LGBTQIA+ History Gender Inequality

The history of non-binary genders is longer than you know

When Joan of Arc dressed for church, they wore men’s clothing.

When they took the sacraments, they had their hair short and wore pants.

When they fought for their God, they wore armor.

Many people resistant to cultural change will blame the newness of the terms used to define it. The newness of a label is often used to allude to the idea that it is an invention – something that is not true, but rather made up. This is the criticism that many people are applying to non-binary genders.

However, something that has been around since the 15th century cannot be rejected by society’s supposed perception of its “newness.”

As people assigned female or male at birth celebrate their androgyny, the patriarchy is fighting back, declaring gender identity a new construct that is fabricated by those who strive for a difference. It’s important to acknowledge that the newness of the term “non-binary” is not an indictment on its existence, but rather a celebration of its acknowledgment. 

Many people resistant to cultural change will blame the newness of the terms used to define it.

History is no stranger to the tales of people who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) who dress in men’s clothing to adopt more powerful positions in society.

For many people, the Disney adaptation of the myth of Hua Mulan might be the first time they consider nonbinary identities. While the term “non-binary” is never used in the family-friendly flick, in the title song, “Reflection,” Mulan proclaims, “I will never pass for a perfect bride or a perfect daughter…That if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart.”

[adsanity_group num_ads=”1″ align=”alignnone” num_columns=”1″ group_ids=”135795″/]

A 20-year-old movie certainly doesn’t indicate the newness of betraying gender roles, nor does the 1700-year-old source material.

Even earlier, in 1400 B.C.E., Hatshepsut ruled as Pharaoh in Ancient Egypt. Often regarded as one of the few female pharaohs to take the throne, the statues that survive her celebrate the strength of her rule.

She is depicted in a few different ways, from a woman wearing men’s clothing to a feminine face upon a man’s body. Hatshepsut defied the strict gender roles of ancient Egypt, and the statues that still stand are evidence of their defiance.

These examples are anecdotal, and often follow a common theme, of a person assigned female at birth (AFAB) defying the gender roles assigned to their sex to achieve something greater. However, even these examples hardly hold a candle to the rich history outlining people of a third gender.

History is no stranger to tales of people who are assigned female at birth dressing in men’s clothing to adopt more powerful positions in society.

This third gender, sometimes defined as neither a man nor a woman, is present in several ancient cultures, including Mesopotamia, the progenitor of written history.

During that time, people of the third gender, or Hijra, were in service to the gods they celebrated. In various cultures throughout history, from Hijra priests to eunuchs and virgins in the temple of Artemis, holiness has transcended gender.

It’s easy for detractors to rebut this by pretending that nothing of the sort took place in our current understanding of Western society. The notion of a third gender or “Mahu” is part of Polynesian culture. It can mean a gender between male and female, or gender fluid. In Hawaii and Tahiti, the Mahu people were highly respected in the indigenous culture as keepers of oral traditions and historical knowledge.

[adsanity_group num_ads=”1″ align=”alignnone” num_columns=”1″ group_ids=”135795″/]

Mahu people exist not only in the past but are an important part of queer culture in Hawaii today. 

The Navajo are a Native American people of the Southwestern United States. The Navajo people have a gender category called Nadleeh, which can refer to transgender people who have transitioned in one direction along the gender binary (having been assigned male at birth, and now identifying as female, or assigned female at birth and now identifying as male), gender-fluid people, and, of course, those whose gender presentation falls “outside” of the gender identity norms imposed by society at a large. The Nadleehi have a spiritual function and are inherently respected as tribal members within the Navajo culture. 

This stark difference in acceptance and perception was noted by Anglo-Saxon American anthropologists as early as the 1920s. In fact, Author William Willard Hill was surprised that Navajo society considered a transgender person “very fortunate,” unlike his understanding of Western culture, for which gender fluidity caused anxiety in mainstream society.

Gender has been used as an oppressive instrument for centuries.

It’s been used to highlight the difference between people, rather than highlight the inherent strength in us all. Strength of character is not something that is defined by maleness or femaleness. Strength is an attribute of the human condition to thrive when tested and fight for what we believe in.

The history of defying gender roles is as ancient as humanity itself.

That human condition is what drives people to discover what gender means to them. They are able to transcend the baggage of strict gender roles to achieve greatness.

The history of defying gender roles is as ancient as humanity itself, which leads one to question why people are so threatened by the nonbinary identification overall.

Why is it that the rich history of gender fluidity needs to be constantly torn down by censors and patriarchs of today’s “binary” culture, and rejected because of its newly-found public acceptance?

Perhaps, Joan of Arc and Hatshepsut knew something that everyone else did not.

Perhaps it’s important for us all to remember the wisdom they passed on through their life stories:

That to transcend gender is to harness the power of the gods themselves.


Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!


13 must read books to become involved in social justice activism

Social justice activism and aiming to bring about change doesn’t happen overnight. However, one misconception that many people have about social activism is that they always view it in a political light. That is not always the case. 

Reading a book to me is like discovering a new purpose, finding something to ponder upon and just being able to reflect on someone else’s viewpoint and reflect. I recently read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a book on social justice activism that revolves around a 16-year-old, trying to make terms with her high-class school while dealing with the reality that brings her back to the narrow streets of her neighborhood.

I was intrigued to read this fictional account of Starr Carter who had to suffer from the trauma of watching a close friend getting shot before her eyes. Thomas beautifully deals with the complexity of standing up for your values from a young age.

In search of more such social justice activism books, I have listed down 13 books that will easily become any social justice activist’s absolute favorite in no time:

1. Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change by Stacey Abrams

social activism
[Image Description: Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change by Stacey Abrams] via
Leadership is hard but convincing others about what you believe in is harder. This is a handbook for everyone looking to work towards combatting the challenges that hinder women, people of color, the working class, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and millennials, who are ready to make a change. With the help of her insights, Stacey manages to break down how ambition, fear, money and failure function in leadership, going hand-in-hand.

Get it for $15.64 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

[adsanity id=”178468″ align=”alignnone”/]

2. Internment by Samira Ahmed

social activism
[Image Description: Internment by Samira Ahmed] via
Written by the bestselling author of Love, Hate, & Other Filters, the book follows Layla Amin, a Muslim-American who leads a revolution when she and her family are forced into an internment camp in the United States. Internment will inspire you to reflect upon Islamophobic rhetoric and politics, ensuring this scenario remains a work of fiction.

