2020 Elections Politics The World

We cannot excuse Joe Biden’s behavior even if we hate Trump

Opposition towards the Trump administration has skyrocketed in the wake of continual Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Many, even Republicans, have called out Trump’s handling of the protests problematic, inadequate, and even opportunistic. He has routinely called on the military to intervene in peaceful protests, blatantly incited violence, and taken advantage of the political climate to take favorable photos. Just as anger against Trump grows, so does appreciation for Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

Recently, my social media feeds have been flooded with endorsements of Biden, often accompanied by images of him with protesters. I don’t mind this; I’ll be the first to admit that Trump proves himself more incompetent and bigoted each day. However, in our rush to disavow the Trumpian ideologies, we should be careful to embrace Joe Biden, and the Democratic party in general, as our savior.

For one, Biden still has sexual assault allegations against him that the Democratic machinery has conveniently swept under the rug. Tara Reade’s sexual assault accusations against Biden has not been met with the outrage it should have been. Reade’s accusations have been ignored for decades and we are continuing to dismiss her now.

In fact, at this point, it’s rare to see any articles or publications telling her story. Rather, Democrats have done their best to push it aside, make excuses, and maintain an idealistic image of Biden.

But we can’t pretend that Reade’s story is irrelevant, or an isolated incident. After all, let’s never forget that Biden voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas in the wake of sexual assault accusations from Anita Hill.

Staffers of his have even come out and voiced their discomfort about the environment that Biden creates.

Biden’s reputation with sexual assault has always been problematic, whether it be allegations against him or his support of other harassers.

But, with this along with growing political tension between civilians and the police, one of the most important issues on people’s minds right now is police reform. Both of these misgivings unsurprisingly go hand in hand. It is all about the maintenance of power. Trump has made his stance clear in that he continues to support the status quo of police departments and tactics. Consequently, hate mounts against him each and every day as he attempts to justify the violence of the police.

However, I’m hesitant to say that Biden is the opposite of Trump in his policies.

For example, Biden recently said that police need to be trained to shoot people in the legs rather than in more fatal ways. Why not teach them not to shoot at all, while upholstering any surviving racist tactics or training? Essentially, to Biden, police reform doesn’t mean changing the culture of authority in this country, or ensuring accountability. It just means making sure officers only maim, not kill.

Biden has a slippery reputation with racism. During his time as Senator, Biden played a major role in the rise of mass incarceration. And he was proud of it. 

He worked with segregationists on criminal justice policies that pushed the country towards the racist and troubling policies of today. 

And recently, in an interview with Charlamagne Tha God, Biden stated that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” 

It’s clear that Biden is using the fact that he’s a Democrat to excuse all his behavior and continue to market himself as the best choice for Black people and other marginalized groups. But we can’t avoid holding him accountable anymore. 

I don’t write this article to discourage voting or democratic political engagement. Obviously, if you are able to, please do vote. It’s undeniable that in our society voting is the most powerful tool that citizens have. However, we must not forget that voting alone is not enough. We must also hold Biden accountable for his actions, too. The lesser of two evils logic might justify us voting for him, but it does not, in any way, excuse his behavior. That is reprehensible.

When we are too fast to assume Biden as a hero, we fail to hold him accountable. Often, when I mention Biden’s flaws to people and the importance of making him confront his problematic views, I’m told that highlighting his flaws will only ensure another Trump presidency. Here’s what I say.

Hold them both accountable for their actions. What’s stopping us from doing that? Democrats are always racing to highlight how dangerous, bigoted, and supremacist Trump is. Republicans are always quick to highlight Biden’s precarious reputation.

But accountability shouldn’t be a partisan issue. We shouldn’t be ignoring the narratives of Tara Reade and Anita Hill just because we want Biden to secure the presidency, the same way Republicans cannot keep ignoring the incompetence and bigotry that Trump continues to display, even more so now amid a harrowing pandemic and widespread calls for civil rights reform.

Whoever our next president is, don’t we want them to be conscious of their problematic views, apologetic of their past, and open to true change? Because, if we don’t force our politicians to claim responsibility to their actions, can we really expect our society to change?

Biden may be the best choice for America at this point, but that doesn’t mean we should be excusing his actions for the sake of partisan politics. Being a democrat does not equate to a shield from accountability for highly problematic and unruly behavior.

Broadway History Pop Culture

For better or worse, “Hamilton” is the ultimate American musical

It is very fitting that Disney+ has chosen to release the Hamilton movie in time for the 4th of July. After all, there is no other musical that encaptures the brilliance, but also the tragedy that is deeply embedded into the fabric and history of the United States of America.

In case you’ve lived under a rock for the past years, Hamilton is a musical created by Lin-Manuel Miranda that tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury Secretary of the United States. As uninteresting as this person might seem, he is, in Miranda’s words: “the embodiment of hip-hop”.  The musical had an instant success and it later went on to win 11 Tony Awards, one GRAMMY Award and a Pulitzer Prize.

“Immigrants, we get the job done”.

Its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda has stressed that his biggest concern was making sure that the show remained accessible, especially as tickets sold out seconds after being released, and some of them were even resold online for thousands of dollars. Now, thanks to Disney+ everyone will have access to this magnificent work of art, and will even be able to see its original Broadway cast performance. Because that is the thing that makes the Disney+ movie so exciting: it’s not an adaptation of the musical, but a recording of one of their first performances.

Alexander Hamilton is an immigrant who arrives with nothing in what is now New York only a few years prior to the Independence War. There he meets George Washington (played by Christopher Jackson), who will become his mentor, and Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.), his friend and rival. Washington raises up through the ranks of the army during the war and becomes a fundamental piece in the foundation of the United States. In fast-paced raps and beautiful ballads, the show narrates Hamilton’s vision for a fair and free society, as well as the ins and outs of the politics of a country that is on the process of being born.

