The Internet Standoms Pop Culture

It’s okay to not want your fave to know you exist

The internet is a window that needs some curtains. Or shutters. Or drapes. Anything that creates a semblance of privacy, respect, and boundaries I think would do the internet some good. At the very least, maybe it would end the rampant, unchecked sexualization, fetishization, objectification, and dehumanization of celebrities by fans.

The internet and social media have made it possible for just about anybody to see anything. For those of us who are fans of celebrities (reminder: real-life people), this means that thirst tweet, smutty fic, or fan edit we just posted could very well be seen by the people we stan. And if that doesn’t embarrass us, then we need to have a conversation about fan culture.

In 2021, Twitter and TikTok users are both the poster-children for and the spokespeople against toxic fan culture. I regularly see tweets and videos that explain why people are so judgmental of fans in the first place. For a brief moment a few months ago, there was a trend where people admitted which celebrities they think they could pull on their best day. Now, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this trend, mostly because it’s not that serious and it does help humanize celebrities. But there were some people who made it obvious they were not joking. For these fans, this trend was a microcosm of how normal it is to sexualize celebrities.

A few years ago, back in One Direction’s heyday, Larry Stylinson was the pinnacle of toxic fan culture. While shipping real-life people is hotly debated in fandoms, Larry Stylinson shippers are considered radicals in the shipping community.

For most Directioners, even if we thought it would be cute for Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson to date in real life, we left it at that. It was simply a thought we briefly had before moving on with our lives. We did not show up to concerts, meet and greets, and other public events on a mission to make it clear to the boys that we were obsessed with their sexualities and insistent on fetishizing their (probably non-existent) relationship. To this day, toxic Larries think Harry and Louis are trying to communicate to them through coded messages.

In fandoms where fictitious worlds are brought to life through the power of film and television, toxic fans blur the line between fantasy and reality. Star Wars fans’ (and Disney’s) treatment of John Boyega is one example. Shadow and Bone fans’ treatment of Danielle Galligan is another. In both instances, fans attacked the actors online, even going as far as sending death threats.

Basic human respect and decency dictate sending hate and death threats to anyone is horrible. And sending hate and death threats because a Black actor playing a Black character speaks up about how blockbuster series fail to explore the nuances of characters of color or because an actor playing a character isn’t curvy enough is the epitome of toxic fan culture.

Also, toxic fans are almost always involved when celebrities have to take a hiatus for their mental health. Toxic fans are why Little Mix is now a trio, why Chloe Bailey received so much misogynoir-fueled hate online recently, why Natalie Portman left the spotlight for a brief period of time, why Sulli and Hara are no longer with us, and even why Britney Spears experienced such a public breakdown (why do you think paparazzi were following her so closely? Because fans were too interested in her life).

Luckily there are people who are trying to correct this toxic fan behavior.

Lindsay Webster, of Buzzfeed fame, is a well-known Harry Styles superfan. In a recent YouTube video, she admitted she’s never actually wanted to marry Harry. She’s just a really big fan of who he is and what he does. This is very relatable, and it should be the only opinion held by fans. On Twitter and TikTok, I’ve seen fans echo Webster’s opinion with humor, reminding others in their fandoms that they’re probably not going to ever meet their fave, let alone marry them. Other fans have joked about how they cannot believe they stan a human person, while still others have admitted they never want their ult to know they (or their fan page) exist.

No one is saying you can’t stan celebrities. But celebrities should always be treated like people because they are people. Respect their privacy, respect their boundaries, and remember that they don’t owe us anything.

Keep going to concerts, meet and greets, book signings, red carpets, award shows, and more—but if you meet the celebrity you stan, don’t show them your fics, and don’t pull up the webtoon you drew of them in a furry relationship. It’s really not that hard to rein in the hate, creepiness, and judgment in favor of keeping fan culture light, fun, and enjoyable for everyone.

Even if you’re not one of these toxic fans, I still suggest we all get in the habit of logging off of the internet from time to time. There’s more to life than being a fan—and I say this as one. Go out and experience it. Or, at the very least, start small and go outside to touch some grass.

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Tech Race Now + Beyond Inequality

Gen Z is bringing cyberbullying back — or are they?

I had never visited Donald Trump’s Instagram page before but, when I went to check it for the first time, I found the oddest thing in the comments. Virtually every other comment was a teenager responding to his post with cyberbullying — yes, cyberbullying. All of these comments were various insulting puns with heart and fairy emojis. These comments tend to be witty bait and switches — “You made my day…worse!” or “You tried your best! Stop trying!” or other similar sentiments. Apparently, it got so bad that Trump turned off his comments. Some critics say that cyberbullying is back in a big way. But I don’t know if this is quite true.

What I do know is that members of Gen Z have been finding new ways to confront people online. Sometimes Zoomers will take aim at innocuous people they view as an easy target, such as millennial Buzzfeed readers or anime-loving band kids. Other times, they’ll go after peers and classmates. But something that has gained my interest is the “cyberbullying” of celebrities and politicians.

You might wonder: Is it cyberbullying if it’s a celebrity? Yes and no. Celebrities are still real people, as are politicians, and any form of harassment can hurt them. However, the act of bullying requires some kind of power imbalance.

Think of it this way: Back in school, bullies would usually target kids who were at least at their level or went after people they felt were less powerful. If a teenager on social media “bullies” the president, the same power imbalance isn’t there. The president isn’t a middle school child, even if he acts like one. He holds power over most of the population, meaning that the power imbalance necessary for bullying isn’t there. The same thing goes for other politicians.

What about celebrities? Well, from my experience, most celebrities who get “bullied” or “canceled” are targeted because of past problematic behavior. It can often be unfair, but most recently, people have been targeting celebrities who support Trump or refuse to speak in favor of Black Lives Matter.

