LGBTQIA+ History Gender Inequality

The history of non-binary genders is longer than you know

When Joan of Arc dressed for church, they wore men’s clothing.

When they took the sacraments, they had their hair short and wore pants.

When they fought for their God, they wore armor.

Many people resistant to cultural change will blame the newness of the terms used to define it. The newness of a label is often used to allude to the idea that it is an invention – something that is not true, but rather made up. This is the criticism that many people are applying to non-binary genders.

However, something that has been around since the 15th century cannot be rejected by society’s supposed perception of its “newness.”

As people assigned female or male at birth celebrate their androgyny, the patriarchy is fighting back, declaring gender identity a new construct that is fabricated by those who strive for a difference. It’s important to acknowledge that the newness of the term “non-binary” is not an indictment on its existence, but rather a celebration of its acknowledgment. 

Many people resistant to cultural change will blame the newness of the terms used to define it.

History is no stranger to the tales of people who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) who dress in men’s clothing to adopt more powerful positions in society.

For many people, the Disney adaptation of the myth of Hua Mulan might be the first time they consider nonbinary identities. While the term “non-binary” is never used in the family-friendly flick, in the title song, “Reflection,” Mulan proclaims, “I will never pass for a perfect bride or a perfect daughter…That if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart.”

[adsanity_group num_ads=”1″ align=”alignnone” num_columns=”1″ group_ids=”135795″/]

A 20-year-old movie certainly doesn’t indicate the newness of betraying gender roles, nor does the 1700-year-old source material.

Even earlier, in 1400 B.C.E., Hatshepsut ruled as Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt. Often regarded as one of the few female pharaohs to take the throne, the statues that survive her celebrate the strength of her rule.

She is depicted in a few different ways, from a woman wearing men’s clothing to a feminine face upon a man’s body. Hatshepsut defied the strict gender roles of ancient Egypt, and the statues that still stand are evidence of their defiance.

These examples are anecdotal, and often follow a common theme, of a person assigned female at birth (AFAB) defying the gender roles assigned to their sex to achieve something greater. However, even these examples hardly hold a candle to the rich history outlining people of a third gender.

History is no stranger to tales of people who are assigned female at birth dressing in men’s clothing to adopt more powerful positions in society.

This third gender, sometimes defined as neither a man nor a woman, is present in several ancient cultures, including Mesopotamia, the progenitor of written history.

During that time, people of the third gender, or Hijra, were in service to the gods they celebrated. In various cultures throughout history, from Hijra priests to eunuchs and virgins in the temple of Artemis, holiness has transcended gender.

It’s easy for detractors to rebut this by pretending that nothing of the sort took place in our current understanding of Western society. The notion of a third gender or “Mahu” is part of Polynesian culture. It can mean a gender between male and female, or gender fluid. In Hawaii and Tahiti, the Mahu people were highly respected in the indigenous culture as keepers of oral traditions and historical knowledge.

[adsanity_group num_ads=”1″ align=”alignnone” num_columns=”1″ group_ids=”135795″/]

Mahu people exist not only in the past but are an important part of queer culture in Hawaii today. 

The Navajo are a Native American people of the Southwestern United States. The Navajo people have a gender category called Nadleeh, which can refer to transgender people who have transitioned in one direction along the gender binary (having been assigned male at birth, and now identifying as female, or assigned female at birth and now identifying as male), gender-fluid people, and, of course, those whose gender presentation falls “outside” of the gender identity norms imposed by society at a large. The Nadleehi have a spiritual function and are inherently respected as tribal members within the Navajo culture. 

This stark difference in acceptance and perception was noted by Anglo-Saxon American anthropologists as early as the 1920s. In fact, Author William Willard Hill was surprised that Navajo society considered a transgender person “very fortunate,” unlike his understanding of Western culture, for which gender fluidity caused anxiety in mainstream society.

Gender has been used as an oppressive instrument for centuries.

It’s been used to highlight the difference between people, rather than highlight the inherent strength in us all. Strength of character is not something that is defined by maleness or femaleness. Strength is an attribute of the human condition to thrive when tested and fight for what we believe in.

The history of defying gender roles is as ancient as humanity itself.

That human condition is what drives people to discover what gender means to them. They are able to transcend the baggage of strict gender roles to achieve greatness.

The history of defying gender roles is as ancient as humanity itself, which leads one to question why people are so threatened by the nonbinary identification overall.

Why is it that the rich history of gender fluidity needs to be constantly torn down by censors and patriarchs of today’s “binary” culture, and rejected because of its newly-found public acceptance?

Perhaps, Joan of Arc and Hatshepsut knew something that everyone else did not.

Perhaps it’s important for us all to remember the wisdom they passed on through their life stories:

That to transcend gender is to harness the power of the gods themselves.


Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!


No, I will not be taking my hijab off for my wedding and you can’t make me

We often talk about how the hijab is viewed negatively in the Western world. But I don’t think that many people realize that discrimination against the hijab doesn’t only happen in western society. In my experience, it also occurs in my home country, Pakistan, and my own family members are a part of the problem.

My sister and I started wearing the hijab when we were 15 and 13, respectively. For us, it seemed like a natural choice since we’d spent most of our childhood in Saudi Arabia, where the hijab was mandatory. When our family in Pakistan found out we still wore the hijab after moving to Canada in our teen years, they were ecstatic. They thought it was wonderful that we chose this for ourselves and praised us for making seemingly religious choices. 

But that all changed when my sister turned 20 and someone tried to propose to her. Our mother rejected the engagement and it sparked a debate within our entire family. Most of them believed that more proposals would come her way if my sister took off her hijab. I still remember my mother arguing with our aunt who said that hijabs are only meant to look good on girls who are “white, thin, and pretty.” She thought that I was too dark and my sister was too fat, so we were ruining our prospects by sticking to our hijabs.

