USA Celebrities Race Policy Inequality

Here’s why it’s important for celebrities to show their support for #BlackLivesMatter

Across the U.S., and even in many other countries, protesters have taken the street this week to rally against widespread police brutality, systemic racism, and to call attention towards the insufficient charges brought against not only the killers of George Floyd but also the killers of countless other Black victims of racial injustice. In every city protesters have been met by the local police force, in addition to the national guard, all making use of blunt, violent, and instigative tactics. Social media has also been full of callings for change, spreading knowledge or resources, and pointing out the many hypocrisies within our current system. Some of it, however, is performative. This means that some people, often celebrities, may be posting just to give off the allusion that they care, when in reality it is just empty support. One example is with the Glee star Lea Michele. Earlier in the week she tweeted this:

She was immediately met with backlash from a former co-worker who proved that her intentions could not possibly be genuine when those words did not reflect her actions in reality.

It also seems that Lana Del Ray has spoken out in support of the movement just days after posting one of the most problematic statements I’ve read in awhile that promotes a white-washed version of feminism. News flash: if your feminism isn’t intersectional we don’t want it.

Other examples of performative behavior appears through donations. I have seen some celebrities proudly post their $50 dollar donations to community bail funds, which is not a lot of money at all considering their celebrity status. In fact, I have even seen my own friends, who are 20-something years old and unemployed, donate more money. This kind of demonstration of support is insulting to the #BlackLivesMatter movement because celebrities are the ones with privilege and capital in our society. Yet, in cases like this, they are refusing to use it, even though they say on social media that they are all for equality and justice. #openyourpurse.

What I find to be the most dangerous, though, is celebrities who have not spoken up at all, or even worse, spreading the wrong message. Most of these people have a gigantic following, making the impression that they leave on the people that are influenced by them noticeable. It is an unfortunate truth, but celebrities set an example for A LOT of people on these kinds of things. So, it is important for celebrities to use their privilege wisely in times like these. They also need to show their activism, and then act on it, because they are the ones with the money to financially support a movement. In addition, celebrities, especially white celebrities, should make it their mission to amplify Black voices at this time, instead of raising their own. Let Black people grieve, vent, scream, and mobilize. It is up to the celebrity to make an effort to elevate their words because celebrities have the audience and the means to do so. And, let’s not forget that while at protests that same advice applies because white celebrities have the privilege of getting out of an arrest situation without serious repercussions, for the most part.

Among them, however are some celebrities who are doing it right. They have taken their actions way beyond social media and are showing their support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement through large donations and in person activism. I will say that this is by no means a celebration of these celebrities or celebrity culture, but rather a recognition of what should and could be done if done right. To be fair, I am also wondering where all those celebrities are who made the entire world cringe when they sang Imagine in March thinking it would cure coronavirus.

Halsey helped treat people at protests who have been injured after being shot at with rubber bullets.

Cole Sprouse was arrested while protesting in Santa Monica. He also bailed out a lot of protesters who were arrested with him.

Ariana Grande has been active in the spread of resources, donated to bail funds, and attended protests in Los Angeles.

Nick Cannon has been protesting in Minneapolis all week wearing a sweatshirt that reads, “Please. I can’t breathe.”

Timothée Chalamet attended protests in Los Angeles, signed positions, and donated to various organizations.

J. Cole has been attending #BlackLivesMatter protests since 2014.

Aminé, an American rapper, is protesting and has been actively pointing out injustices.

Jaylen Brown, a professional basketball player for the Boston Celtics, drove 15 hours to protest in his hometown of Atlanta.

Pedro Pascal has repeatedly been attending protests and demonstrating widespread support.

Jane Fonda has been fighting for this cause since the 1960s and is widely known as an ally to the Black Panthers.

John Cusack is known for his progressive ideals and has been attending protests in Chicago.

Kendrick Sampson is on instagram showing wounds after being shot at with rubber bullets.

Tinashe has also been vocal through activism and by attending protests.

Justin Timberlake donated to the Minnesota Freedom Fund

Chrissy Teigen and John Legend made a $200,00 donation spread across 3 organizations. 

John Boyega is showing support all the way from the U.K. 

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds donated $200,000 to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Colin Kaepernick, NFL player and leader in a protest movement against police brutality and racism by kneeling during the national anthem at games, established a legal defense initiative for protesters. He will be providing free legal compensation for Minneapolis “Freedom Fighters.”

These are only a handful of the celebrities that have spoken out and make a commitment to justice. They are not special, or needing of praise. In fact, their actions should be the standard. It is a shame, but not surprising, that other celebrities aren’t not taking advantage of their privilege is beneficial and productive ways. It is all of our duty to take care and to take a stand against the hate that is seemingly all around us. Check out our action guide if you want to know how you can demand justice for George Floyd by taking an active part in eradicating racial injustice. Read it, follow it, share it, and encourage your friends/family to do the same.  


Here’s why tattoos are more than just skin deep

There has always been a lingering, extremely negative stigma around tattoos. Whether that be the impression that they’re a reckless craft or profession, that they’re a reflection of unprofessionalism on the wearer, or that the kind of person who gets tattoos is a bad influence and misguided. My whole life, the narrative that tattoos are associated with illegal activities and reckless behaviour has been practically embedded into my social imagining. For a while, I believed it too. I thought that having a tattoo very much meant being unsuccessful in the career that I chose and that I would be going against the picture that had been painted for me. And in doing so, I would be letting everyone around me down, everyone who played some kind of part in raising me. Funnily enough, these are the same people who told me countless times that it is important to march to the beat of my own drum and to be the captain of my own ship. Go figure.

