Reproductive Rights TV Shows The Trump Era Gender Pop Culture

How ‘Mrs America’ explains feminism through an anti-feminist perspective

Ah, the second wave of feminism! The historical movement that brought with it the Equal Rights Amendment Bill (or the ERA)!

The show Mrs. America portrays the complexities, inhibitions and feminist set-ups of the entire 1970s movement to fruition. I have been a fan of Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, and Betty Friedan since the day I could pronounce and spell feminism, and I’m happy to say that the show does them justice.

Mrs America presents the journey of many second-wave feminists. However, unlike most other shows, Mrs America focuses mainly on Phyllis Schlafly and the hypocrisy of the Right Wing party. The idea is executed brilliantly, with the focus being on different women throughout the nine episodes aired. It is an honest and jaw-droppingly beautiful portrayal of the women who fought for and against ERA.

The cast is breathtakingly original with Uzo Aduba, Cate Blanchett, and Rose Byrne stealing my heart. I can’t sell the other women short because everybody had a particular role to play and they played it so well. It was like a mesh of cogs running smoothly, enabling the show to be as powerful as possible.

The image shows three women in the background of women protesting for women's rights.
[Image description: The image shows three women in the background of women protesting for women’s rights.] Via Mrs. America
The show allows us to get to know Phyllis Schlafly, the Conservative Head who rallied against ERA, and, yes she is that character who is not only homophobic and sexist but also blindly believes that marital rape isn’t rape.

The show starts directly from Phyllis’s perspective, a nuclear policy expert turned housewife, mother to six children, and off the top of the bat, very bourgeoisie. Her ideologies against the rise of feminism are argued upon with valid arguments (according to her). Her argument delved into how the ERA would reduce the position of the traditional housewife in the particular household setting and would disrupt the sociologically and morally deemed ‘correct’ family way of life. This makes her create and gather a whole entourage of women who back her against the ERA by literally protesting against the movement. And, lo and behold, this causes the ERA to not be passed in Congress.

You will hate and simultaneously be filled with pathos for Cate Blanchett for the stunning portrayal of this disgusting yet complex character.

There is this one scene (spoiler alert!) where Phyllis’s husband forces her to consent to sex, and you see the pain through Blanchett’s eyes which honestly gives her character such depth. Understanding personality development because of years of normalization of patriarchy is what all of us as feminists strive to achieve. This again is a sexist mentality but facilitated by years of normalizing rape-culture.

The image is of four men surrounding one woman in a powder blue suit.
[Image description: The image is of four men surrounding one woman in a powder blue suit.] Via Mrs. America
My heart, however, goes out to Alice, a fictional character who is actually constituted as an amalgamation of various women from the Conservative wing. Played by Sarah Paulson, Alice is an integral part of the STOP ERA movement along with Phyllis. Her point of view for joining the movement was not sexist; she wanted the housewives to not be the butt of the jokes of all the feminists at that point (because frankly, not all feminists upheld the concept of choice at that moment). Alice’s transformation and change of character as she mixes with the second-wave feminists is poignant.

Mrs America, with its diverse cast and multifaceted outlooks on Chisholm (the first woman and Black candidate to run for the Democratic Party’s Presidential Nomination) and Steinem’s life, gave me another reason to reread all the feminist publications during the second wave feminist movement.

Tracy Ullman’s stunning portrayal of Betty Friedan moved my heart. Betty wasn’t shown to be a perfect feminist, she was a complex character with idiosyncrasies and quirks and thus, through the show, was completely humanized. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan is still the feminist treatise that shapes young girls, boys, transgender men and women, and the non-binary teenagers into feminists.

The image is of Sarah Paulson in Mrs. America as Alice
[Image description: The image is of Sarah Paulson in Mrs. America as Alice] Via Mrs. America
Again, the show dramatizes the lives of these women to great detail, but perfectly focuses on the hypocrisy of the Right-winged mentality and also throws light on the growth of the American left.

With a fantastic cast, stunning direction, and wonderful costumes absolutely staying true to the 70s with the flared pants and large hippie glasses, Mrs. America is an influential show that everybody needs to watch. You get to not just be entertained but learn about the movement. With the intricacy of politics running within the feminist movement, with disagreements between the women, and the backdoor politics of having to appease certain political elements, you get the good and the bad from a movement that shaped history for years to come.

A deeply feminist show that perfectly manipulates the economy, misogyny, and the growth and shift of politics in the USA, Mrs. America might be one of the best shows I have watched last year.

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These are the trending, political debates ending relationships everywhere

 “We can disagree and still be friends – Yeah, about pizza toppings, not racism. Gtfo my face”. I’ve seen this meme circulating lately, taken from William Vercetti’s Twitter Status, and it’s just so apt. There are some things on which you can agree to disagree – but if your partner tries to debate and justify any form of oppression, how is that not the ultimate deal breaker for you?

Read on for the biggest political reasons ending relationships world-wide:

Debates over Donald Trump:

The domestic disputes over Donald Trump are so huge, that it even has its own term: “The Trump Effect” – Coming to a Marriage Near You. Okay so I made the tagline up, but you must agree – it fits. A year into Trump;s service, a 2017 poll showed that 11% of Americans ended a serious relationships due to political differences.  Because voting for Trump means voting for sexism, anti-abortion, racism, white supremacists, police brutality, xenophobia, the list goes on.


Ever heard of wokefishing? It’s a term writer Serena Smith coined to describe people (usually men) pretending they’re feminists, or into social justice, because it helps them score more with the ladies.

