USA Reproductive Rights 2020 Elections Gender Inequality

Amy Coney Barett’s feminism is not here to save us

There’s no one way to be a woman. So why, in 2020, do we still expect all women to be the same? In many ways, this year has pushed us collectively to expand our intersections of identity, and redefine our activism. But what does it mean to fall under one banner, one slogan? How can we remain on one side of history and still maintain individualistic thought?

The recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been met with the seemingly collective fear of women across the US for their bodily autonomy. Well-intentioned messages flood Twitter to remind uterus-owners to stock up on birth control now, before we enter the new age of womanhood (read: Gilead). What a privilege it is to utter “Justice for Breonna Taylor,” “Abolish ICE,” and “My Body, My Choice” in the same breath, as if the three do not meet at a crucial intersection.

The irony is that the bodies of Black women were subjected to the horrific trials that produced modern-day birth control. The ever-updating news cycle revealed that the bodies of detained women in the US are again subject to illegal medical procedures and sterilization in the same week as Amy Barrett’s nomination. The only bodies to retain autonomous choice, it seems, are those of white women. These are the women for whom difference of opinion is not a matter of life and death. How else can Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Trump’s top choice to fill her seat, Amy Coney Barrett have tread the same career path?

This is not a matter of pitting women against women, but a reminder that our fear of Barrett on the bench stems from an age-old economic theory of scarcity. RBG was the second woman to sit on the Supreme Court—the first Jewish woman. In 2009, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the first Hispanic and Latina to become a member of the Court.  For as long as there’s a qualifier preceding a woman’s role, there’s a second, silent fear: what if she’s the only? While it’s simply not true—this fear has fueled our motivations in almost every field: model minority myths, purported college demographic quotas— the idea of nine women on the bench still seems far-fetched. Impossible. This is what makes us angry at Amy Coney Barrett—afraid even. She’s being offered the opportunity to represent all of us, but her track record shows her preference for the conservative, non-immigrant few. 

Last week’s confirmation hearings remind us that Barrett identifies as an Originalist–that is, much like her mentor, the late Antonin Scalia, she believes that the Constitution is not a living document, but rather one frozen within the context of the year it was ratified. She once again emphasized in her hearing that “it’s not up to me to update [the Constitution] or infuse my own policy views into it,” something she has been reiterating toward every question regarding her opinions on Roe v. Wade and her conservative Catholic views. Comforting, right?

However, despite Barrett assuring us that she is the consummate public servant, her promise that “[she] would assume this role (regarding her nomination to the Supreme Court) to serve [us]” feels hollow. The fear is real: historically women who do not have to fight for their right to exist have exercised the luxury of choosing to renounce things they don’t need. Consider Susan B. Anthony’s lack of interest of securing the right to vote for Black women in the United States, for example. It’s important to note that white women are not the founders of feminism—rather only the face of the modern word, as it emerged in the Western world. 

But what about Amy Coney Barrett’s feminism? After all, as women, shouldn’t we be on the same side? If anything, she’s a reminder that women, despite facing similar obstacles, are varied and complex. Feminism doesn’t deride motherhood or womanhood–it’s not meant to shame femininity or identity. Rather, it is best viewed as with most successful movements, through its intersectionality. A feminist doesn’t have to be a woman, doesn’t have to be unmarried or without children. However, a feminist does have to care and advocate for other marginalized groups. Therefore if feminism must include bodily and reproductive rights, it must do so for any and all uterus-bearers; eschewing a cis-heteronormative lens, and consider both those who choose parenthood and those who choose otherwise. 

Amy Coney Barrett is the right’s feminist icon because of her working motherhood, which in itself is not the issue. If anything, the fact that her hearing was filled with reminders of her seven children is a reminder that her personal choice to be a parent is now touted as a feminist flag for female success in the workplace: if Amy could be a working mother, then women have breached that final hurdle. However, it ignores her choice to do so: her choice to be a mother is as valid as another’s choice to not be a mother. What’s important here is that Amy Coney Barrett’s long-held anti-abortion views do not suggest that. 

In the aftermath of the 2016 US election, we saw many women vote against their own interests, and puzzled how we, as women, could be so divided. It’s worth noting, that feminism is quite literally, not for everyone. The 2010s resurgence of feminism and the need to make it palatable led quickly to the condemnation of White Feminism. This is a reminder that until they are truly intersectional, movements cannot achieve success. Sure, without feminism, Barrett would not have pivoted to the role she is nominated for today—but to support her blindly, in the name of feminism, or solidarity—is an injustice to any woman who does not fall under Barrett’s own scope. 

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Sexuality The Vulvasation Love + Sex Love

I can’t have sex. Here’s what it’s like

Vulvasations is a Tempest Love exclusive series dedicated to spreading awareness about the female reproductive system, debunking myths about periods and dissecting everything vajayjay related. Let’s talk about vaginas!

I was twelve when I first heard the word “hymen” in a sexual education class. It was advertised as a “vaginal cloak” that would be broken the first time a girl would have sex.

I’m from Texas and therefore received abstinence-only sex education. Virginity was a woman’s virtue and a ~prized possession~. 

Personally, I never bought into the idealization of virginity because sex was always irrelevant to me. I wasn’t waiting until marriage, but I wasn’t planning on doing it in high school either. Little did I know that not only did I not want to have sex, I biologically couldn’t have it.

I was confident in my decision to not have sex until I found out that it was never my decision; my body had already decided for me. 

