History Historical Badasses

Remembering Fatima Jinnah, the Mother of the Pakistani nation

Muhammad Ali Jinnah is celebrated as the founder of the Pakistani nation. Yet his sister, Fatima Jinnah, who served as a pillar of support for him, never got married and abandoned her medical profession to assist his political endeavors, remains obscured by his magnanimous legacy.

She was born in 1893. The epoch in which Fatima Jinnah was raised (colonial British India) was largely male-dominated, with fewer women belonging to the upper echelons of the professional and political world. In such a world, Jinnah heralded a new dawn for women.

She was an inspiring woman who was known for her power, perseverance, resilience, and fortitude—stuff that legends are made of. She received an excellent early education, which was rare for a woman during her time. This helped her eventually secure a position in a competitive medical college, Dr. Ahmad Dental College in Calcutta. She established herself professionally by running her own dental clinic in Bombay. She was financially independent and self-sufficient—the epitome of modern-day empowerment.

The years leading up to the birth of Pakistan in 1947, paralleled Fatima Jinnah’s transformation from a dental surgeon to a political figure, shadowing her brother. Choosing to not get married, she abandoned her profession and continued to manage the domestic front of the Jinnah household for 28 years. However, it would be a great disservice to restrict her contribution to the domestic sphere. When her brother embarked on his political journey and coped with widowerhood, she became her brother’s chief political confidante. Once Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, told ADC Ahsan “nobody had faith in me; everyone thought I was mad except Miss Jinnah.”

She accompanied him on numerous political tours. In 1932, she attended the Second Round Table Conference with Muhammad Ali Jinnah. She also became a part of the Working Committee of the Bombay Provincial Muslim League and held that position until 1947. In March 1940, she was present at the Lahore session of the Muslim League (the political party led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah), where she stood in favor of democracy. By this time, she was convinced that the Hindus would continue to practice dominance over Muslims, and the latter would have to wallow in poverty, oppression, and subjugation till the end. Because of her belief, she helped in organizing the All India Muslim Women Students Federation in Delhi in 1941.

After her brother passed away in September 1948, she assumed the role of taking his legacy forward and ran for the presidency of Pakistan as a candidate for the Combined Opposition Party of Pakistan (COPP) in 1960. Her opponent was Ayub Khan, whom she openly proclaimed to be a dictator. Her political campaigns attracted massive crowds, swarming all over Dhaka and Chittagong. Later, she famously came to be known as Madr-e-Millat (Mother of the Nation).

In 1965, she contested elections at the age of 71. She stood against Khan—the dictator and self-installed president of Pakistan. Khan’s victory was inevitable. He exercised complete power over the governmental apparatuses of the country and drew legislation over electoral matters as the head of the state. He lumped together with the discontented, yet equally fundamental aspects of the social spectrum in the country to his favor, and drew support from the ulema (Muslim scholars), bureaucrats, students, and journalists.

When the elections were finally held, Jinnah suffered a defeat, leaving the populace in disbelief. Some even claimed that Khan dabbled in filthy election tactics such as rigging, coercion, and manipulation. They believed Jinnah’s defeat was impossible and advocated her rightful and democratic claim to leadership.

Jinnah died on July 9th, 1967 under mysterious circumstances. The cause of her death continues to be ambiguous to this date; with interpretations ranging from political assassination to natural death.

She made enormous contributions to Pakistan’s political history. Yet in the historical archives, her existence is obscured by her brother’s dominant presence. Muhammad Ali Jinnah is revered in Pakistan as the man who outfoxed his political opponents and stood up to the British. The mantle of attention conveniently falls on him, while Fatima’s own political and personal participation in nursing the nascent country goes unappreciated.

Jinnah fought for all Muslim women—for equality, for their economic independence and liberation, and for their political empowerment. She became a symbol of hope for Muslim women.

She will always be remembered in the yellow, parched, and frail pages of history.

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History Historical Badasses

Savitribai Phule was the feminist teacher from the 1850s we wish we had in high school

Because of British colonization, women’s rights were nonexistent in 19th century India; women were largely confined to domestic roles and were not allowed to receive an education. Despite such patriarchal restrictions, Savitribai Phule, an Indian teacher, and feminist, established the first school for girls in India in 1848 with the help of her husband, Jyotirao Phule. Savitribai’s trailblazing in women’s education is a testament to the resilience of feminists. 

Like most other married Indian women, Savitribai was not literate at the time of her marriage at age nine. After being educated by her husband and his friends, Savitribai enrolled herself in training programs for teachers at two institutions, the Normal School and an institution in Ahmednagar. 

Later, she began to teach alongside Sagunabai, another revolutionary Indian feminist. Eventually, the Bhides and Sagunabai founded their own school at Bhide Wada, the home of Tatya Saheb Bhide, a man who was inspired by the work of the trio. 

During this time, education was limited to male Brahmins (a caste) and involved the teachings of the Vedas and Shastras. Savitribai’s school was unique in that it taught mathematics, science, and social studies instead of Hindu texts. It was also open to people of all castes, including women. 

However, not everyone supported Savitribai’s endeavors; Savitribai would carry an extra sari with her to school because people would hurl stones and dirt at her while she was walking. By educating people of lower castes and women, Savitribai was radically changing the status quo. Knowledge is power, so her work empowered hundreds of people from historically marginalized communities in India. 

After being kicked out of their house by her husband’s father for their work in the community, the Phules lived with Usman Sheikh and his sister, Fatima Sheikh. Fatima is known as the first Muslim female teacher of India and opened a school alongside Savitribai. Their friendship exemplified feminist sisterhood and empowerment. 

