At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Chinese diver He Zi took home the silver.
Following years of training and fierce competition, she was dubbed second best in the world in the three-meter springboard dive. After stepping down from the podium though, she found fellow Olympic athlete and long-time boyfriend, Qin Ka, down on one knee, proposing.
Imagine being upstaged by your significant other during a defining moment of your career.
That is a day He Zi will forever look back on and see, not only her crowning achievement but the day that her boyfriend proposed. If might just be me, but I think those things could easily have been on two separate days.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a sweet moment (she said yes, for one). For years, though, the word on public engagements has been a resounding “no” with feminist writers detecting hints of manipulation in what should be a sweet and significant moment for the couple.
But the brides have had their say too. According to David’s Bridal’s “What’s On Brides’ Minds” survey, brides overwhelmingly prefer a more personal, private proposal. 80% said they would scoff at a public Facebook proposal, 63% would not want to be proposed to on a jumbotron, and 57% of the respondents would not want to be proposed to via flashmob.
And with good reasons.
Number one is public pressure.
Imagine being surprise proposed to by your significant other in front of a crowd of strangers. Your response has to be “yes” because if it isn’t, the whole situation will be awkward. The public pressure, then, is definitely manipulative because if you wanted to say no to the engagement, you risk embarrassing yourself and your partner, as well as hurting your partner’s feelings.
There is enough pressure in a private setting without doing that in front of other people.
Another key reason brides tend to stray away from public proposals is the stage fright. She won’t be able to savor the moment if she feels like she’s on stage, even if she wants to say yes.
“I think the biggest thing you can do to help a marriage is to have absolute privacy [for the proposal],” said Calgary-based marriage conflict specialist, Debra Macleod. Macleod has had clients whose marriage began with a showy proposal only to have one of the partners be quietly resentful that their “private moment” had been transformed into a public spectacle.
So, if the evidence clearly states that public proposals are a no-go, why do people continue to propose in that way?
Take Bharat and Romi, a beautiful couple that was engaged recently. By the end of Bharat’s flashmob engagement at the Leicester Square Christmas Festival, the pair looked extraordinarily happy. Romi was definitely surprised but seemed genuinely happy as well.
If you remove everything I previously stated – the pressure, the stage fright, the manipulation – this engagement was perfect. It feels like a romantic movie moment from the 1980s where the woman had no doubts that this is who she wanted to be with and had no worries about being in front of a crowd.
The main issue with public proposals, though, is consent.
Yes, I get it. It is meant as a romantic gesture but too many proposals are complete surprises to the significant others, and too many of those proposals are done in front of crowds of friends, family, or strangers.
As one Redditor points out, a general rule of thumb is that the proposal itself should not be a surprise. The couple should have a discussion about marriage and if that is the direction they’d like to go in, the creativity can start from there, based on your partner’s interests.
If Romi was interested in romantic gestures then, Bharat did an amazing job.
Think positive and positive things will happen. How many variations of this advice have you heard? Has it worked?
“Fuck positivity,” said Mark Manson, a blogger and author of self-help novel The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. “Let’s be honest, shit is fucked and we have to live with it.”
Perhaps crassly put, but Manson hit the nail on the head with this insight which is the overarching theme of TSANGF. As a society, many of us are prone to sugarcoating the harsh realities of life. For our friends, our family, and even ourselves. We tell ourselves to chin up, to give off good vibes and work hard to be, and do, better.
“Let’s be honest, shit is fucked and we have to live with it.” – Mark Manson
That is good advice. However, philosophy isn’t one-size-fits-all. If you’re someone who prefers being hit with harsh alternatives – someone who’d rather learn to stomach the lemons than make lemonade – then TSANGF might be the self-help book for you.
A word soup of cussing, sarcasm and humor, Manson rips the bandaid right off in the first chapter by pointing out a simple truth.
“Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired,” wrote Manson (p. 3).
“But when you stop and really think about it, conventional life advice—all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time—is actually fixating on what you lack.” (p. 4)
It tells us what we should be – positive, happier, richer etc – and emphasizes that we have yet to reach it. We have failed. Essentially, we’re negatively impacting our mental health by taking on unnecessary and superficial stresses. Or, in other words, by giving a fuck about everything.
“The key to a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important,” wrote the blogger (p. 5).
Manson’s work is quirky and accessible, his voice taking on the conversational tone of a no-bullshit friend who’s out to set the record straight. His work, described by himself as “a counterintuitive approach to living a good life”, begins by introducing readers to the concept of ‘The Feedback Loop from Hell’ wherein we get stuck in an overlap of emotions and begin to run circles within ourselves.
A situation where a thought on your thoughts snowballs until you find yourself repeatedly stacking on. Like feeling angry and then getting angry about being angry, or being anxious and then getting anxious about your anxiety.And then we feel bad because why are we like this? Why do we allow ourselves to fester in negativity? Manson argues that the most effective way to short-circuit the Loop is to simply embrace the “shit”.
“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience,” he argues. “[And] to not give a fuck is to stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action.” (pp. 9-12)
Without struggle we won’t really achieve anything worth achieving but we must first figure out what’s worth the struggle, what’s worth giving a fuck about.
And on Manson goes, using anecdotes involving a Disappointment Panda – a superhero whose superpower would be to tell people harsh truths about themselves that they don’t want to hear but need to accept. Further on, Manson emphasizes the importance of struggles and how things fall apart, discusses the tyranny of exceptionalism, and consistently argues that it is only through the negative experiences that we will achieve the positive we desire.
TSANGF, though, is not exactly unique. Its content isn’t new, the package is. And the voice used to deliver it holds an appeal to it that makes the book charming and fun to read. Ultimately, it’s the humor and creativity which makes this self-help novel worth a read.
