Policy Inequality

For true educational equity, we need dual language programs

My first language is Bangla. As a child, who had just immigrated to the United States, I struggled to acquire English as my second language. My younger brother had it worse. To the point where his kindergarten teacher, who was monolingual and not trained in bilingual education, sent a note home to our parents expressing her concern that my brother might have a learning disability.

My parents, as immigrants from a developing country who began a life in America so their children could have access to more opportunities for success, took my brother to the doctor feeling anxious and uneasy. The doctor assured them he’s fine – as a five-year-old bilingual child, it was completely natural for him to mix up his languages. The doctor also strongly advised my parents to keep speaking Bangla at home, so we don’t lose our bilingual ability. The problem was, my brother’s teacher didn’t understand any of this before sending that note home.

English-only approach to education is regressive and disadvantageous to students of color, especially students who are immigrants or children of immigrants.

I know people who have lost the ability to speak their mother tongues because their teachers were concerned that they would never learn English properly if they kept speaking another language. A friend of mine had a doctor who told her parents the opposite of what my brother’s doctor told my parents.

This English-only (standard English-only, really) approach to education is regressive and disadvantageous to students of color, especially students who are immigrants or children of immigrants. Studies show, like this one from the American Councils Research Center, that dual language programs afford students incredible “educational gains.” Dual language classrooms usually consist of half non-native English speakers and half native English speakers; everything is taught in two languages – usually English and the language of the non-native English speakers.

These dual language programs allow all students, both non-native and native English speakers, to develop bilingualism and biliteracy at high levels of proficiency in both languages. Imagine a Spanish-speaking student who is still at the early stages of learning English being able to take an exam in their own language and excelling, rather than being forced to take the exam in English and risk failing, simply because they didn’t understand the language. Dual language programs enable students to be tested on their own merit and abilities, rather than measuring them up against an unfair standard and system designed to set them up for failure. These programs are a matter of educational equity.

In 1968, the Bilingual Education Act was passed. This act provided federal funding to school districts to create bilingual education programs. However, resistance to this act began in the seventies and eighties as the rate of immigration from non-European countries increased. Proposition 227, led by Robert Unz, was passed in California in 1998 and it effectively mandated English-only programs. Eventually, Arizona and Massachusetts passed similar bills in the years following. These three states comprise 40 percent of the students who are in need of dual language programs. The largest protests against this act happened in California, staged by Latinx students.

English-only ideologies come from an Americanization movement that has persisted in the US since the 19th century. Americanization is what led to the extinction and near extinction of most Indigenous languages in this country. The goal of the boarding schools that forcefully assimilated Native Americans into white America was to eradicate the Indigenous identity.

Similarly, the goals of English-only programs we see today come from racist and anti-immigrant ideologies. Proponents of these programs, like educational leader Kevin Clark, argue that English language proficiency will ensure students success and that bilingualism is detrimental to gaining proficiency in English – but there is no evidence of this. Applied linguistic experts such as Stephen Krashen and Kellie Rolstad have done numerous studies on the academic benefits of multilingualism.

Currently, 35 states in the US offer dual language education programs, but these programs are not state mandated, so only selected school districts offer them. It is most definitely not enough to cover the needs of all students. California repealed Proposition 227 just four years ago in 2016, and Massachusetts did the same in 2017. Arizona has yet to repeal the proposition.

Americanization is a xenophobic ideology that aims to rid America of difference and diversity

A study by the American Federation of Teachers in 2014 found that 60 percent of emergent bilinguals are educated in English-only programs. These programs entail taking students out of normal classes for up to four hours a day and making them take what are essentially ESL classes. This means they miss out on normal class material and lectures and get less time with their teachers.

This is also a practice of educational segregation in which native English speakers and non-native English speakers are pitted against each other. Furthermore, teachers and staff are poorly trained to understand bilingualism and bilingual education. If my brother’s kindergarten teacher was able to convince my parents he had a learning disability, my brother would have been put in separate classes to address a nonexistent disability. This is the story of many non-native English speakers and bilingual students.

All these studies and statistics aside, the fact remains that the attitude toward emergent bilingual students is hostile, anti-immigrant, and racist. Americanization is a xenophobic ideology that aims to rid America of difference and diversity. Brown and Black students are systemically disadvantaged in schools – that means this is intentional. Couple this with the fact that most emergent bilingual students also come from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and we begin to see the connections in the overall infrastructure of America that keep Brown and Black students from achieve their potentials. Dual language programs are a matter of educational equity – something that affects students for their entire lives. They are bilingual students’ best chance for success and opportunity.

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Culture Life Stories Life

Getting married means that my Pakistani parents have to bribe my new in-laws

Stepping into your twenties holds different meanings for different people. For some, it might mean entering a professional life and for others entering a newlywed arrangement.

If you’re a mature Pakistani girl who has crossed the pubertal barrier, you automatically qualify for Holy Matrimony.

And with that “milestone,” your parents begin to lay the groundwork for finding and providing for their daughter’s new family.

From furniture to utensils to the most meager of tangible items, the parents present an ‘ethical bribe’ to ensure that their daughter measures up to the required standard of acceptance.

If you’re “of age,” you automatically qualify for Holy Matrimony.

As a 23-year-old female in modern Pakistani society, I question all such detestable vices. Having given birth, raised and nurtured day after day to become a civilized individual, how much more do my parents have to sacrifice just because they are responsible for a female offspring?

And who provides the assurance of a blissful married life after having fulfilled these norms?

No one.

And if ‘God forbid’ this act of compensation falls short, the poor girl is subjected to a lifetime of scoffing and contempt.

Her whole existence is measured up by how much she can provide to her in-laws at the time of marriage.

Personally, I believe this ritual has become a sort of plague. The never-ending chain of expectation.

I was taught two things: self-reliance and tenacity.

I often hear elderly women eagerly gossiping about their daughter-in-law on the account of  ‘who brought what’ in terms of dowry. And having once been a newlywed themselves, they wear a mask of oblivion when it comes to someone else’s daughter.

I was raised as an only child and lived a solitary life.

I was taught two things: self-reliance and tenacity. My father fostered me to become self-sufficient in everything I did and that no one can truly undermine a woman’s worth without her consent.

