History Historical Badasses

Gertrude Stein, the queer feminist at the centre of the art movement

I first encountered Gertrude Stein through her avant-garde poetry in Tender Buttons, an evocative series of short poems that forced writing to its breaking point with sentences like: “Dirty is yellow. A sign of more is not mentioned.” I met her blindly, only through her words, yet I already fell for her eccentricity. I knew there was something wonderful behind the mind that put down on paper the bold tongue-in-cheek yet unbelievably serious statement, “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”. I just had to explore her art further. So I began scouring old journals and artist profiles to learn more about her. 

Little did I know that the radical art Stein created could almost be rivaled by the art that she nurtured in the artists around her. I found multiple sources that called her the ‘mother’ of modernism, but after getting to know more about her, I am sure that she would scoff at such a title. After all, she left the United States in 1903 to flee the pressures of gender norms. She was also bored with medical school and seeking an outlet to express her eccentric point of view, she settled down in Paris, where she intended to pursue a life free from heteronormativity. She opened a salon in her home for the world’s creative mind, including some of the world-renowned names such as Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. She was the voice of this ‘Lost Generation, the group of American expatriates flocking to Paris– and even coined the term.

The way I see it, she brought together these esteemed artists and in many ways, elevated them through her no-nonsense critique of their work. I had always internalized that a woman inspiring other artists (typically male artists) was a muse. That term is loaded, as there were often sexualized or romanticized elements typically tied to a muse. Instead, what I admired about Stein was that she was a mentor to the ‘greats’. I see her as a woman that had an undeniable presence in her time, respected by those around her. 

Nothing about her was conventional and she embraced her own strangeness, something that drew me to her further. Stein deserves the title of a trailblazer of the modernist period and of queer identity at the time. Stein’s essay Miss Furr and Miss Skeene were among the first story to be published about homosexual revelation, containing the first noted use of the word “gay” in published works to refer to same-sex relationships. She also hosted one of the first avant-garde exhibitions in the United States, funding it with the money she collected from her art dealerships. I have no doubt that every piece of art in the period has her fingerprint.

And she didn’t hesitate to acknowledge her accomplishments either. Stein didn’t believe that women must be modest, proudly proclaiming “I have been the creative literary mind of the century.” She never sold herself short, a habit I found myself doing as I presented my own poetry or other writing. I was still working with my own feelings of inferiority, belittling my stories as ‘just’ relevant to female-identifying communities. While she wrote about women and her partner, she didn’t restrict herself to writing women’s stories. I found it so refreshing to see her unabashed pride, as it reminded me to take hold of my own achievements and to be confident. No matter how unconventionally and ‘weirdly’ I experimented with my creativity, I learned that I could (and should) still demand to be taken seriously. 

Regardless of all this, I don’t think she should be idolized. I often like to give powerful women in difficult situations the benefit of the doubt, as do most of the historians and writers that grapple with creating a retrospective of Stein’s life. I witnessed a trend in the way that they wrote about her, that she was ensuring her safety as a Jew in Nazi-occupied France by making these questionable alliances with Nazi figures. As much as I respect her as a feminist and as the backbone of the Lost Generation of artists, I cannot excuse her political affiliations and ironic, confusing pro-Nazi expressions. 

At the end of it all, Stein didn’t strive to be accepted or allow herself to be molded by the society around her. She carved her own place into history and I believe it is important to commemorate it, lest she is lost in the shadows of her male counterparts. As a woman in the art world, looking at Stein as an example liberates me and allows me to embrace subversive expressions of creativity. 

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Editor's Picks Work Career Career Advice Now + Beyond

10 painful but necessary steps to take when you lose your job

Immediately after you’ve been let go, you may find yourself experiencing a range of emotions: panic upon saying goodbye to a regular paycheck, exhilaration as you embrace life without a set routine, rage when you reflect on all the long hours you devoted to your former position—the list goes on. Rather than get caught up in each of these, recognize that they’re all normal.

