I have to admit something. I’ve never pulled all-nighters for work. Even in university, and now as I start to pick up different jobs, I’ve never stayed up all night to finish assignments. Sure, I’ve pulled them for flights or nights out, but other than that, I always manage to squeeze in some shut-eye time. I have to, otherwise, I can’t operate.
I know this from experience. Once, I had a class in Florence, Italy, and my roommates and I spent the whole day touring the city, reserving the nighttime to work on our essays. I couldn’t have spent more than three hours past midnight typing away for an assignment before I felt desperately ill.
I needed to lie down! I was a cranky mess for two days afterward, and my friends can attest to that. I knew missing out on sleep has a very clear effect on me. But still, I pushed myself for school. I wanted to complete my assignments and attempting an all-nighter seemed like an obvious way to stay on top of things.
While all-nighters do not sit well with me, perhaps you are reading this thinking they work for you. Maybe you have always resorted to this method and it has become fool-proof. Well, unfortunately, I have some bad news for you. Skipping out on sleep is not something that can be dismissed because it is not a sustainable lifestyle at all. While it may seem like an appealing way to get more time in your day, it can have devastating consequences.
I hear you saying, “But can’t it be slept off?” I used to think the same way.
Can you make up for lost sleep by sleeping in? Nope!
Taking an introductory course in psychology opened my eyes to the dangers of bad sleep hygiene. If you were to hold out two scans of a brain—one from a person who lacked sleep and another who has recently suffered a concussion—they would look eerily similar. Skipping out on sleep can cause irreversible damage to your brain. The brain holds these scars, even if we “make up” for the lost sleep. Imagine that damage over time if we continually (try to) pull those all-nighters.
This may come as a shock as the idea of all-nighters has been glamorized by movies and other media as an essential part of college. I always understood skipping out on sleep as a sign of putting in the effort, burning the midnight oil to wrap up a project.
I used to feel bad about not being able to stay up all night at the library, comparing myself to other students that were holding up just fine. I felt that it was expected of me to sacrifice my sleep for my studies and my career. Yet, does our productivity have to come at the cost of our wellbeing?
Our toxic ideas of productivity are impairing our health. I came to a point where I really needed to rethink the way that I was approaching sleep and all-nighters.
While it can be easy and often tempting to get sucked into the grind of getting little or no sleep to clear up my task list, from now on I’ll be thinking twice about the physical and mental toll on my health. I hope you do, as well.
I always dreaded when it got dark and the day would end. Instead of seeking comfort in sleep, I saw it as a chunk of time I would never get back. I never remembered my dreams, anyway. So, in the past few years, I developed a habit of stalling when it came to dozing off.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved being in bed under my cozy duvet. But I wanted to stay alert, so I kept the curtains open so I wouldn’t be tempted to sleep. I needed to process the events of the day and replay the conversations I had, often spiraling into regret. Did I say the right thing? What did they mean when they said…?
The way I saw it, the day is a scattered pile of emotions and memories. At night, I can start sorting through them. Otherwise, I wake up the next day with a mess in my head. The time before I fell asleep was precious. To preserve it, I slept the bare minimum amount of hours I needed to get by. It was worth it, for the clarity and sense of control I felt over myself. But I couldn’t keep it up for long.
That’s when I had the most vivid dream of my life. I was in my childhood home, laying on my back in the hallway. People walked over me, chattering away and I could not get up. I shouted and shouted but no one noticed. Then I saw myself, an older me, trying to pass. I clutched onto her and she got stuck as well.
I woke up feeling breathless. Grabbing one of my course journals, I scribbled what I could remember onto the page. Deep down, I knew my brain was trying to tell me something. I had a class to go to, so I left it there. But when I came back in the evening and read through it, I could see the parallels with my real life. I was holding myself back, skipping out on sleep, hanging onto each day, and clinging onto every single detail. That dream was a reality check, that I was harboring so much regret and that I needed to let my past slip-ups go.
Maybe there was something worthwhile in dreaming, after all. The key is to recall those dreams, as 95% of them are typically forgotten a few minutes after we wake up. The reason this happens is that the hormone associated with memory is switched off. That night, I went to sleep almost as soon as I slid into bed.
From then on, when I remembered something from my dreams in the morning—even the slightest detail like crawling in a desert—I would write them down into a spare journal. The act of writing my dreams down in a dream journal encoded them as a memory in my head. Keeping this up as a practice trained my brain to store my dreams, at least until the morning came.
Another trick I learned was through mental affirmations. Telling myself that I was going to remember my dreams and that they were important to me, made me more cognizant of them. I began to remember dreams in more detail and could start picking out patterns in my subconscious mind.
Writing frequently in the morning, even in nonsensical bursts, became a way to start the day with a load off my chest. I felt lighter than ever. This should come as no surprise, as studies have shown that journaling has a positive impact on our personal wellbeing.
If you’re looking to start keeping a dream journal, remember that it doesn’t have to be complicated. There are great dream journal apps like Capture that help you keep track of your dreams with ease, and can even remind you at the beginning of your day. Write down what you remember before you do anything else so that it doesn’t slip out of your mind. If it is a complicated or even dark dream, I also add in what happened in the past few days that might have prompted those emotions. There are also countless templates online that can be followed, which I use every now and then to switch things up.
