Books Pop Culture Interviews

Comedian Ginny Hogan isn’t afraid to hold sexist work culture accountable

If one’s Twitter feed is a complete reflection of oneself, then stand-up comic, satirist, and author of recently-released Toxic Femininity in the Workplace Ginny Hogan presents a sarcastic, self-deprecating front. Her tweets span a wide range, from one-off tales of sexcapades to real-talk on the impact of the recession. 

[Image description: Tweet with the text, "Everything you need to know about me is that I once took a break from having a nervous breakdown to send my boyfriend nudes because I thought the tears made my skin look good."] via Twitter/@ginnyhogan_
[Image description: Tweet with the text, “Everything you need to know about me is that I once took a break from having a nervous breakdown to send my boyfriend nudes because I thought the tears made my skin look good.”] via Twitter/@ginnyhogan_
“There’s some truth in my tweets, but a lot of the stuff is also made up. Any topic that I tweet about regularly – tech, feminism, sobriety, being single, depression – is pretty real, but there are a lot of one-off tweets that I make up,” explained Hogan in an exclusive interview with The Tempest.

[Image description: Tweet #1 with the text, “Tits are recession-proof.” Tweet #2 with the text, “I’ve been informed I could trim the fat on the original ‘joke.'”] via Twitter @ginnyhogan_
“I hate when people comment and tell me I behaved weirdly in a conversation – the tweets mostly aren’t true, and I don’t want people’s opinions,” added the satirist, who was named one of the 15 best humorists earlier this year by Paste Magazine

[Image description: Tweet with the text, "Please don't read my tweets, they're private."] via Twitter/@ginnyhogan_
[Image description: Tweet with the text, “Please don’t read my tweets, they’re private.”] via Twitter/@ginnyhogan_
She cites a love/hate relationship with the social media platform, labeling it as “the lowest barrier between my brain and the world.”

[Image description: Tweet with the text, "Tits"] via Twitter/@ginnyhogan_
[Image description: Tweet with the text, “Tits”] via Twitter/@ginnyhogan_
Tweets are just scraping the surface of this funny, eccentric personality.

Hogan found her way into the world of comedy during her time in the tech industry when she’d been writing a data blog about online dating. She soon realized she enjoyed writing jokes more than data analysis.

“At first, I thought of it as a hobby and didn’t worry too much about breaking in. I found it relatively easy to do stand-up every night, but figuring out how to make money from it was the hard part,” she said. 

She soon realized she enjoyed writing jokes more than data analysis.

Making use of her skills as a writer, Hogan began reaching out to publications internet-wide. Soon, the writer built an impressive portfolio which features regular bylines in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and Elite Daily. She also cofounded, and writes for, humor site, Little Old Lady Comedy. 

Her biggest comedy career milestone, though, stems from one of her first pieces for The New Yorker, which was picked up by HarperCollins and fleshed into a book, Toxic Femininity in the Workplace – out today. It takes a humorous approach to sexism in the workplace, approaching it from different angles and presenting it in a variety of formats including lists, quizzes, short stories, and monologues.  

“It’s based off my own experiences [but] it’s not a collection of true stories. I want to make people laugh, but I also want to make them think about what true experiences the pieces are based on.

“I’m hoping women relate to it, but I’d be sad if they related too hard to all of it because some of the pieces are intentionally exaggerated for humorous effect,” said Hogan. She’s hoping to educate and entertain readers, as well as make women realize they aren’t alone in the bullshit dynamics they have to navigate in sexist work culture.

Writing a satire book comes with its own set of challenges, though, and Hogan shared one of her most frustrating yet favorite anecdotes relating to it. 

Making people laugh for a living is far from easy, though.

“I’ve gotten maybe five direct messages on Twitter and Instagram from men saying things like, ‘thank you for finally calling out how harmful feminism is.’ That’s obviously not what the book is about, but I tried to sell it to them anyway,” she said.

Making people laugh for a living is far from easy, though, and while Hogan admits to some days being miserable, she followed it by saying that it’s where she feels like herself the most.

The negative comes from people misbehaving towards each other, general pessimism, and shit-talkers. Dating as a comedian is a job too.

Plus, there are a lot of late nights in stand-up.

“One thing I hear a lot is men suggesting I got something because I’m a woman. There are a lot of white men who feel like something is being taken away from them by trying to expand the field,” she added.

So, is comedy just simple entertainment? 

Some believe comedy to be a type of therapy (it’s definitely cheaper than most therapy sessions), and jokes about tragedies – albeit, walking a fine line between humorous and offensive – have also been cited as being a form of catharsis. They can even be helpful in engaging more with topical events and, generally, connecting as a community.

“I sometimes think jokes craft the perfect metaphor to open someone’s eyes.”

“I sometimes think jokes craft the perfect metaphor to open someone’s eyes. That said, I see tons and tons of jokes taking aim at Trump and Republicans, and it does seem like everyone who likes those jokes already agrees with them. I’d be curious to hear about someone who switched political affiliations because of a joke, though I don’t doubt that it’s happened!” said Hogan.

At the end of the day though, every comic has a different approach, a different style, a different sense of humor. Hogan admitted to making tons of sex jokes – “the easiest way to get a laugh” – at the start of her career when she was figuring out her voice. Since then, those jokes have dwindled down to 40% of her material, with the majority focused on more vulnerable topics.

“Most of my ideas come from my own thoughts. I spend a lot of time alone, and I’m always just going over conversations and stuff in my head (I have a therapist don’t worry),” said the comic.

And for any burgeoning comics reading this, Hogan’s words of wisdom? Don’t overthink it.

“I remember deliberating so hard over every word I said on stage or everything I tweeted at first, but ultimately, I needed to break out of that to find my voice,” she said.

“A lot of the material you try in the beginning will probably be bad, but, on the bright side, a lot of the material you try several years in will also be bad (I delete maybe 75% of my tweets). Good luck!”

Toxic Femininity in the Workplace: Office Gender Politics Are a Battlefield by Ginny Hogan is out now.

Plus, we’re giving away the book to two lucky winners on our Instagram! If you cannot wait, get it here

Humor Life

21 things only people from Birmingham understand

Nestled in the West Midlands of the United Kingdom, Birmingham is the birthplace of Cadbury’s, the photocopier, and the X-ray scanner. Brummies built spitfires for World War II (you’re welcome, world), had their name copied 30 times across the world (including a crater on the moon), and are even the inspiration behind the Shire, home of Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit.

But we are also at the butt-end of many jokes which can get quite tedious.

So, here’s a list of all the things that only people from Birmingham understand:

1. The hate for our accent

A man black man in a brown jacket and orange shirt is saying 'You don't have a cute British accent'
[Image description: A man in a brown jacket and orange shirt is saying “You don’t have a cute British accent.”] Via GIPHY
The Birmingham, or ‘Brummie’, accent is accused of being the WORST accent in the country.

As Brummies, we don’t really hear it so the jokes are on the fools who hate it! There are so many different accents in the city that there is no telling which one they are referring to. Actress Felicity Jones, singer Ozzy Osbourne, and presenter Cat Deeley are all from Birmingham – all three have completely different accents, so which one is it?

2. The Bull

A bronze bull sculpture outside a building and dressed in a union jack onesie
[Image description: A bronze bull sculpture outside a building, dressed in a union jack onesie.] Via The Bullring
The Guardian – a bronze bull sculpture in our city center – is the symbol of everything Birmingham and, honestly, we don’t know why but we’ve just gone with it.

We love our Bull, in all his crazy, seasonal, and cultural outfits. It is a landmark and the most obvious meet-up point. He is a part of us but we don’t like the outsiders that climb all over him when it specifically says DO NOT CLIMB THE BULL. Leave him alone and get your own!

3. Only people from Birmingham can call it ‘Brum’

A blonde haired white man in a white chef's uniform is saying 'No Frickin' Way'
[Image description: A blonde haired man in a white chef’s uniform is saying “No frickin’ way.”] Via GIPHY
It’s the rules.

Don’t fight us on this. Only Brummies can call the city Brum. It is our term of endearment for our beloved city. Outsiders are not permitted to use it. We don’t care.

4. Having a Goth phase when first entering the Oasis Market

Four cartoon characters dressed up like goths in black clothes, dark hair, piercings and dark eye makeup
[Image description: Four cartoon characters dressed up like goths in black clothes, dark hair, piercings, and dark eye makeup] Via GIPHY
It was absolutely going to happen.