What I personally loved about Hamilton was its fabulous storytelling, its character arcs, and how music and leitmotifs emphasized them. I was fascinated by the relationship between Hamilton and Burr: two people with the same objective, but two very different strategies to achieve it, and how they end up taking something from each other’s perspectives but also sacrificing their friendship in the process.

Hamilton’s ideals have not yet come true

However, what makes Hamilton inspirational and fundamental in a time like the one we are living is that the ideals that Alexander Hamilton fights for in the show, and the issues that he sees in America have not changed in its 250+ years of history. Even its author admits that. In a recent interview, Lin-Manuel Miranda said that “This is a country with beautifully written ideals that have fallen short ever since those ideals were written down”.

Slavery. Immigration. The extent of American influence on external affairs. Gun violence. Women’s rights. Taxation. The writing of history. The secrecy of political deals.

All of these aspects take on a fundamental role in the musical. After all, Alexander Hamilton is an immigrant himself. He debates with Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) about the latter’s use of slave work in his plantations. His best friend, John Laurens, dreams of leading the first all-Black battalion. Two main characters die as a result of gun violence.

Hamilton showcases the amazing history of America and the ideals of the people that created it. It’s an inspirational story about chasing your dreams and fighting for freedom. However, it’s also a way of reflecting on all the work that still needs to be done in order to make those ideals come to life.

“History has its eyes on you”

One amazing thing that the stage production of this musical did was to have a diverse cast. The only white actor in the whole show was Jonathan Groff, who plays King George. Miranda has stated in different interviews that he wanted to tell the history of America then, with people that show how America looks like now. It’s not color-blind casting, it’s a conscious decision, and, in my opinion, it’s an amazing one.

Many people have felt represented by the story of Alexander Hamilton, and its revolutionary ideals that we now praise in History classes. In fact, Miranda has stated in a recent interview that he feels “very proud” of the links that people have created between his work and the recent Black Lives Matter protests. He mentions his happiness in seeing people carry signs with quotes from his musical, such as “History has its eyes on you” and “Tomorrow there will be more of us”.

“It’s the language of revolution,” says Miranda.

It was then and it continues to be today.

Outfits Style Fashion Lookbook

My journey of personal style: jeans and everything in-between

Jeans and t-shirts defined my elementary school wardrobe, at least when I had a say. When I didn’t. Long denim skirts, pink jackets, hats with patchwork, tights with cool patterns, all aided in creating my fashionista persona. The one my mom had a hand in. See, my mother has a great sense of style, but during my formative years, this was lost on me. I only cared about my clothes when I picked them out. This is probably why by fourth grade more than half of my wardrobe consisted of clothes from Justice. Anyone else remember the sweatshirts with their signature monkey emblazoned on the front? To me, wearing those or any shirt with glitter equaled fashion icon status.

I only cared about my clothes when I picked them out.

Although my mom and I did not see eye to eye on my fashion choices as a kid, later on, she did admit that she appreciated the fact that I had my own sense of style. Her warming up to me solely wanting to wear jeans worked out in the end because jeans continued to be a signature part of my wardrobe throughout middle school as well, just with a bit of a twist. As a middle schooler I was tall, lanky, and of course, going through that phase of puberty where I was becoming more concerned about how I looked. In the midst of this that part of me who thrived in elementary school when she had the chance to wear what she wanted never went away. This led to me going through a long (maybe too long) part of life where I wore neon-colored skinny jeans and very large graphic t-shirts. 

Middle School

The reason why I went through this skinny-jean stage was because of my older sister. I personally don’t think it’s talked about enough how much little sisters want their older sisters’ approval. Sure, you see the stereotypes on television when the little sister begs to hang out with her older sister, but in real life, things go much deeper than that. For me, things went so deep that I started to shop at Hot Topic. Yes, the store that as a child surely everyone tries not to look directly into the window for fear of making eye contact with one of the workers.

I still remember the moment I was allowed to buy skinny jeans from Hot Topic. I felt undeniably cool.

You have to hear me out here. I was a naive middle schooler, a tween, who wanted her older sister to think she was cool, and my older sister and her friends just so happened to frequent Hot Topic in high school instead of Hollister or Abercrombie & Fitch. Buying shirts with pop-art Supermans on the front and Disney characters looking “edgy” while outlined in neon colors became the norm. I still remember the moment I was allowed to buy skinny jeans from Hot Topic. The look, feel, and smell of them sticks with me. I felt undeniably cool.

High School

Then in high school, my style started to change again. I was beginning to dress how my mother wanted me to as a kid. Jeans were interspersed into my wardrobe throughout the four years, but this time around they were all purchased from American Eagle. I soon started to stray away from my tomboy nature and found myself wanting to wear skirts and dresses.

It was a time of branching out and finding my style while actually being seen as fashionable.

As the years went on my body started to change, much to my chagrin. I was developing curves and beginning to gain weight in areas I hadn’t before. It was an unwelcome surprise but one that actually pushed me to start dressing differently. I began the journey of shopping in Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, Brandy Melville, and Garage. All the stores that let me find clothing that was cute and trendy. Velvet and denim miniskirts, crop tops, ripped jeans. All of this together made up my high school wardrobe. It was a time of branching out and finding my style while actually being seen as fashionable.


In college, I did a complete 180 where jeans were no longer part of my wardrobe. Even now I only have one pair that I actually wear. College became the skirts, dresses, culottes, and wide-leg pants era. I shopped at Zara, Nordstrom, Madewell, Target, and H&M among other stores, to settle into this next chapter. People who met me in college were literally in shock if I wore jeans, it was that uncommon. I definitely felt the girliest I ever had, but more importantly, I felt as though I actually had my own distinctive style. One day my friend even said she expected me to always be wearing a t-shirt and a funky skirt. Certain parts of my wardrobe were becoming staples. It was a good feeling. 