At the end of the day, what I needed was time to process, as well as to feel like I was in control of my thoughts. I now enjoy the routine of waking up and writing down the bizarre images my brain cooked up the night before. Keeping a dream journal helped me look forward to shutting down for the night, which had amazing effects on my previously sleep-deprived self. Just as I have trained myself to remember my dreams, I can choose to forget the trivial things that used to keep me up at night.
I know, I dread to say it. Pessimists get a bad rep, sometimes rightfully so.
Going biking around the city, and I’ll remember the grating sound my bike made. Listening to feedback on my writing, I’ll be drawn to the things people said I could improve, agonizing over those. As a result, I need constant validation from others, although it barely ever sticks. My head has long been a magnet for negativity and it’s been draining me and even those around me.
But I don’t believe that ‘once a pessimist, always a pessimist.’ I’ve found ways to turn my mindset around.
What it takes is consciously detangling myself from pessimistic thought patterns. I was once enrolled in a Science of Happiness course (ironic, I know) where I learned about mindfulness tools. One of those was called the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) exercise and it aimed to rewire your brain to think in a more positive way.
Naturally, I was doubtful. But it makes sense. My thoughts, feelings, and behavior are so closely connected that if they were on a Venn diagram, they would be overlapping each other. Recently, my thoughts are more introspective than ever. So, on my journey to become a more mindful pessimist, I’ve been keeping tabs on my thinking—especially negative thoughts.
Here are some pessimistic thought patterns that I have become more aware of throughout my journey:
A major one that precedes all others. I predict negative outcomes, imagining the worst possible scenario to happen. This is often the case when I try something out of my depth, such as when I flew to another country for a project without knowing anyone that would be on my team. I assumed that I wouldn’t get along with anyone and was already counting down the days to come back home. I thought they’d see me as a fraud and not want to work with me, although we were all enrolled in the same class. At the last moment, this thinking almost made me drop out of it.
I’m so grateful I didn’t because I ultimately met some of my closest friends there and produced good work.
Sometimes I look at situations as if there are only two possible outcomes. Either my team likes my idea or they hate it. I often forget that everything can be placed on a scale, they may like it but think that a certain part isn’t working. They may dislike it but see potential, suggesting a way to elevate the tension in the story.
Making sweeping negative conclusions about a situation can be the easiest way for me to make sense of what is happening. For example, if I have an awkward conversation with someone, where I unintentionally said something insensitive, I may walk away and say to myself: “They certainly don’t want to talk to me again.” It is far easier to just claim that and be “done” with it rather than acknowledge my fault and find a chance to apologize. In these moments, I need to remember that I can’t read anyone’s mind and the only way to know for sure is to have a conversation with them.
Using ‘should’ or ‘must’ statements
I have fixed ideas of my future and the way I conduct myself, even to the extent that I expect how others should react to me. Thinking that I should be close to people working in my field and they must want the same things that I do sets up unrealistic standards for both parties.
When these expectations aren’t met, I feel a deep sense of failure. Whenever a ‘should’ or a ‘must’ make their way into my thoughts, I need to take a step back. I can’t predict everything, who am I to know what ‘should’ or ‘must’ happen?
Admittedly, I am a very emotionally driven person. I tend to value the way that I feel about something—a job or person I’ve met—rather than rationalizing the reality of working in that environment or being involved with that person and their lifestyle. I often make the mistake of thinking that something must be true because I feel that it is. I feel annoyed with someone; therefore, they must have done something wrong. Or I feel lonely; therefore, there is no one around that cares enough to reach out to me. These are both dangerous thought patterns because once I’m in them, I begin to ignore any evidence to the contrary.
Consciously recognizing these thinking errors and reframing them in a positive light is changing my outlook on the future. I started off the year rejecting every opportunity that came my way out of fear that they would overwhelm me, such as grad school and internships. Now, I feel more hopeful and am willing to try out what comes my way. I am enrolled to start a graduate program this coming fall.
Even if it doesn’t work out as planned, I can stay on track and remain positive by steering clear of the major thinking errors. I can’t help being a pessimist, but I can be a mindful one. Some of us are more susceptible to negative thinking like I am, but there are ways to navigate it without spiraling into hopelessness.
It’s been over a year since Hollywood released on Netflix, and I still remember beginning the show with a sense of uneasiness. I always feel this way when I am watching period pieces because they’ve always seemed one-toned and whitewashed. For a while now, I’ve been very wary about the way that history is being represented in pop culture.
Coming from the Gulf, I am sensitive to these things because I have seen how history can be warped by others. Not much has been documented (and made public) by locals about our history, so the world sees the British documentaries with their commentary. Those kinds of images stick with you until you cannot imagine another alternative, to men in the desert swatting away flies with no woman in sight.
