Health Care Health

A woman discovers she has two vaginas—but why did it take her doctors 25 years to realize it?

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

I was today years old when I discovered a person could be born with two vaginas.

It was a typical Thursday night for me. I was swiftly approaching too many hours spent scrolling on TikTok when I stumbled upon a now-viral video posted by TikTok user @britsburg, Brittany Jacobs. Like most stitched TikToks, the video started with a prompt: What is something a doctor completely ignored you about when clearly there was something wrong? Jacobs immediately claims, “I’m about to own this!”

And own it she does. Jacobs goes on to reveal she was born with two vaginas. This is actually a rare genetic condition known as double uterus or uterus didelphys, which means a person is born with two uteri and potentially two cervixes as well. Typically, a baby’s uterus originates from two small tubes called Mullerian ducts that eventually fuse together while the baby is still in its mother’s womb. With uterus didelphys, however, the tubes never fuse and instead remain divided by a thin membrane.

Pretty cool, right? Well, not exactly.

Jacobs explains that every month, she experiences two painful periods, heavy bleeding, and painful sex. When she was pregnant with her son, she only carried on one side. The only reason she found out about her condition is because a nurse noticed it when she was giving birth to her son.


#stitch with @omqgabbi HOW DO YOU NOT NOTICE THAT LIKE WHAT. #UD #BiggerIsBetter #ShowerWithMoxie #uterusowner #womenempowerment #momsoftiktok

♬ original sound – Britsburg

My first thought after watching this TikTok a few more times was how did the doctors not catch this earlier? As a 25-year-old woman, Jacobs has technically been going to the doctors for 25 years, including gynecologist and obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) visits. The side effects she listed should have clued her doctors into her condition long before she delivered her son.

But this isn’t actually all that shocking when we take into account how modern medicine often fails minority communities.

Historically, medical institutions have long upheld racism and sexism. This deadly combination has culminated for hundreds of years and put many BIPOC in danger. Black women especially are often taken advantage of and dismissed by practicing doctors to this day, with many Black women going on TikTok to discuss why doctors need to do better.


#stitch with @omqgabbi consistently failed by doctors #fyp #doctorfail #listentoblackwomen

♬ original sound – Meikoshi

In fact, doctors’ implicit race- and gender-based bias has put many Black women in jeopardy. The medical industry’s malpractice has contributed to horrible statistics like 40% of Black women being more likely to die from breast cancer compared to white women and Black women being three times more likely to suffer from severe complications from childbirth than white women—both of which could be lower if proper care had been provided by medical professionals.

While egregious facts like these have roots tracing back throughout U.S. history, it’s important to note that “history” doesn’t always mean very long ago.

In the 20th century alone, federally-funded programs included forced sterilizations of immigrants, people of color, including 70,000 Native American women, poor people, unmarried mothers, people with disabilities, and the mentally ill. And, like most of American racism, this practice carried over into the 21st century. Between 2006 and 2010, California prisons authorized the sterilization of 144 female inmates, a majority of whom were Black or Latina.

Let’s say Jacobs did share her ailments with her doctors prior to her pregnancy. Even then there is still the possibility that her doctors dismissed her pain because she’s a woman.

In the 19th century, “hysteria” was often used to “diagnose” women and force them into mental institutions. At the time, it was perfectly okay for husbands to admit their wives to these institutions without the women’s consent. Postpartum depression, infertility, masturbation, and homosexuality were also reasons women were placed in mental institutions.

It’s important to know this history, wrought with the trauma and pain of racism and sexism because we need to be better about holding the medical industry accountable.

I think one of the reasons why we as a society have failed at this is because of doctor dramas like Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, The Good Doctor, House, and more—all of which can be viewed as the medical equivalent of Brooklyn Nine-Nine cop propaganda.

Doctor dramas often show medical professionals going the extra mile to deliver care to their patients. For example, Meredith Grey has been suspended, fired, arrested, and jailed throughout her story’s 17 seasons. She usually faces these consequences because she broke rules in order to help save her patients.

But doctors outside of dramas are not always known for having this same level of dedication. Many of my friends and coworkers struggle with chronic illness and have shared stories about having to convince their doctors to take them seriously and administer a diagnosis.

In addition, people with disabilities reportedly receive inferior health care because less than 20 percent of medical schools teach their students how to talk to patients with disabilities. Furthermore, patients with disabilities are often otherized, which adds a psychological toll for these patients who are already having to advocate for and even explain their medical care to their doctors.

Though we’re told to trust our doctors, this is often easier said than done for many communities. Women of color, especially Black and Native American women, and people with disabilities face discrimination in the medical industry every day, with many people struggling for years to demand proper medical treatment. If our doctors don’t see anything wrong with that, then they are part of the problem.

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Editor's Picks Culture Gender & Identity Life

I’m not Latina, I’m Hispanic —& there’s a major reason why that matters

On the outside, I don’t look like a foreigner.

I am fair. I am European.

Therefore, I should naturally understand “traditional American” things right? You know, burgers, the 4th of July, the Christian family with the white picket fence. All those things that are “culturally American” that you see in the movies.

Well, I don’t. They are foreign to me.

However, there is a community within the States that doesn’t feel foreign to me, despite it not being created by people from my own country: the Latinx one.

I speak Spanish and share most of the customs and traditions of the Latinx community: the emphasis on food, the huge families, the extroverted personalities, even the heroes and icons.

We all admire García Márquez, Cortázar, and García Lorca. We dance to Shakira, Rosalía, and Enrique Iglesias. We celebrate these people that have done wonders for the Spanish language independently of their national origin.

However, when I fill out a diversity form in the United States, I always have to stop and think.

Most likely, there is a “white” category, and a “Hispanic/Latinx” one.

