It’s been a few months since we’ve been pushed into isolation. With everything else that’s changing, so is our beauty routine. Our makeup habits have changed, our clothing preferences have changed, and our skincare needs have changed too. I want all of us to realize that it’s okay to accept all these changes. We’re in isolation, we don’t have to look our best at all times. This includes waxing, a painful process that almost all girls are familiar with.
As a little girl, I used to accompany my mom on her beauty parlor visits. I used to see her eyes water when the women there plucked out her facial hair and waxed her arms. It hurt her. But then she emerged neat and clean—hair-free. It was worth it, or so she’d say. I used to ask my mom why did she get her hair removed if it hurt so much. She always told me that it was important from a hygienic perspective. But only my mom stopped herself at the hygiene part. Other people had more to say regarding the process of hair removal.
I had thick eyebrows when I was younger. And I still do. I vividly remember so many women—my mom’s friends, parlor ladies, my friends’ moms—telling me that I’d look so much prettier if I got my eyebrows waxed. I’d look neat. Some of them couldn’t wait for me to grow up just so that I could get my eyebrows thinned.
Eventually, I started getting my eyebrows waxed and upper lips threaded. I was supposed to look neat, wasn’t I? But then I was told I should also wax my chin hair, my sideburns, and my forehead. And of course, the rest of my body. Sculpting my eyebrows wasn’t enough for them.
When I waxed the rest of my body, I experienced immense pain while they ripped out the little black strands from my skin. I was doing it under an illusion that it was important for me to be clean. Over the years, however, I realized that a perfectly waxed body has become more of a beauty standard. Girls are expected to remove their hair because hairy arms, legs, and faces are unpleasant to look at it.
If waxing really was for personal cleanliness, then the need to suffer the pain of removing our hair won’t fall on girls’ alone; everyone would’ve felt the need to get waxed regardless of their gender. But waxing is gendered. It is a beauty standard that girls are expected to abide by on a weekly or monthly basis.
In normal days, I’m always conscious about covering my body if it’s not perfectly waxed. I wear full sleeves, I don’t pull up my pants too high so that my legs don’t show, I pencil my eyebrows so that they don’t look too thick—because I know I’ll be judged if I’m not hair-free. I won’t be a pretty girl if I’m hairy.
While in quarantine, I thought that I wouldn’t have to get waxed so regularly. I thought nobody cared if my body was covered in hair or not. For once, I felt that I could go without waxing myself for a longer stretch of time without hearing any unsavory, judgemental remarks. But my dream of not putting myself through so much pain, at least while quarantine lasted, was crushed when a girlfriend told me on a zoom call, that small black threads of hair were visible on my arms even across the screen. I ended the call feeling more conscious than ever.
These beauty standards are so deeply embedded in our society, that it’s almost become impossible to extricate ourselves from them. They’ve even followed us in quarantine, a time when we’re supposed to stay indoors and not meet people. I didn’t think it mattered anymore if my body was hairy. But it does apparently.
Waxing is a norm in our society but for the wrong reasons. If you’re doing it for the sake of personal hygiene, or even just to feel good, then that’s still okay. You can wax for different reasons, but it shouldn’t be to measure up to self-imposed beauty standards.
The movement not only opened doors for conversations surrounding the privilege that comes with an individual’s skin color in America, but it also sparked a worldwide debate as many people took this as an opportunity to speak up against the issues within their own countries regarding the discrimination they face due to their color.
This also garnered a global response from noteworthy people, including a fleet of South Asian celebrities. However, their endorsement was faced with much backlash from the public as many reminded some of the actors that since they had been ambassadors for skin whitening campaigns at some point in time, it makes their support for the BLM movement hypocritical.
Many defended themselves for their selective disapproval but the real culprits here were the brands who have been promoting skin whitening for years. This is why, in light of recent events, Unilever decided that it was time to drop the word “fair” from their infamous brand, Fair and Lovely, claiming that the company was “anti-racist”.
Unilever’s statement entailed that they celebrate the diversity of all skin types. Although the multinational company is now declaring its inclusivity of all skin tones in their portfolio, their current announcement still does not deviate from the fact that Fair and Lovely has been encouraging systemic racism for a long time by perpetuating the concept of all people being beautiful, but only if their color is white.
Most of Fair and Lovely’s advertisements follow the same idea of a young girl afraid to face society because of her dark skin. Just as she thinks that all hope is lost, a prettier fair-skinned woman comes to her rescue as she hands her a life-changing cream that will make the girl more socially acceptable.
As a community, South Asians have always been obsessed with the idea of being fair. But that ingrained fear that comes down from the colonial mindset of white trumping black is what brands that promote skin lightening feed off of.
Knowing that somewhere out there, a South Asian girl with olive skin is desperately trying every remedy to make herself fair is the very thing that brands with skin lightening products need to make money.
Although many people applauded Unilever’s statement, it received a lot of criticism as well. Poorna Bell, a writer and activist, saw the news as “hugely disappointing”. She went on to say that removing a word from a brand’s name does not compensate for the “untold mental and emotional damage done by colorism.”
However, many netizens also believed that Unilever’s decision was one small step in the right direction. But that does not mean that the mentality of color preference that has become inherent to the South Asian culture is completely erased.
Even if one, or a few, brands label their products differently, it still won’t bring a remarkable change within communities when it comes to colorism unless every individual accepts that their dark skin is just as beautiful as any other color.
It will take a significant amount of time to eradicate this issue as a whole but skincare companies attempting to make some level of change is still noteworthy.
Almost every night during this unprecedented June, cities across the country have been disrupted by the use of illegal fireworks. Complaints about these loud light displays have been record-breaking, with all 5 boroughs of New York City receiving 80 times as many complaints in the first half of June this year than in the same period last year. Cities such as Boston, MA, Oakland, CA, and Baltimore, MD are having similar experiences.
People are saying that not only are the fireworks keeping them up at night, but that there have even been countless injuries and issues related to enforcement as a result of the increase in use of the illegal explosive devices. So, I wonder, why is all of this happening?