Outside of her educational accomplishments, Savitribai was also a staunch feminist and poet. She authored two notable collections of poetry, Kavya Phule in 1854 and Bavan Kashi Subodh Ratnakar in 1892. Through her writing, she was able to encourage people from marginalized communities to break free from the chains of oppression by getting an education. 

Later, she founded multiple organizations to raise awareness for women’s rights, infanticide, and caste-based violence. The Mahila Seva Mandal forged gatherings between women of all castes and encouraged all of the women to sit together on the same mat. In her house, she created the House for the Prevention of Infanticide as a safe space for widowed Brahmin women to deliver their babies and leave them there under her care. At the same time, she campaigned against child marriage and lobbied for widow remarriage. 

After her husband’s death, Savitribai chaired a session for the Satyashodhak Samaj, an organization that serves the interests of non-Brahmins. At this time, a woman chairing an organization was unprecedented and revolutionary. Through these efforts, Savitribai also initiated the first Satyashodkah marriage, which is a marriage without a dowry, Brahmin priests, or Brahminical rituals. 

Savitribai also founded a clinic to take care of patients with the bubonic plague. She passed away in 1897 while taking care of a patient with the bubonic plague in the clinic. While she passed away more than a century ago, her legacy is honored annually in Maharastra on January 3rd, known as Balika Din (Day of Girls). 

Balika Din is a holiday dedicated to educating people about legislation that protects young girls and is dedicated to the welfare of young girls in India. Women are still actively discriminated against in India through sexual assault, sex-selective abortions, and patriarchal gender roles. Savitribai’s work was the first step towards promoting gender equality in modern India. 

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We need to start complicating our conversations about consent

Contrary to popular belief, consent is not just verbally or physically agreeing to have sex. There is a lot more to it than just saying yes. It baffles me that people believe agreeing to one thing means an agreement to everything. When an individual consents to one thing, it does not mean they consent to everything – and consent can be withdrawn at any point. 

Consent can be a topic of discomfort for many but it is an important conversation that should not be avoided. In order to progress individually and as a society we need to keep talking about consent. A common misconception is to take on a “yes means yes” approach to avoid any uncomfortable conversations in the future. This is where the problem stems from. People are not always in a position or state to say no. 

Sexual consent does not exist within the context of hegemonic power structures because hegemonic power is inherently abusive. The phrase ‘abuse of power’ is redundant because the only function of hegemonic power is abuse. In order to be able to consent to sex, you need to have equal power to consent to the person initiating sex with you. Power, however, comes in different forms. It comes in the form of emotional, psychological, neurological, physical, status access, etc. 

Similarly, saying ‘yes’ to sex when one is under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not consent. Saying ‘yes’ to sex when you are emotionally, psychologically, neurologically unwell, or experiencing cognitive/psychological distortions OR influenced by your desire for proximity to power, access, is not consent either.

The argument that ‘they were two consenting’ adults is alarming because a large proportion of people who have been sexually abused do not even realize that they have been abused.

There are several reasons as to why people who have been sexually abused do not know that they were sexually abused. Below are just a few of those reasons:

  1. Misinformation can result in a lack of understanding of what constitutes sexual abuse. 
  2. Manipulation and/or lack of emotional maturity. More often than not, people who have experienced sexual abuse are under the impression that the abuse was a romantic/love affair. It is not until later that they realize that, what they thought was love, was in fact, abuse. It is important here to recognize that sexual age gaps can be problematic. The older person is more likely to convince the younger person that it is love or romance.
  3. Sex is pleasurable (for many people), which is why it can often confuse the victim. They may be under the impression that pleasure signifies consent.
  4. More often than not, victims of sexual abuse may have been deprived of love, affection, and intimacy during their lives. Therefore, any form of sexual interest may be perceived as love or affection.
  5. Dissociation is a common coping mechanism for people that have experienced abuse. It involves dissociating oneself to escape the trauma of what they experienced. 
  6. People may experience psychological, emotional, neurological, and cognitive distortions. This can be due to mental illnesses such as depression and other neurological issues.
  7. Many people are in a state of denial. They refuse to accept they have been abused due to fear, pain, or shame. Additionally, former victims often go on to become sexual abusers themselves. Therefore, they deny admitting to their own experiences of abuse to avoid having to recognize themself as an abuser.
  8. Fear plays a crucial role in sex abuse. More often than not, there is a power dynamic, and victims of sexual abuse face fear and not entirely acknowledge their experiences as abuse. They may not have the power to control their narrative and feel helpless. As a result of this, people are more likely to suppress or deny experiences of sexual abuse to avoid shame or feeling helpless.

It is more than likely that victims of sexual abuse have ‘consented’ to sex due to one or a combination of the aforementioned reasons. It is impossible to progress and reduce sexual assault until we expand our conversations about consent and acknowledge that it goes beyond a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. 

While we are at it, it is also important to draw attention towards the illusion that ‘women are sexually liberated’. The sexual liberation movement has fallen into the hands of men.  Women’s sexual liberation is reframed as sexual availability for men in patriarchal structures.  This is more apparent in the media where women’s sexuality was once censored in film, art, and literature. It is now explicit and sexualized. Either way, production structures have always been patriarchal and exploitive.

The de-stigmatization of sex was expected to liberate women. However, it has further reinstated the patriarchal perception of women as nothing more than sex objects intended for reproduction. And this is why we need to complicate our conversations about consent in today’s age of freedom and liberation. In patriarchal structures, men actively exercise possession and abuse towards women, which is institutionalized and protected by the law. Essentially, women do not have humanity in a system of male domination.

