up with every single detail of someone else’s life.

Cue my longing to reunite with my friends – and the Central Texas warmth I so desperately missed as I froze my digits off in the never-ending Milwaukee blizzards.

That summer marked the first girls trip I took and the beginning of a tradition my friends and I try to continue: meeting up at least twice a year to celebrate birthdays, New Year’s Eve, and engagements; road trip to different cities; or just to visit and catch up with one another in person. What I’ve learned is that these girls trips are more than just swimming, travelling, shopping, partying, and eating: they are essential to mental and emotional health. They are a way to recharge, unwind, and reduce stress. They also reinforce the strength of women and female relationships.

Every time we get together, there are new life developments to discuss. And every time we see each other, it’s an exit from reality for me. It’s four or five days where I can be honest, loud, and generally enjoy myself away from the pressures of school or work.

Spending time with women I am close with is therapeutic and helps keep me grounded. Girls trips are spaces where I can vent my stress and frustrations and express my concerns about grad school or job prospects. They’re also places where I receive positivity and encouragement.

The fact is that on any given day, my anxiety is high for no apparent reason (yay mental illness!), but these reunions with my friends give me time to relax and re-energize.

Does it seem extravagant to fly across the country to meet up with a group of friends in the age of FaceTime and Skype? To some, yes. But for me, girls trips have been a way for me to escape the stress of finals, the monotonous city of Milwaukee, and family induced anxiety. When I land at the airport and see my friends, we are ecstatic. We pick up where we left off, whether it’s been six months or a year since we’ve all reconvened. There’s no drama.

We fill each other in on our job searches, relationships (or lack of), school projects, and family lives. We get dinner, eat shamelessly, and laugh about our “food babies” later. We dress up, meet friends out, drink way too much, and still get up early the next morning to get breakfast because we only have a limited amount of time together. We go to Galveston’s dirty beach and pretend we’re in Cabo as we watch the dolphins, because at the time, we were too poor to afford anything better (news flash: I’m still too poor). We go ice skating, act like tourists in our own cities, and go on brewery tours. We cry tears of laughter by the end of the trip because we are all too sleep-deprived to function.

Studies show that there are benefits for women who maintain close bonds with one another because these friendships offer judgement-free support, validation, and spaces for women to unabashedly be themselves. Vacationing with your best friends offer similar health boosts. Girls trips offer opportunities to relax, laugh endlessly, and reconnect with friends you don’t get to see often.

Women are strong, and we are strongest when we stand together and support each other. Female friendships are essential to emotional well-being and high self-esteem, and girls trips allow women to capitalize on these important benefits.