TV Shows Pop Culture

Ahead of the “Gossip Girl” reboot, let’s remember why the original show is problematic

Like many teenage girls, Gossip Girl was one of my favorite shows to watch in high school. As a small-town girl from Texas, I was intrigued by the aristocratic lifestyle and elitism of the Upper East Side. The show focuses on the scandal and lifestyle of wealthy students at an exclusive Upper-East Side prep-school as an unknown source named “Gossip Girl” exposes their darkest secrets. From underage drinking to affairs with minors, Gossip Girl reinforced the “rich people don’t face consequences” stereotype of upper-class New Yorkers in my mind. Out of all the characters, Chuck Bass, the arrogant son of a billionaire, best exemplifies the privilege and sense of recklessness that the upper-class has. 

While he had the greatest character redemption out of all the characters in the show, Chuck Bass’s storyline completely overlooked his attempts to sexually assault multiple minors throughout the story, including his stepsister. In the pilot episode, Chuck forces himself on Serena, despite her explicitly saying “no” and pushing him away multiple times. He doesn’t relent until she kicks him in the groin to push him off. 

In the same episode, Chuck forces himself upon Jenny Humphery, a naive freshman in high school. As Chuck is about to rape her, Dan (Jenny’s brother) and Serena (his date) find them and save Jenny. Towards the end of the series, Jenny Humphery loses her virginity to Chuck (consensually). While Chuck’s attempted sexual assaults are inherently problematic, the aftermath of it was even worse. 

The show casually glanced over both incidents and turned Chuck into one of the heroes of the show, without acknowledging his previous behavior and the consequences of sexual assault. Serena and Chuck became close friends by the end of the series, portraying an idealistic narrative of the impacts of sexual assault. In reality, many survivors struggle with the trauma of being assaulted and often cannot be around their assailant(s). Jenny losing her virginity to her assailant undermined the consequences of Chuck’s actions and diminished the healing process of survivors. 

In addition, minors having affairs with adults was a significant part of the plotline of the show. Dan has an affair with his English teacher while he is in her class. Nate has an affair with multiple older women for networking purposes and Serena dates her former teacher after graduating high school. In reality, most of these relationships were predatorial and glorified having sex with minors. These relationships were also hypersexualized and the problematicness of them was not highlighted in the show. 

On the other side of the problematic sexual relationships were the problematic friendships; Blair and Serena’s friendship consistently played into the “bitchy” female friendship troupe. Any friendships between women in the show were based on lies, blackmailing, or ulterior motives such as revenge. Given the demographic of the viewers (young women), these friendships set a poor example of what healthy friendships should look like. 

The female friendships in the show were not only toxic, but they were also often classist. Blair and her “minions” were the upper-class, wealthy heiresses who were at the top of the social hierarchy at their high school. They asserted their dominance by bullying less wealthy students such as Jenny and made classist comments about others. The shaming of others for their socio-economic background was not ironic, it was integral to the personalities of each character, many of which were made into the heroes of the show. 

While Gossip Girl may be a fan-favorite of many young viewers, many of the ideals that are portrayed in the show do not hold up today, and likely didn’t hold up when the show was first released either. As culture changes, what is and isn’t acceptable changes as well. When watching older shows such as Gossip Girl, we should be cognizant of the era in which they were filmed and the change in values over time, rather than using them as stepping stones to justify our own values in a different time period. 

Recently, producers revealed that Gossip Girl will be having a reboot. This reboot will be a second chance for the show to address some of the issues from the original show by including more thoughtful scenes regarding issues that teenagers currently face i.e. mental health issues and portray a more accurate picture of how we cope with them. It will also be an opportunity to become more inclusive by including LGBTQ+ characters and more characters of color in lead roles. In doing so, this reboot has the potential to change the legacy of the original show, without changing the main plotline that viewers fell in love with.

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How absurdism taught me to embrace the chaos in my life

“A little boy in a cowboy suit, writing in a puddle with a stick, a dog approaching. Deaf or dumb, the boy is, like anyone, a little timid, partly stupid, ashamed, afraid, like us, like you. He is there. Picture the boy. See his eyes. Sympathize with his little closes. Now, break his arm. Picture violin section. The violins are on fire. (The following is said almost without anger as if it’s just another request) Now go fuck yourselves.”
Thom Pain (Based on Nothing), Will Eno.

That’s a little absurdism for you there. The next few lines go into the character trying to sound like he’s fine, but he really isn’t. He is spiraling while trying to understand the colloquial term ‘whatever’ because he thinks it will describe how he wants to feel. Did you get that? I hope so. Because underneath the strangeness is a deep vulnerability– and joy in being alive. 

It doesn’t want to have a purpose, it embraces being purposeless.

At its core, absurdism is rooted in social activism and rebellion against the norm. At a time when everyone was taking art very seriously and enforcing standards on artist’s practices, absurdists challenged the system. They said, what if we make an art form that defies expectations by being intentionally bizarre? When everything around us is so devoid of reason, embracing irrationality and strangeness may be the next best thing. 

With the current pandemic, there is little that we can control. At first, I felt so powerless against it all. That’s when I turned to absurdism. It doesn’t want to have a purpose, it embraces being purposeless. The Dadaist slogan of “art for art’s sake” and absurdism’s love of nonsense is exactly the type of energy we need to be bringing into our lifestyles. 