Especially being a girl, I’ve been told that tattoos are ugly, inappropriate, and distasteful. That the second I taint my body with ink, the body that is also supposed to be my own canvas, my worth diminishes dramatically. People start to look at me differently. I am no longer the girl that they thought I was. In a matter of seconds, their entire perception of me changes and everything they know about me is altered. 

This is the reality for so many young people and it is incredibly disheartening because most tattoos, if not all, can hold a deeper meaning. Plus, it shouldn’t even matter if the tattoo is meaningful or not, as long as the person adorned by it is happy and comfortable. Tattoos can be an exceptional medium for self-expression. Every little detail in a tattoo is an example of individuality that is impossible to replicate because everyone’s skin and everyone’s intent is entirely different. 

Most tattoos are real-life embellishments drenched in symbolism and motifs, and if you really think about it, tattoos are beautiful beyond being art. They are meant to be read like a book and tell you something about the wearer. You can learn a multitude of unspoken stories about a person just by looking at their tattoos, and these are usually the things that are most dear to their heart and truly make them who they are. These are the things that they’re so determined to never let go of that they literally make it a part of their skin and their blood. They tell you stories of growth, romance, culture, grief, passion, religion, wit, and determination. People wear art that speaks to them and makes them feel something. Tattoos are a love story in and of themselves. 

I cherish my tattoo. It’s a very small pink dove near my left rib cage. I was 18 years old at the time that I got it done. Most people thought that I was acting in defiance, that I was being rebellious, and that I would regret it eventually. 

Well, they were all wrong. 

I wasn’t being defiant and I will never regret it. I got my tattoo because it is something that I knew I needed to do for myself if I was ever going to move past what had happened, if I was ever going to move forward. That year, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, and went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy. With all of those odds against her, she survived. She is the strongest woman that I’ve ever known and will ever know. 

But still, the pressure and the helplessness that I felt and continue to feel can sometimes seem never-ending. I can never shake that fear, no matter how relieved I am to be out of the thick of it. So, I decided to commemorate the moment with something meaningful that is mine, and mine entirely. 

My favorite quote from the novel Jane Eyre says this: “I am no bird and no net ensnares me, I am a free human being with an independent will.” That quote seemed to describe what I was feeling, and really what I needed to be told, effortlessly. So, my bird is pink for breast cancer. I got it as a daily reminder of strength, resilience, and soaring above the ashes, just as my mother did. I too can soar.

Mental Health The Pandemic Love + Sex Love

What is the new intimacy in a world without touch?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the very fabric of our lives in more ways than we can count. The entire world is uncertain; not knowing where to turn or who to turn to. It seems that the only thing that is constant is this sense of dangling amongst nothing. 

Before this crisis, many people would escape their routine to find some sort of getaway within the world of dating, but now COVID-19 has taken charge and made this nearly impossible. Being forcefully torn away from such a break keeps people trapped in the banalities of everyday life. Not to mention that all of those feelings of tediousness have become exacerbated in quarantine. I can say for myself that it feels like I am spiraling in this scenario which has no end in sight. 

Something that used to keep me grounded, the relationships that I have with the people that I don’t live with, is indefinitely and physically unattainable. I’m having a hard time grappling with the long-lasting implications that this has for our generation of young people and lovers. I’m afraid that Coronavirus is changing how we date. 

Relationships have become completely reliant on technologyand I’m turned off. Sure people have been online dating for awhile now, but there was always a possibility of something in-person. I hope that when the COVID-19 outbreak blows over virtual romance doesn’t become permanent. 

In-person chemistry is almost impossible to replicate; certain social cues, expressions, and emotions can only barely be acknowledged virtually.

Therefore, a very distinct barrier exists in terms of dating and love during times like these, and it’s not our fault. We can, and we will, do what we can to fill those gaps up until we start to brush against the walls of such technological limitations

For those same reasons, I am anxious about the lack of physical touch while in isolation for COVID-19. Being able to simply touch, or be near, another person is known to generate trust and sense of community. My boyfriend and I are not quarantining together, for simple and obvious reasons.

We didn’t live with each other before all of this either. But now, our relationship has been unprecedentedly restricted. I can see the strain. We depend on things like physical touch, even just being in the literal presence of each other to feel love and comfort. The lack of touch seems to be a completely different experience than this; maybe the opposite.

I feel unsure and as if there is a dull, whole body, ache that never gets settled. In the time since our ability to touch has been put on hold, I’ve recognized just how essential it is. I am hungry to be held, even if for just a minute. I can only try to mimic his open-armed grasp with a weighted blanket for so long before I have forgotten the sensation of it entirelyuntil it becomes a distant memory. 

Sometimes, during all of this, I feel strange in my own body. It is as if my skin is thinner than ever before. I am thinking that this sensitivity is because our distance has manifested in my mind as rejection. My relationship has been steady, but shaky, while in quarantine. There are just some things that can’t be duplicated. I have found that when him and I do talk on the phone, I don’t have much to say.

Not that there is nothing left to say, there is plenty, but that I don’t want to have to say anything to be with him. I am okay with just being near. Much of the foundation of our relationship is based on small physicalities that lay on those exact walls of technological limitations.

I just don’t want to forget about them or what they feel like. I need them in times like these; my body has been trained to rely on them to feel salvation from suffering. 

I am afraid that we, as completely social creatures, will become so deprived and lonely that we won’t know how to fix it when society opens up again. The result of our current isolation is way beyond ourselves and our actions, but the implications still remain. I can’t help but wonder if we are becoming too far gone from the depths of compassion to save whatever is left of it.