That’s why I feel so strongly about the way that history is presented on screen. Netflix’s Hollywood is set in the 1940s, post-World War II. Period pieces suffer from a common problem. They are so white. Even the most popular period pieces, like Little Women, Atonement, The Notebook, and of course The Great Gatsby, have an almost entirely white cast. What’s that about?
A popular period drama director, Julian Fellowes, defended the lack of diversity with the claim that “you can’t make something untruthful.” It’s not difficult to see how dangerous this way of thinking is. If the media make it out that people of color were only recently ‘introduced’ to the main stage of society, then they’re deliberately negating all their contributions. Not just that, but for decades, period dramas have been butchering history to make it fit their ideas of romance.
Fortunately, there have been movements to ‘unwhitewash’ period pieces and tell more layered stories. That’s where Ryan Murphy’s Netflix mini-series Hollywood comes in, with its re-invention of a true story of stardom and success.
The show begins with a relatively simple premise: a WWII veteran, Jack (David Corenswet), is trying his hand at making it onto the big screen. But he soon realizes it takes more than passion when he struggles to even be cast as an extra despite his angelic looks. Accepting a job as a gas attendant, he learns to resort to other means to make it past the iron gates of the Hollywood studios. Pimped out by his manager, he ‘services’ female customers to make ends meet and wait for his big break. Lucky for him, the gas station is full of young, attractive guys dreaming of becoming stars.
Cue the montage of women rolling up to the gas stations and asked to be “taken to dreamland” and Jack hopping in to sleep with them. Preppy music plays in the background and I am left a little disoriented. A hollow feeling in my stomach, I can’t put a finger on why I feel this way. There is, I suppose, a kind of delight in the way that the women are expressing their sexual appetite but it is completely overshadowed by the darkness of these men’s dreams being exploited.
Still, Hollywood plays it off lightly. I understand its intent, that there is sometimes no way to break into the industry. The show makes a big point of having the actors literally sell themselves in order to pay the ‘price’ of their dream, which I hold no judgment about. Yet, this part of the plot is left behind really quickly and becomes of little significance in the following episodes.
In that same gas station, a new hire, Archie (Jeremy Pope), is an aspiring screenplay writer with a script that has been picked up by producers. Now every actor and actress in L.A. wants a piece, but there’s a catch. Archie can’t take ownership of his work, let alone be involved in its production because he’s Black.
What’s more, the producers have written his film off as a dud either way. Mainly because the new film director (Darren Criss) wants to cast Camille (Laura Harrier), a Black actress, in the lead role which Archie had written in reference to a blonde actress, Peg.
There is an inherent commentary that is woven into this decision, which I thought was really important. Are actresses interchangeable, regardless of their background? Does the role have to be retrofitted to Camille? Archie, the script’s author seems to think so, and is a little dubious about Camille’s ability to relate to the role. But in the end, the director gave us his answer to that question as he merely changed the name of the character and kept the rest the same.
As the film starts to get made, to our surprise, there are still many obstacles ahead. A feeling of dread starts to envelop me, as the audience, because I fear that everything these actors, the writer, and the director have worked for will not be able to succeed in the face of the fierce discrimination they meet at every corner. Hollywood navigates these sensitively, not shying away from exposing the deep-seated homophobia that doubles against some of the characters.
And my predictions ring true, to some extent. White supremacist groups target the cast of their film, Meg, and even after they get a chance to wrap up filming, their film reel is burned to a crisp. Yet, somehow, by the finale, they are all granted a second chance when a copy of the film is found and it is released to wide public acclaim. Multiple cast members, including Jack, Camille, and Archie receive Oscar nominations.
While I was delighted by how it all turned out, as I was starting to really root for the characters, all of this seemed too fast. I could feel that the show was trying to wrap itself up. I could let it slide until the abusive, predatory agent, Henry, gets a sort of redeeming moment where he apologizes before dying. To me, the ending, after such a strong start and promising climax, was disappointing.
I understand what Hollywood and its Netflix producers were going for, a subversion of history. I am all for that. It’s an exploration of what could havebeen if it were not for the systematic, oppressive measures that barred the fictional movie, Meg,from ever hitting the big screen, at least for a while.
Yet, what saves Hollywood for me, is that they managed to keep it mostly authentic to the reality of the times. Itis still far from a fantasy. Underneath its pleasing 40’s aesthetic, handsome leads, and golden dream of success, there is so much to lose for each character. It is not ideal, the producers manage to keep the story grounded in reality as the characters still face troubles to reach their dreams and often have to compromise.
How I see it is that Hollywood in the ’40s, and even now sometimes, has the door closed in the faces of non-white actors trying to play roles in movies that are not about race. But here, the door is cracked the tiniest bit open to imagine what the industry could be. The show has aged well and continues to remain a worthwhile one to catch up on while we relax after the socially distanced or online Pride parades.
Hollywood has a strong cast, large ambitions, and succeeded at changing the way we see the industry and the stories that industry creates. It’s an eye-opener to the opportunities created, the traps of the system, and the nuances in between – a unique take on a giant that’s normally difficult to access. And, most importantly, it’s a very promising start towards more diverse period dramas that we need this Pride Month.