Absurdism taught me to embrace chaos and life not making sense (most of the time). I spent most of my life, as I expect a majority of you did, trying to assign value to myself by the things that I achieved and the decisions I made. Wanting my life to mean something, I quickly grew desperate when things did not turn out as I imagined.

Absurdism taught me to embrace chaos and life not making sense (most of the time).

Take, for instance, applying to jobs or sharing creative work. There is a powerlessness that I feel every single time. I can’t help but think that I am putting myself out there to be judged– which I am, to a certain extent. Recently, after being ghosted by a couple of jobs I had applied to, I was starting to fear that the rest of the year would be the same. All my efforts seemed to be in vain. Keen to maintain a certain image I had of my life, I started reaching out to places that I had no interest in. But I soon became so thankful that things turned out the way they did when a professor reached out to me, excited to have me on board to work on her screenplay– something I deeply enjoyed doing.

Like that last line by Will Eno, I often forgot that life was full of surprises. I learned to be okay with it. More than that, to be happy.

By reading absurdist writers, I embraced the joy of being surprised. I found humor in unexpected things. There was a strength in accepting chaos that I did not find anywhere else. When it seems like the year is going entirely on its own path, I cling to these teachings more than ever. We can’t be stubborn and try to force the year to go in the direction we want it to. We are doing more damage by pulling on the leash and digging our feet into the ground then if we let loose a little and see where the year is headed. 

All in all, when things don’t work out, whether it is with your school, career, or relationship prospects, remind yourself that having ‘nothing’ going on shouldn’t be terrible. Just take Daniil Kharm’s The Red-Haired Man, where at the end he admits that he is writing nonsense and gives up entirely. This poem has gotten me out of all types of ruts, both creative and personal.

We can all take a note from absurdism. If we embrace chaos in this way, we can enhance our own sense of wellbeing.

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Sexuality Love + Sex Love

I betrayed my boyfriend & it was the worst decision I ever made

I am a lie.

Yes, a lie, not a liar. 

I betrayed my former partner with another. I immediately told my boyfriend, but I kept feeling like I was a lie.

Indeed, I grew up with some specific values of honesty, loyalty, and respect.

I valued them more than anything else, especially in relationships. I strongly believed and proclaimed that betraying someone means not loving them enough and disrespecting them.

Undoubtedly, I do believe it, but I made a terrible mistake. I went against all of my values

I was in love with my former partner. It was almost a year and a half that we were together, and I betrayed him with someone else (let’s call him Andrew).

It was not a ‘casual’ betrayal; I know I actively chose to do it. I was on holiday and one night I received a message from Andrew asking me if I would like to have a walk with him.

I was stuck in between betraying my boyfriend or betraying my feelings. 

 I went against all of my values. 

Knowing what would’ve happened, I chose the first option, and I have regretted it since then. Not only for the pain I caused to my boyfriend, but mainly for how I felt after that.

I felt terrible. I felt like I had destroyed my entire world. 

It would be easier to say that my partner had treated me badly before my betrayal, but he was a nice person, always kind, caring and lovely to me.

It would be easier to say that it was a period in which I felt oppressed and I was looking for freedom, but still, this cannot justify my actions. 

So, I guess, I am the only one to blame

I am a lie.

A lie, not a liar.

Immediately after, I told him everything and he forgave me.

We broke up. And I lost myself.

I did not know who I was anymore. 

How can you be in peace with yourself when you betray someone who not only loves you, but also forgives you?

It felt like I was no longer yourself. Like my entire world became a lie. 

I hated myself for having betrayed all of my beliefs. How could I proclaim anymore what love was once if I I had betrayed its very meaning?

We broke up. And I lost myself.

I felt like I stained my soul forever. 

After a month, my boyfriend and I started to date again. He was over my betrayal. I was not. I realized I needed my own forgiveness to move on.

It took me another four months (and many tears) to admit I did not love my boyfriend anymore. I broke up with him, and I focused on reconnecting with myself.

I had to accept that I made a mistake.

I needed to recognize my feelings before the betrayal. I learned the importance of forgiving my actions and thoughts.

We are humans. Sometimes we are egotistical; sometimes we are impulsive. And mainly, we cannot always live up to our personal standards.

Sometimes, we need to rest and reset. 

I needed almost a year to forgive myself. To acknowledge my weaknesses and to create a better version of myself.

It has been a painful path, and I am sure it has not ended yet.

But I knew I was going in the right direction, when I confessed this experience to someone I really cared about yet whose opinion I dreaded the most.

And he told me that I am not my mistake but more than it. And that our relationship could be the proof that I definitely learned from my mistake. 

This betrayal has completely changed my life. It taught me that not being loved by someone we love is heartbreaking.

What’s worse, though, is not loving someone who is still in love with us — and cheating on them instead.

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The Internet Style Fashion Beauty Lookbook

How TikTok’s #VogueChallenge became more than just a hashtag

Two months into quarantine, I reluctantly hopped onto the TikTok bandwagon and downloaded the app with hopes of curing my ‘bored in the house, in the house bored’ symptoms. I grew up in the era of Vine, a social networking short-form video platform where users shared six second-long, looping video clips. Originally, I had disregarded TikTok as I thought I was too old and wise to contribute to a culture dominated by bleach-haired Gen-Z teenagers desperately trying to become Internet famous, one Renegade dance at a time.  Soon enough I became addicted, going as far as learning how to channel my inner VSCO girl, discovering what a tennis bracelet meant and suffering many failed attempts of throwing it back. TikTok, an app with an audience of over 800 million users is not only known for their catchy dances but its plethora of challenges which have swept their feeds.