Skin Care Lookbook

My acne acts up when I’m really stressed — and I’m really stressed right now

All throughout my preteen and teen years, I’ve been locked in battle with my acne. I just feel like I’m never able to get it right for any substantial period of time before it flares up again and I’m left right back where I started: confused, frustrated, and uncomfortable. I tried everything I could before consulting with a dermatologist, who guided me in the right direction in terms of managing my skincare. But still, my skin is nowhere near perfect, especially right now. 

It’s hard to maintain and keep up with a solid skincare routine when I’m worried about keeping track of everything else. On top of that, my acne acts up when I’m under stress. So needless to say, quarantine has been a never ending fight between me and my skin. And I am losing terribly. The worst part is that my acne just makes me even more stressed – it really is a terrible, endless cycle. 

It feels ugly, too, because no one on TV or in magazines really has acne. Their skin always seems to be smooth, radiant, and totally flawless. I know that most of it is probably photoshopped, but still, it doesn’t really help my self-esteem. Plus, some people I know just have better genetics for skin, which means that they don’t really have to worry about it. When I see these things, though, I almost always feel like I’m doing something wrong, like my acne is something that I should be embarrassed about or ashamed of. Sometimes, I even feel like I want to hide. My acne has held me back from making progress in building my confidence because every time I look in the mirror, I see something wrong and flawed. 

Most of the time, when my acne gets really bad, I try to drink an exorbitant amount of water, eat healthier, and use a ton of aloe. During quarantine, however, I have fallen back into old habits. I don’t really eat very healthy and I am not exercising a bunch or getting much sunlight. This has not only brought out the worst of me, but also the worst of my skin. I thought that giving my skin a break from makeup and the wear and tear of everyday life would be good for it, but of course I was wrong. With all of the added stress of living through a pandemic on top of my normal stressors, my acne has gotten progressively worse. Surprisingly, I’m more dehydrated than I was before, and I eat much more junk food too. I’m also guilty of not really doing much to take care of my skin right now because I’m not seeing anyone or getting dressed up, and have just been incredibly lazy these past few weeks.

But now, I’m fed up. I don’t want to feel unattractive or upset with myself anymore. If I don’t do as much as I can to feel beautiful, both inside and out, then I won’t make any progress elsewhere. In any case, my skin certainly won’t heal itself. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that if I want to take care of my skin, I have to take care of myself and my mind first. So what I’ve been doing lately to work on this is listening to a lot of soothing music, doing some yoga in the mornings, and sitting by the window while I work so that I can feel the sun on my skin. I try not to go overboard with my skincare regime during a breakout because it will drive me crazy. Especially since the results are not immediate, which can become very frustrating after a while. I’d rather focus on doing things that make me feel good or feed my soul, because that is what will help me achieve an overall sense of beauty and confidence.

My issues with acne definitely won’t be going away anytime soon, so I think it’s important for me to realize that dwelling on it won’t solve anything. I just have to keep on keeping on.

Family Life

The men in my family taught me how to love and be loved properly

I have spent nearly every day of my life actively trying to keep up with the men around me. They are spontaneous, excited, proud, and empathetic. They’re damn hysterical too. 

Take my father, for example, the first and only man that I trusted to treat me right and to love me all the same. I get my goofiness, and of course my obsession with The Beatles, from him. He doesn’t take anything too seriously, even though sometimes I wish that he did. Nothing seems to bother him, meanwhile, everything bothers me. I don’t know if I wish that he reacted more or that I reacted less. Regardless, I want to be able to let things roll over me, un-phased, like he is able to. I’m still working on that.  

My father is incredibly kind and generous, and he cares tremendously about any person he comes in contact with. One day, he spent hours showing me how to do the time warp dance from Rocky Horror Picture Showwe did the combination repeatedly until I got it down. That’s when I learned that he and my mom met on a blind date at a live viewing of the show. I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. My dad never fails to make me smile, too, even when it’s the last thing I want to do. Seriously, I could be bursting into tears and all he has to do is make a silly face or say something bizarre, and I’d feel like a million bucks again. That’s my dad for you. Always the pleaser. So, although he never taught me how to ride a bike, I am willing to replace that life skill with another one that he did teach me. That is, the keen ability to conduct an entire performance in the car to practically every song from the ’80s.

He was my first friend, and even my first date given all of those daddy and daughter dances that I spent cradled by his side. He is the gentlest man that I’ve ever met, but because of him I like to think that I am much tougher, more resilient, and a hell of a lot funnier. I found confidence in our moments of bliss together, knowing that this is all I’d ever need to lead a complete and fulfilling life. 

I have four older brothers too, with whom I have spent days upon days fighting for things like the last pancake at breakfast, and, eventually, for the car keys. It has certainly never been easy, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. They are all different in their own right and if I were to tell you about the uniqueness of my relationship with each of them, I might as well write a book. But I will tell you this: these men are my forever and a day’s. 

They are my history holders, sharing with me all of the turbulence and tribulations that we have ever and will ever endure. Because of them, I’ve learned to be quick, but not sloppy. They taught me how to tie my shoes, swing a bat, draw a car, and build a make-believe fort in the middle of the living room. We’d trade candy every Halloween, spend hours with a deck of cards playing go-fish, and watch movies on the DVR. For every holiday or birthday I’d make a personalized, handmade, card for each of them and now, years later, they are quick to show me these sentiments of mine, which they have all kept and deemed precious. 

So, maybe it took a while for me to realize, but I can tell you with certainty what it feels like to be loved, respected, protected, and appreciated because of my brothers. They never treated me differently just because I am a girlexcept when we played football in the basement with my dad. I was the lucky one who got to wear the only helmet we had. 