You couldn’t fight it no matter how hard you tried. Once you entered the Oasis Market in the city center you would 100 percent leave as a Goth. It was part of the deal whether you liked it or not. Body piercings, tattoos, alternative fashions, and decor – it was a whole new world for angsty teenagers.

5. And then gathering at Pigeon Park

Several people are sat on grass in the sun with trees in the back
[Image description: Several people are sat on grass in the sun with trees in the back.] Via Birmingham Mail
Pigeon Park was literally the courtyard of St. Phillip’s Church in the heart of the business district. Pigeon Park became the teenager hangout where we would make the business professionals in their suits and briefcases yearn for the life they once had.

6. The annual Christmas German Market

A nighttime landscape of a lit-up market place with people
[Image description: A nighttime landscape of a lit-up market place with people.] Via Visit Birmingham
While it is the biggest authentic German Market outside of Germany and Austria, Brummies get pretty annoyed.

Too many people gathering in the city center in the lead up to Christmas is the last thing we want when things are already busy. But let’s be real – while we all groan and roll our eyes, we also know it means Christmas is coming and spirits are lifted.

7. Being proud that our landscape was the inspiration for Middle Earth

A man is running through up hill with a map in his hand. The words 'I'm going on an adventure!' are on screen in white
[Image description: A man is running up hill with a map in his hand. The words “I’m going on an adventure!” are on screen in white.] Via GIPHY
Who would’ve guessed the world of Middle Earth was based off of Birmingham? More specifically the nature spots of Sarehole Mill and the Moseley Bog – both of which hold annual Middle Earth festivals and host Tolkien Trails – in which fans of Lord of the Rings walk the paths to view the landscapes that inspired Middle Earth. The Perrott’s Folly and the University of Birmingham Clock Tower were inspirations of the Two Towers as well – all in good old Brum!

7. But also having to constantly listen to the Venice-Birmingham canals comparison

A blonde haired white woman is wearing a white tank top. She rolls her eyes and throws her head back
[Image description: A blonde, white woman is wearing a white tank top. She rolls her eyes and throws her head back.] Via GIPHY
We get it! We have more canals than Venice! We are a larger city so it makes sense, but we are much more than that and definitely much better than having to just be associated with it so get over it!

8. Most of us have never been to Cadbury World

A woman in a purple sari is holding a bar of Cadbury's chocolate and is breaking a piece off
[Image description: A woman in a purple sari is holding a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate and is breaking a piece off.] Via GIPHY
Outsiders always tell us how amazing Cadbury World is. Seeing the chocolate being made, buying it relatively cheap, and learning about the history and the start of the Cadbury company – but most Brummies haven’t been. Yes, we are ashamed and do hang our heads in disappointment at ourselves.

9. The North/South divide

A woman in straight long black hair is talking with a smile on her face. The words 'Maybe I am better than you'
[Image description: A woman with straight long black hair is talking with a smile on her face. She says, “Maybe I am better than you.”] Via GIPHY
We never understood what this was all about. Birmingham is in the Midlands i.e. the middle of the country, so why do the Northerners call us Southerners and visa-versa? We’ve always called ourselves ‘Midlanders’, so what is up with this slander in shredding us verbally and then pushing us to the other side? We don’t want to be a part of the North or South – we’re too good for either anyway.

10. “I’m from Birmingham too!”

A woman is leaning to one side and is saying 'LIIIIIIIIIES!'
[Image description: A woman is leaning to one side and yells, “Lies!”] Via GIPHY
Lies! The Black Country and Wolverhampton are not Birmingham. Stop trying to make it happen!

11. Public transport is a nightmare

Three women dressed in red, green and purple get scared of bus doors opening
[Image description: Three women dressed in red, green, and purple respectively get scared of bus doors opening.] Via GIPHY
New Street Station (our largest train station) is too large for it’s own good and difficult to navigate and the number 50 bus service is the best and worst bus service. Highly doubt that there is any other city whose commuters have to wait 50 minutes for a bus and then have three turn up at the same time or have buses just randomly disappear off the live timetable feed.

12. We are beautiful!

Birmingham Town Hall (a Pantheon style building), The Council House (a classical style building) and steps, water features, statutes and memorials
[Image description: Birmingham Town Hall (a Pantheon style building), The Council House (a classical style building). and steps, water features, statutes and memorials are pictured.] Via GavinWarrins on Wikimedia Commons
We appreciate our vast range of architecture. Wooden Tudor houses such as Blakesley Hall, Jacobean manors like Aston Hall, our Town and Symphony Hall looking like the Pantheon and the classical-style of the Council House. But we also have some of the most beautiful country parks – Lickey Hills, Shire Country Park and Sutton Park – the views are incredible.

13. Criminal misconceptions

A black and white clip of several well-suited men walking together
[Image description: A black and white clip of several well-suited men walking together,] Via GIPHY
Yes, Peaky Blinders is set in Birmingham and is about a real gang that existed in the 20th century.

No, we are not all gang membersnor do we ever wish we were (but we sure as hell will milk the tourism and attention Birmingham gets for it). And yes, the controversial Benefits Street was also set in Birmingham, but we’re not a crime-ridden, lazy-bum hell hole either. We’re super friendly and really awesome.

14. We are not stupid…

Five yellow cartoon people wacth a little girl walk into the room with a pie. A man in the a blue suit is saying 'It's the organization for people with high I.Q.'s'
[Image description: Five yellow cartoon people watch a little girl walk into the room with a pie. A man in  a blue suit says, “It’s the organization for people with high I.Q.’s”] Via GIPHY
This goes back to the accent thing. You might think our accent is stupid, but when you tell us things about our city like you’re the expert, you’re the only person that looks like an idiot.

We have six universities, making us the largest UK center for higher education outside of London. We were also at the center of the Midlands Enlightenment during the second half of the eighteenth century and the home of the original Lunar Society where prominent industrialists, philosophers and intellectuals met regularly.

15. The “ramp”

A woman with blonde hair is looking to the left and then looks straight ahead and then winks
[Image description: A woman with blonde hair is looking to the left and then looks straight ahead and then winks.] Via GIPHY
To be a true Brummie is to know what and where the “ramp” is.

It takes you from New Street to the Grand Central shopping center and is always crowded with people walking on the wrong side, and queues for the ever-famous McDonald’s going out the door. But, it is also a pivotal meeting point. If you don’t know where or what the “ramp” is, you’re screwed.

16. It’s “Town”. Not the “City Center”

A woman in a hat and blue shirt is walking through a desert and pulls on her sunglasses as the words 'Deal with It' appear on screen
[Image description: A woman in a hat and blue shirt is walking through a desert and pulls on her sunglasses as the words “Deal with it” appear on screen.] Via GIPHY
Don’t question us. It just is. Get over it.

17. Islands

A brown haired white woman in a black dress is sat on a red couch and talking. The words 'I Don't Know' are on screen in yellow
[Image description: A brown-haired, white woman in a black dress is sat on a red couch and is talking. She says, “I don’t know.”] Via GIPHY
These are not some exclusive country clubs where the posh-trotters from the Little Aston neighborhood come to play tennis and humbly brag. Nor are they some exotic restaurants with foods and drinks from the Far East and Polynesia. No. Islands are literally roundabouts.

Every roundabout is an island – it’s just the way it is and we don’t know why.

18. We take St. Patrick’s Day VERY seriously

A group of people are dressed in black and mourning. One of the men is saying 'Today...we are all Irish
[Image description: A group of people are dressed in black and mourning. One of the men is saying ‘Today…we are all Irish!”] Via GIPHY
Which is really weird because we are in England and England’s patron saint is St. George and while there are celebrations for St. George across the city, why we go overboard for St. Patrick’s Day still baffles some of us.

19. The weather

Five animated white balls against a blue background. The one on the far right swing out to reveal a sun and the one on the far left swings out to reveal a rain cloud
[Image description: Five animated white balls against a blue background. The one on the far right swings out to reveal a sun and the one on the far left swings out to reveal a rain cloud.] Via GIPHY
It’s British courtesy to start a conversation about the weather.

It’s just who we are – but Birmingham weather is beyond weird. It can snow everywhere in the country and yet will never come to us. There can be sunny spells everywhere but we’ll be in the middle of a storm. It’s like we’re not even in the same country!