I’m not even American and Trump’s beliefs set me into a blind rage, so I can’t fathom waking up happily next to someone who’s marked a blasphemous, black X next to Donald Trump’s name.

Whilst catfishing may be a huge fear for men, womxn are more fearful of being wokefished and then waking up one day to realize their partner voted for Trump. I’m not even American and Trump’s beliefs set me into a blind rage, so I can’t fathom waking up happily next to someone who’s marked a blasphemous, black X next to Donald Trump’s name. “But honey, I did it for the economy!” he cries, as I set fire to all his belongings. Whilst non-Americans can’t end a relationship with someone for actually voting for Trump, it’s certainly a political debate rearing its ugly head and causing relationship unrest in many other countries, too. 

Debates over BLM:

It still blows my mind that people try and argue against this ongoing protest. There are the well-known “buts” and “all lives matter!” which was met with “um that’s what we’re saying, yo!?”

If you ever hear someone advocating for equality and your first word in response is “but..”, I hate to break it to you, but you’re the problem.

Another classic but awful “but” is “Black people kill Black people too!” That’s like saying – hey I’m dying of cancer and someone pipes in that pneumonia can kill you too. 

If you ever hear someone advocating for equality and your first word in response is “but..”, I hate to break it to you, but you’re the problem. If it’s your parent, colleague, or sister arguing with you, I get that maybe it’s tougher to end these bonds over what to them may be considered trivial (which it shouldn’t be). But if it’s who you thought you chose as your life partner; someone you’re about to make every life decision together with, it’s much more important to call it quits. 

Debates over #MeToo:

What is it about society that doesn’t want to believe sexual abuse victims? Is it perhaps too traumatic for us to deal with that our brain just shuts down and yells too. much. to compute. Heck, I don’t want to believe a president, or priest, or policeman is capable of rape and murder, either.

But let’s leave it up to the facts, shall we: Out of all the sexual violence offenses reported in Europe , UK and the US, only 2-6% are found or suspected to be false. Of course that doesn’t include the millions of cases left unreported, or reported too late because of the ridiculous stigma attached to the victim and the high cost of legal bills.

I’ve had to unlearn and relearn a million things about my gender that I was once brainwashed to believe.

It’s like, why would someone lie about an experience like that? If your partner doesn’t believe rape survivors, or adds anything to the discussion with a “why do women wear revealing outfits”, or if they spit with wild ferocity: “not all men!”, then please, do yourself a favor and dump their ass. 

Debates over Sexism:

Whilst I am a strong advocate for all the above, I’m gladly not under Trump’s reign. I am white, and I am thankfully not a victim of sexual violence. But as a woman, sexism is something I know everything about.

Because I promise you – that sexist “joke” is not funny, no matter how many times you are gaslit into believing it is.

I’ve had to unlearn and relearn a million things about my gender that I was once brainwashed to believe. Arguing with my father, my male friends, my colleagues, on issues I have formally studied as if they were just mere opinions of mine, makes my blood boil. While a lot of the time I bite my tongue and think, “choose your battles”, other times my beating heart tells me that I have chosen.

If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to stand even a sexist meme circling your boyfriend’s group chats.  (And rightfully so!) So if your partner, friend, or family member is being sexist, you need to call them out and you need to have that discussion with them. And if you still don’t get through, it’s over boo. Because I promise you – that sexist “joke” is not funny, no matter how many times you are gaslit into believing it is.

You’re entitled to your opinion, of course. You and your partner can have debates on all sorts of things, from ice cream flavors to Netflix series; but basic human rights is not one of them. So watch out for those red flags everybody! Especially ones that read Make America Great Again”.  

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World News Gender The World

A look into the predatory and pornographic Telegram group in Malaysia

TW: Mentions of sexual harassment and child pornography.

A disturbing Telegram group called V2K has been exposed for distributing and sharing unsolicited pictures of women in Malaysia. These pictures range from selfies from social media accounts, vacation pictures in swimwear, nudes, and even paid-for child pornographic images.

The #predatorgram, as it has been dubbed on Twitter, was exposed by a handful of Malaysian women who discovered their pictures were circulating in the Telegram group without their consent. 

The Telegram group has almost 40,000 members that range from students to businessmen. The men share unsolicited pictures of women and girls to each other for their pleasure. The pictures are either taken from social media, or nudes are requested which are sent as revenge porn. Sometimes the men ask to trade nudes in exchange for another girl’s nudes. Personal information of the women and girls such as phone numbers, home addresses, and social media handles, is also shared with their pictures. 

The violation of privacy matched with the disgusting objectification of women and children happening in this group is a major reason why so many women feel unsafe, unprotected, and angry on social media.

That is exactly how Syakinah (one of the women at the forefront of exposing the group) felt when she discovered her own pictures were being distributed on the Telegram group. 

“It’s not that there are reasons I don’t feel safe, rather there are no reasons to feel safe. At every level, women are vulnerable. At a personal level, women and girls are raped by their own family members and husbands. In society, women are treated like objects for male pleasure. Finally, at a legal level, the laws themselves are full of loopholes that allow men to escape justice. The part that makes this worse [is] that everyone is aware of these things but does not try to change them.” says Syakinah. 

Currently, Malaysian law does not define sexual harassment or assault in explicit terms.  Malaysia is set to introduce a new Sexual Harassment Bill which will provide detailed definitions of what sexual harassment is, improve the way sexual harassment survivors report their cases, and change the punishment for predators. The hope is that this bill will address the inequalities and harassment experienced by Malaysian women. 