People who met me in college were literally in shock if I wore jeans, it was that uncommon. I definitely felt the girliest I ever had, but more importantly, I felt as though I actually had my own distinctive style.

Clothes are representative of certain times in our lives. For me, my clothing choices tend to reflect how I’m feeling about myself or a change in my mindset. During my formative years, I learned to put my foot down and stick with what I wanted to wear. In middle school, there was less worrying and more embracing the chance to wear what I found in stylish. Then in high school, I had to balance growing up and figuring out a style that could fit this “new” me. By the time college rolled around, I felt confident in my own skin and that showed through my clothing. My personal style journey has been an integral part of life, and I hope it never truly ends.



Fashion Lookbook

Here’s why reusing Oscar dresses won’t make much of an impact on sustainable fashion

During the 2020 awards circuit, sustainable fashion was the headline of the hour. Vogue’s announcement read, ‘At This Year’s Oscars, Stars Turned the Red Carpet Green’. The article featured an array of the movie industry’s biggest names in vintage gowns (Margot Robbie), gowns that repurposed cut-offs from previous dresses (Saoirse Ronan), organically made gowns (Léa Seydoux), recycled fabrics (Timothée Chalamet), and the list goes on. 

Yet another headline-making fashion move this awards season was the actresses who opted to re-wear their old gowns. Cate Blanchett and Jane Fonda are two actresses who have done this many times over the years, but the 2020 season saw Elizabeth Banks, Laura Dern, Arianna Huffington, and Joaquin Phoenix (who wore the same suit throughout the awards circuit) join the ranks.

Trends like these send out a message that we, feeling far removed from the immediate periphery of these events, don’t immediately recognize. When big-name stars take it upon themselves to make environmentally friendly clothing choices and are celebrated for it, brands take notice. It’s likely that in the coming years we will see many fashion houses and designers make more eco-friendly decisions and innovate new, greener fashion. The change is already visible now as more and more labels recognize sustainability as the only way forward. This will hopefully trickle down the chain and become a regular expectation of all clothing in time to come, but it will, without a doubt, take time. 

Despite this positive progress, however, there are a lot of reasons why greener fashion on the red carpet won’t necessarily make that much of an impact on fast fashion. It all boils down to one main instigator – Instagram. 

Fast fashion brands rarely draw from events like the Oscars, and tend to pull more from a source much closer to home – Instagram. While actors and actresses in the public eye do define current fashion trends to some extent, their influence has nothing on everyday celebrity culture. While Jane Fonda, Laura Dern, and Elizabeth Banks are well-known by the public, they don’t fit under the ‘influencer’ umbrella. And ‘influencer fashion’ is synonymous with ‘fast fashion’.

Moreover, these actresses are veterans in the industry, allowing their side-by-side comparisons of the same gown over the years to seem more nostalgic than it does ethical or sustainable.

Instagram and fast fashion, on the other hand, share a symbiotic relationship in which fast fashion extracts from the users of the platform and the platform itself enables the industry to better sell their products. The design strategy of Missguided and Boohoo “is to comb social media, study the fashion of celebrities and influencers, and identify looks that are trending”.

Tweet by @22anddmean, which says "the devil works hard but fashion nova works harder". Another caption reads, "What kind of wizardry is this @fashionnova".
[Image description: Tweet by @22anddmean, which says “the devil works hard but fashion nova works harder”. Another caption reads, “What kind of wizardry is this @fashionnova”.] via MEME.
Fast fashion both caters to and helped create the Instagram culture of dressing for your feed. A new outfit for each photo – clothing that is meant to be worn once, photographed, and then discarded. A UK survey from 2018 revealed that nearly 10% of shoppers buy clothes to post photos on social media before returning them. In an unexpected twist, the 35 to 44-year-old age bracket revealed that nearly 1 in 5 of these shoppers “bought clothes to wear once for the hashtag moment”.

Instagram’s swipe and shop features make it even easier to cop the same clothes as Instagram personalities, while countless Instagram style accounts chart their every outfit and offer alternative lookalikes at a much cheaper price point that are often made by – you guessed it – fast fashion brands. 

Despite concerns over labor practices, environmental impact, copyrights of the designs fast fashion brands are ripping off, and the overall ethics of fast fashion practices, these brands are going from strength to strength. 

Every day we learn more about the value of sustainability and the small changes that can make a big difference to the environment, including extending the life of your clothing by just 9 months. However, without considerable change in the breeding ground of fast fashion, the appeal of the price points coupled with its flexibility that bends to every new trend won’t fade.

Reusing Oscar dresses and headlines that bring ethical fashion to the forefront are important and necessary steps. However, until Instagram adopts a more environmentally-friendly ethos when it comes to fashion on social media, the enthusiasm of fast fashion brands is unlikely to be curbed.

Family Life

17 things you’re missing out on this summer if you’re a Desi stuck abroad

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken away a lot of the things we cherish. Our lives are no longer the same and we are forced to accept this dystopian reality, for now at least. As we approach summer in the northern hemisphere, expatriates or immigrants living abroad no longer have the choice to travel home.

Desi families are not only big but also well-knit. Traveling home, to us, means spending the next month or two adjusting and learning to live with people we only share blood with, but the happiness that envelopes a reunion is unparalleled.

Here are some of the things we’ll be missing this summer:

1. The unpacking

A woman reads off a packet while a man beside her empties a box.
[Image Description: A woman reads off a packet while a man beside her empties a box.] Via Giphy
Much like it may feel for some people at Christmas, our suitcases are half-filled with gifts for practically everyone we know. The over-weight luggage is worth the expectant look in our relatives’ eyes though.

2. The post-midnight game nights

Two women are seated on a bedroom floor cross-legged. One of them flips a board game over her head.
[Image Description: Two women are seated on a bedroom floor cross-legged. One of them flips a board game over her head.] Via Giphy
These impromptu game nights are what we look forward to every vacation. From Ludo to Uno Cards, charades to Antakshari , family games are best when everyone’s there, and although no one’s following the rules or keeping track of the score, everyone is still competitive. 