Sure, to this day I am always the one sitting in the middle seat during car rides since it’s the smallest spot, and I am always the first one to cry. But, I’ve also always admired each and every single one of my brothers since the day I was born. They seem infinitely cool and I am desperate to emulate them, even just a little bit.

Growing up, I remember that I’d do anything, and I mean anything, to be like them. So, I’d sit and watch and do everything I could to imitate their actions and behaviors. The catch here is that they believed in me, the real me, all along.  I was the one who had a hard time believing, until now. 

My family is my backbone; they are constant and reliable. I have learned a lot from them, but one of the most important things that they have taught me is how to love and be loved properly. Because of them I am stronger, wiser, and more independent. I can stand on my own, even though I would prefer not to, all because of the lessons that they have enriched in me.

Fashion Lookbook

In defense of ugly sandals

Let me say upfront that I am a very proud wearer of the original universal, sun and moon insignia blue Tevas. You’d be surprised how many outfits I can match with these sandals. 

A person wearing a pair of blue Tevas with suns and moons on them with a blue wall in the background.
[Image description: A person wearing a pair of blue Tevas with suns and moons on them with a blue wall in the background.] Via
When I was growing up, these kinds of sandals were worn exclusively by ‘nerds’, adults, or people going on a hike. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing these at school (unless, of course, your parents made you and you had no other choice – speaking from personal experience here). I bought these because they were comfortable, practical, easy, and quick to put on for errands, and well, they are kind of funny. Plus, I am a sucker for a statement piece, you know, the kind that everyone asks about, which these certainly are.

I’ve come to adore these ugly sandals. For one thing, I’m not even convinced that they are as ugly as everyone says they are. Sure, I’m not usually a proponent for dressing according to the mainstream. I don’t really adhere to one singular style, but rather I take my outfits day by day, and I’m always eager to try out something new or bold. So when sandals like these popped back into the market, I figured that it might be time that I gave them a try. Since then, my collection has nearly doubled. For starters, they are so flexible you can dress them up or down. They’re subtle enough not to overshadow other parts of your outfit, but still manage as a standalone piece for bringing that extra flare to any look. These shoes even play into the whole being uncool is cool ideology. It seems that everyday the unconventional becomes more and more flattering and, honestly, I’m living for it. 

I’m also a huge fan of Birkenstocks and other double-strapped, flatform sandals. These are sandals that prioritize the comfort of the wearer. They’re meant to be worn, bent, and to scrape concrete. Other sandals are made predominantly for a photo or a 30-second walk down the runway. These kinds of sandals are barely wearable and leave my feet begging for freedom. But it’s time we realize that beauty does not have to be pain if we don’t let it. I don’t want to walk around with bleeding, blistering feet and in desperate need of a bandaid anymore. And why should I? I appreciate a shoe that I can wear all day without any sort of discomfort, because they won’t hold me back from accomplishing anything that I set out to do that day. Ugly sandals are, almost by definition, durable and trustworthy. These shoes won’t let you down when you’re counting on them to have a successful, pain free day. Because we all know that almost nothing is worse than having excruciating pain in your feet while you’re on the move day and night. Ladies, it’s just not worth it. So what if they’re “ugly”? Your feet will be too if you don’t stop and listen to their suffering. Plus, maybe they’re not considered that ugly anymore after all.

In fact, brands like Prada and Givenchy are taking this look and making it vogue, which is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. These shoes were at one time considered to be the absolute ugliest, but since last year, they’ve come to be considered high fashion. I see people wearing increasingly eccentric versions, like ones with 4-inch-tall platforms on the soles, and so many more. It’s almost like a revolution. 

Not to mention that Tevas in particular are made from 100% recycled plastic and plant-based materials, making them much more environmentally friendly and sustainable than most other sandals on the market. These classics are still holding strong, which is nothing short of honorable given our rapid fashion cycle. I think – and hope – that ugly sandals will slowly but surely become timeless, and maybe even be remembered as a signature of our generation.

Fashion Lookbook

MyScene taught me about style, empowerment, and compassion

Here’s a visual: It’s 2005. You’re sitting in front of the desktop computer in your house, which seems to have a box attached to the back of it, and you’re on hour 3 of playing MyScene. That’s right, MyScene. The online gaming site that let you transform into an interior designer, makeup artist, hair stylist, nail technician, spa business owner, and go on seemingly endless glamorous shopping sprees. The MyScene franchise consisted not only of computer games, but also of dolls and movies — Jammin’ In Jamaica is my personal favorite if you want to experience 44 minutes of pure nostalgia.

At the time, there was absolutely no denying that I wanted to be them. I mean, who wouldn’t? They’re all icons with flawless fashion. Each character Barbie, Madison, Chelsea, and Nolee had their own individual brand of sass, flare, and style. Plus, as we watched their characters come to life onscreen, we learned that these ladies were also empowered, intelligent, and compassionate. Barbie was interested in technology and business, Madison was a songwriter and band manager, Chelsea loved fashion design and sold items that she customized at the market, and Nolee was the sporty one of the group with an inclination to mathematics. 

To say the least, the MyScene girls introduced me to a world of girl power and badassery, and I cannot thank them enough for that. I grew up alongside four older brothers, so when I wasn’t trying to keep up with them, I was vigorously trying to find feminine outlets. And this was that for a while. I could be as unapologetically sensitive, bold, and imperfect as I wanted to be, and it was amazing. I felt like I was right there alongside them, navigating the plights of womanhood as a young girl trying to break through the mold. 

I used to spend hours on the computer too; hours that I now look upon fondly. I think that this is where I found my fashion roots, to be honest. For one, there was nowhere else that I could be a true fashionista and transform almost immediately into anything and anyone. My closet wouldn’t suffice for the kinds of possibilities and outfits that I was looking for, and neither were the handful of dolls clothes that I had. But here the options were boundless. I could be a superstar or a diva if I wanted to. And trust me… I was!

