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10 most anticipated book releases for November 2020

Now I know this year has been a drag. From the pandemic, tragedies, massacres and frankly just everything. Sometimes we all need an escape every once in a while. But, we need to remember how privileged we are to even escape. Not everybody has this luxury of escaping into a book like some of us do. Those protesting in Nigeria and Thailand certainly do not. 

Now that this has been acknowledged, I want to share the most anticipated reads for November 2020.

1. Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault

[Image description: Image of Rebel Rose] Via Goodreads
Calling all Disney fans! I am pretty sure we are all aware of the story of Beauty and the Beast, right? In this novel, we go back in time to France in the 18th century, where they are on the brink of revolution. Finally, Belle has broken the curse and now her Beast has reverted back to humanity and he is now her prince. But remember, they are on the brink of revolution and if you know about the French Revolution, it was off with the heads of the aristocracy. Belle must consider if being a Queen is truly worth it or simply just a title.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

2. Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

[Image description: Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao] Via Goodreads
In this novel, we follow Chloe being nervous to introduce her boyfriend to her parents. But, plot twist – she doesn’t even know who her boyfriend is! To appease her parents, Chloe hires her boyfriend, Drew, from ‘Rents’, a company that trains boyfriends to impress traditional Asian parents. This is such an interesting concept and makes me think, are we commodifying humanity, for the fact Chloe is ‘renting’ a boyfriend. But, Chloe rents Drew to convince them he is worthy of their approval so they don’t marry her off to Hongbo, a total womanizer within their community. But, what if Chloe and Drew’s relationship is not as fake as they anticipated?

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

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3. The Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

[Image description: The Violent Delights by Chloe Gong] Via Goodreads
Imagining a Chinese retelling of Romeo and Juliet, coupled with gang rivalry – Chloe Gong’s The Violent Delights is based in 20th century Shanghai where gang rivalry is prevalent, leaving the people of Shanghai distressed and helpless. How chaotic. 

We then have Juliette Cai who is 18 and believes she is above the law and is leading the Scarlet Gang. And their rivals? White Flowers. And of course, these gangs have been fighting for generations. But, what’s most interesting is that the heir to White Flowers is her first love and betrayal. Do with that what you will. If you love Shakespearean retelling and gang rivalry – this is for you.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

4. Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho

[Image description: Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man] Via Goodreads
In light of everything that has happened in the world with Black Lives Matter, this book is a must. It’s time to have these conversations that people have been talking about.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

5. A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha

[Image description: A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha] Via Goodreads
A Portuguese historical fantasy A Curse of Roses follows the story of Princess Yzabel who is cursed from eating. Here me out. With one touch of bread, it turns into roses. She attempts to bite cheese, the cheese now turns into lilies. This magic leaves her starving because any food she attempts to eat just turns into a bouquet. With a famine plaguing Portugal, she needs to decide what is the best solution for her to save her people?

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

6. Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

[Image description: Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer] Via Goodreads
Meet Prudence Daniel – an overachiever with a disgusting attitude. Far too quick to cast judgement on her rude and lazy residents in her coastal town. But, something strange happens, one day she wakes up with the ability to cast instant karma on anybody. What a power to have. And of course, she abuses that power and wreaks havoc on anyone who irritates her. Except for this one person where he powers constantly backfire – Quint Erickson, who happens to be her enemy.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

7. A Promised Land by Barack Obama

[Image description: A Promised Land by Barack Obama] Via Goodreads
Need I say more? With elections taking place around the world, let’s hear from the former US President, Barack Obama, who reflects on his time in the Oval Office.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

8. Perfectly Impossible by Elizabeth Topp

[Image description: Perfectly Impossible by Elizabeth Topp]
For fans of the Devil Wears Prada, this is for you. The book is about an assistant to a stinking rich wife and a philanthropist, Bambi von Bizmarck. Aside from being an assistant, Anna is also an artist. But, she is met with a dilemma. Painting and all things art is her passion, her true calling. But it’s not paying the bills, at all. Whereas her position as an assistant enables her to be more successful. Follow Anna to delve into the life of the 1%. Must be nice.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

9. Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

[Image description: Chasing Lucky by Jean Bennett] Via Goodreads
Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother  – they are practically glued to the hip, moving from one city to the other. If you like the cliches – bad boy trope, friends to lovers, I can 100% confirm this is for you. Until one time, her and her mother move back to their historic New England town to run her family bookstore but this time it’s different. It’s only a matter of time until her grandmother returns and they move again. Until Lucky Karras re-enters her life.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

10. Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March

[Image description: Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March] Via Goodreads
Yet again, another historical fiction. But, something makes it different – it’s a historical crime fiction set in colonial India. Think Indian Sherlock Holmes. Both of the women who died belonged to the same family, now this is where it gets interesting.  The deaths are suspicious, but no one is talking. We meet Adi Framji, who is the husband of one of the women and ends up hiring Jim Agnihotrii, a captain in the army to help privately investigate the case. (Trigger warning: suicide.)

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

We truly can’t wait for these books. What are you waiting for? Get reading!

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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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Culture Life

Why I am constantly drawn to lavender

I find that my most blissful moments remind me of the strong, calming scent of lavender. For one reason or another, I relate it to a lot of the more meaningful aspects of my life. To me, lavender is like a feeling; like the wind brushing up against your skin.

While I think that lavender is largely optimistic, I also find a certain sorrow that is comfortable, even humble, in its presence. I’ve come to appreciate it in every shape and form – the color, the flower, the scent. Its hard to place; not sweet or bitter, but rather musty. 

Lavender manages to incorporate itself into my life seemingly on a whim and in the most fleeting of moments. We have a peculiar relationship. I am stomach-knottingly anxious in the presence of many, especially when I first meet them. But, with some, I sense lavender, and I know that something great is about to happen. It is more of a feeling than anything else. Just talking to some people can be rejuvenating, and perhaps it is because our meeting reminds me of that warm, soft smell of a mid-spring day when the sun is bright and pure, and the entire day lies ahead.

Nowadays, when I am feeling an emotion that is simply beyond words, I say that I am overflowing with lavender. 

According to etymology, the English word “lavender” is derived from the Latin “lavare,” which translates to “to wash.” It is a necessary refinement – a cleanse. I am purified with every utterance of the word. 

Perhaps it’s not just me. In literature, lavender has been used significantly as a token of love. To me, it’s more like a notion of love at first sight. Shakespeare offers a bouquet of “hot lavender” in The Winter’s Tale. Cleopatra also roots lavender with love, as she is said to have used its sultry perfume to seduce both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Christians are also known to have used it as a repellent of evil. The plant is said to have been taken from the Garden of Eden and is sometimes found hanging in a cross shape above the doors of some Christian households as a means of protection. There are so many songs with the title lavender, my favorite being by The Beach Boys, and there have also been many poems written about it, too. Take, for example, this quote by an anonymous writer, “as rosemary is to the spirit, lavender is to the soul.” 