3. The mealtimes

A group of people sit on table with food. The camera spans as they eat and talk.
[Image Description: A group of people sit on table with food. The camera spans as they eat and talk.] Via Giphy
Somehow that table for six can fit ten people. 

Although everyone’s sleeping in for breakfast, lunch and dinner are always a big deal. Everyone is at the table and there’s food you’ve been missing for an entire year. Every mealtime is like a little celebration. 

4. The movie nights

A man rubs his hands excitedly in a crowded theatre.
[Image description: A man rubs his hands excitedly in a crowded theatre.] Via Giphy
The biggest problem with movie nights is that you can’t find a movie that both a five and a thirty-year-old want to watch. Our family’s go-to movies were Marvel or DC releases. As long as you have buttered popcorn, everyone’s going to be happy anyway,

5. The over-planned picnic

Women and children skip across the banks of a river with picnic baskets in their hands.
[Image Description: Women and children skip across the banks of a river with picnic baskets in their hands.] Via Giphy
You can never be too prepared for a picnic meant for 40 people. Did you bring extra diapers? Your grandmother’s medicine? Serving spoons? Badminton racquets?

The bus you booked doesn’t have a working air conditioner. The toddler is covered in mosquito bites. You lost your way and now you’re all an hour late. But once you get there, all your troubles are forgotten…except someone forgot to pack the plates.

6. The sleepovers

A woman opens the door to find two people standing outside and exclaims 'sleepover'.
[Image Description: A woman opens the door to find two people standing outside and exclaims ‘sleepover’.] Via Giphy
When you’re with your cousins, time just disappears. One conversation leads to another and you find yourself ranting about that fifth-grade nemesis at 3 a.m. You’re probably missing a pillow or a blanket but you sleep like a rock when you do. 

7. The street food cravings

A man and a woman eat an Indian snack 'pani puri.
[Image Description: A man and a woman eat an Indian snack ‘pani puri.] Via Giphy
It’s acceptable to crave pani puri and chaat at 12 a.m. when you’re on vacation. Your oldest cousin will be glad to drive the lot of you to a chaat stall which is suspiciously open so late. 

8. The shopping before the wedding

A woman is seated in a convertible with two other women and says 'Get in, loser. We're going shopping'.
[Image Description: A woman is seated in a convertible with two other women and says ‘Get in, loser. We’re going shopping’.] Via Giphy
You’ve spent endless hours in traffic only to pick out one decent outfit. But you have three more outfits to buy. 

9. The wedding

A woman dances in the middle of a large group of women who are clapping.
[Image Description: A woman dances in the middle of a large group of women who are clapping.] Via Giphy
If someone doesn’t get married that summer, you aren’t really Desi.

Your cousin insists on teaching you to dance, despite your clumsiness and lack of rhythm. It’s either really hot or pouring heavily on the day of the wedding and it’s not doing your makeup any favors.

10. The road trips and train rides

Trolls with long hair look out of a moving train. The caption reads 'Trolololol'.
[Image Description: Trolls with long hair look out of a moving train. The caption reads ‘Trolololol’.] Via Giphy
Desi families are not only big but also well-knit; this guarantees traveling long distances to meet them. The long train rides through ghats and mountains, the spectacular beauty of nature, the waterfalls and the fields, the smell of your country’s soil, and the crisp fresh air is priceless. 

11. The reunion with your culture

A Holi (Indian festival) scene where colour is released into the air.
[Image Description: A Holi (Indian festival) scene where color is released into the air. ] Via Giphy
Traveling home unites you with the people who represent your culture best. The connection with the food, entertainment, and routine is raw. 

12. The old souls

An older man approaches to hug a woman. Another man beside them is ignored.
[Image Description: An older man approaches to hug a woman. Another man beside them is ignored.] Via Giphy
As we get older, our grandparents do too. Every visit makes you vulnerable; this may be the last time you see them. So you hug them, you tell them you love them, and you cherish your time together. 

13. The street animals

A dog stands on a moving turtle.
[Image Description: A dog stands on a moving turtle.] Via Giphy
You often see way too many animals, in your house or otherwise. Watching cows, goats, ducks, stray dogs, and cats in your front yard is not uncommon.

14. The mosquito bites

An animated boy swats away mosquitoes that surround him, saying 'The mosquito net's not working'.
[Image Description: An animated boy swats away mosquitoes that surround him, saying ‘The mosquito net’s not working’.
If you’ve got out of your vacation without mosquito bites, consider yourself really lucky. 

15.  Homemade food

Butter melts on a stack of parathas (Indian bread).
[Image Description: Butter melts on a stack of parathas (Indian bread). ] Via Giphy
Home-cooked food with indigenous, fresh spices and organic, fresher-than-ever fruits and vegetables will taste better than anything you can eat elsewhere.

16. The many, many get-togethers

A group hug.
[Image Description: A group hug.] Via Giphy
Having 200 relatives living in the same city means you keep getting invited to parties and get-togethers. Let’s not talk about the upset stomachs every time you come home though.

17. The grocery hoarding 

An assortment of Indian sweets.
[Image Description: An assortment of Indian sweets.] Via Giphy
You can’t find the kind of achaar (pickle), ghee, mithai (sweets), tea, masala, spices, and dry produce you get back home anywhere else. We always hoard a kilo or two of these before we return from our vacation.

Jokes aside, Southeast Asian countries are fighting the pandemic with all they have right now. Look out for your loved ones abroad and stay safe.

Health Care Mind Mental Health Health Love Wellness

My chronic disease might be invisible, but I am still suffering

Physically, I’ve been struggling my whole life.

