Feel-Good Sexuality The Vulvasation Love + Sex Love Advice

Five reasons why masturbating is good for women

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

When most of us think of masturbating, we usually think about a hormonal teenage boy watching a sleazy porno that is probably degrading to women in some way. This stereotype has some truth to it as about 70% of teenage males masturbate.

On the other hand, only about 50% of teenage females report masturbating. Besides the obvious benefit of masturbating (orgasms), there are many benefits to masturbating, especially for women. 

1. It strengthens the pelvic floor muscles

Women are encouraged to do Kegels to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles by keeping the pelvic floor muscles active. Similarly, masturbating strengthens the pelvic floor by keeping the deep muscles working and in shape. It also activates the body’s orgasmic functions i.e. vaginal lubrication to ensure that your body is capable of having sex later on. 

2. It’s good for your mental health

Orgasms increase blood flow throughout the body and cause an influx of endorphins throughout the body. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that our body naturally produces in small quantities. They are natural painkillers and can produce a euphoric effect, which is why orgasms feel so good. Hence, masturbating is known to be a stress-reliever and a reboot for our minds. 

3. It will boost your libido

Masturbating is known to boost libido and make people more confident in their bodies and sexuality. Because masturbating is (usually) a solo activity, you are in complete control over your own body and can easily figure out what you like and don’t like. This can lead to a much better sex life and more bodily autonomy during sex. 

4. It’s safe during COVID-19 

Without a doubt, COVID-19 has completely changed the way we interact with other people, which includes sex. Because it is generally better to avoid having sex right now (unless it is with a partner you are quarantining with), masturbating is a good alternative to maintain a healthy sex life. Because it is a solo activity, there is no risk for contracting COVID-19 through it. It’s also impossible to get pregnant through it, so you don’t need to worry about birth control when masturbating!

5. It can help you sleep better

If you struggle with insomnia (the inability to fall asleep at night), masturbating might help. Because orgasms release natural “feel-good” chemicals such as oxytocin and endorphins, they can make one more sleepy and relaxed. It’s more difficult to sleep now than ever due to our immense dependence on electronic devices that emit blue light

While women masturbating is not as well-established or socially accepted as men masturbating, it is a completely valid and natural form of sexual expression. Women have been taught for centuries that sexual desire is “unnatural” because sex should only be procreative.

In fact, the vibrator was invented by a doctor in the 18th century as a way of curing “hysteria”, a disease that women were known to experience.

We now refer to “hysteria” as sexual frustration and “cure” it by orgasming. 

Each and every one of us is entitled to our own body’s integrity, and sexual pleasure falls underneath that umbrella.

So don’t be ashamed to love your body a little bit more while we’re in quarantine (and after)! 

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Family Life

My mom survived breast cancer. Am I next?

On average, an estimated 15.2% of new cancer cases in the United States are women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. That means that 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. 

These statistics are indicative of families, touched eternally by a cancer that is more than just a disease – it is linear. Breast cancer often weaves a thread, mangled in fate and fear, through mothers, daughters, and sisters alike. The survivors among them are the superheroes of nearly every generation of women, powering through all of the anxiety, body disfiguring surgeries or treatments, and impromptu decision-making associated with the onset of such an illness. They take this disease and nip it in the bud, almost passively, acknowledging the unforgiving weight that will forever be weighing down their bodies and minds. 

In some cases, before these women can even think about what comes next, they are sewed up, stripped, and shaved. Left without any sensation in their breast area after a mastectomy, and feeling less and less whole with every visit to the oncologist. It is hard for most women to even feel at home in their bodies anymore. 

In February of 2017, my mother sat in a bleak and claustrophobic doctor’s office for her regular mammogram visit and heard the dreadful words that every woman lives in fear of, “I think we’re going to need to take a second exam. There may be cancer.” 

There was. 

She has told me that she spent most of her life, 38 years to be exact, in terror of what was surely to come. When my mother was 17 years old, the same age that I had been when she was diagnosed, her mother passed away after a long and debilitating battle with breast cancer. Afterward, this disease became a constant threat. So, in some ways, her diagnosis was more of a relief than anything else.

For me, however, it was excruciating. I had a hard time fathoming the enormity of it. Often, I would find myself drenched in hot and burning tears, unable to put into words what I was feeling. I was incoherent and unable to be comforted. I really hated it when people tried to comfort me, too—it felt condescending. I didn’t want to need them.

But, at the same time, I wasn’t even close to being the strong person that I presented to the world. I was falling hard—and fast. Most days, I would go to school or hang out with my friends, but the entire time I felt as if there were a million knives stabbing my chest at any given moment, and I couldn’t help it. Sometimes, I even liked feeling the pain. If my mom had to suffer, then, I thought, so did I. 

Years later I’m able to articulate my thoughts a little more clearly. I was terrified, desperate, and I didn’t know where to turn. So much was happening all the time and I was grieving my old self. That is, the self that hadn’t yet felt such complete and sunken remorse. There was this urgency to do everything right. In a situation like that, there’s no room for mistakes and I was incredibly nervous that I would mess up. Or maybe I was nervous that something would mess me up. Either way, I changed a lot that year. 

Unfortunately, our story is not an uncommon one. 

A woman’s chance of developing breast cancer increases if her mother, sister, or daughter has been diagnosed. In addition, women who carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene are at an increased risk of breast cancer than women who do not carry the gene. 

My mom is thankfully, and gracefully, in remission today. Her fight seemed, on the outside, to be continuous and suffocating. But, she is a survivor, bold and vivacious, in all of her glory. She has the scars and the strength to prove it, too. 

I am well aware that my risk of this disease is high. But, I am also confident that this does not mean that it is a death sentence. Regardless of being only 21 years old, I am diligent in conducting breast exams on myself at least once a month in an attempt to detect any early warning signs of breast cancer. What I search for is any abnormal lumps or changes in the breast tissue/skin. 