Setting foot into 2019, this age of renaissance, where art, poetry, literature, and science are at their pinnacle, our greatest concern should be self-improvement and progression.

Let alone hoarding up on meaningless and mundane material gains.

The day we decide to mold our thinking is the day when the world around us will change, massively. It is not a subject of taking action, rather, it’s a matter of perspective.

A minute frame-shift of attitude can alter the life of today’s woman by leaps and bounds.

I put forward this question: who bears the responsibility of judging someone’s daughter by the weight of her baggage?


Is progressive activism actually above being classist?

Everyone in activist circles today knows that we mess up sometimes. All of us have faults and oversights, and sometimes these oversights can be harmful for those we’re trying to help. We’ve all been trying to become more intersectional, in terms of gender, race, sexuality, ability, and national origin, but many young activists like myself have a noticeable blind spot: class.

Activist circles, especially on college campuses and on social media, can lean whiter and wealthier. While activists themselves come from many different backgrounds, often the wealthy, white activists end up with larger platforms and leadership positions.

First off, let’s talk about our progressive memes. I’m never against poking fun at racists, sexists, and homophobes. They need to be held accountable, and humor is a great means of doing so. However, I do take issue with the portrayal of all bigots as poor, Southern people. You know the stereotypical image of a bigot; a redneck, wearing shabby denim and plaid, often unwashed and missing a few teeth, and living in a rundown trailer. I shouldn’t have to explain why this is classist. Sure, plenty of low-income rural White people are racist, but so are wealthy politicians, businessmen, lawyers, and doctors. So are many of the middle-class white “liberals” in our own communities.

Oftentimes, our humor doesn’t so much poke fun at the bigotry, but at the poverty of these individuals. The butt of the joke isn’t necessarily that someone is a bigot, but that they live in a trailer park and are overweight. I fail to see what’s so “woke” about making fun of someone’s economic circumstances or personal appearance. Plenty of intelligent, open-minded, and progressive people live in trailer parks and rural towns. Plenty of racists and bigots are skinny, pretty, and rich. We shouldn’t associate appearances with morality. It’s incorrect, and downright offensive.

Often the wealthy, white activists end up with larger platforms and leadership positions.

We also need to consider the way that performative activism harms low-income communities. In order to be “woke,” according to white progressives, we need to shop sustainably, eat organically, and read political theory. The problem is, not everyone can afford to do this. Sustainable clothes often cost a lot more money, and many low-income people rely on fast fashion. Fast fashion is an evil industry, but shaming the people who are forced to buy into it doesn’t make you a better person. Organic food is expensive, and many people can’t afford to buy it that often. In fact, many low-income communities are food deserts, where grocery shopping takes a great deal of transportation. Even the emphasis on reading theory is somewhat classist. Not everyone can afford to go to college and get access to such academic writing, or to buy a heap of out-of-print theory books. It’s a privilege to be woke. 

The problem is, progressive politics has become more of an aesthetic than a movement, and this aesthetic can only be achieved by upper-middle class college kids or young urban professionals. The standards we have for each other are literally impossible for low-income people to meet. Furthermore, we immediately assume that anyone who presents as working-class is conservative, bigoted, or ignorant. It is so difficult for any low-income person to break into the sphere of progressive politics. We simply don’t make any room for them.

So how do we solve this? First, we need to acknowledge that low-income and working-class people are actually doing the groundwork behind most progressive political movements. We wouldn’t be where we are today without working-class grassroots work. We also need to shift the way we code progressive politics. Being progressive isn’t just about drinking out of a reusable water bottle, and wearing the right brands of clothing. Being progressive can be someone in a trailer park registering their neighbors to vote, or a steelworker starting a union, or people at a local church creating a clothing drive for the needy. Just because they don’t “look” woke, doesn’t mean they aren’t making important contributions.  I would go as far to say that people like this should be leading our activist movements; upper-middle-class white people should serve as allies

We need to acknowledge that low-income and working-class people are actually doing the groundwork behind most progressive political movements.

All of us have oversights, but as activists, it’s our job to try to correct these prejudices and challenge our assumptions. Looking down at low-income people is not a progressive value, and it never will be. It’s time we open up our activism to people of all incomes and economic backgrounds. We need to recognize that they are responsible for some of the most important progressive groundwork. Progressive politics isn’t about what you wear, what you eat, and what products you use. It’s about compassion, dedication, equality, justice, and hard work. Let’s stop focusing on appearances, and start focusing on action.

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Health Care Science Advice Wellness Now + Beyond

Here’s why your gyno wishes you’d leave your pubic hair alone

A recent study in JAMA Dermatology surveyed 3372 women in the U.S. on their pubic hair grooming practices. 83% reported some measure of “grooming” (defined as anywhere from trimming the hair to taking all of it off). 63% said they opted for complete removal at least once. “Grooming” was highest in both the 18-34 group and in white women.

The most common reason women reported for pubic hair removal? 59% cited “hygiene” as the leading factor in this decision.

But the perception that having pubic hair is somehow “dirty” is wrong.

Pubic hair is thought to have an evolutionary purpose.

According to Dr. Jennifer Gunter, a gynecologist, it functions as a protective cushion for a sensitive-skinned area and, like eyebrows, traps microbes and foreign invaders from getting into that sensitive area.

The vagina also has a self-cleaning mechanism, which is why vaginal douching is no longer recommended: it can destroy the natural balance of healthy bacteria and normal acidity of the vagina, leading to irritation and yeast infections.

Some cite that shaving and waxing can increase the risk of infection because these practices essentially make little cuts on the skin.

This allows a direct passageway to blood for vulvar bacteria, outside of the defense system of vaginal mucus. Group A streptococcus, Staphylococcus aureus, and Staph’s resistant form MRSA all are common causes of skin infections.

Dr. Tami Rowen, an assistant professor at UCSF School of Medicine, has reported seeing grooming-related cases of folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicle), abscesses, lacerations, and allergic reactions to waxing burns.

And a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that 60% of women who removed their hair experienced some of these complications.

Complications were twice as likely for overweight and obese women, and three times more if they removed all their pubic hair.

[Image description: Private grooming habits between men and women.] via
[Image description: Private grooming habits between men and women.] via
Now, is this to say women shouldn’t remove their hair if they choose? No.