With sites like MyScene, we were able to quite literally express ourselves anyway we chose time and time again. I quickly learned to appreciate my creativity and let it run free as I surfed through different styles or aesthetics and matched them with different activities or careers. It was expansive, fresh, and valuable. I grew to adore this part of myself. 

I found out what I liked, what I didn’t like, and — while it may seem like a stretch — I even learned about budgeting (using coins inherited through the game of course), patience, precision, and discipline. I mean, the product that I came up with just had to be perfect if it was going to be successful, which is an ideology that has lasted with me into adulthood. 

I cherish those days spent with MyScene, sifting through skirts, headbands, and purses, because they morphed me into the woman that I am today and will be tomorrow. She is curious, warm, loud, and would much rather wear a dress than a pair of jeans. She has incredible drive, values empathy over anything else, and is willing to go the extra mile to take something from good to great. Oh, and she also still cries every time she watches a romcom.

What’s even better is that those early 2000’s MyScene styles that we all adored as kids have finally returned to mainstream fashion. We get to put all those years of gaming and idolizing to the test as we put on the outfits and the attitudes to match, to decorate our own lives like we did with Barbie, Madison, Chelsea, and Nolee so many years ago. 

Book Reviews The Tempest Reading Challenge Love + Sex Love Books

Relationship expert Iris Krasnow unravels the secrets of real intimacy

Iris Krasnow is a journalist, storyteller, friend, mother, wife, and my professor.

I first met Krasnow when I was a freshman in college. She was my professor for an introductory writing class in which I had written a personal essay about ghosting for my final assignment. Looking back at this piece, it might have been more of a rant, but nonetheless this was one of the first times that I felt heard through my writing. She let me write candidly about the space in-between the lines of nurturing and insufficient relationships. She let me grow. 

Krasnow is curious, compassionate, and the author of seven best-selling books all about intimate relationships. Her book Sex After… Women Share How Intimacy Changes as Life Changes is the self-help book that has been selected for The Tempest’s Reading Challenge this year and just this past April she published Camp Girls: Fireside Lessons on Friendship, Courage, and Loyalty.

For me, Krasnow is a defining voice of reason for anything in the periphery of relationships, communication, love, and womanhood. Each of her books revolves around personal growth in conjunction with intimate relationships. Sex After offers a series of compelling, and reliable, insights about how to build an intimate relationship, whether that be romantically or with family and friends. The vitality of any relationship is dependent on love and commitment. Basically, true love is found within emotionality. That is, your ability to relate to another person and to enhance their experiences. It is not always about lust. But I’d say that it is somewhat about longing, though. 

This longing could be found within commitment. Each chapter in Sex After focuses on some major life event or change being thrown suddenly onto a couple and ultimately how they persevere. She talks to breast cancer survivors, widows, women who came out later in life, and couples who have experienced infidelity. Each time they tackle the problem, make it their own, and connect through mind, body, and soul along the way. Sure, almost always they also go through the stages of despair and agony, but more often than not these couples do come out stronger and more in love than they were before. This is all a result of trust and reliability. Through this combined process of healing, people, especially women, begin to feel validated. And validation, to me, is an extremely close step towards genuine intimacy.

The female growth cycle seems to be evergreen in her writing. Each character becomes sexier and more alive with every turn of the page. Krasnow’s in-depth reporting and research explores sexuality credibly in real-time and ensures understanding on nearly every level—for nearly every emotion or phase of bodily awakening. 

I love the emphasis that she places on non-sexual love, too, which is why I find so much comfort in her recent book Camp Girls. There is truly nothing like the solace we find in conversations with friends about things along every dotted line in the spectrum. Together, Krasnow makes clear, we can manifest the ellipsis while gaining lessons that are impossible to replicate without the connected experiences that we share with those who are growing and learning just the same by our side. These relationships maintain incredible intimacy, as well as a shoulder to lean on, through allegiance, sympathy, care, and exploration. Krasnow shares that her friends help her feel stronger, more in tune with inner-self, and that hours together feel like seconds while memories from decades ago feel like yesterday. Their company keeps her young, feisty, and in love. 

One notion that I’ve learned from Iris Krasnow that has stuck with me is the idea that you have to be your own soulmate. You will never have the capacity to love someone else, or to believe that another person loves you, unless you love yourself first.

Real intimacy is found after unraveling the layers and free-falling into the depths that you alone locate. With compelling words, Iris Krasnow reminds women of every generation that we must remain honest with our raw selves and loyal to those we grace, and are graced, with companionship. 

Big news: I will be going live with Iris Krasnow herself on The Tempest Instagram (@WeAreTheTempest) on Thursday, May 21, at 12pm EST. We’ll have a candid conversation about love, sex, and everything in between! Join us and come ask Iris your questions.
Health Care The Pandemic Love + Sex Love

Here’s what happens every time you order NSFW toys during a pandemic

An Amazon employee has recently gone viral for his remarks about dildos during a protest prompted by increased coronavirus concerns. He was advocating for the e-commerce company to pull back efforts on the manufacturing of unessential items.

He said that while shipments on essential items have been delayed, even sold out, employees were still working shoulder to shoulder processing items that were unimportant.

This makes it impossible for the workers to practice social distancing policies while at work.

Terrified, and frankly exhausted, from having to risk his own life and his families life for these non-essential items, this employee suggested that the company prioritize essential shipments and decrease staff as well as the number of hours worked. 

He says, “They should not be selling non-essential items,” talking about the company’s policies. “If you go on the website, all of the essential items are sold out. Until you restock and until you close this building, shut it down.”