The good news is that with advancing technologies the survival rate of people diagnosed with breast cancer is steadily increasing, even though the number of people getting sick remains stagnant. 

Any cancer diagnosis is terrifying, but breast cancer for me feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I won’t be able to stop being overwhelmed by this sharp and unrelenting nervousness until it is completely out of my system. And we all know that there is only one way for that to happen. 

For now, I am trying to focus on what I am able to control. Breast cancer is certainly not one of those things. But, I am in control of my mindset. While it is important for me not to let my guard down, at some point I have to just let go and let it be. I trust that fate will run its course. 

I come from a long legacy of confident and courageous women, all beautiful and bountiful in their own right. So, it would be a disservice if I did not take their wisdom and hold onto it tightly. I mean, I watched while my own mother boldly stared her fears directly in the face. She never skipped a beat, not even for a second. Her resilience against a disease that is otherwise overbearing is nothing short of inspiring and I am so proud of her. Because of her, I am starting to think that maybe I can handle it too, that maybe I can be as brave as her, when and if the day comes. 

I am not alone in my fear, although it may seem like it sometimes. I am one of millions living and feeling these same anxieties at full volume, so I must not let it overcome me. Instead, I have to remind myself to be introspective and to keep moving forward.


Here’s why tattoos are more than just skin deep

There has always been a lingering, extremely negative stigma around tattoos. Whether that be the impression that they’re a reckless craft or profession, that they’re a reflection of unprofessionalism on the wearer, or that the kind of person who gets tattoos is a bad influence and misguided. My whole life, the narrative that tattoos are associated with illegal activities and reckless behaviour has been practically embedded into my social imagining. For a while, I believed it too. I thought that having a tattoo very much meant being unsuccessful in the career that I chose and that I would be going against the picture that had been painted for me. And in doing so, I would be letting everyone around me down, everyone who played some kind of part in raising me. Funnily enough, these are the same people who told me countless times that it is important to march to the beat of my own drum and to be the captain of my own ship. Go figure.

Especially being a girl, I’ve been told that tattoos are ugly, inappropriate, and distasteful. That the second I taint my body with ink, the body that is also supposed to be my own canvas, my worth diminishes dramatically. People start to look at me differently. I am no longer the girl that they thought I was. In a matter of seconds, their entire perception of me changes and everything they know about me is altered. 

This is the reality for so many young people and it is incredibly disheartening because most tattoos, if not all, can hold a deeper meaning. Plus, it shouldn’t even matter if the tattoo is meaningful or not, as long as the person adorned by it is happy and comfortable. Tattoos can be an exceptional medium for self-expression. Every little detail in a tattoo is an example of individuality that is impossible to replicate because everyone’s skin and everyone’s intent is entirely different. 

Most tattoos are real-life embellishments drenched in symbolism and motifs, and if you really think about it, tattoos are beautiful beyond being art. They are meant to be read like a book and tell you something about the wearer. You can learn a multitude of unspoken stories about a person just by looking at their tattoos, and these are usually the things that are most dear to their heart and truly make them who they are. These are the things that they’re so determined to never let go of that they literally make it a part of their skin and their blood. They tell you stories of growth, romance, culture, grief, passion, religion, wit, and determination. People wear art that speaks to them and makes them feel something. Tattoos are a love story in and of themselves. 

I cherish my tattoo. It’s a very small pink dove near my left rib cage. I was 18 years old at the time that I got it done. Most people thought that I was acting in defiance, that I was being rebellious, and that I would regret it eventually. 

Well, they were all wrong. 

I wasn’t being defiant and I will never regret it. I got my tattoo because it is something that I knew I needed to do for myself if I was ever going to move past what had happened, if I was ever going to move forward. That year, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, and went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy. With all of those odds against her, she survived. She is the strongest woman that I’ve ever known and will ever know. 

But still, the pressure and the helplessness that I felt and continue to feel can sometimes seem never-ending. I can never shake that fear, no matter how relieved I am to be out of the thick of it. So, I decided to commemorate the moment with something meaningful that is mine, and mine entirely. 

My favorite quote from the novel Jane Eyre says this: “I am no bird and no net ensnares me, I am a free human being with an independent will.” That quote seemed to describe what I was feeling, and really what I needed to be told, effortlessly. So, my bird is pink for breast cancer. I got it as a daily reminder of strength, resilience, and soaring above the ashes, just as my mother did. I too can soar.

Love + Sex Love Advice

When the honeymoon phase ended, reality hit my marriage hard

The significance of the wedding nuptials or the sheer grandeur of the functions is enough to distract a young couple from wondering about what life will be like once the honeymoon phase ends and all the guests have gone home. Once all the hoo-haa dies down, the young couple is left with each other and reality.

Reality hides in the shadows when we fall in love, it remains hidden when we begin planning and executing our dream wedding. It only rears its ugly head into the doorway a day or two or maybe even a week after we return from the honeymoon. Once the guests have left and the couple can truly start becoming themselves, reality sinks in into our lives to wreak havoc.

I have been married to a wonderful guy coming from an equally wonderful family for over three years.

I got a fairytale wedding and none of the typical predicaments of a desi girl’s married life were present. My in-laws turned out to be exemplary people, just as they were before the wedding. My husband didn’t leave me to rot in Pakistan but he whisked me away to my honeymoon and then to England as promised.

And I was not expected to single-handedly manage the concerns of a bustling house, nor was I to be a maid to the whims and demands of the family.

But after my perfect honeymoon with the perfect man, I came to terms with my not-so-perfect reality: I was utterly incapable of living by myself. You see, all my life I had done just one thing: study for and train to be an accountant. And honestly, that’s all I knew how to do.