Dismantling patriarchy is another conversation on its own. It is, however, imperative that we realize consent goes well beyond a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Therefore, instead of shutting someone down the next time you hear them open up about their experiences of abuse remember that consent is not always black and white.


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History of Fashion Lookbook

How Bedhead, Blush and Stilettos rose to fame as “sex symbols”

It’s Friday night. You’re getting ready for a night out with the squad. You rouge your cheeks with your best, shimmery blush. You clip your hair back into a soft, messy bun and slip on your favorite pair of heels. You take one last look at yourself and think “cute, I guess.” Meanwhile at the club, men are lining up at your feet, offering you all sorts of drinks and sexual innuendos. Why the sudden interest, you think? That’s because the looks you’re rocking all have one thing in common; they make you look like you’re ‘ready for sex.’ Let’s take a closer look at how the patriarchy first assigned this ‘sex appeal’ to these items.

Blush: like a rush of blood to the face after sex

Blush dates back as far as ancient Egypt. On top of inventing winged eyeliner and pyramids, Egyptian men and women used to grind red ochre to add rosiness to their complexion. They’re not the only ancient society to have done this; the Greeks used crushed mulberries and flowers, whilst the Romans rubbed Vermillion on their cheeks. 

Once prostitutes started wearing blush for maximum allurement (and to cover bruises and tired eyes) there was a huge chunk of time where society frowned upon it. It was during this period where ‘higher class’ women would paint their faces white or use leeches to remove natural redness from their skin – like really? Y’all disgusted by sex work that much? 

Still, the reign of blush continued in many societies, albeit sparingly, and even though it was made with toxic chemicals. Only during the industrial revolution did blush become much safer to use and much more common. And just in time for WW1, when the patriarchy decided they wanted women back in the kitchen looking all pretty and ‘ready to go.’

While today, blush is just a staple makeup product to give us a rosy glow, its universal popularity came from what it represents: the rush of blood to the face after, er, getting it on. 

Bedhead: a hairdo tangled up by sex

Rocking bedhead may serve to liberate our morning routine, but Urban Dictionary defines it as “a hairdo that looks like you just finished having sex”. How did this happen? Well, similar to the rise of blush, messy hair was once only synonymous with “improper” women, whilst neatly styled locks was a symbol of decency.

In one recorded example of how scandalous messy hair could be, a man once came home to see his wife with a twig in her hair and assumed she had cheated on him with another man on the ground. So, he stabbed her in the chest, killing her. I want to make a joke about this man’s lack of communication skills here, instead I gulp down the injustice that is gender-based-violence and continue

The changeover of bedhead from “unfaithful whore” to “desirable woman” can largely be attributed to the rise of sex scenes in film, where women would be made to act as if dripping with sexual energy in the bedroom with their mussed up manes and smudged lipstick. Models like Kate Moss, and even male musicians like Robert Smith helped turn bedhead cool and effortless, too. I mean, I guess it’s only cool depending on who you are. Selena Gomez looks effortlessly sleek with a messy bun, whilst Donald Trump looks like he’s been pulled through a bush backwards. 

Stilettos: a physical sign that we’re ready for sex

The original high heels were invented for men to be able to secure their feet in stirrups, and later, for aristocrats to parade around towering over everybody. But they too eventually took on a hyper-sexualized meaning when they were later only meant for women. The story goes that the original chunky platform was deemed too dangerous for women, especially when pregnant. So for us fragile, ‘baby making machines’, voilà – we were gifted the stiletto.

While to women today, high heels represent glamour, ambition, and power; to men they once represented a woman ready for sex. This is ‘because’ heels cause an arched back which suggests openness to “mating advances”. I laughed out loud while typing that.

When asked what men find attractive about a woman in high heels, a French shoe designer once famously said that it was that “heels slowed the woman down, giving the man more time to look at her”. Clearly, no one wanted women to be able to get away either. Anyone else thinking rape culture?

Since then women and heels have become one. Like sharp weapons beneath us, we can run when we’re late to meetings, jump over hoops for our family, and dance the night away on our tippy toes. But at the end of the evening you’ll probably see us barefoot – cursed heels in hands – wiping away our contoured cheekbones when we’re home and brushing our hair before bed. And I can assure you, none of this means we’re not down for sex. But instead of judging that from the sate of a few accessories, educate yourself on consent, and ask us instead.

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Family Life

My grandfather showed me the power of stories and the value of my own

When I was a child, my family would travel to visit our relatives in India every summer. For the most part, I dreaded these trips. We would fly for 20 hours to spend weeks in the sweltering Kerala heat, and sometimes I’d wonder whether it was worth it. But it always was.

There was always one person in particular whom I looked forward to seeing again.

Traveling to meet my grandfather was always the highlight of our Indian trips for me. It still is. When my siblings and I visited my grandparents, we would sit by his feet as he told us stories. His words held our attention for hours, often late into the night.

He’d reminisce about his childhood, recount traditional folktales, and summarize deep philosophical narratives that somehow became palatable to our young minds.

He was always armed with the perfect story.

Once, when I complained to him about my grades, he smiled and told me about the lengths my father would go to hide his bad grades as a child. These stories and so many others have formed my warmest childhood memories, ones I’ll cherish forever.


The last time we were in India, our schedule was packed and we went almost the whole visit without a story from my grandfather. So on the last night, my siblings and I sat on the porch, asking for just one story before we left. But he surprised us and flipped the script.

This time, he asked us to tell him a story. My sister and I glanced at each other and laughed. We told him we didn’t have any stories to tell, that all the stories we knew were his.

He insisted. “Just tell me something that you did or something that happened to you. I want to hear what you have to say.”