He added, “Dildos are not essential items. Books for kids, yes, but dildos? No.” He was obviously frustrated. 

It is important to say outright that NO, dildos are absolutely NOT a top priority right now. Neither are fragrant oils, yoga mats, bathing suits, or picture frames. Though they certainly do serve some purpose in terms of self-care. 

The obvious priority here is the lives of workers who are employed by Amazon. It is no secret that Amazon hires predominantly low-income people to work in its facilities, while also having a disturbing history of poor working conditions

This makes it even more unsurprising that in the middle of April Amazon fired at least two employees who were outspoken about the mistreatment of warehouse workers and other safety matters surrounding COVID-19.

But, by May 1 Amazon VP Tim Bray resigned after much dismay about the firing of those whistleblowers who raised serious alarm, which is a notable sign of empathy and solidarity, and might even be something we can all learn from as we make our own shopping decisions.

As consumers, it is imperative to understand our responsibility to those who are working despite their vulnerability. These people should not be forced into serving the lifestyles of those who don’t really care what happens to them.

Which brings me here:

As the COVID-19 pandemic has grown more intense, and people have become more isolated, it seems that they have fallen on dildos for some sort of salve. For many people, dildos are among the lists of items that are an absolute necessity to make it through times of crisis. And there’s a reason for that. 

Dildos, and masturbation in general, are known to have outstanding mental health benefits. They have also been associated with improved sexual wellness and of course, self-love.

We can knowingly reach the big O from our own doing, and there is a lot of power in that. In some cases, dildos have also been known to increase blood flow in the clitoris, increase sexual arousal, help the body make it own lubricant, and therefore make more pleasurable sex possible.

Orgasms are good for your health, too. According to a Next Avenue report, sex that satiates a persons desire triggers hormones that help us to feel relaxed, less stressed, and more contented. 

So, what can we do to keep exploring our personal sexuality at home without the possibility damaging the life of someone working in an Amazon warehouse? Well, for one, there are other e-commerce options to shop from that don’t have a cruel history like Amazon does. Or, we can buy small and local. Let’s face it, no one is going to stop ordering online, especially when all storefronts are closed. But we can be smart about what we order and who we order from.

One alternative is Grove Collaborative, which sells a nice selection of household essentials and personal care items. This e-commerce site values social welfare and is known for being safe and environmentally friendly, as it is working towards being entirely plastic-free. All shipments from Grove collaborative are non-toxic, cruelty-free, and are carbon-offset before they reach your door.

A second option is Verishop, which is just as convenient as Amazon but offers a more curated selection. Most of its products are sustainable and natural, making it a more organic shopping experience. This e-commerce site usually ensure free 1-day shipping on most order made within the U.S., but during the pandemic this policy has shifted to free 2-day shipping. Which is not a bad deal in my book. Plus, its sexual wellness selection seems to be hand-picked and rather expansive.

With all of this in mind, we are better equipped to keep loving every part of ourselves at home while also making safe and compassionate online shopping decisions that protect workers and the environment!

USA Politics The World

Betsy DeVos’ new proposal will harm all future campus sexual assault investigations

The implementation of proper Title IX protocols has historically been a rocky road, but the new rules published this week by US Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, sets us back dramatically in terms of progress. Title IX is the clause which applies to both state and local educational institutions that receive federal financial assistance. Its intention is to protect students from discrimination on the basis of sex, including the handling of any sexual assault cases that fall into the school’s jurisdiction. Now, under the rewritten proposal, which was released on May 6th, the way that colleges respond to sexual cases will be inherently favorable to the accused, leaving survivors in the dust yet again. 

In 2011, the Obama administration released the “Dear Colleague” letter, which was their guidance on how schools should comply with Title IX. This suggested mainly that schools use a “preponderance of the evidence” burden of proof standard when deciding sexual harassment cases, which means that the accuser is responsible to provide evidence that indicates the high likelihood of the assault (as opposed to the much harder to prove “clear and convincing” evidence standard, which puts much weight on the accuser to show that the accused had committed misconduct). 

This letter was a hard-won acknowledgment of the severity of sexual misconduct in a campus setting and brought upon a more serious concern for sexual assault at the federal level. But we weren’t out of the woods yet. 

Men’s rights groups and other sympathizers for accused students argue that the main suggestions of the “Dear Colleague” letter denied the accused due process. They claim that victims of sexual assault and violence could be lying and are therefore the real perpetrators. What makes the opinions of these groups even more terrible is that they commonly are allied with people of importance and who are in high positions of power. 

To be clear, statistics show that among undergraduate students, “23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.” Of those survivors, more than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault. The notion that a large number of claims and complaints are false is highly skeptical, given that the National Sexual Violence Resource Center says that the prevalence of false reporting on sexual assault is between 2% and 10%. Which, the resource center also notes, is a conflated number due to inconsistencies in definitions and protocols. 

When Betsy DeVos assumed the position of Education Secretary in 2017 and held meetings to discuss Title IX, she was not committed at all to maintaining the protections from the “Dear Colleague” letter. In fact, she scoffed at them. Then, in 2018, the Trump administration unofficially announced that the Education Department would be pulling back from those Obama-era guidelines. DeVos praised the new rules which manipulate what is at the core of Title IX. She was convinced that the guidelines from the previous administration were a civil rights violation and favored false accusers, because, according to her, people often make false claims for popularity or to ruin the life of someone out of dislike, utterly disregarding the terror, trauma, or injustice that survivors endure.

Time and time again, this government has proved that it is uninterested in protecting and supporting vulnerable student survivors, or survivors of any kind. These regulations ignore psychology and fact, and contrary to conservative belief, survivors are more likely to feel shame or embarrassment after an assault, and are not immediately emboldened to report the incident. 