The news of this Telegram group also raises questions about consent and the way women are harassed in an increasingly digital and internet-driven world. 

“Social media has created the illusion of access,” says Syakinah. “These men believed that because the pictures were posted online that it belonged to them for any use.”

Why do these men struggle to understand the concept of consent? In the bubble of social media, men do not live in the same world as women. They have difficulty conceptualizing the oppressive experiences of women because the patriarchal society uplifts them and the internet has become a new way to exert their power over women in a digital, instantaneous space. 

However, Syakinah does think that the internet has been helpful to women in Malaysia despite the appearance of such groups online. “Malaysia currently still lacks general education on women’s rights and via the internet, we are able to educate ourselves by looking at other countries where women’s rights are more elevated and talked about.”

Let us honor these women and girls by heeding Syakinah’s call for self-reflection. “Every person needs to reflect on themselves. Men need to realize that yes, all men are part of this problem. Not all men do these things but all men benefit from the patriarchy. Correct your friends and yourself. Self-reflection is hard but necessary for betterment. For girls, be unapologetic. Don’t be afraid to say when something makes you uncomfortable and upset.” 

Due to the public outrage, the Telegram group has now been disbanded. However, the issues that groups like these are exposing need to continuously be addressed for women’s rights and safety to be prioritized and protected. The fight for women and girls in Malaysia is a fight that should be taken up by all everywhere. For we can’t be truly empowered unless all of us are. 

Please sign the petition to table the Sexual Harassment Bill in Malaysia.

Movie Reviews Movies Pop Culture

‘Guilty’ on Netflix is one of the best films tackling rape culture

*Trigger warning: this article contains mentions of sexual assault*

When I first logged on to Netflix and clicked on a recommended film titled Guilty, I didn’t know what I was in for. The whole movie was crazy, but I absolutely loved it. It was deep and impactful, and featured amazing actors and excellent cinematography. 

The story was developed through flashbacks to a disastrous Valentine’s night at a college where all the drama began. Soon enough, it becomes evident to viewers that the movie would be addressing the MeToo Movement. The show centered on a rape trial involving main characters Nanki, Vijay, and Tanu. Throughout most of the film, Nanki is dead set that Vijay didn’t rape Tanu. Even the viewers don’t know for sure. However, Nanki does figure out that Tanu was telling the truth with the help of investigator Danish. In the end, Nanki, Tanu, and Danish are able to reveal the truth in front of everyone.

Guilty did an excellent job at addressing the MeToo movement. However, it also addresses a variety of other issues including PTSD, the effects of sexual assault, the inequalities between the wealthy and the poor, and more.

Every 73 seconds, another American is raped. But how many are fighting for those people?

Overall, the movie was stellar and I think it has the potential to greatly transform entertainment. Many forms of entertainment, namely the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why, have been sensationalizing not only rape, but also suicide. The media has tried to so perfectly craft these stories, which just isn’t how real life trauma works. Rape culture started to become more accepted. The ideas that ‘boys will be boys’ and that the rich should get away with sexual assault became more real.

Guilty also addresses the integrity of the victim reporting the assault. In the movie, Tanu reports the assault a significant amount of time later, but she does step up. Instead of believing her, Nanki, along with many people, don’t believe Tanu and call her a liar. The assumption that a large number of women falsely report rape is just flat out wrong. The rate at which the accuser is lying is 10%, according to Public Affairs Professor Callie Rennison from the University of Colorado Denver. This is the same as most other crimes. The movie emphasizes how in real life too many people don’t believe the accuser, and that has become a huge part of rape culture as well.

Rape culture is especially evident internationally, like in India where Guilty takes place.

The countries with the highest rate of sexual assault in the world are as follows.

  1. South Africa
  2. Botswana
  3. Lesotho
  4. Swaziland
  5. Bermuda
  6. Sweden
  7. Suriname
  8. Costa Rica
  9. Nicaragua
  10. Grenada

These are places that most Americans have never been to or experienced, which makes it harder to fight for. Everyone from the production company to the director of Guilty were Indian (except for the fact that the distributor was Netflix). These people had experienced the atmosphere of rape culture in India and were able to accurately portray it. This is where entertainment comes in. By showing the stories of people across the world fighting for their basic human rights, the media can further support the #MeToo movement. It will create more of an understanding as to what exactly is going on in the world.

Despite the sensationalization of rape culture in media, there have been times, like Guilty, where the performance all wrapped together providing for a quality viewing experience and an impactful message.

Moreover, another example would be the Netflix show Unbelievable, which is based on true events. It did an amazing job of portraying how investigators worked so hard to find the rapist who had carefully covered his steps. When portrayed accurately, rape culture can be addressed and it can persuade more people to support the MeToo movement.

The MeToo movement is alive and thriving, and Guilty makes sure of that.

Rape culture isn’t going anywhere yet, but neither is the MeToo movement.

The movement peaked about two years ago, but is coming back for policy change. The movement started the #MeTooVoter to push voters to elect leaders who would develop policy around sexual assault. Sexual harassment against workers has been increasing too and the MeToo movement is fueled and ready to combat it. The media has become a primary game-changer for the movement. This includes not just social media, but many tv shows and movies that have strived to spread awareness of the problem.

The entertainment industry needs to cover more social justice topics like these. However, it also needs to make sure it isn’t sensationalizing them.

Media has such a wide reach over so many people. By spreading awareness through these platforms, the movement will gain more traction than ever before.