Lavender is swift, like a movement, carrying me in and out of perfectly imperfect moments. The vision of it is rather uplifting as well. It stands delicately tall among the rest, but it is not intimidating either. I adore its confrontation. In fact, I look forward to it. 

Shopping Makeup Hair Skin Care Beauty Lookbook

What’s in my bag: everyday essentials for freelancers

Here at The Tempest, we’ve started a new monthly series: What’s in my bag?

In this series, we’ll have The Tempest Staff members and fellows give you a glimpse of what they carry every day and what makeup they use on a daily basis. This month, for our series, you’ll catch a glimpse of Staff Writer, India Kushner’s freelancing essentials:

While the majority of the time I’m toting around my computer backpack (thanks to my freelance life), there are a few essentials I always have on hand.

Photo of India Kushner sitting outside. She has long brown hair and brown eyes and wears a blue floral blouse. Behind her a mural of a woman on a wooden house, green tables, and red metal folding chairs
[Image Description: Photo of India Kushner sitting outside. She has long brown hair and brown eyes and wears a blue floral blouse. Behind her a mural of a woman on a wooden house, green tables, and red metal folding chairs] Photo by Sonam Kushner.

Badger Chapstick

Badger Lavender and Orange Lip Balm
[Image Description: Badger Lavender and Orange Lip Balm] Photo via Amazon.
As someone who suffers from dry skin, having a good chapstick on hand is a must. I love Badger because the ingredients are organic and the scents are lovely. My favorite is the lavender and orange flavor because it’s so relaxing, but Badger has a variety to choose from.

A good lipstick

Marc Jacobs Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Lipstick
[Image Description: Marc Jacobs Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Lipstick] Photo via Amazon.
Being constantly on the go often means I wind up at networking events or hanging out with friends, so I always make sure to carry lipstick with me in case I need to look a little nicer. I really like this mini Marc Jacobs lipstick, but it’s definitely for a treat yo’self day. When I need a good lipstick that’s less of a splurge, I like to wear something like this Color Crush lipstick from The Body Shop.

A rose colored lipstick called Japanese Blossom that is open with the cap standing to the left of the lipstick
[Image Description: A rose-colored lipstick called Japanese Blossom that is open with the cap standing to the left of the lipstick] Photo via The Body Shop

Resilient hair ties

A box of colorful hair ties
[Image Description: A box of colorful hair ties] Photo via AliExpress
As someone with extremely thick hair, having hair ties that stand the test of time is very important. When I’m ready to get to work, like Violet Baudelaire, I like pulling my hair back so I can think clearly. I use strong hair ties like these because they come in bulk in a variety of colors and they don’t break too easily.

A cute cosmetic case

A zipper pouch that says in bold font She Wants the D and then in small letters estruction of the patriarchy
[Image Description: A zipper pouch that says in bold font She Wants the D and then in small letters destruction of the patriarchy] Photo via Amazon
It seems like every so often my bag turns into a mixed up dumping ground for hastily written notes to myself or even items I thought I lost a long time ago. I try to keep things organized by having a zippered pouch to hold my hair ties, chapstick, and lipstick. A friend who visited Southeast Asia gave me one with an elephant on it made from sequins but I’ve been eyeing this one for a while as mine needs to be retired soon.

Quirky keyrings

No Face from Spirited Away, a character with a black cape and white mask that has red stripes over the eyes. It carries a blue umbrella
[Image Description: No Face from Spirited Away, a character with a black cape and white mask that has red stripes over the eyes. It carries a blue umbrella] Photo via Amazon
What’s life without a ton of keys? I love the freelance life but it can sometimes be a struggle to make ends meet. Because of that, I sometimes work at a clothing store on the weekends to make ends meet meaning on top of my house keys, I also have store keys. I keep it all separated by having different fun keyrings to distinguish them. I have a bicycle keychain that doubles as a bottle opener to remind me of my time spent abroad in Copenhagen. This keyring with No Face from Spirited Away is cute and will make spotting your keys at the bottom of your bag easy.

A notebook for creative ideas

A blue notebook standing on one's end. It is closed with an elastic closure wrapped around it and is embossed in silver on the front. The cover features the Ravenclaw crest from the Harry Potter series, a raven sitting on a tree
[Image Description: A blue notebook standing on one’s end. It is closed with an elastic closure wrapped around it and is embossed in silver on the front. The cover features the Ravenclaw crest from the Harry Potter series, a raven sitting on a tree] Photo via Amazon.
As a writer and poet, I always have ideas milling through my head so having a cute notebook on hand is key. This one fits my personality because I’m a big Harry Potter nerd and my favorite color is blue.

A nice pen

A black Uniball rollerball pen standing on its point
[Image Description: A black Uniball rollerball pen standing on its point] Photo via Paperchase.
With all that writing, I enjoy having a decent pen to jot down ideas, rather than just a free ballpoint pen. I enjoy pens that write really easily so the words can flow and preferably in black.

A useful wallet

A grey leather wallet that is sitting upright
[Image Description: A grey leather wallet that is sitting upright] Photo via Amazon.
Having a practical wallet is very important for me because I’m very forgetful and liable to lose things. Being able to keep all my credit cards, money, and many punch cards organized helps ease this stress a lot. I currently have a slate grey one from Hobo with an orange interior. The splash of color makes this utilitarian wallet anything but boring.

A grey handbag on the floor. A set of keys with a bicycle keychain lay on top of it. Above it is a small black zippered pouch with an elephant made out of sequins, a grey wallet that's open to show an orange exterior, a lipstick, chapstick, a blue hair elastic, and a notebook with the Ravenclaw crest from Harry Potter. On top of the notebook is a blue and white pen that says doodles on it
[Image Description: A grey handbag on the floor. A set of keys with a bicycle keychain lay on top of it. Above it is a small black zippered pouch with an elephant made out of sequins, a grey wallet that’s open to show an orange exterior, a lipstick, chapstick, a blue hair elastic, and a notebook with the Ravenclaw crest from Harry Potter. On top of the notebook is a blue and white pen that says doodles on it] Photo by India Kushner
Thanks for letting me give you this peek into my bag!