DeVos’ proposal received much pushback from survivors and advocacy groups like the #MeToo movement. These new rules will land unfairly and unjustly in favor of the accused to protect the institution from liability and would dissuade victims from coming forward with their accusations out of fear. 

Furthermore, the final official version that was released on May 6th came out at a time in which schools across the country are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result of these widespread closures, universities don’t have any preparation time before the rule takes effect. It will be extremely difficult for all colleges to implement this rule without face-to-face contact and for students to express concern or find the necessary resources to understand and cope with these new developments. DeVos’ theory is that colleges should have seen this coming, given the original announcement in 2018. If restrictions on face-to-face contact continue, schools would be expected to conduct hearings and investigations remotely, which allows for a lot of bias and ignorance. 

These new regulations go into immediate effect on August 14 and are broadly un-different from the 2018 proposal. They effectively allow perpetrators and schools to flee from responsibility. At the same time, the rules also subject survivors to additional trauma and therefore make campuses feel unsafe for most women.

 To put it frankly, the regulations are incredibly silencing. 

For one, the legal definition that constituted harassment during the Obama-era was an “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.” DeVos’ is much more narrow, however, citing that harassment is an “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.” As if the literal assault wasn’t restricting enough for victims. 

DeVos is headstrong in her belief that her proposal restores balance and fairness in a system that is skewed in favor of the accusers. Apparently, to those who appear to only be able to muster up some empathy for the young, usually white, college-age boys who feel so entitled that they go around harassing women and impede years of trauma on them, her method will be more transparent. 

The new guidelines require colleges to respond to allegations in a more formal, court-like, setting where the accused is able to cross-examine the accuser. In addition, it is up to the discretion of the school to decide which burden of proof to rely on when judging complaints.

It gets even worse. The rule also makes sure that institutions are only legally required to investigate complaints if they are made to the proper authorities. Plus, much of the rule is left up to the interpretation of the school. So, any incident that takes place at a Greek-life or other school-sponsored event that happens to be off-campus would be subject to Title IX proceedings, but incidents that take place off-campus between two students on their own would not be considered for Title IX procedures. 

The new rules, in their very nature, ignore the emotional severity of a person coming forward with an allegation and refuse to hold the accused accountable for their actions. This is a regurgitation of power back into those who have always had it, and therefore works to reverse any progress towards equity that has already been made.

Coronavirus Race Inequality

America’s COVID-19 protests are a lesson in hypocrisy

On August 9th 2014, Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot an innocent, unarmed, black teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, MO. For many in America, this terrifying incident was just a glimpse into the severe racial discrimination that black people regularly face in the hands of an oppressive system. I remember what happened afterwards, when that neighborhood rightly broke out into a protest that lasted for weeks, which prompted parallel spouts of #BlackLivesMatter activism in similar neighborhoods. I remember the tear gas and rubber bullets that the police, wearing riot gear, confronted protesters with, and I remember the military style tanks that were deployed by the Missouri National Guard to quell those protests. 

I watched again in 2016, when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem at games, opting to kneel instead, in protest of this country’s treatment of racial minorities. He is quoted by NFL Media to have said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people are getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Many other athletes followed suit. 

I remember President Trump fanning the flames of white supremacy when he said that Kaepernick should leave the United States and “find a country that works better for him.” From that moment on, Kaepernick was the one who was labeled by a large sanction of Americans as being unpatriotic and disgraceful. 

Then, in 2017, neo-Nazis gathered for the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA. Hundreds of white nationalists joined forces to protest the removal of Confederate monuments, bearing torches and shields. As the night progressed it turned bloody. One counter-protester and two police officers died, others were badly beaten. Two days later, during a press conference, President Trump said, “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.” 

Fast forward to this week, and I have seen and continue to see thousands in states like Michigan, New York, California, Nevada, and Illinois rally against statewide stay-at-home orders amidst the coronavirus pandemic that has so far taken the lives of nearly 70,000 Americans. None of those among the “anti-lockdown” and #reopen protests are donning facemasks or practicing safe social distancing. 

This video is just one snippet from the protests this weekend, but it speaks volumes. None of these police officers are in riot gear, there appears to be no army tanks, and the protesters are not met with tear gas or rubber bullets. Those who are participating in the anti-lockdown demonstrations are aggressively close to officers and are even behaving viciously while putting their hands on them. But nothing happens to them. These protesters, who are historically the ones who respond with “just obey authority” when a black person is beaten or murdered at the hands of the police, are displaying their ignorance for world to see. The cops too are somewhat unable to see danger when it comes to white people, even when the danger is clear, because that is the narrative that has been ingrained into our society. Meanwhile, according to that same narrative, there is an ever present danger when it comes to black people, even when no danger exists.

This is hypocrisy in America.

In Michigan, angry protesters who want the stay-at-home order that has been in place since March 23 to end forced their way into the statehouse. Many were armed gunmen, carrying confederate flags, and wearing Trump/MAGA gear, while waving signs that read, “Give me liberty or give me COVID-19”. The crowd attempted to move up to the second floor of the Michigan Capitol building, where Governor Gretchen Whitmer was, but they were met by police blocking the door. 

The predominantly white demonstrators, though a minority opinion in their state, are mostly concerned about the economy. They are frustrated and feeling oppressedwhich is quite a conflationby the current lockdown order. They would like to see some normalcyOf the protests in Michigan, President Trump tweeted:

What about the families who have lost loved ones to this virus, don’t you think that they are very good people who want their lives back again? 