This was perhaps the first time that someone had expressed genuine interest in my narrative. My parents had always been there for me when I wanted to talk, but this was different. When I was little, I didn’t entirely realize the power that my grandfather’s stories had; I just knew that they meant everything to me. Now the man whose stories had defined my childhood wanted to hear mine.

Listening to his stories was only half the journey; the other half was understanding that mine has just as much power.

It took me years to understand, but my grandfather’s stories didn’t just carry strong messages and morals. They were power themselves. I am so lucky to have my grandfather in my life. To have someone who taught me the importance of my narrative, even the stories I believed to be mundane. But the same can’t be said for everyone.

In our society, it’s easy to fall into the oppressive idea that only some stories matter, that no one wants to hear yours. But that’s simply not true. Each of the narratives that we consume helps to form our worldview. But so do the ones we don’t hear. And narratives we don’t hear are exactly the ones we need to be talking about – the ones that have been unjustly devalued.

I finally understand the value of my narrative, and I couldn’t have done it without my grandfather. Even as I sit here and write this piece, I owe it all to him. The confidence I have to put my stories out in the public for all to view, I owe to him. I don’t think that I’ve ever told him how much I value him, his stories. How he’s empowered me to claim my voice. I guess this is my way of thanking him.

History Poetry Forgotten History Lost in History

You probably don’t know about Hettie Jones, a crusading Beat poet

You’ve heard of a Jack Kerouac, but have you ever heard of a Hettie Jones?

The Beat Literary Movement of the 1950s is coined for its explicit subject matter and bohemian lifestyle. Americans in the 1950’s lived in largely suburban towns and felt threatened by things like communism. Men went to work in suits and women stayed home to cook, clean, and tend to the children.

The rebel, beatnik, group of authors that made up the Beat Generation were iconoclastic. Much of their work explored and influenced American culture and politics in the post-war era. They experimented with form and structure while writing about sex, drugs, and religion. Traditional literary houses rejected them and looked down on them as a group as being defiant, untalented, and unprofessional. 

I think that their being unconventional was the whole point, though.

They were the antithesis of mainstream American life.

They wanted to publish anything that was deemed inappropriate by society. These people were tired of the routine, and frankly, felt beaten down by the conservative lifestyle that they were stuck in. They were highly controversial in that they were the antithesis of mainstream American life and writing. Many of their works of poetry and prose focused on shifts of consciousness and escaping “squareness.” The stereotype around the Beats is that they were not in favor of what they considered to be straight jobs. Instead, they lived together, packed into small and dirty apartments, sold drugs, had sex with each other, and committed crimes. They are also known for exploring homosexuality, which was a highly taboo topic in 1950’s America.

Though they set many precedents together, the Beats still succumbed to the blatant sexism of the time. Most, if not all, of the women involved in the Beat literary movement were overshadowed by their male counterparts for no particular reason other than gender. These women were just as intelligent and qualified to question society as the beatnik men who have become well-known poets and activists.

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One of the most iconic, and downplayed, female poets of that time who deserves righted acknowledgment is Hettie Jones. 

Hettie Jones published 23 books- and yet, we forgot her

Hettie Jones is most known for her marriage to the famous Beat Poet Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones). Few people know that Hettie helped run Totem Press, one of the more important beat publishers, along with her husband. She went on to publish about 23 books, one being a memoir of her time spent with Amiri and the rest of the Beats titled, How I Became Hettie Jones (1990). She has also written for many prestigious journals, lectured writing across America, and began the literary magazine “Yugen.”

Hettie is one of my favorite poets, so I think that her writing deserved to be at the forefront of the Beat movement, right there with the boys who got so much praise for their work. 

Hettie’s writing is rooted in practical idealism. She left her family home in Long Island to go to college and to fully discover herself. When she graduated in 1955, she never turned back, and moved to New York City. She met Amiri while working at The Record Changer, a jazz magazine. He was a young, black poet with just as much intelligence and intensity as Hettie. They quickly fell in love and moved in together. They would go to poetry readings at cafes and bohemian bars, where they met many of the other Beat poets.

Hettie deserved to be at the forefront of the Beat movement.

When the pair founded their own magazine, they published the writings of many of the iconic beat players who could not find a home for their writing in the traditional sphere. Hettie was in charge of editing the works that were to be published in the magazine. It was here that she honed her craft and found power in the refined writing that makes her work stand out from the rest. 

By 1960, Hettie and Amiri had two children, were married, and lived in New York City. Being a biracial family, though, countless bigoted remarks were directed towards them regardless of the Beat scene. Hettie was on the receiving end of most of these cold stares and was able to see the world through the eyes of her husband and children. This affected her incredibly and eventually became a recurring theme in her writing.  

When Amiri became tightly involved with the Black Power movement, he was criticized for having a white wife. They divorced in 1968. Hettie thrived on her own though and made a living with her children while teaching and editing. Her separation from her husband also gave Hettie an outlet to speak up and finally publish works of her own. She has been quoted to say, “Without a him in the house, there was more space/time for her, and I tried to redefine the way a woman might use it.” 

To this day, Hettie’s writing is compassionate. She writes about her own experiences in a compelling manner while weaving in the issues that she cares about. Currently, Hettie lives in New York City, and is a writer and lecturer. In addition, she runs a writing workshop at the New York State Correctional Facility for Women where she recently published a volume of writing by incarcerated women.

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LGBTQIA+ Sexuality Pop Culture

Honoring Audre Lorde’s uplifting work for Pride Month

Audre Lorde is a legend and her work has quite literally changed my life.