Get it for $10.11 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

3. Front Desk by Kelly Yang

social activism
[Image Description: Front Desk by Kelly Yang] via
Mia Tang, the main character of the books has a lot of secrets. Front Desk is all about Tang’s courage, kindness and the hard work she shows to get through whatever comes her way. How she can hold on to her job while chasing her dreams, is for you to read and find out for yourself.

Get it for $7.35 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

4. Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis

social activism
[Image Description: Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis] via
This handbook is more of a collection of essays, interviews and speeches. Davis brings her perspective of working for civil rights advocacy to present-day movements such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) and prison reforms to the forefront through this compilation.

Get it for $14.67 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

5. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

social activism
[Image Description: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin] via
The author turned photographer Kuklin interviewed six transgender to represent them thoughtfully for this book. The book is full of portraits, family photographs and candid images that augment the emotional journey of each one of them. Each discussion, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other.

Get it for $11.95 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

6. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

[Image Description: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo] via
White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable and triggering. These triggers may include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear and guilt. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium which this book depicts perfectly.

Get it for $14.72 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

7. A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

[Image Description: A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara] via
Targeted for children, this illustrated book can come in handy for everyone, considering how ill-informed some people are despite easy access to information. Every letter is the definition of a different social movement. For F — you learn about Feminism, when we get to G –  you can learn about the meaning of grassroots organizing and why it is important. Learn ABC, the social justice activist way!

Get it for $10.99 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

8. As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker

[Image Description: As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker] via
This historical take on how the indigenous people have fought for environmental justice will bring back the social activist inside you to life. Journalist turned scholar Whitaker puts into perspective everything. From treaty violations to the efforts to protect sacred sites, you won’t want to stop reading.

Get it for $14.72 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

[adsanity id=”170729″ align=”alignnone”/]

9. Social Justice Activist by Ellen Rodger

[Image Description: Social Justice Activist by Ellen Rodger] via
Social Justice goes beyond individual human rights. Young budding social justice activists will get a sense of how the words and contributions of activists like Nelson Mandela and Marian Wright Edelman inspired others to choose the path of what is right.

Get it for $8.95 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

10. Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel

[Image Description: Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel] via
Hand up is a story of a black girl who has a habit of raising her hands regularly, be it for playing peek-a-boo or getting dressed. As she grows older, the girl uses the action of raising her hands for a more powerful cause. Read this book out to children to help them understand the meaning of empowerment.

Get it for $16.55 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

11. Friendship as Social Justice Activism by Niharika Banerjea, Debanuj Dasgupta, Rohit K. Dasgupta and Jaime M. Grant

[Image Description: Friendship as Social Justice Activism by Niharika Banerjea, Debanuj Dasgupta, Rohit K. Dasgupta and Jaime M. Grant] via
This compilation of essays brings essential conversations around love and friendship together, from a variety of contributors from across the globe. Each essay narrates how living and organizing within friendship circles and kindness offer new ways of struggling for social justice.

Get it for $42.00 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

12. Technology, Activism, and Social Justice in a Digital Age by John G. McNutt 

[Image Description: Technology, Activism, and Social Justice in a Digital Age by John G. McNutt] via
This book offers a close look at both the present and prospects of social change. McNutt delves into the cutting edge of the latest technology while discussing developments in social media, civic technology and leaderless organizations, not leaving behind the traditional approach to technology.

Get it for $36.95 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores.

13. Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America by Noah Rothman

[Image Description: Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America by Noah Rothman] via
This book is all about the two problems with social justice, one that it is not social and the other that it is not just. Rothman uncovers the real motives behind the social justice movement and explains why, despite its occasionally ludicrous public face, it is a threat to be taken seriously.

Get it for $28.99 on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores. 

[adsanity id=”170648″ align=”alignnone”/]

All of these books are close to my heart as at some point or the other, they have shaped the person I am today and have enabled me to first think and then act.

The Tempest special offer: get 2 audiobooks for the price of one ($14.99) with your first month of membership with code TheTempest. Offer only valid for new members in Canada and the U.S.

Want more book content? Follow our Bookstagram for international giveaways, exclusive excerpts, and author interviews!

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Sexuality Love + Sex Love

I learned about sex through fanfiction, and it’s a bit questionable

I love fanfiction. I think there’s something about it that you can’t find in published novels or tv shows, it’s unique and hard to explain. And while it might sound odd, there’s a lot you can learn from fanfics.

Most people don’t realize what’s out in the vast web to be discovered. For example, you might be scrolling through the works of your new favorite tv show and finally decide to brave the uncharted territories of mature-rated fanfics. You’ll click on one with a funny summary and then fall down the fascinating rabbit hole to continue reading more. And in doing so, you might actually learn about sex through fanfics.

That’s what happened to me anyway. You see, I never really had the opportunity to learn about sex in my family. My culture treats sex as taboo and then expects girls to grow up wanting to have babies and get married into a life of pleasing their husband. And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

I went through the basic sex ed in school, but that didn’t explain a lot. Most of what I remember was the teacher telling us to use birth control if it came down to it, but we should abstain from sex. Senior year Biology was where I learned about my body properly; I was finally told about the many changes that the body goes through due to our hormones. But most importantly, I learned about male anatomy. At no point before this had anyone explained what sex is. I knew it was performed between males and females, but not how. Before that class, I thought it was code for lying in a bed with a member of the opposite sex. 

And all this without telling girls about potential dangers that come with sex or trying to make sex sound appealing.

And while that class helped clear up some of my more significant questions, it wasn’t enough. But I had nowhere to turn to for learning more. My parents weren’t an option, and asking someone seemed awkward. So I turned to the internet. For the first time in nearly four years of exploring fanfiction online, I dove into what I thought was the dark side and looked at the selection of M-rated fics. 

Thinking back on it, they weren’t even particularly spicy fics that I stumbled across. I was jumping back into the PJO (Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan) fandom for like the third time, and I had exhausted my supply of tried and true teen and lower fics. These fanfics primarily served as a way for me to learn specifically about sex and what it was, how it worked, in a setting that wasn’t overly scientific. It was all very vanilla, but that was fine back then.

Then I jumped into some Yu-Gi-Oh fandoms and looked around at the selection there as well. And that was the first time I learned about sex being possible between same-sex couples. Then I switched from my usual fanfic website to a more known and better one, Archive Of Our Own. And this was where things got interesting because there were tags for everything. If I wanted to explore a specific kink, I could check the tag for it and look at all the options in every fandom. 