Most recently, the #VogueChallenge has risen in popularity among the latest trends, in which creators share a collage of pictures mimicking a model pose or artistic edits with the “Vogue” magazine title at the top. The mock editorial covers have now transitioned throughout Instagram and Twitter. Even major celebrities and public figures, from Lizzo to YouTube beauty guru James Charles, have created their own take on the challenge.

It makes us all wonder—what’s the point? What is everyone trying to express behind all of these covers?

My first impression was that it was a marketing tactic for influencers and aspiring models, to showcase their best pictures in an effort to try getting a foot in the door behind the world’s most renowned fashion magazine. In fact, fashion macro-influencers such as Chriselle Lim and Jamie Chua have thrown themselves into the trend, with their luxurious, professional blog photos closely mimicking Vogue’s past archives. This seems like a pretty valid argument because well, it’s unequivocally every one’s dream to be featured on the cover of Vogue once in her lifetime—right?

But I quickly learned that the #VogueChallenge is more than a hashtag.

The challenge has become more and more prevalent among members of minority and LGBTQ communities who are coming forward to share their perception of what Vogue covers should look like, along with the themes Vogue regularly fails to portray. Vogue has been a magazine championing white privilege throughout its countless editions, the glossy pages mostly featuring skinny, beautiful, Caucasian models. Anna Wintour, the famed Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue for the past 32 years, has been widely acclaimed for her impact on fashion influences across the nation. However, although she’s had the power to change inclusivity and diversity within the fashion runways and editorial spreads, she simply chose not to. She most recently made a public statement apologizing for any inadvertent promotion of racism, citing her commitment to providing more inclusivity and diversity within the Vogue offices and within the pages of her fashion encyclopedia. In a way, the #VogueChallenge promotes a continuous amplification of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Many TikTok users aren’t simply posting with the hashtag for social media clout or to feature on the #fyp pages but rather, as a response to Anna Wintour’s ill-fated apology. It raises awareness that the world of print media publishing needs to modernize and change in response to the racial justice movements occurring across the country.

As television companies and musical artists have stood in solidarity with BLM, as well as to remove any derogatory implications targeted towards the Black community, magazines and digital social networking communities must commit to doing the same. In an industry where two of the largest publishers (Condé Nast and Hearst) are owned by prominent white male businessmen, the magazines with the biggest financial backing such as Vogue or Harper’s Baazar have been run by white women in executive roles, for decades. Although magazines catered to the minority class do exist, they rarely, if ever, receive the same financial backing as of Conde Nast and Hearst, or equal publicity.

Anna Wintour, among other privileged editors, must come together to change the historical stigmatization and underrepresentation of minority and LGBTQ communities. Change is happening around the world, and changes in print media need to happen right now. The #VogueChallenge is just the beginning.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

Have you ever felt unrequited love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not even for a second. 

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

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

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

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

Race Inequality

Higher education needs to do better

As protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement gain traction across the nation, one issue has become glaringly obvious: though many may support the cause of Black Lives Matter, they have not been properly educated about race and social justice in the US. In fact, I would argue that most people have not taken the time to educate themselves on issues of race and its various intersections. The burden of education should never be on Black people; it should always be on us. We ought to actively read Black authors in an attempt to address our own biases and seek resources necessary to supplement other tangible actions, like donating and signing petitions.

However, in my experience, people either don’t know where to start with literature, or aren’t motivated enough to take initiative. This is where institutions of higher education come into play. While universities and colleges have the ability to create change, most institutions have not adequately incorporated inclusive education targeted towards racial justice, nor addressed their role in systemic oppression. Institutions of higher education in the US are problematic for several reasons, and, fundamentally, the very institution of the university is paradoxical in nature: while higher education is popularly considered an equalizing force, it in fact serves to reify and perpetuate inequality and access barriers.

Many universities market themselves as diverse, inclusive, and progressive, but remain problematic in their complicity of capitalism and systemic racism. For example, private universities that don’t offer adequate financial aid make it difficult for marginalized students to attend. In addition, legacy admissions will favor reputation and money over the potential a less privileged candidate may have. Even the use of standardized testing in admissions gives privileged students an advantage as they have access to resources that many others do not.

It’s a fact that universities are irrevocably linked to colonialism and white supremacy, too. Yet, despite the exploitation and genocide that built these campuses, higher education institutions are reluctant to admit their history. In March 2020, Tulane University removed the Victory Bell, an iconic fixture, from its campus after discovering that it was once used on slave plantations. The school issued a statement claiming that the origins of the bell were previously unknown, and had they been known, the bell never would have been a part of the campus. Acknowledging the reality of Tulane’s troubling past was just one small step in the right direction.

But it’s not enough. Tulane was built on the backs of slaves, named for a white supremacist, and is a predominantly white institution in a predominantly Black city. This is a history that is rarely mentioned and Paul Tulane continues to be glorified by the school (the scholarship I received is even named after him, a fraught legacy I am ambivalent about inadvertently perpetuating). The university needs to do better; simply removing a bell doesn’t cut it.

Tulane does not stand alone in its performative allyship. Yale University employed similarly superficial methods when Calhoun College, a residential college, was renamed in honor of Grace Hopper. Calhoun, a renowned white supremacist and slave owner is perhaps the antithesis to a woman such as Grace Hopper. Hopper, in contrast, was a prominent computer scientist, Navy admiral, and epitomized strength as she broke into a male-dominated field with incredible success. And yet symbols of Calhoun and other white supremacist figures continue to decorate the campus to this day.