What am I supposed to say? Ultimately, even though I am white and Spanish, I cannot call myself a “Latinx”, because I know that this term does not match my experience.

I share a lot of things with Latinx people, yet I am also a foreigner there. Let me explain why.

I prefer to call myself ‘Hispanic’ rather than ‘Latina’.

“Latinx” is a term used to refer people with a Latin American origin that live in the United States. In turn, “Latin America” encompasses generally all of the American territories except for the U.S. and Canada.

The term was coined in the 1860s when Napoleon III was trying to exert control over the region. The use of this word served to create a connection between the region and France, by making a reference to the fact that their languages share a Latin origin.

Yes, Spanish, Portuguese, and French all come from Latin.

But, while European nations can trace their languages through a slow evolution from its Roman predecessor that took hundreds of years, Latin American nations can date to the day the moment that their countries started to speak Spanish. or Portuguese.

Why? Because it wasn’t a gradual process, it was a forceful imposition.

The term “Latino/a”, is tied to two colonisations: the one by the Spanish and Portuguese in the 16th century, and the 19th-century attempt of Napoleon III to repeat it. Since then, the term has been reclaimed and shifted into “Latinx” to avoid the gender aspect.

When they hear it, people think of reggaeton, not Napoleon III. However, as much as I like the comradery that it now fosters, it’s not a term for me to reclaim.

Although I could technically be classified as “Latina”, using the historical definition, I usually prefer to identify as “Hispanic”.

This is because of several things, but mainly the color of my skin, and the ocean that separates colonizers from colonialized countries.

After all, I am white, I look white, and I have never faced hate or difficulties because of my race. I have a European passport, which makes it very easy for me to immigrate. I come from a country that enslaved and mistreated a whole continent.

I am privileged, and I am aware of it.

I am privileged, and I am aware of it.

The reason why Latin American people and Spaniards have such similar culture is that, at one moment in time, there was a distinctive attempt to make it the same.

Violence was even used to make sure that it was so.

Latin America is largely Catholic because indigenous people were forcibly converted by colonizers. Our common Christmas traditions and holidays are tied to this religion. Latin America speaks Spanish because that’s the language that conquistadores imposed on the land, and the one they made laws and business in.

Our similarities are not a coincidence. They are a direct consequence of historical actions.

Calling myself “Latinx” would be an attempt to erase that history and the painful reasons why we share language and traditions.

Moreover, our cultures sport their differences.

A big part of Latin American identity is mestizaje, the mix between Spanish and indigenous cultures such as the Aztec, the Mayan, and the Inca cultures.  That is a beautiful and valuable heritage that I do not feel comfortable claiming, because I don’t share it.

Calling myself “Latina” would undermine the importance of this indigenous heritage, as well as the experience of the conquest, and the terrible historical consequences that it had. I cannot avoid the many deaths and abuses that Latin American populations suffered as a result of my country’s desire for riches.

Moreover, using this word to identify myself would also undermine the privilege I have because of my race.

I have never faced the stereotypes regarding my income, my immigration status, or my involvement in criminal activities that often accompany Latinx people living in the States.

It would be foolish of me not to admit that Latinx people do face discrimination even here in Spain.

They’re often seen as foreigners and treated as ‘less than’  because of their accent or skin-color. I hate to admit it, but it’s the truth.

However, when we are all far from home, in a non-Speaking country, the situation changes. We cling to what we recognize as similar and celebrate the customs that we share, like a common language.

In the U.S., the Latinx community makes me feel at home.

In comparison to English or American culture, the Latinx one is much more similar to my own. I never claim to be a part of it, but it makes me feel at home.

The term “Hispanic” comes from “Hispania” which is the old word for Spain. It, therefore, refers to people that come from Spain or that speak Spanish.

This word makes me much for comfortable because it stresses my language and my culture, rather than my ethnicity.

Saying that I am “Hispanic” is not an attempt to pretend to be better than the Latinx community. I use it as a form of respect, and as a way of celebrating our shared cultures while also acknowledging our different experiences, and the painful history that explains why we share a language.

I want to be respectful of the experience of Latinx people while also celebrating our similarities and connecting with a community that I feel very close to.

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USA Politics Inequality

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez secures a second term in Congress and continues to inspire young Latinas

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, commonly known as AOC, became the youngest woman ever elected into Congress in 2018 and since then she has taken the country by a storm. Recently, she secured her reelection as U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th Congressional District for a second term at the New York Primary on July 23rd, winning over 70% of the votes from her district.

AOC had a high profile election back in 2018 when she challenged and beat 10-term incumbent Joe Crowly. Since then, she has been one of the most talked-about politicians in America. With a platform based on progressive policies such as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and the abolition of ICE, among many other things, she is a known advocate for the people as a Democratic Socialist. She even runs on grassroots campaigns, raising over $10.5 billion in her 2020 election campaign and refusing to take any money from big corporations. 

Also, as a Bronx-born Puerto-Rican woman, AOC is vocal about and doesn’t shy away from her background, being that she grew up in a working-class family and experienced first hand the needs of her community. AOC is not only a social justice warrior, but she embodies so many of the more important values of justice, equity, and bringing the needs of her community to the forefront of policymaking. 

I have been continuously inspired by AOC and the work that she does, as well as the representation she brings into politics. I will never forget when she got sworn into Congress wearing her signature red lipstick and hoops. When met with praises from young women for her boldness she tweeted, “Next time someone tells Bronx girls to take off their hoops, they can just say they’re dressing like a Congresswoman.” As a young Latina from the Bronx myself, AOC has taught me that professional success should never come at the cost of my identity. 

By using social media to her advantage, AOC has been able to win over many young people throughout the years. She takes to Twitter to engage her constituents and is even known for her Instagram Live sessions where she will perform regular tasks at home while talking with her followers. She is my definition of a modern-day politician and someone who is not afraid to use her platform or her voice to stand up for issues that are deeply impacting her community. 