In New York City, fireworks dance across the sky from the early hours of the evening well into the night, sometimes ending at 1 or 2 AM. Many people believe that the use of fireworks is an activity that youth have taken up because of the many months they spent in quarantine. They mention that it might be a way to relieve stress and have some fun. Others cite the Black Lives Matter movement as a motive for using fireworks – to celebrate all that the movement has accomplished thus far. I’m not convinced.
It is important to note that while fireworks are illegal to buy, sell, and ignite, this definitely has not stopped the distribution of the devices in the past. That said, however, it remains concerning that folks have been able to get their hands on high-grade professional explosives like the ones used in parades and not just the standard consumer fireworks which we would normally see. And, although the use of illegal fireworks in the summer months is not uncommon, the timing and substantial amount of explosive devices out in the streets every single day this month has definitely been questionable.
Fireworks are typically used closer to the 4th of July in celebration of Independence Day in America. But, as previously mentioned, this year we have seen a wide use of fireworks for the entirety of the month of June and seems to be very closely aligned with both the canceling of major parades all summer long and the Black Lives Matter movement.
This makes me question, again, how people could even get their hands on them, and, more importantly, what is their motive?
Well, there are some theories circulating around the internet that law enforcement and the government may have more to do with this than meets the eye. The use of these explosives has been disproportionately affecting low-income communities of color all over the city. Not to mention that some people are beginning to question how Black and brown kids are even able to afford these professional explosives for days and weeks on end. It simply wouldn’t be possible to sustain the nightly use of them if they were being sold to them at a regular price.
In addition, some folks add that this might even be a psychological warfare tactic used by the police to disrupt Black neighborhoods and communities. By providing citizens with easily accessible explosives and ensuring that they use them every night, they could be effectively disrupting sleeping patterns and trying to exhaust these communities in the hopes that protests will tire out or eventually come to a halt. There are even videos of police cars circling the streets in low-income communities during the early morning hours while sounding sirens with no clear motive – seemingly trying to create a disturbance.
In a time of political uproar, it could be their way of trying to stop the people from going out into the streets and demanding justice.
Some folks even believe that these fireworks are being sold to youth by undercover cops just so that they can punish them later on for the possession of these illegal materials. In New York City, there have been numerous arrests, summonses, and tickets being handed out over fireworks complaints. With the current political climate and a reasonable distrust of police officers, many people are worried that this could lead to law enforcement taking advantage of people who are in possession of fireworks.
Or worse, other people worry that this could lead to even more violence.
Regardless, whether it is the government and police working against the people, or whether it is commercially driven due to the uncertain future of parades and large events, New Yorkers have very mixed opinions about the constant use of fireworks. Some folks do enjoy them and acknowledge that it is a way for people to bond with their community now that they are spending more time outside.
However, other New Yorkers were so fed up with the nightly performances that they took it upon themselves to protest at Gracie Mansion, the home of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Hundreds of people drove by the mansion in the middle of the night and honked their horns to make noise and wake up the Mayor. They demanded he gets a taste of what their communities sound like in the middle of the night.
Their protests worked, supposedly. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he will be creating an illegal fireworks task force to disrupt the increased use and possession of such materials. I’m not convinced, though, that the answer to even more frequent demands for police reform is an additional task force that will certainly be centered in low income Black and brown neighborhoods. Especially since we are not certain of the source of the firework displays in the first place. On the surface, this action seems like just another way for those in power to maintain control, complicity, and their beloved “status quo.”
Undoubtedly the increased use of illegal fireworks around New York City has been questionable and out of the ordinary during these times. As we gear up for the 4th of July weekend, it is very unlikely that they will stop. In fact, I suspect that usage will continue to increase. But, there is no question that we the people need to monitor this situation closely and hope for a quick solution given that it disproportionately affects Black and brown communities.
Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel The Henna Wars stems from a genuine desire to inspire joy. She was drawn to “write a story that made [her] happy and that was funny to read and fun to write.” She settled on the idea of a romantic comedy with two teen girls with rival henna businesses while “attempting (and failing) to teach [herself] henna”.
Looking to up the stakes of the girls’ rivalry, Adiba imagined what it would be like “if the two girls were also romantically attracted to each other, and grappling with what that might mean.” From there, everything else came together to make this wonderful tale of love, longing, and growing up.
The Henna Wars revolves around themes of queerness, first love, culture, and family. Adiba interjects stories with themes that are relevant to herself and her life, and exploring them in the medium of storytelling.
If you'd told teen Adiba that one day she'd publish this book about a queer Muslim, Bangladeshi girl falling in love with another girl?? Yeah, she would not have believed you!
She recalls the first time she encountered a person of color writing about people of color in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses (which we love!). Reading her stories made Adiba realize that it was possible to write about people like herself.
As a queer woman of color, she acknowledges that she has a responsibility to represent her culture, gender, and sexuality in her work. “There’s a lot of pressure, especially because there aren’t a lot of novels out there about Bangladeshi teens, and even fewer about queer Bangladeshi Muslim teens,” Adiba said. “Even though realistically I know that it’s impossible to represent everything as you write a single story, I still felt the pressure of that.”
To her, storytelling cannot be separated from politics. “Especially as a queer Muslim South Asian, there’s no way that what I write is not going to be political. My very existence is political.”
As she writes in the contemporary era, I was curious to see what she finds unique to the time that we are currently living in. To her, this time is a time of “rising up against oppression and attempting to enact change.” Yet, she believes this has been the case for a while, as “marginalized people have been fighting for our rights for a long time. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.”
If this story were set in the future, she would love to say that the “characters like Nishat and Flávia wouldn’t have to worry about their sexuality, race, and culture making it more difficult for them to fit in.” However, she has her doubts. “I’m not particularly hopeful of that happening anytime in the near future.”