The worst part about all of this is that my aunt wasn’t entirely wrong. The hijab didn’t make men jump at the chance to marry us. Due to pressure from extended family members, my mother was constantly on the lookout for potential matches for my sister. But every guy who approached would run away just as fast once he heard that she wouldn’t be taking her hijab off for him. 

After a while, my sister did it. She found a guy who seemed accepting of who she was and agreed to marry him after a year. Suddenly, the tune the family was singing changed, but not for the better. Everyone asked if she’d be taking her hijab off for the wedding and discussing how beautiful she would look in this or that hairdo. They tried to talk my mother into making my sister buy lehengas, which would show off her midriff and arms. This completely goes against the very purpose of wearing a hijab.

To reach a compromise with my family, I nominated myself as my sister’s makeup artist and hairstylist for the wedding day and began experimenting with different hijab styles. We naively thought that if we could show them that the hijab could be dolled up, they would accept her decision. They did not. In the end, when the engagement was broken off, they simply returned to their earlier comments about taking off the hijab to score a husband.

The sheer amount of criticism that came with all this has my sister unsure about whether she ever wants to have a wedding, let alone one in Pakistan with our family. It hurt to watch my sister try and deal with the harsh judgment and then come to realize that her opinions hold no value in our community. It hurts more to think that other Pakistani brides might have to put up with the same level of harassment all over one headscarf

My sister was always much more staunch in her love of the hijab. Truth be told, I started wearing it on the condition that it would be pink and glittery. If you asked me just two years back, I might have given in to the family pressure and agreed to take off my hijab for my wedding.

Yet, knowing the struggle and judgment that comes with making a choice has given me an appreciation for the fact that it was a choice. However petty my reason is, it is my choice to put on the hijab, and I will be damned if I let someone else try to make decisions about my body and my attire for that one day in my life.

Now I can say with confidence that I will not be taking my hijab off for my wedding.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Sexuality Love + Sex Love

I learned about sex through fanfiction, and it’s a bit questionable

I love fanfiction. I think there’s something about it that you can’t find in published novels or tv shows, it’s unique and hard to explain. And while it might sound odd, there’s a lot you can learn from fanfics.

Most people don’t realize what’s out in the vast web to be discovered. For example, you might be scrolling through the works of your new favorite tv show and finally decide to brave the uncharted territories of mature-rated fanfics. You’ll click on one with a funny summary and then fall down the fascinating rabbit hole to continue reading more. And in doing so, you might actually learn about sex through fanfics.

That’s what happened to me anyway. You see, I never really had the opportunity to learn about sex in my family. My culture treats sex as taboo and then expects girls to grow up wanting to have babies and get married into a life of pleasing their husband. And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

I went through the basic sex ed in school, but that didn’t explain a lot. Most of what I remember was the teacher telling us to use birth control if it came down to it, but we should abstain from sex. Senior year Biology was where I learned about my body properly; I was finally told about the many changes that the body goes through due to our hormones. But most importantly, I learned about male anatomy. At no point before this had anyone explained what sex is. I knew it was performed between males and females, but not how. Before that class, I thought it was code for lying in a bed with a member of the opposite sex. 

And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

And while that class helped clear up some of my more significant questions, it wasn’t enough. But I had nowhere to turn to for learning more. My parents weren’t an option, and asking someone seemed awkward. So I turned to the internet. For the first time in nearly four years of exploring fanfiction online, I dove into what I thought was the dark side and looked at the selection of M-rated fics. 

Thinking back on it, they weren’t even particularly spicy fics that I stumbled across. I was jumping back into the PJO (Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan) fandom for like the third time, and I had exhausted my supply of tried and true teen and lower fics. These fanfics primarily served as a way for me to learn specifically about sex and what it was, how it worked, in a setting that wasn’t overly scientific. It was all very vanilla, but that was fine back then.

Then I jumped into some Yu-Gi-Oh fandoms and looked around at the selection there as well. And that was the first time I learned about sex being possible between same-sex couples. Then I switched from my usual fanfic website to a more known and better one, Archive Of Our Own. And this was where things got interesting because there were tags for everything. If I wanted to explore a specific kink, I could check the tag for it and look at all the options in every fandom. 

And I did exactly that; I jumped through different fandoms and checked out every type of M or E rated fic that was unique and then added the new knowledge to the ever-growing list of things I knew about sex. I explored lots of different kinks. When Fifty Shades of Grey was coming out, and everyone was complaining that it didn’t show BSDM accurately, I went to fanfics to learn what they were all talking about. I’ve read many an ABO fic and several femdom stories. And I thought by reading all these fics; I suddenly knew everything there was to know about sex.

Then one day, an online friend talked about a time that she was sexually harassed and how some of these fanfictions we read lead her to think that it was normal. And I started to rethink the fics I was reading. 

It occurred to me that a lot of the stuff I’ve been reading wasn’t always safe or consensual. These were works of fiction, and therefore not always meant to be an accurate reflection of reality, but I had spent years normalizing the lack of consent that came with some of these stories. I didn’t even realize until a month ago that it isn’t normal for someone to cry during sex or for most people to get off to that. Many of the kinky fics I read also never really detailed much about the relationship outside of the sex, which made for a very twisted view on things. 

None of this means that I plan to stop reading smut fics. I’ve come to recognize that most of what is in these stories is simple fantasy. I should have never expected it could replace the learning that comes from talking to people about their experiences or having sex myself. 

But if anyone else out there is like me, then now is as good a time as any to look a bit more critically at the fics you read and made the conscious distinction between them and reality. I know it’s awkward to talk to others about sex, and let’s not lie on the internet, it can be dangerous

I don’t claim to know all the answers, and there’s no right way to learn about sex. But at the very least, I think it’s better not to put all the eggs in one basket. When you want to learn about something you should look at several different places. I’ve begun taking a more thorough route to my own learning, one which involved properly researching whatever sexual topic comes to mind in fanfics but outside as well with the help of google or asking some very close friends who I can trust.