One way this manifests itself is by pulling out “receipts” of racist incidents on social media. Within classrooms and college campuses, a similar pattern happens. Zoomers are perfectly willing to call out racist, sexist, and homophobic acts, especially if they can back up their claims with evidence. Most often, this involves digging up offensive social media posts or comments, rather than simply insulting someone. There are entire Instagram and Twitter accounts dedicated to exposing racists. Other generations might find it unusual, but it’s similar to the hate pages of millennials’ youth. The only difference is that these accounts have a social purpose.

These accounts function in a variety of different ways. Sometimes these accounts call for people to lose academic scholarships, college acceptances, or face disciplinary action for offensive behavior. Others have stated that they will remove the incriminating “receipts” if the person involved writes an apology or makes a donation to a relevant fund. In my experience, most just want to make sure that everyone is held accountable for their actions.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes these accounts go too far. Sometimes they “dox” the people involved and reveal personal information. Sometimes people go as far as to send death threats and hate mail. All of these actions constitute actual cyberbullying. However, we need to separate these actions: Sending death threats to a peer or exposing them to real harm is very different from simply calling them out for racist behavior. It’s certainly different from leaving a harmless comment with a fairy emoji on the president’s Instagram account.

Cyberbullying is alive and well, but so much of this so-called “political cyberbullying” is anything but that. Let me make one thing clear: Holding someone accountable for their reprehensible statements and actions isn’t bullying, it’s justice. We should all draw the line at doxing and threats, but it’s alright to hold people responsible for their actions. At the end of the day, let kids have fun with fairy emojis and puns, so long as they direct their mockery to the right people.

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Street Style Style Lookbook

You don’t need to wear name-brand clothes to have a great sense of style

Autumn has just begun in my beautiful home city, Johannesburg.

And I’ve found myself frantically scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest, desperate for some seasonal fashion inspiration.

However, all my social media feeds have completely missed the mark – at least, in my eyes. All I see are influencers wearing Gucci, Dior, and loads of name-brand clothes that are way out of my budget. With that being said, I have three main reasons why I’m on a quest to level up my sense of style without splurging on branded clothing.

1. Everyone is wearing name-brand clothing, so it’s kind of…basic.

[Image description: A GIF of Moira Rose from Netflix's Schitt's Creek wearing a fluffy black hat, black jersey and white skirt. The text at the bottom of the GIF says "THAT'S WHAT EVERYONE'S WEARING." via Giphy
[Image description: A GIF of Moira Rose from Netflix’s ‘Schitt’s Creek’ wearing a fluffy black hat, black jersey, and a cream white skirt. The white text at the bottom of the GIF says “IS THIS WHAT EVERYONE’S WEARING?” via Giphy
Streetwear fashion brands have completely taken over, especially for hype beasts. In case you were wondering, a ‘hype beast’ is someone who devoutly wears hyped-up fashion brands with the intent of impressing others. Brands like Nike, Off-White, and Supreme have wormed their way into mainstream culture largely because of the “hype beast effect.” Everyone feels the need to wear branded clothing and it’s making their sense of style trendy, but totally unoriginal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a clean pair of Nike Air Force 1s. But I think you can develop a unique fashion sense if you give big brands a rest. Consider thrifting, making your own clothes, or finding smaller clothing brands that cater to your style preferences.

2. Name-brand clothes are expensive!

Image description: A man checks the price tag of a brown and white winter jacket.] via Giphy
Image description: A man checks the price tag of a brown and white winter jacket.] via Giphy

We can all agree that name-brand clothes are more expensive than department store clothes and low-end fast fashion brands. However, I’m not advocating for cheap fast fashion because it’s unsustainable and incredibly generic. The UN confirmed the fast fashion industry is responsible for 8% of the world’s carbon emissions as of 2019.

So instead of delving into fast fashion, you can support local clothing brands that put more care into their production process. Perhaps you’ll end up paying the same price as you would for a name-brand item, and that’s okay. At least it will be a unique fashion piece purchased from a small business in need of support. I found that buying clothes from local brands has already helped me level up my fashion game, and the people around me have noticed too.

3. Branded clothes don’t make you feel better about yourself

Rachel Green from the show friends sitting on a couch and wiping her tears with a white wedding dress.
[Image description: Rachel Green from the show Friends sitting on a couch and wiping her tears with a white wedding dress.] via Giphy
For the longest time, I thought buying new name-brand pieces would make me feel better about myself. If the pretty girls on Instagram are wearing cute Nike leggings, then surely I’ll feel pretty if I wear them too. Right? Realistically, that’s not the case. I feel the best about myself when I genuinely like my outfit and it’s an expression of my personal style.

The key takeaway here is that you can be trendy by developing your own personal style and sticking to a budget that’s reasonable for you. Name-brand clothes are awesome and you’re welcome to buy them. But don’t let society pressure you into thinking branded clothing is the only way to put together a killer outfit. 

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The Ultimate Guide to Dating Love + Sex Love Advice

Here’s why your single friend always gives the best relationship advice

Not to toot my own horn, but I think I give excellent dating advice. However, if you were to ask me for my dating credentials, I would hand you a blank piece of paper.

For some, being serially single is not a choice. But for me, it’s a lifestyle.

I have been single for all of my adult life, and I thoroughly enjoy the independence and solitude—which I know freaks people out. While some single people date, I do not.

So how does this make me—and other serially single people—expert at giving dating advice?

Let me let you in on a few secrets of the trade.

The first secret is not actually a secret but a well-known fact: Almost all forms of content are about love.

Save $20 off pleasure products at Lora DiCarlo for Vagina Appreciation Day. Sale runs April 23rd - April 25th.

Even content that exists outside of traditional romance genres usually includes love and sex. For example, that action movie you just watched, was there a romantic arc in it?


Most movies, television shows, and books have provided blueprints for all kinds of relationships. A lot of these blueprints have helped me understand what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like.

I’ve also read more than a fair share of fanfiction. Honestly, when you asked for my dating credentials, I could have sent you the link to AO3 and, if you’ve ever read any fanfiction, you’d have immediately understood why this gives me so much credible dating insight.