20. WE are the second city!

Four people are sat in a car and singing 'We are the Champions'
[Image description: Four white people are sat in a car and are singing, “We are the champions” enthusiastically.] Via GIPHY
War has been ongoing between Manchester and Birmingham over who takes the trophy for Second City. Manchester claims it belongs to them but when government ministers themselves declared Birmingham as the Second City, you know you’ve won.

Sorry Manchester, but you just have to stay in your lane. This is ours!

21. It’s home

A white girl with brown hair and a blue bow in her hair has her eyes closed. The words 'There's no place like home' are on screen
[Image description: A white girl with brown hair and a blue bow in her hair has her eyes closed as she says, “There’s no place like home.”] Via GIPHY
As Brummies, we criticize everything about our city (because we’re still English and English people love to complain) but only we are allowed to do that. If outsiders even dare, all hell will break loose. We will defend our home because to be a Brummie is an honor and something to be proud of.

Health Care Mind Love

My fears confronting my suspected OCD

It all began at a training session at work.

During an ice-breaker session, we sat around in a circle and spoke about the areas we needed to concentrate on.

I spoke into my hand because I’m always fidgeting and I lose concentration if my hands are not doing something.

After the session, I was sitting next to a psychologist during lunch and she began asking me if I had ever spoken to someone about my fidgety behavior.

I still don’t know if telling an entire room of health care professionals and psychologists was the right thing to do but I told her it was just something I had always done and it never bothered me. She went on to say that fidgety behavior like mine was common with anxiety.

Of course, I dismissed it. I didn’t have anxiety – never in my life. Exam stress and failure was never a problem for me and I never had social problems so for me, anxiety just seemed impossible.

But her words resonated with me.

So I went on to do my own research. I looked into symptoms of anxiety and did some online quizzes. I suddenly became obsessed with trying to find out of it was true – did I have undiagnosed anxiety?

All of the online research and posts from psychologists and therapists that I went through showed that I seemed to fall under the category of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, more commonly referred to as OCD.

OCD is made up of two parts – obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwelcome thoughts and worries that repeatedly appear in the mind and can cause people to feel anxious. Compulsions are repetitive activities that are done to reduce the anxiety that comes about from the obsessions.

My mind, of course, went to the myths of OCD in which people are ‘over tidy’ or ‘wash their hands more’ and are ‘germaphobes’ but it is usually more complicated than that. I, however, applied these myths to my own life to see if it were true.

I was a perfectionist in every moment and freaking out when things were not in place or in order. I always make sure every text message and email I send is grammatically perfect and re-read them numerous times.

My dad and two brothers have gross, male habits that make me freak out and I use antibacterial wipes and odor eliminators on sofas and remotes or pretty much anything they touched.

I become angsty when jackets, bags, and shoes are not where they should be and have moments where I misplace something and tear the house apart or panic when I can’t find it even when it was in the most obvious place.

But it was the idea of thoughts that really got to me. People with OCD usually have obsessive, unwelcome thoughts that make people feel anxious or uncomfortable. These could be a fear of causing harm or failing to prevent harm or violent thoughts against ones faith, relationship and sexually intrusive thoughts and images. People with OCD are very unlikely to actually act on these thoughts (some of which can be scandalous and taboo) and they are not a reflection of someone’s personality.

Online self-diagnosis would instantly say yes, I do have a form of OCD, but I never believed it because while everything else in my life was in order and organized and clean, my bedroom was the definition of a dumping ground.

But apparently, this is normal too. Many people who suffer from OCD, whether severe or mild, have a corner of their life that is messy and it could be because while everything else in their life is “perfect”, it leads to procrastination in cleaning.

A messy bedroom is normal for a lot of people – it doesn’t mean they have OCD and of course, it doesn’t mean I have it either but every online OCD quiz, blog post and article about OCD always feature a disclaimer at the end;

If you feel you are suffering from OCD or any other mental health issues, please speak to a mental health professional as soon as possible. 

So, yes, I should go to a doctor and tell them what’s up, but I’m scared. And it’s not the stigma of having mental health issues in the South Asian community as many family members have suffered from bouts of depression, post-partum depression, bipolar disorder and more. Truth is, I don’t even know why.

Is it because I work in the mental health field myself and I feel like I will be laughed at and criticized for not being able to do my job properly. How could someone who has mental health problems themselves help others? Again, probably another ridiculous excuse but it’s just the way I feel.

There is not one thing I can pin-point about the reasoning why I won’t get a proper diagnosis but it definitely is not doing me any favors in delaying it. If I don’t have OCD, then I’m just a happy weirdo and that’s perfectly fine. But if I do have OCD, I’ll get support from professionals who will ensure I can go about living my life normally.

Finding out the truth and facing the fears is all right in front of me – I just need the courage to confront it.

Mind Love + Sex Love Life Stories Wellness

My community’s pressuring me to get married – but I’m terrified

I’m 25 years old and I’ve never been in a romantic relationship. And not just a relationship, I’ve never even had a serious crush outside of fictional characters. 

I always chalked it up to my upbringing. I attended a segregated school from K-12, grew up in a religious AF country, in a small town, in a Desi family with strong traditional and cultural beliefs. 

It isn’t much of a stretch to link my avoidance/lack of any romantic forays to deeply ingrained notions of “no boys until marriage”.

But then, marriage isn’t something I’m particularly interested in either. 

At this point in my life, I have friends who fall on a romantic relationship spectrum: single, it’s complicated, mother of two, and divorced. But even single friends of mine have been around the block a time or two. Most of them have had the same upbringing as me so I wonder… why haven’t I taken a spin?

The thought gives me some anxiety. Not anxiety over my single status but rather the thought of putting myself out there. But why am I anxious? It’s not like I’ve suffered through shitty dates or relationships. I don’t have any deeply buried trauma. 

Most of them have had the same upbringing as me so I wonder… why haven’t I taken a spin?

I’ve read horrid stories of soured relationships but I’ve never experienced or seen anything first-hand. Even my parents pushed together in an arranged marriage, because of societal pressure (a widower with two kids and a woman from a broken marriage), created a loving home.

In fact, I long for closeness. I crave it. 

To experience the adrenaline of testing the waters of attraction, flirting, new love. To be intimate, not just physically but emotionally. To feel what all musicians sing about, what poets have spun poems of, and the pipe dream movies and books serve up.

But I can’t. 

I’ve been on the path to multiple relationships, rooted in friendship but when asked to take the next step, I couldn’t. Not even when I felt the beginnings of a spark.

How could I? 

How can I commit to someone else when I haven’t even committed to the one person who’s been waiting for my commitment for 25 years? Me.

And I know myself.

I know I sacrifice myself, my ideals, my principles, and my beliefs when it comes to the people I love. I bend over backward to accommodate them. I take on the hurt, even when it’s completely avoidable, just so someone I adore doesn’t have to – be it physical or emotional. I bite my tongue. I hold my breath. I ache. I suffer. Unnecessarily. 

I bend over backward to accommodate them.

Knowing this, how can I enter a romantic relationship – even in its beginning stages – before I’ve learned to not sacrifice myself? How can I willingly enter into self-destruction?

Because I will destroy myself. I will lose myself, whatever me I have built so far.

Independence and freedom are so elusive in my culture. In fact, it’s thought selfish to crave it. We must constantly be in service. To our family, to our husbands, to our in-laws, to God, to society, to our country. We must learn to live with others harmoniously and that requires sacrificing ideals, especially for women.

But I’m so tired. 

I’m tired of my instincts taking into consideration a decision’s impact on others rather than simply what it means for me. I’m tired of limiting myself because it’ll be inconvenient for others.

I’m tired of being a shell, devoid of my personality because I was never given a chance to find out who I am, what I am.

And because of this, I am hesitant. My soulmate could be in front of me and I would still say no. 

Because I will destroy myself. I will lose myself, whatever me I have built so far.

I’m in a state of constant flux and I’ve begun to change. I have so much catching up to do. I have so many selfish decisions to make and it’ll take me years. 

I want to dismantle myself to the core before beginning to build myself back up again. Who will I be? I have no idea.

Will I even want to attach myself to someone long-term? I don’t think so.

So how can I commit to someone knowing I will change?

Wanting to stay uninvolved seems like such a simple decision. And for the most part, in my community, up until the age of 20, it is.