And I did exactly that; I jumped through different fandoms and checked out every type of M or E rated fic that was unique and then added the new knowledge to the ever-growing list of things I knew about sex. I explored lots of different kinks. When Fifty Shades of Grey was coming out, and everyone was complaining that it didn’t show BSDM accurately, I went to fanfics to learn what they were all talking about. I’ve read many an ABO fic and several femdom stories. And I thought by reading all these fics; I suddenly knew everything there was to know about sex.

Then one day, an online friend talked about a time that she was sexually harassed and how some of these fanfictions we read lead her to think that it was normal. And I started to rethink the fics I was reading. 

It occurred to me that a lot of the stuff I’ve been reading wasn’t always safe or consensual. These were works of fiction, and therefore not always meant to be an accurate reflection of reality, but I had spent years normalizing the lack of consent that came with some of these stories. I didn’t even realize until a month ago that it isn’t normal for someone to cry during sex or for most people to get off to that. Many of the kinky fics I read also never really detailed much about the relationship outside of the sex, which made for a very twisted view on things. 

None of this means that I plan to stop reading smut fics. I’ve come to recognize that most of what is in these stories is simple fantasy. I should have never expected it could replace the learning that comes from talking to people about their experiences or having sex myself. 

But if anyone else out there is like me, then now is as good a time as any to look a bit more critically at the fics you read and made the conscious distinction between them and reality. I know it’s awkward to talk to others about sex, and let’s not lie on the internet, it can be dangerous

I don’t claim to know all the answers, and there’s no right way to learn about sex. But at the very least, I think it’s better not to put all the eggs in one basket. When you want to learn about something you should look at several different places. I’ve begun taking a more thorough route to my own learning, one which involved properly researching whatever sexual topic comes to mind in fanfics but outside as well with the help of google or asking some very close friends who I can trust.

This new system has been working so far, and I find myself enjoying some of the conversations I can have with people about these topics as well.

Looking for more content like this? Follow our brand new Instagram account!

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter.

Middle East and North Africa The World

Israel is silently launching missile strikes in Syria while the world is preoccupied

Within the span of a few days, Israel has launched a number of missile strikes in different parts of Syria. According to the Syrian military, “missiles flying over the Golan Heights targeted several locations and air defenses downed several missiles.” Live coverage showed a multi-storey building on fire. Syria air defense responded to Israeli aerial aggression in the Southern region of the country. 

In the past year, there has been an increase in the Syrian targets hit by Israel where a large number of Iranian-backed militias have been able to regain control of the territory lost by Syrian President Bashar al Assad to insurgents in a decade-old civil war. The recent strikes hit the Kisswa region in the southern outskirts of Damascus. The area is used as a military base by the pro-Iranian, Lebanese Hezbollah. The bases hit by Israeli strikes in recent weeks are believed to have a strong presence of Iranian-backed militias. The strikes are believed to be a part of an anti-Iran policy to undermine Iran’s military power without triggering large-scale hostilities.

Israeli air raids increased in intensity this week. On Wednesday, Israeli air force carried out more than 18 attacks against multiple targets in an area stretching from the eastern town of Deir Az Zor to the al-Bukamal desert at the Syrian-Iraqi border. The recent raids have claimed to be the deadliest since 2018. At least 10 soldiers and 47 fighters have been killed. It is reported to be the second wave of Israeli air raids in less than a week.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 15 people were killed and injured in the Israeli strike in southern Syria. The most tragic outcome of the Syrian conflict is that Syrian citizens have become a pawn in a bloody conflict between Syrian authorities, its allies, and the varying external actors involved in the conflict for personal gains. 

The Syrian conflict is one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world with the conflict still ravaging the country. Approximately, 5.6 million Syrians are refugees, and another 6.2 million are displaced within the country. Nearly 12 million Syrians require humanitarian assistance. In recent years, there have been increased calls by humanitarian and international organizations to address the conflict and provide immediate relief to the Syrian people. As a result of this, we have seen a number of petitions being circulated across social media to help the Syrians. Online petitions were rather rampant in the past year due to increased online presence because of COVID restrictions. Many however have argued that the petitions are rather performative than anything else. The aid almost never reaches the people who most need it. 

Certain threads that aim to “raise awareness about Syria” have received significant numbers of retweets. It has been contended, however, that such threads are feeding into Assadist propaganda more than anything else. 

Social media has allowed the rampant flow of information from varying sources, which is both a blessing and a curse. When it comes to Syria, there is little knowledge about the conflict due to a lack of media coverage, political censorship, and people’s inability to access platforms to voice their stories. This can explain the confusion many of us may face when reading up on the issue. As an outsider, it becomes difficult to differentiate between what is political propaganda and what’s the actual truth.

When signing a petition or retweeting a thread about something as sensitive as the Syrian civil war, it is best to do quick research instead of walking into oblivion. There are several credible pages across different platforms to give voice to the Syrians. One such Twitter page @100facesyrev is dedicated to spread awareness about the Syrian uprising and debunk Assadist propaganda.

Another platform worth checking out is @SyriaUntold. The website is available in both English and Arabic. It features Syrian profiles and stories including the Syrian LGBTQ+ community. The website does a remarkable job in amplifying Syrian voices and opinions on a diverse range of topics including but not limited to politics, gender, cinema, and etc.

Each time you come across a petition, carefully read through what it says instead of signing it hastily. Watch out for propagandist wording that could help the different political actors. Look for sources within the country or diaspora citizens to gain a better understanding of the conflict and how to effectively help the people.

The recent Israeli attacks further signify that the Syrian conflict is no longer a civil war but a much larger conflict. It serves as a catalyst for different political and non-political actors to advance their own agendas. It is the Syrian citizens that remain the most vulnerable because no one comes to their aid. Considering that we are living in an increasingly global world, it is as much on all of us to remain vigilant about the conflict when raising awareness and not give in to political propaganda.


Stay updated on our News and Social Justice coverage by following our brand new instagram account!

World News South Asia The World Inequality

The Hazara Community has been suffering for years, yet no one comes to their aid

If there’s anything the first few days of 2021 have reaffirmed for us, it’s that being part of any minority group in any country puts one at double the risk of unjustified prejudice. Just now, we’ve witnessed white supremacy on the steps of Capitol Hill in the United States, with pro-Trump rioters all but casually being let into the building to loot and wreak havoc. The ease with which these domestic terrorists practically walked in, knowing their white privilege will see little to no repercussions for their actions, was startling. Especially in stark contrast to police brutality and the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests that took place last year, where people were attacked, arrested and even killed for fighting for their right to live.