Most notably, AOC believes that every American should have a decent living wage on the basis that no person should be simply too poor to live. She states, “I was born in a place where your ZIP code determines your destiny.” In America, this statement is very real, with the Bronx being home to some of the poorest districts in the country. That is why she fights for low-income New Yorkers every day. 

Just like her, I have not only faced many adversities throughout my upbringing in the Bronx, but also throughout my professional career, many of these rooted in the fact that young Latinas from the Bronx are rarely accepted in places of privilege. As someone who is pursuing a career in the public sector, I have learned a lot about the hardship that women of color face in these spaces. From having to code-switch in different environments to having all eyes on me when I enter a room with my big curly hair, I have experienced first-hand judgment based on my identity. 

AOC’s high-profile career means that those afflictions are most likely, and inevitably, multiplied. 

Though she has many fans, AOC is also met with a lot of haters, critics, and even death threats. One of her more famous trolls is President Donald Trump, who often takes to Twitter to publicly bash and criticize the young congresswoman on her background, policy proposals, and values, recently calling her an “embarrassing, barely literate moron” for a comment she made about billionaires being made in a corrupt system. Which, by the way, she isn’t wrong about and Donald Trump is just being a hater of anything far-left or remotely progressive, as always. 

However, despite all that has been stacked up against her she’s regarded every situation with much grace. Not to mention that she has maintained wisdom, poise, and morality along the way, knocking out each hardship with prosperity. AOC continues to show me that representation matters in politics as she advocates for her constituents in a way that only someone with lived experiences of the community could. 

The New York Primaries were packed with new candidates for almost every district, many of which were on the ballot for the first time challenging incumbents. In the Bronx, AOC had rivals who certainly did not believe in and even critiqued the work she currently does. 

As we all know and have learned through the current political climate, it’s OK to not agree with your favored politicians all the time. Even I don’t always agree with some of the things AOC says or some of the decisions she makes, but I do know that she has good intentions and keeps the overall needs of her constituents at the forefront of mind when doing her job. 

As a young Latina from the Bronx, seeing someone like AOC as a high profile politician gives me hope that more people like us can go on to serve our communities. As she recently tweeted, her victory in the New York primaries on June 23rd shows that “the people’s movement in NY isn’t an accident. It’s a mandate.” As we move forward in this unprecedented and highly political circumstance, I expect her to be nothing less than a key player. AOC is a change-maker that continues to inspire the masses of young public service leaders, in addition to young Latinas like myself, all over New York City.

Race Music Inequality

Dear Latinx artists, your silence is very loud right now

Social media and celebrities have played a huge role in the recent explosion of Black Lives Matter protests and anti-racist advocacy. Due to the influence that media has had in today’s society, many people respond to what prominent artists and celebrities are doing because of the reach of their platforms.

As someone who is bilingual, I am fortunate enough to be able to access celebrities, their content, and art in both English and Spanish. However, the current political climate has made me realize how problematic the Latinx community of artists can be when it comes to supporting the Black community.

Especially in these times, it is important to pay attention to what people with big platforms are saying, and silence is also very loud

The Latinx community already suffers from racism and colorism rooted in a deep history of oppression by our own people. Many older generations of Latinx and Hispanic folk have been taught that people with darker skin have less inherent worth, feeding into racist beliefs.

Historically, the entertainment industry has heavily relied on colorism and has perpetuated the belief that lighter skin is more beautiful. Even in telenovelas, lighter-skinned actors typically play the leads while darker-skinned actors played the villains.

This is the type of colorism that is maintained in the industry. 

The sad truth is that folks learn from what they are seeing on the media.

I see this in my own family members who are from the Dominican Republic and have darker skin. They have tried to lighten or bleach their skin to look more “beautiful” like the women they see on TV.

I see this in the way many Ecuadorians in my family tell me not to marry a Black man because God forbid my children are mixed and end up with darker skin and “nappier” hair than mine.

These are the kinds of mentalities that we have to challenge in our communities. 

There have even been many instances in which non-Black celebrities fail to acknowledge their privilege and the struggles of the Black community. Just recently a very prominent Latina rapper Karol G made a comment saying that “All Lives Matter,” and completely disregarded the point of the Black Lives Matter movement. In the past, even Latina actress Gina Rodriguez has made comments rooted in colorism and completely dismissing the Black community’s struggle. Antiblackness is alive and well in the Latinx community. 

Celebrities and artists must use their platforms to challenge these misconceptions about race and color.

This is not the time for Bad Bunny to completely go M.I.A. on Instagram just because, all of a sudden, he can’t continue to promote his music.

This is not the time for Jennifer Lopez to say that “All Lives Matter,” which is an argument that has been used as a counterargument to the Black Lives Matter movement. As young Latinxs like myself try to educate our communities, it is also important to artists who our family members look up to help us and help the cause.

The gag is…racism is bad for all of us.

Black, brown, or any other type of minorities are all affected by racism to some degree. It is time that Latinxs start to understand this and realize that we must fight for our Black brothers and sisters. In this time we want to educate Latinx and Hispanic folk who blatantly disregard their ancestry and participate in colorism.

As some of my favorite American and English-speaking artists have used their platforms to spread messages supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, I am highly disappointed in the lack of response from some Latinx artists and celebrities.  Now, I personally hate the narrative that you have to post all you do on social media.

It’s as if they’re thinking, “my donation to a local bail fund doesn’t count unless everyone sees it,” and I’m sure there are many celebrities who feel the same way. 

Even before the global pandemic and the recent brutal murders of innocent Black people, there were many celebrities who were donating to many important causes or participating in philanthropic work to some degree and not posting about it. I completely support doing that, but not in the current state of the world. 