In Pakistan, many women must still choose marriage over education

A couple of years ago, Kim began working at my home, in Lahore, Pakistan. She was 14-years-old then. In the first few days, she was quiet, demure, and a little scared. She didn’t talk a lot, and when I spoke to her, she jittered, and her voice trembled.  But as days passed by, we became friends. And as more days passed, our friendship blossomed into a sisterly bond. Kim had become family.

I would come home from school and tell Kim about everything that happened. She would excitedly listen to everything that I’d say and then she would tell me about her day. We would sit in the kitchen, and the sounds of our laughter and prattle would echo throughout the house.

Until one day, the yellow sun blazed in a blue sky, and the windless air of Lahore pricked my skin. I got home from school, bursting with stories that I had to tell Kim. But Kim hadn’t come that day. I wondered why she hadn’t come and if she was all right because she never took any days off. I felt a wave of apprehension.

“Mama, why didn’t Kim come today?” I asked my mother.

“I called her mother and was told that Kim will come to work after a few days,” my mother said.

I was dissatisfied with my mother’s response, but there was nothing that I could do except wait for Kim to come back. Almost a week later, she returned to work.

When Kim came back, she was in a sour mood. When I talked to her, she pretended like she wasn’t listening.  For the first time, it felt like she didn’t want to talk to me.

Some days later, we uncovered the reason for Kim’s discomfort. We found out from her mother that Kim’s wedding dates had been set. She was getting married to her cousin in a few months and would live in the village after getting married.

Kim and I sat together after she finished with work one day. Her eyes brimmed with tears of rage as she told me that she didn’t want to get married. She wanted to complete secondary school and continue work. I sat gawking at her, imbibing her words, as she spoke. I wanted to say something to comfort her, but I couldn’t. The words all died in silence.

In the week that Kim didn’t come, she was told by her parents that she would be getting married in December. Kim wasn’t asked if she would be all right marrying, she was simply informed of the decision. The dates were conveyed to her, and the name of her would-be husband was told.

She didn’t protest. She didn’t ask questions. She didn’t resist. She suppressed her feelings and submitted to the decision as most Pakistani girls do, especially those belonging to poor households. No one at Kim’s home knows how unhappy she is with her wedding, quite simply because she never made it known to them. She was afraid that her brothers would beat her, and a family drama would erupt if she told them that the idea of marriage is despicable to her at this time. But mostly, because no one would listen to her or share in her grief. I wonder how no one ever sees how her happiness is crumbling around her.

With her wedding day drawing closer every day, Kim feels like her life is falling apart. She is reduced to silence and stays gloomy. Sometimes, I feel like she isn’t the same person anymore – somebody who I would talk to for hours at end, my best friend.

At times when I look into her eyes, I see a sadness so profound, that I want to stop time so that her wedding day never comes. I see her struggling every day. A storm rages inside her, but the world doesn’t see it. Kim will have to weave into her new life, even if reluctantly, as all other girls do who are married before they are ready. It scares me to think that she’ll make a bride so soon, that she’ll be sent off with someone she’s never known closely and that she’ll be forced to live a life that she wants to flee.

Kim’s life has moved me closer to reality. It has made me realize that girls still struggle every day, sometimes for simply being given to the right to get an education before being married off.

Names have been changed to protect those involved. 

Gender & Identity Life

Going to a concert isn’t the carefree experience that it should be for me

Even when I feel that I’m fully recovered, certain moments always crop up where I am reminded that mental health is a long and strenuous battle. Usually, these moments occur when I’m surrounded by people or when I have plans that I know will trigger either my depression,  anxiety or my rheumatoid arthritis. I believe that the worst part of it all is knowing that you are an outcast and that you can’t tell everyone what you are feeling or what you are thinking because they won’t understand you.

In my case, I’ve found that concerts and shows tend to cause one or more of my conditions to act up. This is absolutely miserable because concerts, shows, fireworks, movies, presentations, in general, are those things that are always the most fun or anticipated. We are willing to pay in order to sit in chairs that may be far away just to see,  to hear, or to watch the show of someone whose talent we admire.

Even though I love these events, ever since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and arthritis I found myself paying attention to the places where the spectacles are going to be held. I’m always checking if there is access for people that have mobility impairments or as, in many of the places available in my city, the road I must take in order to get to my seat is determined by stairs.  Where I live, concerts are very expensive and if you want to see famous artists or a world-renowned spectacle with your friends or family you’ll have to make compromises, you’ll have to buy a cheap ticket (which really isn’t cheap) so that you have to see the show from a very long distance and the access is  torturous. Of course, being in the same position for a long period of time makes my bones ache, makes my joints scream and my extremities to become stiff. By the time we get out of the show, I must go out in the cold to grab a cab, which makes my pain on the next day absolutely unbearable.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen amazing shows and I feel lucky to have the economic possibilities to see great artists perform, but I’ve always felt bad because I never know if the show that I’m going to has chairs, or if I’ll have to sit on the floor.

This struggle isn’t always physical, but psychological.  I’ve found myself having panic attacks, episodes of memory loss due to anxiety, sweating, headaches, and/or gastrointestinal discomfort because of the number of people in these places. There is always a moment when I sit in my chair (if I’m lucky enough to have found one) and I look around to see the crowd and my anxiety tells me, “Hey if there’s an earthquake, if there’s a fire, these are all the people there are going to step on you on the stampede at the exit.” The struggle of going in and out of the place is huge because I always feel that the doors are too narrow, that there are too many people and that everyone is invading my personal space. I feel trapped. Even the prospect of standing up just to go to the bathroom makes me uncomfortable in these groups.

Of course, I feel miserable because I know that I’m not like everyone else and I know that my discomfort makes others uncomfortable. I feel especially bad for my mom and my brother as they like to go to shows, they are very carefree, and they would sit on top of a rock in order to watch the person they like play. I know that they have to accommodate their desires in order for me to be comfortable and to feel safe.

Speaking of this is really hard but I know there are a lot of people that can relate to my situation. Others who feel uncomfortable leaving their houses to go to theaters, malls, concerts, plays,  and dance clubs, but they remain shut-in because we all want to fit in. We all want to feel that we are not a burden. I invite all that feel this way to keep in mind that you are not alone and that you are not the only one who feels this way. Dream with me of the possibility of being able to enjoy our favorite band or favorite artist or a Cirque du Soleil show in a comfortable space that makes us feel safe.

Editor's Picks Gender & Identity Love + Sex Love Wellness

13 ridiculous stereotypes we all have about cloth pads, totally busted

Presented in partnership with  Lunapads.

My first encounter with the weird side of periods was in college.

I learned my friend used a menstrual cup.

Never having seen one before, I imagined a paper cup tied around her waist so it dangled right below her vagina – a horrifying image. I couldn’t imagine it being very clean or practical. Flash forward to a few years later, and I couldn’t have been more wrong- I’m now a total convert.