This new system has been working so far, and I find myself enjoying some of the conversations I can have with people about these topics as well.

Looking for more content like this? Follow our brand new Instagram account!

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter.

Reproductive Rights Love + Sex Love

I’m 35 & don’t want kids —but I had to fight my doctor to get a hysterectomy

I was thirty-two years old when Caitlin Moran set me free.

I was sitting on the toilet in my tiny apartment in rural Platteville, Wisconsin, a town I’d moved to get some thinking and reading and writing done, a town where that’s about all you can do. At that particular moment, I was reading Moran’s astonishing book of essays, How To Be A Woman. The line which blew the locks off the mental cage I didn’t know I was inhabiting were as follows:

“We need more women who are allowed to prove their worth as people, rather than being assessed merely for their potential to create new people.”  

I sat bolt upright when I read that. Then I read it again. I couldn’t believe the sensation of openness and freedom that passage gave me—I wanted to grab a penknife and carve it into every doorframe in my house. More than freedom, those words gave me something I hadn’t realized I’d wanted: permission.

Let me explain.

If you are a woman in 2018, even if you are lucky enough to have a relatively feminist family, you’ll be endlessly prompted by friends, co-workers, even well-meaning strangers to fulfill a checklist: Home. Marriage. Children.

For women who hesitate before bubbling in that final, permanent choice on the “Are You a Good Woman?” test, there are a few helpful prods that others will administer:

You shouldn’t wait to have children! You never know how long it will take. (Note how deftly this timing-focused prod evades the issue of whether children are even wanted.)

He would make such a good father. (Note that the questioner will never ask the man in question if he is interested in being a father. That’s not what this is about.)

You should have children. It’s selfish not to. I already have [number]. What’s the big deal? (Misery loves company.)

And finally, the checkmate in the chess match women play against each other and themselves: What if you don’t, and then regret it?

This is the goad that got under my skin. I would poke myself with it—are you sure? Are you really sure?—at intervals, trying to awaken maternal instincts that remained stubbornly dormant. Wondering if, like a punitive O. Henry story, I would suddenly discover a ravenous yearning for babies at the exact moment my body lost the ability to conceive them. In the meanwhile, I continued gamely testing myself for parental abilities: working as a camp counselor. Teaching. Gingerly holding babies on my knee. Crucially, however, I never felt an urge to parent—either by conception or adoption, regardless of my parent friends’ breezy assurances that “when it comes to your own kids, you’ll feel differently.” The light switch stayed resolutely off.

Cut back to me, still sitting on the toilet in Platteville, Wisconsin, my legs steadily going numb, every neuron in my head alight. I felt like I’d found a doorway to Narnia in my closet; like an exam, I was dreading had been canceled. When Moran wrote that motherhood offered “nothing you couldn’t get from, say, reading the 100 greatest books in human history; learning a foreign language well enough to argue in it; climbing hills; loving recklessly; sitting quietly, alone, in the dawn; drinking whiskey with revolutionaries; learning to do close-hand magic; swimming in a river in winter […]” I got excited. I started thinking about all the books I could read, the books I could write. I imagined a room full of the embroidery supplies I love, stacked in a colorful array. I thought about visiting all the countries on my bucket list: Vietnam, Iceland, New Zealand, Scotland.

I wanted to do all of those things, and I wanted to do them now.

First, though, I’d have to get up off the can.

Cut to two years later.

I’ve packed up my life and my apartment and moved to Boston, a city containing jobs and opportunities and, crucially, the man I’ve been low-key in love with for my entire adult life. In a happy, if statistically improbable, coincidence, he’s fallen in love with me, too. We snag a tiny apartment in the city and are deliriously happy together. I write every day. I’ve started saving for travel. I even have a respectable embroidery collection. Thrilled that my gambit has paid off, I make one final attempt… at being a Good Woman. I sit my man down for a talk.

“Listen. I’m pretty sure that, if it were just me alone, I’d never have a kid. But for you, with you, I would happily have a child if you wanted one. Do you want kids?”

He looks at me like I am out of my mind. “Babe. No.”

“Are you sure? Are you really sure?” I ask. (I am getting good at asking this.) “You can think about it!”

He doesn’t have to think about it. In fact, he’s thinking about getting a vasectomy. “So we can stop spending all our money on birth control.”

Well then. I marvel at how easily he’s made this decision, how untroubled he is by the possibility of regret—when pressed, he shrugs. “If we regret it, we’ll adopt. I always thought I’d make a better uncle than a dad, anyway.” His unfazed attitude, I realize, is what making the baby decision looks like when you’re unencumbered by a lifetime of other people’s expectations. This is how not big a deal the decision can be—when you’re a man.

Back in the world of women, things aren’t so easy.

While the vasectomy has taken care of my immediate birth control needs, I’m still stuck dealing with howling menstrual cramps every month, plus a family inheritance: poorly located uterine fibroids, which make cervical dilation impossible. My uterus is like a lobster pot—easy for sperm to get in, impossible for anything larger than a sperm to get in or out.

If (God forbid) I am raped, or my man’s vasectomy turns out to be imperfect, I will be looking at a reduced array of options for abortion (maybe none, depending on the political winds), and a guaranteed C-section at the end of the hypothetical pregnancy I don’t want. I grouse about all this to my OB/GYN, who makes supportive noises until I say the magic words: “Fertility isn’t something I care about maintaining.”

Suddenly, she looks up from her computer screen.

“Wait. If you really don’t want kids, and you’re sure, there are more options.”

And that’s when I decided I was done being asked that question.

Cut to me, being cut open. Laparoscopic hysterectomy means a few things: a cluster of postage-stamp-sized incisions across your abdominal muscles. The removal of your uterus through some tiny tubes. (Assuming your ovaries aren’t giving you trouble, you get to keep those—the days of automatic ovarian removal, with attendant lifelong hormone replacement, are long gone.) The sudden realization of how much you use your abdominal muscles for everything. And no periods, cramps, or need for birth control, ever again.

