History Historical Badasses

How my great-aunt Wilma Rudolph changed the world

At five feet and eleven inches, I’m the tallest in my immediate family and it’s an aspect of my self-esteem that I constantly struggle with. But when I feel down about my lengthy stature, I remember where it comes from. 

In 1960, my 5’11” great-aunt, Wilma Rudolph, changed the world as the first woman in Olympian history to win three track-and-field gold medals in a single Olympic game. She was known as “the fastest woman in the world” and in 1983, she was inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame

It wasn’t always gold medals and triumphs. Raised in poverty, Rudolph was born prematurely as the 20th child out of 22 siblings (yes, 22.) As a kid, she suffered from double pneumonia and scarlet fever that almost killed her, and (ironically, considering her career as a runner), had polio in her left leg that paralyzed her. Doctors told her that she would never be able to walk, and in her autobiography, Wilma: The Story of Wilma Rudolph, she discussed feeling ashamed because of her disabilities.

Rudolph wrote that, when playing with other children, “some of them would start teasing me and calling me ‘cripple’… and they would try to make me cry.”

Through consistent physical therapy, support from her parents, and her unshakable Christian faith, Rudolph began playing basketball at school without a leg brace or an orthopedic shoe by the time she was thirteen years old. 

Despite her new ability to walk and play sports, she would still have to spend a lifetime experiencing racism and sexism. My great aunt grew up in the segregated South in Clarksville, Tennessee, where most of my family is from. She was often told to stop playing sports over the concern that her femininity was exclusive to being an athlete. 

“You couldn’t be a lady and a good athlete at the same time,” she wrote in her autobiography. “There was a lot of talk about ‘playing sports will give you muscles, and you’ll look just like a man.'” 

Thanks to her skills in basketball, Rudolph was scouted by Ed Temple to join the historically Black Tennessee State University’s (TSU) famous group of women runners, the Tigerbelles

The all-Black Tigerbelles weren’t afforded the same luxuries as other athletes. When traveling to competitions, the runners would have to pack their own meals because segregation laws prevented them from being served in restaurants. Instead of being allowed to ride buses, the entire team would often be stuffed into one or two cars.

Despite the constant racism and sexism, my great-aunt eventually qualified for the 1956 Olympic Games when she was only 16-years-old. She was the youngest member of the United States track-and-field team at the time. At her first Olympics, Rudolph’s speed won her a bronze medal in the 400-meter relay. Following her first win, she returned to Tennessee where she studied education at TSU and plunged into training for the next Olympics.

My great-aunt was one of the most popular athletes of her time. In the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, she won gold medals in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, and the relay. 

Many watched and celebrated her, as this was the first Olympics to ever be televised in America. In Italy, she was referred to as “La Gazella Nera” or in English “The Black Gazelle”. In French, she was praised as “La Perle Noire” or “The Black Pearl”. She was invited to meet the Pope at the Vatican and even met President John F. Kennedy. In 1963, she was selected to represent the U.S. State Department as a Goodwill Ambassador at the Games of Friendship in Senegal.

[Image description: Wilma Rudolph sitting next to President John F. Kennedy on a visit to the White House.] Via
[Image description: Wilma Rudolph sitting next to President John F. Kennedy on a visit to the White House.] Via
Her history-making journey doesn’t end here. When she returned back home to Clarksville, Rudolph refused to attend any celebrations that were segregated. This led to the town’s first non-segregated homecoming parade and banquet

Although she retired from track and field after breaking records, Rudolph later put her education degree to use and became a schoolteacher and running coach. She created a nonprofit organization that provided underprivileged youth athletes more opportunities, paving the way for Black pride in all career fields. Rudolph continued to make strides until 1994; she passed away from brain cancer at age 54 before I was born and had the chance to meet her.

Before she died, she wrote, “I would be very sad if I was only remembered as Wilma Rudolph, the great sprinter. To me, my legacy is to the youth of America to let them know they can be anything they want to be.”

Want to know more about Rudolph’s phenomenal legacy? Click here to read more about her life. 

I am so proud to be related to her. Although I didn’t use my long legs that I inherited from her for sports, I have definitely applied my great-aunt’s tenacity and perseverance as inspiration throughout my life. I look at my height as a reflection of her and am constantly reminded not to let adversity keep me from my dreams.

There is no doubt that Wilma Rudolph changed the world, and knowing that her spirit breathes within me only reminds me that one day, so too will I.