It started in elementary school with the seizures. Eventually, that disorder did heal, but left a giant scar. It wasn’t a physical scar on my body, but a mental scar, filled with the pain of going to so many doctors appointments and taking hundreds of pills and being hospitalized, and the CAT scans, and the MRIs, and the secret tears I know my parents spilled, accompanied with migraines, which I still get today. I thought that was it for me with my health issues. Clearly it wasn’t.

After moving to Texas, I got Walking Pneumonia. Who knew that was even a thing? This also resulted in a mild pancreatitis, which both healed again.

I’ve taken immense solace in the fact that my physical health diseases have always healed.

But, this time, it didn’t.

I can plaster on my fake smile and go about my day like nothing’s wrong. 

Last year, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disease that has no cure. My chronic disease is by far not as severe as others. I take Remicade, which takes away most of the pain. Still, some days are worse. Some days, I spend time sobbing my heart out because I don’t know how long I can do this anymore. 

I was barely 16 when I was diagnosed, and I just can’t imagine what more I’ll have to go through. I hate pain.

Even more so, I hate pity.

Just because I have a chronic disease doesn’t mean I need to be taken care of differently. I don’t need anyone to go the extra mile for me to feel happy. I’ve learned that yes, my chronic disease is a hindrance in my life, but it won’t stop me from living my life the way I want to. I’m still traveling, I’m still going to school, and I’m still writing. I refuse to conform to my autoimmune disease; it will not control my life.

My physical illness is invisible, just like my mental health issues. No one can see what I’m going through. Most of the time, I’m grateful for that. I can plaster on my fake smile and go about my day like nothing’s wrong. 

I wish people would stop judging me, hating me, leaving me out.

Other times, I wish I could shout it to the world. There’s a constant struggle in my mind of whether or not people knowing would make a difference– whether or not they even need to know. I wish people would stop judging me, hating me, leaving me out. It seems like such a horrible thing to say, but I wish they would pay attention to me for once, and see that something is wrong.

I wish they could just magically guess that I’m sick and treat me right. I wish they would care enough to see that I’m breaking down on the inside; I’m falling apart. I wish they would notice – or even just notice me. Despite this, I try to pretend like the hate doesn’t phase me. It doesn’t matter if they like me or not. I’ve told myself that repeatedly for the past few years that I can barely sleep at night, so I’m up until 2a.m. wondering what the hell I did wrong.

And it’s hard to admit it, but I do care what people think, and I guess that’s the first step in recovery. I don’t want to be known for my disease, but I want to at least be known.

I feel numb now, going to the doctor, getting a needle stuck into my vein for two hours, getting it wrapped in a bright, sharp blue bandage, and sleeping on the car ride home because my eyes won’t stay open anymore. It doesn’t phase me that what I’m going through is not normal. Instead, I end up feeling empty inside most of the time because I’m scared. 

I hate admitting it, but I’m scared of death, of pain. I’m scared of needles. I’m so damn terrified that I just go numb. Then, I end up faking a smile and pretending like I don’t care that the person next to me is oblivious to my condition and is unknowingly hurting me, And all I can think of, all I can envision is that pain that I have to go through again. I can’t see it or feel it or touch it.

And there are millions of people out there who can’t see, feel, or touch their disease. I don’t want this to be a story of hope that everything will be ok one day. I’m still suffering with millions of people. I want this story to say that it’s okay to be sick. It’s ok to feel what you’re feeling. Sometimes, I feel things that scare the hell out of me, but I’m okay with that.

I will not conform to my auto-immune disease.

Even through COVID-19, it’s okay to lay in bed for a whole day doing nothing. It’s okay to feel the pain and understand what you’re going through. It’s okay to be jealous and it’s okay to feel hurt when someone treats you wrong without knowing what you’re going through.

I want people to know that we are all going through this together, and there is no disease that can stop us from moving forward and living our lives. We will not conform to COVID-19, and I will not conform to my auto-immune disease. And even if no one sees that I’m suffering, I think I’m okay with that, and I won’t let it stop me from living the way I want to.

Self-Care Lookbook

I ditched my bra during the pandemic. Here’s why I’m not going back

I haven’t worn a bra in over two months. When self-isolation orders hit during the pandemic, I was one of the many women lucky enough to be able to ditch it. After all, in the comfort of our homes, studying or working remotely, there’s no reason to keep going to ‘boob jail’. Is there?

I pondered that question when my breast tenderness went into hyperdrive during PMS time. That never happened during my pre-COVID-19 bra-wearing time. Had I done something wrong? Can going braless damage the health and appearance of our breasts?

In my quest to find answers, I turned to science.

Here’s the lowdown on what experts say:

No, it won’t make them saggy.

Woman taking off her bra under her shirt
[Image description: Woman taking off her bra under her shirt.] Via Giphy
Well, they will. But due to age and gravity. Not from a lack of bra.

Dan Mills, MD, vice president of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, told Health that Cooper’s ligament, the connective tissue in our breasts, is to blame.

More specifically, it’s due to collagen and elastin. The protein fibers that keep our skin tight and firm. Like all tissues in our bodies, they deteriorate as we age.

What else determines the overall look of our breasts as we get older? The fat to glandular tissue ratio. Fat distribution is unique in each woman, but it tends to increase with age for all of us. Bad news is more fatty tissue means saggy boobs.

All in all, most experts agree that wearing a bra doesn’t slow down the process. In fact, according to French scientist, Jean-Denis Ruillon, it may weaken the muscles that support our breasts. Making them sag earlier.

Appearance is not everything, however.

What about health?

Golden Girls shaking their breasts
[Image description: Golden Girls shaking their breasts.] Via Giphy
Let’s be real. Breasts can get heavy. Depending on their size, they can weigh anywhere from 500g to 2kg or more.

While a sedentary lifestyle (hello quarantine!) doesn’t put as much stress on them, simply walking around can create discomfort in some women.

Joanna Wakefield-Scurr, Professor of Biomechanics at the University of Portsmouth, told HuffPost that investing in a well-fitted bra may be a necessary step if you have breast pain.