I realized that my body was averse to any form of penetration.

I could never use a tampon or handle any form of penetration without excruciating pain. It was almost as if my vaginal muscles would slam shut at the thought of it. I chalked it up to being nervous and spoke to my doctor about it.

For years, she told me that I was probably just nervous and should opt for thinner tampons. Despite using the thinnest tampons on the market, I still couldn’t get them in. 

Eventually, I realized that my body was averse to any form of penetration, not just tampons, so there had to be another reason for my pain. Finally, my doctor confirmed that this was abnormal and referred me to a gynecologist this summer.

When I first realized how severe my problem was, I thought it was vaginismus (an involuntary spasming of the vaginal muscles in response to a fear of penetration).

I refused to leave my room for three days and mentally spiraled while trying to figure out how I was going to cope with the idea of never being able to have pain-free sex.

Going to a gynecologist at a young age only exacerbated this as I did not like being poked and prodded by a doctor, especially vaginally. After a painful gynecological exam, I was diagnosed with a hymenal abnormality (microperforate hymen).

I had a lot of abnormally thick tissue covering my vaginal opening with an opening about the size of a sesame seed for menstrual blood to come out of (nothing could go in). Surgery (hymenectomy) was my only option to remove the tissue.  

Eventually, I underwent the surgery and was fortunate enough to receive a hormonal IUD at the same time. While my recovery was gruesome, I was optimistic about finally being able to use tampons and have a normal sex life. Unfortunately, I was in over my head. I felt like I was being cut in half during my gynecological follow-up appointment.

The severed nerve endings from the incision site were angered by the surgery, so penetration was still unbearably painful. She suggested that I start vaginal dilator therapy to condition my vagina to relax and habituate to the sensation of penetration. While dilators are tube-shaped medical devices that increase in size, my body perceives them as giant wooden stakes.

The only thing more painful than having to undergo vaginal surgery and dilator therapy was having to explain all of it to my conservative, Indian mother.

Sexual health is still taboo in India, especially for unmarried women. Often, society treats the vagina as a holy space that should not be entered until marriage by a woman’s husband.

My mother had never heard of a dilator and was traumatized after hearing about what she interpreted as “medically-prescribed masturbation”. Thankfully, she is more progressive than most Indian mothers and was somewhat supportive of my surgery because it was medically-necessitated.

Currently, I am three months post-operation and I am still working on dilation. While I cannot have painless sex yet, I have worked my way to the 4th dilator out of 8. This is tremendous progress for my body considering that I couldn’t handle a finger 2 months ago.

I have been able to use marijuana extract (CBD) formulated for sexual use to subdue my vaginal and vulvar nerve endings into relaxing enough to allow for certain forms of penetration, or as my friends like to say, I get my vagina high with vagina weed

While my vaginal journey has been traumatizing, it’s also forced me to confront a culturally tabooed part of my body. Prior to surgery, I couldn’t even say the word “vagina” without blushing.

Here I am now, telling the whole world how I get mine stoned every night. 

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Sexuality Dedicated Feature Love + Sex Love

Even experimenting with my sexuality seems like a step too far

My whole life, not being straight wasn’t an option I allowed for myself. I knew it was just so much easier to what was expected by my family, friends, and society. A remnant of my upbringing, sexuality in general carried a lot of stigma and pressure. But now that I am on the cusp of adulthood, I wonder how different everything could have played out if I allowed myself to explore. 

I can’t even recall the first time a girl had caught my attention, that’s how far back it was. I must have immediately justified it as liking her hair, or the way that she dressed. Perhaps, I reasoned that I just wanted to look like her, and maybe I did. But then, as I went through my teenage phase, I would often fantasize about girls. I didn’t develop any crushes on anyone I knew, but I wondered what it would be like. 

Scrolling through Tumblr, a haven for young people questioning their sexuality, I found myself wandering over to those pages with the artsy nudes. Appreciating them just for their artistic merit, of course, I would say to myself. But afterward, I would feel such shame that my chest grew tight. What was I doing? Who was I? I never brought it up to anyone else, but I remember being on the verge of tears as I reasoned to myself that all girls were like this. I was just young and curious. From then on, my sexuality became a tough cycle of self-denial and censorship. 

But it didn’t always feel that way to me. Even after I started questioning my sexuality, I was still okay with moving on as I always had, being straight. I normalized it to such an extent that for a while, I stopped questioning it. I pursued relationships with guys and it felt normal, if still controversial to the conservative community around me. When I got older and went on an exchange program for a year, I did the same. On the dating apps, I didn’t hesitate to click ‘men’ as my preference. During my last week there, I swapped phones with a friend to swipe through a dating app for fun. On her screen, a woman’s profile popped up. I knew that she was bisexual, but for a second, it felt like the world was playing tricks on me personally. “She’s cute,” my friend said, peering over. She was.

I felt regret. It was my last few days away from home, so I felt that I had missed my chance to try going on a date with a girl. Although even the thought made me feel nervous, I still regretted never trying and now the door to experimenting with any of that seemed firmly shut. I already planned in my mind how I wasn’t going to tell any of my friends, how I could downplay it if they found out. It was crazy, that I was already prepared to keep it a secret. It struck me that day that I was afraid of experimenting because what if I really was bisexual? Just placing that term anywhere next to me felt earth-shattering.