Especially in today’s political climate, these false ideas about identity and worth of a human based on their skin color can be detrimental to some communities. The recent protests and lootings in my community of the Bronx have highlighted how some Latinx and Hispanic people are blatantly racist against Black folks, ignoring the intention behind the protests and feeding into the narrative that they are “criminals” or “thugs,” in some instances even supporting the actions of police because of their deeply rooted racism.

This is my call to Latinx artists and celebrities to use their platforms as a way to educate their communities about the danger of spreading racist and colorist mentalities in these times. This is a time in which we must unite to fight the white supremacy and all systems of injustices that are in place to help us fail. This is for our own future success and for the greater good of society. Please question your silence and acknowledge the privilege you have to be able to stay quiet.

As celebrities, their reach to millions of people from the Latinx and Hispanic communities is a privilege that should be used for good in these times.

I am disappointed that they have not gotten the message, but it’s not too late. Stand with us now as we fight for Black lives and fight for a more vibrant future in which the color of a person’s skin won’t be a death sentence.

This is not just a moment.

The Black Lives Matter movement won’t die down even if the protests do.

If Latinx artists don’t speak up, they will be adding to the polarization of marginalized communities of people and continue perpetuating racist and colorist beliefs. 

LGBTQIA+ History Historical Badasses Gender Inequality

Remembering unsung hero of Pride Sylvia Rivera: a transgender rights activist queen

On this Spirit Day, I would like to remember a hero of the LGBTQ+ community who fought for our rights back when being an activist meant to physically have to fight the oppressing hegemony.

Sylvia Rivera was a radical queer Latinx and trans-woman who dedicated her life to activism. Sylvia was born in the Bronx to a Puerto Rican father and Venezuelan mother. In her early childhood, Sylvia lived with her grandmother who was very disapproving of young Sylvia’s, then called Ray, effeminate ways. Sylvia was always very confident in herself, even at a young age when she began experimenting with makeup as a young boy she was proud of who she was. 

When Sylvia started getting bullied at school and kids around her neighborhood started calling her “pato,” or faggot, her grandmother kicked her out. Sylvia left the only place she could call home at the age of ten and headed to the 42nd Street Christopher Street docks in Manhattan where a lot of homeless people in the gay community took refuge. This was both the start of Sylvia’s introduction to drugs, alcohol, prostitution, systematic abuse and, as a result, her rise to becoming martyrs for the trans community.

One of Rivera’s most notable contributions, amongst many radical demonstrations for legal reform, was her rebellion at the Stonewall Uprising in 1969. Imagine enjoying a night out with your friends in one of the very few spaces you felt safe in. Imagine there being community and solidarity in the midst of a good time only to once, again as was routine, have the scarcity of the space raided by police who have come to do what they always do — harass and arrest you for being you. The Stonewall Bar in the East Village of NYC was that space for marginalized groups of queer trans people of color.

 The Stonewall Uprising changed what had been thought to be possible before. Thereafter there was a collective effervescence in the community to stand up for themselves. In an interview with Seymour Pine, the responding Deputy Inspector, admitted the night of the Stonewall Uprising was everything but submissive. Pine recalls, “For some reason, things were different this night. As we were bringing the prisoners out, they were resisting.

The police were held hostage inside of the bar for almost 45 minutes, in which time “nearly two thousand people” had congregated outside of the bar yelling, “Police brutality! Let’s get ‘em! We’re not going to take this anymore!” The doors to the bar were pushed down and Molotov cocktails started flying across the bar. Sylvia was one of the first trans queens who threw one of the first bottles at the Stonewall Uprising. She recounts, “I said to myself in Spanish… oh my God, the revolution is finally here! And I just like started screaming “Freedom! We’re free at last!”

As a Latinx trans woman living in the 60’s, Sylvia Rivera experienced a lot of discrimination and made it her life’s mission to advocate for those being left behind by mainstream gay rights activism — poor queer people of color and transgendered people. Together with Marsha P. Johnson, one of Rivera’s lifelong friends and a self-identified queen herself, Rivera founded the Street Trans Action Revolutionaries (STAR)a revolutionary organization that started with a political analysis centering gender self-determination and homeless trans people of color, most of whom did sex work. Sylvia knew first hand what it felt like to be a victim of systematic poverty, racism, and homophobia and didn’t want other’s feeling alone the way she did growing up. 

Sylvia Rivera is well known to many people in Latinx feminist and queer spaces. However, to others like me for whom identifying as queer is a recent thing, I didn’t know there was so someone in history with so much courage with whom I’d share so identities — Latinx, born to immigrant parents, from the Bronx, we both grew up exploring the streets of New York City, and who has an open view of gender expression.

As a child of immigrant parents often times it’s hard to find heroes from your same background in the United States with whom to resonate with. For me, Sylvia Rivera’s courage makes me more comfortable being Latinx and queer. It’s important that we all remember those who came before us and who fought for change. It is in part thanks to Sylvia if I am free to be who I am today.

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Movies Pop Culture

Here’s why I absolutely cannot wait for the reboot of ‘Charmed’

’90s babies can rejoice at the fact that a reboot of Charmed is nearly here. When I heard the news, I was incredibly excited – after all, Charmed was my favorite childhood show ever. I was also worried: the Rocky Horror reboot was a fuckup, and I don’t want my dear Halliwell sisters to be disrespected in the same way.

But so far, the reboot looks promising. The CW has promised that the fresh take on the ’00s classic will be more feminist, which is already interesting. The cast of the reboot includes Madeleine Mantock, Melonie Diaz, and Sarah Jeffery. This is exciting because the three main actors are Latina – which is quite a change from the previous cast, which wasn’t diverse at all. More excitingly, it looks like Diaz’s character is entangled in a romance with a detective played by Ellen Tamaki. The original show looks pitifully white and straight in comparison to the reboot. Not to mention that it includes Rose McGowan who’s seriously such an asshole nowadays.