Human eyebrows also had an evolutionary purpose, but we can totally shave them off if we damn well please. And just because something may carry minor health risks does not mean we lack the right to do it.

We do all kinds of things to our bodies by choice that may involve some minor health risks, like waxing/shaving elsewhere, piercings, or tattoos.

But a YouGov poll showed that while only 56% of women ages 18-29 feel that they should remove their pubic hair, 72% do it anyway. We must get rid of false narratives perpetuated by society that dictate the choices we make.

“Hygiene” is only one of the reasons women give for removing pubic hair, but it is a harmful reason. It perpetuates a false stereotype that women who do not remove pubic hair are unclean. The argument that pubic hair is unhygienic is the patriarchy acting under the guise of science.

Your vagina is not dirty for existing in its natural form.

Do what you please with your body because you like it, and for no other reason.

Real World Word Celebrities Race Pop Culture

Check out these 17 artists who are highlighting injustice in America

Throughout history, art has been used to challenge hierarchies and protest the status quo. This is still true today. Following the murder of George Floyd, there has been an uprising in support of Black lives led by the Black Lives Matter movement in America and around the world. As millions use their voices to protest injustice, artists are following suit, using their brushes and other tools to create powerful art exposing police violence and systemic racism in America.

Using murals, portraits, and sculptures, artists are delivering political messages through powerful imagery within their art. Below are 17 of these artists.

1.Errin Donahue

Based in New York, Errin Donahue is an artist and photographer. In her work, she recreates famous works of art with Black women. Inspired by “Janelle Monae and her racially imaginative Afrofuturism”, the portrait above is titled ‘The Monae Lisa’.

2.Nikkolas Smith

Freelance artist Nikkolas Smith has recently been working on pieces that relate to police brutality. He began sketching as a hobby but his artwork soon went viral and he quit his job as a Disney Imagineer to focus on art. During the Black Lives Matter protests, Smith posted a sketch of Ahmaud Abery on his Instagram, with the caption “…Today I sketch injustice. Today I paint a prayer… “If I shall die before my run, I pray the Lord my case is won.”

3.Ariel Sinha

Based in Chicago, Ariel Sinha is an artist, designer, and improviser. After hearing about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Sinha decided to challenge the anger and sadness she felt into her artwork. Using her iPad, she drew portraits of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. In the image above, Sinha drew Riah Milton and Rem’mie Fell, Black trans women who were murdered with the caption, “…Yesterday, in the middle of pride month, on the fourth anniversary of the Pulse nightclub attack, the President took away protections for trans people. It’s not enough to say their names. We must keep standing up and fighting for trans lives and rights.”


4.Molly Crabapple

Award-winning journalist illustrator and author of Drawing Blood and Brothers of the Gun, Molly Crabapple’s work has been published in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, and The New Yorker. She began her journalistic career by sketching illustrations of Occupy Wall Street, and then eventually covered Guantanamo Bay, the US border, refugee camps, Lebanese snipers, and more. Molly’s coverage of police brutality and the ongoing protests is available on the NY Review of Books (the images above). She has also helped to launch the “Drawing as Resistance” program as “a way for volunteers to not only observe [what is going on], but to participate–by drawing as an act of resistance.”


An anonymous England-based street artist, Banksy has used his art for political activism since the ‘90s. He produces pieces of art that pop up in public places, such as the walls of buildings. Banksy has shown support for the Black Lives Matter movement on Instagram, posting his work along with a message, saying “people of color are being failed by the system…This is a white problem. And if white people don’t fix it, someone will have to come upstairs and kick the door in.”

6.Simi Stone

A musical and visual artist and a founding member of the Afro-punk movement, Simi Stone, created a portrait of George Floyd, using her artistry to protest on the canvas. Stone chose bright tints that make Floyd look luminous. Haunted by what had happened to him, Stone wanted to draw him in bright colors.

7.AJ Alper

AJ Alper, a portrait painter, started the social media movement titled #GeorgeFloydPortraitProject to use his voice and Instagram audience to spread awareness about racism. In his project, he did a call out on Instagram, looking for as many portraits as possible to make a video in memory of George Floyd. In the finished piece, attached above, Alper created a compilation video including the nearly 700 artists worldwide who participated and submitted portraits of the project.

8.Adrian Brandon

Adrian Brandon is a Brooklyn based artist. On his Instagram, he has started a ‘stolen series’, which is dedicated to “the many black people that were robbed of their lives in the hands of the police.” Brandon uses graphite and ink to draw each portrait but also uses time as a medium to determine how long each portrait is colored in: 1 year of life = 1 minute of color. Brandon says, “I played with the harsh relationship between time and death. I want the viewer to see how much empty space is left in these lives, stories that will never be told, space that can never be filled.”

9.Shane Grammer

Shane Grammer is a muralist located in Los Angeles. In June, Grammer created a mural of George Floyd. His mural is “dedicated to all of my precious brothers and sisters who have found themselves the victims of racism. You are precious, loved, needed, and vital for our future. We see your pain. We hear your voice.”

10.Lola Lovenotes

[Image Description: colorful mural depicting Breonna Taylor that reads "Justice for Breonna".] Via @lovenotes
[Image Description: colorful mural depicting Breonna Taylor that reads “Justice for Breonna”.] Via @lovenotes
Lola Lovenotes (@lovenotes) is a mural artist and creator in New York City. On Juneteenth, Lovenotes shared a mural she created commemorating Breonna Taylor on Instagram, saying she’s “going to keep to keep painting until she and countless others get the justice they deserve”, following a previous message on Instagram saying, “there have been countless racial injustices against Black women, girls, [transwomen + girls], and yet their names are forgotten. Their murders don’t seem to get the same attention as Black men and boys. When we say Black Lives Matter, we need to make sure Black women are included in our demands for justice too!”.

11.Otha “Vakseen” Davis III

Based in Los Angeles, Otha “Vakseen” Davis III is a visual artist, curator, and musician. He has done a group of portraits in commemoration of Black lives who have been killed by police brutality, titled “Remember Me:” In the portrait above, titled “Remember Me: Elijah McClain”, celebrates the life of Elijah McClain, an innocent young man who was murdered by police in Colorado. Vakseen writes, “A YEAR later and we’re just hearing about this, while the family has been demanding an investigation all this time…A painting isn’t going to end racism. Racism won’t end until we’re ready to have REAL conversations, self-reflection, and make REAL change.”