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I first encountered Gertrude Stein through her avant-garde poetry in Tender Buttons, an evocative series of short poems that forced writing to its breaking point with sentences like: “Dirty is yellow. A sign of more is not mentioned.” I met her blindly, only through her words, yet I already fell for her eccentricity. I knew there was something wonderful behind the mind that put down on paper the bold tongue-in-cheek yet unbelievably serious statement, “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”. I just had to explore her art further. So I began scouring old journals and artist profiles to learn more about her.
Little did I know that the radical art Stein created could almost be rivaled by the art that she nurtured in the artists around her. I found multiple sources that called her the ‘mother’ of modernism, but after getting to know more about her, I am sure that she would scoff at such a title. After all, she left the United States in 1903 to flee the pressures of gender norms. She was also bored with medical school and seeking an outlet to express her eccentric point of view, she settled down in Paris, where she intended to pursue a life free from heteronormativity. She opened a salon in her home for the world’s creative mind, including some of the world-renowned names such as Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. She was the voice of this ‘Lost Generation, the group of American expatriates flocking to Paris– and even coined the term.
The way I see it, she brought together these esteemed artists and in many ways, elevated them through her no-nonsense critique of their work. I had always internalized that a woman inspiring other artists (typically male artists) was a muse. That term is loaded, as there were often sexualized or romanticized elements typically tied to a muse. Instead, what I admired about Stein was that she was a mentor to the ‘greats’. I see her as a woman that had an undeniable presence in her time, respected by those around her.
Nothing about her was conventional and she embraced her own strangeness, something that drew me to her further. Stein deserves the title of a trailblazer of the modernist period and of queer identity at the time. Stein’s essay Miss Furr and Miss Skeene were among the first story to be published about homosexual revelation, containing the first noted use of the word “gay” in published works to refer to same-sex relationships. She also hosted one of the first avant-garde exhibitions in the United States, funding it with the money she collected from her art dealerships. I have no doubt that every piece of art in the period has her fingerprint.
And she didn’t hesitate to acknowledge her accomplishments either. Stein didn’t believe that women must be modest, proudly proclaiming “I have been the creative literary mind of the century.” She never sold herself short, a habit I found myself doing as I presented my own poetry or other writing. I was still working with my own feelings of inferiority, belittling my stories as ‘just’ relevant to female-identifying communities. While she wrote about women and her partner, she didn’t restrict herself to writing women’s stories. I found it so refreshing to see her unabashed pride, as it reminded me to take hold of my own achievements and to be confident. No matter how unconventionally and ‘weirdly’ I experimented with my creativity, I learned that I could (and should) still demand to be taken seriously.
Regardless of all this, I don’t think she should be idolized. I often like to give powerful women in difficult situations the benefit of the doubt, as do most of the historians and writers that grapple with creating a retrospective of Stein’s life. I witnessed a trend in the way that they wrote about her, that she was ensuring her safety as a Jew in Nazi-occupied France by making these questionable alliances with Nazi figures. As much as I respect her as a feminist and as the backbone of the Lost Generation of artists, I cannot excuse her political affiliations and ironic, confusing pro-Nazi expressions.
At the end of it all, Stein didn’t strive to be accepted or allow herself to be molded by the society around her. She carved her own place into history and I believe it is important to commemorate it, lest she is lost in the shadows of her male counterparts. As a woman in the art world, looking at Stein as an example liberates me and allows me to embrace subversive expressions of creativity.
I used to spend my teenage years looking down on mainstream media, content, and artists. However, when the iconic opening beats of Charli XCX’s Vroom Vroom blasted through a store at the mall, it was mostly for show that I rolled my eyes and grumbled to my friends, “This again?”
Admittedly, I couldn’t deny to myself Charli’s EP was catchy. But whenever I would catch myself mumbling the lyrics to one of her songs, I would switch the music back to something indy and familiar like the Arctic Monkey’s song “R U Mine?”
“Hey, let’s listen to real music,” I used to say.
I began to wonder why I resisted mainstream music so much. Was it because every song that played on the radio was so saccharine and bubbly? Was it because most pop songs seemed to be selling one thing: a normative view of femininity, relationships, and sex? Especially binary characteristics of femininity I felt I would never live up to.
I didn’t have the words to express how I felt about the subject, so I would just groan and badger my family to turn off the radio whenever pop songs would come on. I was convinced I would only enjoy myself when the Script, Coldplay, or any other artist I decided was popular but still not pop came on. In my teenage mind, their music explored more than clichéd romances or affixations on femininity.
However, deep down, I was training myself not to enjoy Billboard’s Top Hits. I actively tried to brand myself as indie, alternative, and unlike the rest.
Consequently, this attitude made it harder to engage with the people around me. When they talked about their shared interests like the new season of American Horror Story or played Taylor Swift’s new single, I would quickly shut them down. “Let’s listen to real music,” I would say, not meaning to but still coming off as demeaning.
Deep down, I was training myself not to enjoy Billboard’s Top Hits.