So, now you have me using a menstrual cup. Natural next step?

I decided to make the switch to reusable cloth pads. It was definitely a learning curve of figuring how exactly how to position the pads and when to change them, but I love how comfortable they feel, how they leave room for my downstairs to breathe, how much money I save, and how I’m also preventing waste.

Many people have often expressed concern over using reusable pads, which is completely understandable. But you’ll never hear anybody talk about regretting the switch. Count me in that group.

Myth #1: Reusable pads and underwear are more likely to leak and won’t last very long.

via [Image Description: Cat drinking from faucet]
via [Image Description: Cat drinking from faucet]
This is a complete myth.

Because I hated the way disposable pads felt, I decided to try a reusable cloth pad.  I wasn’t sure how many I would need, so, at first, I just bought two. One was an everyday pad in my favorite teal color which came with a liner you could add in as needed and the other was an overnight pad with colorful smiling llamas on the back.

The first time I wore one was strange but wonderful.

At first, I couldn’t stop thinking about this piece of cloth in my underwear but after I got over that, I just forgot about it. The organic cotton felt soft against my skin.

Plus, I didn’t feel like I was wearing a diaper. Win? Most definitely.

Though I had incidents early on in my period evolution where I positioned the cloth pad too far forward or back – leading to a partial leak! – once I got that down, I stopped having issues. I’ve worn my pads on their own for about five hours – and as the second-in-command to my DivaCup for up to eight hours.

Since I recently switched to an implant for birth control, it has made my period lighter. Because of this, I’ve mostly just been using reusable pads and they work great.

Reusable cloth pads come in a range of sizes for all types of flows and body types. There are also pads specifically for overnight use, which as we know can often be the time when leaks strike. Accidents can happen, but as long as you make sure to change it, you can spend your day worry-free.

Myth #2: They’re awful for the environment.

[Image Description: Garbage truck dumping trash.] via Giphy
I’m currently on birth control so my period is sometimes lighter than it would normally be. But, there are still days where it can be very heavy.

So if I’m using tampons, that means I’m using anywhere from 11-30 tampons every cycle (over 300 tampons every year).

I didn’t realize just how many tampons that was until I did the math. That adds up to between 5,000 and 14,000 tampons in your lifetime. So the switch to cloth pads? That was easier to make than I thought.

Besides, who doesn’t like a chill period experience?

Myth #3: They won’t work for people with an extra heavy flow.

[Image Description: Mean Girls scene with girl stating, “But I can’t help it if I’ve got a heavy flow and a wide-set vagina.”] via Giphy
If you feel like you bleed through pads so quickly it’s as if you forgot to put them on, good news! You’re in luck – because there are styles specifically designed for you.

When I first started getting my period, my mother taught me that if I ever spilled blood on my underwear, I could soak it with baking soda and it would help get the stain out. Every time I had a leak, I would rinse off my underwear, sprinkle a little baking soda, leave it to soak in the bathtub and forget about it for a few hours.

This worked for years.

After college, when I moved in with my long-distance boyfriend, I was so anxious at the thought of him seeing my dirty underwear in the bathroom. Eventually I, of course, did have a spill, but he never acted like it’s a big deal – as any respectful partner should.

On heavier days, I often add an extra insert which I change mid-day or simply use the pad on its own. What I like about inserts is that, even though they add extra protection, they never really make the pad feel bulky or stuffed. At night, I usually switch to an overnight pad. There are also maxi pad styles you can invest in.

Extra protection always helps, no matter how heavy your flow.

Myth #4: They are unsanitary.

A cartoon of a girl standing in the rain, sniffing the air, smiling, and jumping for joy. She wears a yellow rain jacket, boots, glasses, and carries a red umbrella
[Image Description: A cartoon of a girl standing in the rain, sniffing the air, smiling, and jumping for joy. She wears a yellow rain jacket, boots, glasses, and carries a red umbrella] Via Giphy.

Because cloth pads are considered medical devices, they are FDA compliant. With tampons, you have to worry about Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Cloth pads? That isn’t a problem.

Though my mother had bought me my first pads and taught me how to use a tampon, she had also reminded me never to tell my father that I was on my period or let him see what was in the trash.

It just “wasn’t done” in her mind.

In her time, you didn’t discuss “female issues” out in the open, whereas people from my generation are tired of hiding and will discuss it with friends (regardless of gender). When I decided to make the switch to cloth pads, I was in college and, feeling rebellious, rather than discuss it with my mother, I did my own research. I read reviews online and watched videos of people using them.

Once I was convinced, I was all in.

I was happy to hear that most pads are made of organic cotton, making them free of toxic dyes, bleaches, and other chemicals, whereas many big name tampon and pad companies refuse to release their entire list of chemicals. Seriously? A consumer group that tests disposable pads found some could contain styrene, chloroethane, and chloroform.

For that reason alone, I don’t think of reusable pads as gross.

First off, I’m not exposing my vagina to any chemicals. On top of that, if just popping my cloth pads in the laundry doesn’t feel like enough, I can handwash or presoak them, making them extra clean.

Myth #5: You can’t wear them during exercise

[Image description: Princess Carolyn, a pink cartoon cat from BoJack Horseman, wears workout clothing and does step-up exercises.] via Giphy
HA! False.

Reusable pads have snaps to hold themselves in place and as long as you make sure to wear suitable underwear, the pad shouldn’t move around at all. When I do yoga or go hiking, I make sure to wear a longer one. That way, even if it moves, there’s plenty of pad to catch all the blood. Many of my pads come with two sets of snaps so if I feel like I need to, I can also make them extra secure.

Although it’s definitely important to note that you shouldn’t wear pads if you’re swimming because – regardless of whether they’re cloth or one-time-use! – your pads will absorb whatever liquid is around them…which can get gross.

Myth #6: Changing them during the day is awkward and carrying them around is smelly.

Janis Ian, a goth girl from Mean Girls, looks disturbed as she leans in to say to another woman, "You smell like a baby prostitute." She wears a white button down, red apron, and has long black hair
[Image Description: Janis Ian, a goth girl from Mean Girls, looks disturbed as she leans in to say to another woman, “You smell like a baby prostitute.” She wears a white button down, red apron, and has long black hair] via Giphy
I won’t lie to you, your period sometimes makes you smell. I have a special bag for my pads, so when it comes time to change them, I usually fold mine up and snap it shut, which keeps some of the odor in, then pop them in the bag. That bag locks away all the odor.

There are also zippered wet bags available online, which are often designed to lock in odor.