Often, after a troubling, racist, incident occurs on campus, universities will even go so far as to release hopeful messages promising that change is coming. However, we rarely ever see change beyond these superficial actions.

Ultimately, such hollow actions like these reveal that attempts to condemn problematic pasts likely stem from a desire to avoid backlash. While they may be important steps towards progress, they are neither well-intentioned nor adequate. However, genuine acknowledgment and condemnation of colonial pasts do provide a monumental shift in making campus environments more comfortable for students of color.

Universities also don’t appropriately build lessons of social justice into their classes. Some universities, including Tulane, have introduced race and inclusion requirements into their core curriculum. These requirements make classes that focus on marginalized communities mandatory for graduation. The education that these classes provide is a crucial transition towards ensuring that students are properly educated about social issues and that they have access to important resources. Such classes also force students to confront their own internal biases and engage in necessary conversations. However, these requirements are not as widespread as they ought to be. While pretty much every university will offer courses focused on marginalized groups and their experiences, most are not required.

Additionally, while classes dedicated to race and inclusion are crucial, this education shouldn’t be a one and done event. As a student at Tulane, I’ve seen privileged students treat these race and inclusion courses as blow-off classes and slip into problematic behavior outside of the classroom. Many people I know even complain that race and inclusion classes are taking up space in their schedule and that they’re not learning anything. This is why the tough discussions need to be incorporated into every single class, no matter its subject. We should not be limiting discussions on oppression to specific classes. We need to be discussing how systemic oppression lurks in every aspect of life and academia. Because it certainly does, and some people haven’t realized that yet.

I propose that we talk about how technology can be racist in our computer science classes and how capitalism oppresses people of color in our business classes. Even journalism classes need to engage in discourse on how Black journalists are consistently asked to write only Black stories and how objectivity is often employed as a tool of white supremacy under the guise of neutrality.

Ultimately, in their current state, institutions of higher education remain complicit in the system of oppression. Before tweeting out political hashtags in another performative show of allyship, universities should work towards progress by addressing their own long histories of racism, as well as incorporating antiracism into their regular curriculums – even when it means holding themselves accountable.

USA Race The World Policy

Here’s a list of reforms that are the direct result of ongoing Black Lives Matter protests

For the past few weeks, the United States has been rocked by protests calling for justice against the victims of police brutality and racist policies that have been built into the very infrastructure of the country. The violence inflicted on Black bodies by systemic racism has been ongoing for centuries. George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minn., which closely followed the reprehensible murders of Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020 and Breonna Taylor on March 13, 2020, sparked massive outrage from the public that has positively affected dialogues around racism, law enforcement, and policy.

Cleveland, OH mayor, Frank Johnson, and Boston, Mass. mayor, Marty Walsh, have both declared racism a public health crisis. Racism is not solely an ideology; it is policy. Access to housing, jobs, health care, and education are all determined by racial policies. Change in legislation is the only thing that can combat this.

Ibram X. Kendi states that in order to produce racial equity, we must be actively antiracist and change and abolish policies that promote racism, for racism is inherent in the system and racist ideologies stem from racist policies. These nationwide protests have done just this; in only a few weeks, protests have powerfully impacted policy-making.

While Breonna Taylor’s murderers have yet to be arrested, the Louisville, Ky. metro council unanimously voted to pass “Breonna’s Law” on June 11, 2020 which effectively bans no-knock search warrants in the city. Breonna, 26, was fatally shot eight times by Louisville police after they forced their way into her home while she was asleep with her boyfriend on the basis of a no-knock warrant. The police officers raided the wrong home, a full ten miles off their target, and the person they were searching for had already been detained by the time police entered Breonna’s home.

“Breonna’s Law” is one of many small-scale and large-scale policy changes that will ultimately pave the way for an antiracist system to be in place. Here are some other reforms that have been addressed or initiated as a result of the demands and actions that have been made possible by declaring #BlackLivesMatter.

Minneapolis has decided to disband its police force and rebuild a new law enforcement, among other things.

On June 7, the city of Minneapolis announced they will dismantle their police force and rebuild law enforcement – a decision made following public pressure to “defund the police,” a movement that promotes the reallocation of police funding toward more community-building services. Police budgets are sometimes exorbitant; the Minneapolis Police Department budget is $1.6 billion. “Defunding” their police force would mean taking a portion of that budget and putting it toward things like training mental health professionals, public schools, and social workers. Providing more funding for these services would also reduce crime and poverty in the long term. Camden, N.J. initiated a police reform seven years ago that is similar to what the “defund the police” movement calls for. The city disbanded its police force in an attempt to root out corruption. Camden was one of the most violent cities in the country, but their community based reforms caused the crime rate to drop by 42%.  

Minneapolis public schools have already taken one measure of reform: terminating their contract with the Police Department following George Floyd’s death. Citing a difference in values, the school board unanimously voted to end their relationship with the MPD. Portland and Denver public schools have followed suit, and many school districts across the US are considering the same.

New York announces new disciplinary measures.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a reform measure that would make disciplinary records for police public, ban chokeholds, make race-based 911 calls a hate crime, and require the NY Attorney General to act as an independent prosecutor for police officers accused of murder. Chokeholds were already banned in New York in 1993 according to police protocol, but this is now coming directly from the government and would criminalize this use of force. This is a four-step policy enactment entitled, “Say Their Name,” rhetoric taken directly from the language of protestors.