Bollywood Movies Pop Culture

Netflix’s Bulbbul and the too common depiction of Bengali women as witches

Content warning: mentions of rape and suicide. Also, spoilers.

Bulbbul is a Netflix original movie that is a hauntingly beautiful supernatural thriller. I deem it to be a fairytale, rather than one which delves more into the horror genre, because tackling the demons of patriarchy is honestly the fairytale we all deserve.

Bulbbul is the tale of a child-bride during the Bengal presidency in India, who is a victim to patriarchy, domestic abuse, and rape, subsequently dying of trauma. She eventually turns into a demon (but is deemed as a Devi or a Goddess) and slashes men who do women wrong. The entire movie with the red and pink overtones, the late 19th-century British regality and Bulbbul’s jewels and sarees is a feast for the eyes. The domestic abuse that is portrayed is triggering and heart-wrenching, but true in this modern society nonetheless. However, my article is not a review of the movie but a link to the relevance with modern Bengali society in current times.

I am sure Sushant Singh Rajput’s case is currently famous, not just because of the significance because of his mental health struggles but because it has become an entire conspiracy theory. I am not commenting on either the justification of making it into a conspiracy or even trying to argue about whether it is a murder case or not. I am simply going to direct the relevance of the case with the movie that is Bulbbul.

Rhea Chakraborty, who came forward as Sushant’s girlfriend right after his death in June, has been accused of aiding and abetting into the murder of Sushant, and consequently allegedly accused of money laundering and shifting his assets. Rhea is an actress who was found with huge lumpsum amount of money transferred from Sushant’s bank accounts. Sushant was believed to have been murdered for money. This whole conspiracy aside, I bring her name into this article for a legitimate reason. No, I am not going into the conspiracy takes, but talking solely about Rhea Chakraborty here. Rhea is a Bengali woman, who has been accused of witchcraft and dark arts solely because she is Bengali and an independent woman.

The sheer mass of comments against Bengali women in India (I am a proud Bengali) has left my mind numb. Bengali women are headstrong, opinionated, and independent and have been fighting patriarchy for the longest time. We women are raised in a familial household where we are taught to rebel. Since Raja Rammohan Roy helped abolish Sati (the burning of live women along with their dead husbands on the funeral pyre), Bengali women have come forward and advocated for women. Our community has managed to help and break through the patriarchal sociological roots, with the help of men and women alike. We are taught to embrace our sexuality, and encouraged to be whoever we want to be.

Characters in Bengali works created by women such as Mahasweta Devi, Ashapurna Devi, Leela Majumdar, etc are feminists and have been breaking patriarchal barriers for a long time. To accuse us of witchcraft and black magic because we happen to be strong is literally equivalent to witches being burnt alive in Salem.

This is why I decided to pen my incoherent thoughts into an article, because what else can a writer do?

Netflix’s Bulbbul depicts a child bride’s transformation into a young woman who gets brutally beaten up and raped and eventually transforms into a demon during a blood moon. Bulbbul and her brother-in-law Satya share romantic intimacy because they are closer in age, and frequently share stories about witchcraft and demons amongst themselves. Bulbbul who gets married to the very old Indranil at the tender age of five finds comfort in Satya who is almost a friend from the beginning of the movie. Their relationship, however, drives Indranil, Bulbbul’s husband, into a jealous, angry rage. He beats her mercilessly, mutilating her legs. While recovering from her grievous injuries, she also ends up raped by her other brother-in-law, Mahendra, and thus she ultimately dies.

So, we as viewers can equally predict that it is Bulbbul who has turned into a witch, Daayan, and is killing men around in the Bengali city. This prediction might be unsurprising but doesn’t fail to make our hearts ache.

The witch Bulbbul, who has imbibed within herself the fearlessness and blood-lust of Kali, is killing men to save the women, because that is what she has become reduced to. Her death brings her the solace that she never received in her otherwise destructive marriage filled with marital abuse. She kills her rapist and to see a woman get justice brings us unequivocal happiness because we can’t stand torturous depictions of patriarchy even in movies. It is satisfying to see the men get what they deserve.

Why Bulbbul stands true in modern times, despite being set 200 years ago is because patriarchy hasn’t faded, even though centuries have passed. Women who can think and fend for themselves are still called a “fucking bitch”. Bengali women are still being termed as witches. I can’t deny Rhea’s involvement in Sushant’s case, and I won’t comment about the entire murder/suicide spin. But you can’t take this situation to paint an entire community of women in a disgusting light.

Unlike the movie’s portrayal of Bengali women, not all Bengali women are witches. Yes, we are independent and strong, vocal and determined. And, we want to destroy rape culture, and protect women. However, we don’t use our dark magic powers to dominate males. Like Lady Lazarus, “…we eat men like air.” And, if all of us had the power to manipulate magic, we would have ended misogyny, sexism, and solved problems of climate change long ago.

Our community boasts of unapologetic women, witches even, like the ever-powerful Ipsita Roy Chakraverti. We are not ashamed of what we are and who we are. Perpetuating misogynistic stereotypes and enforcing the idea that Bengali women are witches is disgusting. Again, little else can be expected from the rape culture normalized society like ours. However, like Bulbbul, our pain as women living under misogynistic shrouds rings through and every day we try to be better feminists.

Bulbbul is a devastatingly beautiful tale of a predictable story but with a supernatural, beautiful twist. With fantastic acting by Tripti Dimri, Avinash Tiwari, Paoli Dam, Rahul Bose and Parambrata Chattopadhyay, and wonderful direction by Anvita Dutt, it will make your heart ache.