12.Sarah Dahir

Sarah Dahir is an artist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her Black Lives Matter art, which features faceless women to represent everyone, has been inspired by photographs from the civil rights movement. Below the illustrations, she writes, “the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”


13.Rosanna Morris

Co-founder of Cato Press print studio, Rosanna Morris is located in Bristol U.K. She has created downloadable PDF’s of her Black Lives Matter prints that the public can use, “Put them in your window, take them to your local protest, post them through letterboxes. Do as you like, just please do something more than posting on here. Reach out to your community, your MP, your Granny, and help to do the hard work of change.”

14.Boyd Samuels

Boyd Samuels is a New York-based artist with a focus on oil painting. He “brings the beauty of the African American form onto his canvas and hopes that his art will inspire his viewers to see it as well.”

15.Niamah Thomas

Niamah Thomas is an artist and art therapist located in Chicago. Thomas, when creating her portrait of Breonna Taylor (pictured above) wanted Taylor to be illustrated as soft but strong, using softer colors and floral imagery. Thomas writes, “Breonna was shot 8 times by police issuing a ‘no-knock’ warrant on her home. Then they called it a ‘clerical error’. NO. WE DEMAND JUSTICE”.

16.Teddy Phillips

Teddy Phillips is an artist based in Seattle. He has started a “Justice Series”, which are portraits featured Black men and women who were murdered. One of these portraits, titled “Manny is the Culture/Justice in his name” portrays Manuel Ellis who died while in the custody of four Tacoma police officers.

17.Ryan Adams

Ryan Adam is an artist located in Maine. His mural of George Floyd in Portland, Maine, is shown in the picture above. He writes, “However you choose to act, whether it be self-care, education, marching in the streets or expressing yourself through your work, please, please do something.”

Similarly to these artists, there are many ways to protest and challenge the structures that allow racism and police brutality to continue. Your responsibility isn’t absolved by reposts on Instagram. Educate yourself and actively challenge these injustices in whatever way you can.

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Editor's Picks Gender Inequality

‘Challenge Accepted’ is performative activism at its finest

This morning began like so many others. In a sleepy haze, I shuffled around for my freshly-charged phone on my nightstand (groaning while remnants of my dream of a shirtless Rami Malek throwing darts at a picture of a certain Republican President’s orange face slipped away from my conscious mind). The anomaly came when, while filtering through emails of pathetic updates about online learning from my university, I noticed I had three new DMs on Instagram from people I follow. This was a rare occurrence as my DMs are mostly littered with requests from desperate men in India. Today, however, I had numerous requests to accept a certain challenge of posting a black and white photograph of myself in the name of female empowerment. *Cue the deeply disappointed sigh*

On a normal day, the word ‘challenge’ denotes a hardship of some kind in the form of a complex task or situation. In the age of social media, we have somehow skewed its definition to mean “posting a photograph of yourself in the name of an ostensibly good cause while looking conventionally attractive”.

Remember the #10YearChallenge that points out how hot you have gotten (specifically to your high school bullies)? The recent #WomenSupportingWomen #ChallengeAccepted arguably falls into this questionable category of ‘conquering the difficult task of building an online image’ as women bravely choose their most flattering selfie, slap a black and white filter on it (for a reason unbeknownst to them) and post in the name of sisterhood. Oh, if only I were that courageous.

So far, more than 3 million photos have been uploaded with the #ChallengeAccepted hashtag; many more have appeared without it. “The trend is still picking up with usage of the hashtag on Instagram doubling in the last day alone,” an Instagram spokeswoman said on Monday. “Based on the posts, we’re seeing that most of the participants are posting with notes relating to strength and support for their communities.”

But do these captions actually achieve tangible results?

While its inception may have been to spread positivity and awareness to a cause (in this case, women empowerment), the execution of it largely falls short, as many of the accompanying captions to the sexy feed of black and white photographs are vague and self-serving. They inherently say nothing of substance, rather opting to preach about kindness and strength over shining a light on organisations that can help women on the ground level with job access or gender-based violence relief, etc.

Women in need, are you feeling empowered yet? No? Well, Cindy Crawford just posted her #ChallengeAccepted contribution that looks like an ad campaign in Vogue…so what about now?

How is this challenge actually helping women? I am all for instilling confidence in women (and people in general) but can’t we harness the power of social media to call attention to the thousands of more pressing matters that women face daily?

Do people not know that you can post a cute selfie for no apparent reason? Why use the guise of performative wokeness to do so?

“Ladies,” Alana Levinson, a writer, tweeted on Monday, “instead of posting that hot black-and-white selfie, why don’t we ease into feminism with something low stakes, like cutting off your friend who’s an abuser?”

Other women online suggested that instead of a black-and-white selfie, women should share photos of books, articles, products and charities that benefit women.

This trend is a prime example of activism being done on a surface-level to increase one’s social capital, rather than due to a dedication to the cause at hand. Its social-justice message feels a little hollow when the main focus is on the participants’ flawless faces.

And this is where the challenge’s main fault lies. Do people not know that you can post a cute selfie for no apparent reason? Why use the guise of performative wokeness to do so?

There are many suggestions of the origins for this challenge. Some say that it surfaced after Rep. Ted Yoho’s sexist attack on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which aligns with this supposed mission of women empowerment, yet includes no hashtags to speak to this event (#FuckingBitch would be great to claim the label, to be honest).

Others claim that this challenge has been around since at least 2016, with its original purpose of spreading awareness around cancer. If that’s the case then I am not more aware of the intricacies of cancer now than I was in 2016…because of photographs of women’s bras.

Once again the Instagramability of social justice causes takes precedent over its actual message in the age of aesthetic.

The most jarring of these potential causes lies in Turkey’s hatred and neglect of its women.

Recent protests have sparked in Turkey over the country’s high femicide rates, so social media users took to the internet to highlight the murder of its women. Some say that herein lies the challenge’s roots.