[bctt tweet=”The ‘Charmed’ reboot will include people of color and queer women – making the original look pitifully white and straight in comparison.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Growing up, Charmed was one of my favorite shows ever. It ran between 1998 and 2005. Since every show hit South Africa slightly later than it hit the states, I watched it when I was about 7 to 12 – meaning Charmed was a huge part of my childhood. Now that I’m a practicing witch and Pagan myself, my love for witchy things has only deepened.

Jessica Lange in 'American Horror Story: Coven'. She's putting on a pointy witch hat and saying, "Who's the baddest witch in town?"
Image description: Jessica Lange in ‘American Horror Story: Coven’. She’s putting on a pointy witch hat and saying, “Who’s the baddest witch in town?” Via GIPHY

Firstly, something I love about Charmed is the clothing. Every time I re-watch an old episode, I feel like I got sucked in a time machine and landed in the early ’00s. The Halliwell sisters often take advantage of the vampish, witchy fashions that were popular at the time. They often sported crushed velour, scalloped hems, chokers, cowboy boots and slip dresses – and, because of the cyclic nature of fashion, those looks were really in last year. I envied the Halliwell sisters’ wardrobes, and I still do.

My love for Charmed goes deeper than the sartorial choices, though. The show was an exciting mixture of action and drama. On the one hand, the Halliwell sisters had to navigate normal social issues, like their careers, their relationships with one another, their romantic lives, motherhood, and grieving over their sister. On the other hand, they were badass witches – the most powerful witches in the world, in fact – working together to save the world and protect their loved ones from evil supernatural beings.

[bctt tweet=”The appeal of Charmed is just like the appeal of witchcraft itself. It epitomizes power within femininity.” username=”wearethetempest”]

The appeal of Charmed is just like the appeal of witchcraft itself. It epitomizes power within femininity. It combines nurturing and action, femininity and toughness, emotionality and a willingness to fight. The sisters have men in their lives who care for them, but they’re more than capable of protecting themselves.

A GIF of Rose McGowan playing Paige in 'Charmed'. She's saying, "Power's good. I like power."
Image description: A GIF of Rose McGowan playing Paige in ‘Charmed’. She’s saying, “Power’s good. I like power.” Via GIPHY.

For example, think about Piper – she stops at nothing to protect her family from harm, she manages to manage a club and then a restaurant, she’s a great mother, wife, and sister and a brilliant witch. She’s tough, brilliant, and matriarchal – and I love complex multi-dimensional female characters. None of the witches are forced to choose between their magic ancestry and their families, as for them it’s one and the same. They all go on to have three children each while maintaining their identity as witches. Essentially, they end up passing their magic onto future generations.

Something I love about witchcraft is that it shows us how magic in the traditionally ‘feminine’ crafts – potion-making, cooking, herbalism, nurturing. Scrying, which is using a crystal to find someone or something, is such a mom activity – if anyone can find something I lost in my room, it’s my mom. At the same time, it rejects notions of traditional femininity because it contradicts the idea that women should be powerless. While femininity is often seen as weaker than masculinity, magic suggests that there is a power beyond societal oppression – a power that can be on the side of the marginalized. Magic isn’t limited to women – most traditions allow men and non-binary people to practice – but it certainly subverts gender roles.

[bctt tweet=”Witchcraft shows us how magic in the traditionally ‘feminine’ crafts while rejecting traditional notions of femininity.” username=”wearethetempest”]

That’s something that I’d really love to see from the reboot of Charmed – more feminism, more gender-role-challenging, and more bold clothing choices (really, I don’t want to seem shallow, but the clothing is really important to me). The original Charmed was praised by critics for its pop-culture timing, and it looks like the reboot has the timing right too. Now that both representation in pop-culture and witchcraft are timely topics, the show looks like it’s primed to do well. Let’s hope the reboot doesn’t disappoint!

Gender & Identity Life

My life on an island feels more like life in prison, and I have no way to change it

It was a little past 8 p.m. when my friend took an Uber home and I decided to walk the two minutes to my apartment. It was a Monday evening, and we were returning from “two for one mojito” at our favorite little spot in the neighborhood of Los Jardines in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

My hair was in a messy bun and I hadn’t retouched my makeup from earlier in the day. I rocked my favorite pair of black leather booties with a two-inch kitten heel. Ever since I had 15 stitches on my right knee from a hiking accident a taller heel isn’t really an option. I wore black skinny jeans and a beautiful dark magenta huipile (pronounced wee-peel) from Guatemala.

I crossed the street to the farmacia (pharmacy) so I wouldn’t be in the dark. And it was there that two men solicited me for sex. It was more than typical catcalls, more than the whistling, this time it was an actual solicitation. Was it the fact that we had made eye-contact for a split-second prior to my crossing the street? Did they believe this form of recognition, what I refer to as scanning my surroundings, to be an open invitation for sex? Or was it the fact that I was clearly not Dominican, not gringa, so they assumed I was Venezolana ? There were two connotations for Venezolana. One meant a person from Venezuela. The other was slang for a sex worker.

Either way, I know better than to converse with two perverts at night so close to home. With my head held high, I clutched a pink mini-pepper spray my dad gifted me when I had moved to Costa Rica in 2011 and quickly continued on my way.

It had only been a few seconds since my encounter, when I let out a breath of relief to have safely turned the corner, now with my apartment building in sight, just a minute from opening the gate and unlocking the glass door to enter the complex.

I thought I was safe, until I heard, “Oye mami, que tu haces? Ven mami” (Hey baby, what you doing? Come here baby!) from a creep in the driver side of a gray, tinted window, four-door Camry. In high school, my best friend drove the same car except her car was black and the windows weren’t tinted.