I’m writing this with a hot pad across my lap. Ten days out from my hysterectomy, I’m still a little sore. Snow shoveling is right out. But my mind is at peace. I’ve finally realized that the sharp stick I used to poke myself with—“Are you sure? Are you really sure?” was just a way to distract myself from the fact that I already knew what I wanted. I just had to gain the courage to name my desire.

So: maybe you’re stuck in a cage. Maybe you already secretly know what you want, too. Know this:

You are enough.

You don’t have to make another person to earn your spot on this big beautiful earth.

You are enough.

You can do the thing yourself—write the novel, make the movie, start the peace process, build the supercomputer. You don’t have to raise someone else and hope they accomplish it instead. The terrifying, wonderful news is that they won’t. That’s your desire, to fulfill or not. And guess what?

You are enough.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter.

Bollywood Movies Pop Culture

You’re not going to believe this, but Noah Centineo changed the way I see Bollywood romance

I, like many other South Asians belonging to the Indian subcontinent, always floated on the periphery of Bollywood. I never understood the point of the huge musical numbers; that is until I heard Noah Centineo talk about them. 

As someone who doesn’t speak or understand the language, I rely solely on subtitles. Even subtitles fail me, however, when it comes to Bollywood dance numbers. Bollywood famously breaks into song quite often and gives you full value for money every single time. Everything is big, bright, and a feast for the eyes. But it doesn’t always make a lot of sense.

Some of this is because the lyrics translated verbatim don’t actually convey the same meaning that the song intends. A lot of it, however, is because it doesn’t seem like the movie progresses during the song or that it signifies anything for the characters.  

Thed most elaborate musical numbers have one purpose: introducing the Love Interest. 

I had long since dismissed these sequences as entirely cheesy plot interrupters that don’t drive the already criminally lengthy movie forward. Naturally, the aforementioned translation of the lyrics didn’t help me make any more sense of it. So that was that. I would have to be in the mood for something ridiculous to be able to pay attention the next time The Love Interest dance number unfolded.

This all changed one night in the not too distant past.

While inanely scrolling through YouTube, I came across a video of Noah Centineo and Lana Condor reacting to Bollywood romance scenes. I started to tune out, scrolling through my phone, wondering when dinner would be, would curfew ever end, when suddenly I heard it. 

Out of nowhere a flash of perspective knocked me over and questioned everything I thought I knew about my own opinions. 

At one point during the video, Noah Centineo says: “It literally feels like they’re displaying how each of these people feels on the inside”. Lana Condor then clarifies: “so you’re saying that they all feel something on the inside,” to which Centineo responds “but they actually show like a representation of it for the viewer to look at as opposed to like a subtle thing on” and he gestures at his own face.

My mind was blown, my worldview was shaken. This simple observation that a white boy made casually had never crossed my mind in many years of watching Bollywood movies with passion and interest.

“They’re displaying how they feel on the inside” he said.

This was the perfect and simplest explanation: an external performance of a person’s innermost feelings. It suddenly made it all make sense to me. The illogical costume changes, orchestral performances, and the slo-mo. All this time I had seen it as a performance of an instant love connection playing out in a heightened reality. Instead, Centineo saw it as an effort to portray an inexplicable rush of internal human emotions on the external world. 

That, friends, is how Noah Centineo, an American actor best known for his roles in Netflix films, changed how I thought about Bollywood. His perception has given me a new appreciation for these scenes and an entirely different understanding of them.

It’s strange to think that my opinion of Bollywood movies, a genre I have been exposed to far more than Noah Centineo, could shift with just one passing comment. For me, this foray into YouTube has reinforced the value of having an open mind and being exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking. In my particular case, this perspective may only be of superficial value and applicable to very niche moments in my life, but I’m still glad it happened.

While I’m not sure I’ll ever look at Bollywood movies the pinnacle of romantic portrayals and I might still find some humor in the spectacle of it all, I’m more open to the idea that the elaborate musical numbers are not about the spectacle, but the portrayal of feelings that maybe can’t be expressed any other way. 

Where words fail, music speaks. And in this case, where words fail choreography, lip syncs, slo-mo, costumes, backup dancers, whole bands, and elaborate location changes speak.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Music Pop Culture

25 new releases to save you from your musical drought this summer

Summer is usually a music-lover’s dream haven. It’s when we get new album releases each week, have endless concerts to attend, and when we can gaze upon outstanding music videos from some of our favorite artists.

Take last summer for example: We were blessed with Willow Smith’s self-titled album and Megan Thee Stallion’s FEVER mixtape among many other critically acclaimed masterpieces that are still receiving praise to this day. 

But as COVID-19 disrupted just about everything in the world, the music industry’s typical release cycle wasn’t exempt. Music festivals and award shows were canceled one by one and the future of music for the year looked bleak. And as we’re already many months in, it can be confirmed that this summer during quarantine has definitely felt like a music drought at times.

Despite it all though, some artists have released new projects to keep us all dancing and singing from home. Here are 25 female musicians with recent drops that are keeping this summer alive:

1. Lianne La Havas – Lianne La Havas

On July 17, the Greek and Jamaican soul singer released her third self-titled album that candidly talks about growth within a failed relationship. Lianne La Havas’ sultry voice, vulnerable lyrics, and smooth jazzy tracks make for a cohesive album that’s perfect to listen to with a lit candle, facial, and tall glass of wine on those stormy summer days.

2. Hinds – The Prettiest Curse 

These four garage-rock musicians from Madrid, Spain are back and better than ever with their third album, The Prettiest Curse, released on June 5. Hinds has given us the ultimate soundtrack of the summer with their airy voices and catchy lyrics that almost anyone can relate to.

3. Aditi Ramesh – “Heal” (Single)

Mumbai, India’s Aditi Ramesh is changing the world with her soulful pipes one song at a time. Whether cooking and sharing recipes on her instagram or dropping new singles, Ramesh can not disappoint.