As a self-described Black lesbian, mother, warrior, and poet, Audre Lorde was a powerful figure in the Feminist movement of the 70s and 80s, especially with her work in Black Feminism. Lorde has an impressive array of literature, including many pieces on intersectional feminism, Black lesbianism, and sexual liberation. As a Black woman, she owns her sexuality as part of her intersectional identity as she calls on other women to not let differences in their identities distract them from a common goal of collective liberation. This Pride month, I have gone back and read some of my favorite short pieces.

“The Erotic as Power,” is an evocative piece that was published in Lorde’s 1984 book, Sister Outsider. Focusing on the power of erotic female energy, she educates us on the reasons why this energy has been suppressed in women. She writes, “The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling.” She goes on to explain that the erotic is not necessarily sexual and that is a false connotation that many seem to make due to the use of the erotic to please men. This erotic energy for men’s pleasure is the only one that is approved of in society, and women are forced to suppress all the other uses of this erotic power by a corrupt system.

Recognizing how powerful it can be to fully step into this erotic power can be life-changing for women and create change around the world. When she speaks of the erotic, she means “an assertion of the lifeforce of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.”

Imagine if women were able to feel empowered and put love into all that they did? Imagine if we could feel pure pleasure out of the things we did in life, and with who we are, for ourselves and ourselves only? The racist, sexist, and patriarchal systems we live in continue to suppress our power, and we must fight back. Lorde’s piece is an inspiration for all women, but particularly for Black women, the most oppressed group in America.  

Another one of my favorite pieces is Lorde’s essay “Black Women Organizing Around Sexualities”, where she calls out to her fellow non-lesbian Black sisters to not let their sexualities get in the way of their shared goal towards Black liberation. Now, I do not identify as a Black woman, but this piece was pivotal for me in learning about the struggles that Black women in our society face. Not only do they face oppression and racism, but the intersectional lesbian Black woman even face pushback from her own sisters. Lorde doesn’t believe that it is right for her to have to choose between being a Black feminist or a Black lesbian, because they are both part of her identity and both contribute to her oppression.

There is still racism, sexism, and discrimination amongst Black folks. In this piece, Lorde wants to call that out and bring unity amongst Black women because they should all unite to fight against the oppression of their community. She writes, “I do not want you to ignore my identity, nor do I want you to make it an insurmountable barrier between our sharing of strengths.” Black lesbians are still struggling for freedom and justice in the same way that heterosexual Black folks are, and this is why she emphasizes that instead of letting their sexualities divide them, they should organize and fight together.

When I reflect on these pieces, I think of all the ways that we are valuable, and how, by stepping into our own value, we are able to value others regardless of the different aspects of their identities. Lorde’s work is a call for women to unite in their fight for freedom.

In her essay “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”, she states that “as women, we must root out internalized patterns of oppression within ourselves if we are to move beyond the most superficial aspects of social change.” By touching on very intricate issues of classism, ageism, and heterosexism among the already deeply rooted racism and sexism towards the Black community, Lorde emphasizes how urgent it is for Black women to put their differences aside for the sake of their own people. 

As I mentioned, I am not Black and so I do not share the same experience that Black women do in this country. However, Audre Lorde has been a prominent figure who has contributed towards my knowledge about intersectional feminism and to my anti-racist education. I am compelled to honor her and her work, especially during Pride month.

Lorde’s work embodies Pride as she unapologetically owns every part of her intersectional identity, including her sexuality. In doing so, she inspired other women to do the same, and even to join her battle for liberation for all Black folks with all types of intersectional identities. As she writes in “The Erotic as Power”, “Of course, women so empowered are dangerous.”

Audre Lorde’s work paved the way for many women to step into their power, and she has taught me how to be a better leader, a better ally, a better woman.

USA Editor's Picks 2020 Elections Media Watch Politics The World

The media has the power to paint a narrative—even with a sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden

The Tempest Exclusive series Media Watch investigates and introspects on the intricacies of free speech around the world, right from The Tempest newsroom. 

Only some media outlets and respective principled journalists dare to publish the stories that others would spike or hang low on. It has become more and more apparent to me that the news is an industry. Like any other business, news organizations cannot stay afloat without stable finances or ties to people with a great deal of power. This has become increasingly more clear in recent weeks. Alexandra Tara Reade is a former staffer from Joe Biden’s senate office who alleges that Biden sexually assaulted her at work in 1993. On March 24, 2020, The Intercept bravely published Reade’s story, stating that she had been vocal about her allegations months prior and had even lodged a complaint back in 1993. She has also mentioned that there were witnesses who can confirm her allegations. At the time, Reade felt she had no choice but to go quiet after intense pushback and pressure – much of Reade’s private life and finances have been scrutinized through the years. While Biden’s presidential campaign continued, she began to reconsider her silence, calling it her civic responsibility to share her story. 

Two days after the initial article was published, another journalist posted an hour long podcast interview with Tara Reade, where she discussed the event in its entirety. Since these were made public, mainstream media organizations have been remarkably slow on acknowledging her allegations. The New York Times finally broke its silence on April 12th, nearly 19 days after the story first entered the news cycle, and only at that point did other major news organizations follow suit. The paper claimed that they had been conducting in-depth reporting on the topic during that time interval. 

It is as if there is a vested political interest, or maybe some sort of internal strife, on the surface that is keeping the media far away from this story. While smaller, independent, publications have covered Reade’s story extensively since it first broke, none of the reportage around this story has mirrored that of the explosion of coverage around other prominent sexual assault allegations against political figures.

The article written by the The New York Times was particularly striking to me. The headline reads, “Examining Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegation Against Joe Biden.”  Immediately, this insinuates some sort of skepticism. Most organizations appear to be hesitant to believe this particular survivor. 