For the writers out there or those interested in what happens behind the scenes, Adiba admits that her writing process is “honestly a little chaotic.” When she first begins writing, she “usually have a very basic idea of the story I want to tell. I figure out the important bits that I need to be able to write the story—the beginning, the end, and bits and pieces in the middle. Then, I begin to write and it’s a process of stringing everything together. It’s a little like putting together a puzzle. Once it’s out there on the page, it’s time for me to begin revisions and shape it into something that really works.”
The scenes that she enjoyed writing the most were the Bengali wedding scenes at the beginning of the book. “Bangladeshi people are obsessed with weddings, and our weddings are a whole event. So it was nice to explore that aspect of my life through the lens of a character like Nishat, who is surrounded by the familiarity of a Bangladeshi wedding, while also stumbling across her childhood crush.”
As for how it feels to see her work being shared around the world, Adiba admits that “it still feels a little surreal.” Her dreams of being a writer when she was younger seemed to rely on her writing about straight white characters with whom she shared few experiences. Those were some of the only stories that she saw published or have mainstream success. “It was hard for me to imagine a world where someone like me could be writing stories about people like me.”
In the future, she hopes that The Henna Wars can allow queer brown girls to see a reflection of themselves in its pages, and that it can open doors for more queer brown people to write and publish more of their own stories.
For those that have enjoyed the latest book-to-movie adaptations likeTo All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians, Adiba shares that she would love to see The Henna Wars adapted for the big screen in the future. Especially if the potential adaptation stays true to the ethnicities of the characters.
As of now, Adiba is revising her second novel, which will be out from Page Street in spring 2021. It’s another YA romantic comedy which follows two girls—one Bangladeshi Bengali and one Indian Bengali—who have to start a fake relationship in order to achieve what they want.
Have you entered our Instagram giveaway yet? And if you absolutely cannot wait, get The Henna Wars on Amazon or on The Tempest’s own virtual bookshop supporting local bookstores.
It’s been almost a year since my ex and I broke up and there has been a lot of healing and crying. For a long time, I thought that I would be with him forever and that he was my soulmate. No matter what happened I would tell my friends over and over that he wasn’t a bad person and it was all because of his mental health. I tried so hard to convince them that he was the only person I could be with and the only person I would ever be happy with. After we broke up, he got with someone else almost straight away. I explained it away and defended him. It wasn’t until later that I learned about narcissistic abuse.
Whilst researching for an article, I came across an Instagram page that talked about narcissistic abuse. I looked through a few of their posts and honestly, my world had changed. All of the behavior that I had been explaining away for so long finally made sense. To be honest, my world came crashing down. I thought back through some of our memories and I saw them in a completely different light. A mutual friend saw the posts and she was shocked. Her exact words were ‘it’s like looking at a picture of him’ and I couldn’t agree more.
These are the things that changed my perspective the most:
This was something that I knew about but I didn’t realize why. I always thought it was because he was naturally charismatic and things just happened but the reality was completely different. People who are narcissistic tend to have overlapping relationships as they need constant support and supply. Even when they are in a relationship with you, they are always on the look for a new supply. This was my ex. It was a year between his first girlfriend and me. After we broke up the first time, he got with someone within a week. I explained this as ‘he is looking to deal with the pain of dealing with the break up’. Looking back, I realize that it was because he couldn’t stand being alone, it had less to do with me and more to do with his insecurities.
These tend to be their friends who will actively attempt to ruin the life of the person who has upset the person that is narcissistic. Like the Wicked Witch of the West, they send their Flying Monkeys after them to keep them quiet and prevent them from speaking against the narcissist. My ex did this. I never really liked his friends but I put up with them because I loved him, this was a mistake. After we broke up, we would still speak. One day, he stopped randomly and I tried to find out what happened. In retaliation, he had his friends messaging me, constantly stalking my social media and my personal website. I felt isolated and scared. I was intimidated; it felt like I was alone. I always thank my friends for standing next to and in front of me to protect me.
Disciple type following
They are worshippers that are devoted to those that are narcissistic. Friends make sure to keep you on the right path and give you advice, even when it might be hard to hear. They don’t condone all of your actions blindly and always blame the other person. Holy shit, this changed everything for me. My relationship fell apart when I tried to give advice to my ex when he was wrong. All I received for that was abuse. I was made to feel like I was going crazy, not just by him but by his worshippers. Some of them were my friends, but they honestly wouldn’t have cared if he physically abused me, they would have found some way to blame me for that. The more he changed, the more I fell out of love because the person I loved didn’t exist and even though people agreed, they would never speak to him about it. I was fighting a losing battle.
I know that I don’t want to be with him anymore. The way that he treated me was abusive and I can finally see that. Something that really drove it home was speaking to people who didn’t idolize him. The similarities between our stories terrified me and I knew that I had to cut contact with everyone he knows. I’m still reeling from what I found.
For his sake, I hope he becomes the person I fell for because he was amazing. But I know I deserve someone who won’t manipulate me. Who I can truly trust and who won’t abandon me just to bring me back into his life to ghost me. I cannot wait till I meet him because I know I deserve better than what I got.
If you are in need of support, reach out to these helplines:
National Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0808 2000 247 (United Kingdom)
National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233 (USA)
It was finally 6 p.m. – time to sign off. I had made it through a long and stifling day. Shutting my laptop, I hurried down to make a cup of decaf coffee. I was still making up for the cups I’d missed out on all those mornings during Ramadan. The machine had barely begun whirring when my phone pinged. It was my boss.
One day I was on a professional call that had gone way over its allocated time. Yet, I found it difficult to signal that I had to leave.Technically, I didn’t have to leave. I was at home and could get to my other assignments soon enough. I did not have any other meetings to switch into. Dubai was under strict lockdown and it was past curfew. I was literally in no physical position to oppose sitting in for longer.
Given the situation around the world, I don’t mean to gripe over this. I acknowledge my position of privilege in that I am not in the same boat as frontline workers providing critical public services (whose efforts I am forever thankful for). Inside my home, I can rely on being safe and so going to work does not hold the same health concerns and points of stress.
However, I do worry that working remotely removes the boundaries between time ‘in the office’ and at home. How can I draw a line between my personal and professional life when both take place in the same environment? Especially in jobs that are flexible with hours, it is only a matter of time before the boundaries are so mixed-up that it is nearly impossible to untangle.