Watch it on Netflix because it will move you to tears by the end of it, and make you want to believe in magic so you can destroy the evils of patriarchy. So you can stop womankind from being called “witches” in a derogatory way.


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Gender Inequality

Agrima Joshua is one of many whose voice has been silenced in India

Trigger warnings for mentions of rape and sexual harassment threats.

Agrima Joshua is Indian, a woman, and a stand-up comedian. So of course, her material is open for policing, and her body is a means of control for the Indian patriarchy. Having expressed a slightly offensive joke against a famous Hindu King in one of her stand-ups, Joshua started receiving rape threats from offended Indian parties.

It all started with a different stand up comedian, but it came down to a common thread – religion. On June 30th, Kenny Sebastian, a successful Indian comic, responded to one of his trolls, who had repeatedly attacked him on religious grounds (Sebastian is a Christian). Agrima Joshua, responded in support of her friend and fellow comedian, but her tweet resulted in Joshua being targeted instead. A 16 month old comedy stand-up of hers was dug up, and she was claimed to be “deliberately offensive to” Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a celebrated Marathi king from the 17th century.

In her video, Agrima jokes about a statue of the revered Indian hero being put up in Maharashtra. She mentions a Reddit thread where various followers of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj spoke about how the statue was the best thing for India. The statue, according to them, would have lasers and a GPS, which obviously was joke. She tried to relate India’s current scenario with the building of a statue, but no where did I find she was being offensive to the historical figure in general. Yes, the jokes might have been a little crass for my taste, but at the end, they were jokes. But her jokes ended up costing her so much because Indians hate opinionated women.

Comedy is subjective, and offensive, because it is comedy.

She started receiving so much hate and rape threats, with verbal sexual abuse being meted out to her. One of the perpetrators had the audacity to threat rape by describing in disgusting detail how he would physically mutilate her body. Others destroyed her stand-up venues and harassed, slut-shamed and trolled her online.

She apologized for having hurt the sentiments of the people who were offended by tweeting out “My heartfelt apologies to followers of the great leader, who I sincerely respect”. But the harassment did not stop.

She was continuously targeted, and for the next couple of days outrage spread like wildfire. Thankfully, the harassers and abusers who used the most unthinkable words and threatened to rape her were arrested, but is that what it has come to? We women can face any amount of harassment for talking and joking about political issues that are literally shaking our country?

Freedom of speech is an invalid concept in India, and artists face persecution everyday for expressing dissent.

Joshua continued to receive verbal abuse despite tweeting out her apology and deleting her video from YouTube. She is also facing legal consequences too, as a result of insulting a much beloved historical figure. This is the true face of our country, a country where marital rape is legal but expressing opinions isn’t.

Comedy is subjective, and offensive, because it is comedy. Yes, I can agree with her jokes being offensive to a particular section of the society but did that entail her to receive rape threats and graphic details of how she would be genitally mutilated? It pains me to explain how she was threatened, because I know I am not safe in my country. Dissent isn’t tolerated, opinions aren’t tolerated. Such is the gravity of the situation that other comedians are apologizing for their jokes as well.  Aadar Malik, another comedian, took to twitter to apologize for his “offensive comedy”. But, unfortunately apologies are failing to suffice. Comedians – especially women- are threatened with abuse and death any second of the day.

Journalism is supposed to be objective, unfortunately I can’t be today. In the twenty first century, apparently to ‘teach a woman a lesson’ immediately reckons one physically claiming our body. Our bodies are for everyone to claim, and do whatever you want with them. Every day that I wake up, I am disgusted to face the reality of how normalized rape culture is. Freedom of speech is an invalid concept in India, and artists face persecution everyday for expressing dissent.

You can’t claim to destroy a woman’s vagina and think that is normal. You can’t get away with this.

I am appalled by the nature of hate women can receive for having the ability to joke or speak up about important issues. I am not here trying to explain or to justify Agrima’s comments. I am here for the sake of my kind that is oppressed every goddamn day. I am here because she received verbal abuse that sickened me to my core. You can’t claim to destroy a woman’s vagina and think that is normal. You can’t get away with this.

I am glad the people who abused her verbally were arrested, but that’s not enough. This is the reality that we live in, this rape culture that we partake in has become so normalized, it is hard to breathe.

In support of Agrima, comedians such as Vir Das, Kusha Kapila, Srishti Dixit, Mallika Dua and other female comics came up with satiric videos about how dissent and ‘offensive comments’ are highly politically ground-breaking in India when our whole country is in shambles. No, this normalization of rape culture is not going to be tolerated. Our bodies are not yours to abuse, and the fact that I have to goddamn spell this out is offensive to me. Agrima is one of many whose voice has been silenced, who has been coerced into apologizing about her stand up by disgusting people. It is enough, that is what it is. It is just enough.

Reproductive Rights Love + Sex Gender Love

Pakistani culture still shames women who love themselves – but rewards the men who attack them

Trigger warning: Graphic descriptions of rape/sexual assault

Talking about sex within a Desi setting is still a taboo. While so many writers have written articles, there is still a massive problem with addressing it within communities and having normal conversations around the subject. For safety, this is a conversation that needs to be had. Everyone needs to be aware of consent, different types of birth control and the possibilities of STI’s and STD’s.