Myth #7: They are uncomfortable.

A cute otter snuggles against a blanket
[Image Description: A cute otter snuggles against a blanket] Via Giphy.
This is definitely not true!

Like I said, reusable pads are usually made of cotton or a similar material, making them softer on your skin and more breathable for your vah-jay-jay. Whenever I used to wear disposable pads, I often felt like I was wearing a diaper.

Not so with cloth pads.

Myth #8: They only come in one size.

[Image description: Cat is stuck in a sandal.] via Giphy
Cloth pads have come a long way! They are now sold in a range of sizes from panty liners to maxi and thongs.

The pads also range in actual width of the pad size so if you prefer a short but wider pad or a thin but longer one, there are options for you. If you want to forgo pads entirely, there’s even underwear with built-in protection that offers a leak-proof lining and removable insert.

While I haven’t tried the underwear yet, I have several types of pads that I will swap out depending on where I am in my cycle.

Myth #9: They won’t work for pregnant, postpartum, or non-cis people.

Musician Beyonce happily rubs her pregnant belly on stage. Behind her, an audience cheers
[Image Description: Musician Beyonce happily rubs her pregnant belly on stage. Behind her, an audience cheers] Via Giphy.
Pads are often a better solution for those who are pregnant or postpartum because they are so comfortable and also work with mild bladder leaks, a common occurrence with pregnancy. If you don’t like using cloth pads, you can pick from types of underwear style such as briefs, hipster styles, and boxer briefs.

Myth #10: They are unsanitary to wash with your regular laundry.

A lady dances in the aisle at a laundromat. She had a short bob, wears a purple sweater and a red skirt
[Image Description: A lady dances in the aisle at a laundromat. She had a short bob, wears a purple sweater and a red skirt] Via Giphy.
It may seem gross to wash your pads with your regular laundry, but it’s just like washing your daily underwear. The first time I was ready to wash my pads, I put them right on top and was so anxious about what would happen with all of that blood.

They came out slightly stained (hey, that’s what it means to use them!) but clean, and the rest of my clothes? Blood-free.

I now wash my pads in a normal cycle and never worry. If it really skeeves you out, you can also handwash your pads.

Myth #11: They’re expensive.

[Image Description: A child throws out money through the window] via Giphy
Uh, false.

Although it might seem like you’re spending a lot on reusable pads, keep in mind that once you buy a reusable pad, it will last for a long time, often from three to five years. In the long run, you are actually saving money. Many companies also sell value kits which offer enough pads to cover your entire cycle.

Breakdown of Period Prices Over Life

I used to buy a box of tampons or pads once every few weeks, which really added up.

When I switched over to reusable pads, I bought three pads. Four years later? They’re still working, even if they’re definitely battle-worn. They’re not showing signs of falling apart anytime soon.

Now that I’ve been using them regularly, I plan to buy some cloth panty-liners for lighter days, next.

Myth #12: Reusable pads and underwear will ruin your sex life.

[Image Description: A cartoon Spiderman lies seductively on train tracks with a rope tied around his waist] via Giphy
This is an absolute no-no. Because, first, your partner should never make you feel ashamed or disgusted for having your period.

Second, regular menstrual cycles are a part of a normal, healthy life.

And third, sex during periods is actually known to prevent cramps.

If you enjoy having sex during your period, stopping to take out your tampon or cup can be a bit of a mood-killer. On the contrary, cloth pads can be folded up and snapped shut making them super discrete.

Win-win for everyone!

Myth #13: You will spend the whole day feeling like you’re sitting in a pool of blood.

Chewbacca, a Wookiee from Star Wars, blow dries his hair and tilts his head, looking fabulous
[Image Description: Chewbacca, a Wookiee from Star Wars, blow dries his hair and tilts his head, looking fabulous] Via Giphy.
Uh, not true.

Reusable pads absorb as well as regular disposable ones. I recently switched over to only using Performa pads, and had to get used to a concept called “free bleeding.”

(Quick PSA: It’s not the type of free bleeding where you’re bleeding through your clothes.)

But I’ll be honest: I was more aware of my period, which meant that I got more in sync with my flow.  Early on, I would flee to the bathroom because I was sure it had leaked through, but – surprise, surprise – it never did.

Thank god, right? Right.

I never noticed this before with throw-away pads, because there’s so much material down there that you never get that feeling. After I got used to the sensation, though, it was smooth sailing. Though sometimes I can feel that there is, in fact, blood in my pad, the pad itself doesn’t ever feel like it’s soaked or wet.


Music Pop Culture

What we all really need to learn from Ariana’s “thank u, next” music video

“I met someone else… her name is Ari”

These are the lyrics that 25-year-old pop star Ariana Grande broke the internet with in her music video for “thank u, next” that premiered Friday evening. For anyone who has been living under a rock, Ari’s new hit single is about thanking her ex-boyfriends for all they have offered her, but now moving on from these relationships as a proud single woman.

The five-minute video managed to break records as the most viewed Youtube Premiere video of all time. People across the globe were even throwing premiere parties with all their closest friends in order to sit at the edge of their seats and watch with beaming faces as their favorite singer graced the screen.

Fans of Ariana were ecstatic to see the pop artist replicating iconic movie characters from all of the quotable films of their youth and inserting pop culture references that shine a whole new light on the brand classically known by the world as the “chick flick”. It is commonly expressed by society to label a chick flick as less than, a cheap film by patriarchal standards that is, simply and derogatorily, “girly”. In “thank u, next”, Grande takes the derogatory term and flips it on its head. Paying homage to movies that our generation has grown up with, these empowering films include (but are not limited to) Mean Girls, Bring It On, Legally Blonde, and 13 Going On 30.

It is a video filled with community, excitement, hope, and celebration. Yet as charming as the movie references and celebrity cameos in Ariana’s video are (and they are very charming indeed), the best part about her smash hit video is watching as Ari embarks on her authentic journey to self-love in the face of pain.

Ari recreating the scene from "13 Going on 30
[Image description: Ariana Grande with her head resting on a doll house, recreating the scene from “13 Going on 30”] via Vevo

We all have to face heartbreak at some point, whether it be a breakup with a romantic partner or a falling out with a close friend. As most of us know, it’s a terrible feeling to lose someone who was once a significant part of your life. In a way, it can almost feel like you are losing a big part of yourself in the process. This can easily cause us to feel lost, and in a desperate effort to feel “found” we sometimes will search for external sources in order to make us feel complete again. If a partner breaks up with us, we immediately look for another one. “thank u, next” teaches us to find that kind of love within ourselves before scouting for validation from another person.