According to the now deleted tweets from New York Times writer Tariro Mzezewa, “The Turkish hashtags about domestic violence and femicide were dropped as the challenge went viral. The images were for women to bond “but MORE importantly that we know that we can be the next trending image and hashtag.”  Mzezewa also claimed that “the original accompanying hashtags were #kadınaşiddetehayır #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır which I’m told translate to say no to violence against women & enforce the Istanbul Treaty/ Doctrine (where rights to protect women are signed.)”

(Check out this informative video by Elif Şafak Elif Shafak where she forgoes the black and white selfie in favor of raising awareness about the situation in Turkey right now. And click here for ways to help.)

With so many voices on where this challenge originated and why it’s around, do people truly know what they are contributing to? Or simply following the herd? Regardless of this challenge’s origins, whether it be cancer or gender-based violence awareness, it tragically fails to address any of them.

Once again the Instagrammability of social justice causes takes precedent over its actual message in the age of aesthetic (just look at #BlackoutTuesday, which had pure intentions but ended up overpowering important information regarding #BlackLivesMatter). I mean who would want to look at beaten up women with the stark red of blood staining their screens (and I mean actually injured women – not those who put makeup on to have their eye looked bruised to glamorize violence) when we can instead look at selfies of those who have perfectly winged eyeliner under the classy black and white filter?

So, while the ‘tag-you’re-it’ nature of the challenge urges you to @ a few women you like to share their own tastefully hot selfies, and for them to subsequently ‘challenge’ a handful of other strong, independent women to carry the torch (of course they must also add the hashtags #WomenSupportingWomen and #ChallengeAccepted for optimal empowerment), ask yourself if you could better spend your time educating yourself on the actual life-threatening challenges women face in their daily lives and how you could help them in tangible ways.

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USA The World

The Trump Administration continues to threaten women’s access to birth control

The Supreme Court had us fooled. Just a few weeks after SCOTUS struck down a restrictive abortion law in Louisiana with a 5-4 vote, the justices upheld the Trump administration’s mandate that employers can refuse to let workers use birth control under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) due to religious or moral objections. Only 2 justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonya Sotomayor dissented. “between 70,500 and 126,400 women would immediately lose access to no-cost contraceptive services,” Ginsburg stated in her note of dissent, using a governmental estimate. 

The Health Resources and Services Administration – a government agency under the U.S Department of Health and Human Services – ruled that birth control is essential preventative care and that contraceptives would be free and covered under employer’s health insurance without any extra copays in 2012. Exceptions were explicitly made for places of worship, but not for religious controlled schools, hospitals, charities, and any other groups or businesses controlled by religious groups. However, both the Obama and the Trump administrations began to include a wider range of exemptions after pushback from religious groups. 

The U.S. government has always had a tumultuous and inconsistent relationship with birth control legislation since the creation of the ACA in 2010

In the 2014 case landmark case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court justices voted that for-profit organizations were exempt from the ACA’s contraceptive mandate under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), although the RFRA was declared unconstitutional by SCOTUS in 1997 at the state level. 

The U.S. government has always had a tumultuous and inconsistent relationship with birth control legislation since the creation of the ACA in 2010. The inconsistencies in legislation have allowed for the Trump administration to further their attacks on women’s healthcare. The RFRA has already been dubbed unconstitutional for states, so why does the federal government and the Supreme Court continue to allow the RFRA as an excuse to revoke women’s right to healthcare?

In 2017, Trump drafted new rules under an Executive Order that for-profit groups were officially exempt. The State of Pennsylvania, including several other states with their individual contraceptive mandates, challenged the government under the Equal Protection Clause. Despite, this, SCOTUS upheld Trump’s attack on contraceptives in the recent case Little Sisters of the Poor Saint Peters and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania. The Little Sisters of the Poor are a Catholic organization that provides homes for low-income elderly individuals. The nuns who run the organization are against contraception and abortion. Regardless of their religious rights, organizations and businesses should not have a say in what medication their employees are taking. It’s simply not their business. Now that SCOTUS has furthered these dubious exemptions, it will be easier for conservative businesses to regulate their female employees’ access to birth control under “moral” reasons. By revoking access to birth control, bosses are directly harming the lives of women. Contraceptives directly save female lives.

Bosses have no business deciding what happens in their employee’s private life, including what medication they are taking.

Birth control pills have a wide variety of different usages besides preventing pregnancies. Many women are prescribed birth control to regulate their menstrual cycles. Nearly 30% of women on birth control pills take them to make their periods less painful. Combination/multi-hormone pills also can prevent uterine and ovarian cancer. It can help reduce the effects of menstrual migraines, control endometriosis, and regulate PMS and PMDD, a severe form of PMS, symptoms. By upholding Trump’s mandate, many women will no longer have access to the medication that keeps them alive, especially poor women and women of color who cannot afford to pay for birth control out of pocket.

Just recently, SCOTUS also ruled that employers can’t discriminate against LGBTQ+ workers based on religious beliefs. Employers shouldn’t be able to decide the fate of women’s health and lives either.  Birth control shouldn’t be politicized. It’s necessary, preventative healthcare. The companies that are refusing to use company health insurance for contraceptives are silent on Viagra prescriptions. I’m sorry, but if your penis can’t get up, it’s probably “God’s will.” Bosses have no business deciding what happens in their employee’s private life, including what medication they are taking. 

Donald Trump and his administration have been attacking women’s health and the ACA the moment he stepped foot in the White House. He’s not an advocate for religious groups, he’s a tyrant who uses the guise of religious freedom to directly attack poor women of color. With Justice Ginsberg’s seat on the line, women’s health holds a terrifying future if Trump is re-elected. The government should not be pandering to the qualms of religious and conservative run businesses. Women’s healthcare is not a political tool, it’s a human right, and should be treated as such.

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Gender Inequality

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

Trigger warnings for mentions of rape and sexual harassment threats.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Palestine is in imminent danger: here’s how you can help

The strengthening relationship between the United States and Israel has put Palestine in more danger than ever, with the Trump administration becoming increasingly invested in the ongoing conflict. The US government has publicly supported Israel’s claims to the historically contested land, drawing up a policy that will enable Israel to seize 30% of Palestinian territory.

The annexation process, initially due to start on July 1st, has been widely condemned by the international community. The backlash has temporarily stalled the process, due to Trump’s hesitation to support elements of Israel’s plans for the territory.  