There is no ethical standard for a newsroom to follow when covering stories like this, since every allegation is different and therefore is determined on a case by case basis, but I do believe that timing and verbiage is important. The press plays a huge role in enabling certain things to blow up while keeping others at bay, or within a certain lens, which holds true in this case, based off of the rhetoric used.

The day that the The New York Times published its article, April 12th, 2020, the paper also posted an accompanying thread of tweets on twitter that have since been deleted. One, that I found to be particularly telling, read, “No other allegation about sexual assault surfaced in the course of our reporting, nor did any former Biden staff corroborate Reade’s allegation. We found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Biden, beyond hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable.” 

Other woman have been vocal about alleged inappropriate, sexual, interactions with Joe Biden. Most of their statements discuss unwanted kisses, hair smelling, and hand placement. They also talk about them feeling embarrassed, stating that his behavior towards them was just another example of that which makes many women feel uncomfortable and unequal in the workplace. Their names are Lucy Flores, Amy Lappos, D.J. Hill, Caitlyn Caruso, Ally Coll, Sofie Karasek, and Vail Kohnert-Yount. In April of 2019, Biden posted the below video on twitter in response to some of those allegations. To date, Biden’s campaign manager and communications director, Kate Bedingfield, has denied Tara Reade’s allegation saying, “he firmly believes that women have a right to be heard—and heard respectfully. Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim: it is untrue. This absolutely did not happen.”

The New York Times forgot to mention in its article that those aforementioned instances of “hugs, kisses, and touching” that made women uncomfortable ARE patterns of sexual misconduct by Joe Biden. It is quite obvious that those kinds of acts are not ones of endearment, but rather they are assertions of power. Perhaps, during those 19 days that the paper spent conducting such intensive interviews, it could have spoken with some sort of trauma or women’s specialist. This person could have also provided the context necessary to establish why Tara would have been so hesitant to come forward with her allegations, especially with regard to the stigma that existed around such topics in 1993 and all that a person might endure when speaking up. More of the paper’s reluctance is shown through the quotations that have been selected for print. This includes the fact that the sources used to corroborate Reade’s allegation are people who have a clear loyalty or interest in Biden not only as an acquaintance, but also as a nominee.

It is not surprising that a newspaper like The New York Times would go to such lengths to attempt to ensure that Trump would not return to the presidency after 2020. Each individual newsroom is subject to its own collective judgement and decision making. But in all of the hodgepodge that goes into political reporting, and the walls that it brushes up against, one might actually be letting go of the morals that got them there in the first place. For me, it is a little disheartening that any newspaper—not just The New York Times—known for its worldview would be hesitant with coverage around a woman with a story like this one, regardless of the politics that they might be engulfed in. Reporters should avoid political activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or that may damage credibility, which includes this kind of apparent unbalanced coverage. If an equal platform is not given to survivors of sexual assault in the media, especially when the accused is a political figure who has substantial power over the public, news organizations are not serving the public the way they intend. 

It is no secret that some news organizations lean left and others lean right, but should that direct its reporting when the story is about sexual assault allegations? I don’t think so. 

Editor's Picks Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I broke up with him – but he refused to let me go

My ex-boyfriend bombarded me with texts and phone calls when we broke up.

After denying that he broke up with me, he continuously placed the blame on me for all of our problems. It was always my family that got in the way, it was because I was anxious all the time. I was too ‘negative’ about my life. I always complained. It’s clear to see the pattern of manipulation he followed.

Accountability wasn’t in his vocabulary.

Going through breakups is hard. Regardless of the circumstances that led to the breakup, it is difficult to draw a line when it comes to boundaries and aspects of communication. Do you continue talking, or is the talking not leading to anything productive? After all, you did break up for a reason, so is continuously talking making things any better?

I still love him, but I cannot forget.

Sometimes, feelings get complicated. You cannot claim to love someone in one moment and then make them feel like the worst person on the planet the next.

That is not love. It’s manipulation.

No matter how many times you apologize for it, it does not make it okay. Nor is the mental torture I put myself through. Second-guessing every little thing I said or did. Continuously arguing doesn’t help either. Being bombarded with messages about how this wasn’t the outcome they wanted. It’s selfish, ultimately.

I didn’t even realize it was happening until I told my sister and she said that these were behaviors he was exhibiting.

Whilst our relationship was loving and very much healthy, mostly, there were elements of gaslighting during our breakup. He couldn’t handle the fact that we weren’t together anymore and that he could lose me permanently. He needed that power and control. Having the situation fall further and further out of his hands was not an option.

I didn’t even realize it was happening until I told my sister and she said that these were behaviors he was exhibiting.

The worst thing was that I felt like I was being overdramatic when I talked to others about his behavior. As if I was being too harsh, yet he was the one manipulating me to think like that. Isn’t it mad how someone can have that much control over your thoughts? But that was the thing, he did.

I felt like it was hard to admit what he did and tried to justify why he did it. He did manipulate me. He did emotionally blackmail me. He made things my fault when they weren’t, they were his problem. He deflected when I told him his issues and turned them around on me.

That’s not how it should have been, nor is it okay.

I dealt with his behavior the best way I could. I called it when I saw it, even if I realized it later on. I stopped communicating with him when the emotional exhaustion became too much. It was the only way I knew how to cope. A clean break was needed, so that’s what I did.

Isn’t it mad how someone can have that much control over your thoughts? But that was the thing, he did.

It’s selfish. He was not thinking of me, the person he claimed to still call a ‘friend’. It’s like those words are ingrained into my memory.

“You were throwing it in my face.”

“You were being unreasonable.”

“You were the problem.”

“You’re perfect, aren’t you?”