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Tech Race Now + Beyond Inequality

Gen Z is bringing cyberbullying back — or are they?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Health Care Health

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty cool, right? Well, not exactly.

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


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

♬ original sound – Britsburg

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

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

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


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

♬ original sound – Meikoshi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Celebrities Movies Pop Culture

Youn Yuh-Jung is our favorite grandma, and we love to see her win a SAG Award

Youn Yuh-Jung accepted her SAG (Screen Actors Guild) award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a supporting role with tears in her eyes and careful care of her articulation in English. There was a moment in which she consulted someone off-screen to check her pronunciation of “supporting actress”, taking due diligence with her words even in a moment of fervor. Fans on Twitter call her their queen and relate with her fellow nominee fangirls. It’s heart-warming to see positive Asian representation in mainstream media – something that’s sorely lacking.

Her role in Minari has welcomed her to the Western sphere of cinema. She stars as the doting yet vulgar grandmother Soon-ja who moves to the US to help raise the children of her immigrant son. To much of her grandson’s chagrin, Soon-ja brings a carefree spirit to a house that is injured by poverty and marital discourse.

For much of the movie, she holds as the emotional tether for the children of the household, something that is lost on the struggling family. She reminded me much of my own grandmother who provided me a safe bubble from the afflictions of my own parents and I’m sure that this empathy is universal for many that were born here too. Throughout Minari, Youn’s performance felt and stayed raw and heartfelt, as she channeled her own immigrant experience to America during the ’70s. 

But who is this veteran Korean actress that has managed to capture every international heart? 

Youn Yuh-Jung in a floral sweater. Her hands are wrapped around her as she looks up to the sky, eyes closed. She looks deep in thought.
Image Description: Youn Yuh-Jung in a floral sweater. Her hands are wrapped around her as she looks up to the sky, eyes closed. She looks deep in thought. Credit: Philip Montgomery for New York Magazine.

Youn Yuh-Jung didn’t think of acting until the start of her term at Hanyang University in Seoul. She was dejected after receiving her low college-entrance exam scores barring her from any elite colleges so when a TV director suggested she try out for an open talent audition, she went ahead with it. 

She debuted on the screen with the drama series Mister Gong in 1967. Though she received a TBC Drama Award for Best New Talent, it was not until 1971 that she gained critical acclaim. Her role as a paramour femme fatale in the film Woman of Fire awarded her three  Best Actress awards from the Stiges Film Festival, Grand Bell Awards, and Blue Dragon Film Awards, the latter the Korean equivalent to the Oscars. Awards aren’t enough to quantify the impact of her role, however. 

To this day, sexism is deeply ingrained in almost all pillars of respect due to historically Confucianist ideals. Within Confucianism, there are the Five Relationships that symbolize the basic links that must exist for harmony: ruler and ruled – be it father and son, husband and wife, elder brother and younger brother, and friend and friend. The kinship between the husband and wife particularly contains increments of patriarchal values when considering the adjacent values of filial piety. A woman was expected to show only love and respect to her husband with their subservience. 

 Yuh-Jung’s role as a young woman grappling with the moral complexities of marriage, poverty, and lust, was unbeknownst to the big screen; women were simply never characterized so humanly, at least in popular films and TV shows. 

From then on, Yuh-Jung shot to popularity but at its zenith, she married and disappeared to the US, following her husband where he attended college. During her time, she gave birth to two sons but moved back to South Korea with them after divorcing her husband. 

Youn Yuh-Jung (left) received critical acclaim as a paramour femme fatale in "Woman of Fire."
Image Description: Youn Yuh-Jung (left) received critical acclaim as a paramour femme fatale in “Woman of Fire.” Credit: HanCinema. 

Yuh-Jung was a 40-year old divorcee returning to a country that rarely turned on its screens to middle-aged actors starring in anything but a parent role. She had no chance but to labor at any opportunity that came her way; to act was to work and support her family. To date, Yuh-Jung has starred in more than 30 films and 70 series. 

Eventually, Yuh-Jung was able to relinquish the chains of financial responsibility for her two boys. This finally allowed her the possibility of choice, the ability to choose what kind of roles she’d take on. At an age where women retire, Yuh-Jung looked frequently to amateur directors who, like Woman of Fire, weren’t scared to play around with the boundaries of the status quo. In The Bacchus Lady, for example, Yuh-Jung plays an aging prostitute who grapples with her role in a modernizing world. 