For the purposes of this article, let’s not use the term “fired” or any of its synonyms. Consider yourself currently “in transition”, “between jobs”, or “actively seeking employment”, to represent your advancement. The following is a painful but crucial to-do list anyone who’s been laid off should follow, based on my experience:

1. Acknowledge your emotions.

image description: cartoon personifications of emotion, joy, sadness, anger, disgust and fear, jump up one by one
[Image description: cartoon personifications of the emotions joy, sadness, anger, disgust and fear, jump up one by one.] via Giphy
You will go through a phase of jumbled emotions. Acknowledge your feelings completely, know they are valid and let them go. You need time to heal and that’s okay. You’re not expected to jump into searching for a new job immediately. Take care of yourself first.

2. Create a budget.

image description: a girl counts money then puts some in a piggy bank
[Image description: a cartoon of a girl counting money then putting some in a piggy bank.] via Giphy
Be responsible about your finances right now. Calculate what you’ve got, your expenses, where you can cut back, and create a budget. Until you’re back on the horse, you will have to regulate your spending.

3. Accept reality and grow from it.

image description: Rafiki is saying to Simba "Ah yes, the past can hurt, But the way I see it, is that you can either run from it or, learn from it."
[Image description: Rafiki is saying to Simba “Ah yes, the past can hurt, But the way I see it, is that you can either run from it or, learn from it”.] via Giphy
Evaluate your loss and your potential gain. Use this as a learning opportunity. Take a look back and figure out what your weaknesses were, where you could improve and what you could’ve done differently. Assess how you’ve changed since your last job. Maybe you are more qualified to go after a better position or you want different things now. Look at this as a new beginning, in which you are better equipped to go after your goals.

4. Find a mentor.

image description: a woman is saying "I got the best ear in the business"
[Image description: a woman is saying “I got the best ear in the business”.] via Giphy
Reach out to someone who has the kind of success or knowledge you want. Ask them if they would be willing to mentor you. This person could be a valuable resource. A good mentor can guide you in the right direction and give you experienced feedback. It’s smart to have a mentor and keep one even when you’re employed.

5. Make a career plan.

[image description: a person is writing in their journal 'conquer this year'
[Image description: a person is writing in their journal ‘conquer this year’.] via Giphy
Define your long-term goals and short-term goals and work out the steps to getting there. This will make your career plan. If suitable, add time frames for each step. Your mentor can help work this out, and give feedback.

Your career plan should be flexible, not written in stone. Don’t be afraid of trying something that isn’t in the plan. Use it more like a tool to keep yourself focused and organized. A career plan is supposed to be a guideline, not a rule book.

6. Research the job market.

[Image description: a newspaper with classified ads with some ads being circled and crossed out.] via Giphy
Gauge the current position of the job market. Whether you’re altering your field or not, the job market is ever-changing, and you will need to be updated. Read about the current situation of the industry. Research into the ‘who’ and ‘what’ they’re looking for and the keywords and skills that are important in the positions you are interested in.

7. Develop your skills.

image description: a cat is reading a book called 'The art of military strategy'
[Image description: a cat is reading a book called ‘The art of military strategy’.] via Giphy
Some abilities you already have could do with refreshing or you might benefit from learning something new. Start some of the online courses you always told yourself you were going to take.

8. Update your resume – and do it right.

image description: a guy in a green shirt is saying "That's an old resume. It should read that I "crushed it" from 2013 to present.
[Image description: a guy in a green shirt is saying “That’s an old resume. It should read that I “crushed it” from 2013 to present.] via Giphy
See what you can change, reword, and present better in your CV. If you’re interested in multiple positions, consider having multiple CVs. A tailored CV that displays the skills that a certain position requires could give you the upper hand that makes employers take notice when your resume falls on their desk.

9. Network, network, network.

[image description: a boy in a bow tie and vest saying "we actually have meetings sometimes, i get to meet people with crazy minds like me"]
[Image description: a boy in a bow tie and vest saying “we actually have meetings sometimes, I get to meet people with crazy minds like me”.] via Giphy
Start putting yourself out there. Reach out to people, talk to friends, go to events that give you a chance to connect with people in the industry and make contacts. Your mentor could also be a good help in this matter by pointing you towards the right events to go to or people to talk to.