Some states are implementing policies that hold the police accountable.

The Phoenix, Ariz. City Council will be funding $3 million to a new police civilian oversight board; the Lincoln, Neb. Police Department has signed an agreement with city community members to create a “Hold Cops Accountable” initiative in which monthly town halls will be held for city residents to provide feedback for police. In Texas, the Austin City Council has cut budgets for hiring new cops and cut funding for weapons used against protestors such as tear gas, which is already banned by the Geneva Convention, and rubber bullets. A number of cities around the country are also introducing bills to ban tear gas, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, and bean-bag rounds.

In addition, Minneapolis and other cities around the country, such as Washington, DC, Chicago, and more, have banned neck restraints and the carotid control hold. In many areas, like Aurora, Colo., Reno, Nev., and San Jose, Calif., it is becoming policy that police must also now give warnings before shooting and officers are required to intervene if they witness another officer using excessive force. It is unbelievable that these policies were not in place all along.

Congress is making moves to target police misconduct.

On the larger scale, on June 8, Democrats in congress revealed a legislative bill that would reform police as we currently know it. This bill would ban chokeholds at the federal level, make it easier to sue police officers who abuse their power, and get rid of qualified immunity.

Military leaders are delinking themselves from racist symbols.

The US Marine Corps and Navy finally officially banned the display of the confederate flag in public and in workspaces. The Army is also considering this policy. There is now a movement to rename confederate military bases and while Donald Trump has outright refused this demand, military leaders are still considering it.

Racist statues across the globe are increasingly being torn down.

On a different level, confederate and racist symbols around the country are being torn down and effectively banned by protesters, even governments. The tearing down of confederate monuments has been ongoing for a number of years, but the Black Lives Matter movement has inspired an urgency and devotion to these acts. On the University of Mississippi campus, a confederate monument was painted with the words “spiritual genocide” and red handprints. The statue of confederate General Williams Carter Wickham was torn down by protestors in Richmond, Va. Also in Richmond, a statue of Christopher Columbus was set on fire then thrown into a lake; and in Boston, a statue of Columbus was beheaded. Lawmakers and government officials are promising to get rid of certain racist monuments and symbols. For example, the mayor of Birmingham will be tearing down a five-story monument dedicated to confederate troops despite backlash from the Alabama Attorney General. Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia, Pa. has taken down a statue and removed a mural of Frank Rizzo, a former Philadelphia mayor whose racist policies led to the violent policing of Black and minority communities.

#BlackLivesMatter protests in the US has had a global impact. Countries like New Zealand and England have been actively protesting racial inequity, as well. Statues and monuments are also toppling in England, including one in Bristol of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, and one of Robert Miligan in London, who was a slave owner.

We are witnessing the largest changes in policy at the local level, which has the most impact on the success of individual communities. Ferguson, Miss. just elected their first Black mayor, Ella Jones, six years after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown and the grand jury’s refusal to indict the white officer who killed Brown incited protests and uprisings. Jones ran on a platform of inclusion and her election is a symbol of hope for Ferguson and the country as a whole.

In short, antiracism must be embedded into the system through policy. And that change in policy can only come from the people who practice anti-racism themselves. So let’s keep going. This is only the beginning. Keep signing petitions; keep donating; keep educating yourself and others about racial inequity; keep people accountable; keep information flowing through social media and other digital media platforms; keep protesting. It is working. Things are changing. Continue to be antiracist.

Culture Family Life Stories Life

A friendship doesn’t have to last forever for it to retain its impact

My god-sister and I were close once; thick as thieves as the saying goes. We got our hair braided together, we went to school together and did everything else together. We were linked by friendship, first our parents and then our own. We’d play with our rice and stew while complaining about our two siblings. Our friendship had that ease of language that didn’t require words. A tilt of my head would explain my shock at someone’s behavior and a narrowing of her eyes would convey her dislike of a person.

Somewhere along the line, that changed. I can’t put a precise date on it. When there’s a significant change in someone’s life there is often a portrayal of a decisive event, but I can’t say that’s been the case for me. It happened over time; an impercepitble change that’s hard to quantify even now.  All I can really say for sure is that our bond is no longer there.

I first came across the term “seasonal friendship” on one of the many viral tweets that land across my timeline on Twitter. Some people are part of your life for a specific period of time or a defining chapter in the long-form story of your life. Slowly but surely, paths diverge. At least, that’s what happened in my own situation. She was ascending, becoming friends with people very different than I. That’s neither bad nor good. It just is. I was figuring out who I was, I still am, but even more so then. I was trying to develop my own identity outside of being someone’s sister, someone’s cousin or someone’s daughter. Along the way, I’ve discovered parts of myself that I love and others that I don’t.

In all of this, there was the feeling of not belonging. The things that were expected of girls and the pervading elitism that ran through the veins of those expectations were not something that I could deal with and I didn’t want to. Additionally, there was growing acceptance in myself that I may never fit in with particular groups of people. I am too loud, too opinionated and quite often just too much. But for the right people, I am simply enough and they wouldn’t have me any other way.

At the beginning of our friendship fraying, I was angry.

I felt left behind and like a discarded part of her old life that was regulated to the past without a second thought. With a couple years on my side, I can now see that isn’t the case. The quiet death of our close friendship taught me that people are allowed to outgrow things and that includes relationships. As we change and transform, take on a different life as we grow older, some things simply can’t come with us.