Yuh-Jung is, however, not simply just an actor but an adored public figure. Korea’s bustling entertainment TV business gives way for many actors to reveal their true personalities and personas. Youn’s Kitchen stars Yuh-Jung leading an ensemble of other actors in functioning a cafe in a foreign country. The show has not only gained general popularity with another show called Youn’s Stay in production but has cultivated a public image for Yuh-Jung. One in which many are able to watch her calm and pensive attitude infused with a dry wit that only age could give you. 

Now, she is an Oscar-nominated actress and holds a SAG award. There doesn’t seem to be any more that this actress can do yet for Youn Yuh-Jung, there’s no telling what’s next. Western cinema needs more Asian representation, and I am so excited to see Youn Yuh-Jung get the praise that she deserves. 

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Health Care Reproductive Rights Love + Sex Love

Some women don’t want children, and they won’t change their minds

These days, many of the women who do not want children are opting for female sterilization as their primary form of contraception. The reasoning behind this decision varies from person to person, from climate change to simple disinterest.

Frustratingly, women who favor a child-free lifestyle are frequently shamed and questioned for this decision. I still can’t get my head around why society thinks that a woman’s choice of contraception is a group decision.

Not your body, not your choice. It is really that simple. 

Sterilization is a permanent form of contraception that is highly effective in preventing pregnancy. If you have decided that children aren’t for you, this form of contraceptive makes total sense.

Women in the United States are three times more likely to opt for sterilization than men. Despite this, women routinely battle stigma and opposition when attempting to access sterilization procedures. 

We’re all familiar with the raging debate surrounding abortion and personal choice. “My body, my choice” is a well-understood concept; it just doesn’t apply to everyone, apparently.

The hypocrisy of reproductive debates is blatantly obvious in attitudes towards sterilization. Not only is public opinion strongly against female sterilization, medical practitioners often refuse or attempt to dissuade women from opting for this procedure. Whilst there are specific risks and considerations that practitioners are legally required to disclose during mandatory counseling, many provide opinions that show personal bias. This is both problematic and unethical.

Given that the healthcare practitioner determines if you are fit for the procedure, their perspective is the ultimate decider. Women frequently are advised against the procedure because they are deemed too young or because their practitioners believe they may experience “post-sterilization regret.”  This undermines the ability of women to make their own medical decisions and fails to allow bodily autonomy. 

Women are rarely offered sterilization as a form of contraceptive, even when they expressly wish to remain child-free, forever. The options presented are almost always removable or temporary, such as the pill or IUD. In the decade in which I’ve been sexually active, I’ve not once had a healthcare practitioner even mention sterilization as a form of contraception. 

Women’s sexual health continues to be viewed as some sort of mysterious and taboo topic. This allows for misconceptions and misinformation; women and girls are provided with so little open and honest information about their own bodies and anatomy. 

A vasectomy, the process in which a man is permanently sterilized, is a minor procedure that prevents sperm from reaching the semen. A common misconception is that hysterectomies are the female “equivalent” of vasectomies. 

Female sterilization is not well understood or widely promoted. So, let’s break it down:

Tubal ligation: a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are cut, sealed, or partially removed, better known as “getting your tubes tied.” This prevents the egg from reaching the uterus and being fertilized. You’ll be able to go home that same day, and the recovery time is usually under a week. If successful, it is effective immediately. This is the safest and most common method of female sterilization. 

Hysterectomy: a major surgical procedure in which the entire uterus is removed. In some cases, the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix may also need to be removed. Hysterectomies are needed for various reasons, including cancer and uterine prolapse. 

Female sterilization is 99% effective and requires no lifestyle changes. It’s potentially a good option if you experience adverse reactions to hormonal or implanted forms of contraception. 

Despite the high success rate, women under 40 are less likely to be referred for sterilization. It’s advised that this decision should not be made when single or when under stress. Apparently, being unattached renders you incapable of making serious personal decisions. Sexism is alive and well. 

Men who choose sterilization rarely face the same scrutiny. Vasectomies are generally approved and men are less likely to need a partner’s consent. Admittedly, there are some medical grounds for this: vasectomies are usually reversible, and more affordable. They are also generally considered safer, although they can take up to four months to be effective. 