I incessantly ignored my mother’s insistence on learning how to be a functional adult. I was very well-looked-after and never needed to iron my own clothes, cook my own food or even make myself a cup of coffee.

And so began the arguments. Doors may or may not have been slammed, dinners may or may not have been left uneaten and many nights have or may not have been sleepless.

Every couple fights, every couple has disagreements, but every couple needs to find a way around it. A marriage is not something you throw away because ‘it isn’t working out’. If it isn’t working out, you make it work out.

That was the mantra our parents had raised us with and accordingly, we set out to fix our ‘flawed reality’.

We had to identify the root cause of the problem, and in our case, it was me. You can rest assured I did not give in to agreeing that I was the problem without a fight. The problem was always my husband’s high expectations and the patriarchy. Most definitely the patriarchy. Of course! What else could be the problem other than a man deciding how a woman should behave and respond to life?

How unreasonable was it of my husband to expect me to carry my own weight. How could he expect me to help out with life and all its miseries?

But when the penny dropped it dawned on me that my husband was not being so unreasonable after all. I (very begrudgingly, might I add) came to terms with my own incapability. It was not pretty, as such realizations often are. But this painful comprehension had to penetrate my impervious mind.

Now came the real challenge. It wasn’t easy and I am nowhere near attaining the targets I have set for myself. My husband, to his credit, gave me ample time to catch up and adult. I (to my credit) began doing what most do when they turn 20: I started learning to be self-sufficient.

The issues we faced might not be the exact issues all newlyweds face.

Nonetheless, everyone has a reality to deal with once the honeymoon phase is over and the marriage begins. My advice to newlywed couples is to compromise. Talk to your spouse as opposed to at them and when it’s your turn, listen to what they are saying; don’t just hear the words. Marriage is hard work, but no one is going to do that work for you.

I am glad the honeymoon phase of my marriage ended when it did. The ensuing phase showed me my own strength and my husband’s compassion. I wear these as my battle armor when I face the world and its adversity. You can’t forever live on an all-paid-for hotel on a remote Maldivian island.

It’s nice, but after a while it gets boring.

Tech Career Advice Now + Beyond

6 stages of reality when cancer bites your 30-something butt

The Doctor: “I am 99% sure you have lymphoma [cancer of the lymph nodes]. We have to do a biopsy.”

The Shock

What are you talking about? I’m only 38 years old. I’m the healthiest person I know – I eat clean, exercise… It’s just a cough!

The Denial

I’m 99% sure you’re an idiot. I’m getting a second opinion.

The Fear

What if they’re right? How soon will I die? How much will the treatment hurt?

The Anger

Why me? I give my time generously to others; I give my money generously to charity… Why the fuck am I the first of my 30-something friends to get cancer?

The Sadness

My kids… My husband… My mom… my sister… abandoning them. And the chemotherapy… they’re all going to see me struggle with pain, fatigue, and hair loss. It’s going to be so hard on all of us.

The Acceptance

Well, all I can do is put my faith in science and God and see where we end up.

The Reality

OK, so I’m sick. But that’s only part of my life. I’m also a mom, a wife and a badass boss lady. I’ve got things to do and places to be! The chemo means good days and bad – I’d say about half and half. I squeeze as much as I can into my good days.

I am extremely lucky: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is highly treatable and my prognosis is excellent. It took me some time to be thankful enough for this, of course.

I don’t want to make light of it – the bad days are bad. The nausea is under control (great meds!) but the fatigue is debilitating. For a bubbly busy bee like myself to be confined to bed because I cannot even roll over is hard, frustrating as hell. All my bones and joints ache. Then there’s the constant headache. My bad days are not actually dispersed – they come in blocks. So if the “badness” starts on Sunday, it could continue without reprieve until Thursday. I don’t feel better after a two-hour nap: I sleep and wake up feeling like shit. Do you know how demoralizing it is to wake up exhausted? And how lonely it is, on every level?

There’s also some irony in disease – everyone around you suddenly has a fucking PhD in cancer. They know why you got it – “it’s your diet”, “it’s your stress”, “it’s the pollution”, etc. and they know how to cure it – diet, water fast, affirmations, hypnosis, etc. My coping mechanism with all this (often conflicting) noise is to say – please share the clinical trials and I will look into it.

Well-meaning people keep telling me how strong I am – for the record, I know how strong I am. I am damn strong. And the universe knows it too. No reason to keep testing me!

And then on Day 6 or so post-chemo, the clouds will suddenly part and I’ll get a burst of energy. Hallelujah! And I start buzzing around doing my thing before the cycle starts again two weeks later.

What do I do?

I’m a full-time lota things! I have two babies; I am the chapter president of Ellevate, the world’s premier businesswomen’s network; I am the creator and host of podcast When Women Win which highlights awesome female role models; I am an angel investor, author and speaker. In summary, I’m busy.

The Silver Lining

It is critical to note that everybody’s experience with cancer is unique. For me, getting sick has also been a gift. I hear the groans and I know where you’re coming from. But please hear me out!

Cancer has forced me to slow down and re-evaluate my pace of life. My 2018 hashtag is #doless. I am a positive, energetic person with a natural tendency to say yes – but I am reigning that in. Just because I have a lot of energy does not mean I have to give it all away. I have learned that time is one’s most precious commodity and I am now trying to control it unapologetically. 17 years in the corporate world taught me a lot – but not this. I have to get better at saying no.

We stumble through life thinking that death is bad and is the opposite of life. That is simply not true. Death is the natural and inevitable conclusion of life. The opposite of life is fear. I had never felt fear until I was diagnosed.

Let’s noodle that for a bit: I’ve only just realized that I’ve never before felt fear – what an awesome job my parents did! But cancer will scare you – fear of going through pain, fear of inflicting pain on others… When I let my mind go into fear it is debilitating and depressing. This is the opposite of life. I’ve decided to own my fear: I let myself indulge in morbidity for short periods of time (minutes, not hours). I then assume control and focus on gratitude –  one’s situation can always be worse. I believe that three factors have helped me manage my fear:

1) Logic: my prognosis is good. And living in fear is so upsetting it must be harmful to my recovery (end goal).