If the annexation of the West Bank commences, Palestine is unlikely to survive. The proposed move signals Israel’s disregard for any sort of resolution and stands to endanger the lives of thousands of Palestinians who risk being displaced in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic.  

The ongoing  conflict between Palestine and Israel is one of the longest of the 21st century, spanning over 70 years. Since the formation of Israel in 1948, violence has plagued the region. Between 1947 and 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians were displaced leading to one of the world’s worst refugee crises to date. 

Since then, tensions and violence has repeatedly escalated in the contested Holy Land. The Israeli state has shown no restraint in their attempts to gain control over Palestine- murdering, torturing and imprisoning men, women and children in a systematic process of ethnic cleansing.

Currently, Israel is the only country in the world that tries minors in military court

One of the greatest detriments to the conflict is that it has been constructed as a purely religious dispute. This narrative has pitted the nations against each other, simplifying it to one that is essentially ‘Jews versus Muslims’. The Israeli government has intentionally promoted this narrative in an attempt to make the will of the state and that of the Jewish people synonymous. Using this approach has allowed the Israeli state to brand any criticisms of their actions as anti-Semitic. This detracts from real instances of antisemitism and has previously thinned condemnation, especially from democratic strongholds in the EU, such as Germany.

Lack of international intervention to progress or repair peace talks, or effectively restrict Israel’s occupation, has been detrimental to the Palestinian cause. The nation itself is not recognized in its own right in many parts of the world; Google has never officially labelled the territory as Palestine on the world map.

Israel has incrementally invaded and subjected the nation to decades of sustained assault underpinned by apartheid rule and a gross violation of human rights. The Israeli invasion initiative has recently been strengthened through increased foreign aid in the form of economic and military assistance. In 2019 the US provided Israel with $3.8 billion in foreign military aid. 

The proposed annexation is part of Trump’s 2020 ‘Peace Policy’ which aims to enable Israel to seize control of 30% of Palestinian territory. It also suggests that Palestine be further divided and demilitarized. Netanyahu recently announced that Palestinians currently living in the targeted areas will not be given Israeli citizenship, leaving them stateless. 

Trump’s plan completely disregards the will and best interests of Palestine, and the annexation has been deemed as a contravention of international law. The EU has warned Israel that there will be consequences if they move forward with the illegal action, although sanctions remain off the table. 

Thousands of Palestinians across the West Bank are at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods if the planned annexation of one-third of the territory goes through.

Here are some things you can do to help protect Palestine and its people:

Support the BDS movement

Support and promote the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement in your country. The BDS movement started in 2005 and promotes the boycotting, divestment and sanctioning of Israel and all Israeli products, business or trade. It was inspired by the successful sanctions campaign against South Africa during the anti-apartheid movement.

Demand that your government implement sanctions against Israel’s apartheid state and divests until Palestine is free and protected. Start petitions calling for your government to promote the recognition of Palestine. Make sure to lay out why supporting Palestine is an act of justice and equality. Campaign for your country to support pro-Palestine treaties, such as those promoted by the United Nations. In 2019, many countries that had previously abstained from voting, effectively failing to support Palestine, voted in favor of Israel. However, recent developments have caused these same countries to switch track, publicly opposing Israel’s new annexation plan. This is a crucial moment to capitalize on and should be used to sustain and increase action that favors the protection of Palestine. 

Start petitions and campaigns to get local businesses and organizations involved in the BDS movement. Be aware that petitions are most effective when you are able to engage with those who you are calling on to act. Campaigns which address those who are inflicting the violence, such as the Israeli government, often go unnoticed. It is more impactful to direct petitions to those whom you can demand a response from, or where you can apply pressure consistently. 


Here is a list of organizations that you can donate to in order to directly aid the Palestinian cause:

Educate yourself, and then others.

Below is a list of resources/sites that can help you be better informed about the history of the conflict and why Palestine needs your help:

  • A site that provides a comprehensive history of the conflict and divisions, as well as updates on the current crisis.
  • An independent non-profit organization which aims to educate and encourage discussion on Palestinian rights and freedom within the framework of international law.
  • The Balfour Declaration by Bernard Regan

“Most have heard of the Balfour Declaration without fully appreciating its history and consequences. With this meticulous and insightful study, we have a fascinating and timely guide to British colonial policy in Palestine, and its devastating impacts for the Palestinian people to this day.” – Professor Karma Nabulsi, Oxford University

“One of the most prominent Israeli political dissidents living in exile … He is also one of the few Israeli students of the conflict who write about the Palestinian side with real knowledge and empathy.” – Avi Shlaim, Guardian

“A hauntingly written, remorselessly honest, and surely long lasting account of Palestinian loss and struggle.” – Donald MacIntyre, Independent

Palestine Speaks demonstrates that nothing is more eloquent than the voices of those who endure and try valiantly to survive. Nothing is more important for us than to listen to them carefully, to grasp their suffering, to learn from their testimonies about them and about ourselves, and to use this understanding to bring their tragedy to an end.” – Noam Chomsky

Raise awareness and support for the cause:

Talk to your friends, family, classmates and anyone else in your circles. Share accurate information about the crisis and the imminent danger posed by Trump’s policy

Boycott celebrities’ and their work, if they choose to perform in Israel or support the Zionist beliefs of the state. Many celebrities have weighed in the debate; some claim that supporting Israel is an act of Jewish pride, or serves to show their opposition of the actions of Hamas. These justifications are another example of how Israel, Judaism and the Zionist state have been blurred into one. This misconstrues the reality of the Israeli government’s sustained and violent attack on the Palestinian people. Seth Rogan, Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman and Kanye West are just a few of the celebrities who have openly voiced their support for Israel. However, many fans have successfully alerted high-profile celebrities to the importance of boycotting the actions of the Israeli state. In 2017 Lorde cancelled her planned performance in Israel, following a social media campaign highlighting the oppressive nature of the Israeli state. 

Organize marches, research planned pro-Palestinian events/campaigns, join or start online movements to discuss how to take action that further promotes the Palestinian cause.  