But undeniably, men are assumed to not have an inherent paternal instinct. They just want risk-free sex and no maintenance—atta boy! This is woefully incorrect, so many guys really want to be dads. It’s actually pretty hard to find one who doesn’t!

Despite vasectomies being more socially acceptable and favored by medical practitioners, many men are against the procedure. Patriarchal norms promote the notion that virility and masculinity are mutually exclusive. 

The problem is, this debate too often centers around male versus female sterilization. Why is there even a comparison? Sterilization is a personal choice and one that women, single or not, should be allowed to make alone.

We need to stop telling women what they should do and feel, period.

Women who choose to be childless are tired of having to defend their decision. They don’t want or need your opinion. 

Parenthood is a complicated business. I often think about how bizarre it is that a relatively simple act can result in an entire person. 

I’m still confused about why it is so difficult to ensure that one is not responsible for someone else’s whole existence. 

Biology and bias can be a bitch.

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Music Life

“Born This Way” by Lady Gaga taught me to love myself and others

The iconic album Born This Way by Lady Gaga is regarded as one of her best bodies of work by fans and critics alike, nine years after its release. The album still resonates with listeners because it boldly experimented with the confines of pop music and dared listeners to take chances while living unapologetically. The album’s blend of genres illustrates the multifaceted identities of its intended audience, expertly blending pop, glam rock, heavy metal, country, and techno all into one coherent body of art. Born This Way particularly speaks to marginalized people and challenges the constraints placed on those who don’t fit in an oppressive, white supremacist, patriarchal society.  

Born This Way was released at the start of a new decade, in an ever-changing social and political climate. It feels like there is symbolism in the album being released at the beginning of the 2010’s with me having also just begun my teenage years. My body’s changing, my mind is evolving and the world around me is pushing for more equality, representation, and freedom. 

I was 13-years-old when the album came out, starting my awkward teenage years and just finishing seventh grade. Like most people coming into adolescence, I was an extremely insecure, self-conscious, and anxious individual. Learning how to love myself was proving difficult in a world that made it hard for young black girls to do so. There were times I felt becoming truly confident was hopeless. However, the power of art prevailed because in May of 2011, Lady Gaga released her second studio album titled Born This Way. The album is an anthem of self-love and acceptance that I desperately needed at the time. It greatly helped me learn to unapologetically love every facet of myself, even the parts I didn’t yet understand. 

The album takes a note from its own book and experimented with its marketing, song releases, and visuals. Around the time of its release, aspects of Born This Way were misunderstood by music critics, including but not limited to the album cover which displays Lady Gaga as the head of a motorcycle. Critics mocked the imagery, ignoring Gaga’s illustration and commentary of being made into a machine by oppressive industry standards.

Controversy also surrounded the second song on the album and one of the album’s awaited singles titled, “Born This Way” (named after the album). Among other criticisms, the song stirred controversy at the time for its reference of trans individuals on a mainstream song from a mainstream artist. Consequently, critics attempted to project their internalized prejudice onto a body of work that existed freely and challenged others to do the same, contradicting the entire purpose of the album. 

Admittedly, at 13 I wasn’t entirely knowledgeable about gender identity or expression. However, that didn’t stop me from resonating with the message of the song. When I listen to Born This Way, even now, I feel free from marginalization; for 4 minutes and 20 seconds, I simply feel unfiltered, uninterrupted fun. I especially remember the announcement for the song. Lady Gaga stood on the stage at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, dressed in her now legendary meat gown, belting “I’m beautiful in my way ‘cause God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track, baby I was born this way.” Unbeknownst to 12-year-old me at the time, this moment would change my life forever. 

In a 2016 article for Dazed, Jake Hall analyzed Born This Way’s impact years after its release. Regarding what the album meant for Lady Gaga as an artist while also being a pivotal pop-culture moment he states, “[Born This Way] was the moment that [Gaga] stopped being branded an artificial pop behemoth and started to become the searingly honest, sometimes over-emotional human being that we now know well.” From 2000 to 2009, pop music was very traditional in the sense that female pop artists had to conform to society’s hyper-feminine, heteronormative expectations of women. At the start of the 2010s, Lady Gaga deliberately sought to not just challenge those oppressive norms but obliterate them.

At the 2011 VMAs, Lady Gaga performed another album single from Born This Way titled, “Yoü and I.” During her performance, she played the role of Jo Calderone, acting as the male love interest in her own song, which further defied the expectations of what was expected from women in pop. These subtle normalizations of gender identity and expression as well as uplifting messages of finding perfection in uniqueness and marginalized identity helped me begin to slowly understand the world outside of myself.