Allow me to redirect your attention to other side of the world. Towards the Hazara Community of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Hazaras – Afghanistan's oppressed minority | Morning Star
[Image Description: a group of Hazara women wearing brightly coloured headscarves smiling at the camera] Source: Morning Star
Hazaras are a Persian speaking ethnic minority from the Hazaragi region of Afghanistan and the third largest ethnic group of the country. They have Turkic and Mongol roots, with notable East Asian ancestry. Most of the Hazaras are Shi’a Muslims, and that has put a target on their backs. 

Most of the Hazaras are Shi’a Muslims, and that has put a target on their backs.

The existence of a strange binary has led to a growing divide between not just the major religions, but also various sects within one religion; one “right” set of religious beliefs to be followed, while all other “wrong” ones to be eradicated. This binary has overpowered many Sunni Muslims’ (usually those in extremist groups) outlook on things; a sense of righteousness trumping any shred of humanity when they believe eradicating Shi’a Muslims, Ahmedis, Qadianis and the like is the equivalent of eradicating the “wrong” from their society. Never mind that this mindless eradication is something even Islam does not condone.

The Hazaras have been one of the most persecuted minority groups in Afghanistan since the 1890s, during which 60% of their population had been eradicated. Half of the Hazaras were driven out of their villages due to the killings, and forced to migrate to other countries due to the injustice and poverty they had to suffer. There are large groups of Hazaras residing in Pakistan, Iran and various parts of Europe, Australia and Canada. The Hazara community residing in Pakistan, about 900,000 people, had immigrated to the country for better opportunities. Most of them reside in the Balochistan province, where they work in labor jobs and coal mines in order to support themselves and their families.

Religious and sectarian violence and prejudice run rampant in Pakistan, with Hindus and Christians residing in the country constantly being on the receiving end of it. Shi’a-Sunni clashes are sadly a common occurrence in the country, with thousands of Shi’as being killed by extremist groups and mobs since 2008, according to the Human Rights Watch. Even the country’s politics have long stood to serve Sunni Islam over the other sects, with the Pakistani Legislative Assembly (PLA) passing the Protection of Foundation of Islam bill last year, which states Sunnism as the only acceptable form of Islam. This was followed by over 42 blasphemy cases being registered against Shi’as in Pakistan, one of them being on a 3 year old child.

It’s a clear example of state politics enable behaviour towards and against other groups by favouring one.

On Sunday, 3rd January, 11 Hazara coal miners were kidnapped and brutally murdered by the terrorist group Islamic State (IS) in the Mach area of Balochistan. One family related to five of the deceased say they no longer have any male relative to even attend funeral prayers and take bodies for burial.

Hazaras continue protest on 5th day, refuse to bury slain miners despite PM's request - Pakistan - DAWN.COM
[Image Description: A group of Hazara men sitting in front of coffins, with a picture of one of the deceased miners visible.] Source:
Sadly, this is only the latest incident to happen in the cold-blooded persecution of Hazara people, which has been going on for years. Militant groups have attacked and killed large groups of Hazara Shi’as traveling in vans or buses, at processions and weddings, and have bombed Hazara mosques over the last two decades. Even children of the Hazara Community are not spared.

The outcry against the Hazara genocide is loud, with hashtags like #StopHazaraGenocide, #HazaraShiasWantJustice and #HazaraKoJeenayDo (Let Hazaras Live) being on the forefront of twitter trends. GoFundMe pages, non-profits, and initiatives such as The Grief Directory and Imamia Medics International are working to raise money and awareness for those affected by such acts of terrorism.

The real question is: when will those who have the power and means to help them actually do something?

When will those who have the power and means to help them actually do something?

It has been six days since the murders of the miners, but their families and thousands of the Hazara Shi’a Community continued to stage sit-ins on the streets of both Quetta and Karachi, in below freezing temperatures. They refused to bury the bodies of their loved ones until their voices reach the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan; until he comes to Quetta himself to meet the mourners and show that he does, indeed, hear their cries and will take immediate action. 

“If someone really is concerned about our security and tragedy we are facing, it must be reflected by their moves,” said Maulana Sadiq Jaffrey, the leader of a Hazara political party. “We will not call off our sit-in and bury our loved ones until Prime Minister Imran Khan personally meets the mourners”, said another party leader Syed Agha Raza.

Khan only just arrived in Quetta, after convincing the families to arrange the funerals. Just the day before, he gave a poorly worded statement to the grieving families; insinuating they are blackmailing him into visiting by not burying the deceased.

Regardless, justice is yet to be served for the Hazara Community after being massacred for years. Minority groups all over the world continue to be persecuted, simply for their differences, with little to no action being taken for their right to live and peacefully co-exist with others. It’s as if a few factors like religion, race and gender are considered enough to determine one’s worth. To determine whether voices should be heard, or to determine whether rights matter. To determine whether one is any more or less human the other.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Justice delayed is justice denied. It is only so long until the silence becomes deafening, and the inaction shows how much one truly cares about those being wrongly persecuted.  

But, as always, we still continue to hope for better days.
It is, after all, only the beginning of a new year.


Stay updated on our News and Social Justice coverage by following our brand new instagram account!


We need to start complicating our conversations about consent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Reproductive Rights Love + Sex Love

I’m 35 & don’t want kids —but I had to fight my doctor to get a hysterectomy

I was thirty-two years old when Caitlin Moran set me free.

I was sitting on the toilet in my tiny apartment in rural Platteville, Wisconsin, a town I’d moved to get some thinking and reading and writing done, a town where that’s about all you can do. At that particular moment, I was reading Moran’s astonishing book of essays, How To Be A Woman. The line which blew the locks off the mental cage I didn’t know I was inhabiting were as follows:

“We need more women who are allowed to prove their worth as people, rather than being assessed merely for their potential to create new people.”  

I sat bolt upright when I read that. Then I read it again. I couldn’t believe the sensation of openness and freedom that passage gave me—I wanted to grab a penknife and carve it into every doorframe in my house. More than freedom, those words gave me something I hadn’t realized I’d wanted: permission.

Let me explain.