Moreover, I still feel like I always have to be ‘on’. Even after working hours, I constantly make sure my phone isn’t on silent mode. I am constantly aware of the time and obsessively check my emails on the off chance something comes through that I needs my attention.
Do we really need to conjure up an excuse to have some time to ourselves?
In many instances, I would experience burnout without even realizing it. I remember walking away from my laptop, where I had been making some negligible additions to a project, to get some tea, and I suddenly felt lightheaded. I realized that I was making very little progress with work even though I had been racking my brain for hours. Turns out, I had forgotten to eat lunch and dinner.
Given the constant proximity to our phones and laptops, when we’re working remotely, we don’t have many excuses to throw out when missing a call. Therefore, we are assumed to be constantly available. Even during the weekend. But do we really need to conjure up an excuse to have some time to ourselves?
This mindset extends to academics as well. In my experience, professors expect more time to be invested in our work as they ‘know for a fact’ that we aren’t going anywhere.
Our bosses, professors, and superiors seem to expect more time and effort to be put into projects given that this pandemic has considerably limited our social lives and other extracurricular pursuits. While it is true that every email for the first few months started with, “Taking into account the uncertainty of our times”, this acknowledgment of hardship did not translate into their expectations of our productivity levels.
One key way to instill boundaries while you work remotely is to physically designate a working space. I started off by moving around the house throughout the day. Perching my laptop next to me in the living room, I had my morning coffee. Then, I transitioned outside onto the veranda to soak in the afternoon sun before finally retiring to my bedroom.
Let us not allow leisure and taking personal time for ourselves to go extinct. In the long run, this is not a sustainable lifestyle for anyone.
I soon grew tired of this method as it meant my work traveled with me all around. Having one desk that I work at has, thus far, been the most productive solution. I knew to put on my working cap when I sat down. It allowed me to go into ‘work mode’ without feeling like I was existing somewhere in limbo between leisure and work.
Another way to instill these boundaries is to install an app on your laptop or phone to track your usage. Designate an amount of time to work, take digital breaks, and offline breaks (don’t forget to eat!).
As long as the work gets done, everyone should be entitled to having personal time to spend however they choose. Let us not allow leisure and taking personal time for ourselves to go extinct. In the long run, this is not a sustainable lifestyle for anyone. We need to take notice of how our days are being divided up. If not, we risk the development of a new medical condition, that supersedes a burnout, which will negatively affect our working class.
I went to a wedding once, where all the bridesmaids were dressed in hand-painted clothes. They looked beautiful, draped in silk sheets with intricately painted floral outlines in bright colors. They stood out from the crowd because their clothes were the epitome of elegance, sophistication and vibrancy.
I vividly remember that wedding because it gave me the idea of wearing hand-painted clothes too. I realized that all I needed was plain fabric and fluorescent fabric paints to make myself something akin to what I saw at the wedding.
I recently painted on two scarves of plain white fabric. I drew flowers and leaves on them, keeping them in tone with the summer season, and filled the spaces with shades of pink, red, orange, and blue. They hang peacefully in my closet now, ready to be worn with my matching outfits.
Since then, I’ve seen many small-scale businesses flourishing in the hand-painted clothes market. And for all the right reasons. Brands such as Rehstore are following this trend. If anything, hand-painted clothes should be promoted widely for a variety of reasons, some of which I’ll highlight below.
Hand-painted clothes bring an edge to the clothing industry.
Although hand-painted clothes are becoming increasingly commonplace, they’re not the norm. People don’t wear them often. Designers don’t sell them often. They’re not as widespread as they should be.
This doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t look great. When you walk into a room full of people dressed in clothes stitched and designed almost on the same patterns, you’re bound to turn heads if you’re wearing clothes that you’ve painted yourself. You’ll stand out because you’re the only one who has done something different.
Hand-painted clothes are edgy, fun, and different. On a personal level, I feel they’re a gem in the clothing industry.
Your clothes reflect your personal style.
When you’ve made something yourself, it’s all about you. It’s hard to avoid lending little pieces of yourself to your art, even if it’s created on clothes.
A lot of the time, the way we dress represents our style statement. Clothing can be an extension of our identity, and hand-painted clothes give you the opportunity to reinvent your style.
If done smartly, it’s inexpensive and lends itself to being a sustainable item.
Most of us have unused fabric lying around the house. I know I do. I purchased silks because I was getting ready to attend weddings that were unfortunately postponed in the wake of the pandemic. But I cut a small piece out of the silk fabric to paint myself a scarf. Alternatively, if you’ve got any plain dresses to serve as blank canvases for you to decorate, use them. Recycling and giving your clothes and upgrade is never a bad idea. Think about it. Taking your outfits and re-designing them, re-purposing them slows down the rate of one time wear purchases you make. Yes, the beautiful designs you paint on are personal, but the ability to change up your clothes would allow you to keep and wear them for a very long time. Keeping a piece of clothing for longer, and being able to paint it blue if you wanted to, means you’re less likely to purchase another blue shirt.
Next, all you need are some fabric paints. If you’re not the best at drawing, you can trace patterns and fill them in with colors of your choice. The paint dries up easily, and once you’re done, your clothes will be refreshed and ready to be worn.
Most of us are spending this summer inside our homes. If you’re looking for something to do, painting your clothes could be an exciting adventure. Give it a try, you might never turn back.
I am an ordained minister. I have been attending and participating in protests in Minneapolis, Chicago, and now South Florida for 10 years. My first protests were in response to the Church of Scientology and its abuse of church members as well as evidence of shady financial practices that should result in its religious charity status being revoked. Among us were a bunch of white kids wearing Guy Fawkes masks playing meme music like “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley and “Still Alive” from the Portal video game franchise. We didn’t block the street or sidewalk. We had permits to protest and use sound amplification devices. The police rarely showed up and if they did it was only to remind us of the terms of our permit.