No one wants a girl in a romantic relationship… until the day they want her married.

Now, at the age of 25, it’s a black stain to not at least be engaged. It is selfish, un-Muslim, uncultured of me to refuse marriage. It is dishonorable, even. 

I hear the snide comments, I sense the stress my family has unceremoniously taken on in their quest to see me married. I hear them pray for me. I hear others offering prayers as well because, without a husband, I am a burden.

With all this unrelenting, unfair, and absolutely inane pressure on me, it isn’t that much of a stretch that I choose to stay away from relationships.

It turns out, my upbringing is exactly why I am this way.

USA World News Gender Race The World Inequality

#AmINext: we need to talk about femicide in South Africa

Trigger warning: mentions of violence, rape, murder.

South Africa has failed women.

South African men have never disgusted me more than right now. My blood boils today because we have lost yet another sister at the hands of a violent man. Do you know what word is becoming synonymous with South Africa?


Killing women and girls for being women and girls. 

On August 24, 2019, South African social media erupted with the hashtag #bringNenehome. In less than 24 hours, friends of the 19-year-old Cape Town student knew something was wrong. They knew their beloved Uyinene Mrwetyana had been taken. We needed to get her back and like so many across the land, we clung to the hope that she would be found. 

For 10 days we held our breath. For 10 days we prayed for her safe return.

But on September 2, 2019, all hopes were shattered. Reports began to emerge that a man had been arrested and charged with Nene’s murder and rape. It didn’t take him long to confess, telling the police where he buried her.

“Yhuuu undisokolisile ke lamntana. Ufe kade,” he boasted in isiXhosa, which roughly translates to “Wow! Hey! This child gave me trouble. It took her forever to die.”

I was sitting in the doctor’s office when I read those words.

My blood turned cold and my heart shattered into a thousand pieces. Something about Nene’s photo had been tugging inside me for the last few days, because although I had never met her, I felt with absolute certainty that I knew her.

Later that evening, I realized that Nene’s mother was the woman who handled my sexual assault case in 2018. uMam’ Noma Mrwetyana helped me escape a violent man and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her. She fought tirelessly to help hundreds of women appeal and fight against violent men.

I cannot imagine her pain knowing that her own daughter was taken by one. This world is too cruel. 

A Facebook post reads: "She is all of us. We are her. That's why we can barely breathe right now."
[Image description: A Facebook post reads: “She is all of us. We are her. That’s why we can barely breathe right now.”] Via Alysha Cloete on Facebook
“I want to say so many things but I feel so empty. She was so bright. Bright in light, in laughter, intrigue and talent… and now things just feel empty,” wrote Nene’s friend in a Facebook post.

Similarly, I saw so much of her light in her mother – feisty, strong, and so kind. It is clear that she was so loved. I realized that everyone in my circles is close to someone who went to school with Nene, grew up with her, or met her once through someone else. All of us could feel the cries of the thousands of people whose lives she had touched. 

Nene was murdered at a post office in midday. If we are not even safe at the post office, a government building in broad daylight, where are we safe?

Am I next

A society that is free from fear of crime is essential, not only as a basic human right, but also as the foundation of a country. The World Health Organization calculates femicide rate based on deaths caused from interpersonal violence within the whole female population.

3,915 women and girls were murdered last year in South Africa.  

That’s an average of 10 women murdered every single day of 2018.  This means that there are 15.2 murders for every 100,000 adult women in South Africa and it’s five times more than the global average of 2.6. This ranks South Africa fourth out of 183 countries with the highest femicide rates in the world.

By these calculations, a woman is murdered every three hours in this country.

It is even more distressing that this horrible incident is one of many in the femicide epidemic sweeping the country; where women are ripped from their communities in such a violent way. South Africa is already notorious for several high-profile cases that have caused huge levels of outrage over the past few years, but the reaction to Nene’s death over the past week has hit like a tsunami.

When is enough, enough? 

We need to stop writing headlines and telling stories in a passive voice. Women aren’t just murdered, they are being killed by men.

I don’t want to bring daughters into this world knowing that we are not even safe at the post office anymore. Uyinene is just one of the many names. I didn’t know I could be so angry and filled with such paralytic sadness, and I don’t know what to say to my sisters who are weeping  – all of us living in a permanent state of underlying fear, thinking,  “am I next?

Rest in peace, beautiful Nene. I wish I had the power to bring you back. I do, however, have a voice and you better believe I am not done speaking out.

World News The Environment The World

The Amazon is burning. The world is going to sh*t. So here’s what you can do.

The lungs of the Earth are on fire, and experts say time is running out to protect the Amazon forest.

What’s happening?

Currently, massive fires are raging across the Amazon and threatening indigenous populations, wildlife, and the forest itself. A large amount of carbon dioxide produced as a result of these fires is also noticeably choking Brazilian cities and contributing to global carbon emissions.

The Amazon river basin is a massive tract of land located in South America, drained by the Amazon River and its tributaries. Most of this basin is covered by the Amazon rainforest, which spans over nine countries. Brazil has the lion’s share of 60% of the forest, with Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana (territory of France) sharing the rest.

More than 80,000 fires have been detected in Brazil since the beginning of this year by the country’s space research center (INPE) and more than half of those were in the Amazon rainforest. That’s an 80% increase of forest fires since 2018. Satellites capable of picking up infrared radiation confirm that large areas are burning.

Why is this happening?

The Amazon isn’t dry and doesn’t naturally catch on fire.

Farmers in Brazil deliberately start these fires to clear away forest land to make room for agricultural farming and pastures for cattle.

Farmers and ranchers usually cut down trees during the earlier part of the year and then wait for the Amazonian dry season (June – December) to clear them away via fires. This slash-and-burn method of farming temporarily enriches the soil for the growth of agricultural products (like soy) that can be exported. Several cycles of agricultural growth deplete the soil of its nutrients and huge swaths of barren land are then abandoned as agribusiness farmers move on to look for new areas.

Starting fires during the dry season also means that there is a greater risk of fires spreading. We know for certain that most of the current fires are related to farming; they originate at the edges of new agricultural development.

Mining operations in the Amazon basin also contribute to deforestation via burning.

So, this happens every year?

Yes, but it is usually not so bad.

Co-ordinated international pressure from environmental groups and climate activists led to the Brazilian government curbing unchecked deforestation around 2008 via new laws and policies. Agribusiness companies and mining interests were devastating the Amazon prior to these legislative changes, but protectionist forces were successful after the mid-2000s.

As National Geographic points out: “By 2012, the annual deforestation rate bottomed out at about 80 percent lower than the average rate between 1995 and 2006.”

The rates of deforestation have sharply increased again under right-wing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro who came to power in January 2019 and campaigned on a pro-business platform. Sometimes called ‘Trump of the Tropics’, Bolsonaro is a climate skeptic and is determined to open up even more tracts of Amazonian land to large agribusiness corporations.

His rhetoric and actions have emboldened farmers in the Amazon. Andrew Miller of AmazonWatch told DemocracyNow! that the current massive forest fires are “directly related to the signals that Jair Bolsonaro is sending to the agribusiness industry”.

Why is this so important?

More than 40% of the Earth’s remaining rainforest is found in the Amazon. Without the Amazon, we stand almost no chance of preventing catastrophic global warming.

Here’s how that works: trees that are alive absorb carbon, while dead trees release carbon through decay. Forests serve carbon ‘sinks’ and help reduce the planet’s greenhouse gas levels. The Amazon absorbs nearly a quarter of the carbon dioxide released via fossil fuel burning each year and contains around 120 billion metric tons of carbon currently, which could devastate the environment if released.

Scientists are warning that if the current rate of destruction continues, the Amazon will reach a tipping point after which it will dry up into a savannah.

The Amazon rainforests are a haven for biodiversity. Many Amazonian plants are used to make the medicines we consume, and scientists propose that less than 1% of flowering plants in the Amazon have been studied for their medicinal potential. The loss of plant species deprives us of harnessing these healing properties. The Amazon rainforest is also home to several million species of insects, animals, and birds, many of which are still unknown to science. Habitat destruction can drive numerous species to extinction.

What can I do?

You can raise awareness. The media attention around the forest fires may fizzle out in a couple of days but the Amazon dry season won’t end till December. This makes it likely that the burning will continue.