This guy slowed his car down and continued to harass me.

He also attempted to solicit me for sex. It hadn’t even been a minute since my last encounter, and already again, twice in less than a minute. The other two stayed behind, this one didn’t. He had a car, followed me, and approached me even though I told him NO and ignored his advances. I quickly walked to the nearest bar and waited for him to leave. He waited a few minutes, and finally left after the bouncer asked him why he was blocking their entrance. The bouncer was an acquaintance. He knew.

The bouncer made sure the car was out of sight and walked me home.

I was livid. No woman should have to experience or expect this inappropriate misogynistic kind of behavior from grown people. I am not a sex worker – and even then, there’s nothing wrong with sex work as long as that is the employment that person chose for their income. However, I chose teaching and writing. It’s not fair that I have to take extra precautions to walk home.

There’s no reason I should have to clutch pepper spray every time I decide to step outside and do more than transfer my body from a place to an automobile.

A woman has the right to walk in the street. A woman has the right to walk at night. A woman has the right to wear whatever she sees fit. A woman has the right to be alone. A woman has the right to say NO.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time I was solicited. I wish it were the last, but it won’t be.

Gender Inequality

The most powerful men in my country tried to destroy my life – while I was still in high school

Political operatives frequently harness fear. They harness fear in effecting policy change, rendering cults of personality, and even broad social movements. But rarely do they do it as effectively as in the case of seeking to garner public animus against women. And, due to machismo as a cultural manifestation, nowhere in the world politicians are as effective doing that as in Latin America. 

As a female politician living in a country deemed to be one of the most dangerous places to be a woman and one with a particularly feminist agenda and a no-nonsense attitude toward powerful male godfathers in the Honduran political landscape, I live with a target the size of my body on my back. 

Non-figuratively speaking.

When I first returned to Honduras after studying at Yale College and Michigan Law and having worked at the left-of-center Brookings Institution, I held high hopes for my contribution to Honduran politics, only to find myself, almost immediately, the target of a propaganda campaign raging through political TV shows and social media. It all happened within less a month of my arrival.

Upon investigation, my sources led me to realize that most venoms were coming from political operatives under orders from Honduran Congress, an entity conformed mostly of men with no university-level education, and in a more disconcerting level: no legitimate form of secondary school education, either.

I had returned at a dramatic time for the nation, to be sure, but you would have to be blind not to see something unusual about suddenly being placed at the receiving end of congressional and artificially created public outrage.

Had I made powerful enemies during high school in my country? 

I had been a little geek, after all, AST 2006 valedictorian, nicknamed “Dixie” – short for dictionary – on the opposite pole of popularity. Not so much for being quite the geek, as it turned out, but for having actually grown a social conscience at an early age. 

I had written two books of poetry about the poor people of my country as a child, which earned me nothing but contempt and suspicion. 

The parasitic rich and powerful class of Tegucigalpa hate you the very second the notion of ‘poor people’ comes out of your mouth, since social conscience is poison for them. In your compassion, all they see is a future nemesis.

But did that warrant the endless barrage of attacks from all sides of the political and business spectrums? The next thing I realized was the huge concern my decade-long absence caused. But why? I initially thought that perhaps I was not “Honduran enough.” 

My Spanish had, after all, an English accent that was embarrassing, the consequence of spending a decade at American universities. 

However, it turned out that my English accent was only the trigger for a darker accusation: espionage. 

They accused me of simultaneously being a CIA, NSA, FBI and State Department spy, and not satisfied with that they also threw in the Russian FSB, for good measure. It is no wonder, then, that when I decided to lobby for Honduras’ civil society, I did engage the interest of international human rights strongmen, but I was apprehensively contacted and then seldom called back. 

I imagine the calls they must have received: “Hey, be careful, she is a CIA spy.”

The long, harsh months under this inquisition finally brought me to the unwanted, unspoken truth of my plight: Education.

That was exactly their problem with me. I realized that being educated was not only detrimental for my political expectations, but the justification for a process of social sterilization of my voice, my thoughts, and my presence. I was not to be approached. 

Powerful men feared losing their cool around a woman of my “caliber.”

But that did not work for keeping me quiet. So they decided to change tactics. Someone came up with the funny idea of morally compromising me through sexual harassment. Me – a quite public figure against sexual harassment. 

An endless parade of minions by my house ensued, which would have made wonders for a circus entourage was it not that the intent was to cancel me out as a woman.

Since they couldn’t easily shut me down, they seemed to think the next best idea was to possess me, so as to own my power. I refused dates with TV personalities, journalists and several Congressmen.

When that didn’t work, I was offered the illusion of political participation. I ran and won the vice-mayorship race, but once I assumed the position, no one took me seriously. 

 My own partner on the mayoral ticket wouldn’t even acknowledge or speak with me. I eventually realized it was a trap: by “giving” me the title of vice-mayor, they thought I would finally shut up. 

Trying to stop me is a counterproductive tactic. 

Their attacks have only made me stronger.  The more they push from all sides, the more they help me bring together all my fragments to achieve a unity of purpose.

This path belongs to me and I will walk it to the end. Period. 

Fernanda López Aguilar is a human rights lawyer and a Vice-Mayoral Candidate in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. 

An earlier version of this article said that the author fielded offers for dates from a former president of Honduras. In light of later conversations with him, she no longer believes that was the case and we removed that information on April 3, 2019.

Politics The World

This is exactly why you need to strike on May 1st

Last night, I was reading an article, lamenting the lack of student strikes in the U.S.

A line stood out to to me. According to historian Angus Johnston, “There has never been, in the last 40 years, a large scale, coordinated, national—or close to national—student strike.”