The term ‘networking’ is scary to some. But in this age of technology at your fingertips, there are ways to network that even the introvert can get into. Make yourself known. According to a study, over 80% of jobs are found through networking.

10. Keep a positive outlook.

image description: a woman wearing a black suit walks confidently
[Image description: a woman wearing a black suit walks confidently] via Giphy
It makes a difference whether you’re approaching this with a defeatist attitude or going into it smiling. You’ve done the work, you’re prepared, you’ve nothing to fear. Go out there and live your best life! Network, connect, learn, explore and hustle until you’re an expert in your field. Who knows, soon you might start mentoring someone yourself.


TV Shows Pop Culture

“Black-ish” fans are being graced with “Grown-ish” in 2018, and we couldn’t be happier

Zoey Johnson (played by Yara Shahidi) is going off to college, and it’s recently been confirmed that Grown-ish, a sitcom, and spinoff of Black-ish, will document her exciting journeys as she embarks on this new chapter in her life.  The trailer just dropped last week and it was even better than I could have imagined.

For some background, ABC’s Black-ish is a show about an upper-middle-class black family in Southern California. It centers around Andre and Rainbow Johnson, their five kids, and Dre’s live-in parents.

The Johnson children all have distinct personalities and struggle with different issues at any given moment. Black-ish is critically acclaimed and was renewed for a fourth season in May 2017.

Zoey is the eldest of the Johnson children and is a smart, stylish, resourceful, and hardworking young woman (although Black-ish, tends to fall in the trap of portraying her as a self-absorbed girl obsessed with selfies and texting). Throughout the first 3 seasons, however, she has matured and shown deep insight.

For instance, in the episode “Hope,” which examines police brutality against African-Americans and each family member’s individual responses to America’s justice system, Zoey is seen looking at her phone while her family members debate over the status of Black lives and Black worth in America.

Junior eventually calls her out for not caring about the issues at hand and points out she’s been on her phone all night.  Zoey responds passionately, arguing that she does care, but she just doesn’t verbalize it the way the rest of her family members do.  She says she’s been texting people about the police’s violent behavior and tells Junior she is afraid for him after he declares he wants to join the protesters in the city.

In the end, it is her moving speech that encourages the family to go protest the failure to indict the police officers who brutally tasered an unarmed black man.

This is why Grown-ish is so promising.

Black-ish has largely been told from Dre’s perspective, but Zoey will be telling her own story in Grown-ish, thus positing her as more than just one of the Johnson kids.  Zoey is a young black woman finding her voice, navigating internships and school, and basically kicking ass at everything she puts her mind to.

In fact, Zoey has already navigated a bit of college in Grown-ish’s backdoor pilot episode, “Liberal Arts.” In that episode, she inadvertently advocates for the disbandment of Hawkins, the university’s historically black dorm.  She then eventually realizes her mistake and mobilizes others in an effort to keep Hawkins a black space.

Grown-ish is bound to be entertaining, relatable, and thought-provoking.  Seeing as Black-ish has covered heavy topics such as police brutality and the 2016 presidential election, I’m sure Grown-ish will feature situations where Zoey has to reflect and understand her reality as a young black woman away from her family at college.  I think the spinoff is a great opportunity to let Zoey shine and own her narrative. Zoey Johnson is not just some blind-sided teenager who’s  always on her cell phone.  She’s a young, courageous black woman with opinions and perspectives to share.

Yara Shahidi, herself, is also an incredible young woman.  She has been featured in several magazines for her activism and interviewed about her advocacy for feminism and diversity.  She was honored at the 2017 BET’s Black Girls Rock Awards with the Young, Gifted and Black award. Furthermore, Yara was accepted by Harvard University and will start her freshman year in 2018.  She cites Michelle Obama as one of her mentors.  She’s busy, dedicated to social change, passionate about opportunities for women of color, and interested in policy change.

And she isn’t even eighteen yet.

I look forward to watching Zoey flourish in college.