At 13, I didn’t have it all figured out right away. I was still struggling with finding my confidence, but Born This Way laid the foundation for me to become the outspoken, open-minded, risk-taker I now am at 22-years-old. There’s a reason this album still resonates with fans almost a decade later. An album that encourages others to confidently become the best, most honest version of themselves without permission will never get old.

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Tech Now + Beyond

Pakistan’s app-banning streak is both a personal and political attack

As a Pakistani woman, I have always viewed social media as a safe haven of sorts where I can share my views and opinions without being sidelined. In a country where women are so often marginalized and subjected to misogynistic trends, social media offers us a form of refuge to express our very constrained freedom. And this is exactly why Pakistan’s latest bans on dating apps and Tik Tok left me appalled. To me, these bans and blocks signify a further limitation of rights for women and the prevalence of sexism and misogyny in the country.

Recently, Tinder, Grindr and other similar dating apps were blocked for disseminating immoral content. This was followed by a ban on Tik Tok as well. According to Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), notices were issued to the five dating apps, and companies failed to respond within the stipulated time. 

The decision was made to prevent the circulation of ‘immoral and obscene content’. Put simply, the ban on certain apps was imposed to appease the conservative factions of the country. 

Pakistan has had a long history of internet/social media bans and blocks. In recent years, the government has banned YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook as well. Content is monitored and often removed if it is deemed immoral by the authorities. 

The recent blocks have sparked a renewed conversation about the government’s attempts to control the flow of ideas on the internet. Restrictions on social media sites are normalizing censorship. Increased regulation is limiting free speech and paving the way for the conservative factions to benefit from it.  The rapidity of ‘moral policing’ is such that it is only realistic to expect a handful of social media sites left to access in the country. The government’s motives are unclear but what it does tell us is that the ban is geared towards suppressing free expression and the endorsement of conservative values in the country.

The ban on Tik Tok felt personal because it is the one platform that gives everyone a chance to express their creativity and showcase their talents. 

In the contemporary world, the internet and social media serve as one of the major avenues to express freedom of speech and expression. It is difficult to imagine progress without it. Blocks and restrictions can be a major setback for the upcoming generations, limited and monitored access to the internet will curb ideas and innovation. Amongst other things, it will sabotage the ability of technology in helping to eliminate the negative connotations attached to Pakistan.

The most recent ban on Tik Tok was yet another measure to suppress entertainment and creativity in the country. Tik Tok is one of the only platforms that made a vast majority of the Pakistani population feel welcomed (quite literally). People from various cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds are not only able to access the platform but also produce content that was viewed and appreciated widely. 

There was no way to control the flow of information or trends on the app; perhaps this is why it was so threatening. Although, the ban was uplifted in the face of politics. But it felt personal because it is the one platform that gives everyone a chance to express their creativity and showcase their talents. 

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There have been numerous calls within the country by human rights campaigners to uplift the bans. As much as I want the ban to be unlifted, I cannot help but think we are headed towards a state with strict controls and censorship on the internet and print media. I find it rather daunting because social media seems like the one avenue where I can truly voice my opinions in a country where women are so often silenced. 

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Gender Policy Inequality

Did the #MeToo movement fail in Pakistan?

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual Assault/Rape

The #MeToo movement has been monumental around the world. It has, however, achieved little in Pakistan. To its credit, the movement has helped open up important conversations about sexual harassment and discrimination against women in the country. In recent years, we have seen an increase in the number of women that have spoken up about their experiences of sexual harassment and publicly outed their harassers. However the problem lies within the responses to these accusations, which remains to be mixed. 

The movement made its way to Pakistan in 2018, when singer, Meesha Shafi accused her colleague Ali Zafar of sexual harassment on multiple occasions. Despite court proceedings, there was no visible outcome in the case. Both singers filed defamation suits against one another. 

Since then several other “reputable” media personalities have been accused of sexual harassment, but these accusations were once again met with mixed reactions. Some people immediately question why the victim chose to come forward so many years later. And often times victims are slut-shamed and accused of seeking fame or attention for personal gains.