Even being someone who grew up alongside the Internet has made many of us mini experts on random topics. Most of us didn’t necessarily seek this information out; it just appeared on our Tumblr, Twitter, or Instagram feeds.

Here’s the real secret: All relationships are the same.

Whether platonic or romantic, open or closed, monogamous or polyamorous, all relationships are made of the same ingredients. The dictionary definition of relationship describes the connection between people. And we all have experience with that. I may not date, but I do have lots of friends.

Some of my friendships have failed while others have thrived. This has helped me gain insight on communication, boundaries, and respect—insight that applies to both platonic and romantic relationships.

I’ve also watched most of my loved ones experience all kinds of different relationships. As you can imagine, being single gives those of us who are serially single plenty of free time to observe other people’s relationships—and, if you’re a Virgo like me, judge these relationships in order to perfect the advice we give to those who may (or may not) ask.

Just because your single friends haven’t dated anyone—casually, seriously, or at all—doesn’t mean we’re not familiar with the territory. All of our observations add to our dating advice credentials.

In fact, we’re kind of like therapists.

Because we’re removed from romantic situations, we have clarity uncolored by personal bias and experiences.

Most importantly, your serially single friends arguably have the most experience with prioritizing themselves and their needs. This makes us adept at keeping your best interests top of mind if you come to us for romantic advice.

We want you to be yourself and to love who you are. We will encourage you to take the time to learn more about your wants, needs, and goals before diving further into romance.

The best advice I can give as a serially single person is to try out being single. Being single has a lot of perks, the top of which is that it can give you the time, space, and energy to explore you who are.

I’m not saying everyone should be single. I’m just saying don’t knock it till you try it.

And, don’t worry. I promise I won’t say “I told you so” when you realize being single helped you become a better romantic partner.

Happy dating!

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Life Stories Life

Being creative doesn’t need to be performative or productive

My hesitance with being creative started with a set of simple words on my screen: “Now is the perfect time to write your book!” I encountered variations of these words on Twitter, against the scenic backdrop of a forest in an inspiration post on Instagram. They seemed to follow me everywhere I clicked. These words became a trickling of an inner voice in my head that demanded one thing: write a book. Write the book. 

At the time, we were all in our first few weeks of the world-wide lockdown. There was a wave of posts that encouraged people to look at the bright side of staying home. After all, we had the many privileges that came with being able to have our own spaces during this time. We didn’t have to share a common eating space with colleagues and we could work in our pajamas. It wasn’t all bad, right?

Not to mention, while we self-isolated and stayed inside, our schedules had significantly cleared up. These reminders and gentle pushes served as an incentive for us to sit down and do the things we said we’d do if we had more time. My current circumstance, if I would have let it, could have been inspirational. This was the time I had been waiting for, so why wasn’t I typing away? 

I imagined myself as an artist who was finally in their own element with nothing but time and energy to create. Cocooned away in blankets, frantically typing away at her next screenplay, she uses the time she would have spent commuting to work to instead perfect her craft. Or perhaps I’d relate more to a woman whose hands dance in the warm light streaming through the window. There are paint streaks on her cheeks and the coffee in her mug has gone cold.

Then, there is also the image of a struggling artist who perseveres against all odds. Their hand is shaking, but resolute, as they photograph minute details of their surrounding, working with what they have. This artist scrapes the barrel for their inspiration, regardless of the clamor outside. Fair. But we need to remind ourselves these are heavily romanticized ways of approaching creativity. 

Reading the pandemic was the perfect time to ‘write my book‘ made me feel discouraged. I felt bogged down. I was in mourning for the perfect end to my senior year that now would never be. Trapped in my room, I felt the need to escape. Writing allows me to delve deep into myself – something I could not have been bothered with before the pandemic hit. However, as any writer can tell you, it is an incredible feeling to share your work, but writing can be a terribly lonely and internal process.  

I wasn’t partaking in much leisure creativity in those early days. Even writing my college senior project, a creative fictional piece, felt like a chore. All my energy went into listening to the voices that streamed out of my laptop during the last of my online courses.

All I wanted to do was scoop out my mind and leave it in a warm tub to rest. I watched movies, listened to music, and chatted with my roommates, using up the energy I had left on reserve. I didn’t feel inspired to produce some great masterpiece. But I had all the time in the world to do it. Since I wasn’t going anywhere, why wasn’t I writing my book?

Weren’t the arts meant to be those places where we could escape from capitalist expectations of labor and product?

Over time, I felt myself spiraling. I didn’t have an idea of what I would write. I just felt like I had to make something productive out of my time. I genuinely felt I was going to disappoint myself either way, whether I chose to pick up my pen or not.

This is all sounding gloomy, but actually, there were times when I wanted to be creative. When I felt that sudden urge to set off and start working on a new piece of writing or pick up painting as a hobby. I knew when I started working I would feel good about it, but the benchmark had been set so high that I felt discouraged.

When I was packing up to move back home, I stumbled upon a product of my literary past. I had written up a small outline of a short story sometime in January. Immediately, I wanted to drop everything, move aside the boxes from my desk, and bring the story to life.

I had an epiphany- this mindset of creating perfect art was (and is) toxic. Creativity doesn’t have to be productive. Weren’t the arts meant to be an escape from capitalist expectations of labor and product?

I am not wasting my time even if nothing comes of the writing– I am perfecting a craft.

Art didn’t need to be performative either. It didn’t have to wear the fancy label of a ‘novel’ or perform for an audience. I didn’t need to parade around and place a glossy cover over the pages. Instead, I needed to give myself permission to not even have to finish whatever project was in my drafts. Ultimately, I must accept no creative pursuit is ever wasted. I am not wasting my time if nothing comes of the writing. Rather, I am perfecting a craft. As for talent, there is no wasting that unless I don’t use it. 