As a result, I was quickly becoming someone who was difficult to be around. And understandably so as it gets really old to be with someone who doesn’t try to be invested in the interests of those close to them. Once I noticed this about myself, I realized I needed to confront what animosity I really held towards popular music and culture before I became unbearable to be friends with.
So, eventually, I had to ask myself: what was this facade that I was trying to keep up? What about pop musicreally bothered me so much?
At the core of it, I found I was terrified of being like “other girls.” Now, the irony in this frame of thinking is so many young girls when I was growing up were trying not to be like the rest. And steering clear of pop culture was my way of going against what it seemed was expected of me as a teenage girl.
More than that, I was afraid that if I bought into pop music, I would lose certain aspects of my personhood that made me special. My self-proclaimed “edge” over everyone else would be no more. So I pretended pop music was all beneath me and even pretended not to like any of it. However, not allowing myself to enjoy things other people enjoyed left me feeling majorly excluded.
Allowing myself to get into popular culture, has broken me out of my shell
To be clear, it’s completely fine not to be interested in popular music, shows, or movies. Just because they are popular and mainstream doesn’t mean they’re relevant nor enjoyable to everyone. Yet, to demean the value of mainstream art just because it’s popularly consumed is wrong. Plus, I knew I secretly enjoyed it all.
Last summer, I burned through the existing seasons of AHS with a couple of friends who had already seen it. They were excited to relive the feeling of being in high school and I was just joining them along for the ride. Though, episode after episode, I couldn’t believe I was denying myself such good storytelling simply to maintain some imagined act of rebellion.
So the next time I went out with my friends, I unabashedly picked a Britney Spears song to sing at Karaoke and hollered her lyrics to the amusement of my roommates. “Toxic” is now infamously known as “Amal’s go-to song” amongst those closest to me. It felt so good to just let loose and enjoy good music without having my guard up. So what if I wanted to enjoy something tens of millions of people enjoy as well?
Allowing myself to get into popular culture, from pop music to the TV shows that everyone’s buzzing about, has really broken me out of my shell. Now, I feel less alone. The culture I had always thought was excluding me actually made me feel more included than ever. Of course, there are still pop songs that would never make it into my playlist (I won’t be shady and name them). And shows I’ll still pretend I’m watching ironically, like Gossip Girl. But I will never again be a pop culture hater.
Plus, my music taste is still pretty indie, but I am not ashamed to throw some Nicki Minaj into the mix every once in a while.
Through embracing pop music and popular culture in general, I became more in touch with those around me. I found there is actually power in sharing interests with such a global community. And at the end of the day, it’s popular culture for a reason— all of it is just so damn catchy!
If there’s one thing that my mother always taught me, it’s to have your own personal account and money stashed away. When I was younger and she told me about her own card, a different color than the family one that I’ve seen her use before, I was shocked. It disturbed me. It was as if she was keeping secrets from my father and I felt ashamed on her behalf. I was raised with the idea that, in marriage, you give yourself completely to your partner. So why would she need her own money? Was she planning on leaving? I could not wrap my head around it so I kept quiet.
But for my mother, financial independence meant so much to her. Although she was no longer making her own money, she could feel a sense of independence through buying what she liked every now and then. It was liberating to not have to report to anyone.
In the culture that I grew up in, it is only recently that women have been able to freely open their own financial accounts. Even without legal barriers, it was frowned upon by tradition for a long time. A married woman having a personal account, that her husband could not access, was a massive red flag. It’s called ‘runaway’ money.
This phrase, ‘runaway’ money, is used around the world when referring to bank accounts that women hold that are unconnected to their family or partner—secret or not. I always hated the way that it sounded, like it was a dark thing, almost like conning your partner. Even the idea that you would need a stash of money to one day make a quick exit implies a lack of trust in a relationship. In those terms, owning a personal bank account is an ultimate betrayal.
As I grew, however, my mother and I started a personal account on my behalf. I was about to begin my first year at college in another city, much to the disagreement of my father. Having my own account meant a lot to me as I didn’t feel bound to anyone else’s plans but my own. I could add the money that I earned into the account and pursue my own life plan. While I didn’t have a lot on my own, I wasn’t limited by anyone else’s approval. I slowly came to realize my mother’s perspective from all those years.
“Money is psychological,” said Andrea Kennedy, the author of the book Own Your Financial Freedom. It’s true. It is a testament to my mother’s independence and my own, even when we are still constrained by the lives of other people and how my father, extended family, and society expected us to be living. Having a personal account shouldn’t be shameful or a sign of distrust in a relationship. Instead, it is a validation of your sense of freedom.
Furthermore, I eventually realized that there is an immense difference between choosing to stay in a relationship and having to. Some women genuinely believe that it is impossible to be happy in a relationship if you are dependent on your partner. ‘Runaway’ money isn’t about having one foot already out the door; it’s about having a choice in your relationships. Every argument becomes a kind of ultimatum; either you let it slide or you cease to be able to support yourself. Today, I can understand how that kind of pressure can strain any relationship.
Plus, whether it is said aloud or not, financial dependence creates a power hierarchy in relationships that can potentially become dangerous. Although women will always face their own financial hurdles, such as gender wage gaps and even lower credit scores, at least having a personal account can potentially set us on equal footing in our relationships.