Perhaps it was fear, or just a desire to avoid conflict. I had always been a non-confrontational person and would rather choose to avoid tension even if I have to give some of myself up. Already in a precarious relationship with my cultural identity and family because of my so-called liberal ideas and forward-thinking when it came to feminism and gender, I didn’t want to seem even ‘stranger’ in their eyes. I didn’t want to be rejected. Every move I made caused ripples, even that year away from home was a scandal. If I dared to experiment, who knew what would happen? It seemed like whether or not I was bisexual, just experimenting had the potential to complicate my life. 

I was afraid of that uncertainty. So I never put myself out there. The fact is that I might have tried it out and found that I actually wasn’t romantically or sexually attracted to women. I could find out that I was. If I had known then that sexuality could be fluid, that it could change over time even without the pressure of labels, would experimenting have been any easier of a choice to make? 

But I still wonder, what if? I think I’ll always wonder about that. I also think about other things I am afraid of exploring because of culture, family, friends, and other external factors. Hopefully, as more awareness is brought to experimenting and sexuality, things will change for the better, and more people will feel comfortable exploring important parts of themselves. As for me, I’m not sure where my life will take me. I wouldn’t rule out anything in my future. This is only the first step, confronting my internal ideas of ‘normalcy’, and I suppose it’s okay to not know if and what comes next.

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History Poetry Forgotten History Lost in History

You probably don’t know about Hettie Jones, a crusading Beat poet

You’ve heard of a Jack Kerouac, but have you ever heard of a Hettie Jones?

The Beat Literary Movement of the 1950s is coined for its explicit subject matter and bohemian lifestyle. Americans in the 1950’s lived in largely suburban towns and felt threatened by things like communism. Men went to work in suits and women stayed home to cook, clean, and tend to the children.

The rebel, beatnik, group of authors that made up the Beat Generation were iconoclastic. Much of their work explored and influenced American culture and politics in the post-war era. They experimented with form and structure while writing about sex, drugs, and religion. Traditional literary houses rejected them and looked down on them as a group as being defiant, untalented, and unprofessional. 

I think that their being unconventional was the whole point, though.

They were the antithesis of mainstream American life.

They wanted to publish anything that was deemed inappropriate by society. These people were tired of the routine, and frankly, felt beaten down by the conservative lifestyle that they were stuck in. They were highly controversial in that they were the antithesis of mainstream American life and writing. Many of their works of poetry and prose focused on shifts of consciousness and escaping “squareness.” The stereotype around the Beats is that they were not in favor of what they considered to be straight jobs. Instead, they lived together, packed into small and dirty apartments, sold drugs, had sex with each other, and committed crimes. They are also known for exploring homosexuality, which was a highly taboo topic in 1950’s America.

Though they set many precedents together, the Beats still succumbed to the blatant sexism of the time. Most, if not all, of the women involved in the Beat literary movement were overshadowed by their male counterparts for no particular reason other than gender. These women were just as intelligent and qualified to question society as the beatnik men who have become well-known poets and activists.

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One of the most iconic, and downplayed, female poets of that time who deserves righted acknowledgment is Hettie Jones. 

Hettie Jones published 23 books- and yet, we forgot her

Hettie Jones is most known for her marriage to the famous Beat Poet Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones). Few people know that Hettie helped run Totem Press, one of the more important beat publishers, along with her husband. She went on to publish about 23 books, one being a memoir of her time spent with Amiri and the rest of the Beats titled, How I Became Hettie Jones (1990). She has also written for many prestigious journals, lectured writing across America, and began the literary magazine “Yugen.”

Hettie is one of my favorite poets, so I think that her writing deserved to be at the forefront of the Beat movement, right there with the boys who got so much praise for their work. 

Hettie’s writing is rooted in practical idealism. She left her family home in Long Island to go to college and to fully discover herself. When she graduated in 1955, she never turned back, and moved to New York City. She met Amiri while working at The Record Changer, a jazz magazine. He was a young, black poet with just as much intelligence and intensity as Hettie. They quickly fell in love and moved in together. They would go to poetry readings at cafes and bohemian bars, where they met many of the other Beat poets.

Hettie deserved to be at the forefront of the Beat movement.

When the pair founded their own magazine, they published the writings of many of the iconic beat players who could not find a home for their writing in the traditional sphere. Hettie was in charge of editing the works that were to be published in the magazine. It was here that she honed her craft and found power in the refined writing that makes her work stand out from the rest. 

By 1960, Hettie and Amiri had two children, were married, and lived in New York City. Being a biracial family, though, countless bigoted remarks were directed towards them regardless of the Beat scene. Hettie was on the receiving end of most of these cold stares and was able to see the world through the eyes of her husband and children. This affected her incredibly and eventually became a recurring theme in her writing.  

When Amiri became tightly involved with the Black Power movement, he was criticized for having a white wife. They divorced in 1968. Hettie thrived on her own though and made a living with her children while teaching and editing. Her separation from her husband also gave Hettie an outlet to speak up and finally publish works of her own. She has been quoted to say, “Without a him in the house, there was more space/time for her, and I tried to redefine the way a woman might use it.” 

To this day, Hettie’s writing is compassionate. She writes about her own experiences in a compelling manner while weaving in the issues that she cares about. Currently, Hettie lives in New York City, and is a writer and lecturer. In addition, she runs a writing workshop at the New York State Correctional Facility for Women where she recently published a volume of writing by incarcerated women.