The backlash against #MeToo heightened the fears of many women forcing them to stay silent about their experiences of harassment. Feminism is largely dismissed as a Western concept by not just the masses but the state premier himself. Pakistan is one of the lowest-ranked countries in the world in terms of gender equality. All forms of violence against women are extremely prevalent. Each year an estimated 1000 women are killed by their families over damaged honor. When the situation is so dire, victims expect little to no empathy or justice.

Victims who have dared to speak have found themselves confronting the stringent cybercrime law that was enacted to protect “women” from online harassment. The 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act allows the government to access user data, censor content, and criminalize certain forms of communication. The bill was labeled “a clear and present danger to human rights” by Human Rights Watch. Victims often take on pseudonyms or anonymously report experiences of sexual assault on social media. 

Whilst many supporters had been disillusioned by the slow progress of the movement, the recent motorway rape incident in Lahore shook the country to its core. A woman was traveling from Lahore to Gujranwala when her car stalled on the motorway. While she waited to receive assistance from the police, she was interjected by two armed men who saw the woman alone with her children took advantage of the situation. The woman was raped by multiple assailants at gunpoint, and her valuables were also taken away. 

The incident on its own was enough to spark a resurgence in the #MeToo movement. What further fueled people’s anger was the police chief’s attempt to blame the victim for the assault. His statement was met with demands for his removal along with reform in the way police respond to sexual violence.

Many expected the case to serve as a catalyst for a major change. Mass protests took place across the country for days after the incident. Protestors put forward several demands, which include criminalization of acts of sexual violence that do not include penetration, structural reform to increase police accountability, and training for police, prosecutors, and judges in handling sexual violence cases, along with other measures to improve safety for women. 

Unfortunately, however, it has been over a month since the incident occurred and little has changed. In fact, in recent weeks we have witnessed a surge in the number of rape cases reported. In some cases, harassers have been arrested and are undergoing investigation. 

According to official statistics, at least 11 rape cases are reported in Pakistan everyday with over 22,000 rape cases reported to the police in the last six years. However, only 77% of the accused are convicted, which makes up only 0.3% of the total figure. Police officials have pointed out that only half of the rape cases are registered, which means that the actual figure of rape cases could be as high as 60,000 in the last five years.

Whilst, the motorway incident sparked the resurgence of the #MeToo movement, the events that followed have once again brought the movement and its role in Pakistan in question. It appears as though the movement has remained largely unsuccessful because we have yet to see a reformation of women’s rights in the country. However, the problem here is a larger one. Perhaps, the problem lies in the mindsets of the masses. Surely, #MeToo can encourage victims of sexual abuse and sexual harassment to speak up about their experiences. However, when the mindsets of the society on the whole are instilled with misogynistic patterns. There is little a movement can change.

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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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History Forgotten History Lost in History

What the Blair Witch fable reveals about 17th-century women

In the spirit for more spooky stories? Check out our Halloween series!

The summer of 1999 was captured by The Blair Witch Project, a documentary-style movie that burst into theatres and enthralled audiences.

The Blair Witch is barely seen in the film, just as a towering terror that wipes out the lives of a few curious teens. But that’s not how the story began. Filmmakers drew the inspiration for the Blair Witch from the fable of Moll Dyer. The story did more than scare children, it revealed how women were portrayed in the 17th century.

The story of Moll Dyer

Moll Dyer was an elderly, single woman who lived on the outskirts of a small Maryland settlement in the late 1600s. We’re not sure exactly what she looked like, as there are very conflicting opinions. Some sources cite her as a “hag” while others recount her as a lovely older woman. All sources describe Dyer as exceptionally tall for a woman, with most men in the town barely hitting her frail shoulders. This difference already made her an outsider, and her oddities did nothing to remedy that.

Dyer’s exploits upset the townsfolk. She was not wealthy and so would seek out monetary contributions or request food. But for the other residents of this Maryland town, this behavior was not as concerning as her frequent incantations and habit for foraging for herbs.

Dyer was an outcast, so when the townsfolk experienced a frigid winter, they had an easy target to blame. The only explanation for this terrible season could be a vengeful witch. In 1697 an angry mob swarmed Dyer’s modest home. There was no trial and she didn’t even have a chance to explain herself. The mob set Dyer’s home aflame. But they didn’t stick around to see her burn.

Dyer fled her burning house and hid in the woods. However, due to the cold temperatures, she froze to death before she could make it to safety. Dyer was found with her hand reached up to the sky and knees perched on a rock. Dyer’s body stayed in this position for days, until someone found her petrified body.