I know that without a doubt, she’ll manage to find her footing and overcome her problems, whether its back-to-back finals, dealing with a difficult roommate, or being confronted by an ignorant white guy who says he’s “always wanted to get with a black girl.”

I have high hopes for Grown-ish and I’m equally excited to watch Yara Shahidi’s continued activism and dedication to empowering and encouraging women and girls of color.

Love Life Stories

When I finally decided to show the world my real self, I was terrified nobody would like me

I’ve always been a pretty bubbly, positive, happy-go-lucky sort of gal – to the outside world. However, up until around a year ago, I felt like I was living in conflict with myself. I would be smiling and joking around with friends and family, but when I was alone with myself, I would become my own worst enemy.

It pretty much started when I graduated from college and moved back home. The transition was difficult for me. I missed my roommates and didn’t realize how much my happiness had depended on being surrounded by friends.

Around that time I developed this fear that if I showed my authentic self to others, I would not be accepted or loved.

I thought that if I showed my “negative” emotions, people would want to stay away from me. I created a double standard for myself; if someone opened up to me I thought they were brave, and yet if I opened up to someone else it was an act of weakness.

These irrational beliefs felt like the truth to me. I realize now that it’s actually the opposite; showing vulnerabilities is what brings me closer to my loved ones.

I began to have such high expectations of myself. In order to be the best daughter, cousin, niece, friend, employee, etc. I had to hide my true self. While my intentions were good, they were causing a lot of damage in the self-esteem department. In order to avoid displeasing the people in my life, I ended up disliking who I was.

I had some trustworthy loved ones who I felt like I could be a hot mess in front of, but at the end of the day, the person I was stuck with 24/7 was myself.

I don’t remember the exact moment, but a point came when I finally decided I would break this cycle of self-loathing- even if it meant facing the darkest and scariest emotions. I realized that you could be surrounded by all the loving family and friends in the world, but if you don’t love yourself, then nothing will feel good enough.

I began going to therapy. I reconnected with my faith and begged God to help me learn how to help myself. I journaled about my feelings and began to look at them with compassion rather than criticism.

I created a box of letters, notes, and anything positive that loved ones had given me over the years. Whenever I felt low, I would turn to the box and go through it, reminding myself that I made a difference in these people’s lives.

I went on retreats. I got involved in my community. I basically forced myself to do the things that I knew would make me feel fulfilled.

And that’s when little miracles began to take place in my life. I was nominated by a lovely author, Tami Shaikh, to be a part of a South Asian Women Leadership Retreat, where I met incredibly successful women who got deep and personal. Through this, I was able to break free from the illusion that I was alone. I also began to find life-changing books, YouTube videos, quotes, and mentors who believed in me.

It’s not considered cool to talk about your self-doubts and insecurities, but I believe that when we avoid these types of conversations, we miss out on valuable opportunities to truly connect with others.

One powerful exercise for me was something my therapist, Linda taught me. “Find a few photographs of yourself when you were a little girl,” she said.  “Then put them in some nice frames around your living space along with the wallpaper of your phone. When you’re being hard on yourself, just look at the photos and see if you still feel the same way.”

I was amazed at how this one small act led me to actually start liking myself. Every time I saw the photos, I couldn’t help but feel love and compassion towards myself, because deep down in my 24-year-old body, was an innocent little girl who simply needed to feel safe and protected.

One of the photos I used for the experiment

Now, whenever I mess up, I think of the photo of the sweet, little girl and ask myself how I would speak to her if she made the same mistake. It would be cruel to yell at a child for not being perfect, so why is it okay to beat myself up just because I’m a so-called adult? As my therapist taught me, adults are just children in grown up bodies.

Through this bump in the road, I learned that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.

Disliking yourself is natural at times, as long as you aren’t stuck in that rut. And self love is not just some cheesy phrase, it’s a key ingredient for contentment and inner peace. Now, I am more than happy to show up and be seen for who I am, and I hope that nobody has to feel like their true self is not worthy enough to be seen.

By choosing authenticity, we begin to attract the right people and situations into our lives.

It may not happen overnight, but it’s definitely worth the struggle.