If you are a woman in 2018, even if you are lucky enough to have a relatively feminist family, you’ll be endlessly prompted by friends, co-workers, even well-meaning strangers to fulfill a checklist: Home. Marriage. Children.

For women who hesitate before bubbling in that final, permanent choice on the “Are You a Good Woman?” test, there are a few helpful prods that others will administer:

You shouldn’t wait to have children! You never know how long it will take. (Note how deftly this timing-focused prod evades the issue of whether children are even wanted.)

He would make such a good father. (Note that the questioner will never ask the man in question if he is interested in being a father. That’s not what this is about.)

You should have children. It’s selfish not to. I already have [number]. What’s the big deal? (Misery loves company.)

And finally, the checkmate in the chess match women play against each other and themselves: What if you don’t, and then regret it?

This is the goad that got under my skin. I would poke myself with it—are you sure? Are you really sure?—at intervals, trying to awaken maternal instincts that remained stubbornly dormant. Wondering if, like a punitive O. Henry story, I would suddenly discover a ravenous yearning for babies at the exact moment my body lost the ability to conceive them. In the meanwhile, I continued gamely testing myself for parental abilities: working as a camp counselor. Teaching. Gingerly holding babies on my knee. Crucially, however, I never felt an urge to parent—either by conception or adoption, regardless of my parent friends’ breezy assurances that “when it comes to your own kids, you’ll feel differently.” The light switch stayed resolutely off.

Cut back to me, still sitting on the toilet in Platteville, Wisconsin, my legs steadily going numb, every neuron in my head alight. I felt like I’d found a doorway to Narnia in my closet; like an exam, I was dreading had been canceled. When Moran wrote that motherhood offered “nothing you couldn’t get from, say, reading the 100 greatest books in human history; learning a foreign language well enough to argue in it; climbing hills; loving recklessly; sitting quietly, alone, in the dawn; drinking whiskey with revolutionaries; learning to do close-hand magic; swimming in a river in winter […]” I got excited. I started thinking about all the books I could read, the books I could write. I imagined a room full of the embroidery supplies I love, stacked in a colorful array. I thought about visiting all the countries on my bucket list: Vietnam, Iceland, New Zealand, Scotland.

I wanted to do all of those things, and I wanted to do them now.

First, though, I’d have to get up off the can.

Cut to two years later.

I’ve packed up my life and my apartment and moved to Boston, a city containing jobs and opportunities and, crucially, the man I’ve been low-key in love with for my entire adult life. In a happy, if statistically improbable, coincidence, he’s fallen in love with me, too. We snag a tiny apartment in the city and are deliriously happy together. I write every day. I’ve started saving for travel. I even have a respectable embroidery collection. Thrilled that my gambit has paid off, I make one final attempt… at being a Good Woman. I sit my man down for a talk.

“Listen. I’m pretty sure that, if it were just me alone, I’d never have a kid. But for you, with you, I would happily have a child if you wanted one. Do you want kids?”

He looks at me like I am out of my mind. “Babe. No.”

“Are you sure? Are you really sure?” I ask. (I am getting good at asking this.) “You can think about it!”

He doesn’t have to think about it. In fact, he’s thinking about getting a vasectomy. “So we can stop spending all our money on birth control.”

Well then. I marvel at how easily he’s made this decision, how untroubled he is by the possibility of regret—when pressed, he shrugs. “If we regret it, we’ll adopt. I always thought I’d make a better uncle than a dad, anyway.” His unfazed attitude, I realize, is what making the baby decision looks like when you’re unencumbered by a lifetime of other people’s expectations. This is how not big a deal the decision can be—when you’re a man.

Back in the world of women, things aren’t so easy.

While the vasectomy has taken care of my immediate birth control needs, I’m still stuck dealing with howling menstrual cramps every month, plus a family inheritance: poorly located uterine fibroids, which make cervical dilation impossible. My uterus is like a lobster pot—easy for sperm to get in, impossible for anything larger than a sperm to get in or out.

If (God forbid) I am raped, or my man’s vasectomy turns out to be imperfect, I will be looking at a reduced array of options for abortion (maybe none, depending on the political winds), and a guaranteed C-section at the end of the hypothetical pregnancy I don’t want. I grouse about all this to my OB/GYN, who makes supportive noises until I say the magic words: “Fertility isn’t something I care about maintaining.”

Suddenly, she looks up from her computer screen.

“Wait. If you really don’t want kids, and you’re sure, there are more options.”

And that’s when I decided I was done being asked that question.

Cut to me, being cut open. Laparoscopic hysterectomy means a few things: a cluster of postage-stamp-sized incisions across your abdominal muscles. The removal of your uterus through some tiny tubes. (Assuming your ovaries aren’t giving you trouble, you get to keep those—the days of automatic ovarian removal, with attendant lifelong hormone replacement, are long gone.) The sudden realization of how much you use your abdominal muscles for everything. And no periods, cramps, or need for birth control, ever again.

I’m writing this with a hot pad across my lap. Ten days out from my hysterectomy, I’m still a little sore. Snow shoveling is right out. But my mind is at peace. I’ve finally realized that the sharp stick I used to poke myself with—“Are you sure? Are you really sure?” was just a way to distract myself from the fact that I already knew what I wanted. I just had to gain the courage to name my desire.

So: maybe you’re stuck in a cage. Maybe you already secretly know what you want, too. Know this:

You are enough.

You don’t have to make another person to earn your spot on this big beautiful earth.

You are enough.

You can do the thing yourself—write the novel, make the movie, start the peace process, build the supercomputer. You don’t have to raise someone else and hope they accomplish it instead. The terrifying, wonderful news is that they won’t. That’s your desire, to fulfill or not. And guess what?

You are enough.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter.

College 101 Best Friends Forever Life

I considered myself a loner until I started university

Something I didn’t realize about my friends in primary school was that they, with the exception of one girl, were all white. Of course, it didn’t matter then and doesn’t matter now, but I never realized how much my ethnicity had alienated me from most of the school.

I only realized my struggle to integrate with the other kids at school when I had gotten to secondary school where I was labeled a coconut; a brown girl with white girl-isms. My school was mostly white back then – it probably had something to do with the area I grew up in. For context, my neighbor used to be Tony Blair. My primary school had an estimate of 10-15 non-white kids so you can imagine the clashes I had with a lot of the kids when they would make fun of my culture and beliefs. I could refer to the boy who decided to rip my hijab off my head when I first started wearing it at eight years old, but I’ll put that down to him simply being Islamophobic. I thought I was the brownest kid you could possibly get in the area until I walked through the halls of secondary school, an experience that continues to haunt me even now. 