4. Dounia – DE-LOVE-USION

Love and the complexity of relationships aren’t new topics for Dounia, the North African activist who’s making waves in the music scene with her smooth rapping. She’s at it again in her latest two-song project titled ‘DE-LOVE-USION’ that was released on July 17 where she sings of secret crushes and falling hard in love.

5. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

In her sophomore album titled Punisher released on June 18, the indie singer and California native sings about mental health and wellness. Her deep self-awareness shines through and challenges listeners to do the same. Bridgers has made something for us to cry to and dig deep introspectively for the summer.

6. Saweetie – “Tap In” (Single)

If there was ever a movement where I missed the outside parties and barbeques of the summer, it was definitely when I first heard Saweetie’s single “Tap In” on June 20. In it, she samples Too $hort’s iconic “Blow The Whistle” song from 2006 but completely makes it her own with her famous “Icy Girl” brand. Saweetie is on the road to success with this as a tease of what’s next to come in her next album to be released sometime soon called “Pretty Bitch Music.”

7. Empress of – I’m Your Empress Of 

With her name inspired by a tarot card reading, this bilingual Honduran singer is connecting to her roots in her third album called I’m Your Empress Of that was released on April 3. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Empress Of talks about old trauma and heartbreak with background audio from her own mom included in some songs.

8. UMI – Introspection 

UMI – which is the Japanese word for ocean – has always poured her heart into her music which was exactly what the world needed this year in her latest EP called Introspection that was released on June 21. The biracial singer who plays the piano, guitar, and ukulele blessed us with stunning visuals and songs to sing all summer long.

9. Jessie Reyez – Before Love Came to Kill Us

Jessie Reyez is a stand-out star this year in her debut album called Before Love Came to Kill that was released on March 27. The Colombian singer and songwriter has soulfully light pipes that you’re sure to remember. She delicately approaches conversations about sexual assault, mental health, and love in a summer record that’s nuanced and unique.

10. Ivy Sole – Bittersweet (Single)

Ivy Sole’s latest single is luxurious, sexy, and smooth which fits in perfectly to the North Carolina artist’s sultry discography. Each track from her is layered, multifaceted, and complex which is a direct reflection of her as a queer Black woman who grew up in strict churches. Sole doesn’t fit into one box musically or personally and it’s powerful and much needed in this day-and-age.

11. Tei Shi – Die 4 Ur Love

Nothing can come keep Tei Shi down. After a tumultuous year of switching music labels and having her tour cancelled due to COVID-19, the Columbian and Argentinian artist took life into her own hands and self-released her EP called Die 4 Ur Love on July 17. Consider this project an epic breakup letter to her old music label, old self, and old life. Tei Shi is not holding back.

12. Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA

All eyes are on Rina Sawayama as she’s now finally dropped her highly anticipated debut album titled SAWAYAMA on July 2. The Japanese singer and model has given us timeless bops like ‘XS’ with a jaw-dropping music video that’s sure to be on repeat for the rest of the summer. While wearing her queer identity proudly on her sleeve, having a degree in politics from Cambridge University, and literally doing it all, Sawayama is an inspiration to us all.

13. Amber Mark – “My People” (Single)

Amber Mark is known for utilizing her platform to advocate for issues on race, mental health and gender. Her latest single called “My People” released on June 19 addresses the international civil rights discussions of 2020. As a well-traveled activist, her Jamaican roots shine through in her music for a nuanced conversation over gorgeous cultural accompaniment.

14. Teyana Taylor – Studio M and The Album

Actress, singer, dancer, choreographer, songwriter, and model Teyana Taylor gives the people not only what they want but what they need. In this crazy year, Taylor did just that with her two projects called The Album released on June 19 and Studio M released on June 30. She’s walked New York Fashion Week, starred in some of your favorite award-winning movies, and given us couple goals with her NBA player beau, Iman Shupert.

15. Beabadoobee – “Care” (Single)

Beabadoobee has embodied the teen angst that we all feel while being locked away in quarantine in her latest single titled “Care” released on July 14. The Filipina indie singer has announced her debut album which is soon to release called Fake It Flowers, and has given us all a sneak peak to it with this early 2000s and garage-rock sounding single.

16. Haim – Women in Music Pt. III

These three rockstars have yet again given the world confident and all too relatable music in their latest album titled Women in Music Pt. III that was released on June 26. The girls of Haim are blunt yet personable in this project while bearing all of the flaws that make them human and loved by fans.

17. Alina Baraz – It Was Divine

Alina Baraz has one of the silkiest and sensual voices in the game right now. Her album called It Was Devine that was released on April 24 conjures up all of those sensual feelings of the summer that are perfect for dancing in the mirror for no one else but yourself in a silk robe.

18. Ramya Pothuri – “Do You Care” (Single)

Ramya Pothuri is using her quarantine to put out one dreamy song after the next in Mumbai, India. In her recent single titled “Do You Care,” released on April 9, Pothuri lays her feelings out bluntly and spills everything that too many of us are afraid of talking about. On her instagram she tells fans to stay tuned for all the new music that she’s working to put out soon.

19. HAWA – the ONE

HAWA is probably one of my coolest music discoveries of the year. Born in Berlin to West African parents, she toured the world at age 11 as one of the youngest-ever composers for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Now she’s just released her debut album titled “the ONE” on March 5. With singles like “MY LOVE” and “GET FAMOUS,” HAWA is an up-and-coming standout artist for sure.

20. City Girls – City on Lock

The City Girls are are indestructible and will overcome just about anything that you throw in their way. These unstoppable messages that preach girl power have inspired an entire generation of go-getters and the girls’ latest album called City on Lock that was released on June 20 couldn’t have come at a better time.

21. Joy Crookes – Anyone But Me (Single) 

Joy Crookes speaks out about how music has helped with her depression over the years in a vulnerable tribute and a new single called “Anybody but Me” released on April 8. The South London raised Bengali singer has consistently put her soul into her art and has even been compared to classics like Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu.