If that’s your situation, make sure you get a properly sized bra and adjust the straps. An ill-fitted one can be just as harsh on your body as not wearing any.

In my case, PMS soreness eventually went away, and I’ve never felt freer in my bralessness.

As we all set to go back to work soon, I’m not sure if it’ll stick. Whether I’m ready to face the stigma of ‘freeing the nipple’ or not, remains unknown.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. And it’s valid, whatever it is.

Want more good news?

Woman asking "do I own a real bra?"
[Image description: Woman asking “do I own a real bra”?] Via Giphy
It’s possible to have a bra that feels like you’re not wearing one.

Here are 3 of my favorite brands that offer comfy bras with no underwire.

Moon and Jules

Black woman wearing an orange wireless bra
[Image description: Black woman wearing an orange wireless bra.] Via MoonandJules on Instagram
Moons and Jules is a Copenhagen based company who believes lingerie should adjust to your body. Not the other way around. Their bras accentuate your natural curves while promising comfort all day long.

The brand’s embrace of diversity in its model choice and design of undergarments is also noteworthy.


Black woman wearing jeans, a black bra, and a vest over her shoulder
[Image description: Black woman wearing jeans, a black bra, and a vest over her shoulder.] Via Knix on Instagram
Designed to make you feel comfortable in your own skin, these bras offer wire-free support to women of all sizes.

Their underwear is seamless, chafe-free, and functional.


Black woman wearing light pink bra and matching panties
[Image description: Black woman wearing light pink bra and matching panties.] Via Trueandco on Instagram
Trueandco is all about the community. They took into consideration the voices of women to design bras that we can really live in.

They’re soft, cute, super supportive, and most of all comfortable!

Race Inequality

We failed Oluwatoyin Salau and we still have to recognize it

Trigger Warning: Sexual assault, kidnapping, & murder

Black women are strong and Black women are relentless, but sometimes at the end of another day of working to protect and provide, Black women just need a hot shower and a safe place to lay their heads at night. 

This was the case for 19-year-old Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau who was a prominent activist and vocal in the fight against police brutality.

Whatever I do, I cannot stop thinking about her. I saw myself within her. I saw my friends within her. I will never forget Oluwatoyin Salau. 

She had fled from her abusive household and committed herself to the frontlines of Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations. Salau had no place to call home and desperately needed help, but in the end a man from the same community in which she spent days protesting for raped and killed her.  

“Right now, our lives matter, Black lives matter,” Salau was heard saying in a viral video at a protest before her death. “We are doing this for our brothers and our sisters who got shot but we are doing this for every Black person.” 

According to the Tallahassee Police Department, Salau filed a sexual battery report and later explained her tragic story through a series of tweets on her Twitter account.

In it, Salau detailed how after a day of protesting she was in need of a ride to a nearby church in which she had recently found refuge in and that held her belongings. When a Black man “disguised as a man of God” offered to help her, Salau wrote that she “trusted the holy spirit to keep [her] safe.” On this night, Salau was sexually assaulted by this man, despite her explaining her history with abuse to him.

Salau was last heard from on June 6. Her friends and other activists spread her information on Twitter in hopes to locate the 19-year-old for days. 

On June 15, Salau was found murdered in 45-year-old Aaron Glee Jr’s home. Alongside her killed was also a  75-year-old AARP volunteer named Victoria Sims. Glee has since been charged and has confessed to both murders and kidnapping.  

Black women need protection too. Black women should not always have to be strong. 

Salau deserved safety. She was a 19-year-old girl who was failed after dedicating herself to her people. 

Her circumstance is not unique, though. Black women have been failed by a country that has waged war on us time and time again. Our fight will be continuous so long as there is oppression, disrespect, and neglect that is pressed upon our very lives, sometimes by those in our own community.

According to the American Psychological Association, one in five Black women are rape survivors and for each Black woman who reports a sexual assault, there are at least 15 others who will not report it. One in four Black girls will be sexually abused before they even turn 18. More than 20 percent of Black women are raped during their lifetimes which is significantly higher than other women. Black women are also two and a half times more likely to be murdered by men than their white counterparts. 

And, from these tragic realities, the only takeaway is that Black women are resilient – which we are – but instead, I think, the systems in place that make these numbers possible should be of core focus. We must spit on and destroy this institutionalized oppression forced upon us with the same swiftness that this society has when it degrades, fetishizes, and abuses Black women.

We must spit on and destroy this institutionalized oppression forced upon us with the same swiftness that this society has when it degrades, fetishizes, and abuses Black women.

Somehow through it all, this strength and pain that we’ve experienced and have had passed down onto us is weaponized into coded language that tells us to watch our tone. Somehow we’re just angry Black women. Somehow our femininity is ridiculed and slandered.

How can we scream from the rooftops that Black Lives Matter when in the same breath we allow Black women like Salau to blatantly cry out for help and go on to simply bat an eye?

Why do we need stories like Salau’s and Breonna Taylor’s and Natasha McKenna’s and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells’ and Riah Milton’s to radicalize us and remind us that Black women matter too? 

How can we tackle white supremacy when colorism and patriarchy still fuel the murders and molestation within our own community?

How can we make a change when there are men who literally wear BLM T-shirts dumping Black women into dumpsters, laughing, and recording it for their followers to see in the midst of a civil rights revolution? Or when there are rappers consistently demeaning us and calling us “bitches” or saying to watch our tones when we express ourselves? How can we move forward? 

This bigoted country and the Black community failed Oluwatoyin Salau during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement. There is blood on our hands. Recognize it. Process it. Say her name and don’t stop.

Movie Reviews Movies Pop Culture

“365 Days” and the perpetuation of rape culture

If you’re lucky enough not to have heard of 365 Days, it is the Polish erotic drama film that has been breaking streaming charts on Netflix.