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Culture Family Gender & Identity Life

Motherhood does not have to define womanhood

All my life I’ve expected to be a mother and wife. They just went hand-in-hand. Growing up, whenever I did something wrong, the first thing I would be asked by Aunties is, “Is that what you will do in your husband’s house?” Through comments like these, I was taught that my misbehavior wasn’t detrimental to what I could accomplish on my own, it was detrimental to my success as a wife. Being a wife but not experiencing motherhood was unthinkable. One without the other suggested that you were a failure or defective in some way. 

Let me be clear, I was allowed to aspire to greatness, to put my best foot forward and be ambitious. However, that ambition and tenacity were always intertwined with what was expected of me because of my gender. I would mention, offhandedly, my dreams of a corner office and almost immediately be bombarded with advice about maintaining a work/life balance, including how to take care of kids while maintaining excellence in a career. In my mind, I would always ask myself “but what if I don’t actually want kids?” I knew if I asked that out loud I would either be ignored or smugly told that I’d change my mind. I wouldn’t be taken seriously. 

I jokingly pitched the idea of avoiding motherhood altogether amongst older women once. I was met with a combination of radio silence and shocked stares. This is because Nigeria is an extremely conservative society. No matter what you achieve, none of it can be complete without children. As a woman living in Nigeria, this type of thinking was impossible for me to escape. I saw it in media, experienced it in church, and rolled my eyes through it in conversations with my family. 

That question is one I only asked myself seriously when I turned 21.  I always assumed that I wanted kids. But I would look at young children and feel no maternal instinct. I never once experienced “baby fever” even looking at the cutest of children.  I definitely felt tenderness whenever a toddler would stretch a pudgy arm up, asking me to hold them, but that was about it.

Knowing all this about myself, I still felt the need to have them. The idea of “leaving something behind in the world” was too strong. You’re expected to leave a legacy and proof that you were here. My grandfather may have died but the eyes he had are the same ones his children, grandchildren and maybe great-grandchildren may have. Didn’t I want that as well? This argument is one I wrestled with on and off for four years.

Then, in a fortunate stroke of serendipity, I came across a Naomi Campbell interview. She was asked about motherhood and she responded with all the models who she helped, the up-and-comers and those already established. Those women are her stamp on the world. The lives you touch throughout your life can be your legacy and your shot at living forever even when you’re gone. Love can be found in all sorts of places and not only in the traditional nuclear family structure.

I don’t know if I want to be a mother not. I still have a lot of living to do and maybe I will change my mind in the years to come. What I do know is that I refuse to let outdated ideas surrounding womanhood control or define me. My worth isn’t determined by my ability to procreate and neither is my womanhood.

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.

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USA Editor's Picks The World

The government shutdown has shown us what our leaders truly value

“I don’t really feel bad about the people who are furloughed,” my father said. “I don’t think the government should be employing so many people.”

We were talking about the government shutdown, specifically the size of our government. He explained how he thought the government was too big, and how the idea of such a huge employee base being paid with his hard-earned tax dollars was appalling to him.

While I was able to help him come from the precipice of thoughtlessness, admitting that park rangers and military service members were essential government personnel, he wouldn’t budge on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

His thoughts regarding the size of our government are not rare. In fact, as the government shutdown comes to an end many people are feeling the same. Right-wing and libertarian pundits are calling for smaller government, saying that we have done fine without one this far. So why do we need one at all?

Advocates for smaller government are simply holding the shutdown as an example of why small government works. Our country didn’t spontaneously combusted or caved in on itself, so surely a smaller government is all we need.

However, the absence of an extinction-level event is not a success story. Our country was hurting, and that is a fact regardless of whether or not the president and his advisors want to acknowledge it.

[bctt tweet=”However, the absence of an extinction-level event is not a success story. Our country was hurting, and that is a fact regardless of whether or not the President and his advisors want to acknowledge it.” username=”wearethetempest”]

On January 16, 42,000 coast guard members went without a paycheck. This is the first time since the Revolutionary War that our military has not been paid while acting in defense of our country. However, the effects of the shutdown extend through all levels of government.

From IRS employees to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives, over 800,000 government workers went without pay during the partial government shutdown. Some were furloughed, as they were deemed nonessential.

However, many, like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at some of the countries busiest airports were still required to report to work. Like our soldiers in foreign theater, they were required to work without pay. As a result, many are called in sick causing jams at airport security.

Going weeks without pay would put anyone in a bind, let alone the most financially vulnerable. While Congress and the executive branch argue over a $5.7 billion border wall, the low-income employees that serve our country went without pay.

[bctt tweet=”Going over weeks without pay would put anyone in a bind, let alone the most financially vulnerable.” username=”wearethetempest”]

For those displaced by the recent fires in California, aid was shut down as FEMA has been ordered to halt all operations.

Many recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) received their February benefits two weeks early – halfway through January. The early push of funds to ensure benefits reached the neediest of people before funding ran out January 20th. Now, many who rely on the benefits to feed their children will be unable to put food on the table.

And as tax season approaches, over 30,000 IRS workers were ordered to work, however, like the members of the Coast Guard, the TSA, or other essential personnel, they worked without pay while the president fought for a wall we don’t need or want.

The ripple effects of the government shutdown are innumerable, and what’s more, it didn’t have to happen.