The sooner I realized I could follow my creative instincts without oppressive expectations, the sooner I felt creatively liberated. Whether it be through sporadically writing a scene of a story or picking up (and putting down) a paintbrush when I feel inclined, I shouldn’t have felt pressured to fully pursue my creative urges if I didn’t want to. I should be allowed to surrender to that flurry of excitement and passion to simply express myself. Then, when the passion was over, to let it go. Truly, I didn’t even have to show my creative work to anyone or look at it ever again. 

I am teaching myself creativity isn’t meant to always be translated into something productive. The funny thing is I often did return to those pieces and paintings and continued to work on them. But that was only possible when I didn’t feel the heavy benchmark of producing a bestseller or a museum-worthy mural on my shoulders.

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Career Life Stories Life

We need to celebrate professional milestones as much as personal ones

I have a bone to pick with personal celebrations. I can’t be the only one feeling ornery every time I log into my social media pages only to be bombarded with announcements of classmates (both from school and university), childhood friends, acquaintances, frenemies and random neighbor #85 are either a) tying the knot, b) engaged or c) welcoming a child. Whenever I voice my annoyance out to a close friend, they assure me that no I’m not alone in my feelings, it’s quite disconcerting being harassed by surprise proposal photoshoots, engagement photoshoots (of couples who met a few months ago), or the random maternity shoot.

Maybe I’m feeling a tad bitter that I’m all alone.

Or maybe it’s because we never celebrate our professional milestones the way we do for our personal ones.

I apologize if I sound acerbic but I’m at this phase in my life where I can’t bring myself to care that another one of my classmate’s or a former friend has decided to tie the knot. While I am happy that they’ve found their life partner and thrilled to see where their marriage takes them, I’m not going to give someone a pat on their back for doing what society expects all women. I find it very hard to show my support for creative or quirky engagement photoshoots, baby showers and lovey-dovey Facebook status messages when I barely get a half-hearted good job for moving up professionally.

Maybe it’s the fact that while in university, I had to listen to people giggle about their wedding plans without thinking about where they see themselves professionally. Yes, some people aren’t ambitious or they’re okay being the way they are. But we’re in 2021, women have moved past having conversations that sound like Florence Pugh’s Oscar-nominated monologue in Little Women, on why marriage is an economic proposition.

Love or relationships aren’t the only milestones worthy of celebrations in our lives.

Which is why I can’t help but wonder every time I go through a former classmate’s wedding album on Facebook, where did life take you? Where did you end up before you had your wedding?

Why aren’t any of the STEM ladies shouting about how they were a few of the women who attended a prestigious institution?

I wish I saw more social media posts that celebrated winning a prize, getting the keys to your own home, completing that always talked about documentary film, or even completing a thesis. I, for one, would love to see a woman posting about graduating with an honors degree and then uploading a photo of the said degree onto her socials while we read a lengthy post on her journey.

I wish we had more celebrations for people who completed their one-year anniversary getting sober, moving up in a company or even landing that dream internship they took based on pure nerve. I wish we didn’t only have LinkedIn to toot our professional horns on and that too, it’s always curated in a wholesome way that makes us women come off as unthreatening in our ambition.

I  would love to see that mini-Miranda Priestly (and no, I’m not talking about the toxic work culture she created but her perfectionist attitude that made her an industry titan) in the making’s professional journey.

Why don’t we boast about the power moves and games of strategy we play to get from point A to point Z?

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be celebrating personal milestones, but we need to stop placing a higher value on them than professional accomplishments. The world would profit from women who were more honest about their ambition – I would have loved to see peers celebrating their dreams in a public way.

What is wrong with flexing those years of blood, sweat and tears? After all, if you don’t hype yourself up – no one else is going to.

So take this piece of advice from me, do that ‘Just Got Promoted’ photoshoot because why not, it would be great for your ego and my timeline would greatly appreciate it.

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Celebrities Pop Culture

Joss Whedon has been accused of abusive behavior yet again

Followed by Ray Fisher’s allegations of abuse of power and misconduct by Joss Whedon, former Buffy the Vampire Slayer stars have come forward with their own experiences of alleged abuse by Joss Whedon. Much of these allegations repeat what others who have worked with Whedon have claimed over the years.

Earlier in July 2020, actor Ray Fisher reported allegations of abuse of power by Joss Whedon on the set of Justice League. He tweeted that Whedon’s behavior on the set was “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable.” These allegations were followed by a subsequent internal investigation launched by WarnerMedia. The statement from the company provided little explanation of the course of action it would pursue. However, Fisher has since refused to appear in any DC films.

On Wednesday 10th February, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia on Buffy, accused Whedon of abusing his power.

On Wednesday 10th February, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia on Buffy, accused Whedon of abusing his power. Carpenter has previously claimed that she was “afraid” to go public with her allegations, as it could considerably impact her career. However, in the wake of the MeToo movement and increased awareness and advocacy for women’s rights, she admitted she feels much more confident today coming forward with these allegations. Carpenter recalls being body-shamed by Whedon during her pregnancy and subsequently dropping out of the show. 

Carpenter was motivated to come forward in solidarity with Ray Fisher’s allegations against Whedon that made rounds in the news last summer. Amber Benson who played Tara on Buffy also issued a note of support for Carpenter and backed up Carpenter’s claims regarding Whedon’s behavior. In a tweet, she wrote:

Even Sarah Michelle Geller who played the titular character Buffy Summers came forward in support of her co-stars. In an Instagram post, she stated that while she is proud to be associated with Buffy Summers, she does not want to be associated with Joss Whedon forever. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Sarah Michelle (@sarahmgellar)

Geller’s partner Freddie Prinze Jr. said in 2003 that his wife has had to deal with a lot of nonsense behind the scenes on the show. We know that Whedon has publicly mocked Geller’s work in the past. He called her work in Cruel Intentions “a porny”, which Geller claimed to be “incredibly hurtful” to her. 

Michelle Trachtenburg, who played Buffy’s younger sister on the show, also asserted that Whedon did not display “appropriate behavior” around her as a teenager. However, Trachtenburg did not provide a detailed account of Whedon’s behavior. However, she did claim that there was a rule saying that Whedon “was not allowed in a room alone with Michelle again”.