Based on the novel 365 Dni by Polish erotica writer Blanka Lipińskam, the film has remained in the top 10 streamed TV shows and movies since its release on June 7th. Somewhat ironically, it is ranked right before the popular children’s movie, The Nut Job. 365 Days is the first movie on Netflix to be listed as the number one streamed movie twice, and its reign doesn’t seem to be ending soon. Cooped up in their houses, the masses have had nothing better to do than to watch this campy film with porno level acting. I, embarrassingly, am a part of the masses and watched the film after a friend encouraged me to do so.

Long story short: hot Italian mafia guy named Massimo is watching a beautiful woman on the beach. His dad, the head honcho of the mafia, is attempting to make some shady deal, gets shot, and dies. Massimo also gets shot and sees the face of the woman as he passes out.

Flash forward to five years later. A woman named Laura travels to Italy for her birthday with her neglectful boyfriend. Massimo is now the head of the Italian mafia. Laura is revealed to be the woman on the beach, and viewers learn that Massimo has been stalking her for the past five years. Massimo kidnaps Laura, brings her to his sex dungeon, promises that he “won’t touch her,” and gives her 365 days to fall in love with him. After a lot of nonconsensual choking and slapping, the two eventually fall in love and incite a mafia war. I won’t spoil the end, but the plot is filled with confusing storylines, uncomfortable sex scenes, and lots of handcuffs.

Despite the projected “sexiness” of the film, 365 Days is dangerous and contributes to the harmful rhetoric around consent. Massimo kidnaps Laura and tells her that he “won’t do anything or touch her without her permission,” giving viewers the false impression that Laura has some sort of consent in this relationship. That she isn’t being coerced or brainwashed into falling in love with him. Massimo claims he won’t touch Laura, but frequently grabs her by the neck, touches her breasts, buys, and even forces Laura to watch another woman give him a blow job.

Perhaps the most shocking line is when Massimo takes hold of Laura when she refused his advances and sneers “when your entire life is based on taking everything with for force, it’s hard to react in a different way. Especially if someone is taking away a pleasure you really desire.” In this movie, consent is defined as clear sexual penetration, an interpretation that furthers the idea of consent as being black or white. I’m sorry, but if you’re kidnapped by a man who manipulates you into agreeing to have sexual intercourse, that isn’t consensual. It’s still rape. 

Yes, I’m sure many people would love the chance to fall in love and have great sex with a hot Italian mafia boss. There’s nothing wrong with that fantasy, and we shouldn’t kink shame those with submissive sexual preferences. But there is something wrong with the way 365 Days exploits BDSM and Massimo’s dominant sexual tendencies to excuse the fact that he is sexually coercing a woman he kidnapped into eventually falling in love with him. 

Instead of kidnapping her, why didn’t Massimo just ask Laura out on a date, and then engage in consensual BDSM activities? And after loads of great sex, they become a mafia power couple? That would make for a great plot. 

And why isn’t there a popular movie where a lesbian couple tries BDSM and then after, they order pizza and watch a movie in bed together? Films such as 50 Shades of Grey and 365 Days glorify nonconsensual relationships. Bondage and submission can be normal and healthy sexual practices, but instead, their portrayal in media enables sexual assault, perpetuates rape culture, and the idea that nonconsensual BDSM is okay. Sexual assault isn’t a kink — it’s abusive and is a felony.

We can see the association with BDSM and lack of consent everywhere. Some of the most popular searches on Pornhub, the world’s most popular free pornography site, are related to rape and non-consensual sexual violence. 365 Days might seem like harmless mommy-porn, but its implications are harmful. One in four women experiences sexual violence. From a young age, women are taught that our bodies are used only for the sake of male pleasure and gratification. That our consent isn’t valued or needed. 

We need more portrayals of healthy, sexual relationships in the media. Sex shouldn’t be a taboo subject, and women should feel comfortable in their sexual preferences. It’s totally fine to fantasize about a hot mafia boss tying you up in bed — just make sure that it’s not because he kidnapped you, and that you agree to it first.

Style Fashion Lookbook

A close look at 5 fashion trends started by Black people

After the murder of George Floyd, there was a reckoning. Centuries of anger boiled over into protests, statues being taken down, police forces changing their policies, and companies having no choice but to take a stand. Within all of this change, there has also been a wave of information being shared. Specifically, how non-Black people can practice allyship, unveiling how systemic racism has slithered its way into every part of this nation, and of course the contributions Black people have made to this country over time. 

One question that has been circulating online is, how can you enjoy Black culture but not stand up for Black people? It’s a valid inquiry. Black culture is embedded in the United States soil. It can be seen in art, music, and most visibly in fashion. Yet, the world tends to “forget” the trends Black people have created in these areas.

One question that has been circulating online is, how can you enjoy Black culture but not stand up for Black people?

It is significant to know the origins of a trend because more often than not trends started by Black people are taken and credit is not given where it is due. Instead, popular culture reproduces it, whitewashes it, and sells it as if it’s something brand new. 

Here are a few fashion trends that became popular because of the Black community.

1. Bucket Hat

Singer Rihanna wears a bucket hat.
[Image Description: Singer Rihanna wears a bucket hat.] Via Alex Whitehouse on Pinterest.
The bucket hat has been a staple of popular culture for some time now. Google Run DMC and you’ll see the trio sporting bucket hats around New York City in the 80s. The bucket hat itself was first called a fishing hat, as it was used by Irish fisherman as protection from the rain, then by the 1960s bucket hats were being worn in the states. American rappers made bucket hats trendy by wearing them on the street, in music videos, and on album covers. Think about LL Cool J at the beginning of his career, a bucket hat and tracksuit were his M.O. In recent years the bucket hat has made a “resurgence”, but instead of it being acknowledged as a trend that rappers started it became the “it” accessory that every fashion boy and girl should have. Bloggers wore them to fashion shows, models wore them off-duty, even stores like Brandy Melville began to sell them. Most people purchased them to look cool without knowing who actually made them cool.