Government shutdowns are a relatively new invention. The first government shutdown only happened in 1976, two years after the national budget was placed in the hands of Congress. Since creating a hard deadline for the government fiscal year and putting the responsibility for the budget in the hands of Congress, it relies on a unanimous agreement between Congress and the executive branch.

By marrying these branches of government together, it allows for a constitutional crisis every time there is a need to fund the government. It allows Congress or the president to hold our country as a bargaining chip for their own agenda.

Today, that agenda was not just asking for a border wall, but also making an argument that our government is too large. In the eyes of those who thought this shutdown was productive, little value is seen on agencies like the IRS, SNAP, or FEMA. Further, the budget cuts that are affected the Coast Guard shows that there is little respect for the men and women who are defending our existing borders.

That is because those departments serve the people of this country, rather than the interests of bigotry and isolationism.

[bctt tweet=”Bigotry and isolationism prevail in a government shutdown. Government is established in support of the people, not in spite of them. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Those values prevailed in the shutdown.

Government is established in support of the people, not in spite of them. By holding the citizens of our country, and our country itself, for ransom we see the true motivation of our leadership. It’s without saying, Americans deserve better.

Tech Now + Beyond

Seven saucy apps that will completely change your love life

Let’s face it: The quality of sex education sucks, and it’s a problem.

Across the U.S., there is a slew of states refusing to allow public schools to teach sex-ed, and how sex-ed is taught across the world is just as inconsistent. We’re lucky if our guardians even gave us “the sex talk”.

Abstinence-only education is not working. The negativity, judgment, and stigma surrounding sex are preventing many from learning how to have safe, consensual sex or how to embrace sex as an affirmative experience.

Sex education shouldn’t be embarrassing or inaccessible, and we owe it to ourselves to take sex-ed into our own hands. And thanks to the digital age, we now have mobile and web apps that are revolutionizing how we talk about sex.

1. HappyPlayTime

HappyPlayTime is breaking down social stigma surrounding female masturbation with their lighthearted and necessary web app. ‘Happy’ is an adorable cartoon vulva that takes its users through interactive games to learn about anatomy and basic techniques in pleasuring yourself. Simply move your cursor or finger around the directed area to unlock different moves around the clitoris, clitoral hood or vagina. Let your partner have a try at it so they can get educated too.

In an interview with Broadly, Tina Gong states that she created this adorable app to overcome her embarrassment over sex and sexuality. Her conservative upbringing stifled her journey to discover her own body, and she wanted to change the conversation around sexual pleasure.

2. Juicebox

Juicebox is a sex and relationship mobile app where you can get advice from certified “sexperts” and get sexual health information where we communicate the most: our phones.

There are two main components to Juicebox: Snoop lets users submit questions to be answered by sex therapists, counselors and educators, who publish their answers and resources for the entire Juicebox community to read. So if you’re embarrassed about asking a question, rest assured that there’s an entire community of people who are having the same musings.

The Spill function lets users share personal stories about sexuality and gender to foster community and break down the embarrassment and stigma surrounding sexual experiences.



F*CK YES is a web series that models what consent looks like in a world clueless about how to discuss safety in pre-coital conversation. Produced, written and directed by an all-women team, these sex positive videos are showing how consent is affirmative and sexy.

Although consent definitely doesn’t need to “sexy” to be necessary, these digital shorts have fun with the notion that consent is a part of the sexual experience and doesn’t have to “ruin the mood”.

4. OMGYes

OMGYes is a website committed to exploring female sexual pleasure and creating better orgasms through new research and science. This platform is taking the stigma around sexuality head-on by taking a candid look at the ways women find pleasure.

The website uses video testimonials, stats, and simulation to educate users about stimulation and sexuality. Through its interactive videos, users can test techniques by touching their screens. The videos give you feedback in real-time so users can better fine-tune their movement. There’s only a one-time fee to start using OMGYes. Once you pay, you can access all of its episodes as much as you would like.

5. SexPositive

Sex positive is all about counteracting the fears, misinformation, and negativity around human sexuality. Instead, it embraces sex as a positive, affirming experience. The app is modeled as a wheel where users can spin to learn what happens when one body part touches another, or even an object. The result gives users  safe sex recommendations.

Created by the University of Oregon Health Center, this convenient mobile app provides users judgement-free information about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), safe sex practices, communication tips and other advice.

6. Bedsider

Bedsider helps people take an active role in their reproductive health by providing the most comprehensive birth control information possible. Operated by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, Bedsider is completely independent and is committed to providing users with honest and unbiased information.

[bctt tweet=”@Bedsider helps people take an active role in their reproductive health.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Users can explore and compare different birth control options through an interactive breakdown, while also learning what they can do if birth control fails. Bedsider also lets users know where they can access birth control, from health centers to at-home delivery services, and even helps users remember to take their birth control through their Bedsider Reminders mobile app.

7. Eve by Glow

Eve by Glow is a sex app and period tracker made for women who want to take control of their sexual and reproductive health in the convenience of one platform. In this hybrid app, users can log their sexual activity and keep track of their cycle, so you can worry less about the health of your cycle and unplanned pregnancies and more about your sexuality.

Users can get as specific as they’d like on the app, logging data like when you’ve had sex, with who and how. You can also record your mood and if you’ve been exercising, which all factor into how your cycle works. Eve gives its users trusted information on birth control and sex tips, and also has a discussion forum in which users can share their stories and experiences, or ask for advice from each other.