Or, better yet, what about the community in Ferguson who watched while Michael Brown’s body laid in the street for hours under the August heat after he was murdered in front of them. America should have given in a little. America should have put out the fire a long time ago. These are, indeed, very good people. They are the ones who are angry, every single day because of the reality they face. They want their lives back, safely. 

And, if we really wanted to talk about patriotism, the anti-lockdown protesters would, in a just world, be the folks that are at the brunt of those “find a country that works better” remarks. These unpatriotic and disrespectful demonstrations are being done at the expense of Americans who are working and risking their lives on the frontline. The protesters are effectively going against everything they ever claimed to have stood for except for one… racism.

USA Editor's Picks 2020 Elections Media Watch Politics The World

The media has the power to paint a narrative—even with a sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden

The Tempest Exclusive series Media Watch investigates and introspects on the intricacies of free speech around the world, right from The Tempest newsroom. 

Only some media outlets and respective principled journalists dare to publish the stories that others would spike or hang low on. It has become more and more apparent to me that the news is an industry. Like any other business, news organizations cannot stay afloat without stable finances or ties to people with a great deal of power. This has become increasingly more clear in recent weeks. Alexandra Tara Reade is a former staffer from Joe Biden’s senate office who alleges that Biden sexually assaulted her at work in 1993. On March 24, 2020, The Intercept bravely published Reade’s story, stating that she had been vocal about her allegations months prior and had even lodged a complaint back in 1993. She has also mentioned that there were witnesses who can confirm her allegations. At the time, Reade felt she had no choice but to go quiet after intense pushback and pressure – much of Reade’s private life and finances have been scrutinized through the years. While Biden’s presidential campaign continued, she began to reconsider her silence, calling it her civic responsibility to share her story. 

Two days after the initial article was published, another journalist posted an hour long podcast interview with Tara Reade, where she discussed the event in its entirety. Since these were made public, mainstream media organizations have been remarkably slow on acknowledging her allegations. The New York Times finally broke its silence on April 12th, nearly 19 days after the story first entered the news cycle, and only at that point did other major news organizations follow suit. The paper claimed that they had been conducting in-depth reporting on the topic during that time interval. 

It is as if there is a vested political interest, or maybe some sort of internal strife, on the surface that is keeping the media far away from this story. While smaller, independent, publications have covered Reade’s story extensively since it first broke, none of the reportage around this story has mirrored that of the explosion of coverage around other prominent sexual assault allegations against political figures.

The article written by the The New York Times was particularly striking to me. The headline reads, “Examining Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegation Against Joe Biden.”  Immediately, this insinuates some sort of skepticism. Most organizations appear to be hesitant to believe this particular survivor. 

There is no ethical standard for a newsroom to follow when covering stories like this, since every allegation is different and therefore is determined on a case by case basis, but I do believe that timing and verbiage is important. The press plays a huge role in enabling certain things to blow up while keeping others at bay, or within a certain lens, which holds true in this case, based off of the rhetoric used.

The day that the The New York Times published its article, April 12th, 2020, the paper also posted an accompanying thread of tweets on twitter that have since been deleted. One, that I found to be particularly telling, read, “No other allegation about sexual assault surfaced in the course of our reporting, nor did any former Biden staff corroborate Reade’s allegation. We found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Biden, beyond hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable.” 

Other woman have been vocal about alleged inappropriate, sexual, interactions with Joe Biden. Most of their statements discuss unwanted kisses, hair smelling, and hand placement. They also talk about them feeling embarrassed, stating that his behavior towards them was just another example of that which makes many women feel uncomfortable and unequal in the workplace. Their names are Lucy Flores, Amy Lappos, D.J. Hill, Caitlyn Caruso, Ally Coll, Sofie Karasek, and Vail Kohnert-Yount. In April of 2019, Biden posted the below video on twitter in response to some of those allegations. To date, Biden’s campaign manager and communications director, Kate Bedingfield, has denied Tara Reade’s allegation saying, “he firmly believes that women have a right to be heard—and heard respectfully. Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim: it is untrue. This absolutely did not happen.”

The New York Times forgot to mention in its article that those aforementioned instances of “hugs, kisses, and touching” that made women uncomfortable ARE patterns of sexual misconduct by Joe Biden. It is quite obvious that those kinds of acts are not ones of endearment, but rather they are assertions of power. Perhaps, during those 19 days that the paper spent conducting such intensive interviews, it could have spoken with some sort of trauma or women’s specialist. This person could have also provided the context necessary to establish why Tara would have been so hesitant to come forward with her allegations, especially with regard to the stigma that existed around such topics in 1993 and all that a person might endure when speaking up. More of the paper’s reluctance is shown through the quotations that have been selected for print. This includes the fact that the sources used to corroborate Reade’s allegation are people who have a clear loyalty or interest in Biden not only as an acquaintance, but also as a nominee.

It is not surprising that a newspaper like The New York Times would go to such lengths to attempt to ensure that Trump would not return to the presidency after 2020. Each individual newsroom is subject to its own collective judgement and decision making. But in all of the hodgepodge that goes into political reporting, and the walls that it brushes up against, one might actually be letting go of the morals that got them there in the first place. For me, it is a little disheartening that any newspaper—not just The New York Times—known for its worldview would be hesitant with coverage around a woman with a story like this one, regardless of the politics that they might be engulfed in. Reporters should avoid political activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or that may damage credibility, which includes this kind of apparent unbalanced coverage. If an equal platform is not given to survivors of sexual assault in the media, especially when the accused is a political figure who has substantial power over the public, news organizations are not serving the public the way they intend. 

It is no secret that some news organizations lean left and others lean right, but should that direct its reporting when the story is about sexual assault allegations? I don’t think so.