Experiences like this one led me to believe that as long as we obeyed the law and had our permits in order, the cops would be on our side. I didn’t question this assumption until I attended a protest in Chicago for organizers who were arrested and falsely charged with terrorism charges (and eventually released due to public pressure). Admittedly, I don’t remember much about the circumstances around this protest, but I do remember that it seemed strange to me. We were advised on what to wear, how to approach the police line, and that we shouldn’t smoke cigarettes because they might use the butt to arrest us – even though littering isn’t an arrestable offense in Chicago.
And again, when I protested for energy solutions and utility rights, we were, what I would describe as, the epitome of peaceful. We even did the electric slide (energy is basic a right…electric slide; get it?) at an intersection in the Chicago Loop. After a while we were told to disperse, some did, but a crowd of people remained, including a handful of ministers and a rabbi. The cops then brought in a giant van and proceeded to arrest everyone who was still at the intersection. The scene was calm, orderly, but almost unnerving in the way it happened. I was left wondering: Why did they arrest those folks? What did they accomplish? How did it protect me and my community?
Occupy Chicago was a real eye opener for me. I had heard rumors that Chicago police were especially brutal, but did not truly understand the terror or what this meant until I saw the way they arrested protestors, tore down tents, dragged people down the street, and so much more. It seemed clear to me at the time that the cops were more invested in protecting capitalism, buildings, and tourism than they were with actual human life or freedom of speech and assembly. This was just a few years after the 2008 Housing Crisis. My generation was promised that if we went to college, got a degree; we could be successful homeowners who lived out the American Dream. Occupy was a declaration for many young people that we knew that promise was a lie. Why did politicians send the police in riot gear when they could have made sweeping reforms to provide economic relief for students, low-income housing, increased SNAP benefits (aka food stamps) eligibility and funding?
When protests for justice in the name of George Floyd started up around the country a few weeks ago, it wasn’t a question of whether I should attend but whether I could given the pandemic raging around us. I have spent the last three months trying to set an example for others by wearing my mask everywhere and keeping a safe social distance. Experts have suggested that wearing masks and keeping a distance can mitigate risk. I also knew that open-air transmission of COVID-19 is significantly lower than indoors, but shouting and coughing caused by teargas would certainly increase communicability dramatically. All that in mind, however, I soon became aware of the most radical display of police activity and violence at the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests that I’ve ever heard of. It looked like a warzone and solidified my belief that protests can’t be peaceful if the police are there.
Protests tend to feel a lot more dangerous with cops staring down at you dressed in full riot gear, eager to agitate, and decorated with rubber bullet or pepper ball guns slung over their shoulders. In Florida, cops have not hesitated to use riot tactics on unarmed, peaceful, protestors. Police are also on video arresting people who were speaking their mind (note: being offensive is not a crime), firing tear gas (a tactic banned by the Geneva Convention), and pelting citizens for simply standing on their porch.In Orlando, the protest looked more like a block party than an uprising until cops showed up and used dozens of cans of teargas on the crowd. The panic is palpable, even when simply watching the video. People don’t show up to protests hoping to get into a confrontation with the police. They go hoping that showing up will put pressure on their elected officials to give them the justice they deserve.
It’s clear to me that the response to protests is essentially cops living out the fantasy that they are warriors. It’s an open secret at this point that police are effectively trained to think of themselves as soldiers, and that violence or killing is both necessary and good (CW: video report contains graphic footage of police brutality and police shootings). They believe themselves to be the Thin Blue Line between order and chaos, but it seems more likely they are the vanguard for that same chaos.
Taylor Swift may be a polarizing figure, but you can’t deny that she’s created her own space within the music industry’s revolving door.
Point blank PERIOD.
1. Her lyrics.
Who has ever been heartbroken and not cried to a Taylor Swift song? Taylor Swift’s lyrics are always incredibly honest and to the core. She writes about her personal experience and creates songs that everyone can relate to. She is also the queen of bridges. If you doubt me, check out theAll Too Wellbridge.
3. She invites fans to her house and bakes for them.
When Taylor was about to put out 1989, she was worried about what her fans would think about this full-on pop album. She decided to invite 89 of them to her house and play the album for them in a secret session.
Since then it has become a tradition for Taylor to choose fans from social media and play them her albums before their release date. She even bakes cookies for them! To date, these sessions have never resulted in her songs being leaked, which is a real testament to the love her stans have for her.
4. She filed and won a sexual assault lawsuit – all for a $1 settlement.
If you don’t know the story, this is how it goes: Taylor Swift went to court in 2017 against the Denver DJ David Mueller. Mueller had sued Taylor for defamation and losing his job after the singer had complained to his employer that he had grabbed her inappropriately during a photoshoot. The moment was caught on video and there were witnesses.
He asked for $3 million in compensation. Taylor filed a countersuit in response, claiming assault and only requested $1 in compensation to make a point.
I still get chills reading her testimony, especially in light of the fact that she won.
5. She was a ‘nice girl’ that learned to make her voice be heard, and let’s be real: we’ve all been there.
Her recent Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, is a reflection on how Taylor went from wanting to please everybody and being seen as a “good girl” to learning to be happy despite other people’s opinions.
The documentary — which has already reached critical acclaim, according to review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes — touches on a multitude of issues. And most of those issues aren’t pop star problems. They’re human problems.
6. She flipped the script on the bullying that people put her through, reclaiming the “snake” sign they used for her new signature.
After Kim Kardashian West “exposed” Taylor Swift’s supposed lies in a tweet about National Snake Day, Taylor’s social media was flooded by snake emojis. People used that emoji to call her fake.
Taylor disappeared from social media for a year after that but came back with a whole era based around snakes. She claimed an image that people used to bully her and turned her into her personal brand: there’s nothing more badass than that.
7. When she used the attention from Kanye’s leaked call to ask for donations, instead.
Continuing with the Taylor vs. Kim feud, in 2020, the full call between Kanye West and Taylor was finally leaked. It resulted in proving that she was telling the truth all along. Kanye never mentioned the line “that bitch” in the call.