Tech Now + Beyond

What the election result means for your money as a millennial

The election ended in a hung parliament, where no party had the 326 seats needed to get an overall majority in the House of Commons. While Theresa May remains prime minister, her snap election backfired and there was a glimmer of hope for the British public.

What changed the political landscape was the high turnout of young people. A report by the National Union of Students revealed 72% of people aged 18-24 voted in the general election, particularly for the Labour party.

It is not surprising the party received the most votes from the demographic. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign focused on young people – a key manifesto pledge being to scrap tuition fees. The ultimate legend in British politics.

Despite not winning the election, the overall result was better than expected. But what does it actually mean for your money as a millennial? Is it possible to achieve life milestones like buying a house within the next five years?

The biggest surprise from the result was the crash and fall of the pound, but not for long. The uncertainty of a hung parliament meant the sterling suffered a hit and dropped by 2% overnight.

The cost of summer breaks abroad could be impacted by the result and the pound drop. Financial website This Is Money reported people are likely to see that their money doesn’t go far this year compared to last.

The risk of being short on spending money even caused an urge of anxiety for those lucky enough to visit the French Riviera. However by the time a hung parliament was confirmed, the pound had risen from €1.14 and $1.28. I guess we can save ourselves the embarrassment of counting our pennies.

The majority of young people aged 18-24 will be affected the most by the rise of tuition fees. The government already planned for fees to rise to £9,250, and this seems unlikely to change.

Tuition fees have been an area under scrutiny since the last general election, but nothing has changed. There has been little support for young people from the government (apart from the man himself, Corbyn) to help them thrive in wider society.

First they decided to remove maintenance grants for the poorer students, now they are trying to bleed us dry. Hundreds of thousands of millennials starting their working lives have an average of £44,000 debt, and maybe a whole lot more if the fee continues to spike.

It is important to remain vigilant about how the result may affect your money. It may seem unlikely to happen anytime soon, but it is possible to achieve life milestones whether you’re planning your first holiday or buying a house.

Millennials have been trashed for having an inability to manage and save money, but we understand how fundamental it is. It is the only way to be able to afford houses and cars in the future.

Things could change from now until the next general election so keep an eye on your money and savings.  You could either find yourself in a stable financial situation or struggling to scrape together a deposit for a one bedroom flat.

Politics The World

5 pro-Trump media outlets you need to ditch – and 5 to start reading like your life depends on it

To say that the mainstream media has done American democracy a disservice this election cycle would be an understatement. From Day One, news organizations should have represented Donald Trump for what he actually is: a sexist, racist, tax-evading, business-failing man accused of sexual assault with absolutely no political experience. Instead, the media depicted him as a “controversial” but not altogether unexpected candidate (while constantly covering Secretary Clinton’s damn emails).

And that kind of support won him the election.

As the United States recovers from the election and prepares for what the next four years may bring, you might be asking where you should be getting your news. Unfortunately, many conservative and mainstream news organizations are still normalizing Trump, but there are liberal and independent media companies offering diverse and inclusive alternative coverage. In times like these, it’s important to keep John Oliver’s words in mind: “Keep reminding yourself this is not normal. A Klan-backed misogynist internet troll is going to be delivering the next State of the Union address. And that is not normal. It is fucked up.”

Here are 5 media sources you should ditch immediately, and 5 alternatives you should definitely switch to!


Whether mainstream news or “alt-right” (cough, neo-Nazi) propaganda, many American media organizations have failed to appropriately characterize Donald Trump’s actions as what they are: not normal. Here are five news organizations that either directly support Trump or indirectly contributed to his success by condoning his behavior (while we’re including links to theses sites so you can investigate them yourself, we encourage you to think twice before supporting these organizations with your views and resulting ad revenue):

[bctt tweet=”American media organizations have failed to characterize Donald Trump’s actions as what they are: not normal.” username=”wearethetempest”]

1. Breitbart News

There aren’t enough words to describe our absolute distaste and outrage for Breitbart. You’ve likely heard about Breitbart News in past weeks since Trump appointed executive chair Steven Bannon as his chief strategist. What you might not have heard though are some of Breitbart’s recent “news” headlines: “Hate Hoax: Student Fakes Anti-Gay Notes From Trump Fan,” “Nick Cannon: Planned Parenthood Committing ‘Real Genocide’ Against Black People,” and “Trump Supporters On Reddit Are Mailing Salt To The New York Times.” Um okay.

2. Fox News

We’re the kind of crazy liberal women that Bill O’Reilly would warn your grandparents about; that said we’re not huge fans of Fox News either. To be fair, even Fox News agrees that Donald Trump is too extreme a Republican. But that doesn’t take back the millions of dollars of free advertising the station gave Trump by covering him so extensively.

3. CNN

Probably the greatest reason why mainstream news organizations like CNN covered Trump was because he was just so strange that he was entertaining. For months, media companies covered Trump’s campaign in the entertainment sections of their publications instead of in politics. And when Trump’s campaign did become vaguely legit — well, then they started covering him in full force, referring to his policies as radical and controversial, but not downright scary.

4. CBS

We love you Sixty Minutes, we really do, and we get that inviting the President-Elect on-air for an interview is normal–but this President-Elect is not normal. At least we got this super awkward photograph out of the interview.

No worries about Trump/Pence beating Obama/Biden for Bromance Of The Decade.

5. The National Enquirer

With articles like “Why President Trump Must Build The Border Wall” and “The Face Of Death — Haggard Hillary’s First Post-Election Appearance,” we’re not really sure we should say anymore.