Our distance has taught me to not only accept the arrival and end of seasons but to embrace it. I can honor what I had with someone and carry the lessons along the way while also saying goodbye to that period of my life. In friendships and romantic relationships ending, there doesn’t need to be a villain or a hero. We are all complex and flawed individuals that are in a period of change almost all the time. Who someone is today may not be the person they are tomorrow, which means that some things can’t be forever. The inability of something lasting forever doesn’t dim its light or dull its beauty. My friendship with my god-sister taught me that there is beauty in letting go.

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Gender The World Inequality

Pakistani men have weaponized #MeToo against the same women it should be helping

Pakistan is a country that is built upon the identity of its people, so it seems fitting for our culture and traditions to be dearly held and celebrated. As magnificent and unique as they are, our traditions also help preserve conservative mindsets that may be seen as regressive. Because of this deep intertwine, often movements that call for a change are seen as a direct attack on the country’s identity. The dichotomy of tradition and progress has been highlighted multiple times recently, as the #MeToo movement trickles into Pakistan.

While this movement is desperately needed in a patriarchal and heavily gendered society like ours, it is met with just as much resistance because of the threat it poses. The existing system of patriarchy allows men to manipulate the movement over and over again to maintain their favorable position.

The movement extended to Pakistan in April 2018 when Meesha Shafi, a Pakistani singer, came out with allegations against another singer, Ali Zafar. She exposed him on social media and explained that he had been inappropriate with her while they worked together. Shafi was met with a lot of support too, but mostly she dealt with a mob of defensive men and women who perceived this step towards change as an attack on their own values. Shafi was seen as a woman heavily influenced by Western concepts and was condemned for speaking on taboo topics such as inappropriate sexual behavior. As a conservative society, there is a lot of importance given to modesty which was the first thing Shafi challenged as she spoke out frankly about her experience. Shafi’s strength was seen as an attack on patriarchal values, which favored her harasser automatically.

Zafar played upon this discomfort of the population and manipulated Shafi’s message to favor himself. He used tropes like his celebrity status, reputation as a “family man”, and his philanthropic work, as his defense against Shafi, and instead sued her back for defamation. What started as allegations on social media in April 2018 has now been dragged out to become a messy social spectacle in which Shafi is painted as a scorned entity while Zafar continues to boost his image as a respected, beloved, and above all, traditional man who is familiar for the masses.

Although Shafi is credited with extending the conversation around #MeToo to Pakistan, she is not the first woman to speak out about working with a powerful man who behaved inappropriately. In 2017, a female politician Ayesha Gulalai accused the chief of her political party, Imran Khan, of sending her inappropriate text messages. Gulalai was met with far less support than Shafi, as she was immediately denounced by her own political party, and social media trolls rose to the occasion with aggressive threats.

Needless to say, Gulalai did not get the justice she set out for, but her harasser did become the prime minister of the country. Again, Khan appeals to the traditional mindset of the masses whereas Gulalai was threatening the power men are given over women in countless dynamics. Not only did Khan and his political party ensure the silencing of future victims with their reaction, he has since then also made attacks on feminism saying “I completely disagree with this Western concept, this feminist movement… it has degraded the role of the mother.” Feminism and #MeToo threaten powerful men as they prove that even oppressed voices cannot be muffled forever, which is why these men must resort to manipulating the message so it becomes distasteful for everyone else as well. As Khan’s statement reflects, men in power would much rather manipulate any kind of progress that threatens their superiority, by implying that asking for a change is offensive to our current values and consequently, to our identity.

Women who seek justice and choose to speak out are seen as controversial for not conforming to the ideal “traditional” Pakistani woman who is expected to silently accept the patriarchal system she lives in. If a woman dares to challenge the existing equilibrium, she is instantly demonized by a society that maintains its outdated mindset by hiding behind the excuse of traditions. Unfortunately, powerful men like Imran Khan and Ali Zafar have proved how this intrinsic connection between our identity and traditions makes it so difficult for our society to move towards change. Both of them turned their allegations back around on the victim and criticized the attempt towards change by encouraging the regressive mentality our society holds onto. Unfortunately, as men they have the louder voice, and yet they use their power to foster a toxic environment that allows them to remain in power. However, while their efforts at manipulation have slowed down our progress, social media is helping women reclaim their voices as they remain motivated in their fight against patriarchy.

Via The News
Via The News
Gift Guides Books Pop Culture

8 necessary books for anyone going through a big life change

‘Change’ is a loaded word for many of us. My own relationship with change has always been to long for it in advance of it happening, to fight it when it does, and to embrace it only right before the cycle begins all over again.

But one thing that always makes change a little more bearable is the knowledge that, whatever the type of change you’re going through, someone somewhere has probably written a book about it.

So what better time than spring – the Official Season of Fresh Starts – to bring you a list of the very best books about change? From internal growth – coming-of-age, changing relationship dynamics, and renewed mindsets – to external shifts, like socio-political upheaval, new homes and entering uncharted territory, these books cover all the bases. They remind us that change is essential to growth, and that perspective is everything.

1. Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

A copy of 'Born Confused' lies on a purple rug. The cover features a woman's eyes with a question mark at the centre of her forehead.
[Image description: A copy of ‘Born Confused’ lies on a purple rug. The cover features a woman’s eyes with a question mark at the center of her forehead.] Via Iman Saleem.
Dimple Rohitbhai Lala is on many cusps – between cultural tradition and her own volition, school, and college, a Dimple-approved old boy and a parent-approved new one. While that fuzzy area between leaving school and starting college seems a very specific kind of change, there are a number of lessons Dimple learns that are pretty universal. Namely that friendships must grow as people do, that to change your values is not to accept defeat, and that the chaos of change does not necessarily end in calm, collected resolution – often it just settles into slightly more manageable chaos.

2. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

Louis de Bernières's novel 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin', featuring a blue cover with various symbols from the book on it, lies on a grey blanket alongside another one of the author's books and a pair of glasses.
[Image description: Louis de Bernières’s novel ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’, featuring a blue cover with various symbols from the book on it, lies on a grey blanket alongside another one of the author’s books and a pair of glasses.] Via A Model Recommends.
Set in 1941 on the Greek island of Cephalonia during the Greco-Italian war, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is concerned with many different types of changes. With a multi-character narrative that goes back and forth across time and place, the horrors of war being contrasted with everyday life in Cephalonia serves as a gripping background to a number of personal and interpersonal dramas. Italian Antonio Corelli is infatuated with Pelagia, Pelagia is engaged to Mandras, Carlo is struggling with his homosexuality and the death of his beloved. This epic novel is about how war can change how and whom we love, and how these loves can create and reshape our histories. 

3. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

The spine of the novel 'Brooklyn' stands out among a pile of books, the rest of which are piled with their spines facing the opposite direction.
[Image description: The spine of the novel ‘Brooklyn’ stands out among a pile of books, the rest of which are piled with their spines facing the opposite direction.] Via Iman Saleem.
Brooklyn captures the piercing pain of homesickness and feeling very small in a big world with stark honesty. Eilis Lacey emigrates from Ireland to New York in the 1950s, alone and not knowing what awaits her. As soon as Eilis conquers her fear of the unknown and settles into her new life, however, she gets pulled right back into her old one. Brooklyn is about choices and serves as a reminder that while the past may be out of your hands, the future is yours to build.

4. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

A person wearing a white sweater holds up the Italian copy of 'Bridget Jones's Diary' against a wall covered in different shades of dusky pink.
[Image description: A person wearing a white sweater holds up the Italian copy of ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ against a wall covered in different shades of dusky pink.] Via The Eat Culture.
We can’t ever talk about fresh starts without mentioning Bridget Jones, queen of drastic self-improvement tactics and overambitious New Year’s resolutions. Bridget, 30-something, works in publishing, lives in London, would like to stop smoking and dating losers, is so relatable because her life, much like anyone’s, rarely ever goes according to plan. Witnessing Bridget deal with every curveball – sometimes gracefully, sometimes not – feels like being seen, flaws and all.

5. The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi

A hand holds up a copy of 'The Baghdad Clock' against a white curtain as patches of sunlight hit the book. The cover is shades of blue and features a young girl leaping over a puddle.
[Image description: A hand holds up a copy of ‘The Baghdad Clock’ against a white curtain as patches of sunlight hit the book. The cover is shades of blue and features a young girl leaping over a puddle.] Via Iman Saleem.
In 1991 in Baghdad, a young girl and her best friend meet for the first time in an air raid shelter during the first Gulf War. From then on, they share everything with each other – dreams, disappointments, fears, and firsts. In the background of the girls’ lives are a close-knit community and a city whose nooks and crannies they know like the backs of their hands, both slowly disappearing as a result of the war. Through a child’s perspective and using elements of magical realism, Al Rawi explores her protagonist’s internal turbulence at a time in which uncertainty is a way of life and stability a myth. 

6. Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares

The fourth book in the 'Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' series lies on a pair of blue jeans. The cover is a pair of blue jeans against a yellow backdrop.
[Image description: The fourth book in the ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ series lies on a pair of blue jeans. The cover is a pair of blue jeans against a yellow backdrop.] Via Iman Saleem.
This book will have more of an impact if you’ve read the 3 preceding books in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, but it still does great all by itself. Carmen, Tibby, Lena, and Bridget are off on their final summer apart before they go away to college and begin spending the rest of their years apart as well. Being apart from your friends is difficult because it means coming to terms with what that distance may or may not change. The sisterhood teaches us to have faith in the friendships we hold closest to our hearts and to trust that they can endure the scariest thing of all: the unknown.

7. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The cover for Sandra Cisneros's 'The House on Mango Street', which depicts a red building on a turquoise background.
[Image description: The cover for Sandra Cisneros’s ‘The House on Mango Street’, which depicts a red building on a turquoise background.] Via Bagina.
Cisneros’s graphic novel is told in a series of vignettes through the voice of Esperanza Cordera, a young girl growing up in Chicago’s Hispanic quarter. Readers learn all about Esperanza’s community and culture through the eyes of a child, which are much clearer than those of adults. Central to Mango Street is an overwhelming sense of community and loyalty, and Esperanza’s experiences of growing up, finding her purpose, awakening her sense of independence and agency, are all intrinsically tied to the eponymous Mango Street and all its inhabitants. 

8. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

A copy of 'Persepolis' - featuring a red cover with a young girl wearing a dark headscarf and looking unhappy - lies on a wooden surface by a vase of flowers.
[Image description: A copy of ‘Persepolis’ – featuring a red cover with a young girl wearing a dark headscarf and looking unhappy – lies on a wooden surface by a vase of flowers.] Via Persistiny.
Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel blends personal and public histories into one, each one shaping and sustaining the other. In her striking, candid illustrations Satrapi remembers her childhood in Iran, her move to Europe and eventual return back to Iran. Born to politically active Marxist parents and growing up during the Iranian Revolution, Satrapi’s own life is intertwined with an extremely volatile phase of her country’s history. Satrapi endures many drastic changes – geographical, political, personal – yet remains intrinsically unchanged.