2) Faith: I have a great medical team and am doing all that can be done. My life is divinely guided and I am always going in the best direction.

3) Optimism: I like feeling good!

When you lose your hair, it’s not just the from your head or face – no bikini wax necessary! Smooth as silk for months! Cancer patients also get free valet parking at hospitals – don’t knock the small wins!

The big one is kindness. I’ve been blown away by how wonderful the people around me have been. Even acquaintances I haven’t seen for years… Friends have been incredibly supportive by doing, not just talking. Although it seems all the love stops at IKEA’s door – I STILL can’t get anyone to go there for me!

Seriously though, the kindness has been humbling. And, it makes me wonder what a beautiful world it would be if we treated everyone like they were sick. Unlike cancer, kindness is contagious.


I’m two-thirds of the way through my chemotherapy plan and have already learned a ton about life, about myself and about others. I have a new belief now: there is always something to feel thankful for.

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Gender & Identity Life

Becoming a yoga teacher was the best form of expressing love for my body and myself

I first laid my eyes on yoga when I tried it in graduate school. It was my way of dealing with stress and controlling the millions of thoughts in my head. For my first few years, I focused on gaining the strength to get into that basic chaturanga or gracefully hold a balance pose. In the beginning, I looked something like this:

comedy fail GIF
[Image Description: A gif of a girl trying to hold her foot straight in front of her and balance on one foot.] via Giphy

From that point, I practiced yoga off and on. It was not until after graduate school that I became serious about it. I was happy when I could stretch further and hold poses for much longer. As I moved at the same pace as the teacher, I was slowly finding my way into the intermediate level. I started to look something like this, and it was amazing!

yoga GIF
[Image Description: A woman coming into a low lunge asana in yoga with a cat climbing her back] via Giphy

I began to flirt with the idea of doing teacher training, but could not seem to find the time. After life happened, I stopped making excuses. I chose my teacher training program based on authenticity and a connection to the actual roots of yoga. Because I did not want a particular school of thought where people tried to contort their students into a position, I was careful in what I selected.

Hence, I chose a program in which I learned the basics beyond simply asanas (postures) and pranayamas (breathing techniques). I especially enjoyed learning about the physiology of different human bodies when they are in asanas. In plain English, this meant understanding that everyone’s body would never look the same in a posture. Bodies are built differently, and to force anyone to look like the skinny, bendy individual in popular media was ludicrous.

However, after I left the beautiful comfort of yoga teacher training space, the self-sabotaging questions began. Was I good enough to teach a faster flow of power or vinyasa if I was struggling to get into my own headstand or handstand? The teachers in a funky arm balance, with their colorfully printed yoga pants, perfect makeup, and obscenely expensive Lululemon tops were probably more credible than me. In addition, the internet images dominated by skinny women on top of big rocks in their string bikinis or midriffs made me wonder if I had any chance. I never tried to sport a string bikini, and probably would never feel comfortable doing so, anyway.

At that point, I realized it was time to let this negative self-talk go.

I had to practice and teach yoga with steadfast love for my own body. I had to accept that not everyone would resonate with me as a teacher or love me the same way. After all, not every teacher resonated with me and still does not (yes, yoga teachers really enjoy being students too). I was confident in what I knew and that I had something to offer others. I got into it because it was by principle the least competitive mode of physical fitness. It was only me against myself.

In this process, I developed an unwavering confidence in my own strong practice rather than let anyone or social media tell me I was not good enough. The world is a big place with different types of people, and I refused to embrace a practice that did not encourage the principles of the body positivity.  Do not get me wrong though, I adore colorful yoga pants and tops. I catch myself looking them up more than any other type of clothing nowadays. I have learned so much about the best poses for yoga photography, and even add some sarcasm taglines to my photos at times. Check me out Instagram and Facebook (self-promotion for the win)! But, seriously, enjoy yoga for what it is, a space for reflection, meditation, and self-love. Enjoy your own version of yoga.

Love The World

Survivors of sexual abuse blew up the Internet by sharing their stories with #MeToo

Following the Weinstein scandal earlier this week, a few daring women in Hollywood took to social media to confess their stories of sexual abuse. And soon after, the hashtag #metoo took the internet by storm, encouraging women from all walks of life to come forward with their stories.

The Me Too campaign has actually been around for a long time. Long before hashtags were a popular thing, in 2007, Tarana Burke started the Me Too campaign as a way to connect with survivors of sexual abuse from unprivileged communities.

The purpose of this incarnation of Me Too, #metoo, was to demonstrate just how prevalent sexual harassment and assault are. As social media became flooded with #metoo, it became clear that almost every woman, if not literally every woman, has experienced some sort of sexual abuse.

Telling the world about sexual abuse can feel humiliating and super vulnerable, so coming forward isn’t as easy as it looks. Hopefully the #metoo campaign will normalize discussion of sexual abuse, help people see that this is more common than we think, and help victims of abuse get the relief and support they need.

But this is just the beginning of the revolution that will put the perpetrator in their rightful place.

The Tempest gathered some of the most impactful #metoo tweets, and this is what we learned.