Let’s talk about Qandeel Baloch, who was murdered in Pakistan for being the very thing that Pakistani men hate: a sex symbol. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay if they’re having sex with multiple women and asserting dominant sexual behavior, but God forbid that a woman exercises her right to do the same in public.

There’s even this belief that Desi women loving and accepting their sexuality can lead to rape culture acceptance. Rape culture has been at the forefront of countries across the world for many years. The very definition of rape culture is that rape or sexual assault is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes.

Why should anyone live in a world where the concept that you could be violated so violently is acceptable? Qandeel was killed as a result of being open about her sex life and her own sexuality. Yet the Imam that she had sex with is free to live his life despite the fact that his actions lead to someone directly being harmed.

Sex is still viewed as a shameful part of life and something that should only be shared between a husband and wife. There is a refusal to acknowledge that these conversations need to be had. Without it, many people do not know how to deal with sexual health effectively.

Sex is a normal part of life and sexual health is so important.

Human beings are on this earth as a result of sex, so it should not be something that people cower away from when bought up. There need to be open conversations, where stigma is detached, and people can be open about they feel about all of the stipulations that come with sex.

It is important and necessary to educate young minds so they’re not disillusioned or incapable of dealing with their sexual health.

According to Express Tribune, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s health department in Pakistan records shows at least 6,853 patients with STDs were registered by July 2015. Between 2011 and 2013, K-P saw 28,865 patients with STDs. The newspaper reached out to health professionals in their pursuit to find out about STI’s in the country, only to be rejected by all of them. This just shows how even medical professionals do not want to be attached to the stigma of discussing sexual health.

This is the 21st century. It is simply not good enough.

Groups such as The Gulabi Gang, are vigilantes that fight against violence against women.

One of their most known cases was when a 17-year girl was raped and instead of the rapists being arrested, the victim was. She was gang-raped by people who hold positions of power within the Indian legislation system, so they went to the police before she did and filed a warrant for her arrest. Her father went to the Gulabi Gang who organized two mass demonstrations in front of the police station and the legislator’s house.

They believe that women who are oppressed by patriarchal practices should be dealt with lathi’s (sticks). An honorable and noble cause that will lead the next generation of women to never accept rape culture an instead fight against it, with the help of the older women and allies.

This ignorant attitude needs to be fought against and women need to be protected at all costs. No matter their sexual choices. I refuse to live in a world where I hear stories of women being lit on fire because they’ve been raped and reported the piece of shit to the police. It’s a disgrace that women cannot even speak about being sexually violated without facing a consequence.

Women’s sexual health, women’s sex lives, and women and sex are still a taboo, and this needs to end.

Press Pop Culture

Best of The Tempest 2018: 9 Stories from Pop Culture

It’s been a peculiar year in the realm of entertainment. We’ve had such big, progressive victories and such big setbacks and anachronisms in terms of representation, transparency, and inclusivity. Many LGBTQ+ artists thrived, and 2018 was dubbed 20GAYTEEN by singer Hayley Kiyoko. It was the year of Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, and yet big name studios are still out there producing films that are imbued with racism, sexism, homophobia, and fatphobia as well as often promoting rape and hate.

We’re still light years away from consuming the egalitarian entertainment we deserve. I knew that very well when I became Pop Culture Editor at The Tempest. I understood that I would have to look closely at many media products that would make me mad, which I would rather ignore and avoid at all costs, but I gladly accepted the challenge. I believe our mission is to shed light on everything that is going on, and that includes denouncing the many injustices that occur in the entertainment industry. We can’t possibly stay silent about the things we deem wrong, because silence is complicity.

But we also don’t like to only see the glass half empty, and we love to admit that there are many things to praise and to celebrate. Without further ado, I present to you 9 of my favorite Pop Culture stories we published in 2018, a mix of the good and the bad.

1. Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Why are blockbuster films pretending that lesbians and bisexuals don’t exist?

Despite the good representation that television and the music industry gifted us with this year, blockbusters are still actively promoting the erasure of female queerness as well as employing queer bait. This is a trend that needs to stay in 2018.

2. What time is it, Hollywood?

What time is it, Hollywood?

What about what happens behind the camera? This article explores some trends of the entertainment industry from the inside out, because actresses are not the only people we need to protect. Let’s say #TimesUp to all kinds of discrimination.

3. Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

Dislikeable female characters aren’t inherently feminist – but that’s okay

There is a big misconception in fiction and in critique: that a female character who dares be different and dislikable is automatically a great feminist heroine. She’s not, and that’s okay.

4. Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

Why I’m boycotting J.K. Rowling and her “Fantastic Beasts”

We are tired of people giving J.K. Rowling a free pass for everything just because she wrote a beautiful book series 20 years ago. For a while now, she has been twisting things to appear “woke” instead of honestly admitting that as the times progressed, she also wants to be more inclusive. There is no need to say that she was planning plot twists all along when in reality the implications of that make her way more problematic. Read why in this piece!

5. Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

Bollywood item numbers are more dangerous than we think

If you don’t know what an item number is, you need to read this piece. If you do know, you need to read this piece. It’s eye-opening and I will never look at a Bollywood film the same way again.

6. This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

This director’s approach to diverse female characters completely changed my movie-watching experience

Contrary to what some haters will have you believe about feminists, we do celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of men, when they deserve it. This article is a clap on the back of an Oscar-winning director for an amazing film that contributed to making 2018 better.

7. Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think

Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think 

You may or may not know this show, which was a true revelation for its honest representation of working (and woke!) millennial women. However, the show has been accused of portraying a utopistic world of equality (but it really doesn’t, the protagonists deal with misogyny, racism and homophobia every day). This article cleverly responds to that claim, contextualizing it particularly within the journalism world (where the main characters spend most of their time) that we know too well.

8. Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Karma has finally come for Chris Brown, and we can thank women for that

Abusers deserve to be held accountable for their actions. After the tidal wave that was the #MeToo movement, it’s good to see that celebrities are still being taken down after abusive behavior.

9. My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

My mind tells me to read, but my body is overwhelmed and overworked

A constant struggle in the transition to adulthood is that we are burdened with too many responsibilities and we have too little time to do the things we actually want to do out of sheer pleasure, like reading. It does not help that books have gained a very strong competitor for our time and attention, the “monster” that are streaming services.

We’re ready to kiss 2018 goodbye. In the hope that 2019 will be a more satisfying year for women, people of color, and all oppressed minorities, happy new year from the staff of The Tempest!

Gender Inequality

In #MeToo, let’s not center the rehabilitation of perpetrators

In the past few years, social movements have been leading conversations across the world. A turning point for one of these movements was #MeToo, which was started in the infancy of Trump’s presidency after multiple allegations of sexual harassment were made against him. With this movement, women came forward with their stories regarding sexual assault and harassment from all walks of life and from every industry.

In the midst of the allegations, trials, and coverage there was one consistent theme that most #MeToo stories reverted to after the initial sharing of information. People focused on how we rehabilitate these men back into society, and whether it’s worth to ‘losing’ them because of their behavior.

We saw this with Aziz Ansari when he was accused of sexual misconduct by a young woman he had gone a date with. Many were unsure of why this would be called sexual harassment – with people commenting that he didn’t deserve it and it was actually the fault of the ‘young woman who didn’t know how to call a cab’ instead. Ansari was welcomed back into the spotlight after making a small (and arguably ingenuine) apology. It seemed that the question of how the young woman who went through the ordeal was doing or if there were any others was a question that was preferred to be left unanswered.

With Louis C.K the verdict seemed clear enough. But even then, many asked why Louis C.K’s return was shunned by some. When the comedian decided to make a comeback a year after his apology note where he allegedly sought forgiveness and recognized his wrongdoings, many comedians welcomed him back with open arms.  More people discussed when Louis C.K was allowed back onto the stage than why he should remain off of it, or better yet, what he could do to make genuine amends.

Out of the coverage regarding most of the allegations of sexual assault or harassment, some debated if what had occurred was indeed sexual harassment and often placed blame on the survivor instead of the perpetrator. In other coverage, there was a debate about how long the accused need to wait before returning to the spotlight, how long their apologies need to be or what sort of therapy sessions they need to attend.

In the midst of all the major coverage around these issues, the central theme remained the perpetrator and what they would need to do in order to gain redemption. This is the case with many figures, from Louis C.K. and Ansari to Kavanaugh. The question that was asked was: why should something like this stain their reputation forever?

In much of the discourse, there was less effort to question what could be done for the survivors of these crimes. In the midst of their #MeToo moment, their personal lives, character and the incidents were being discussed, few stopped to ask what a survivor may need for support as they endure this.

While many are concerned about the rehabilitation of the men that perpetrated the acts of sexual harassment and assault, fewer people asked what support survivors need in order to heal.

Rehab for survivors could look like free access to mental health services, gynecological examinations, physicals and more. This allows survivors to have time to heal, to assess the trauma both physically and mentally, something that should be on the forefront of any conversation about sexual harassment.

Instead of focusing on the rehab of perpetrators, let’s focus on supporting survivors by pushing for better and more accessible services for all. There should be support systems in place for survivors regardless of their occupation, race, age or income. This includes free access to healthcare, support, allotted sexual harassment related leave and more.

This will also allow different institutions such as the police force, healthcare or even education to re-examine how sexual assault is approached. This can be done by standardizing training around sexual harassment, making information sharing as accessible as possible and creating safe spaces for survivors.

These are the tangible steps that need to be central conversations about #MeToo. Supporting survivors is integral to creating actual change. It’s about time these conversations focused on the health of survivors instead of the egos of the perpetrators.

USA Politics The World

My alma mater is being sued for Title IX violations, and I’m not surprised

I was a commuter. A quiet girl. I went to school and then I went home. Sometimes, if I was feeling particularly social, I’d go to game night. Yeah, I was wild in college.

Even then, I knew to be careful going to Pi Kapp.

[bctt tweet=”Sometimes, if I was feeling particularly social, I’d go to game night. Yeah, I was wild in college. Even then, I knew to be careful going to Pi Kapp.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Pi Kappa Phi was a fraternity that my school, Stockton University, no longer recognized. I’ve never been to one of their parties. However, I was told by multiple people to watch my drink if I ever did go. Now, years after that warning, multiple women have come out about the sexual assault they experienced on and off campus at Stockton University. Many times, they were assaulted at the hands of members of this rogue fraternity, or at their notorious parties. They all have chosen to remain anonymous, known only by their initials. Now, the school is facing numerous lawsuits claiming Title IX violations in the university’s handling of the cases.

Title IX is a part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, and protects folks from facing gender discrimination in any school or activity that receives federal funding. Title IX considers discrimination on the basis of gender to include sexual assault.

The lawsuits detail students being assaulted on video, with the footage shared on Snapchat. They detail women being stalked, with little intervention from the school. They detail Pi Kapp’s “ugly girl” tax: either pay fifteen dollars to get into the party, or flash your breasts.