Allegations about Whedon’s behavior have been surfacing for a while. The global successes of Marvel’s The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron directed by Whedon resulted in him being brought to direct competitor DC’s Justice League. It was a challenging production that was made worse by Whedon’s “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable” behavior according to Fisher.

Whedon has come under great scrutiny in recent years due to allegations of misconduct. He has had to leave several projects such as the Batgirl movie for Warner Bros., Pippa Smith: Grown-Up Detective for Freeform, and most recently The Nevers for HBO Max.

Whedon has yet to respond to the latest allegations made against him and his reps have refused to comment. However, what these recent allegations clarify is that toxic and abusive behavior by those who hold significant power is more prevalent than we imagine.

In the past, young actors were regularly villainized, it was Geller who bore the brunt of fan backlash, whilst Whedon always got a free pass and his career continued to grow. Whedon received praise and appreciation amongst fan circles for interacting with fans regularly through Buffy message boards. On the other hand, Geller was demonized for not accrediting Whedon and all that he did for her career.

In an increasingly evolving cultural climate, many people have come to realize that abusive behavior by those in positions of dominance is unacceptable. Those exploiting their power need to be held accountable. Despite being the victim, it took Carpenter almost a decade to gain the courage to finally share her story.

Abusers can have any gender, but most often in history, it’s been proven to be men who walk away with no consequences. We need to overcome the misogynistic patterns. Instead of being blindsided by the fame and praise of men in positions of power, we need to at the very least hear out the victims and recognize the existence of a pattern. Without this, we continue to fail the future generation of actors and actresses. 

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The Internet Pop Culture Interviews

Shahana Jan on inclusivity and being unapologetically herself in content creation

There’s something about content that comes from a place no one but the creators themselves choose to reach into.

Sure, there are videos and Instagram posts all dedicated to jumping in out a new trend,  or speaking out on a hot topic that has taken over social medias by storm. But rarely do we ever think about whether the content genuinely resonates with the creators themselves. 

Did they really want to make that dalgona coffee because they like coffee or was it just for the number of likes? Is so-and-so influencer genuinely passionate about the Black Lives Matter movement or #MeToo or do they just want to be seen as woke – they get attention either way, right?

We had the opportunity to speak to the amazing Shahana Jan recently. She’s an actor, director from Islamabad, Pakistan and a badass content creator whose Instagram has well over 40k followers! Her videos, particularly on IGTV, are mostly comedic and quirky takes on feminism, Desi culture, and tidbits in the world of content creation itself.

Her latest video, “Being a Feminist”, is a hilarious depiction of a client undergoing an evaluation for being a ‘satanic feminist’ with the diagnostician over-enthusiastically suggesting ways to quell the client’s thinking. The video has amassed over 46k views.


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I was recently called a ‘feminist’ like it was a problem. So I thought I’d explore that.

A post shared by S H A H A N A J A N (@ofshahanajan) on

Oh, and did I mention she directed a music video for Walk The Moon’s song “We Are The Kids”? That’s right. She set the music video in Islamabad, showing the resilience of street children, with the theme being about hope and the future being at the hands of all our children regardless of where they hail from. A beautiful piece of work, if I do say so myself.

In our conversation, Shahana talked about how she creates her content based on what she loves personally and what she’s passionate about. However, she clarified that she doesn’t mean to bash content creators who don’t. That’s just how she rolls and her audience seems to love it.

“I don’t enjoy jumping on trends as a creator if the trend itself doesn’t personally speak to me or if I don’t resonate with it.”

“Smart creators will know exactly how to create the moment a trend hits and capitalize on that,” Shahana said. “Because the trend is the current Insta pulse, content created in that window of time will get seen which leads to reach, engagement, ultimately numbers. I get it and I respect people who do it well. But personally I don’t enjoy jumping on trends as a creator if the trend itself doesn’t personally speak to me or if I don’t resonate with it.”

During quarantine, many creators have switched the direction of their content to reflect what most people are looking for, but that’s not what Shahana wants to do:  “I could treat creating content around trends such as banana bread or dalgona coffee as a creative challenge for the sake of jumping on the bandwagon and staying relevant. But I feel that in the process of it, I’m losing out on the authenticity of creating.”

“I actually don’t care about banana bread. I could’ve used that moment (it was trending) to explore banana bread as a creative challenge, but I have to ask myself why.”

Not many influencers would be so brave. “Because I actually don’t care about banana bread. I have no personal associations or memories with it. I don’t think I’ve ever ordered it off a menu of delicacies. So we could argue that because banana bread was trending, I could’ve used that moment to explore banana bread as a creative challenge, but I have to ask myself why. I’m not that kind of creator. Not every trend represents me or speaks to me.”

[Image Description: Shahana Jan wearing a white dress, standing in front of a grey and white background] Source:


This authenticity is what really speaks to me. One of my personal favorites videos from Shahana is one called “Shaadi Ke Baad” (After Marriage), which shows a Desi girl asking her mother if she could do things that range from travelling and dying her hair to ending world hunger and exploring quantum physics; at each of which, her mother keeps responding “shaadi ke baad.” 

It’s something pretty much EVERY Desi girl (including myself) has been told when they ask to live a little freely. Something fuelled by a long-standing patriarchal mindset that might just take a while to undo completely.  

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At one point in the video, the girl asks her mother whether she can masturbate, at which the mother hilariously responds with another “Shaadi ke baad” while suppressing an embarrassed grimace.

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An Autobiography

A post shared by S H A H A N A J A N (@ofshahanajan) on

“I wondered if this was inappropriate, whether this might turn people off because of the view a lot of people have of female sexuality, I even gave it thought in terms of engagement ‘Maybe this won’t be shared as much, maybe this video won’t be shared as much’ And for a moment, I thought of removing the part. But then I reminded myself that what I create needs to represent who I am. I am sex positive. And I believe that female sexuality and desire needs to be normalized. We need to stop shaming ourselves for what is innately our right to explore.”