2. Tracksuits

A model poses in a velour Baby Phat tracksuit.
[Image Description: A model poses in a velour Baby Phat tracksuit.] Via Courtney Sanchez on Pinterest.
Tracksuits have been a defining piece of people’s wardrobes for years. Athletes wear them, your favorite mean girl had them on in movies, and celebrities wear them while out and about. They’re the perfect piece of fashion that’s comfortable yet stylish. In the rap world tracksuits were a street style staple, designers like Kimora Lee Simmons created an empire by selling velour tracksuits through Baby Phat, and Dapper Dan customized tracksuits by printing logos of large fashion houses overtop tracksuit jackets. The tracksuit is a coveted item because the Black community made it so, yet not a lot of people acknowledge this. 

3. Baggy Jeans

Singer Aaliyah wears a crop top and baggy jeans.
[Image Description: Singer Aaliyah wears a crop top and baggy jeans.] Via mar on Pinterest.
Love it or hate it the baggy jean trend has continually shown it’s here to stay. This fashion trend has political undertones because it stemmed from the style of pants prisoners wear, but once it was adopted by rappers, the baggy jean trend became representative of style and swag. It is not surprising that most popular fashion trends, such as baggy jeans, become popular through Black people in the music industry. Rappers and singers tend to rock certain styles that find themselves in the mainstream. Although the baggy jean can be seen as controversial or inappropriate depending on just how low someone might be sagging their pants, the trend has not died. In current times baggy jeans can be seen on models like Bella Hadid, who styles them with crop tops and bralettes, and when she wears them they go from an item that was seen as “ghetto” to a piece of clothing everyone wants in their closet.

4. Sneaker Culture

A wall of sneaker sits in the store Flight Club.
[Image Description: A wall of sneaker sits in the store Flight Club.] Via Rae on Pinterest.
Sneakercon and the store Flight Club are institutions beloved by sneakerheads across the world. The sneaker craze truly only became a craze because people in the Black community showed that sneakers could be more than an item worn while playing sports. Sneakers could be inventive, stylish, and the defining piece of an outfit. They were particularly popular among Black youth in the 70s and 80s. Now, sneakers are a large part of pop culture and a person’s shoe collection can speak volumes. 

5. Hoop Earrings

[Image Description: A woman models hair clips and hoop earrings.] Via NubianQueen on Pinterest.
Let’s talk about accessories. For women across the globe, a good hoop earring can make or break an outfit. Hoops themselves have ancient origins, dating all the way back to 2500 B.C. They started to become integrated into popular culture once they became a part of streetwear and the Black power movement. Think large afros, black jackets, and gold hoops. That’s truly a look and it was sported by everyone from singers to activists to working women. Hoops have continued to be a staple accessory, although most people are no longer chanting Black power while wearing them.

As you walk around in your favorite bucket hat or pair of baggy jeans think about how that accessory or piece of clothing became interwoven into the fabric of pop culture. Don’t let Black culture continue to be erased.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Have you ever felt unrequited love?

Usually when I think of unrequited love, I think of something great. Some sort of grand story full of catharsis. Unrequited is generally special.

A type of love that demands to be talked about for an eternity. Something electric, with compulsive wavelengths. Something like the movies that comes with its own playlist attached to it.

Something with late and long nights spent together in a damp minivan twinkling and spitting out dreams on a whim. Something with vicious fights fueled by our own desire. Something that makes my soul open up just as swiftly as it gets torn apart. And, somehow I wind up bursting at the seams yet feel completely unsatisfied. I always want more. 

Why do we long for the type of love that hurts so much it imprints our hearts? It is difficult to locate the line that separates struggle and triumph, as nearly every love story in popular media blurs the two. But unrequited love is so unbelievably magnificent and sad at the same time that it becomes all encompassing.

Unrequited love is an entire body, overwhelming, feeling. I have broken hearts before and I have had my heart broken, so I can tell you that the feeling never fades, one way or the other. It feels as if you are running fast, and for a long time, yet making no distance at all.

One time I waited two months for a guy to message me back before I realized that he just wasn’t going to. Ever. Again. And that entire time I couldn’t help but wonder why I cared so much. What we had wasn’t at all special, but I still was left longing for a distraction from the heartbreak. I was showered by his passivity instead of his kisses and I wanted him to know how much his absence hurt me, but he was so equally careless and carefree that none of it mattered.

Not even for a second. 

I felt unrequited love again while in a long-distance relationship. This kind of unrequited was different. It wasn’t one-sided. Instead, we felt tremendously for each other. It’s just that our bodies weren’t able to be physically together for some time. We were only long distance for the few months that I would be studying abroad, but it felt like an eternity. I remember being there and using all of my senses to try to gauge what his touch felt like.

Somedays I would wake up and watch the sun from my window, silently knowing that that same sun wouldn’t bounce to him for another six hours, and I would recall how that same sun looked dancing across his back at dawn. I’d lay in bed at night and want to tell him about my day, but I knew that I couldn’t. I was constantly reminded that he no longer took up the space in between my arms when we slept. But I was, and still am, fascinated by the immediate consumption of these moments. I am so grateful to have given him my heart. He still has it. 

The extent of passion is practically boundless. We should feel like we can fly on a whim, or scream and dance, when we are in love. Unrequited love just forces you to confront that intensity, those struggles and triumphs, head on. Some of it is beautiful; some not so much. I like to remind myself that love doesn’t need a reason, love just is. 

Unrequited love is messy, but worth it. It is a collection of fleeting moments. It teaches us that all love should be leaking, dripping, through every difficulty yet also a thread that is continuously weaving through and connecting our bodies and our souls. The whole point of longing is to continue, because there will always be potential to love someone rather than to have loved someone. They can’t be the one that got away if they weren’t the one in the first place.