I remember that feeling of significant loss hovering over me after going through a terrible breakup with my first love. I would just find myself trudging through life like some kind of zombie, emotionless, feeling like I was only half of the person I used to be when I was still with that partner. Who was I without my other half? What kind of person was I to become? My whole world felt as though it had come crashing down, with my expectations of security and comfort evaporating all at once.

Yet as terrible and incomplete as I felt at first, there was still a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. I knew that because I was no longer tied down to anything, I now had the entire universe at my fingertips. I could finally take whichever path I liked, wander down whichever road, and knowing that alone was the most liberating feeling. Was I terrified to suddenly have all of this freedom? Of course. But it was a brilliant kind of terrifying, the kind that only creeps up when you’re in the process of pure growth.

In that process of growth, I was finally able to take all that love I had for my ex and manifest it into myself. The journey to self-love is a difficult one, but once you embark on it, you will feel more empowered and dignified than ever before.

In a lot of ways, I wish Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” would’ve come out sooner. Its classy message of learning to be thankful for what you’ve lost, regardless of how much of hurt you, is an important one. It teaches us to look back on our past relationships with gratitude and poise, rather than spite. It teaches us to put all of that energy we could be wasting on anger and hate into self-love and appreciation.

Ariana singing the words "I turned out amazing"
[Image description: Ariana Grande singing the words “I turned out amazing” sitting in a garden recreating the scene from Mean Girls]

If we can learn to love and appreciate what we have to offer the way Ari teaches us to, we will turn out amazing! So go ahead, embark on that journey of self-love and gratitude. As soon as you do, you’ll have the universe at your fingertips.

TV Shows Pop Culture

Why I will not forgive ‘Voltron’ for this particular character death and you shouldn’t either

During Voltron: Legendary Defender’s 2018 San Diego Comic-Con preview, DreamWorks revealed that Shiro, a series lead, is gay. This was disclosed through the introduction of his former partner, Adam, and it roused the show’s fandom, offering some the seemingly elusive LGBTQ+ representation fans had rather vocally desired.

Then in August, Netflix released the animated show’s seventh season and that favorable tide quickly turned when viewers learned Adam is killed off after less than 5 minutes on screen. In the months since then, Voltron’s fandom has remained somewhat torn as a number of fans have publicly debated whether they’ll return to watch the show’s eighth and final season this December.

Some argue that Shiro is enough to serve as the show’s canon LGBTQ+ representation while others are still unable to let go of Adam’s brief appearance. The entire ordeal has been frustrating for those that surround the show, particularly fans like me. While I recognize how vital Shiro is beyond his former partner, I also realize the gap between unconfirmed expectations of Adam’s potential and his on-screen reality.

A fan favorite in DreamWorks’ popular animated reboot, Shiro has been personally significant because of who he is, inside and out. Despite experiencing personal losses, professional challenges, torture, and near death, Takashi “Shiro” Shirogane is a survivor. Moreover, in the face of all the trauma he’s endured, Shiro has remained kind, compassionate and resolute — a reminder of all people’s capacity for goodness and resilience.

And while Shiro doesn’t look like me, I’ve found common ground within aspects of our identities. Existing at many of the same intersections, including disabled, queer, and mixed-race, I took pride in a character who represents so many parts of me I rarely see on screen.

Even more personally, Voltron: Legendary Defender came into my life following the death of my mother. Two years ago, I lost my only parent, as well as my childhood house and many of the things (material and immaterial) that connected me to who I was. Voltron has developed several plotlines around the loss of family, identity, and definitions of home. Shiro’s storylines, like that of Allura, Keith, and Pidge, provided an intimate space not only to see emotional trauma normalized but to privately and safely work through my grief.

Altogether, this is why I’ve struggled with the ways Shiro’s treatment conflicts with Adam’s. A historic and deeply meaningful representation, Shiro is one of TV’s first canonical gay, disabled male leads of color in animation and a character that has offered me an emotional cocoon. And yet, I cling to his former partner Adam, increasingly trying to fill the empty corners of the character’s life.

I’d felt internally conflicted like this until around October, which is when two things happened. First, it was then that I saw and became attached to how prominently “Shiro’s boyfriend” was taking on a second life in fandom through fanart and fanfic. Second, a handful of LGBTQ history month pieces I read helped weave together for me the thematic threads of queer narratives like Adam’s. Both of these things explained why he was resonating with me so much: Adam’s presence (or lack thereof) exposes several uncomfortable but significant realities.

In both fiction and the real world, LGBTQ+ people have a history of disappearing with little to no explanation or resolution; of having their lives and achievements forgotten and erased. Adam’s treatment represents how LGBTQ+ people are often positioned like a B-plot to someone else’s story, in life and death.

Furthermore, Adam has inadvertently come to embody how certain lives can be seen as more valuable than others. This is particularly evident in arguments that declare Shiro the “real representation” in the face of criticism over Adam’s treatment. Said by those both within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s a framing that pushes the unacceptable notions that certain people — like those who are trans, disabled, or darker-skinned — are disposable.

Attempting to define the “characters that count” can feel detrimental. Particularly when GLAAD reports that not only do 6.4 percent of scripted broadcast’s 2017-18 characters identify as queer, but 77 percent of them are white. Meanwhile, in the real world,  2017 FBI data has revealed that amid increases in LGBTQ hate crimes, people who exist at intersections of marginalized identities, like queer or trans people of color, are facing a disproportionate amount of the attacks.

Voltron is hardly the first show to kill a gay character — lead, supporting, guest or otherwise, and the somewhat tokenistic approach of representation that’s resulted has existed for decades. Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ inclusion is too often a deadly game of Highlander, even as straight people regularly live in multitudes on screen. In short, these problems are not exclusive to the animated series or its fandom.

But Voltron’s “Adam issue” does underscore why multiple living characters identifying as LGBTQ+ should be an intrinsic and vital part of the fight for and celebration of increased diversity. Moreover, the existence of these characters shouldn’t consistently be dependent on each other, and more importantly should reflect a range of the human experience, within each character.

So yes, Shiro is one example of an essential and, by GLAAD’s standards, mostly positive representation of disabled, gay people of color. But Adam is also representation, and a powerful reminder of some Voltron fans’ refusal to leave parts of their community behind.

Gender & Identity Life

21 things you’ll understand if you’re a female writer in Pakistan

It’s been around six years since I’ve started publishing my writing for people to see.

I remember the first time I published something. The fear. The exhilaration. The unknown. These all combined to be one of my favorite feelings.

Over time, there are some things I’ve noticed about the way people view female writers in Pakistan. Everything is different once you write it down. Everyone will have an opinion. Sometimes, you won’t like it but you have to learn to live with it.