1. Choosing to tell your story is empowering, not shameful. Let’s get that straight.

2. The more we embrace that this happens all the time, the higher are the chances of reducing such encounters.

3. It doesn’t happen just to women. That’s a common misconception.

4. It’s starting important conversations.

5. Victims of sexual violence are getting the support they need.

6. It’s time we stop blaming the victim for “instigating” the perp.

7. It’s so easy to think that it’s all in your head.

8. Deciding not to share your story doesn’t make you weak. It’s your choice.

9. No means no. Not maybe, not later, not ever.

10. Some might choose to ignore the movement, but at least the suppressed have a platform now.

11. Give your loved ones the support they need.

12. What’s surprising is that this is overdue for several decades now.

13. Don’t brush it off just because you haven’t experienced it.

14. It’s time we accepted that this is more common than we think.

15. Knowing that the encounter was of sexual nature begins with the right education.

16. Sexual assault isn’t just rape culture. It’s an unwanted act that makes the victim feel vulnerable and exposed.

17. It happens in the workplace too.

18. For some, these experiences have made them stronger than ever.

19. Don’t let this experience define you. Take this and show them that you’re undeterred.

20. Don’t apologise for being the victim.

Gender & Identity Life

I’m not forcing you to wear the hijab, just because I wear it

One time, my non-Muslim friends asked me about hijab, wondering why I chose to wear it. We were having lunch together in the café near the college surrounded by other students from all backgrounds – local and international, which means mostly from South Asia and Middle Eastern countries. I was glad to answer their question and gave them my typical but truthful response – faith and personal choice.

I loved wearing it and it made me feel good, confident and empowered.

They accept the answer with no argument, as they understood that every religion has its own conditions and rules. One of them praised how beautiful I styled my chiffon hijab and I even taught them how to wear it. As the conversation went on for quite a while, I noticed a group of girls around my age, sitting at the table next to mine.

I knew them.

They were exchange students from the Middle East and we were in the same group project for the semester. They heard the conversation. I noticed some of them were staring at me and few other hijabi friends of mine as if we have said something negative about hijab.

I tried to brush off the feeling but I could not ignore the familiar, uncomfortable knot in my stomach.

The next day, they approached me.

They questioned me as to why I gave my friends such answer. They could not agree with me. In their opinion, I gave my friends the wrong answer.

Hijab was not a symbol of empowerment, it was oppressive.

[bctt tweet=”Hijab was not a symbol of empowerment, it was oppressive.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I was stunned.

They were not wearing hijab at that time, but they were born and raised with Islamic value in their life. Surely they knew that there was no compulsion in religion, so why would they say such thing?

But for them, there was no choice.

Hijab had been forced on them since they were young and I would never understand their circumstances. I had a choice, where they did not. Not all Muslim girls are free to decide on this matter, so telling the world that hijab represents freedom was absolutely unacceptable.

I have never been in their situation, but still, I understood as to why these girls felt oppressed. Their family, parents, society, even the law enforced hijab on them. To this day, they are given no say on what to wear. For a basic life necessity such as clothing, even to me, it is absurd for other people to decide it for us.

There is no wonder they think hijab is a symbol of oppression and this built a lifetime of resentment towards hijab in them.

[bctt tweet=”This built a lifetime of resentment towards hijab in them.” username=”wearethetempest”]

But that does not mean they have right to resent others for wearing it by choice.

I wear hijab using my free will.

Nobody ever forced me to wear it. One day I just woke up and decided to put it on, it was as simple as that.

Hijab represents my identity as a Muslim woman, which is the first reason I wear it. Some people view it as oppressive, but nothing is more liberating to me than hijab. Women have dresses, makeup and any fashion trends to express themselves. I do not disagree on that. Just like how they have their own way of expressing themselves, so do I.

And hijab is one of my way of doing it, just like it does to any other women as well.

To those who are forced, know this: there are some that do wear it voluntarily. Being proud of hijab does not mean we glorify the enforcement of hijab on you. We support the (un)veiled women, no matter what their choices are. We respect their decisions and it is not our place to judge them.

Hijab is not a symbol of oppression.

Oppression is preventing people from expressing themselves.

[bctt tweet=”Wearing hijab does not mean we glorify the enforcement of hijab.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Telling us to stop proclaiming it as our strength symbol is a form of oppression too, don’t you think?

Stop blaming us for honoring this piece of “oppressive” cloth.

Blame it on the ones who forced you, not us.

BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

14 inspiring quotes from Oprah Winfrey to keep you going

Oprah Winfrey: a woman who grew up in poverty and yet managed to become one of the most inspirational women in the world. She’s a self-made billionaire/philanthropist who gives life to the word “renaissance woman.” She donates much of her money to many charities, including her own.

Also, her show Super Soul Sunday is one of my favorites. It teaches me about so many amazing leaders and change-makers.

1. “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”


Research shows that doing a few gratitude exercises per day can lead to enormous benefits. My favorite one is the “3 Good Things Journal,” in which you simply write down three positive things that happened at the end of each day. I have seen people who barely have their basic necessities met and yet their gratitude is what keeps them content. I have also seen those who “have it all” and yet always find something to complain about.

2. “Even if you’re flipping fries at McDonald’s, if you’re excellent, everyone wants to be in your line.”


This is so true. It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, if you have that positive energy and attitude, people will naturally be drawn to you.

3. “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”


When I was younger, I would waste a lot of time hanging out with people who didn’t make me feel good about myself. I never realized that I had a choice in who I surrounded myself with. Now, I understand how damaging it can be when you spend time with negative people. Of course there are some situations in which it’s unavoidable, such as having a pessimistic coworker. But for the most part, we have more control than we think we do.

4. “You get in life what you have the courage to ask for.”


If I read this a few years ago, I probably would have rolled my eyes and continued on with my day. However, wisdom comes with age and now I realize how true this statement is. How can I expect to receive my dream job if I am too scared to even apply? Why should I expect to be treated with respect and kindness if I don’t have the courage to be assertive and set boundaries? It’s simple: if you don’t put yourself out there, then you can’t blame the world for not fulfilling your needs.

5. “True forgiveness is when you can say thank you for that experience.”


I’m still working on applying this one to my life!

6. “I don’t want anyone who doesn’t want me.”