For so long now women have been reluctant to hold their own money. They’ve been conditioned to think that it is selfish, especially if they are part of a traditional family. The labels that women have over their heads (‘daughter’, ‘mother’, ‘wife’) are all in relation to someone else. But having their own bank account and a stash of money, no matter how small, can be a step to claiming their own selves back. Money may not be a source of happiness, but it is inarguably a source of independence.
A wildfire that is believed to have been started deliberately turned Chile’s skies red and forced citizens to flee their homes.
The Valpraiso region was engulfed by flames for hours. According to authorities, the fires have blazed through 400 hectares of forest. At least ten houses have been caught by the flames, and some 25 000 residents and hundreds of firefighters were deployed to battle the flames.
According to various sources including a local government official, the fires are believed to have been started deliberately. Local rumors suggest that the fires were started deliberately by a construction company after being denied access to encroach land property.
A Chinook helicopter that was carrying tonnes of water was used to extinguish the fire from above. The destroyed property includes four houses, six cabins at a recreational center, and two warehouses.
People who were evacuated were placed temporarily in a school building while a ‘safe zone’ was set up in the municipal stadium. Citizens that had been self-isolating after coming into contact with someone with coronavirus were instructed to go to local schools that were designated quarantine zones.
Despite the devastation caused by the fires, they have received little to no coverage in international news and media. Citizens and Diaspora Chileans have expressed contempt over the blatant ignorance of the fires.
Instead of spreading the word about the fires and calling for aid, people on social media believed the pictures to be aesthetic and used them to promote songs. The insensitivity towards the matter speaks volumes.
THIS is what Latinos mean when we say no one gives a SHIT about us. when is the US everyone drops everything to spread the word and help out but when it’s Latin America people can make edits of devastating forest fires and call it “aesthetic” and use it to promo songs. pic.twitter.com/Y4ODdMftiQ
Forest fires such as the one in Chile have both short-term as well as long-term impacts. Dozens of citizens been displaced from their houses as fires blaze through the inhabited parts of the country. Acres of forests have been destroyed and countless animals are caught in the flames.
Research has proven that the smoke from fires can choke nearby cities months after the fires. Fires can release more pollution into the air. Air quality is significantly poor and creates hazes in cities farther away. Reduced air quality can have longer-term health effects such as penetration of lung membranes and damaged respiratory system. Short-term effects include coughing, shortness of breath, and exacerbation of asthma attacks.
A bigger cause of concern is that the toxicity of these smoke particles appears to increase the further they get from the site of a fire. The particle undergoes chemical reactions as they are carried in the wind. This causes them to “age” in a process known as oxidation. It converts the particles into highly reactive compounds that have an even greater capacity to damage cells and tissue than when they were first produced.
The aforementioned effects are not even a quarter of the devastation that is caused by wildfires. The insensitive and rather ignorant response to the Chilean fires is worrying because the world is already struggling with wildfires that are causing catastrophic effects and aiding environmental damage. In addition to stealing hundreds of people’s livelihoods. It is necessary to draw attention to the fires in Chile so that the real culprits face the punishment. More importantly, though, governments need to be more pro-active to prevent such catastrophes from re-occurring.
Contrary to popular belief, consent is not just verbally or physically agreeing to have sex. There is a lot more to it than just saying yes. It baffles me that people believe agreeing to one thing means an agreement to everything. When an individual consents to one thing, it does not mean they consent to everything – and consent can be withdrawn at any point.
Consent can be a topic of discomfort for many but it is an important conversation that should not be avoided. In order to progress individually and as a society we need to keep talking about consent. A common misconception is to take on a “yes means yes” approach to avoid any uncomfortable conversations in the future. This is where the problem stems from. People are not always in a position or state to say no.
Sexual consent does not exist within the context of hegemonic power structures because hegemonic power is inherently abusive. The phrase ‘abuse of power’ is redundant because the only function of hegemonic power is abuse. In order to be able to consent to sex, you need to have equal power to consent to the person initiating sex with you. Power, however, comes in different forms. It comes in the form of emotional, psychological, neurological, physical, status access, etc.
Similarly, saying ‘yes’ to sex when one is under the influence of drugs or alcohol is not consent. Saying ‘yes’ to sex when you are emotionally, psychologically, neurologically unwell, or experiencing cognitive/psychological distortions OR influenced by your desire for proximity to power, access, is not consent either.
The argument that ‘they were two consenting’ adults is alarming because a large proportion of people who have been sexually abused do not even realize that they have been abused.
There are several reasons as to why people who have been sexually abused do not know that they were sexually abused. Below are just a few of those reasons:
Misinformation can result in a lack of understanding of what constitutes sexual abuse.
Manipulation and/or lack of emotional maturity. More often than not, people who have experienced sexual abuse are under the impression that the abuse was a romantic/love affair. It is not until later that they realize that, what they thought was love, was in fact, abuse. It is important here to recognize that sexual age gaps can be problematic. The older person is more likely to convince the younger person that it is love or romance.