Taylor then used all the media attention that she was getting because of the leaked call to ask people to donate money to Feeding America and The World Health Organization.
8. The Easter eggs. All the Easter eggs.
If you’ve ever followed the release of Taylor Swift’s music, you know that it is very similar to a treasure hunt. Taylor loves to leave clues and Easter eggs in her posts, songs, and music videos for her fans to find. And we love looking for them!
9. Taylor’s hard-hitting points in her acceptance speech during Billboard’s Women of the Decade Award.
Taylor Swift was awarded Billboard‘s first-ever Woman of the Decade, thanks to the singer’s vast musical accomplishments over the course of the 2010s. During her acceptance speech, she used the opportunity to call out sexism within the music industry.
She spoke out on the barrage of criticism typically accepted around women’s bodies and relationships. She called out Scooter Braun and the role of private equity in the music industry. It was an empowering and honest speech where she spoke out about issues of the music industry that are not commonly brought up.
10. The song Ronan and the story behind it.
One of Taylor Swift’s saddest songs is Ronan. She wrote this song using phrases from the blog of a fan that had lost her 4-year-old son, Ronan, to cancer. Taylor credited the fan, Maya Thompson, as co-writer and donated all the proceeds from the song to cancer charities. Taylor has only performed this song once, during a Stand Up To Cancer gala.
11. She has been honest about her struggle with her body image.
One of the most shocking scenes within Miss Americana is the moment that Taylor confesses that she had an eating disorder. She even pulls out a picture of herself and points out all that she hates about it before stopping herself.
“This would cause me to go into a real shame, hate spiral. I caught myself yesterday starting to do it and I said, ‘Nope. We don’t do that anymore. Because it’s better to think you look fat than look sick.’ There’s always some standard of beauty that you’re not meeting,” she said. “It’s all just fucking impossible.”
It shows that the biggest star on the planet is feeling the same insecurities and pressures that millions of people face. It’s important we reject society’s unrealistic expectations.
12. The “Taylor Swift effect” in voter registration.
In 2018, Taylor Swift broke her long-held silence with a post on her Instagram urging people to vote for the Democratic candidate in the Tennessee primaries. She stated all the reasons why she was voting for this candidate and reminded people to register if they wanted to vote.
However, many forgot that the song went along a Change.com petition for the Senate to pass the Equality Act, a law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation that had been approved by the House.
15. She was the sole writer in her third album, Speak Now.
Taylor’s greatest talent has always been songwriting. When people criticized her second album, Fearless, saying that such a young girl could not have written those songs, she decided to write her third album, Speak Now, all by herself. It is a masterpiece and shut up critics everywhere.
16. Taylor does free meet-and-greets for her fans.
Instead of requiring fans to pay for meet-and-greets, Taylor finds them on social media and the audience. Then she spends hours before and after every show hanging out with the Swifties. Know any other mega celebrity that does that? No? Thought so.
17. She calls out sexism.
She actively speaks out about sexism in the music industry, particularly how people criticize her for writing about her love life yet don’t do the same to male artists.
18. The Apple Letter and her defense of artists’ rights.
For years, Taylor’s used her influence to support artists. In 2015, Taylor wrote an open letter to Apple explaining why she was going to pull her albums from Apple Music. She criticized the policy of not paying artists during the free-trial period of the app. Apple changed its policy less than 24 hours after that.
The latest? In Taylor’s recent deal with Universal Records, she included a clause that stipulates that all of Universal’s artists will be compensated if the label sells its Spotify shares.
19. She is a proud cat lady.
Taylor’s cats are almost as famous as she is. Who could resist Dr. Meredith Grey, Detective Olivia Benson, and Benjamin Button?
20. She doesn’t take herself seriously.
Taylor Swift is hilarious. Who else would allow an ad like this one to air?
21. She wrote songs for both The Hunger Games and Hannah Montana: The Movie.
Two movies that symbolized our teenage years feature the musical genius of Taylor Swift. Who could forget about them?
She wrote You’ll Always Find Your Way Back Home for Miley Cyrus, and wrote and performed Crazier. For The Hunger Games, she co-wrote and sang the masterpieces that were Safe and Sound with The Civil Wars and Eyes Open.
22. She made being 22 cool.
Who hasn’t sang along to Taylor’s song 22 on their birthday? Before her song, turning 21 was the biggest highlight of your early 20s. Then Taylor came along and reminded us that you can still party and have fun, no matter your age.
23. She taught Zac Efron how to play the guitar.
Vote for Taylor to star in a High School Musical remake?
24. THAT Miss Americana scene.
During Miss Americana, Taylor shows the moment when she stood up to her team and her own father and decided to make her political views public. It is a very emotional moment and I still cry every time I watch the scene.
25. Taylor is the first youngest woman in history to win two GRAMMY Awards for Best Album of the Year (plus a couple of others!).
The first album was awarded to her when she was just twenty, making her the youngest person to win this award (until Billie Eilish). We love us some successful women.
26. She stalks her fans on social media (in the nicest possible way!).
Taylor Swift recently offered financial help to fans who were left without work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, sending them $3,000 each.
She also has secret social media accounts where she follows her fans and sends them monetary help or concert invitations.
27. She made country music cool and then switched into a whole new music genre.
Taylor was a successful country artist and could have continued being one for years. Instead, she decided to take a leap and switch to pop, teaching us to not be afraid of change.
29. She taught me that it’s okay for people not to like you.
At the end of the day, the only person that needs to like you is yourself.
30. Her constant reinvention.
Any Taylor Swift fan will be able to recognize the year and album it is whenever Taylor posts a throwback photo. Taylor changes her style, hair, and aesthetic for every era she enters.
31. That time when she learned to apologize for apologizing and showed us that it’s okay to be angry.
During the last scene of Miss Americana, Taylor is seen ranting about sexism. Then she stops herself and apologizes for getting angry. A woman behind a camera tells her not to apologize because she is allowed to be angry. At that moment, Taylor recognized her moment to learn and took it to do so.