Think about it. Why in the world would you want to be with someone who doesn’t want you? It makes no sense. And yet how many of us stay in unsatisfying or even abusive relationships, due to whatever reasons? I want to live my life by this philosophy and have enough self-love to step away from anyone who does not value me.

7. We often block our own blessings because we don’t feel inherently good enough or smart enough or worthy enough. You are worthy because you are born and because you are here.”


We can be the biggest obstacle towards our success. By having self doubts and negative beliefs about my capabilities, I blocked out good opportunities. For instance, during college, there were a few positions that I really wanted to apply for. But my fear of not being good enough prevented me from getting those positions. When we don’t even believe in ourselves, how can we expect someone else to invest in us?

8. “Every time you state what you want or believe, you’re the first to hear it. It’s a message to both you and others about what you think is possible. Don’t put a ceiling on yourself.”


Yes x 1000! One time when I was stuck in a rut, an aunt of mine gave me some tough love and told me that I was the only one who could get myself out of my gloom. In the moment, it hurt my feelings. But after sleeping on it, I realized that the truth isn’t always pretty.

9. “Turn your wounds into wisdom.”


How many times have we gone through difficulties in life, only to realize later on that those struggles are what made us stronger? Personally, I feel that all the times I felt hurt, alone, or sad are what motivated me to become a counselor.

10. “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future merely by changing his attitude.”


Why is it that two people can grow up in the same house, receive the same amount of toys, belongings, etc and yet turn out completely different? I think one of the reasons is their mindset and attitude. Powerful stuff.

11. “You can have it all… Just not all at once.”


Sometimes I find it really hard to be patient and wait for the things I want in life, such as a steady job or a loving partner. However, I have faith that everything will fall into place when the time is right.

12. “Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.”


It’s so annoying how society tells us to avoid failure or rejection at all costs. It’s so dumb because even the most successful people have “failed.” When I was a junior in college, I badly wanted to be a resident assistant. When I got the email saying I was not selected, I felt like such a failure. But because of that rejection, I was able to become roommates with Anarocio; a woman who is a huge positive impact on my life. So the moral of the story is that failure is an illusion and many times leads us to something better, we just don’t know it at the time.

13. “Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.”


This quote is only believable once you’re out of the storm. When you’re in the midst of it, you may want to punch anyone who tells you that the pain you’re dealing with is making you stronger. Or at least that’s the case with me.

14. “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”


When I was in middle school, I lived in Pakistan with my mother. During that time, I was extremely self-conscious of the fact that we lived in a small one bedroom apartment while the majority of my classmates lived in big houses. I was embarrassed of inviting anyone over because I would compare my friend’s houses to my own.

Even though I only made a couple of good friends, that was good enough for me because they didn’t judge me by my wealth or status.

Love Life Stories Wellness

My Desi family spent years calling me moti (Urdu for fat) until I snapped

Both my siblings have always been extremely underweight.

For as long as I can remember, relatives have made comments on the fact that while both my siblings were skinny, I was nothing like them. I was the ‘fat’ one. I have never been overweight – my weight was always perfect, according to the BMI chart.

But somehow I ended up with the nickname moti (Urdu for fat) at home.

I know the nickname was only meant as a loving joke, but at night, when no one was watching, I would stand in front of the mirror and I always hated what I saw.

At ten years old, I started exercising vigorously. I didn’t have dumbbells so I filled two 1 liter bottles with water and used them as weights. I started using my favorite purple and orange skipping rope for exercise instead of fun.

Every evening, I went for a jog with my dad. And every night, I would lock my room and do 150 skips on the skipping rope and 100 lifts with the bottles. I didn’t tell anyone about the exercise sessions at night because I was too ashamed to let them know that I thought I was fat too.

I kept this up for months but I saw no difference in the way I looked. I still saw a disgusting overweight girl staring back at me from the mirror.

To this day, I feel guilty when I am getting a second helping of dinner.

My feelings about how I look had been negative for as long as I can remember. I thought that if I lost weight maybe I would like myself. But that never happened.

I used to think that I was making no progress whatsoever, but when I was 11, my aunt visited us after a while and was shocked when she saw me looking ‘weak’. She was concerned enough to alert my maternal grandmother who called my mother to ask me if I was sick.

My parents brushed it off and laughed and so did I. Inside I was ecstatic. I was so happy that someone had viewed me as skinny. But that happiness didn’t last long because when I looked in the mirror I still felt ugly and fat.

This pattern of self-hate, crash diets, and crazy exercise routines continued till my A-levels. I would never tell anyone how I really felt about myself. On the outside, everyone viewed me as confident and self-assured, but on the inside, I was riddled with self-doubt.

I thought feeling this way about myself was normal.

Then one day, in my second year of A-levels, we were studying Body Dysmorphic Disorder in Psychology class. As my teacher described the symptoms and what people who had BDD went through daily, I couldn’t look up from my notebook. I was frozen and deeply embarrassed; like I had been caught out on a secret.

I was convinced that I suffered from it.

While I did not have BDD, reading about the disorder felt personal because I could somewhat relate to the self-hate and doubt, which consumes those who suffer from it.

When university started, I still felt the same.

When I walked through campus to class, I felt everyone was staring at me and thinking about how ugly I was. I would convince myself of this and drive myself half insane to the point where I could not look up and meet anyone’s eye. I would not raise my hand in class or participate in discussions because I did not want to draw attention to myself; fearing ridicule regarding my looks.

But then, I found a group of friends that quite literally changed my life. For the first time in my life, I knew I had unconditional love. I had two amazing women who would spare no chance to lift my spirits up.

Telling me what a beautiful, badass bitch I was.

I honestly don’t know how it happened, but I know it was because of their constant appreciation and helping me see how amazing I really was. They listened to my doubts and helped me look through them. They helped me identify my negative thinking patterns and replace them with healthier thoughts.