In primary school, I struggled to make lifelong friends because I was brown and different. Surely secondary school was set to be easier? After all, my parents had made the conscious decision for me to integrate more with the people of my culture. Yeah, that’s not how it went. 

I developed social anxiety at a very young age – the thought of meeting new people terrified me and I had the worst timing for becoming timid. Going into secondary school made me realize that perhaps people who I had previously considered my friends weren’t really – not to blame them though. We were all young and knew nothing about keeping in touch. Well not with me anyways, my previous friend group are still friends to this day. I was apparently more difficult to reach because my parents were ‘too strict’ for their liking. In reality, they were just Asian. Their parenting ideas were a little different from their parents and that made ‘my friends’  uncomfortable. 

Oddly though, I had the opposite problem when I got to secondary school. The brown kids would bully me saying my parents weren’t Bangladeshi enough and I failed as a Bangladeshi girl – something I hadn’t heard before. My accent was ‘too white’, my sentences too complex, I didn’t speak a word of slang and I read for fun. Somehow, that was really white to them. It didn’t help that my lovely sister was a beautiful and intelligent individual while I was quite the opposite; shy, fat and recused. It’s safe to say I didn’t make any friends in secondary school either. Does it get better for me in sixth form? No. Secondary school left too many scars for me to focus on making friends. I was beside myself trying to pull myself out of a really dark place

My parents forced me to go to university – I know what you’re thinking “your parents can’t make you do anything”. Wrong. My parents could but not in a malicious way that benefits them.  Rather in a way that always filled me with hope. 

My dad had told me that everyone was an adult by this stage, if they had time left to bully someone, consider them pathetic and walk past them. Always easier said than done but in September of 2015, I walked through the hallways of the university making my way to orientation, nervous as heck. Thankfully for me, this girl who had come into the lecture late wasn’t. I felt a light tap on my arm and a voice asking if this was the right place. Denying eye contact I nodded only to be smacked in the arm as she pushed up a seat next to me. “You and me? We’re friends now. You’re stuck with me” the girl said. I was stuck with her and we are friends, even now. But I didn’t luck out at just one friend. There’s my friend who calls herself the fish and chip kid (apparently that’s what people in Somalia call British-Somali kids), my friend who takes enjoyment in towering over me with all six feet of her and my friend who decided that the best way to become my friend was to hold my hand while staring at a video of BTS’ Jimin dancing blindfolded. Sure, my friend group is small but it’s all I’ve ever needed – a kind face or two. My background meant nothing to them unlike it did to the kids back in my early stages of education. I could finally, unapologetically, be myself. 

My friends mean so much to me; after all my years of struggling to connect with people, I learned that it’s not impossible and there are genuinely good people out there in the world. The thing I’ve yet to learn is to go pursue friends myself as all my friends had to approach me.  It’s ok though. Knowing that I have friends that have my back is all I need for a long while.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

World News Gender Policy Inequality

In Pakistan, minority women are a lesser citizen

Pakistan is perhaps one of the only countries in the world that has a place for minorities on its flag. Yet over the years, the government has demonstrated a rocky relationship with religious minorities. Minorities face various forms of oppression and abuse involving forced conversions and marriages of under-aged girls. 

An estimated 1000 Hindu and Christian girls and women (between the ages of 12-25) are forcibly converted to Islam every year in Pakistan. The girls are abducted, subjected to sexual violence, and forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. In order to avoid police investigation and court trials, the girls are coerced and blackmailed into claiming that they consented to the marriage

The most recent example of this is a 13-year-old Christian girl, Arzoo Raja, who was abducted and forcibly converted and married to a 44-year-old man. Arzoo’s father filed an FIR on 13th October after she was kidnapped from her house. The police later discovered that Arzoo had been married to Syed Ali Azhar, who presented a marriage certificate and a free-will affidavit two days after her abduction, claiming that Arzoo is 18-years-old. He also said Arzoo agreed to convert to Islam of her own free will to marry him. Arzoo’s parents, however, have shown a national identity (NADRA) certificate and a baptism certificate as evidence of her current age. The certificate shows her date of birth as July 31st, 2007.

Arzoo’s parents challenged the legality of her marriage and filed an application under rules 5, 8, 9, and 10 of the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Rules 2016, Section 6 of the Child Marriages Restraint Act 2013, and Section 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. But, Sindh High Court (Provincial High Court) ruled in favor of the marriage through an application of the Sharia law that allows underage marriages.

As a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, citizens of Pakistan have the right to practice freedom of religion including the right to change one’s religion and that no one shall be coerced to change their religion.  The declaration also states that marriage should be entered into with free and full consent of intended spouses. 

The default legal system of Pakistan, which is discriminatory towards women from religious minorities, provides men with the leverage to coerce women from minority backgrounds. Once the women have converted to Islam, they cannot go back to their faith because apostasy would mean a death sentence. 

According to Muslim personal law, a person can enter into a marriage contract after puberty even if he/she is under 18. The Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961 says puberty is on completion of 16 years (female) and 18 years (male). If there are no signs of puberty, this sets the permitted age to 16 for girls and 18 in the Child Marriage Act nationwide. According to the child marriage Restraint Act 1929, only promotion, permission, or solemnization of child marriage is a criminal offense. It does not declare a child marriage void. This is often the reason why perpetrators are pardoned, making it a legislative and judicial issue. Hence, child marriage perpetrators may be punished but their marriage is still valid. 

Religious minorities make up about 4% of Pakistan’s population of 200 million. Yet there are no official marriage laws for them besides the Hindu marriage act of 2017. The absence of marriage laws for minorities has led to a myriad of other issues. For instance, minority women cannot claim property rights after their husband’s death, if they do not display marriage registration papers. This increases their vulnerability to forced conversions and marriages. If they prove their marriage status then the forced marriage is invalid as bigamy is unlawful in minority marriage laws.

Public outrage over Arzoo’s case and demands for her safe return to her family did not for once, fall on deaf ears. Members of the regional and federal governments are on their toes and have condemned the Courts’ earlier ruling.

The Sindh High Court ordered police to recover Arzoo and move her to a shelter home as of now. The next hearing is supposed to be today – November 5th – and prior to the hearing Arzoo will undergo medical testing to determine her age.