Switch to these, soon

We definitely think The Tempest should stay at the top of your media list. We’re deeply committed to telling the stories of diverse millennial women–exactly the stories that are going to come under fire during the next four years.

But if you need to expand that reading list beyond us, you should definitely start with these five fab news sources!

1. Mother Jones

Mother Jones has broken some of the first post-election stories about possible foreign intervention and conflicts of interest. They’ve also willingly admitted the role of media in normalizing Trump’s campaign, and offered an alternative–“We don’t claim to have all the answers on where things go from here. But we know a free, fearless press is an essential part of it, and that means doubling down on the investigative reporting.”

2. Bitch Magazine

Feminist magazine Bitch has joined the activist community in offering suggestions on how to move forward through the next four years. With “10 Ways To Resist Donald Trump: Activists Share Concrete Actions You Can Take Right Now” and “Journalists Shouldn’t Play By Donald Trump’s Rules,” Bitch is starting a dialogue about surviving in Trump’s America and making feminist waves

3. The Root

When it comes down to it, this election was about race (and how the U.S. has failed to deal with racial inequality) more than anything else. If you’re looking to expand your perspective beyond the white mainstream media, The Root is definitely the place to start.

For alternative coverage of the election, check out: “The Black Middle Class Is About to Get Trumped,” “‘White Working Class’ Narrative Is Nothing but a Racist Dog Whistle,” and “‘Make America Great Again’ Billboard Sparks Controversy in Miss.”

4. The Establishment

With articles like “Don’t Offer To Sign Up–Stop The Muslim Registry Before It Begins,”It’s Not Rural Voters Who Put Trump In Office–It’s White People,” “The Trans People Who Are Detransitioning To Stay Safe In Trump’s America,” and “What I’m Doing To Get My Black Ass Ready For The Next 4 Years” how can you really go wrong?

5. Autostraddle

The “feminist online community for multiple generations of kickass lesbian, bisexual & otherwise inclined ladies (and their friends)” hasn’t let Trump’s win silence them. Instead, they’ve gotten to work in full-force to produce stories like “Rebel Girls: A Reading List for the Revolution,” “Tila Tequila What The Fuck: Former MTV Star Now Identifies as ‘Literally Hitler,'” and “Foolish Child #10: The United States of Authoritarian Rule Bingo.”

The stories we tell ourselves about the world define our perceptions. As we head into these next four years, let the stories you hear be ones from marginalized groups or alternative sources.

Don’t let yourself get bogged down in news that justifies or normalizes Trump’s insanity. This is not normal: find media that reminds you of that every day.

Culture Family Gender & Identity Life

Can we stop pretending there’s just one kind of Muslim?

I attend a really great university with an active Muslim Students Association (MSA). The MSA here tries to create programming that invites and includes as many people as possible. There are hundreds of Muslims among the undergraduate and graduate populations and the average event garners about 40-50 people each. It’s a pretty good turnout, but it’s always nice when more new people find their way to MSA events.

That’s why it was so troubling to hear a parent say that he would rather only the “Muslims of quality” attend events instead of everyone.

Whoa there, sir. Let’s hold it right there.

There are some things you need to understand.

There are nearly two billion Muslims across the world. Practice and spirituality look totally different for everyone. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and of course, there are going to be differing ideas and perspectives. There is no such thing as one kind of Muslim or the correct kind of Muslim. And more than that, there is no religious precedent to exclude or be less welcoming to those who might not match your own version of piety.

We should want every kind of Muslim to feel embraced in every Muslim context, we should want them to feel comfortable and safe in sacred spaces. Further, we should want non-Muslims to visit Islamic events to learn more about it and lessen the distance between communities, preventing isolation of Muslims.

Please understand that there is a huge range of Muslims.

And nobody is in a position to judge or rank or create labels for each person. Muslims come from every kind of background ethnically, racially, socioeconomically, regionally, linguistically, etc. Some Muslims wear hijab, and some don’t. Some Muslims pray sunnah after every prayer and some don’t pray at all. Some Muslims are, in fact, gay. Some drink alcohol and some smoke weed. Some Muslims are having pre-marital sex. Some aren’t quite sure they believe in God.

Regardless if that terrifies or upsets you, understand that these people exist. And they are still Muslim.

If anyone wants to call him or herself a Muslim, that is beautiful.

If you can’t understand or accept their versions of practice, say Alhamdulillah and nothing else, because they are still Muslim. They are still in your Ummah (community). They want to be Muslim. Maybe you feel that these are sins that are immense and hard to look past. My guess is you have sin in your past, too. It’s important to remember that sin does not invalidate faith; it does not disqualify your Islam. And even more important, we are told as Muslims that there is no sin God cannot forgive.

Who are you to have so little forgiveness in your heart that you feel superior to God’s mercy?

In your heart, it’s fine if you are praying they find guidance to a more pious path if that’s what you believe, but do not impose your practice on them. Let them meet and be among other Muslims. Invite them to your homes. Sometimes these people are strangers, but sometimes they will be your children, your cousins, your best friends. But it doesn’t matter because they are your sisters and brothers in Islam and they deserve to feel like a part of the Muslim family.

We should not be perpetuating a culture of such intolerance that children feel like they need to live double lives. When they are comfortable asking questions and talking to their parents and community about faith and when they know that despite mistakes and rebellion they are still loved, they are more likely not to resent this faith and culture. They will be more likely to find spirituality. 