40 years is a long time, but this Monday, it could all change.

Immigrant workers build our cities. Immigrant artists shape our cultures. Immigrant students attend our universities.

Immigrants are always giving to our great nation, but what have we gotten in return? A president who built his political movement on calling us “rapists”. A former president, widely praised by those who claim to support us, but who deported more of us than any other. Policy makers, who, time after time, refuse to provide permanent protection for the 11 million undocumented people in this country.

We have given to this nation, but it has taken so much from us. In order to fight for our dignity, immigrants are planning to show just how much we contribute to our beloved American institutions. Without our labor, industries shut down. Without our presence in universities, we can no longer be ignored.

What is stopping you from supporting your fellow immigrant students on May 1st?

There are many valid answers to this question. I will try to address all claims, questions, and concerns about May 1st below:

What is the symbolic value of a strike?

In short: halting business as usual.

I’ve heard the word “complicit” a lot recently, mainly referring to Ivanka Trump’s white house antics. But it is not only wealthy elites such as Ivanka who are complicit in harmful things such as ICE raids, undignified labor, vigilante border patrol, and the other issues that plague immigrants. When we participate in American institutions, we are all complicit.

That is why we urge students to not buy, not work, and not study. We encourage you to think, especially if you are not personally affected by immigrant issues, about how things like capitalism, the university system, and your employers can be complicit in the harm caused to immigrants. Who is harvesting the food you buy in the supermarket? Are they paid fair wages? Are they treated with dignity? Are you on an even playing field with the immigrant students you attend class with, even as many of them have to worry about family members being deported?

Halt business as usual, because business as usual means a complicit support of the undignified treatment that your fellow immigrant students have been receiving from this state.

If you are an immigrant student yourself, halt business as usual because the world has not yet seen our power.

Why is it important for students (as opposed to workers) to strike? 

I can tell that students are concerned that they do not leverage as much power over universities as, for example, laborers leverage over their employers. After all, workers quit and the whole operation shuts down. Students quit, and they fail class.

Students may not posses as much power as workers. But we do have quite a lot more potential than we let ourselves believe.

After the National Guard shot and killed 4 students at Kent State, over 450 campuses were shut down by striking students.

In other countries, where student strikes are a far more popular protest tactic than in the US, universities are routinely shut down in response to strikes.

We may think that administrators have the power to dictate the course of our lives, but our institutions have shown that they are often willing to acquiesce to student power.

My parents have made a sacrifice for me to attend college. I am a low-income student, a nonwhite student, an immigrant student. Am I dishonoring this sacrifice by striking?

If we were asking for a strike lasting longer than a day, then yes, you might be dishonoring a sacrifice. However, most likely you have already more than one class for a good, or even a silly reason at this point in the semester. Missing one day of class, in most circumstances, should not be an overwhelming burden.

However, there are times when class simply cannot be missed. Either you have a professor who truly will fail you, or an exam, or a variety of other obstacles. In this case, I urge you to reach out to your professor, and ask them to cancel class.

If this does not work, there are a variety of other, smaller ways to show solidarity.

Find a rally near you that takes place after classes end. Wear a special color or garment in symbolic support of your fellow immigrant students. Donate to those who have organized the strike. Spread the word to others who may be able to strike in your place.

This economic climate may tell us otherwise, but college is about more than studying hard to find a lucrative job. For many of us, college is our only network of solidarity in a hostile world. We, immigrant students, ask this favor of other students, because who else can we ask for unequivocal support other than a group of Americans that has been called “radical“, “idealistic“, “coddled“, “violent“, and “easily offended“, often in the same breath?

Do you know your plans for May 1st? Support your fellow students. Find a strike near you.

Gender & Identity Life

We don’t love immigrants for the right reasons

A popular response to anti-immigrant rhetoric and action in the US is the massive ideological effort to prove how valuable immigrants are to our country.

Celebrities proclaim that immigrants get the job done and are the backbone of our industries.

Trendy t-shirts tell us that it is immigrants that make America great.

If you listen to mainstream liberal pundits, like I do, you will be told that immigrants are these angelic citizens who are eager to work selflessly to build our great nation. In response to conservative talking points that immigrants are criminals, you will be told that they commit less crime than the average native citizen. In response to white nationalist claims that immigrants corrupt our culture, you will be told that they have in fact (again, very selflessly) created what we know as modern American heritage.

Even the institution I call home has taken this principled stand. Shortly after Trump’s first travel ban, my college’s museum removed art created by immigrants, as a way to show how much they contribute to our institution, and the rest of the country.

I have few doubts that the act was well-intentioned. But when we center our love for fellow marginalized human beings around their productivity, what status are we truly assigning to immigrants?

Where does this production narrative leave me, and other second-generation immigrant girls making their way through college?

Our museum was well-intentioned, but I cannot help but think that if I do not do the necessary amount of labor to contribute to this society and this country, I will be completely worthless.

Those who are missing from this mainstream, production-oriented immigrant narrative are the migrants killed by vigilantes while crossing the border. Those who disobeyed the state and ended up on the wrong side of a prison wall. Those who reserve their patriotism for their home countries in Central or South America, or for no country at all.

These are the people who do not view their original cultures as a morsel to be melted into a boiling pot, who do not see their exploited labor yield enough money to feed their families even as they work to fill our supermarkets with produce.

What of the immigrants who are not “valuable”, or are indeed “valuable”, so painfully valuable to us that we force them to build a house with a broken leg.

No matter how well-intentioned, efforts to define immigrants by their material accomplishments, such as artwork, legitimize the systems that exploit labor, and our desire to see immigrants become “productive”.

There are better ways to show respect for immigrants. The first step is to understand that human beings are valuable whether or not they contribute to our society in ways we deem acceptable.