1. Aunties refer to you as the girl with too many opinions.

A real housewife saying “that’s my opinion” via

This, ALL THE TIME. This is one of the things I hate hearing most. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a strong opinion on a certain subject. It should be seen as a good thing. But here, in our Pakistani society, a woman is expected to be meek. She must be submissive. She must not speak louder than a pin drop!

2. Older people tell you not to share your work online because it isn’t safe.

Concerned Bollywood aunty holding her head and spinning via

This I sometimes understand. Agree with? No.

I think you have to start somewhere. If you have the power to share your opinions on a public forum, you should it. Ignore anyone that goes against you. People will always tell you it isn’t safe or it isn’t right, but don’t let their opinions affect the power of your voice.

3. Your mom might tell you won’t get a rishta if people read one of your more controversial pieces.

Bollywood aunty freaking out and saying “Nahi” (no) via

Because aunties don’t like girls who talk about social taboos and injustices. Aunties don’t like girls that question the norm.

4. People tell you to do something that makes more money

Pay me K-Pop girl throwing money via

Everyone knows that writing does not rake in the big bucks unless you make it big time. So it comes down to money. That’s what it’s all about.

Passion be damned. Activism be damned.

Money, money gains power. It’s the only thing, no? No. A voice has power as well. And don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

5. Haters in the comments

Superwoman asking “is your brain broken?” via

If you’re writing about women’s rights and any kind of feminism, the comments are the worst. You get bashed. Hatred spews all over your article and then you forget the reasons why you wrote it in your quest to silence the haters.

I remember someone commented on one of my articles once saying, “Feminism is cancer and you are spreading it.” Absolutely awful. A piece of advice: don’t read the comments.

6. People ask you why you write

Man furiously typing on a keyboard via

I never have just one answer to this.

As a Pakistani woman, I think it’s important for us to share our views in any way that we can. Too often we are pushed to the sidelines, so we need to grab every opportunity we can to be heard.

7. Everyone knows everything you’ve ever thought

An animated book with the pages turning via

I usually don’t mind. But it’s as if you can’t ever change your opinion once it’s out there. Yes, that’s how I felt once upon a time, but people change. Views change.

Some people have a hard time accepting and understanding that.

8. You have a strong social media presence

A girl scrolling through her social media via

It’s almost impossible to hide anything. Hit up Google and there are numerous ways to stalk a writer.

9. You always have those people that want to discuss your article in great depth

A girl telling another girl “don’t try to bond with me” via

It could be that one lone commentator, or a friend, or just anyone.

10. You constantly have to be aware.

An old man reading a newspaper and having coffee with the word “still?” written below via

Sometimes, I’ll get sent an idea and have no idea what the backstory is and I sit there staring at my screen wondering why I haven’t read the news in two days.

11. Research tends to become your best friend

A woman flipping through the pages of a book at a library via

Agh, one of my least favorite things.

12. Deadlines

Lea Michele freaking out, on the verge of crying via

In Pakistan, everyone is late. Except when you’re a writer, you don’t have time to be late.

Got a deadline? You best be meeting it.

13. When you have writer’s block

Lisa Simpson saying “writing is the hardest thing ever” via

First things first, there is no real writer’s block. It’s an excuse for when you’re lazy and tired and you just don’t have the attention span to write. Everyone tells you to write what you know. Which is usually the pressure of marriage.

That is, if you’re a girl in her twenties. I’m sick of marriage talk and even more sick of thinking about it.

14. Hating everything

Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory throws a stack of papers via

That first draft? Crap. Second draft? Trash, delete. Delete. Delete.

15. The “favorite writer” question

A Shakespearean character holding a skull via

I’ve had too many people come up to me and ask me, “So is Shakespeare your favorite writer?”

16. Needing to write everything down

A child writing in a rush via

I know if I don’t write an idea or sentence down, I will lose it. It’s always that struggle.

There have been times when I’ve been stuffing my face with biryani at a wedding when I get a really great idea (or so I think in that moment), and my phone notes are my saviors.

They’re filled with random snippets and phrases of could-be-somethings.

17. When people get concerned

Angry aunty saying “you don’t even want to learn how to cook daal” via

When you write a really dark fiction piece and people come up to you like, Beta, are you okay? Eat some khaana, you’ll feel better.

Like come on, Aunty, it’s called fiction for a reason. Or they bombard you with questions like why are you writing when you could be cooking? It gets exhausting, not gonna lie.

18. When you ask someone to read your work

Seth Cohen from the OC nodding awkwardly via

The response I usually get is a long sigh. People will just ask me to read it out to them.

19. When people ask you to read your work out loud

Mariah Carey putting on her sunglasses with the words “I can’t read suddenly. I don’t know” at the bottom via

And out of the blue, you’re surrounded by like a million aunties waiting to hear you speak.

20. The praise

Farida Jalal dancing with a group of people in the back via

Sometimes I think it isn’t even real.

My mom shares all of my pieces on her Facebook page and somehow, she also gains more likes than me. All her aunty friends are commenting things like, MashAllah beta, you are a star. On the inside, I’m wondering if they’ve even read my work.

21. Lastly, just being a woman. In Pakistan. Questioning stereotypes.

Rani Mukherji lifting her eyebrows with the word “Bol” (speak) written via

People will always try to push you to the side. They will try to tell you that your words don’t matter. But they do.

They always will.

Science Now + Beyond

It’s, like, totally okay for women to speak like this, for real

We’ve all heard it before.

The way young women speak is apparently unprofessional. Upspeak and vocal fry are considered the worst offenders of all. We’ve got NPR stories, news segments, and umpteen articles written about this supposedly offensive linguistic habit that young women have picked up.

Even if you haven’t heard of upspeak or vocal fry, you’ve definitely heard it in real life. Upspeak is a characteristic usually said to be used by young women, even if it is used by most of the younger population. It is characterized by up-tones in the voice used where up-tones would not normally be, giving the appearance of a question asked or doubt to statements where this is not the case.

Vocal fry is also something that is said to be used by young women, but if you’ve ever listened to This American Life, even Ira Glass uses vocal fry. It’s that gravelly tone of voice, almost as if the speaker is pitching their voice just a little bit lower than natural for them, leading to the voice to sound “creaky.” To some people, they describe listening to this as like listening to nails on a chalk board. In this interview done on NPR’s Fresh Air podcast, journalist Jessica Grose took criticism about her own vocal fry to a speech therapist, while consulting with linguistics professor from Stanford, Penny Eckert about the impact society has on the linguistics of young people, especially young women.