No, I’m not perfect, and I’m not trying to be. I can openly admit my faults and apologize for them. For some reason, in those moments he couldn’t do that and instead he turned the blame on me.

I still love him, but I cannot forget. The anger, every single word he said; those are things I cannot accept willingly and move on. He was a great partner for the duration of time we were together, yet when we decided to call it quits, it’s like something changed.

Even writing these words out is making me anxious. But I won’t allow myself to get back into a relationship where anger continuously takes over. I want to be able to have inner peace.

And I can’t do that in a relationship with someone who cannot deal with their own emotions.

Work Career Now + Beyond

Women don’t need to keep jumping through hoops to prove their worth

My first real-life work experiences have been at all female companies. My first internship in Washington, DC was with a non-profit called Running Start: a small, all-female nonprofit working to empower women to run for office in the United States. Running for office is no longer one of my goals. But there was something about watching these women inspire women that made me understand something fundamental about male leaders, and the work culture in DC.

While interning with Running Start, I worked on some research that would be going into a sponsorship proposal. Running Start sponsors women from all over the country to come to Washington, DC and intern on the hill. It is expensive to live in DC, so these proposals help Running Start fundraise. When writing these proposals, we have to back up what Running Start does with studies of female leadership.

Doing that research wasn’t anything special then, but some of the facts and concepts have been impossible to get out of my head. What I learned was this: the reason women don’t pursue leadership positions as often is not that they aren’t qualified, but because they seek more qualifications before pursuing them. Women see power coming from knowledge.

The reason men pursue these power positions is that they think power comes from confidence. And they are right: power does come from confidence. Women end up earning way more qualifications than they ever needed, all to get the same positions as the men, not because they need to, but because they think they need to.

In general, women think that in order to be in charge, they’re not allowed to have flaws. You’re not allowed to say “I don’t know.” So in order to prepare for leadership, they prepare to answer every question, accurately and fully. Women have a higher standard for ‘qualified’ than men do. They prepare all the knowledge they need in order to be successful when men take half of that information and run full speed into leadership positions. And women are still preparing.

Some of my peers at University feel this way. There are women on my campus majoring in international service and Arabic and wanting to go into the peace corps and going to grad school all because they want to run for office, or be a leader in their field.  Meanwhile the President of the United States has legal disputes and can barely spell his own name. Women are striving for perfection. Men don’t have to.

As a younger member of staff, especially a younger woman on staff, there is something intimidating about going into my supervisor’s office. After all, they are a supervisor. But when it is a woman, I have only experienced not only extreme care and empathy, but also intelligence, backed up with experience, and an ability to figure out what needs to be done. Without that empathy, all the workplace has is competition. When you make a mistake, there is no support to learn from it. When you succeed, there is no reward.

But my women supervisors have always been extremely careful to help me follow in their footsteps. To me, companies that function with empathy work more successfully as a team. When we support and uplift our coworkers, ultimately the company, and you, benefit from that work. And when we make mistakes, we need support, not negativity. My female supervisors have always supported my work, and supported me. I think that my work has improved because of it.

Male supervisors have a perception of confidence, knowledge, and facts. But in the current political era, it is time to double check that. Are they knowledgeable and factual, or just confident?

I do not mean any of this to offend anyone; these are simply examples of modern sociological phenomenons. But they are changing. As women become more empowered, they become not only more knowledgeable and factual but also more confident. Female leaders are incredibly intelligent. We all know that. But they also had the confidence to push past the facade of male superiority. And doing that takes more than the confidence men have, backed up by generations of favoritism.

As I have watched the incredibly qualified women in charge of me work, I know that they too are working hard to help women rise in the corporate ladder. That they are increasing not only female representation but intersectional female representation. And while men are working smarter not harder, women are working smarter and harder.

I have had the privilege to have only female bosses. This has definitely effected my paradigm. I am encouraged, empowered, and uplifted, all to succeed in a world where men are more likely to. I know what kind of boss I want to be when I am in charge: empathetic, but still confident, knowledgeable, and factual.

Reproductive Rights Gender Love Life Stories

My professor forced himself on me. Here’s why I didn’t report him.

Trigger warning: descriptions of sexual assault

This past week, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford made headlines when she publicly stated she was assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’sSoon after, Donald Trump questioned why Ford did not report the assault to the authorities

In response, survivors shared why they did not report, using the hashtag  #WhyIDidntReport on social media Like Ford, I too was assaulted, but I did not report because of major power imbalances between the person who assaulted me and myself

I was out of the hospital after spending a week in the emergency room and short stay, for a then-unknown disease which turned out to be vasculitis. I was only in the second month of my first semester at university.

To say the least, I was overwhelmed, confused, and scared.

At that time, I would describe myself as being as a hardworking student whose identity was very much attached to her grades. I had a quiz two days after I was released from the hospital in an advanced course. I thought the best thing to do was to go to my professor during office hours to ask if I could take this test at a later date.

He would be understanding, right?

His office hours were right after class, so despite feeling still sick, I decided to stick it out until the end. He tried to force himself on me.

I ran back to my dorm and cried. I could not form coherent thoughts – all I knew was that a professor sexually assaulted me. I didn’t feel like I had a choice about what to do next. I didn’t want to go to the police because I was afraid that they would belittle me. I still wanted to continue to be in the same program.

I wanted to switch classes, but I knew I would have to go to the same professor to get his permission. 

No way was I going to be alone with him again.

Nothing too horrific happened over the next few months. By “not horrific,” I mean not anything that I would label as sexual assault. He winked at me every single class, whenever I was close he would put his hand on my back – both of which made me want to disappear. Whenever I asked him about an assignment or grade, he said that I had to go to his office hours because he didn’t understand my question

A few months went by, and a summer program accepted me that I really wanted to participate in.