Change can be intimidating, daunting, and downright scary. Let these books help you on your way to not only dealing with change but conquering it as well.

Check these books – and more – on our brand new The Tempest bookshop supporting local bookstores!

Tech Money Now + Beyond

Here’s how Bitcoin went from the next big thing to a textbook failure

From Pokemon Go in summer 2016 to fidget spinners in spring 2017, the world always seems to be going after a new fad before these fads fall. In 2017, this fad seemed to be Bitcoin, which rarely seems to be heard of in mainstream media nowadays.

Let’s first understand why so many people were getting nerdy about bitcoin.

Bitcoin, at its simplest, is cryptocurrency, a form of electronic cash. While the amount of online stores that accept Bitcoin as payment is not super big at the moment, sites CheapAir and Etsy, if the creator allows it, do. If you want to see which stores near you accept Bitcoin, you can use the website coin map to see.

According to Rebecca Grant at VentureBeat, Bitcoins are characterized by their placement in a public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions. This is also known as the Blockchain, which is a public record of transactions.

Bitcoins are generated by using an open-source computer program to solve complex math problems in a process known as mining,” Grant wrote. “Each Bitcoin is defined by a public address and a private key, which are long strings of numbers and letters that give each a specific identity. This means that Bitcoin is not only a token of value but also a method for transferring that value.”

Bitcoin first emerged in 2008. 

While it remained active, it only really started receiving mainstream attention in fall 2017. During the first week of September 2017,  a Bitcoin reached a new high with a value of $5,013. However, Bitcoin dropped 20 percent soon after the later weeks of September.

Bitcoin soon recovered and achieved a value of over $5,000 again in October 2017. Over the next few months, Bitcoin continued its historic rise. On December 17, 2017, Bitcoin reached an all-time high value of $19,783.21 for one Bitcoin.

According to Coindesk, the value of one Bitcoin presently is worth around $4,400. So, what happened to Bitcoin?

Billy Bambrough of Forbes points to five key issues which may have played a role in Bitcoin’s downfall: (1) mistrust following the hack of cryptocurrency giant Coinrail, (2) increased governmental regulations of cryptocurrency, (3) the decrease of transaction value, (4) users getting tired of Bitcoin, and (5) the power of financial detractors. 

On the first point of mistrust, here’s why people freaked out about Bitcoin. In June 2018, Coinrail, a company based in South Korea which trades around 50 cryptocurrencies, was hacked. This hack could have played a role in users mistrusting Bitcoin, as they could fear that considerable amounts of money could be stolen.

Governmental regulations are currently cracking down on Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency. In countries like China, Bitcoin is completely illegal. France will work with Germany to create a joint proposal on how to better regulate Bitcoin, according to Reuters. Crackdowns on cryptocurrency may deter some people from wanting to use Bitcoin.

Bitcoin still has some value, but its value continues to decrease – and it remains unclear if Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency will rise again in the future. Stay tuned. 

Tech Now + Beyond

Children of color can’t be safe at school if they’re automatically assumed to be criminals

Everytime that I have turned on the news over the past few years, it seems like there is always a report on another school shooting or an act of violence in a school setting.

Recently, K5 News reported that the Seattle-based company RealNetworks offered to install and allow Seattle Public Schools to use its facial recognition software named SAFR. Its website boasts that this software allows for schools to match a person’s face with their identity in real time. This technology makes use of cameras that the school already has installed.

While schools and the American government must address this epidemic of violence, facial recognition software is not the answer, as this will likely increase racism in academic settings. Without even looking at the racist implication that would follow, facial recognition software already sounds incredibly creepy and invasive.

The American Civil Liberties Union released a study on this issue in June, specifically examining Amazon’s usage of the tool “Rekognition.”  This study used Amazon’s tool to compare congressmen with people who have been arrested for crimes. Not to be dramatic, but the results were a catastrophe.

There were 28 false matches. False matches should raise eyebrows, and the racial bias is alarming. Currently, people of color only represent 20% of the House of Representatives. However, of the 28 false matches, 39% of these were of people of color. If this doesn’t seem like a problem to you, I hate to break it to you, but you may be as racist as this software.

Graphic from the ACLU on its results. Via ACLU

Studies like the ACLU’s shows us that facial recognition software will not keep students of color safe. If you think false matches of congressmen are bad, imagine what this would look like in real life if implemented in Seattle Public Schools. Way to help continue the epidemic of police brutality against people of color.

Already, even with schools in the United States, teachers and administrators have a clear unconscious bias that often leads to students of color being over-punished. For example, while black kids do not misbehave more than white kids, they are much more likely to be punished.

This is not to say RealNetworks did not have good intentions with its offer. GeekWire reported that RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser offered this program after learning of the lack of security measures at his children’s elementary school. It makes sense that parents would want to protect their child. But, the impact is more important when it comes to addressing systems of violence.

The intent of this facial recognition software and other safety measures is in place to hopefully prevent school shootings. But their racial bias misses the mark completely. What did the Sandy Hook and Stoneham Douglas, and countless other mass shooters have in common? They look a whole lot more like me…..or dare I say, a white man,  than U.S. Representative John Lewis, who was falsely identified in ACLU’s study.

Schools need to be safer, but they need to be safer for all, including for people of color.