“What I create needs to represent who I am…and humour is one of the greatest ways to slide in some healthy commentary.”

This is what happened next: “Humour is one of the greatest ways to slide in some healthy commentary. So I exhaled and kept the part in the video. And much to my surprise and pleasure, the video did well regardless. Sure it wasn’t shared as much as other videos have been, and I did receive a handful of objections but ultimately it was worth it. And encouraging.”

Oh, it was definitely worth it!

Some of the objections Shahana mentioned included Desi people pointing out that her feminist content may seem fine to her as someone living in the States, but that she should “stop corrupting our women!”

Funnily enough, her content has been mostly described as “extremely relatable and completely honest” by womxn in particular. And I agree with that wholeheartedly.

Seeing as Shahana officially moved to the US at the age of 28, her being born and spending 20 years in Pakistan would have actually enabled her to observe how the patriarchal system in the country has worked. And her content is the perfect example of tackling it. However, she knows that while feminism only recently picked up pace in the country, it may be a while before major concrete change is made.

Meanwhile, all we should do is keep pushing until the wall eventually falls down. Through whatever way we can.

[Image Description: Shahana Jan in front of a dark background] Source: Facebook

Aside from her videos, Shahana has also created her own platform called “Bhainhood” (‘Sister’hood) that welcomes womxn from all over the world, of all backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and the like. Most importantly, it welcomes all kinds of content from them; poetry, illustrations, videos, music, articles and everything in between.“While other places might have a higher standard when it comes to quality control, for Bhainhood all we want is to share content that’s original and comes from a place of truth for the creator. While we skew comedic, we’re not limited in genre.”

All we want is to share content that’s original and comes from a place of truth for the creator…we want to share the experiences of what it is to be in this body. On our terms through what is authentically our own narrative.”

“We are most open to collaborating with other genders but for now, the driving creative force must come from what is essentially womxn energy and that includes transgender women and also the non-binary. We want to share the experiences of what it is to be in this body. On our terms through what is authentically our own narrative.”

As someone who believes in the importance of one’s own passion being present in their creation and creating an inclusive community just as much as we do, she was an absolute pleasure to speak to. Shahana is clearly a witty and wonderful force of nature and she’s sure to leave a lasting impression on you! 

People like her prove that while content that is created based on trends ensures more engagement and marketability, there is something inherently special when content comes from what you hold dear in your heart. It may be too much, too harsh or too unrefined for people, and it may not even receive as much love as it should, but it is a piece of you in all its glory.

Even if it touches the hearts of a few and makes them feel seen and understood, you’re doing it right.

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Music Pop Culture

How Miraa May’s music helped me redefine femininity

Looking somewhat ethnically ambiguous has always been a bit of a trip. Especially for a woman or female-identifying person like myself, I’ve noticed that it always puts others on edge to not know how to make sense of me.

What I’ve found was that being Arab, or from the Gulf, can make people around you feel like you’re sensitive to everything. She lives in the co-ed dorms and wears crop tops, but she stays mostly to herself and is close friends with hijabi women. Can I crack a crude joke in front of her or will she be offended? Even though maybe they don’t mean to, they must wonder what ‘kind of woman’ I am. As if the binary is split evenly between a ‘sexual’ woman and a modest one; as if they are mutually exclusive. 

First impressions must be confusing. I don’t neatly fit into any of their preconceived notions, so it’s difficult to make assumptions about me. When I go out with friends and pass someone that’s seen me in class, they’ll stop me and say with bewilderment, “I never thought I’d see you here.” The same goes when I put on an abaya the next day and it seems like I’ve become someone else by the way people address me. Suddenly it felt strange for me to slouch or make certain jokes. 

At times, this becomes frustrating. Do I have to let go of a part of myself to be fully ‘understood’? Do I show more skin? Is that too much? Femininity, whatever that meant, seemed so abstract but, at the same time, I couldn’t find a place for me anywhere in it.

The way I approached love and sexuality depended on who I was as a woman, that’s the way I saw it. I could either be what I thought was traditional, swooning over someone I was interested in while remaining discreet and proper, or I could completely adopt a ‘men ain’t shit’ attitude and always look out for myself first, hence never letting anyone in. Needing someone terrified me as it felt like a threat to my independence, so I tended to go with the latter, which didn’t always work out well, as you can imagine. All of this combined took a devastating toll on my sense of self-worth.

That’s when Miraa May’s music came up as a recommended artist on Spotify. I decided why not, I’ll try out her top song  ‘I Don’t Want Ya (Didi)’. 

Just with the opening beats, I was hooked and I’ve had it on replay ever since. There was something about her music that put together puzzle pieces that were supposedly not meant to fit together. The song starts with traditionally Arab sounds, drumming and ululation, almost like it’s posing to be a ballad. Then it gives way to her voice crooning, “Ohh you lie. Tell me you care. But you don’t, don’t lie.” I felt my body thrumming, there was something about the music that made me feel alive.

As an artist, Miraa May is still relatively up-and-coming, but she has four albums under her belt and is still on the rise.

Born in Algeria but having spent most of her life in the UK, she infuses her music with Middle-Eastern type beats while weaving in her own edgy R&B style. But to put it that way would do it injustice, I think what draws me to her as an artist is that she doesn’t allow herself to be defined. In some tracks, Miraa May is defiant, not wanting to let anyone in, ‘I Don’t Want Ya (Didi)’ and ‘N15’ before turning over and showing a more vulnerable and warm side in ‘Travel Thoughts’ and ‘Benji’. 

Her lyrics are short but in no way simple. Her use of slang itself becomes a character, reminding her audience that singing about love doesn’t mean she has to give up her hard edges. I particularly love how she explores the duality of being a woman and approaching romance in her own way in the song ‘Woman Like Me’.