I also want to take a moment to point out that this spectrum of faith is not a circumstance of being Muslim in the West.

It happens everywhere. It is not a consequence of being young. Muslims of all ages have different perspectives. Muslims at any age in any country engage in all types of activity and I know this for a fact. Maybe people are sneakier or less public about their personal lives in stricter cultures, but I promise that it doesn’t matter where you are, Muslims are not uniform in any society.

Only God is in a position to judge faith and character and nobody else has the right to look down on anyone for not having perfect faith, because there’s no way you are perfect either. There is not a litmus test one needs to take to be Muslim. Once you make the declaration of faith, that’s it. You’re Muslim.

Mosques and other sacred spaces were not built solely for one kind of Muslim. Everyone should be welcome to engage with their spirituality. Labels are meaningless. These terms we throw around like “conservative,” “liberal,” “religious,” are pointless. I’ve been referred to by some people as super liberal and others as completely devout and conservative. I practice my Islam the same in every context. Some people feel totally “religious” but would stand by the fact that they support “liberal” values.

So there’s no reason to toss around labels like they characterize people. They don’t. Again, they’re meaningless. People should just feel free to be Muslim. 

Everyone has their own path they need to make in life and no two are going to look the same. Allow others to find their way, and if they ask you for directions, then you’ve done something right to be considered so trustworthy and kind that your advice is valued. 

So that statement about “Muslims of quality” not only is ridiculous to me, it offends me. It’s that kind of language that fosters narrow-minded environments.

And I know many people are completely accepting and loving toward everyone in their communities, but for all those that wouldn’t be, I hope they find these words and take a moment to think about them.

Love Life Stories

I was afraid to be the only minority in a mostly-white media company – but the truth surprised me

I grew up surrounded by different cultures.

My primary interactions were mostly with people from similar background as mine. It wasn’t a conscious exclusion of other people, but was more of a circumstantial one.  I was naturally very curious about how ‘the West’ lived. I had talked to citizens from different cultures before, but unfortunately never really had a deep conversation about their culture.

[bctt tweet=”I spoke with an accent, but I never thought it was out of the ordinary. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Still, like most teens in Dubai, I was an avid consumer of Western media products like Disney and Nickelodeon. Series like High School Musical and Lizzie McGuire became part of my childhood obsessions. Even though I couldn’t find representations of myself on-screen, I was just happy that I was ‘in’ on the popular shows. Watching these shows, I got exposed to how ‘they’ perceived my culture.

For my nationality, I soon realized that I would be categorized in the Western media as an Arab. For some reason, media executives could not imagine an ‘Indian Muslim.’ There was a number of over-used Indian stereotypes in many of the shows and movies I watched.

[bctt tweet=”For my nationality, I soon realized that I would be categorized in the Western media as an Arab.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I could never relate to the ‘Raj’ or ‘Lathika’ with a heavy, thick accent and great mathematical skills. For some reason they always complained about food, and constantly talked about ‘paratha’ or ‘curry’ or ‘chai.’ It was as if the definitive Indian could only be portrayed with these elements.

I never understood why different cultures were collectively termed as Asian culture. The lead actor/actress would call Raj/Ram to help out with their homework or computer repair. The Asian characters were never fashionistas or among the popular kids. They weren’t associated with anything other than rules, family, and IT.

However, it was the accent that soon led to my inferiority complex. The ‘Indian’ accent that the characters spoke with was often incomprehensible to others.

I spoke with an accent, but I never thought it was out of the ordinary.

Not until I saw Indian stereotypes in movies.

No character in English movies acknowledged it as normal. Instead, it was mostly voiced for comic relief purposes and/or to show how conserved the family was. Slowly, this parody added to my insecurities. I believed that this was how the West perceived us as: conservative, strict, boring mathematicians with a funny accent. The irony was that no one had ever personally told me these things.

The media portrayal of Indians was more than enough to give me an inferiority complex.

[bctt tweet=”Would my different accent dictate how they see me?” username=”wearethetempest”]

In my second year at college, I interned for an English publication. As I sent out my applications, I wasn’t aware about the workplace environment. I had an interview before being selected, which the editor had conducted. She would later introduce me to all the other employees, all women – mostly English women.

Even though the editor was a kind person, I couldn’t do away with my fears. Would these women perceive me as those lead characters from the movies? Would they think that I was a conservative girl who wasn’t capable of succeeding? Would my different accent dictate how they see me?

With all these questions in mind, I stepped into the internship. To say that reality was far from what I thought would be an understatement.

[bctt tweet=”My internship became my first real lesson on how not to generalize. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

The women I worked with were some of the kindest people I ever met. I was mostly carrying out assignments given by the fashion section and that itself came as a surprise. I couldn’t believe that they thought I was capable of handling fashion. That meant they believed I could handle something that I thought I was weak in. Something that Western media and movies didn’t associate me with.

They encouraged me to write for the fashion section of the magazine by assigning specific articles, and asked me to come up with my own ideas. When I finished my internship, I was so sad to leave such an amazing work environment. I applied again at the same place and did a part-time internship. They graciously accepted me as an intern, despite my irregular time schedules.

My understanding of how they would perceive me was so flawed. I had made the mistake of assuming how they would think of me, based on my intense consumption of inconsistent media messages.

My internship became my first real lesson on how not to generalize. Exactly the way media had stereotyped my community.