32. Last, but definitely not least, I’ll always love her for just how imperfect she is.
She hasn’t always used her voice, and she’s been involved in drama. But no one is perfect, and Taylor genuinely is someone who treats her fans and everyone the way they want to be treated — with respect.
Dropping just as most countries started going into serious lockdown, Animal Crossing: New Horizons could not have come out a better time. The franchise’s latest version, made available for Nintendo Switch players worldwide on March 20th, quickly became a quarantine favorite as players around the world traded in visiting their friends in real life for visiting each others’ islands. The idyllic vibes, amplified by a light, soothing soundtrack and family-friendly animation, served as the perfect escape for existential dread.
But as quarantine becomes the new norm, we can’t just escape reality anymore. And even Animal Crossing knows it.
As the mass uprisings against police brutality began in response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Animal Crossing fans who could not physically join protests found ways to support the movement through the game. Players painted “Black Lives Matter” signs to spread across their islands, and even held virtual protests with other players.
Fanpages such “Animal Crossing struggles” on Twitter halted all game-related content for two weeks to amplify Black voices and organizations, and has continued to intersperse protest and donation information after resuming its usual content flow. Accounts like animarx.crossing on Instagram, which usually focuses on humorous commentary on capitalism through screencaps from the game, have also switched up their focus and created Black Lives Matter resources highlights on their profiles.
As the game likes to remind us, though, money speaks the loudest – Animal Crossing is definitely a great example of the predatory nature of capitalism, to be discussed at another point. As protest discussions and conversations about Black Lives Matter and abolishing the police started picking up steam in Animal Crossing fandoms, this was a lesson the popular “Nookazon” fan shop learned the hard way. Nookazon, the largest player-driven marketplace for items in the game, faced strong backlash for banning posts with “BLM” or “ACAB” (“All Cops Are Bastards”) from its central Discord server. While the site later apologized and issued a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, players have left the group en masse for other sites, like nook.market. The site, which made their support for Black liberation clear from the start, continues to have a banner at the top of their homepage calling for donations to community organizations.
This isn’t actually the first time that players have used the game to get political – Animal Crossing was actually removed from Nintendo’s e-Store in China in April, after Hong Kong protesters started using the custom design and artwork features to bring their democracy protests in-game. It’s another example of the ingenious ways organizers have adapted to keep their movements going in the middle of the pandemic.
It’s also not terribly surprising. At the end of the day, part of Animal Crossing’s appeal is the fact that it’s meant to be as inclusive as possible. There are virtually no social rules in Animal Crossing, except looking out for your neighbor. The game’s completely customizable elements make it a haven for self-expression, to the fullest degree.
If you can’t be yourself in Animal Crossing, where can you be?
Alas, the Animal Crossing fandom is likely not going to end up dramatically radicalizing most of its community members – as much as I wish it were the case, you can’t just gather resources to craft an anti-racist at your DIY bench. That said, movements are most sustainable when we start to ingrain their practices and principles into the little things in our everyday lives. So whether that’s setting up recurring donations to your local mutual aid and bail funds, switching up your fitness gear purchases to support Black designers, diversifying your Spotify playlists, or yes, even just engaging in conversations about systemic racism in an Animal Crossing Discord server, keep up the momentum, and don’t forget that even on your fantasy island, Black lives matter.
We all seek the perfect embodiment of our personal beliefs and ideologies in those whom we support politically. We look to them for guidance, leadership, justice, and integrity. We also might look to them to affirm and validate our own convictions or perspectives. As global citizens, we are hoping to find political representation that perfectly aligns with our vision of what society should be. However, as strong as this desire is, it’s an impossible reality. Unfortunately, time and time again we are disappointed by the politicians we support, and often we disagree with their policies and actions, too. I’m here to say that this frustration is completely justified.
You don’t always have to agree with your politician. In fact, you don’t even have to consistently agree with just one singular politician. You don’t have to advocate for just one particular person to represent your beliefs, either. It is okay to be disappointed by your politicians because politicians are, by default, problematic.
But first, I’d like to make a distinction between problematic and corrupt. Politicians are often problematic which means they sometimes defend policies that you don’t agree with. Or they vote on a bill with a decision you never expected. Or they endorse a candidate you despise. Or a scandal from their past surfaces. A corrupt person, on the other hand, is someone who is tyrannical. It is someone who actively acts in favor of their own selfish gain and in opposition to society as a collective whole. A corrupt person’s goal is solely to gain control and oppress. So, Bernie Sanders? Problematic. Mitch McConnell? Corrupt and tyrannical. They fall under two different categories.
But, to some degree, all politicians are problematic from one perspective or another. This is simply due to human difference—differences in lived experiences or growth, differences in epistemologies or ideologies, and differences in intention. And still, it is acceptable for us to support someone despite those differences.
It took me a while to accept this. I, like many others, naively wished for a political hero to save us from all ofthe corruption within the American government. Once upon a time, I supported Andrew Yang as a viable democratic presidential candidate; he was logical and intelligent, personable and charismatic. Many of his policies seemed like great solutions to some of the economic, political, and societal problems we have in the United States today. Universal basic income to combat artificial intelligence taking over some of the most common jobs in America? Yes, sign me up. Ranked choice voting so we never have to vote for just one person for any office ever again? That could solve so much in terms of party politics.
However, as Yang continued to share more of his proposed policies and took actions I opposed, he became just as problematic as any other political figure in my eyes.
Yang didn’t support universal healthcare. He also wanted to keep American troops deployed overseas. Both things I personally disagree with. This confliction didn’t sit right with me. I kept thinking: How could I support someone who may ultimately have a hand in shaping the future of my country, while opposing some of the things he believes in? Would it be right for me to support him? I felt unsure.
He also sometimes reaffirmed Asian stereotypes with catchphrases like, “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math!” and his MATH caps. For Yang to use this phrase and capitalize on it was, in a way, to cater to his white audience by essentially legitimating a stereotype that claims that all Asians are good at math—a stereotype many non-Asian people perpetuate.