Boycott pro-Israel brands, products and companies: Caterpillar bulldozers have been used to demolish Palestinian homes, Hewlett Packard (HP) assists Israel in running the ID system used to restrict Palestinian movement, and Puma sponsors Israel’s football association which has teams in the occupied territories. Join and promote existing boycott campaigns happening in your country. 

Fact check before you share information and make sure about the legitimacy of the source. There is a lot of propaganda aimed at misrepresenting the conflict. 

Supporting Palestine is not anti-Semitic, or disrespectful to the history of the Jewish people. Nor does it signify any sort of religious affiliation. To stand for the protection of the Palestinian people is to stand for Justice, equality and freedom. It is to condemn the violent apartheid state of Israel that is attempting to dispossess the land of thousands, stripping them of their homes and livelihoods. 

The proposed annexation will be the final nail in Palestine’s coffin and we cannot allow this to happen.

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

The Internet Style Fashion Beauty Lookbook

How TikTok’s #VogueChallenge became more than just a hashtag

Two months into quarantine, I reluctantly hopped onto the TikTok bandwagon and downloaded the app with hopes of curing my ‘bored in the house, in the house bored’ symptoms. I grew up in the era of Vine, a social networking short-form video platform where users shared six second-long, looping video clips. Originally, I had disregarded TikTok as I thought I was too old and wise to contribute to a culture dominated by bleach-haired Gen-Z teenagers desperately trying to become Internet famous, one Renegade dance at a time.  Soon enough I became addicted, going as far as learning how to channel my inner VSCO girl, discovering what a tennis bracelet meant and suffering many failed attempts of throwing it back. TikTok, an app with an audience of over 800 million users is not only known for their catchy dances but its plethora of challenges which have swept their feeds.

Most recently, the #VogueChallenge has risen in popularity among the latest trends, in which creators share a collage of pictures mimicking a model pose or artistic edits with the “Vogue” magazine title at the top. The mock editorial covers have now transitioned throughout Instagram and Twitter. Even major celebrities and public figures, from Lizzo to YouTube beauty guru James Charles, have created their own take on the challenge.

It makes us all wonder—what’s the point? What is everyone trying to express behind all of these covers?

My first impression was that it was a marketing tactic for influencers and aspiring models, to showcase their best pictures in an effort to try getting a foot in the door behind the world’s most renowned fashion magazine. In fact, fashion macro-influencers such as Chriselle Lim and Jamie Chua have thrown themselves into the trend, with their luxurious, professional blog photos closely mimicking Vogue’s past archives. This seems like a pretty valid argument because well, it’s unequivocally every one’s dream to be featured on the cover of Vogue once in her lifetime—right?

But I quickly learned that the #VogueChallenge is more than a hashtag.

The challenge has become more and more prevalent among members of minority and LGBTQ communities who are coming forward to share their perception of what Vogue covers should look like, along with the themes Vogue regularly fails to portray. Vogue has been a magazine championing white privilege throughout its countless editions, the glossy pages mostly featuring skinny, beautiful, Caucasian models. Anna Wintour, the famed Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue for the past 32 years, has been widely acclaimed for her impact on fashion influences across the nation. However, although she’s had the power to change inclusivity and diversity within the fashion runways and editorial spreads, she simply chose not to. She most recently made a public statement apologizing for any inadvertent promotion of racism, citing her commitment to providing more inclusivity and diversity within the Vogue offices and within the pages of her fashion encyclopedia. In a way, the #VogueChallenge promotes a continuous amplification of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Many TikTok users aren’t simply posting with the hashtag for social media clout or to feature on the #fyp pages but rather, as a response to Anna Wintour’s ill-fated apology. It raises awareness that the world of print media publishing needs to modernize and change in response to the racial justice movements occurring across the country.

As television companies and musical artists have stood in solidarity with BLM, as well as to remove any derogatory implications targeted towards the Black community, magazines and digital social networking communities must commit to doing the same. In an industry where two of the largest publishers (Condé Nast and Hearst) are owned by prominent white male businessmen, the magazines with the biggest financial backing such as Vogue or Harper’s Baazar have been run by white women in executive roles, for decades. Although magazines catered to the minority class do exist, they rarely, if ever, receive the same financial backing as of Conde Nast and Hearst, or equal publicity.

Anna Wintour, among other privileged editors, must come together to change the historical stigmatization and underrepresentation of minority and LGBTQ communities. Change is happening around the world, and changes in print media need to happen right now. The #VogueChallenge is just the beginning.

World News Politics The World

Set Safoora Zargar free

On April 10, officers from the anti-terror wing of the Delhi Police knocked on Safoora Zargar’s door. The 27-year-old student leader activist from Jamia Millia University was taken into custody to be interrogated about her involvement in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). When she was arrested that night, Safoora was three months pregnant.

In December 2019, CAA amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 by providing citizenship to illegal migrants from Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities who had fled from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. The amendment, however, left out Muslim migrants despite the community being the majority in the neighboring countries.

When she was arrested that night, Safoora was three months pregnant.

This led to a series of nationwide protests across India in response to the Islamophobic Bill. The capital of India, New Delhi witnessed students from universities as they took to the streets. Students from Jamia Millia Islamia were at the forefront of these protests, including Safoora Zargar.

The protests escalated again in February 2020. When Donald Trump was addressing the nation in Ahmedabad, a pogrom against the Muslim communities of New Delhi began, leaving 53 people dead. More than a month later, as India went into a country-wide lockdown for COVID-19, Safoora and other student leaders were being arrested on grounds of inciting violence during the massacre.

Safoora was initially arrested on charges of blocking a road and obstructing traffic. After being granted bail, she was re-arrested 3 days later by the police’s “special cell”. She is now booked under at least 20 sections of the penal code, including the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

A woman who did not engage in battery and assault is imprisoned, and being denied bail repeatedly.

Safoora was exercising her democratic right to protest. She was a part of a peaceful resistance that took to the streets to protest against injustice. She used her voice to stand up against the discrimination against Muslims and minorities.

Did that entail her brutality portrayed by the State? Was it just for the State to utilize the garb of the pandemic vulnerabilities to charge and book her, a peaceful protestor, under UAPA?

Safoora is now accused of rioting, possession of arms, attempt to murder, incitement of violence, sedition, murder, and promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion.