This all sounds really familiar, doesn’t it?

[bctt tweet=”Their rule? Pay fifteen dollars to get into the party, or flash your breasts.” username=”wearethetempest”]

It sounds like men at the bar reliving their college exploits. It sounds like the Kavanaugh hearing. It sounds like boys will be boys.

We know rape and sexual assault happen so often on university campuses. So often women are supposed to bear the brunt of this. Don’t get too drunk. Make sure your friends are nearby. Don’t go to boys’ dorms alone. Don’t let them into yours without roommates present. There are so many rules to being a woman that associates with men. It becomes overwhelming. You feel confined. It wears you down.

Many of the incidents found on campus and off campus have occurred with freshman girls. These girls are first learning to navigate living alone, away from home. We have to stop blaming women for men choosing to prey on them, especially as they’re learning how to live. Men and boys should be accountable for their assaults.

As of now, only one man has been indicted within these cases.

Hollywood is being vilified for not saying anything about Harvey Weinstein. Women passed his name around, told each other to not be in the same room alone with him. In a way, many of us felt the only means of protection we had was this common knowledge. Sometimes it feels like we could’ve done more, though.

However, the school truly could have done more.

Pi Kappa Phi lost it’s charter in 2010, however, students were still members of the fraternity. Even though it was disavowed by the main organization, the parties and the pledging still continued. When these assaults were reported, many women were encouraged not to pursue litigation because it would be “mentally damaging”.

Stockton University claims it did all that it could. If that was true, students wouldn’t have been silenced as such. In one of the cases, a woman was assaulted in her dorm where loud music and under-aged drinking was occurring late into the night. Not once did an RA check up on her.

Stockton University is not the only school in which this occurs, and it probably will not be the last.

[bctt tweet=”Stockton University claims it did all that it could. If that was true, students wouldn’t have been silenced as such.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Students are taking action. This year marks the fifth year of Stockton’s annual March to End Rape Culture. The students running the organization sell ribbons and buttons, with proceeds going to the school’s Women’s Gender and Sexuality Center. They’re storming Board of Trustees meetings. And their voices are being heard.

The New Jersey Senate is introducing legislation to tackle campus assault, and making universities more accountable for the safety of their students. One would fine institutions that do not properly respond to accusations of sexual assault between students. These are the repercussions institutions need if they’re not going to do them on their own.

The Internet Movies Pop Culture

It’s 2018 and the media still views sexual assault as a joke

Many of us know of the mental and physical damage that can come from gender violence. It is horrific and detrimental to women everywhere. Many men try to ignore or downplay the effects, but women continue to speak out about the attacks and how it can hurt. Yet, the media continues to perpetuate and even embrace rape culture. Why is violence against women still seen as a joke?

Over many years, the media and society have stereotyped our views on how we believe men and women ‘should’ act. Whether it’s in literature, television, magazines or even porn, women can often be represented as ‘damsels in distress’ or ‘subservient’. Men frequently show characteristics of dominance and strength, which is commonly thought of as sexy. Ironically, it’s these exact traits that can be attributed to the action of sexual assault. Within in the past decade, there is said to have been a massive 68 percent increase of rapes, with 321,500 victims (both men and women) per year within the United States. It is possible that the ‘trivialization of rape within the media has anything to do with this increase?

Even in the 21st century, sexual objectification is the standard. In 2013 there was much dispute over the song Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. The video featured naked women dancing around provocatively. It also revealed Thicke pretending to stick a needle into a girl’s ass while she holds a lamb. Although this doesn’t directly portray sexual assault, the message can be perceived as inappropriate alongside the controversial lyrics of ‘I know you want it’, that isn’t exactly delivering vibes of consent.

Even back in 1993 one of the world’s most well-known bands, Nirvana, released a song titled ‘rape me’ that contains the lyrics “rape me, rape me, my friend.’ Now I don’t believe the singer was referring to the act of violence literally within in the song, but using sexual assault as a metaphor. However, why? Why use the word ‘rape’ at all? The fact that the term is being used in that manner almost feels as if the concept is being trivialized. It’s a sad indictment on society when making remarks and/or jokes about abusing women has become the ‘norm’.

There are an alarming amount of sexual assault memes that not only exist but manage to go viral. Tweets asking others which celebrity they’re most likely to rape. It’s actually really quite despicable when you think about it.

There are also several television shows that address violence against women, most of them using it not to educate others, but as nothing more than a plot point. There is no lesson learned, it is just another woman being forced to endure trauma for no other reason than to attract viewers. Game of Thrones, for example, televises at least a small handful of rape scenes per season, yet very little of them are shown in ways that justify just how traumatic and serious it is. It is never addressed again. There is no consideration of how that would then mentally affect the character afterward.

We can’t ignore the inappropriate jokes that get made when it comes to television sitcoms. For instance, the television sitcom Two Broke Girls made five, yes FIVE rape jokes in one season. When did that become normal? Why have we as a society deemed this acceptable? It almost feels as if the notion of sexual assault is getting used purely for entertainment purposes.

I don’t know when (or why) it became acceptable to belittle, incorrectly portray, and joke about rape but is the media to blame as to why this truly disgraceful crime has become more common? Whether it’s men in power saying stuff like ‘Grab them by the pussy’ or the fact that anyone, regardless of age can access some rather brutal porn clips at the drop of a hat, it seems that rape culture is everywhere we look these days. So, must we blame the media’s dismissive conduct for the increase in sexual assault and rape?

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.