Make sure you’re keeping abreast with what is happening and organizing with like-minded individuals in your communities to push your elected representatives to block trade deals with countries are destroying the Amazon for profit.  You should also push companies to stop benefitting from the exploitation of rainforests directly or indirectly through their supply chains.

Organizations that can help you get started with that include Accountability Framework, Rainforest Alliance, WWF, AmazonWatch, Imazon.

The most effective response in this situation is one that is collective and swift.

Health Care Love Advice Wellness

I’m a feminist but I really hate my menstrual cup

After a hefty amount of good ‘ol peer pressure from my wonderful feminist friends, I decided to bite the bullet and make the switch from tampons to a menstrual cup. I was so excited. It was bright pink and came in a shiny little draw-string bag, with a nifty little instruction book – all very cute. This was going to revolutionize my period; gone were the days of dreaded tampon strings and crunchy nappy-like pads…or so I thought.

Let me be the first to tell you, there’s absolutely nothing ‘cute’ about a menstrual – or, as I call it, a period cup.    

For those who don’t know, a period cup is a small cone made of soft silicon (about 1.5’ in diameter) that sits inside the vaginal canal and catches menstrual blood as it leaves the uterus through the cervix. If that little sentence made you skeeve out, then this article is not for you. The cup has two tiny holes on the rim that creates a little suction to stop it from moving and a little tab at the bottom to pull it out. 

Although they seem super new and fancy, the period cup has actually been around since the 1930s. However, in the last two years, I’ve noticed that the period cup has taken center stage on social media – particularly in ecofeminist spaces. An important aspect of feminist activism is menstrual hygiene and creating access to menstrual products.

For years, that activism was focused around pads and tampons, but recently, that has shifted to the infamous period cup. 

I’m sure you’re familiar with the kind of image I’m talking about: a smiling pink period cup with some illustrated flowers around it.

Theoretically, these cups are fantastic. If cared for properly, a period cup can last you up to 10 years. Assuming the average menstrual cycle uses 12 tampons and four to five pads, that’s roughly $50 per year. Switching to a $25 menstrual cup effectively saves you over $1000 over the next 25 years. And in doing this you’re also diverting almost 3000 tampons and pads from landfills (each one taking over a century to breakdown).

And that’s not all! (insert a telemarketer voice).

Unlike tampons, there is no risk of toxic shock as the cup catches your blood, as opposed to absorbing it through fibers which get left behind and can become infected later. On top of that, tampons and pads are bleached with chemicals that build up in our bodies in the form of harmful estrogens. 

So, yes the pink smiley period cup makes sense here because this all sounds wonderful.

So, what’s the problem, Erin? Well, my fellow menstruator, we haven’t actually discussed how the heck you actually insert this wonderful creation. 

The cute little leaflet I received with my period cup read something like this: boil the cup for five minutes in water. Once the cup is cool, fold it in half to make a C and insert (make sure the cup ‘pops’ open) and voila! Easier said than done…

A period cup is at least three times the size of a tampon when folded, one does not just insert. This process requires about three fingers just to keep the damn thing folded and another two to help you navigate. We’re still not done, now we need to get it up to the cervix. This means a lot of direct contact with your genital parts. Now, if that wasn’t enough to freak you out, the cup most probably won’t ‘pop’ open the first few attempts and if it doesn’t open, there’s no suction and you will leak. No ‘pop’, no protection – soz. 

Okay, if you’ve managed to power through phase one, you’re a champ and I’m proud of you.

Now we need to talk about phase two, which is pretty great, to be honest. You can leave it in for 12 hours no fuss, but you need to be prepared for leaks (because chances are, you inserted it next to your cervix and not below it) so a pantyliner is a must-have.

You will also experience what feels like tiny air bubbles. You will panic and think your cup is overflowing – it’s not, its just air escaping as the cup fills up. It’s actually good – it means that the suction is working. Moving onto phase three: removal. You can’t just pull the tab and expect it to come out like a tampon. You need to break the suction (squeeze the cup) to get it out.

If you haven’t broken the seal, you will know. Because it will quite literally feel like you’re pulling your uterus out with it. Not ideal.

Once you’ve mastered that maneuver you’re almost in the clear, but we must be mindful that you’re handling a cup of liquid so handle with care (so do this in the shower) and not over your partner’s new bath mat (yeah, that happened). Rinse and repeat. 

I know, that was graphic. But don’t be off-put by this. I still use my menstrual cup every month. It’s taught me so much about my body and I love that.

The reality is that period cups aren’t as easy peasy as everyone says and that’s okay. It’s important that we speak about them realistically. It’s important that we speak about our bodies realistically. I love the happy pink period cup pictures because they encourage people with periods to make the switch. 

But let’s be careful: we shouldn’t try and glamorize it as the effortless golden solution to the world’s period problems.

How many of you have bought a cup tried it out and never bothered again? Maybe this kind of period positivity is more harmful than helpful?

If this grossed you out, ask yourself: why? Our periods are part of our bodies, we need to stop pretending like they’re not. So try it out, work the steps – but bring out your badass panties, cause that pretty pink period cup is tougher than she looks. 

TV Shows Movies BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

“Orange Is The New Black” ended. Here’s what happened to your favorite characters.

Orange Is The New Black (OITNB) ended after a seven-season run with a whirlwind of emotions. All our favorite gals took center stage once again. From nostalgia for the season one baddies, yearning for our lost ladies, and hoping for those wrongfully prosecuted, season seven wraps itself up neatly with its final goodbye.

I’m still not completely okay with OITNB being over. I’ve been following it since it first released. There was some crying, some rewatching of old clips, and on a whole, just feeling sad that when next summer comes around, I won’t see those orange jumpsuits dotting my TV screen.

Here’s a recap of what went down with our favorite on-screen baddies at the end of the series.

??Warning: major, major spoilers ahead! ??


1. Where it all began: Piper Chapman and Alex Vause

Piper Chapman - a white, blonde woman - stands in the midst of a busy street, wearing a colorful striped sweater and carrying two bags.
[Image description: Piper Chapman stands in the midst of a busy street, wearing a colorful striped sweater and carrying two bags.] Via Netflix
The show ended with the same line it began with, “I love getting clean…” and we see Piper (Taylor Schilling) come full circle. She has hope in her eyes, she’s finally living on her own, and, more than that, she’s finally made a decision – to be with Alex (Laura Prepon).

The final episode documented their breakup, then left us with one final moment of Piper and Alex looking into each other’s eyes, laughing until the screen turned into that bright orange we all grew so connected to.

2. #FriendshipGoals: Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson and Poussey Washington

Taystee, a black woman with black curly hair, walking down the Litchfield hallway in her uniform wearing a distraught expression.
[Image description: Taystee walking down the Litchfield hallway in her prison garb, wearing a distraught expression.] Via Nicole Rivelli/Netflix
The one character that didn’t get justice was Taystee (Danielle Brooks). I’m not happy with where the show left her off. She was innocent, yet her innocence was never proven.

Yes, she’s doing some good, and I craved to see that same smiling Taystee from the first season. Sure, she donned a new haircut and continued teaching. Sure, she decided to make the most of her life sentence by starting the Poussey Washington Fund and establishing a financial literacy course for soon-to-be-released inmates. But she never got the justice she deserved. 

And for that, I won’t forgive the show. 

Poussey Washington, a black woman, holds a phone to one ear, and smiles.
[Image description: Poussey Washington holds a phone to one ear, and smiles.] Via Netflix
For me, one of the best scenes was the flashback into Poussey and Taystee’s friendship. Poussey (Samira Wiley) was one of my favorites in the show, hands down.

I’m still not over her death, but honoring her death through Taystee’s foundation was so meaningful.

3. The OG fam: Nicky Nichols, Lorna Morello, and Galina “Red” Reznikov

Brunette Lorna, Blonde Red and red head Nicky (white women) stand together looking off camera, with a brick wall in the foreground.
[Image description: Lorna, Red, and Nicky stand together looking off-camera, with a brick wall in the background.] Via Netflix
As for Nicky (Natasha Lyonne), I had hoped OITNB would give her a better ending.

But for now, clean for a while, she’s helping others get clean as well. She’s now taken over the kitchen at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center and the mother hen role that Red once held.

I guess the stark reality of the show is that the same people don’t get ultimate happiness. They just get flat satisfaction. In her final scene, Lorna (Yael Stone) is seen listening to Red singing a Russian song. Lorna lies in Red’s nap, thumb in her mouth, eyes far from reality.