When the spread of COVID-19 fueled anti-Asian racism and xenophobia, and Trump himself deemed coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” many Asian Americans looked to Andrew Yang to call this behavior out. In an attempt to address this racism, Yang wrote an opinion letter in the Washington Post that was published in April. Rather than condemning this racist rhetoric, Yang called for Asians to step up as Americans saying “Asian Americans need to embrace and show [their] American-ness in ways [they] never have before…. [they] should show without a shadow of a doubt that [they] are Americans who will do [their] part for [their] country in this time of need.”
This was, as many critics have expressed, an unsettling message. Yang, as an Asian American, was not explicitly defending his fellow Asian Americans. Instead, he made a flawed argument that states Asian Americans need to make themselves appear more agreeable to white Americans to combat this racism. Yang faced backlash from Asian communities across the country. Simu Liu, who is set to play an Asian American superhero in the Marvel universe, called Yang’s op-ed a “slap in the face.” Conversely, writer Hannah Nguyen defended Yang stating Yang did not call for Asians to assimilate into American society, but rather to embrace the American identity—a statement she supports. Others appreciated what they perceived as a message for Asian Americans to come together with all Americans. But, in my eyes, Yang made a grave error in wording which led me to rethink what his values about race, ethnicity, and diversity are.
So much of the public seemed to hate Yang after his opinion letter was published. I almost hopped on that bandwagon, too, until I realized that criticism is not the same thing as hate, and frankly it should not be the same thing. People are undeniably quick to attack those with whom they disagree. This is a major problem in American politics today. Elizabeth Warren claimed Native American ancestry and was, rightly, vehemently attacked for it. But this dire mistake should not overshadow her efforts to fight for Medicare for All and affordable college. Ilhan Omar voted “present” on the Armenian genocide resolution. This was also justifiably criticized, but it shouldn’t take away from her agenda to establish proper paid family and sick leave. So, despite my disagreements with Andrew Yang, I realized these don’t cancel out the things I do agree with.
I still think Yang would be a great leader despite his being problematic. Many of his ideas would do wonders to improve America both economically and societally. That said, I also continue to bedisappointed by some of his ideas and some of the things he has done—but this is natural. Let’s keep critiquing those in power, but let’s also normalize disagreement and disappointment without blacklisting our problematic politicians.
Audre Lorde is a legend and her work has quite literally changed my life.
As a self-described Black lesbian, mother, warrior, and poet, Audre Lorde was a powerful figure in the Feminist movement of the 70s and 80s, especially with her work in Black Feminism. Lorde has an impressive array ofliterature, including many pieces on intersectional feminism, Black lesbianism, and sexual liberation. As a Black woman, she owns her sexuality as part of her intersectional identity as she calls on other women to not let differences in their identities distract them from a common goal of collective liberation. ThisPride month, I have gone back and read some of my favorite short pieces.
“The Erotic as Power,” is an evocative piece that was published in Lorde’s 1984 book, Sister Outsider. Focusing on the power of erotic female energy, she educates us on the reasons why this energy has been suppressed in women. She writes, “The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling.” She goes on to explain that the erotic is not necessarilysexual and that is a false connotation that many seem to make due to the use of the erotic to please men. This erotic energy for men’s pleasure is the only one that is approved of in society, and women are forced to suppress all the other uses of this erotic power by a corrupt system.
Recognizing how powerful it can be to fully step into this erotic power can be life-changing for women and create change around the world. When she speaks of the erotic, she means “an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.”
Imagine if women were able to feel empowered and put love into all that they did? Imagine if we could feel pure pleasure out of the things we did in life, and with who we are, for ourselves and ourselves only? The racist, sexist, and patriarchal systems we live in continue to suppress our power, and we must fight back. Lorde’s piece is an inspiration for all women, but particularly for Black women, the most oppressed group in America.
Another one of my favorite pieces is Lorde’s essay “Black Women Organizing Around Sexualities”, where she calls out to her fellow non-lesbian Black sisters to not let their sexualities get in the way of their shared goal towards Black liberation. Now, I do not identify as a Black woman, but this piece was pivotal for me in learning about the struggles that Black women in our society face. Not only do they face oppression and racism, but the intersectional lesbian Black woman even face pushback from her own sisters. Lorde doesn’t believe that it is right for her to have to choose between being a Black feminist or a Blacklesbian, because they are both part of her identity and both contribute to her oppression.
There is still racism, sexism, and discrimination amongst Black folks. In this piece, Lorde wants to call that out and bring unity amongst Black women because they should all unite to fight against the oppression of their community. She writes, “I do not want you to ignore my identity, nor do I want you to make it an insurmountable barrier between our sharing of strengths.” Black lesbians are still struggling for freedom and justice in the same way that heterosexual Black folks are, and this is why she emphasizes that instead of letting their sexualities divide them, they should organize and fight together.
When I reflect on these pieces, I think of all the ways that we are valuable, and how, by stepping into our own value, we are able to value others regardless of the different aspects of their identities. Lorde’s work is a call for women to unite in their fight for freedom.
In her essay “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”, she states that “as women, we must root out internalized patterns of oppression within ourselves if we are to move beyond the most superficial aspects of social change.” By touching on very intricate issues of classism, ageism, and heterosexism among the already deeply rooted racism and sexism towards the Black community, Lorde emphasizes how urgent it is for Black women to put their differences aside for the sake of their own people.
As I mentioned, I am not Black and so I do not share the same experience that Black women do in this country. However, Audre Lorde has been a prominent figure who has contributed towards my knowledge about intersectional feminism and to myanti-racist education. I am compelled to honor her and her work, especially during Pride month.
Lorde’s work embodies Pride as she unapologetically owns every part of her intersectional identity, including her sexuality. In doing so, she inspired other women to do the same, and even to join her battle for liberation for all Black folks with all types of intersectional identities. As she writes in “The Erotic as Power”, “Of course, women so empowered are dangerous.”
Audre Lorde’s work paved the way for many women to step into their power, and she has taught me how to be a better leader, a better ally, a better woman.