Unconditional love and appreciation are extremely important. Having loving people around you, who appreciate and encourage you for who you are, is something everyone needs.

 And you should never settle for anything other than people who love you, just the way you are.

Gender Inequality Interviews

Speaking out against sexual violence through poetry: An interview with Stephanie Lane Sutton

Stephanie Lane Sutton is a Midwestern poet, performer, and interactive media artist. Currently, she is a Michener Fellow in the University of Miami’s Creative Writing MFA Program. Previously, she lived in Chicago, where she was a teaching artist with After School Matters and a co-facilitator for Surviving the Mic, a workshop and reading series for survivors of trauma. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Day One,  Tinderbox Poetry, THRUSH Poetry Journal, Dream Pop Press, and littletell journal. She is a co-founding editor of |tap| lit mag. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and her personal blog. 


after Jan Beatty

this is for the hecklers/my stage time soiled with their catcall of approval/what did I expect being friends with male poets/this is what happens when you write good poems/for the man who asked my permission to stay silent/because it made him feel safer/because it wasn’t his rape in the poem he’d written/& for the man who took the poem about rapists personally/it’s ironic you feel victimized/it’s ironic you said it’s my fault/because there are men who show up/& call that organizing/& feel fine taking credit for work done by a woman/this poem is a gravesite/get yourself a shovel/here’s one for my former mentor/the one who fucks his students as soon as they’re 18/he said they’re old enough now/did you count down the minutes until midnight on their birthdays/& for the one who didn’t wait, with or without her permission/with or without sincerely trying to teach her anything in the first place/& for everyone who said I should be grateful for male approval/& the women who are grateful for male approval/as our tongues got minced or led to the slaughter/as we were shot by the man on the other side of the door we knocked on when we had nowhere else to turn for help/& our unconscious bodies were raped into a party trick/& laughter slammed us against the lockers every day/the only ones who showed up were the cameras/& all the histories we’d written got voted out of the cannon by a panel of men/yet our arms stay in the booth selling merchandise/yet our legs stay in case we’re asked to stand & be recognized/since whether or not you’re listening you won’t have to live it/this poem is your tombstone/get yourself a chisel.

The Tempest: When did you realize that poetry was your passion; was there a moment when you just knew that this was a part of you calling?

Um, no (laughs). I don’t think there was one moment when I knew I was going to be a poet, it kind of just happened for me and I think that a lot of people who are poets have this experience where they’re interested in other things and then they start writing poems maybe in a high school English class or in college or just because they see someone else doing it and want to give it a try. I started writing poetry in my diary when I was in middle school, really emo, angsty stuff, and I just kind of kept doing it and then I ended up going to college and doing it more. I think that poetry has always been really challenging for me. There are always ways to challenge yourself in a poem, there’s always a more succinct way of describing something, and that’s the thing that kept me writing. And now I just am a poet, yeah it just kind of happened over time. I just like to think I couldn’t have done anything else, maybe I was just meant to be a poet.

The Tempest: Can you please give us some background on your poem, Slammer?

Yeah, so Slammer is a hard poem for me to talk about, it’s not a happy poem but a lot of the poems I write are not happy. But when I was in my early twenties, I was sexually assaulted and I ended up turning to slam poetry to cope with that. I was living in Chicago and slam poetry started out there and it was just such a huge, vibrant community so I found my way to the slam in the youth community and I kind of grew up in it. Then, as I got older I became one of the adults on the scene, I started teaching younger poets and talking to other women on the scene and I started to learn how rampant sexual assault is in the poetry slam community and not only that I just started to have my own experiences with misogyny with things that made me feel traumatized in a way that reminded me of my own assault. So I ended up writing this poem, as I was inspired by Shooter by Jan Beatty. What I love about that poem is that she takes the violence that she’s experienced at the hands of men and makes it into a metaphor. I wanted to write in a way like that so I wrote about all the things I had experienced in the slam community and that other people had told me they experienced that had made them feel so powerless. I wanted to sort of call that out and metaphorically dig it a grave and bury it. So that’s where the poem came from. It was a poem that I had to write; I don’t think that I could have kept being a poet if I didn’t put that experience into words. 

The Tempest: What has been the most challenging part of being a poet?

A part of me feels like everything is hard about poetry. and at the same time, everything about poetry brings me so much joy. There’s no money in poetry really. You can find a way to teach poetry or you might get paid for a reading, maybe there are other ways to make money that I just don’t know about. You really have to be in it because you love it. For me personally, the most challenging thing has been finding my authentic voice, because when you do poetry slam competitions, there’s a lot of pressure to write poems in a certain way which will get you to win. I’m in a creative writing program MFA right now and in academia, there’s a different kind of pressure that I’m seeing now. Because sometimes my professors want me to change a poem completely and write it in a different way and I think that’s just something you might experience in whatever context your writing is that people want you to be more like them or what they think you should be and you have to learn to take feedback but then to also learn how to push back against that.

I feel it’s especially hard if you’re a woman or you’re queer or person of color because there are always these boxes that you’re being put into anyway. I feel like I am constantly pushing back in all these different ways but in the end, the purpose of that is to find who I am in a way, how I express myself and how I think. It’s difficult but it’s very rewarding and I guess that’s the challenge that drives me forward. There’s no formula for writing a poem, there are no rules. I think that’s part of the thing that makes poetry so valuable. It’s what makes writing poems hard but also what makes poetry matter so much.

The Tempest: Can you give some words of advice to anyone who is thinking about trying poetry, and yet has some fears holding them back?

I don’t think being afraid is a bad thing; I feel afraid all the time that at the same time if you are afraid of something you can also confront it, and that feels very brave. Feeling brave is the best feeling and that’s kind of what you have to strive for. I think if you’re afraid to write poetry, start there. Write a poem on why you’re afraid, or write 10 poems on why you’re afraid! I really believe that writing is transformative and if you put it down in words and confront it, you will feel brave and will transform. You’re going to find inner strength and that’s a magical thing that poems can do. Embrace the fear and move forward.