The final season was heartbreaking for Red (Kate Mulgrew). Our favorite cook developed early-onset dementia after spending too much time in solitary. Despite Nicky wanting to take care of her, Red is moved to B-block, aka “Florida,” to spend the rest of her time in prison.

4. My Beyonce lovin’ baes: Marisol “Flaca” Gonzales and Maritza Ramos

Flaca, a brown woman in a hair net, standing in her inmate uniform waxing her hand and smiling.
[Image description: Flaca in a hairnet, standing in her inmate uniform waving her hand and smiling.] Via JoJo Whilden/Netflix
We see Flaca (Jackie Cruz) in the kitchen, telling the ICE detainees that she’s going to try to help them. We know, from the beginning of the episode, she wants to help them in a way that she couldn’t help Maritza.

Maritza, a brunette brown woman, stands amidst blue bunk beds in her dark pink detainee uniform.
[Image description: Maritza stands amidst blue bunk beds in her dark pink detainee uniform.] Via Netflix
Maritza’s (Diane Guerrero) ending is one that I couldn’t stop crying over.

The image of her being deported back to Columbia, a country she had never called home, keeps replaying in my mind. I think of her praying to Beyonce, hoping she’d be her savior and realizing that, in this current climate, there is no hope.

5. The unexpected alliance: Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett and Suzanne Warren

Suzanne, a black woman, and Tiffany, a white woman, stand together, Tiffany is looking at Suzanne and there is a brick wall in the background.
[Image description: Suzanne and Tiffany stand together. Tiffany is looking at Suzanne and there is a brick wall in the background.] Via Netflix
In season one, I couldn’t stand Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning), but she soon became one of my top ladies. Her relapse and subsequent overdose were crushing to witness. The woman that wanted to learn, learned the worst lesson of all.

And the worst part? That she did, in fact, pass her GED.

Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) truly brought the show some humor and joy – and thankfully, her ending was great. When the show began, we saw Suzanne being called “Crazy Eyes,” peeing in front of Piper’s bed, and having trouble understanding her emotions. Throughout the series, there’s a progression in Suzanne’s character. I applaud the show for letting us be a part of her journey. 

6. Family-girl-gone-bad: Dayanara “Daya” Diaz

Daya, a brown woman, is on the phone, with a serious expression on her face.
[Image description: Daya is on the phone, with a serious expression on her face.] Via Netflix
We aren’t quite sure what happened to Daya, because her fate ends with a fight between her and her mother, Alieda. The regression of Daya’s character, with a subsequent fall into addiction really got me in the feels. However, per the usual, the show beautifully dealt with how deeply trauma took over her personality.

Maybe this is the ending that made sense, after all.

7. The explosive ladies: Gloria Mendoza and Maria Ruiz

Gloria, a brown woman, is sitting on the floor in the Shu, leaning against the wall.
[Image description: Gloria is sitting on the floor in the Shu, leaning against the wall.] Via Netflix
Gloria (Selenis Leyva) gets released from prison after Luschek (our Litchfield guard that always seemed a bit lost, be it when he was smuggling drugs or hooking up with the girls) confesses to forcing her to sell phone calls to the immigrants under the ICE lockdown.

We finally catch a glimpse of her reunited with her family.  Thankfully, her ending is a happy one. 

Maria, a brown woman, is holding a phone to one ear, and holding a yellow folded piece of paper in her other hand, behind glass.
[Image description: Maria is holding a phone to one ear, and holding a yellow folded piece of paper in her other hand, behind glass.] Via Netflix
Gloria’s ending connects with Maria’s (Jessica Pimentel) and we see her, finally a changed woman, making peace with her ex-husband and his “new Maria” while reading a story to their daughter, Pepe.

8. The final betrayer: Cindy Hayes

Cindy, a black woman, sits in a tent, heating her hands up with one lone white light on the side
[Image description: Cindy sits in a tent, heating her hands up with one lone white light on the side.] Via Netflix
Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) faced some major problems in this season. From her betraying Taystee to being forced to cut ties with her family, to finally reuniting with them at a cafe, she was given the justice she deserved to deal with. 

And for now, I think that’s good enough. At least we have some small remnant of hope for what her life may turn out to be.

9. The one that got away (literally!): Blanca Flores

Blanca and Maritza (two brown women) are lying on bunk beds, Maritza is crying and Blanca is looking off into the distance.
[Image description: Blanca and Maritza lying on bunk beds, Maritza is crying and Blanca is looking off into the distance.] Via Netflix
Blanca’s (Laura Gómez) reunion with her boyfriend Diablo was the ending we needed.

From finally getting her case overturned and fighting for her freedom, she goes back to the “murder capital,” Honduras, to be with the man she loves.  We’re left with an image of them standing together, bright yellow flowers brightly blooming between them.

The finale ended with all our original characters. We were blessed with glimpses of people like Boo, the yogi, Norma, Leanne, Angie, and Brooke – all seemingly content with their lives, even as we bid them farewell.

Season seven beautifully crafted both political and social issues onto the screen: it dealt with issues like the #MeToo movement, ICE, the reality of prison centers, and the right to abortion.

Hands down, this show was woke as fuck and broke open the seal on critical conversations that so often get brushed under the rug.  

Ultimately, though, Orange Is The New Black gave us the truth: even if life has some sweet moments, there truly is no one happy ending. It’s the ending we all deserve – no matter how difficult it is to swallow.

Love + Sex Love Science Advice

I slept with a guy who thought he knew me better than myself

A few years ago, I was with a partner in bed.

Pillow talk? Forget it.

He whispered in my ear, after I asked for more clit action, that it wasn’t necessary for him to stimulate my clitoris for me to climax.

Sexy, right? I laughed and told him that I definitely needed the clit. Did he listen? No, he just insisted I was wrong.

I was stunned. Why did he think he knew my orgasms better than I did?

Excuse Me What GIF by Big Little Lies
[Image Description: Two girls turn confused to someone, holding ice cream.] Via GIPHY

The origins of the vaginal orgasm 

Sex can be one of life’s greatest pleasures. For some of us, it informs what we wear, do and watch. Unfortunately, women were dealt a sly hand by a Mr. Sigmund Freud back in 1905. 

The ‘Vaginal Orgasm’ was made famous by philosopher Sigmund Freud in his ‘Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality.

According to Freud, once a girl grew into a woman, she also outgrew the infantile clitoris orgasm. She should be able to experience an orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. 

meghan markle usa GIF by Suits
[Image Description: A woman in a white shirt asks someone if they ‘Want to try that again?’] GIF by Suits via Giphy

References in popular culture 

Well, I’m sure we all really wanted that little opinion of yours, Mr. Freud. But, instead of fading into irrelevancy, your theory stuck. It trickled down into popular culture before anyone could look at the science. 

In fact, the theory gained traction. Self-help doctor and author Frank S Caprio latched onto Freud’s theory in the mid 1900s and wrote in his book, ‘The Sexually Adequate Female’: 

“…whenever a woman is incapable of achieving an orgasm via coitus…and prefers clitoral stimulation to any other form of sexual activity, she can be regarded as suffering from frigidity and requires psychiatric assistance.”

What a lovely and alarming diagnosis.

When authors and doctors perpetuate an idea, it’s not even just bad sex that is the consequence. People have been diagnosed with sexual disorders because of the widespread nature of this theory.

And supporting all of this? Porn.

Reams of the videos we’re shown on platforms Brazzers and PornHub depict women screaming in passion and writhing with pleasure from just penetration! No clitoris stimulation in sight.

People who watch porn without a pinch of salt might wonder if they’re somehow to blame when their partner doesn’t orgasm. 

eartha kitt laughing GIF
[Image Description: A woman wearing a brown sweater laughs] Via GIPHY

The science

What is the difference between the clitoris and vaginal orgasm? My female mates were equally confused when I brought it up… Isn’t the clitoris a part of the vagina?

I tried to research ‘How to Have a Vaginal Orgasm’ and lo and behold the ever-present clitoris was right there listed as one of the tips

In reality, the clitoris is much bigger than the little nub we see. It’s an iceberg of pleasure that stretches back around the vaginal wall. 