In a nutshell, TSANGF posits that without struggle we won’t really achieve anything worth achieving but we must first figure out what’s worth the struggle, what’s worth giving a fuck about.
Startup culture is fraught with unhealthy working patterns, ruthless competitiveness, and a macho social scene. In the US, women-led startups received only 2.2% of funding, while women-led startups (with no male founders) received only 3.4% of funding in 2018.
Doing their part in bringing women-led startups to the forefront is Middle East-based media company, Womena, with its four-month tech-focused accelerator, Womentum.
Every round, eight early-stage startups are chosen and immersed in two different ecosystems: first in Berlin and then Dubai. The cohort is introduced to investors, provided mentorship and access to global markets to equip them with the tools necessary to continue growing following the program. In the words of the founder, Elissa Freiha, “Womena has built a program that we felt was lacking in the regional ecosystem focused on female-led startups.”
In addition to the accelerator, Womena films the entire process. “In Season 2, Womena will take an even deeper look at the founders and their businesses,” said Amira Salah-Ahmed, Womena’s Chief Media Officer. Ultimately, when it comes to these female-founded startups, we could all learn a thing or two from them.
Co-founded by Aboujawdeh and Joe Harb (CTO), the Lebanese start-up Digital Construction Toolbox (DCT) aims to digitize the construction industry with its customizable product management tool.
The need came from recognizing the lack of real-time data in the construction industry, which often resulted in last-minute, ad-hoc changes as an impulsive response. DCT works to battle said impulsivity with its wicked AI tech to automate workflows.
FreshSource is disrupting the Egyptian horticulture agri-chain by connecting small farmers to logistics and distribution networks. The startup also aims to tackle food waste that can otherwise be mitigated by implementing the right food handling and storage practices.
Currently, the brother-and-sister duo, Farah (CEO) and Omar Emara (COO), is relying on an internal database and network to connect vendors with suppliers. With funding, however, they are hoping to build an accessible, digital database.
Chefaa is an online marketplace for pharmaceutical products powered by AI technology. It allows consumers to easily access medication and schedule deliveries, as well as giving patients reminders of when to take their medication.
The inspiration for such a platform came after one of the co-founders, Aref, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and experienced a significant amount of difficulty in trying to remember which medication to take and when.
Luxury Promise is an online marketplace for pre-loved luxury goods, powered by AI and visual recognition technology that can differentiate between counterfeit and genuine products.
Sadiq began her professional career as a lawyer and a casual collector of vintage, luxury handbags. Her passion for trade led her to study luxury authentication. Between herself and the wider Luxury Promise team has over fifteen years of collective experience in the luxury sector and luxury authentication between them, so you can trust that you and your luxury goods are in safe hands.
Co-founded by Zaher, Youssef Hammoud (CTO), and Rami El-Erian (COO), Pas-sport connects Egyptian athletes with sports scholarships through a recruitment and matching process. The platform also offers support and guidance for athletes who may be afraid to go to university abroad, and for coaches who may need help on how to nurture and develop international students.
Zaher played tennis competitively, eventually securing a scholarship at Columbia University, and Hammoud was a diligent swimmer who found himself a place at Auburn University. Their collective experience of the difficulties that international athletes face in finding and securing scholarships led them to create Pas-sport.
Dimension 14, founded in the UAE by Akin and Chris Wallace (CGO), uses AI and Machine Learning to manage complex, decision-making processes. The platform uses deep learning to truly get to know the inner workings of a business before making actionable suggestions.
It can help with scheduling, process optimization and consulting, and has been used in the healthcare, higher education, and mobility markets.
Akin coded her first line when she was only eleven years old, a passion which translated to her academics and career up until the present day. She currently runs mentoring initiatives with the United Nations and Google Women Techmakers.
Co-founded by de Maussion and Ayssar Arida (CEO), MakerBrane offers a community for designers and digital architects all over the world, who both admire and feed off each others’ creative work. The platform is a virtual marketplace where toy creators can design, build and trade digital toys, with instructions that can then be replicated in real life – have a play on their website!
de Maussion has had an illustrious career, spanning the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. She holds Masters degrees from La Sorbonne and Paris Dauphine and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Goldsmith’s College alongside managing MakerBrane.
Co-founded by Mansouri, Ghazi Ketata (Product Manager), and Oussama Mahjoub (CTO), Dabchy is a marketplace for pre-loved goods that stretches across Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. It is focused largely on the female consumer. They already have more than 250,000 users, who they adorably label Dabchouchas, and more than 100,000 items on sale spanning clothes, bags, and accessories.
The inspiration for the idea actually came from a Facebook page where women bought and sold clothes which founder Mansouri used to justify the need for a platform like Dabchy. She found that Facebook trading groups were not organized and formalized, so Dabchy stepped in to facilitate a quick and easy transaction of second-hand clothes.
Okay, I see that I have been sleeping on pumpkin drinks a smidge, so here is a pumpkin drink that is nothing like pumpkin spice lattes. It’s so good it’s almost strange, because who knew pumpkins and mint could go together?
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.
“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.
“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.
She cites a love/hate relationship with the social media platform, labeling it as “the lowest barrier between my brain and the world.”
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!”
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
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
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’
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
No, we are not all gang members, nor 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 Streetwas 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…
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”
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”
Don’t question us. It just is. Get over it.
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
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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?
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.
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.
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.
The lungs of the Earth are on fire, and experts say time is running out to protect the Amazon forest.
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 AmazonWatchtoldDemocracyNow! 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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’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
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
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 (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.
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 (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’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.