Whilst we wait for a positive development in Arzoo’s case and hope that justice is served, this is yet another reminder of Pakistan’s failure to protect its non-Muslim citizens and the discrepancies in the governance and legal system. Minorities are already vulnerable to extremist attacks in the country. Lack of protection and safety for non-Muslim women and girls sends the gruesome message that perhaps, they are a lesser citizen.

TV Shows Books Pop Culture

Mira Nair’s “A Suitable Boy” should be on everyone’s watchlist (lucky for you, it just arrived on Netflix)

BBC One’s all Asian cast drama, A Suitable Boy, made me smile the moment I glanced at the trailer.

No, I was not only enchanted by Tabu (well, she is the major reason I ended up watching the show) but by Tanya Maniktala as well, who is beautiful and charming, despite not being the picture-perfect Lata from Vikram Seth’s book.

A post-partition outlook of newly independent and sovereign India, Vikram Seth’s depicted the nuances of the political and social aspects of the country in the 1300 page novel of his, A Suitable Boywhich has morphed into the TV series. A coming of age story about love, heartbreak, politics and social justice, the series covers the intricacies of the lives of four families in the cities of Calcutta and Brahmpur.

The story of the six-part series, A Suitable Boy follows the quest of Rupa Mehra to find a suitable boy (you guessed the reasoning behind the name) to get her daughter, Lata, married to. The show begins with Lata’s elder sister getting married off, and her mother, Rupa asking her to follow suit.

Marriage is a pretty huge deal to us Desi women. Most women are looking for their daughters to get married and move out of their houses. However, Vikram Seth’s novel,  set almost 70 years back is still relevant in modern-day India. And, at least Lata’s mom is asking for Lata’s consent on the matter, most Indian women are usually married off non-consensually.

Talking about the Austenesque Lata out here, her character was based on Elizabeth Bennet, with equivalent wit, charm and beauty, in the book she was the picture-perfect character to look up to. But I feel Lata from the show doesn’t remind me of Elizabeth’s resilience. Lacking this trait makes my heart sink because otherwise, the show is excellent.

The image shows a scene from A Suitable Boy where a lot of people are hugging to bid farewell to a bride in her wedding.
[Image description: The image shows a scene from A Suitable Boy where a lot of people are hugging to bid farewell to a bride in her wedding.] Via A Suitable Boy on BBC One

The striking beauty of the aristocratic middle class in India, right after India became independent makes my heart ache. As an Indian, I have heard and seen the trauma and the despicable acts inflicted by the British. My family has lived through the Bengal partition, with my great-great grandfather’s relics of those Indian National Congress times having been passed down to us.

This, however, hasn’t been portrayed in this particular television show. There is struggle between the Hindus and the Muslims in relation to the building of temples and mosques, but there is little mention of the deeds of the British. The elaborateness of the Hindu-Muslim relationships portrayed in the show are relevant even today. As of yet, Indian political parties still bank on religion for Vote-bank politics, and Hindutva Nationalism is growing every goddamn day. However, I wish I could have seen the struggle after the British left as well, because Hindu-Muslim division didn’t destroy our country, the British colonial looting and plundering did.

Granted there is a lot of difference between the book and the series, A Suitable Boy will still charm you with the cute romantic tenderness between Kabir and Lata, and the magnificence of Tabu’s acting. Ah Tabu! The whole tenderness between Ishaan Khatter’s younger Maan (the son of the Revenue Minister) and the older Saeeda Bai played by Tabu is heartbreakingly beautiful. Music and passion heat things up between them.

The image shows a man and a woman holding hands and looking at each other while sitting down.
[Image description: The image shows a man and a woman holding hands and looking at each other while sitting down.] Via A Suitable Boy on BBC One

The entire show is in English which is understandable because of the British-based audience in spite of the Indian cast. However, my one complaint would be the over-exaggeration of the “Brown” accent which the actors have to deliberately speak in. This stereotyped version of the way we talk has been used repeatedly throughout the show. The actors go out of their way to speak in the “Indian” accent even though most men were educated from Britain at that point of time and had better oratory skills than frankly the British themselves. However, the slight utilization of Hindi/Urdu and Bengali in certain areas make my heart skip a beat. Saeeda Bai, who plays an infamous singer, sings like a nightingale, and her Urdu chants are literally music to the tired ears.


The finesse and the aesthetics of the show are wonderful. However, the romance is over-exaggerated. Frankly, Indians are prudish and you can’t make out in the middle of the street in India. Since I still can’t even make out properly in dark theaters, to imagine kissing in public in the 1951 setting is honestly bewildering. Again, the Indians portrayed are more akin to what the European audience perceives us to be when we aren’t.

The image shows a scene from A Suitable Boy where three saree clad aristocratic women are staring at something.
[Image description: The image shows a scene from A Suitable Boy where three saree clad aristocratic women are staring at something.] Via A Suitable Boy on BBC One

Nonetheless, there’s scandal embedded within the light-heartedness of the show. The unacceptability of love blossoming between Hindus and Muslims (that is however similar in modern-day society), the boldness of post-independent Indian Land Reform laws, the acts of heinousness and misogyny of the Hindu royalty have unfathomable grasp and complexity.

It’s a pleasurable watch, and really aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. Again, I am extremely proud to see an entire Brown cast being portrayed in a British television show.


The setting of A Suitable Boy is beautiful, the characters are wonderfully portrayed by the various actors and actresses. Tabu and Ishaan Khatter’s chemistry makes me ache for love and romance when I personal am anything but a romantic. The outfits of Bengali aristocracy are marvellous; the heritage explained from the perspective of the upper-middle class is frankly even new to me. The portrayal of Bengali women is somehow questionable in today’s setting but however, according to Seth’s book rings true.

Thus, give A Suitable Boy a watch. It is indeed addictive. Perhaps not entirely as Indian, as an Indian can hope it to be, it is fun with the right amount of seriousness. And even if the show doesn’t, Tabu alone will make you fall in love!

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

TV Shows Movies Pop Culture

Why are plus size women always relegated to the comic relief sidekick?

We all know the trope. The main character is skinny, white, pretty. She can be goofy, but rarely at her own expense. Her love stories are the focus of the plot. She always has a funny sidekick, often a woman of color, and most commonly a plus-size woman. She’s there to provide emotional support and a witty one-liner or two. Think of Sookie in Gilmore Girls, who plays second fiddle to thin and quirky Lorelai Gilmore. Or think of Etta Candy in every incarnation of Wonder Woman. Even children’s shows, like Total Drama Island, Good Luck Charlie, and Austin and Ally repeat these tropes. Don’t fat women deserve better?