With the evidence submitted, the Court has disagreed with the defendant’s case. The Judge agreed at Safoora’s bail hearing on June 4 at Delhi Patiala House that “[a]ny activity which has the tendency to create a disorder or disturbance of law and order to such an extent that the entire city is brought to its knees and the entire government machinery is brought to a grinding halt, such an activity would obviously be treated as an unlawful activity within the meaning of 2(o) UAPA”. The fact that Safoora had allegedly remarked in a vituperative manner against the State was denied by her lawyers.

During the bail hearing, allegations of conspiracy were leveled against Safoora. However, the charges were defended on the grounds of Safoora not being physically present at the scene. This was however counter-argued with the court because the evidence of conspiracy was prima facie and thus admissible in the court.

Safoora was exercising her democratic right to protest. She used her voice to stand up against the discrimination against Muslims and minorities.

Safoora is pregnant and has Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome that could lead to her facing major health complications and even, unfortunately, affect the health of the baby. However, she is rotting in an over-crowded prison, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, when she should be safely home. When her condition and her medical vulnerability were expressed to the Judiciary, the response received was to inform the jail superintendent of her “precarious medical condition” and thus be provided with medical attention.

Safoora has been called disgraceful words by the haters. Not only was she slandered for her activism which was only targeted to the Islamophobic anti-secular laws of the Central government, but she was also sent rape threats by anonymous, misogynistic and sexist public of India. The fact that she is a pregnant woman who is willing to speak up has garnered her disgusting and derogatory comments from the misogynistic society, so much so that her child’s legitimacy was questioned. Disgusting tweets questioned her character, assassinating it each step of the way.  

Why is it acceptable to target a woman’s sexuality in fields that have no relation to it? 

Women in India’s political sphere face unrelenting misogyny targeted at their character on a day to day basis. Lewd terms are thrown at independent and radical women to discourage them from participating in politics. This sort of sexism is widely supported by men and used by them as a tactic to bring women down. Despite women forming a large fraction of the workforce, their success is seemingly intimidating to men. Why is it acceptable to target a woman’s sexuality in fields that have no relation to it? 

 Safoora Zargar was one of the women from Shaheen Bagh, a peaceful protestor who dared to resist against the Islamophobic laws. She was one of those who chose to protest to protect the constitutional values of India. In one of the largest democracies of the world, dissent isn’t tolerated but is ruled as seditious behavior. Where is freedom of speech? Where are the Constitutional Rights and Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship? Where is the Justice?

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Here’s the graduation advice nobody will ever tell you

I never thought I’d be writing a letter to college graduates, but considering the world that we live in today, and the many terrifying fears I remember going through in the day of and weeks/months/year after graduation, I think it’s definitely more than time for me to plunge into this.

I’ll lead with a disclaimer: take these nuggets of advice and see whether they apply to your life. Not everything will.

I’m not a fan of writing blanket statements, and hell, it’s okay if you’re not in the place many are today. If so, kudos!

1. I know everyone and their mother is already asking what your next steps are, and it’s probably reached a fever pitch, now that you’ve got your diploma in hand.

Here’s the truth: if you don’t know yet, that’s okay. One of life’s biggest secrets is that even the people asking you don’t know what their next steps are. Hell, sometimes they’re just asking in a desperate attempt to get some sort of advice or validation about their lives.

Another secret: once you graduate college, life is fluid. You don’t have to do what others are telling you. Which leads me to my next point…

2. Everyone has a plan for your life post-graduation – but the only one that has the real power is you.

I get it – I’m the oldest child of parents who have big, big dreams for my siblings and myself. I faced a lot of heated discussions the weeks leading up to and following graduation, all of which had the same tone: why aren’t you doing anything with your life?

 Know what that means? It means that your value is inherently determined only if you’re doing what your parents/relatives/friends/strangers deem to be appropriate. And that’s a load of crap.

Know that there will be a different future out there.

It’s a known fact that I worked at Princeton University for two years after graduation, but the thing I didn’t tell those who knew me was that I worked in Staples, struggling to apply to jobs and keep my head up, for the summer following graduation. I had even put in an application for a second job at Chipotle when I received the job offer from Princeton.

I do want to make this clear: in no way did my time at any of the three locations matter more or less than the other. Ultimately, it came down to keeping my head up, surviving incoming bills, and trying to still go after my dreams.

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I was okay with every moment, grateful for the opportunity – even if those who knew, weren’t – because I knew that there’d be a different future out there.

3. Your life in the year after graduation does not determine your worth or future or opportunities. 

Yeah, we all know about that wunderkind that’s got four incredible job offers, acceptance at five Ivy Leagues and a Truman Fellow. Want to know something? They’re just as unsure and insecure about what’s going to happen next, just as you are. And that’s okay. 

The reason “roadmaps” after college don’t really work is because – to be frank – you don’t know how your self and life will shift and morph and grow post-graduation.

You are incredible, no matter how you might feel right now.

What intrigued you during college won’t make you blink in the year after, or five years after. I graduated with a minor in education studies.

Newsflash: I haven’t really used it since then, but that’s okay.

I take it for what it was.

4. It’s okay to be afraid of what happens next.

I’m going to repeat it, just in case you haven’t really understood it: it is more than alright to be afraid of what life looks like ahead.

The biggest crime you could commit in this scenario is to let that fear hold you immobile, hold you back from trying. Don’t let that happen.

Throw yourself into things that just might pique your interest. Try out that internship, pick up a job, do what you can to remind yourself of your value – but don’t give up.

It is okay to be afraid of what life looks like ahead.

Don’t let the fear swallow you up – and if it does, confide in a friend you trust, a mentor – or a therapist.

5. The best part about being done with college is you now have the ability to make your life truly your own.

Regardless of whether you’re back living with your parents, crashing with friends, or living on your own, this is it.

This is life. You’re in full control.

No matter what people might tell you/advise you/berate you/try to drag you down – you’re the one in the driver’s seat. Never let someone strip you of that power. You are incredible, no matter how you might feel right now.

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You have your whole future ahead of you, to make of it what you will.

And that, that is truly empowering. I promise you.

But sometimes it’ll be lonely – which is okay. Hit me up on Instagram if you want to talk things through – even though I graduated years ago, I believe in helping those who need it.

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