The characterization of immigrants as “valuable” to America is a weak argument against white nationalist rhetoric, because the question of immigrant humanity becomes about their level of productivity. The opposition can simply use fake news, or even real instances (however few) of immigrants committing crime or abusing welfare to claim they are unproductive, and therefore subhuman.

When you root a respect for immigrants in their unwavering humanity, productive or no, it becomes much harder to argue for white nationalist policy. What evidence can the opposition use to claim that unconditionally full persons are less than human, rather than pure subjectivity, an approach that would fully expose their racism?

To the Davis Museum: next time there is an anti-immigrant action that requires protest, don’t hide your art. Flaunt it. Conduct a special exhibit on immigrant art, showcasing the real human beings that made these beautiful objects, rather than drawing attention only to the objects themselves.

I genuinely believe that students such as myself have more to learn from immigrants themselves than from their decontextualized labor.

Politics Race The World Policy Inequality

Here’s what to do if ICE agents show up at your door

“The U.S-Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds.” -Gloria E. Anzaldúa

This administration is taking extreme measures to terrorize an already highly marginalized community in this country. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) have been conducting raids across the country this past week. Hundreds of undocumented people have been arrested.

There is a lot of psychological pain and distress that comes with being chased down, terrorized, and displaced by the state. The ACLU published a list in both Spanish and English to tutor those who may be targeted by ICE raids in the near future.

There is no need to open the door.

In fact, it is better not to. It is harder for ICE agents to force themselves in if you keep the door closed. They have no legal right to enter without your permission, without a special warrant. However, you must also be aware that they may break this rule and enter anyway.

With the door closed, you should ask if they are ICE agents. You should also ask what they are here for. (You can even ask for an interpreter.)

ICE needs a warrant signed by a judge to enter.

With the door still closed, ask the agents if they have a warrant signed by a judge. If they do not have this document, you have a right to refuse them entry. Even if they have a warrant that is not signed, you can also refuse to open your door. (Again, they may enter anyway.)

If they do have a warrant, you can ask them to slip it under your door.

Once you have the warrant, examine it closely. Examples of warrants that do not grant ICE agents entry into your residence are:

Not issued by a court. The name of the court is usually at the top of the first page.

Not signed by a judge. Check the signature line in the document.

Issued by the Department of Homeland Security or ICE. Again, the warrant must be issued by a court!

Signed by a DHS or ICE agent. In terms of deportation raids, these signatures do not have to same legal authority as a judge’s.

If you find the warrant to be invalid, do not open the door.

ICE agents may force their way in.

As we have seen, police officers, immigration agents, and government officials in general are not above breaking the law. If ICE agents do force their entry into your home, ask to see a lawyer immediately and remain silent. The ACLU suggests you say, “I do not consent to your entry or to your search of these premises. I am exercising my right to remain silent. I wish to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.” 

Art by Alberto Ledesma via Buzzfeed

Being undocumented in this country is an exhausting political act, one that requires enormous resilience. No matter where you are, we are your allies – and will continue fighting for your rights and visibility as the new administration moves backwards with its human rights violations.

Policy Inequality

Here’s what you need to know about California becoming a sanctuary state

It looks like California might just become the first sanctuary state in the United States. SB 54, which was introduced in the Senate early December 2016 , includes provisions that would aptly categorize California as such, and immigrant groups are heavily pushing for its approval.

SB 54, also known as the “California Values Act,” would “prevent the use of state and local public resources to aid ICE agents in deportation actions.” This bill comes on the heels of President Trump’s fierce crackdown on immigration in the United States. Senator Kevin De León (D.) of California was the first to introduce the bill, along with fellow California Senator Richard Pan.

So, what’s this bill  do? 

Mercury News
  • California law enforcement officials (both statewide and local) cannot carry out deportations.
  • ICE would be prohibited from entering public areas such as schools, courthouses, and hospitals, and would require California agencies to update and uphold confidentiality policies. This is an effort to encourage undocumented people to seek out public services as needed in a non-threatening environment.
  • The state would take positive measures to protect undocumented immigrants from federal reach.
  • However, ICE would be able to carry out a deportation if they obtained a judicial warrant.

What’s this whole “sanctuary state” thing about?

California could become a sanctuary state

Chad Zuber on Shutterstock

Opponents of the bill have complained that it might make California a “de facto sanctuary state”. But will it? That depends on how you define a “sanctuary”.

By the mainstream definition, the California Values Act would, in fact, make California a sanctuary.  “Sanctuary cities” define themselves as places that limit the power of ICE in their jurisdictions by not cooperating with ICE officials. IF SB 54 passed, California would fit that description perfectly.

ICE would still have all the power of the federal government to terrorize undocumented immigrants. The state of California would not be able to put a stop on deportation raids carried out with a judicial warrant. And with widespread recent ICE raids, many concentrated in California, the very possibility of deportations is frightening to many undocumented immigrants still living in the state.

Also important to note: ANY immigrant can turn away ICE for lacking a judicial warrant. ICE does not have the right to carry out a deportation without one. The “warrant requirement” is not unique to this bill at all.

Do we like this bill or not? 


In sum – yes. SB 54 doesn’t completely shield undocumented folks from ICE, as a bill like that can’t possibly exist. It would be openly defying federal law if it did. However, this bill is a huge step in protecting immigrants and de-criminalizing their existence.

If passed, the California Values Act would indeed make California a “de facto sanctuary state”, by all accepted definitions. That is an enormous symbolic step, if not also a severe hindrance for ICE in the state with the largest population of undocumented immigrants in the US.

Great, okay. How is this  bill doing now?

It’s doing well. A state senate committee approved it on February 1st.  The political climate in California is looking good overall, with California lawmakers proposing bills with a similar pro-sanctuary sentiments. Let’s bide our time, and hope this thing passes.

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