The head of the clitoris is also composed of erectile tissue, and it possesses a very sensitive epithelium or surface covering, supplied with special nerve endings called genital corpuscles, which are peculiarly adapted for sensory stimulation… No other part of the female generative tract has such corpuscles.”

[Bold my own]

How has the idea that the clitoris has an optional role in the orgasm persisted?

If we look further at the science of the vagina, we find that the wall of the vagina is incredibly insensitive: “Among the women who were tested in our gynecologic sample, less than 14% were at all conscious that they had been touched.” (Kinsey, p. 580.)

So if it’s the only part of the female organ that possesses such spine tingling abilities, what was Freud talking about?

What was his obsession with leaving the clitoris, as wonderful as it is, behind? 

pop tv idk GIF by Schitt's Creek
[Image Description: A woman holds her hands open, confused] GIF by Schitt’s Creek via GIPHY

Feminist theories! Men have had their fun, so now it’s time to psychoanalyze them…

There are a few theories that have bubbled up to explain why a distinction arose between a clitoris ‘vaginal’ orgasm. Anne Koedt, a New York feminist wrote in 1970 a fabulous theory of her own. She wrote in her book, “The myth of the vaginal orgasm”:

Since the clitoris is almost identical to the penis, one finds a great deal of evidence of men in various societies trying to either ignore the clitoris and emphasize the vagina (as did Freud)…It should be noted also that a big clitoris is considered ugly and masculine.

Some cultures engage in the practice of pouring a chemical on the clitoris to make it shrivel up into “proper” size.”


A black woman picks up a doughnut and turns around to leave.
[Image Description: A woman picks up a doughnut and turns around to leave.] Via GIPHY

What we can do?

We need to speak up. We love our clitorises and they sure love us. Some may claim to be able to climax with just penetration alone – which is great!

But for the rest of us, vocalization in the bedroom is gonna have to be our method to the Garden of Orgasm.


Take responsibility for your orgasm by telling partners what to do, because they’ve been learning wrong.

as she pleases mtv GIF by Madison Beer
[Image Description: A girl sits on a red couch with jeans and a yellow and black crop top.] Via GIPHY
TV Shows Pop Culture

Seeing yourself as a songbird: how “Tuca & Bertie” on Netflix gave women a mirror

The world of Netflix’s now-cancelled series Tuca & Bertie (2019) is ridiculous from the title sequence.

If you’re unfamiliar with creator Lisa Hanawalt‘s work (eg, Bojack Horseman) and her undefined line between human, animal, and hybrid, it may take a few frames for your brain to calibrate.

The world of T&B is an anthropomorphized menagerie. The buildings have breasts, the neighbor is a houseplant with legs, an ultrasound machine makes a getaway with his wife. There are birds in the sky, but that bird is in short shorts? In the way that Goofy and Pluto are both dogs, but only one lives in the house, T&B creates a universe where you’re never quite sure which animals are animals, which are people, or who’s going to start talking next.

Ultimately, it asks the question: in an animated world, is anything inanimate?

Still from title sequence featuring anthropomorphized building and building with billboard for "A Tornante Production". Via Netflix.
Still from title sequence featuring anthropomorphized building and building with billboard for “A Tornante Production”. Via Netflix.

Seconds into the pilot, my first thought was, “I wouldn’t suggest this to my parents.”

It’s not inappropriate per se, but niche enough to startle anyone who doesn’t actively seek out this kind of genre-bending content. But then I immediately found myself asking, “why not?” The series is not just relatable to Millennials, but also speaks to the emotionality of an age that existed for all generations. Whether Boomers want to admit it or not, they went through the same wobbling stability and unsureness that Tuca and Bertie are going through. Same panic, different phone size. 

In broad strokes, T&B is about two young friends trying to make something of themselves in a big city. It is in that way not all that dissimilar from How I Met Your Mother, It’s Always Sunny, New Girl or all the other look-at-my-life shows that built on the idea that everyone’s life is the same yet completely different. The plotlines aren’t unfamiliar. In one episode Bertie moves in with her boyfriend. In other Tuca is smitten with her deli guy. It wouldn’t be too hard to transpose an episode of T&B into another televised universe. The One Where Bertie and Speckle Try Kinky Sex or The Gang Goes To Yeast Week. 

Still featuring songbird Bertie leaning back in office chair, singing about spicy chips while holding a bag. Via Netflix.
Still featuring songbird Bertie leaning back in office chair, singing about spicy chips while holding a bag. Via Netflix.

The one major difference is that T&B is uncompromisingly female.

Tuca and Bertie’s medicine cabinets are overflowing, they freak out over break-ups, they struggle to pee in rompers, they aspire to become pastry chefs, they perform all the things that in a gendered world are feminine, only without the polish. It is this last bit that sets T&B apart from the women that came before them. Tuca and Bertie’s accomplishments come with cracks in them. Bertie lands a new position, but is immediately disheartened by the hours. Tuca stands up to her Auntie, but realizes she still needs her charity.

The world of these birds isn’t cruel or unfair, it’s just more realistic. More realistic at times than most live action. Perhaps because Tuca and Bertie can’t spend an hour in hair and makeup, they come across as about as ready for life as anyone else at any given moment. Something about how their feathers fall gives the impression that they’re capable of making the same mistakes as the viewer. 

This imperfection is not the imperfection of HBO’s Girls that gives the viewer anxiety-by-proxy. Nor is it the faux imperfection of Friends. T&B is not messy as in #GodBlessThisMess, but messy in the honest, tangled, take-your-ass-to-a-therapist kind of way. Women are rarely allowed to languor in this state without being self-deprecating, charactertured, or satirical. It is a space between being the overly-sexualized high-schooler and the mother.

Not a girl, not yet a Good Wife. Tuca and Bertie aren’t high-powered career women or perpetual girlfriends. They’re defined by their characteristics, not their jobs or relationships. Ally McBeal was a lawyer, Meredith Grey was a surgeon, Samantha wrote about her dating life. Tuca and Bertie… are Tuca and Bertie. The plot is driven by the facts of life– by Bertie’s fight with her boyfriend or Tuca’s attempt at a new job– but that’s not the first or the fifteenth thing that comes to mind when you think about the show. It is a show about two women figuring out their 30s. 

Still featuring anthropomorphized houseplant neighbor Draca smoking in her apartment while surrounded by turtles. Via Netflix.
Still featuring anthropomorphized houseplant neighbor Draca smoking in her apartment while surrounded by turtles. Via Netflix.

By cutting T&B, Netflix is deprioritizing this kind of storytelling. It’s saying more detectives with dead wives, more dramas about the same predominantly white period in English history, more glorification of serial killers. Not more women with anxiety attacks in posh grocery stories, women with pain-inducing reproductive systems, women with STDs and uncertain futures. No more pet jaguars. Without it, women on television can largely be described “pleasant.”

Self-identified people-pleaser Bertie would probably fight me on this one, but the women of T&B aren’t pleasant. They’re not ladies or any of those other annoying terms for women that diminish their very humanity. They’re just Tuca and Bertie.

It’s unfair that they only got one season. Still, I encourage you to savor those 10 episodes to see yourself in these songbirds. Here’s to hoping they find a new nest. 


Mind Love + Sex Love Life Stories Advice

Your self-worth is not defined by your relationship status

I’m 25 years old and single

And I’m okay with it. 

(Rishta aunties crying in my midst).

I live in Karachi, Pakistan.

Here lies a city that believes marriage is a badge of honor. Here lies a populous that judges a woman’s achievements based on a ring. Here lies a place that believes a woman’s purpose is based on procreating (a little too A Handmaid’s Tale for my liking). Here lies a society that is consumed with marriage talk. Clothes talk. Ring talk. And it goes on and on.

Here lies a place that’s toxic as hell if you’re single.

Like you’re somehow more honorable for getting married? Like you somehow aren’t enough by yourself?

Like you’re somehow honorable for getting married?

I am all woman and I am enough.

I think a lot of people view those who are single as these social pariahs. The second you turn 21, the rishtas come flooding in and you’re told that you’re now “of marriageable age.”

The aunties begin asking:

How old is your daughter?

Is she engaged? 

When is she getting married? 

Should we introduce her to someone?

And you know what? Sometimes I laugh at how ridiculous it all is.

Sometimes I’m caught within their cycle and wonder if marriage really is some form of achievement (insert bullshit). Of course, from time to time, I do love the idea of marriage but I don’t love the system – the way rishta aunties are so common, the way everyone views you like a piece of a puzzle that needs another to get ahead in life. 