Vocal fry is just one of the four modes of speaking, and yet, somehow in this generation, it has been associated with young women and a perceived lack of intelligence. The video here describes what vocal fry actually is, in scientific terms.

Both of these linguistic phenomena are generally described as being used by young women, and when people talk about how young women speak, it’s usually with derision. In an interview with Conan O’Brien, actress Lake Bell described something she called “Sexy Baby Voice,” and called it a pandemic infecting women in the United States.

But what if we flipped the script on this idea, lost the prescriptivist glasses that tell us that the upper levels of society determine what the language looks like, and gave young women the credit they deserve?

People finally are, according to a couple articles.

Sociolinguistic research is finally pointing towards young women as the most important early adopters of new languages. We often think of language innovators as people like William Shakespeare, at least for the English language. But research has been done that points to the idea that Shakespeare wasn’t really coming up with all these new words on his own.

What he probably did was listen to the common people, his preferred audience (and the one he really wrote for), and used words that they were using, which is what this article is suggesting. But a lot of the slang that Shakespeare was using he picked up from the people who were actually speaking it.

Here’s where women come in.

Women, especially young women, have always been shown to be using new language innovations before men.

Because of how women have been socialized, we talk more. We communicate more. We have wider social circles with which to communicate. And there are good records of women writing to each other because they did it quite a lot. And because of that, we can track the change of language used by women. For example, using the -th suffix on verbs during the Renaissance period was dropped by women almost a generation before men made the same change, according to a study by Suzanne Grégoire where over 6,000 letters were analyzed.

We can be considered greater innovators than even Shakespeare himself. If we hadn’t started creating the vernacular, he could have never borrowed it to create the plays we read in English class in high school.

But if we are such natural innovators, why aren’t we given the recognition?

The consensus there is that it all comes down to sexism, like most things regarding young women. When young women refuse to follow the societal expectations, whatever they are doing is mocked. Sure, we can recognize the power of young women when doing a study, but in practice, it’s a little more difficult. Within the interview conducted by Jessica Grose on NPR’s Fresh Air, Professor Eckert said she played a tape for her students of a woman speaking using upspeak and vocal fry.

While Professor Eckert said she thought the woman sounded unsure of herself, her students thought they opposite. She sounded “good, authoritative,” to the students.

Therein lies the linguistic generational gap. I know in my own experience, I don’t think vocal fry or upspeak sound inherently bad. To my Millennial ears, when people speak like this (and it isn’t just women – men in our generation use upspeak and vocal fry too!), it sounds normal.

And that is the important part.

We are language innovators, and the dialect that we have created for ourselves is becoming the norm. And, as shown in the study analyzing letter writing, women adopted linguistic changes about a generation before men do.

As Gretchen McCulloch tweeted: Women learn language from their peers; men learn it from their mothers.

So in about a generation, vocal fry and up-speak will be accepted parts of the dialect. At least, that’s my prediction. And if I’m predicting the future, I hope that, in a generation, young women are recognized as the language innovators they are everywhere, not just in sociology articles on JSTOR.

Gender & Identity Life

25 things that humanities majors are tired of dealing with

As a Humanities major, you’re often put in the position of having to justify your major to family, friends, and acquaintances. Even if people are constantly questioning your choices, you know that passion is what counts.

Unfortunately, passion won’t always protect you from the pitfalls of college.

1. Reading. So much reading.


When I got to college I thought I liked reading. I still do, sort of, but now most of the books stacked on my desk come from syllabi.

2. You’ve added up the number of pages you have to write for all of your classes.


Or you haven’t. That’s cool too, and probably better for your stress levels.

3. You’re an expert at skimming.


Not only can you read at an Olympic pace, you can understand and absorb what you read while doing it.

4.  Shakespeare.


Does he belong to the Humanities, in the realm of the English majors? Or does he belong to the Arts and Theater? One thing is for sure: he wrote a lot of poems and plays, and we read them pretty often.

5. “What are you going to do with your degree?”


This is something everyone worries about, so why does it feel like the question is usually aimed at Humanities majors?

6. Sometimes that question comes from your parents.


It’s harder to brush off from your parents.

7. Take-home exams.

They’re much better than in-class finals.

8. Taking math or science requirements.


People assume you don’t know what you’re doing. If they’re wrong, it’s infuriating. If they’re right, it’s still infuriating.

9. Everyone assumes your classes are super easy.


See points one and two. A Humanities degree is a lot of work.

10. “Have you thought about law school?”


A lot of Humanities majors go to law school. What frustrates me about this question is that everyone who asks it seems to think that they’re giving you completely new information.

11. When you’re working on a paper at the last minute and run into your professor in the coffee shop.


There’s no use trying to hide what you’re doing. Your professor already knows because they’ve probably done the same thing a hundred times.

12. You don’t drink coffee, but for some reason, you’re writing in a coffee shop anyway.


No time for questions, you have to write!

13. Alternatively, you do drink coffee and your blood is half caffeine by now.


Is that how caffeine works?

14. When you’re in a coffee shop at 5:30 a.m. and you see a duck walk past the storefront.


This one isn’t universal, but I’m still thinking about that duck. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life and it left me sitting there as the sun just barely started to rise, trying to rationalize it. I haven’t seen a duck in that shopping center before or since.

15. “Are you going to become a teacher?”


Maybe! Or maybe I’m going into another one of the careers open to me. It’s not really your business.

16. Theory classes.


Theory classes: where all the readings are as dense as bricks.

17. When you actually understand what the professor is talking about.


The moment you realize you know what “dialectic” means is wild.

18. Discussions sections where no one else raises their hand, so it’s mostly you and the TA talking with an audience.


You did the reading and you have something to say, so say it!

19. When someone says something in the discussion that is just so wrong that you almost want to stop class to let them know.


Would you stay after class to keep arguing? I am pretty confident I would be that person.

20. “You must love reading! What do you read for fun?”


I can tell you what I read for fun in middle school. I probably had time for a few books in high school, too. But in college? See point one again.

21. Walking into office hours and asking your professor to help you craft a thesis.


Put on a smile and admit you don’t have any concrete ideas. Talking it out with your professor helps flesh out your own thoughts.

22. Not getting comments on final papers.


I know my grade, but what did my professor think?

23.  Not being able to read your professor’s comments on the papers you do get back.


Now you have to go into office hours and ask.

24. Getting positive feedback that just stokes your ego.


It’s not false modesty that makes you go, “Who, me?” My absolute conviction that I am a better writer than all of my classmates coexists with the unwavering certainty that I am in fact a terrible writer.

25. Getting critique that helps you improve your writing.


Sometimes when a professor tears your essay apart (nicely), you get real advice to help you move forward.