Sex is pleasurable (for many people), which is why it can often confuse the victim. They may be under the impression that pleasure signifies consent.
More often than not, victims of sexual abuse may have been deprived of love, affection, and intimacy during their lives. Therefore, any form of sexual interest may be perceived as love or affection.
Dissociation is a common coping mechanism for people that have experienced abuse. It involves dissociating oneself to escape the trauma of what they experienced.
People may experience psychological, emotional, neurological, and cognitive distortions. This can be due to mental illnesses such as depression and other neurological issues.
Many people are in a state of denial. They refuse to accept they have been abused due to fear, pain, or shame. Additionally, former victims often go on to become sexual abusers themselves. Therefore, they deny admitting to their own experiences of abuse to avoid having to recognize themself as an abuser.
Fear plays a crucial role in sex abuse. More often than not, there is a power dynamic, and victims of sexual abuse face fear and not entirely acknowledge their experiences as abuse. They may not have the power to control their narrative and feel helpless. As a result of this, people are more likely to suppress or deny experiences of sexual abuse to avoid shame or feeling helpless.
It is more than likely that victims of sexual abuse have ‘consented’ to sex due to one or a combination of the aforementioned reasons. It is impossible to progress and reduce sexual assault until we expand our conversations about consent and acknowledge that it goes beyond a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
The de-stigmatization of sex was expected to liberate women. However, it has further reinstated the patriarchal perception of women as nothing more than sex objects intended for reproduction. And this is why we need to complicate our conversations about consent in today’s age of freedom and liberation. In patriarchal structures, men actively exercise possession and abuse towards women, which is institutionalized and protected by the law. Essentially, women do not have humanity in a system of male domination.
Dismantling patriarchy is another conversation on its own. It is, however, imperative that we realize consent goes well beyond a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Therefore, instead of shutting someone down the next time you hear them open up about their experiences of abuse remember that consent is not always black and white.
In recent years we have witnessed a prevalence of Islamophobia around the world, as a result of which Islamophobia has been denounced globally and the freedom to practice different faiths has been demanded. But before we point fingers at others, it is important to look within Muslim communities and examine the extent to which we are impartial when it comes to different religious groups. Anti-Semitism is still prevalent in different Muslim countries and diaspora communities. It is rather surprising to see Anti-semitism in Muslim communities today because for much of history Muslims and Jews lived in harmony. In fact, Jewish historians often regard the centuries when Jews lived among Muslims to be a “golden age” for Jewry.
Muslims’ hostility towards Jews began to grow in the twentieth century with the Jewish immigration to Palestine leading up to the formation of Israel. The animosity did not just grow in Arab countries. Journalist Mehdi Hasan pointed out the commonality of Anti-Semitic attitudes in Pakistanis as well, even though Pakistan has an almost non-existent Jewish population.
Similarly, Malaysia too has often displayed an anti-Semitic stance. Malaysia’s former Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, on different occasions suggested that Muslims and Jews are natural enemies. However, it did not emerge because of Malaysia’s small population of Jews. Instead, it has been attuned because of Israel’s ascendance and the subjugation of Palestinians.
The brewing conflict between Israel and Palestine paved the way for anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. It is commonplace to turn to Anti-Semitism during times of conflict. Mainstream politics in many Muslim countries use prejudices against Jews to explain political and economic issues in the country. As Malaysia Journalist S. Thayaparan put it, “Anything wrong with the Muslim world is blamed on the Jews.” However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Anti-Semitic attitude is often fueled by Anti-Israel and Anti-Zionist sentiment.
It is important to distinguish between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism.Zionism is a movement that was established in the nineteenth century aimed at countering anti-Semitism and establishing a Jewish homeland. Therefore, anti-Zionism is opposition towards the Zionist movement and ideology. This, often, involves opposition towards Israel as well. It can be understood as an Anti-Israel attitude, which involves criticism of the Israeli government, politicians, and its policies.
Anti-Semitism, however, is a form of prejudice or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group. It is important to understand that the condemnation of the Israeli government must be distinguished from the condemnation of Jewish people at large.
It is not entirely uncommon for diaspora Muslims to stand aside with Jews when it comes to racial abuse or prejudice. Perhaps, because they understand that intolerance and discrimination is not something that can be combatted divisively. However, within Muslim majority countries, anti-Semitic behaviors are largely prevalent. One of the reasoning behind this could be that anti-Semitism is often conflated with anti-Zionism.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine needs to be considered in a broader scope than that of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Similarly, anti-Semitism need not be considered in the scope of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Whilst, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism may have differing origins and sources. Both, however, manifest intolerance and discrimination. Drawing on the history of Muslims and Jews, it is vital that Muslims and Jews should be allies in the fight against intolerance and discrimination.
A damaged Venezuelan vessel filled with 1.3 million barrels of oil is tilting to one side in the middle of the Caribbean. The vessel, Nabarima, was anchored permanently between Venezuela and Trinidad. However, due to COVID-19 and the U.S. government’s sanctions on Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), (the state-owned oil company that produced the oil) Nabarima has become inactive.