It’s nice to see fat women in the media, for once, but why do they always have to be funny? Almost every larger woman in TV or the movies is basically a walking joke. Sure, it’s gotten more diverse, but the representation itself has barely improved. Fat women are still relegated to comic relief or goofy sidekick. You might say we’re a long way from the Fat Monica gags on Friends, but that’s not true. Think about Insatiable, featuring Debby Ryan, which treats its main character as a joke until she loses weight. That’s the same formula, isn’t it?

Let’s consider some of the most popular plus-size actresses around now. Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson both broke into the mainstream years ago, and their popularity has rarely floundered. They’ve both been in dozens of TV shows and movies, usually playing comedic roles, which they do brilliantly. Rebel Wilson just recently had her first starring role in a romantic comedy, for which she garnered critical praise. Melissa McCarthy won an Academy Award for her dramatic lead role in Can You Ever Forgive Me? However, if you ask most people, they primarily think of them as comedic actors or side characters. Why is that? They’ve both shown that they have range, and both immense comedic and dramatic talent. They’ve both played lead roles. So why do we relegate them to comedic side characters when they’ve proven that they’re capable of so much more?

These two women are success stories, however. Most plus-size actresses never get the chance to expand into dramatic acting. Skinny comedic actresses have plenty of opportunities to break into dramatic acting, even if they’re not particularly talented actors. Skinny comedic actors also get totally different treatment. Actresses like Jennifer Aniston and Anna Kendrick are in plenty of rom-coms, but when they’re funny, it’s quirky and cute. They’re rarely the butt of a rude joke. Furthermore, these skinny comedic actors are able to break into dramatic roles with ease. Plus size actresses have to prove over and over again that they’re worthy of serious roles, whereas skinny actresses can easily transition from comedy to drama and vice versa. 

The problem I see with this is that plus size women constantly have to prove their worth to others time and time over to be taken even remotely seriously. They need to be funny and willing to make jokes at their own expense in return for our consideration. We require humor and self-deprecation from fat women, in return for the common human decency we all return. Fat women don’t need to put on a performance to earn their keep. They are capable of the same range of emotions and humanity as the rest of us.

Get rewarded for everyday activity. $10 sign on bonus.

We deserve more fat women on television, and not just as comedic sidekicks.

I want fat women in periodic dramas, with pretty dresses and dramatic love triangles. I want to see fat women in rom-coms, having meet-cutes and falling for handsome heartthrobs. Let’s see some fat girls in coming-of-have fantasy stories, as the chosen one, as the hero.

Plus size girls and women have every right to just as beautiful, dramatic, and tragic as their skinny counterparts. For once, I’d like to see a version of Gilmore Girls where a plus size mother and daughter are the protagonists, and get to be cute and quirky and fun. I’d like to see a fat Wonder Woman too.

A woman’s value should never be dictated by her size, and that’s true in television as well as in real life. Let the big girls be the heroes for once. They deserve it.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!


How I fell victim to compassion fatigue

When the Oregon wildfires first started, I remember seeing the infamous photos of red skies and darkened horizons – the photos looked like they were dipped in red ink or covered with a red filter. I remember first seeing the photo on Reddit, featuring a UPS truck and an almost blood-red background. For me, the worst part wasn’t the feeling of horror at yet another climate disaster, or the anger at humanity’s activities that allow such disasters to occur, or even sympathy for fellow human beings in Oregon (where the first photo was taken), but it was just…apathy. Empty, hollow, apathy. A stray thought crossed my mind, who cares?, before I stopped and realised, maybe I should care. I hated myself for not having any particular emotion towards such horrific events, and that self-hate drove me towards being more compassionate and more empathetic. Honestly, though? I later realised that these feelings of emptiness, of apathy, at seeing so many disasters and horrors at once is normal – there’s even a term for it. It’s known as ‘compassion fatigue’.

Compassion fatigue can also be defined as secondary trauma or vicarious trauma, according to Psychology Today, and was often seen in professions that involved prolonged exposure to other people’s trauma (like healthcare, for example). However, in today’s world, with constant access to many of the world’s atrocities and injustices on multiple devices, it is possible to notice and be aware of injustices that take place in remote corners of the world, yet be helpless to stop them. As Dr. Amit Sood points out in his book, The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living, “We are inundated with graphic images of the unimaginable suffering of millions. We can fathom the suffering of a few, but a million becomes a statistic that numbs us.” It’s this numbing, this apathy, that has been termed as compassion fatigue, and it’s a concern that is quickly growing in the general public. 

Symptoms of compassion fatigue can include physical and mental fatigue, poor self-care, difficulty concentrating, feelings of guilt, of shame, of hopelessness, and denial of the fatigue you feel. Denial is one of the more concerning symptoms.  It prevents you from assessing how stressed they are, and from seeking help. 

Compassion fatigue is dangerous because it tends to eat away at your conscience, and can trigger a toxic cycle of guilt and shame.  You end up feeling guilty for not having the energy to care and force yourself to stay more active,. This can then make you feel more fatigued at the end of it. 

However, like any other stress-related condition, compassion fatigue can impact the quality of your life. However,  it can be treated, and the first step is to be aware of how you’re feeling. Driving yourself to the point of burning out to take care of others is dangerous. It results in you not being able to do your best for the ones you care about. If you feel like you’ve had some moments when you just wanted the world to stop for a few moments (like me), or wanted to close your eyes and ignore what’s happening around you (me again), it’s time to take a step back and take a closer look at the path you’re on.

If you feel symptoms of compassion fatigue, try and reach out to a loved one. Talk about how you feel and why you feel this way, but the important thing is to set boundaries. If you’re overburdened, take a break and don’t read the news for a few days. Most disasters and injustices are out of your control. Your mind needs a rest. It can be hard to step away from what’s happening, but it’s necessary to be kind to yourself. If you want to continue browsing social media, focus on feel-good, wholesome pages, and stay away from news-related platforms. 

It’s important to take a step back and take care of yourself, but that doesn’t have to mean you isolate yourself either. Community care can be tied in with self-care – after all, people are inherently social creatures. In the long run, it’ll keep you compassionate, empathetic, and sane. 

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!