22. Bree Runway – “Damn Daniel” (Single) and “Apeshit” (Single)

Bree Runway is breaking down every stereotype that you may have previously had about Black women in the music industry. Her sound is at times punk, and other times pop or rap, and far from the genre-classifications that we oftentimes put Black women into. This London native is giving us award-worthy concerts and visually stunning music videos all from her home as the world quarantines. In her recently released single called “Apeshit,” she even got a nod from her inspiration Missy Elliot!

23. TWICE – More & More

The nine members of the South Korean girl group who found their start on a reality survival show are showing their unique and individual personalities that the world fell in love with once again in their latest album called More & More that was released on June 1. This KPOP favorite was missed by fans and made a comeback during the perfect time in this summer quarantine to lift our spirits.

24. Chloe x Halle – Ungodly Hour

These two Atlanta sisters are all grown up in their latest album titled Ungodly Hour that was released on June 3. With a mentor like Beyonce who gave the album two thumbs up, their ballads are nothing less than genius. Chloe x Halle have also gotten wildly creative by utilizing tennis courts and their home as the backdrop for music videos and concerts on their IG Live. I know I’ll be tuning into the next one.

25. Jhene Aiko – Chilombo

Singer/songwriter Jhene Aiko knows exactly how to conjure up complex feelings that are oftentimes juxtaposed within. In her third album titled Chilombo that was originally released on March 6, Aiko’s serene voice pairs perfectly with singing bowls and vibrational sounds. She sings of sensuality, love, and spirituality in a time most needed.

Of course, Taylor Swift also surprised the world with her album folklore which we at The Tempest absolutely loved too.

And the year isn’t over. Even though it may seem like we’re living amidst a musical drought at times during this COVID-19 summer, artists like Beyonce, Brandy, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande also have upcoming projects scheduled to be released this year. Stay tuned!

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Culture Life Stories Life

Getting married means that my Pakistani parents have to bribe my new in-laws

Stepping into your twenties holds different meanings for different people. For some, it might mean entering a professional life and for others entering a newlywed arrangement.

If you’re a mature Pakistani girl who has crossed the pubertal barrier, you automatically qualify for Holy Matrimony.

And with that “milestone,” your parents begin to lay the groundwork for finding and providing for their daughter’s new family.

From furniture to utensils to the most meager of tangible items, the parents present an ‘ethical bribe’ to ensure that their daughter measures up to the required standard of acceptance.

If you’re “of age,” you automatically qualify for Holy Matrimony.

As a 23-year-old female in modern Pakistani society, I question all such detestable vices. Having given birth, raised and nurtured day after day to become a civilized individual, how much more do my parents have to sacrifice just because they are responsible for a female offspring?

And who provides the assurance of a blissful married life after having fulfilled these norms?

No one.

And if ‘God forbid’ this act of compensation falls short, the poor girl is subjected to a lifetime of scoffing and contempt.

Her whole existence is measured up by how much she can provide to her in-laws at the time of marriage.

Personally, I believe this ritual has become a sort of plague. The never-ending chain of expectation.

I was taught two things: self-reliance and tenacity.

I often hear elderly women eagerly gossiping about their daughter-in-law on the account of  ‘who brought what’ in terms of dowry. And having once been a newlywed themselves, they wear a mask of oblivion when it comes to someone else’s daughter.

I was raised as an only child and lived a solitary life.

I was taught two things: self-reliance and tenacity. My father fostered me to become self-sufficient in everything I did and that no one can truly undermine a woman’s worth without her consent.

Setting foot into 2019, this age of renaissance, where art, poetry, literature, and science are at their pinnacle, our greatest concern should be self-improvement and progression.

Let alone hoarding up on meaningless and mundane material gains.

The day we decide to mold our thinking is the day when the world around us will change, massively. It is not a subject of taking action, rather, it’s a matter of perspective.

A minute frame-shift of attitude can alter the life of today’s woman by leaps and bounds.

I put forward this question: who bears the responsibility of judging someone’s daughter by the weight of her baggage?

Health Care Science Advice Wellness Now + Beyond

Here’s why your gyno wishes you’d leave your pubic hair alone

A recent study in JAMA Dermatology surveyed 3372 women in the U.S. on their pubic hair grooming practices. 83% reported some measure of “grooming” (defined as anywhere from trimming the hair to taking all of it off). 63% said they opted for complete removal at least once. “Grooming” was highest in both the 18-34 group and in white women.

The most common reason women reported for pubic hair removal? 59% cited “hygiene” as the leading factor in this decision.

But the perception that having pubic hair is somehow “dirty” is wrong.

Pubic hair is thought to have an evolutionary purpose.

According to Dr. Jennifer Gunter, a gynecologist, it functions as a protective cushion for a sensitive-skinned area and, like eyebrows, traps microbes and foreign invaders from getting into that sensitive area.

The vagina also has a self-cleaning mechanism, which is why vaginal douching is no longer recommended: it can destroy the natural balance of healthy bacteria and normal acidity of the vagina, leading to irritation and yeast infections.

Some cite that shaving and waxing can increase the risk of infection because these practices essentially make little cuts on the skin.

This allows a direct passageway to blood for vulvar bacteria, outside of the defense system of vaginal mucus. Group A streptococcus, Staphylococcus aureus, and Staph’s resistant form MRSA all are common causes of skin infections.

Dr. Tami Rowen, an assistant professor at UCSF School of Medicine, has reported seeing grooming-related cases of folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicle), abscesses, lacerations, and allergic reactions to waxing burns.

And a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that 60% of women who removed their hair experienced some of these complications.

Complications were twice as likely for overweight and obese women, and three times more if they removed all their pubic hair.

[Image description: Private grooming habits between men and women.] via
[Image description: Private grooming habits between men and women.] via
Now, is this to say women shouldn’t remove their hair if they choose? No.