The Nabarima holds five times more oil than what was spilled during the 1989 Exxon-Valdez disaster in Alaska. Even the slightest spill could result in a decades long environmental disaster in the vast Caribbean seas. The Venezuelan government has denied claims of the magnitude of the risk the vessel holds. A report from the island of Trinidad and Tobago says the vessel ‘does not pose a significant risk of spilling and causing an environmental catastrophe.’ However, an environmental watchdog group based in Trinidad called Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) has expressed concerns over the removal of the oil as it could result in severe spills.
According to recent reports, the Venezuelan government has begun the process of transferring crude oil back to Venezuela.
So what is happening to the vessel now? In an interview, Trinidad and Tobago’s energy minister, Franklin Khan informed that a vessel called Icaro was offloading oil from the Nabarima. Icaro, however, is a much smaller vessel with a capacity of 300,000. The transfer process of the crude oil will require several trips until the Nabarima is entirely empty.
The FFOS has been concerned about Nabarima since the sanctions were imposed. However, the urgency of the matter intensified when they received pictures of the Nabarima significantly tilting to one side. This is when Gary Aboud, FFOS’s corporate secretary of government, went to see the vessel in person confirming that there was an estimated 25 percent tilt.
Venezuelan petroleum workers union also tweeted that the vessel had extensive problems with its machinery, which were “permanent.”
The Nabarima is currently being guarded by Venezuelan authorities. The risk of environmental disaster has attracted international attention. As a result of which Venezuelan authorities have undertaken the task of transporting crude oil back to Venezuela. This too, however, poses a threat to the environment. The process of transferring the oil is an extensive one, therefore, it is difficult to ascertain the outcome yet. In the meantime, we can hope that the oil is transferred smoothly and without any environmental catastrophes.
Poland has had one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe to date. Abortion has never been legal in Poland but the state has allowed it in select few cases. On 22nd October 2020, the Polish government amended the abortion law for the worst. The recent court ruling has banned almost all abortions except those in cases of rape or incest.
The Polish government has long ignored the obligations of the European Union membership, and the European Commission expressed concerns over breaches of rule of law. Whilst, the European Parliament has supported this regulation, it has been blocked by governments in the council. It is difficult to ascertain what course of action the European Commission would pursue but it is unlikely that the Polish government will be able to avoid consequences this time.
Abortions carried out when the fetus is malformed, which accounted for 98% of legal terminations in 2019 have now been outlawed. Less than 2000 legal terminations are carried out each year in Poland. According to women’s groups’ estimates, up-to 200,000 abortions are either performed illegally or abroad. Health Ministry figures have shown that 1,110 legal abortions were held in Poland in 2019.
The new abortion law prohibits abortions due to any fatal abnormalities or incurable illnesses of the child. This means that women will be forced to carry out pregnancies that they know are not viable. It is impossible to imagine how traumatic and emotionally damaging this would be for the woman giving birth to such a child. It also adds risk to the mother’s health. Women that retain a dead embryo or fetus can experience severe blood loss or develop an infection of the womb.
Malgorzata Szulecka, a lawyer for the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, told the BBC: “This is a totally unjustified decision that will lead to inhuman treatment of women.” Although the ruling affects all women, those who belong to marginalized groups will be disproportionately affected, as they may not even be able to travel outside of the country to get an abortion.
International human rights groups have condemned the ruling. Amnesty International, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Human Rights Watch said they would send independent monitors to the court. Protests have erupted across Poland and elsewhere in Europe in reaction to the ruling, which are still continuing. Protestors also disrupted church services to express anger over the Catholic church’s role in public life. Much of the anger, however, is directed towards the PiS. Protestors have been attacked by tear gas, and the police has arrested a number of protestors.
LOOK AT THIS CITY 🖤⚡️
Warsaw and Poland are showing the world (again!) what it means to stand up for fundamental rights, rule of law and democracy.
Marta Kotwas, a researcher at UCL’s School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies specializing in rightwing populism in Poland, said: “There is so much anger because people can see how the abortion issue is being exploited as a political issue, how women are being used as a bargaining chip by political actors.”
The situation was further exacerbated by reports that doctors are canceling scheduled terminations of fetuses with severe defects to avoid breaking the law.
The PiS has said that they would propose a new law to “better support women and their children”, which could be an opportunity to soften the blow of the court decision, though no such action has been taken as of yet.
The abortion ban in Poland displays an assault on women’s rights and creates a question of women’s autonomy in the so called developed world. Women are being exploited and losing their bodily autonomy in the face of political conflict. According to some, the ban on abortions is to appease conservative factions of the country. The criminalization or restriction on abortions will not stop abortions, it will only make them less safe. Decisions around pregnancy and abortion impact human rights and the criminalization of abortion adds to the stigma. Poland’s ban on abortion is yet another reminder of how easily women’s rights can be exploited in any part of the world sometimes under the guise of cultural values or religion.
Mass demonstrations have continued in Poland and we have yet to see an outcome favorable to women. Meanwhile, what we can do is raise awareness about the unjust ban in an attempt to protect women’s rights and safety.