The Tempest: What do you hope readers take away after reading your work?

I think the most important thing for me right now is for other people who are sexual assault survivors or been through abuse to know they are not alone. I think Slammer might have been the first poem I wrote that was so direct about rape-culture, and right now that’s a lot of what I write and just stories about our culture and things that have happened throughout history and I just want people to not feel alone. And I think that if you’re not a sexual assault survivor or someone living with trauma, and you read my poetry, I want to offer a different perspective on what a poem can be and what a poem can do, whether that’s in form or content. I want anyone who reads my poem to feel that poetry isn’t dead and that it still matters and can make a difference! And if I ever write something which inspires others to write poetry like that that would be my marker for success.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Gender & Identity Life

My Desi family shamed me for my “dinosaur” body. It ruined my life.

We boast of family values and a close-knit community, but these are also the components that can make a Desi community a toxic one. Yet we look the other way, refusing to acknowledge the problems that face our own people.

Throughout my high school years, I struggled with eating disorders and low self-esteem, especially when it came to my looks.

These problems didn’t just suddenly appear out of the blue.

They grew on me, as my community’s perceived image of beauty and societal pressure about how I should look a certain way increased. They all molded into a big ugly mush, forcing me into habits that I later came to realize were actually anorexic and bulimic. Forcing myself to puke after having meals, tasting food only to spit it out after a few minutes, binge-eating every time there was a sudden hit, and crash of emotions when I couldn’t control my hunger.

These were all extremely unhealthy habits that had become second-nature to me.

All because I was forced to believe that, unless I was stick-skinny, I could not look good.

I have a broad body structure. I wasn’t born with a petite frame or blessed with a fast metabolism, but almost everyone in my family was. Almost every girl in my family is extremely skinny and of medium height, whereas I’m the complete opposite. 

I’m 5 feet 7 inches, which is considered insane for a girl, in my family, and I’m the family “dinosaur.”

I don’t exaggerate.

That was what most family members called me until I was 17.

I’m not sure if they ever realized how hurtful their own words were. To me, they are reminiscent of a dark time for me. I tried so hard to lose a lot of weight in an incredibly unhealthy way. I didn’t talk about it to my family because they just didn’t understand.

I’d often get the “Why don’t you eat less or reduce your portions” comments, or be called “paitu,” which translates to fatty in English. For a time I tried to follow that advice, and I tried to cut down on every portion I had. I went from feeling full to never quite feeling satisfied with my meals, but I wasn’t seeing it on the scale or the mirror.

In my eyes, I was the odd one out, and it had to be my fault: after all, I was the one in control of what food I ate. When the meal-size reductions didn’t work, I switched to starving myself.

I wouldn’t have meals, but I couldn’t let my family know what I was doing to myself because I knew they wouldn’t agree with it.

To a 14-year old, giving snarky comments or passing snide remarks and caring didn’t go together. And that was where I’d pretend to eat in a hurry, and then go to the bathroom and force myself to puke. Two fingers down my throat and feeling sick to the gut had become second nature.

And as I got older, it got better. Or I thought it did.

I was finally losing weight, and every time someone said, “you look great, you’ve lost weight!” it fueled my motivation. Motivation to continue on this path, because, so what if I’d lost 12 kgs in 24 months, as long as I was close to being skinny. That’s what everyone wants, right, to look great?

 It’s what my 17-year-old self thought.

When I’d turned 17, I was nowhere near a size zero, but I had shed a considerable amount of weight, and I still had eating disorders. Looking back, I should have known better, but I didn’t.

I wanted to look perfect for college. I guess everything happens for a reason, though, because I ended up going to college in Texas.

Texas, the Lone Star state, with humongous food portions and extra-extra-large Cokes. From living in a place where people seemed to live off the air, I’d suddenly transitioned into a place where asking for a small or regular size made the employees at fast food restaurants do a double-take and ask you to repeat the request, just to make sure they’d heard you right.

Cultural differences aside, what I loved about Texas was that it was the first place where I felt accepted, and I didn’t feel like the odd one out. I was finally in a place where I actually considered beautiful, a word that had previously felt foreign to me. I joined a support group in college, and eventually got over my eating disorders. 

It wasn’t easy, and it took a lot of time before I could accept my body and who I was.

It’s crazy how much of a role your perception of your own body can have in shaping your confidence and self-esteem. I realized this after my self-esteem starting building up again. I was done trying to force myself into fitting into a certain perception of beauty.

I was more than just a number on a scale or the size of clothes I fit into. 

I didn’t need a thigh gap to look good. 

I began to accept the body I had and ended unhealthy habits I’d forced myself into. Curves were not my enemies, and I slowly grew a thick skin about how I looked – to the point where it didn’t matter what anyone else around me looked like. If I thought I looked good, then that was that, and I didn’t need to fit into someone’s mold of beauty for me to feel beautiful.

Body shaming is so inherently submerged in Desi culture at times, that it is disgusting.

 I probably would never have been able to get over it, had I not been thrown into an environment that was the complete opposite of what I’d grown up with. My eating disorders would have persisted, and I shudder when I think about the unhealthy path I used to walk.

 It makes me sad, but I’m proud because I got through that difficult phase in my life.

I was able to deal with my eating disorders.

The truth is, countless girls still go through this. Every time I’m home, I make a point to be loud about this matter.

Power to everyone who’s suffered from eating disorders and have had to or continue to live through the pain.

I hope you all find the strength in you to work through them and come out stronger than your insecurities.

And for anyone that’s still body shaming: the time to stop is now. 

Be supportive of people around you, and, for fuck’s sake, stop body shaming.