I’m focusing on building my life, trying to pursue a career in writing, getting to know who I really am – but does society view that as a victory? Do they see me as an adult? Probably not.

You are a fucking queen and your happiness lies in all those pieces.

Notions, like not wearing red lipstick before your wedding, not staying out late at night, doing x or y thing before you’re married, just trying to pause your life for this elevated paper signing, are beyond me.  

I think a lot of us were brought up among princesses and romcoms that told us that happily ever after meant one thing – finding the right partner and that stuck.

But girl, your happily ever after is now, it’s happening all around you, growing in your beautiful wake.

Personally, I know that my self worth is not, and will never be defined by anyone but me. I won’t be defined by societal norms because that isn’t fair, and that isn’t what anyone should rely on. I know that for my self-worth, it’s important to celebrate the little pieces of myself. 

But girl, your happily ever after is now, it’s happening all around you, growing in your beautiful wake.

Somehow, through some twisted perception, marriage is seen as a triumph. It’s like you slowly tick those boxes – school, college, first job, marriage. I understand that my body has a clock – and I understand that some people believe in grounding their life through traditionalism. So that shiny badge of marriage that you so cling to – if it works for you – if that’s what your life is really geared towards, go for it.

But if it’s something else you want out of life, value that. 

So every time I get published, be it something small that I’ve worked on, or a longer piece of writing, I celebrate it. When I do something good for myself, I celebrate it. When I travel, I celebrate it.

It’s about understanding what’s important for you – what works for you that’s really the biggest achievement in life.

We all need a LOT of self-love in our lives. So take every single flawed and beautiful part of you, take it, hold it close, and remind yourself that you are a fucking queen and your happiness lies in all those pieces.

Don’t let your singledom be defined by a societal meter.

Editor's Picks Makeup Fashion Lookbook

The backlash to Meghan Markle’s every move exposes a dark double standard

Cast your minds back to the 10th of February 2019.

Prince William, president of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, and his wife, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, attended the BAFTA Film Awards in London and mingled with celebrities and stars.

All eyes were on Kate and what she would wear.

So, when she turned up in a white Alexander McQueen one-shoulder gown and sparkly pumps, the media and royal fans loved it. She was described by fashion and royal commentators as ‘ethereal’, ‘stunning’ and ‘a modern princess’. The headlines were persistent with these compliments, and the media attention and opinions were all good and fine, despite how dreary it is that we get so overexcited over a woman’s physical appearance.

What isn’t okay is that the very same people, royal fans and media outlets, adoring and swooning over Kate’s ‘princess’ look, criticized and condemned her sister-in-law, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex only weeks prior for…

Wearing a one-shoulder dress to a celebrity event.

Two images side by side. The image on the left is of the Duchess of Cambridge, a white, brown-haired lady in a white one-shoulder dress on a red carpet. The image on the right is the Duchess of Sussex. a darker-skinned woman with black hair tied back and in a black one-shoulder gown on a stage.
[Image description: Two images side by side. The image on the left is of the Duchess of Cambridge in a white one-shoulder dress on a red carpet. The image on the right is the Duchess of Sussex in a black one-shoulder gown on a stage.] Via Jeff Spicer/Anthony Harvey/BAFTA/Shutter/REX/Getty.
And how was Meghan described in the press for the black Givenchy one-shoulder gown she donned to the British Fashion Awards?

Vulgar, trashy and disrespectful.

She was accused by royal commentators of breaking royal protocol and told that she needed to stop dressing like a ‘Hollywood star‘ and instead like a royal, because royals apparently never wear one-shoulder dresses.

Except that Princess Diana, the Queen, the Countess of Wessex, and Princess Margaret have all worn them before.

Four images of British royal women in one-shoulder ensembles. From left to right: Queen Elizabeth, a white woman, wearing a silver tiara, a white wrap, and a one-shoulder gown; Diana, Princess of Wales, a white woman with short blonde hair in a white one-shoulder gown; a black and white portrait of Princess Margaret, a white woman with dark hair in a one-shoulder gown; Sophie, Countess of Wessex, a white woman with blonde hair smiling at the camera in a pink one-shoulder gown.
[Image description: Four images of British royal women in one-shoulder ensembles. From left to right: Queen Elizabeth, wearing a silver tiara, a white wrap, and a one-shoulder gown; Diana, Princess of Wales, in a white one-shoulder gown; a black and white portrait of Princess Margaret, in a one-shoulder gown; Sophie, Countess of Wessex, smiling at the camera in a pink one-shoulder gown.] Via Chris Jackson/Tim Graham/Getty Images.
So, these people are really going to call a mixed-race royal ‘trashy’ and ‘vulgar’ while deeming white royals ‘beautiful’ and ‘ethereal’ for wearing the exact same thing, and still be adamant that their criticism is not racially motivated?

But the hypocrisy doesn’t end there.

Meghan is constantly compared to her sister-in-law, Kate, and always seems to be in the wrong – even when she does things that Kate, their late mother-in-law Diana, and other royal women have already done and been praised and complimented for.

For example, while on tour in Australia, Meghan wore a maxi dress with a thigh-high slit and was slammed for being disrespectful and body-shamed for her “thin legs” by the same people who applaud Kate when she wears dresses with thigh-high slits and is complimented on her toned legs.

Images of the Duchesses of Sussex and Cambridge in maxi dresses. On the left, Meghan Markle, a mixed-race woman, is in sunglasses with her dark hair up and is wearing a maxi dress with a thigh-high slit on the left. On the right is Catherine Middleton, a white woman with brown hair, carrying flowers and wearing a navy and white polka dot maxi dress with a thigh-high slit in the center.
[Image description: Images of the Duchesses of Sussex and Cambridge in maxi dresses. On the left, Meghan Markle is in sunglasses with her dark hair up and is wearing a maxi dress with a thigh-high slit on the left. On the right is Kate Middleton carrying flowers and wearing a navy and white polka dot maxi dress with a thigh-high slit in the center.] Via Chris Jackson/Getty Images.
Meghan’s color palette for her clothes sticks to more dark and neutral colors, favoring black and navy in particular.

For this, she is shredded apart daily, as ‘royals do not wear black‘ unless for a funeral or during mourning. But some of her late mother-in-law’s most iconic outfits are black, and other royals, such as the Countess of Wessex and the Duchess of Cambridge, have worn black and were always complimented and praised for their ensembles.

Four images of British royal woman in black ensembles. From left to right: Princess Diana, a white woman with short blonde hair, is wearing a black cocktail dress with a pearl choker necklace; Sophie, Countess of Wessex, a white woman with blonde hair, is wearing a black midi dress with a large black fascinator; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, a white woman with brown hair, is wearing a black coat, tights, and boots; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, a white woman with silvery hair, is wearing a black suit jacket and skirt.
[Image description: Four images of British royal woman in black ensembles. From left to right: Princess Diana, wearing a black cocktail dress with a pearl choker necklace; Sophie, Countess of Wessex, wearing a black midi dress with a large black fascinator; Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, wearing a black coat, tights, and boots; Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, wearing a black suit jacket and skirt.] Via Simon Kreitum/Chris Jackson/Paul Ellis/PA/Getty/Reuters.
So why the hypocrisy?

Simple: the media and royal fans are frightened of Meghan and everything she stands for.

Meghan is different from other royal women because she is everything that they aren’t: mixed-race, liberal, divorcée actresses. Meghan’s arrival has messed with the royal fandom’s perception of the status quo, leading them to believe they’ve now lost control. The only way these people can claim dominance over the situation is by discriminating against those they are intimidated by, belittling and criticizing them for everything they do, particularly their appearance and behavior.

Royal rules and protocol offer certain guidelines, but new, publicly-developed rules seem to appear every day when the Duchess of Sussex is out and about. Even wearing an outfit remotely similar to that of one of her in-law’s attracts criticism for not being ‘unique,’ while everyone turns a blind eye towards other royals wearing and doing the very same things.

While the media won’t stop analyzing what women in the royal family are wearing, it is very clear that the racial discrimination towards Meghan Markle won’t go away any time soon.

Ultimately, it strikes me as odd that while the world’s oldest and most traditional royal institution can move forward from their discriminatory past, mainstream media and so-called royal fans cannot.