She sings about falling in love, describing it as: “It’s a rush, I’m in love but I’m not no victim. I’m a thug, you G’d up.” There is no distress in ‘falling’, she’s no victim shot with Cupid’s arrow. She isn’t burdened by the love she feels and she is unashamed of saying that she needs them, ending the song with ‘I need you.’ I admire how she can both be powerful as a ‘thug’ and still dependent in a way and  ‘in love’, something I’ve always approached as being mutually exclusive. 

I realized that what I saw as ambiguity in terms of my cultural background or my femininity, her music turned into complexity. Miraa May allowed me to think in a completely different way about myself. This is also reinforced by the way she dresses, in a street-style that is both androgynous and feminine. It feels like she writes her songs and lives based on the way she feels, rather than trying to make herself understood by others. I feel that approach is so crucial because the weight of trying to boil myself down to something understandable is stifling.  

All of this is to say that, in many ways, Mira May’s music redefines what it means to be an Arab woman. She brushes all of those labels off and does as she likes, as she should, like the lines in her song ‘Angles’, ‘Don’t fit in a box, I fit in a mansion’. There is nothing about Miraa May’s music that tries to cling to any convention. That makes me proud of myself for being unconventional. Her songs, particularly the album N15 has always stood out to me because of its cheek, that it is whimsical but also biting. 

Needless to say, Miraa May is an artist to look out for. Her unconventional attitude towards femininity and love has made me comfortable in my own skin as well as encouraged a healthier outlook on relationships

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Editor's Picks Self-Care Style Dedicated Feature Fashion Lookbook

I didn’t know what a parasol was until the pandemic happened. Now I’m obsessed.

Not too long ago, I decided to make like Marie Kondo and spend on the things that bring me joy.

Let me back up.

Most of my days are carefully planned, scheduled down to almost the minute.

When I’m not working at The Tempest, I’m managing my freelance writing, and perpetually side-hustling. Then, there are the demands of my personal life: helping family, attempting to be a responsible adult who pays bills on time, eating vegetables, and getting regular oil changes.

All while trying to cling to whatever kind of social life 2020 will allow.

While I like many of the things that I do, it means that I frequently overschedule myself. I bog down my days with things I “should” do and spend most of my free time thinking about everything I “could” be doing instead.

I bog down my days with things I “should” do. 

I was denying myself every small thing that brought me joy, and it was taking a toll on my mental health. Even when I should have been able to relax, my mind was still whirring.

Enter the pandemic and the general chaos that is 2020.

And the need to wear masks.

Mask(ing) On

At first, masks just seemed like functional necessities. Everyone acted like the pandemic was only going to last a few weeks, so why bother looking cute?

I bought a couple, cycling them out so I could wash them, but they weren’t much to write home about: it only took a few minutes for the soon-familiar feeling of soreness around my ears. Looking cute was just a fever dream, and any mask I put to use quickly began losing the elasticity that kept me perfectly distanced from the virus.

But then, I realized, if I have to wear a mask to prevent myself from potentially spreading or contracting a life-threatening virus, why not try to find something both functional and cute?

Easier said than done. I spent hours scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest, trying to keep my hopes up in finding the perfect mask that would save my life – literally and socially.

And then I found her.

That is, I stumbled on my friend’s Instagram post (who I then messaged ruthlessly until she spilled the beans about where she bought her mask).

Sleek, beautifully cut, patterns selected as though the company saw into my multi-hued soul. It was hard finding the perfect set because there were so damn many to choose from. Each one was created using African-inspired textiles, but I finally found her: defiantly patterned in turquoise and cream shades, made for a queen.

The brand, Crown Inspired, promised that the masks would keep pressure off one’s ears, never come loose, be dual-layered – and for those that want it – sport a pocket filter for that extra set of protection.

Of course, all of that could only be proven by wearing my new mask, so I put in the order and waited.

The Verdict

[Image Description: Lauren wearing a Crown Inspired face mask with a beautiful blue design and pattern] Credit: Rita Harper
I own several and this one is my favorite, by far.

Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it is also one of the most well-designed masks I’ve tried. It’s dual-layered with a large pocket filter (I was able to get two coffee filters inside with ease), but what I really love about it is the way the strings are designed.

They are crafted so that they do not place any pressure on the ears, but what’s more,  they are easily adjustable and the mask feels very secure.

I don’t find myself fidgeting with it as I do with my other ones, and the strings are long enough that I’m even able to tie a loose safety knot around the back so that I know it won’t budge.

Oh, and there’s something else.

I added something else to my shopping cart right before I hit checkout.

A parasol.

It’s gorgeous, but it also helps to protect me from UV rays while I stretch my legs by taking walks around the neighborhood, or go on my weekly trip to the grocery store.

(In case you’ve never heard of them, parasols are all about shielding our beautiful skin from the sun, not the rain. Reverse umbrellas for the win!)

But I like the parasol for reasons that go beyond skincare. The thing is that living through this year has taught me a lot about the way I move around the world.

Yes, I mean this in a practical sense, because I have to spend extra time assessing which stores feel safe to visit, what time I should go in order to avoid potential crowds, or if I can just order online and pick up in-store to avoid having to actually shop the sales floor, altogether.

But, I’ve also been thinking about the way I move through life emotionally.

How I Lost Myself

A long time ago, I made a commitment to take up more space. I made a conscious effort, and frankly, up until a few months ago, I thought I’d succeeded.

I didn’t realize how self-conscious I still was, or how much I shrunk myself in order to avoid the judgment of others…

…until I watched half of my country act a complete fool over being asked to simply attempt to stop the spread of a horrifyingly contagious virus by wearing face coverings.

If there were grown-ass adult women willing to turn a superstore upside-down because an employee asked them to don a mask in compliance with store policy, statewide mandates, or anything else, then why was I scurrying about, trying my best not to inconvenience anyone else or draw too much attention to myself?

A long time ago, I made a commitment to take up more space – but I failed. 

How many colorful jumpsuits or unnatural hair dyes have I passed up because I still cared about flying under the radar?

How many years did I go wearing stud earrings that I did not like because I was worried that hoops elevated my look a little too much?