From that point on the townsfolk believed Dyer had used her final strength to curse them. And they all lived in fear of what that curse would bring.

Moll Dyer may never have lived. It’s very possible that her story is all that ever existed of her. But the Blair Witch fable reveals cultural perceptions of women during that time, and for the years after when the story was shared around packed campfires.

Witch” was a term thrown at women who existed outside of cultural norms. Women who were unmarried, divorced, widowed, childless, had too many children or were too outspoken. With that characterization, it’s easy to understand how Dyer was thrown into the category.

Throughout the fable, It’s clear that Dyer made a fatal mistake. She remained unmarried. This romantic choice meant she was already a social pariah. Dyer did not conform to traditional family values that ruled colonial society. Because she did not have a husband to support her she had to wander into the town to beg for sustenance. This reminded the townsfolk of her curious antics whenever she was in sight and placed an emphasis on her otherness.

Lasting impact

Women have been blamed for hardships since Adam and Eve, witchcraft claims were just the latest installment of a misogynistic trend. When men were unwilling to take responsibility for their failings or insecurities, they would project them onto women who were outside of their social circle. But these prosecutors wouldn’t have been successful without the willful approval of their female counterparts. Women turned against each other for the approval of their community. These fables are built upon settlers turning against the most vulnerable, and then controlling the narrative after they condemned the innocent.

In 17th-century terms, all of Moll Dyer’s actions may point to “witch,” but that’s not a 1999 thought. This story lived on for hundreds of years, retelling the same narrative. People in the 20th century anticipated vengeance based on irrational fears from 1697. The misplaced anger of a starving town has led to the continued tale of an exiled older woman cursing the innocent. Dyer’s true story has been erased by her persecutors.

Part of woman's face looking into camera while crying
“Blair Witch Project” still from John Squires via

The Blair Witch Project’s guerrilla marketing campaign left viewers confused about the authenticity of the film and led to a lasting impact on marketing and horror movies for decades to come. But the “real” Blair Witch left a lasting impact on the perceptions of women in American colonial society. 

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History Education

It is high time Shakespeare is written off as a relic of the past

“She hangs upon the cheek of night Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear” one of my high school students, playing Romeo read out. 

“Miss, isn’t that racist? Referring to the color of someone’s skin and making a metaphor out of it?” Interrupted another student. 

“Well, any piece of literature is a product of its time. And racist sentiments were very common during the colonial era.” I snapped back, partly embarrassed at my shallow save. 

“But if it’s so outdated, why are we still studying it over 300 years later?” He responded.

And there it was. The ultimate question, to which I really had no answer. My Generation Z students somehow had more political correctness than the board which set the curriculum. In light of all our Anglomania as a post-colonial society, Shakespeare continues to dominate most secondary school curriculums. And somehow, as educators, we must salvage some of this “great” playwright’s legacy, by defending his racism and sexism, which can be extremely offensive to modern-day sensibilities. 

Flipping through the pages of The Merchant of Venice, the depiction of Shylock as a stone-hearted usurer is disconcerting. Shakespeare picks up on the stereotype of Jews as being greedy and practically villainizes the entire Jewish community of the time by pitting it against Bassanio and Portia’s love story. 

Race and morality appear inextricably linked in Shakespeare’s works. Portia, when discussing her prospective suitors, claims that “If he have the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me than wive me.” As Portia is presented with the proposal of a Moroccan, she immediately turns it down on the basis of his skin tone. The idea of one’s skin color as an indication of their moral aptitude was what British colonialists thrived upon. This is precisely what allowed them to spread “enlightenment” and Christianity in the “dark continent” of Africa. 

This absurd idea is taken further in Othello. The character of Othello, himself, described as ‘the dark moor’, with ‘thick lips’ is said to resemble ‘the devil’, simply because of his complexion. 

Attribution: [Image Description: Laurence Fishburne in the title role of Othello, with Kenneth Branagh (right) as Iago, 1995.] via Castle Rock Entertainment
As you read through work after work, it becomes apparent that this is no coincidence. This is Shakespeare’s world view: devoid of diversity and nuance. It is one that exalts white Christian men and creates savages and murderous brutes out of people of color. 