The problem was that I needed him to sign off that I was in good standing in his course. I thought doing this in the hallway would be a safe place to ask. Unluckily, he was also in charge of transfer credits for my program. When I asked him if he could sign off on my form, he said that he would think about it. At the same, his hand gripped my breast. I didn’t think he would be so blatant about his sexualized violence towards me, but I was wrong.

The next class he signed my form, winked at me, and ended up raising my grade at the end of the year. In the fall, I had to meet with him, in an open room, to discuss my transfer credits for the summer program that I had completed. He didn’t want to give me the credits despite agreeing to do so the spring before.

Over the next two months, he continued to send emails saying that I had to meet with him to discuss the courses that I took. There was no way I was going near him. I ended up contacting my faculty and complained how long the transfer process was taking. They ended up granting me the credits that he refused to give me.

I left that university at the end of that semester, which was in December 2017.

I had somewhat of a mental breakdown in early April this year, when all of his abuse towards me was triggered by news of this happening to other students. I never blamed myself, but I was somewhat in denial about how bad it was. I didn’t know how to cope with it and knew my university would do nothing even if I reported him.

In a world that makes it hard for survivors to come forward about their experiences, we can’t be blamed for being afraid of reporting assault. Systems need to be put in place to be more friendly towards survivors, and universities need to become less violent places, where rape culture could not be more present. Until we confront rape culture both in academia and in society in general, gendered and sexualized violence will continue to unfairly punish survivors.

#WhyIDidntReport: he was my professor, and I didn’t want to face retaliation. 

Love Wellness

My dad trained me to doubt my memory and sanity for years – and I believed him

When I finally heard and learned about the term “gaslighting” a year or so ago, my understanding of my family dynamics and my relationship with my father changed drastically. Gaslighting is a type of manipulation that abusers use to make their victims doubt their own memory or sanity.

Abusers who gaslight distort the past, manipulate, or outright lie about their past actions in order to disorient their victims. Often their lies include denial of their own abusive behavior, which makes the victim doubt whether they are actually being abused.

Abusers do this to gain and maintain power over their victims.

This term was so groundbreaking for me because for years, some of the biggest arguments between my father and I revolved around incidents that I remembered in a specific way, but my dad insisted happened differently. For example, when my parents generously bought me my first (used) car, my dad explained that I didn’t have to get a part-time job to help pay it off if I didn’t want to; instead, I needed to focus on school.

Furthermore, he told me that if I did decide to work, I only needed to make a small monthly payment of about 50 dollars.

Several months later, after I decided I wanted spending money and found a job, my dad suddenly asked me for a monthly payment of a lot more than 50 dollars.

Helping pay off my car wasn’t the issue.

It was a reasonable request, and I complied, even though I was confused. What I found troubling was that I knew my dad had laid down the rules for the car payment early on, but suddenly, he changed them. And he acted like the amount he was demanding was the one we had originally agreed on even though it wasn’t.

He vehemently argued that we had agreed on the larger amount, and I insisted that we hadn’t, which ultimately resulted in an unresolved fight.

I remembered our conversation, but it was vastly different from the one he was trying to convince me we had.

He twisted the truth in other ways too.

He’d insist that I had failed to tell him about my weekend plans when I knew for a fact that I had. He claimed we had a conversation about my curfew that never took place and then he’d yell at me for breaking a curfew we’d never set.

His recollection of events was bizarre and frustrated me to say the least. I felt helpless when we would argue because I couldn’t tell if he was lying or just had a horrible memory. My mom chalked it up to memory loss and oblivion, but as I got older, I doubted her theory.

When I entered my early twenties and started reflecting on my strained relationship with my father, I discovered a startling trend: my dad would lie, distort the truth, or otherwise twist reality every time he was trying to win an argument or when he was trying to put me in my place.

When he was trying to prove that he was right and I was wrong. And he always needed to be right.

For years, I’d literally doubted my sanity.

I genuinely wondered if I had somehow forgotten key conversations or actions that my dad later claimed took place. On some level I knew what he was saying was false, but I also didn’t trust my memory.

After I learned about gaslighting, I realized I didn’t trust my memory because he’d trained me not to, through years of lies and distortions of the truth. I finally realized that I wasn’t the insane one.

Gaslighting is often examined in the context of romantic relationships. This form of manipulation is damaging and hurtful in any relationship, but when a parent uses this tactic on a child, it can have severe consequences.

The effects of gaslighting can last for decades.

Your perception of your childhood and relationship with the gaslighting parent may be skewed. It can affect your sense of self-worth and it will make you question your own mental state, day after day, year after year.

And getting away from a gaslighting parent is much harder than getting away from a gaslighting partner.

It’s not as easy to cut your mom or dad out of your life if you don’t like the way they’re treating you.

It’s harder to explain to friends and other family members why you’re ceasing contact with a parent than it is to elaborate on why you broke up with your shitty boyfriend. People often have a hard time believing that a parent could use such a subtly abusive tactic on his/her own child, but unfortunately it happens all the time.

Like when I confronted my dad about a violent outburst he had last summer, our argument degenerated into a screaming match as he blatantly lied about and downplayed his actions. I was furious but not surprised; gaslighting allows an abuser to continue to treat other people poorly by convincing them that their understanding of the past is wrong.

But now that I understand gaslighting and its signs, I don’t let his version of the truth change my understanding of the truth. I know that I’m not wrong, and I know that my memory isn’t damaged or skewed.

I know that he’s just trying to keep his power over me, and I refuse to let him have power over me anymore.