Human eyebrows also had an evolutionary purpose, but we can totally shave them off if we damn well please. And just because something may carry minor health risks does not mean we lack the right to do it.

We do all kinds of things to our bodies by choice that may involve some minor health risks, like waxing/shaving elsewhere, piercings, or tattoos.

But a YouGov poll showed that while only 56% of women ages 18-29 feel that they should remove their pubic hair, 72% do it anyway. We must get rid of false narratives perpetuated by society that dictate the choices we make.

“Hygiene” is only one of the reasons women give for removing pubic hair, but it is a harmful reason. It perpetuates a false stereotype that women who do not remove pubic hair are unclean. The argument that pubic hair is unhygienic is the patriarchy acting under the guise of science.

Your vagina is not dirty for existing in its natural form.

Do what you please with your body because you like it, and for no other reason.

Editor's Picks Race Inequality

South Asians have been guilty of anti-Blackness for so long – it’s time we question our own selves

In late May, the nation erupted in protest as every state in the country and countries around the world opposed the brutal murder of George Floyd and the system that enabled it to happen.

While many celebrities have been beacons of hope, others have exposed themselves as performative allies, jumping on the racial justice bandwagon only when it became trendy and convenient for them. As an Indian immigrant, I am particularly disturbed by the hypocrisy in the responses to Floyd’s death from my South Asian friends and Indian celebrities.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas, for instance, a Bollywood and Hollywood actor, posted on her Instagram in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Later her husband, Nick Jonas, tweeted out that they both were distressed by the events and had donated significantly to the ACLU. On the surface, the actor’s post was nothing more than a generous post from a prominent figure.

However, if we delve into Chopra Jonas’s history, an unmistakable pattern of ignorance and discrimination emerges: Chopra Jonas has always supported the far-right Modi government, which is directly tied to racist, casteist, and Islamophobic violence. In addition to being complicit in this oppressive regime, Chopra Jonas openly praised the Indian Army in a tweet that came right after the Indian government ordered a retaliatory airstrike against Pakistan.

In 2019, a Pakistani-American beauty influencer, Ayesha Malik, confronted Chopra Jonas about the ignorance of her tweet at Beautycon. Chopra Jonas belittled Malik, implying she was “venting” (and thus playing into the trope of the hysterical woman) and saying “Girl, don’t yell at me.” All this happened as guards seized the microphone from Malik and dragged her away. It’s also worth noting that Chopra Jonas is no ordinary celebrity. She’s a UNICEF ambassador. Someone who is supposedly supposed to advocate for justice everywhere, not just when it benefits them.

Colorism has long been ingrained in South Asian society, leading to overt discrimination against darker-skinned individuals

Chopra Jonas’s statements do not exist in a vacuum. Rather they are indicative of a much larger issue of systemic discrimination in South Asian communities. For example, fairness creams are an incredibly lucrative business that exploits and weaponizes India’s obsession with fairness. Chopra-Jonas is just one of several South Asian celebrities who have endorsed fairness creams and in doing so, perpetuated racist and colorist standards. Others include Sonam Kapoor, Disha Patani, and Deepika Padukone.

As a child, family members would tell me not to play in the sun, to take exceptionally good care of my skin. All these messages reinforced to me that, ultimately, fair was lovely; dark was ugly. My experience is not isolated.

Colorism has long been ingrained in South Asian society, leading to overt discrimination against darker-skinned individuals. Tarun Vijay, a politician of the Bharatiya Janata Party, once claimed that Indians can’t be racist because they’ve lived with South Indians for so long. South Indians are often darker-skinned than many North Indians. All this to say, South Asians are obsessed with color, infatuated with light skin, set upon pedestalizing and aspiring to whiteness.

South Asians in the US largely subscribe to the model minority myth, a uniquely manipulative tool of white supremacy.

This aspiration towards whiteness goes further than just skin-deep fairness creams. South Asians in the US largely subscribe to the model minority myth, a uniquely manipulative tool of white supremacy. The model minority myth depicts Asian Americans as hard-working, intelligent, and highly productive members of society — and, most sinisterly, pits them against Black people, who the myth portrays as the opposite. Neither of these images is true, and falsely present both Asian and Black Americans as monolithic groups. The truth about the model minority myth is that it is solely a tool of white capitalism intended to blame the oppression of Black people on their own ostensible shortcomings (the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” fallacy that ignores systemic racism and institutional oppression) while ignoring the root of their disadvantages.

Of course, this all happens as the South Asian community continues to exploit Black culture for our own entertainment. Young South Asians are avid consumers of Black music and culture. South Asian figures such as Lilly Singh routinely exploit Blackness for their own profit.

Clearly, I’m not saying don’t listen to or support Black artists (far from it!). But I am saying that the pattern of appropriating Blackness while simultaneously endorsing explicitly anti-Black ideologies is a prime example of both racism and hypocrisy. We can’t love Black culture and oppress Black people at the same time.

We can’t love Black culture and oppress Black people at the same time.

While discussing the issue of anti-Blackness in South Asian communities with others, dangerous rhetoric about the merits of the model minority myth and disturbing colorist remarks have shown up, which raises an important question. How can one be pro-Black and pro-Black Lives Matter while also maintaining these inherently anti-Black ideas? Oftentimes South Asians are unaware of their own internal biases. We’ve been raised in a community that values colonial standards of whiteness so greatly that they’ve become normalized to us. We may say, do, or think things that explicitly go against our supposed beliefs.

Anti-racist advocacy starts with you. It starts with actively decolonizing your mind so that you can truly believe what you endorse. It’s impossible to be a true ally to the Black Lives Matter movement while also maintaining problematic standards.

When I say that we must examine our own internal biases, I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t openly voice solidarity. I wholly believe that right now we should be doing everything to amplify Black voices. But you cannot truly support Black communities while endorsing colorist, casteist views. You cannot endorse change without condemning systems that have explicitly oppressed Black communities.