What was the point of any of that?

Taking Up My Space

This? The parasol? Hell, this is a game-changer. When I whip it out, people immediately take notice, and I haven’t felt “extra” or “over-the-top.” I’m doing what I want to do and not worrying about what random people on the street think of my appearance.

Because when I whip it out, I’m going on a journey.

A journey to a place where I am drinking a perfectly chilled beverage, in a pretty glass, while strolling through wildflowers with my honey.

Spending my days reading, outside at the park, free of cat-calling and joy-killing mosquitoes. And should I decide to venture to the shops, every item of clothing I fancy will not only fit me just the way I like but will be well within my price range.

It’s a fantasy world that I’m living in, and I love it.

Oh, did I mention that the parasol matches the mask?!!?!

collage of a Crown Inspired parasol with a blue print, closed. and the same parasol open
[Image description: Crown Inspired parasol with a blue-print, closed // The same parasol, open.] Credit: Rita Harper
I couldn’t ask for a more perfect combo. I mean, how show-stopping is that?

You see a person walking down the street twirling a parasol, you instantly look over and wonder, “What is their deal? What do they know that I do not know?”

I am making it a point to get as much mileage out of this parasol as I can.

Then, imagine catching a glimpse of that person’s face and realizing that their mask is perfectly coordinated with their parasol?

A look. A moment.

A statement. 

But honestly? Most people are into it.

I’ve already gotten tons of questions about both the mask and the parasol, and I’ve loved those interactions, too. I will not be the least surprised if I spot more Crown Inspired parasols around my neighborhood in the near future.

The autumn rains have already begun here and just this afternoon, there was a slight chill in the air, so I am making it a point to get as much mileage out of this parasol before I have to break out the scarves. For my next outing, I shall grab an iced cold brew coffee and stroll about the area without a care in the world.

lauren is sitting in front of a fountain on a ledge wearing a Crown Inspired face mask and holding a matching parasol to go with it
[Image description: Lauren is sitting in front of a fountain on a ledge wearing a Crown Inspired face mask and holding a matching parasol.] Credit: Rita Harper
Because, when it comes to parasols? They’re absolutely perfect for that.

Especially during a global pandemic.

P.S. I figured you’d want to rock your own beautiful tee, too, so here’s an amazing 15% discount that Crown Inspired gifted you: just enter TEMPEST15 at checkout. Get your own now!


I was sexually harassed online and no longer feel safe on the internet

Trigger warning: mentions of online sexual harassment.

I was in 9th grade when a guy called me on Skype with a fake identity and masturbated. It began when I received a message on my Facebook account from a girl I had a few mutuals with. I glanced at the mutuals and did not for a second think that this might be a fake account. I read the message and it said that she had to tell me something very important. I didn’t initially respond but messages from this account lashed down on my message box unabated. 

I finally messaged this girl, asking her what she wanted to tell me. She said she’d tell me on Skype. “It’s important and best if we talked,” read the black letters on my screen. I gave her my Skype account details but I was suspicious so I covered my camera and blanked the screen. She was doubtful if I was still listening. She typed “show me your hands” in the chat because she wanted to make sure I was there, falling deeper into her trap. Then she turned on her camera. At that point, I wasn’t even sure if it were a “she”.

I’ve told you already what I saw next. It was a man masturbating. The person asked me again if I was there. I looked in disgust at the words that glimmered in the chatbox. I tried to swallow but my mouth was dry.

His presence remained unscathed, but I was traumatized for life. 

I turned off my computer after I understood what was happening. I felt so scared. Never in my wildest imagination had I thought that I could be sexually harassed online. I was young. I was innocent. I was naive. I didn’t believe in the worst side of this world.

I didn’t realize what was happening right in front of me. I was breathing heavily and feeling so scared. When I turned my computer off, I was winded like someone had punched me in the gut. 

Sexual harassment has a way of making you feel so unsafe, regardless of the form. Even though the offender sat on the other side of the screen, I felt like he was right there. I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t know why he did this. And I didn’t know if I could ever confront him on what he did. His presence remained unscathed, but I was traumatized for life. 

It happened again, one summer evening, on Snapchat.

Snapchat was trending in those days and, like everyone else, I jumped onto it. My account was new and I was still in the process of adding all my friends. And then, history repeated itself. A few years later, I received videos—this time from three accounts—of men masturbating. I immediately blocked those accounts. I was disgusted.

Who were these people? Why did they send me inappropriate, explicit, and disgusting content? Where they got my username from? I never found out.

Online sexual harassment is devastating, and the obnoxious content that you’re presented with can last in your memory forever.

I just know that both these incidents were extremely disturbing. I felt stupid for becoming a part of someone’s sexual activities and letting them manipulate me. I felt abused. I felt like it was my fault. 

Most girls experience electronic harassment at some point in their life. Sometimes, it’s very graphic. Other times, it’s presented to them as sexually explicit messages from real or fake accounts. Either way, it’s equally devastating, unpleasant and inappropriate. 

I still have so many messages on my social media accounts sent in by people I have never known in my life—asking me for sexual favors, complimenting me, or simply saying “hi”. I don’t read them, or respond to them. I tell myself they’re not worth my time. 

But deep down, I still feel afraid. If these men are so frustrated that they can slip into a girl’s inbox they’ve never known or met, what must they be like in real life? 

Online sexual harassment is devastating, and the obnoxious content that you’re presented with can last in your memory forever. And even years later, it can make you feel the same way—afraid, anxious, in disbelief. It lives with you. It breathes in your memory reminding you of what you endured. 

If these men are so frustrated that they can slip into a girl’s inbox they’ve never known or met, what must they be like in real life? 

To all the girls reading this—your experiences of sexual harassment are real despite what anyone tells you, or how many times you let them go because you didn’t want to make things messier. Don’t listen to people who degrade you. Don’t feel afraid of the world. And don’t let anyone invalidate your experience.

I believe you. I hear you. I see you. And I always will.