If Shakespeare’s internalized racial prejudice is bothering you, wait till we talk about the blatant sexism in his works. Hamlet famously claimed: “Frailty thy name is a woman.” I remember while studying Hamlet in my sophomore year of college, many were very outraged by this statement. How can you read and respect a writer who basically undermines the intelligence of your entire gender? But then I also remember when a question was raised about his not so subtle sexism, our professor wrote it off as being Hamlet’s words and not Shakespeare’s. We must not conflate the two, we were told. 

But if it was just Hamlet who thinks of women as the epitome of weakness, why is it that this theme of fragile and hysterical women appears in many more of his works? In Macbeth, for instance, an otherwise ambitious man is led astray by his wife’s greed. Shakespeare continually emphasizes the superior moral ground of his own heroes. They are moral compasses for the women in their lives. It is as if he was trying to say: women, by their very nature, are fallible and when they transgress, they must be punished. Such is the case for Taming of the Shrew which basically glorifies domestic violence.  

Living in a society where people are still recovering from a post-colonial complex, Shakespeare is not just a playwright or an artist. He is deified into a god-like figure. He is an institution, a larger than life phenomenon. He is considered as the epitome of civilization, intellectual prowess, and spiritual superiority. At least, this is how he was institutionalized by the former colonizers in order to dominate their subjects. 

Today, Shakespeare is celebrated for his supposed universality. But how can we call him universal when, in fact, most of his writing, much like other Western Canonical texts, is about royalty and the aristocracy? He only ever wrote about higher mortals. And when these grand, inaccessible tales are told to us, we take it all unflinchingly, without a grain of salt. We don’t question it because it is not relatable.

Our own sense of inferiority prevents us from ever probing how problematic it really is. 

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Fashion Lookbook

Diet Prada: the fashion watchdogs that changed how I view the industry

In the age of social media, influencers and ever-changing fashion trends, clothing brands are constantly trying to stay relevant. They often resort to copying talented indie designers and high-end fashion brands. And they usually do this without considering the implications. Diet Prada is here to call them out while emphasizing that fashion is more than just items of clothing, it’s art. You can’t steal people’s art.

Diet Prada started out in 2014 as an anonymous Instagram account that called out fast fashion brands for constantly copying high-end designers and indie artists. Their witty and informative posts peaked the interest of fashion enthusiasts across the world. It was later revealed that two fashion industry professionals, Tommy Liu and Lindsay Schuyler, are behind the whole thing.


As of October 2020, Diet Prada’s Instagram account has over 2.2 million followers and there’s no sign of things slowing down.

They’ve evolved into a full-fledged fashion watchdog group ready to call out the copycats. They also speak on various issues surrounding the industry.

Major clothing brands can steal designs with ease because fashion is not fully protected under US copyright law. It’s still considered a manufacturing industry rather than a creative one. For this reason, there’s a lack of legal protection for designers and it enables the mass production of knockoffs and replicas.In an interview with Fast Company, Diet Prada co-founder, Tony Liu, shared that, “young creatives don’t have the resources to battle in court.” This is one the many reasons why Diet Prada is committed to shaming popular clothing brands that don’t respect the artistry behind fashion design. In the same interview, co-founder Lindsay Schuyler, urged us to start viewing fashion designs as intellectual property.

One of the most iconic Diet Prada moments was when they called out Fashion Nova for copying countless designer outfits worn by the Kardashian sisters. Kim Kardashian was photographed wearing a vintage 1998 Thierry Mugler cut-out dress for the 5th Annual Hollywood Beauty Awards. Fashion Nova released an exact replica within 24 hours and it retailed for only $50. Diet Prada found this suspicious for several reasons and they did not hesitate to call out both parties. Firstly, Fashion Nova’s copycat tendencies were getting out of hand. Secondly, they thought Kim Kardashian might be in on it. How on earth did Fashion Nova manage to release a knockoff Mugler dress in only 24 hours?

In the past, I rarely ever thought of who designed the the clothes that I own and whether they received adequate recognition. Since I started following Diet Prada in 2018, I can say I’ve become more fashion conscious. As a writer, I can only imagine how frustrating it would be if someone was constantly copying my work. This is the plight of so many fashion designers.

Nevertheless, Diet Prada has evolved into more than just a fashion watchdog group. If you look at their recent Instagram posts, you’ll notice that they use their platform to raise awareness about social issues like sexism, racism, and environmental concerns. They also dive deep into the detrimental effects of the fast fashion industry and strive to provide reliable fashion news. I’ve witnessed first-hand how their content is taking the fashion industry by storm.


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