Before we can decolonize our systems and institutions, we must decolonize our minds.

To all South Asians who have yet to acknowledge and address their own anti-Black biases yet continue to post on social media in support of Black people: before preaching to others, focus on yourself. You cannot support casteism, colorism, Islamophobia, or perpetuate the exploitation of Black culture and be anti-racist. Education and understanding how your own biases have shaped your view of the and your treatment of others.

Advocacy starts at home. With you, your loved ones, and your community at large. And before we can decolonize our systems and institutions, we must decolonize our minds.

Editor's Picks Love Life Stories Advice Career Advice

Here’s the graduation advice nobody will ever tell you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Know that there will be a different future out there.

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

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

NEW Inkbox Tattoos Banners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I take it for what it was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is life. You’re in full control.

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

Buxom Cosmetics

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

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

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

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Movie Reviews Bollywood Movies Pop Culture

Here’s why I finally lost my undying obsession for DDLJ

“Go, Simran, go. Live your life.”

These iconic words, spoken at the climax of the 1995 Bollywood classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ), never failed to make me tear up as a teenager.

DDLJ is the story of Raj Malhotra (Shah Rukh Khan/SRK) and Simran Singh (Kajol) who both reside in the UK and fall in love on a trip across Europe.

They cannot marry, however, because Simran’s father has already decided she will marry Kuljeet Singh (Parmeet Sethi), his friend’s son, whom she has never met. Rahul then pretends to be Kuljeet’s friend and crashes Simran’s wedding preparations to try and win her family over.

I fell in love with DDLJ as a child.

I adored Raj and Simran. I admired Kajol’s unibrow. I recited the dialogues alongside the characters. Most importantly, I treasured the romance. Nothing could be purer than Raj’s love for Simran and what he was willing to do to win her father over.

On the face of it, DDLJ is the perfect rom-com. It presents an unlikely pair – opposites who attract and fall deeply in love – only for a parent to tear them apart. It makes you root for them and cheer out loud when they finally do unite at the end. Like millions of other girls, I also wanted a Raj who would be willing to fight the world to be with me.

Nothing could be purer than Raj’s love for Simran and what he was willing to do to win her father over.

However, as I grew older, rewatching it made me uncomfortable, and it took me some time to realize why.

Raj, it turns out, is the flag-bearer of the creepy guys you see at a store whom you avoid eye contact with because you know they’ll start following you around. He dangled Simran’s bra in her face five seconds after meeting her, and then kept pestering her even when she clearly told him, multiple times, she was not interested in talking to him.

Raj also lied to her about them sleeping together. After all, what girl doesn’t find it hilarious when she wakes up, disoriented, next to a stranger who jokes about sleeping together when she was too inebriated to remember anything?

Worse, when Simran starts to cry upon hearing this, he goes on a rant about how he couldn’t even imagine doing that to her because he knows that honor (chastity) means everything to a Hindustani girl.

What I despise more than Raj’s behavior is that like most Bollywood movies, DDLJ places Simran entirely at the mercy of the men in her life. Her father decided she is to marry a stranger, and before this happens she has to beg him to let her travel across Europe for one last hurrah.

Then, when she returns from a trip equivalent to the last meal, she is punished for doing something deeply unforgivable in her culture – falling in love.

Simran’s own fight and refusal do not produce any results.

As punishment, her wedding is moved up and she is taken to a village in India where her future husband lives. This is a man neither she nor her father has ever met. This is also a man shown to be an alpha male with no intention of staying loyal to Simran. Yet, the preparations continue.

Her future became dependent on Raj and his decision on whether she’s worth fighting for. Simran’s own fight and refusal do not produce any results.

The other women in the film also exist along the periphery. Simran’s mother supports her but is helpless because the only will that matters is that of her father. Simran’s sister teases her about Raj and helps facilitate their forbidden romance.

Simran’s aunt is there only for comic relief due to a potential romance with Raj’s single father. Worst of all, Kuljeet’s sister Preeti exists only as the punchline to a joke that is not funny. She falls in love with Raj who happily leads her along to hide his relationship with Simran.

Meanwhile, the decision to fight for Simran, our signature damsel in distress, is what makes Raj the hero. Thus, DDLJ takes a movie designed for female audiences, as rom coms are famous for, and makes it entirely about a man and his fight while the women are shown holding no agency over their lives. This only reinforces how marginalized brown women are in our real lives.

The movie is yet another reminder that the men in our life, be it our boyfriends or our fathers, are our priority.

The entire movie is a battle between the egos of two men. And like most Bollywood movies, the romance here would not be complete without the man literally fighting for love. Ironically, this aggression plays a role in convincing Simran’s father of Raj’s undying love.

What made me uncomfortable with DDLJ’s “romance” was, ultimately, that Simran had no choice. The grand gesture at the end of DDLJ is Simran’s father letting her hand go, telling her to live her life, only for her to immediately clasp onto the hand of another man.

DDLJ is not a bad movie. I would go to the extent of calling it a pretty good movie. It’s funny, emotional, and really panders to the Indian diaspora at the expense of the British (something the anti-colonialist in me appreciates).

The movie is yet another reminder that the men in our life, be it our boyfriends or our fathers, are our priority.

However, I don’t rewatch it for the romance because it reminds me of something deeply abhorrent in our culture; that we as women hold no agency over our lives, but especially over our love lives.

We are all Simran, begging our fathers to let us be free once before they marry us off to whoever they decide is suitable. We are all Simran as she pleads with her father to let her go; to let go of our hands and our lives. We are all Simran, now tied to another man, as our ambitions and dreams remain nameless and unimportant, all secondary to the concept of marriage and men.

I used to wish for a Raj. After rewatching the movie, I now only wish to be Raj, if only to have the agency of going wherever I want and marrying whoever I want (if I want), the way I know I could never do as Simran.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter.