History Historical Badasses

This unstoppable feminist set fire to Bengali society

Whenever we hear the surname Tagore, our minds drift to the Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. Truth be told, the entire Tagore family, or what we Bengalis call Thakur poribaar were stalwarts of their time, and each contributed to society in one way or another. During British rule, they were one of the most influential families and played a key role in the Bengali renaissance.

When I first came across the Thakur poribaar, I was five. For most, it began with listening to a Rabindrasangeet (Tagore’s poems-turned-songs). However, I was introduced to the family with a quite different person: Jnanadanandini Devi, the wife of Satyendranath Tagore, Rabindranath’s elder brother. Flipping through the dusty pages of my ma’s old books, she introduced me to Devi for the first time. 

“She was so strong,” ma always said. Jnanada, as Bengalis often call her, was my original feminist icon, and to say she was strong is putting it mildly. As ma would read to me what Jnanada had done during her life, a feeling of power would flood through me. It was foreign, yet familiar.

During the 19th century, the attitude of Bengal towards its women was misogynistic, restrictive, and immensely sexist, even for the 1800s. People were extremely conservative, and women were forced to obey their husbands and never express their own ideas, thoughts, and opinions. Throughout their lives (from their marriage which happened even before the age of ten) until their death, they were forced to live entrapped within the four walls of their quarters, unable to even go out for a walk.

Such was the condition of Bengal women, and Devi took it upon herself to trailblaze change.

As ma would read to me what Jnanada had achieved during her life, a feeling of power would flood through me. It was foreign, yet familiar.

At the mere age of seven, thanks to child marriage, Jnanadanandini Devi married Satyendranath Tagore. Although education was not commonplace for women during the 19th century, Devi’s family exposed her to education and learned to explore the world beyond what she already knew. However, said exploration was confined to books because of the purdah system.

But this setback didn’t stop Devi from breaking free of society’s confinements.

To receive probationary training for his Indian Civil Service, Tagore set out to England while Devi stayed home. When he returned, the couple moved to Bombay (present-day Mumbai) where Devi plunged into educating herself. She even took a solo trip to England, at a time when a woman walking out of the house was unheard of. She transferred this change of environment to Calcutta (present-day Kolkata), which shifted the condition of the women. 

Devi was the first woman from Bengal who crossed the Abarodh, or the purdah system. She started on the first thing that identified women as second-class citizens: how they dressed. During the 19th century, it was tradition to wear the sari differently, in an uncomfortable way that restricted movement. Women always had to wrap themselves up (quite literally) and drape a ghomta over their faces so that they weren’t visible to others (think wings for Handmaids in Gilead, but longer).

Inspired by Parsi style, Jnanada created a new technique for draping the sari with pleats over the left shoulder and tucked in the waist. With this more comfortable style, women could finally move freely. She added a blouse and petticoat to offer an elegant look. Advertising this in Bamabodhini Patrika, she inspired and taught other women to wear the sari the Brahmika way. 

Devi was also a pioneer of literature and the arts. She wrote multiple articles for Bharati, and wrote about the patriotism and freedom that every Indian deserved. She wrote, “every benefit that the British have bestowed upon us is a blow to our mission of national liberation” in her article Ingrajninda O Deshanurag (Criticism of the British and Patriotism).

In 1885, she published a children’s magazine called Balak. She wrote two plays, Takdumadum and Saat Bhai Champa, both of which are considered irreplaceable in today’s Bengali literature. If these accomplishments were not rebellious enough, she also took part in multiple plays like Raja O Rani, written by Rabindranath. She also urged the women of the Tagore family to partake in these plays. Not surprisingly, she received waves of criticism from journals and society, but that never broke her independent spirit. Before her death in 1941, she even wrote a few memoirs that were published as Smritikatha O Puratani, carving an ultimate mark in the women’s literature spectrum.

By this point in her life, she’d made a name for herself, but it still wasn’t enough for members of her family to give her the respect she deserved. Debendranath Tagore, Devi’s father-in-law, didn’t approve of her independent spirit, which caused disruptions in the family. So in 1868, she left the Jorashanko house to live in a mansion by herself. Even though Devi and her father-in-law lived close by, they never interacted, which was unimaginable in those days. Living against tradition, she moved out with her husband and children and set an example to the rest of Bengal (take that, Debendranath).

Even though she came from a very privileged and influential background, Jnanadanandini Devi went above and beyond to spark change. For a woman in Bengali society, existence was like a prison, and Devi confronted that head-on. Today in most countries, the female experience has come a long way since Devi’s time, but there are still issues that must be addressed. The word “no” never thwarted her, and Devi’s story reminds us that when it comes to defending what’s right, nothing can make us give up.

To read more about the evolution of women’s roles in Bengal, read The Changing Role of Women in Bengal, 1849-1905 by Meredith Borthwick.

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Health Care Mind Mental Health Health

I’ve ditched all-nighters, and here’s why you should too

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 concussionthey 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. 

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Health Care Mind Mental Health Health

How I became a more mindful pessimist

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: 

Fortune Telling

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. 

All-or-nothing thinking

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.

Mind Reading

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?

Emotional reasoning

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. 

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History Historical Badasses

This gynecologist was Auschwitz’s only salvation

Editor’s note: The content below might be graphic and disturbing.

From a young age, Gisella Perl lived on a different path. Born in Sighet, Hungary, Perl was the only woman and Jew graduate of her secondary school class before later traveling to Berlin to study medicine, where Jewish medical practice thrived before World War II. Returning to Hungary, she became a doctor alongside her husband, Ephraim Krauss. Together, they had a son and daughter, Gabriella, who would be torn from her in 1944 when the family was sent to the Siget Ghetto. Later, Perl was stuffed into a windowless cattle train bound to Auschwitz. 

In Auschwitz, she was one of several doctors under the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele, a Nazi physician and captain who was known in the camp as the “Angel of Death”. If a prisoner was sent to Mengele because they were sick, weak, or for any other reason, they never came back. Mengele was known for gruesome human experimentation. At first, Perl had the standard duties of bandaging wounds and treating broken ribs. Over time, her work became harrowing, both physically and mentally.

Dr. Mengele had ordered Dr. Perl to inform him of any pregnant women in the camp so that they would be sent to another camp for “better nutrition”. However, Dr. Perl quickly realized that there was no separate camp for pregnant women and that they were being used as research subjects. Eventually, these pregnant women would be thrown into the crematorium, sometimes alive. After that, Dr. Perl decided to ensure that no women would become pregnant ever again in Auschwitz. In a 1982 interview with The New York Times, Perl said “The greatest crime in Auschwitz was to be pregnant.”

Rape and violence ran rampant in Auschwitz, despite Nazi taboos surrounding sex with Jewish women. Sex was often used as a commodity by women to trade for essential goods within the camp. Dr. Perl recalled being raped by a male prisoner in exchange for shoelaces, which she needed to walk to the hospital every day. This is how most women found themselves pregnant in Auschwitz, which was a death sentence.

After learning of a pregnant prisoner, Dr. Perl would explain the consequences of pregnancy to the expectant mother. If the mother consented, Dr. Perl would quietly perform an abortion to terminate the pregnancy in the middle of the night in the barracks. These abortions were performed without medical tools, anesthesia, antibiotics, or bandages. In the rare cases that a woman gave birth, Dr. Perl would silently take the newborn’s breath away to save the mother’s life. Aside from her surgeries on pregnant women, she would also treat women’s laceration wounds from S.S. whips, rashes, and sexual infections.

Eventually, Dr.Perl was moved to a different concentration camp, which was later liberated by the British. For another month, she remained behind at the camp to treat the sick and dying. After that, for 19 days she walked on foot across Germany in search of her family. Her husband and son died soon after they were taken to the concentration camp in 1944, but her daughter, Gabriella, had survived the war while being hidden by a Protestant family. It wasn’t until 1978 that Perl would reunite with her daughter and move to Herzliya, Israel to live with her. But before that, at the recommendation of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr.Perl specialized in infertility at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan after meeting First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and eventually being granted special U.S. citizenship by President Harry Truman.

Perl never forgot the horrific experience of having to kill babies in Auschwitz in order to save the mothers. Every time she walked into a delivery room, she would say the same prayer: “God, you owe me a life, a living baby.” God answered her prayers, and she delivered over 3,000 healthy babies. 

In 1948, her memoir I Was A Doctor in Auschwitz was one of the first books to detail sexual violence in concentration camps. Throughout her career, she also co-authored nine academic papers on women’s and children’s health. 

As an aspiring gynecologist, I aim to walk in the footsteps of Dr. Perl, a woman who continuously risked her life to save others. Each time she held a newborn in her arms, memories of Auschwitz probably haunted her…and gave her the resilience to continue to deliver babies. Today, healthcare workers on the frontlines remain society’s greatest heroes, and it was people like Dr. Gisella Perl who paved the way for good in a world of hopelessness that we have to thank. 


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History Historical Badasses

Gertrude Stein, the queer feminist at the centre of the art movement

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. 

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Sexuality Health The Vulvasation

Dear misogynist TikTokers, stop giving me vagina advice

Vulvasations is a Tempest Love and Health 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!

TikTok is a lawless place. For the most part, I love this about the platform because it has helped so many people who are not often included in mainstream media share their voices, experiences, and stories to millions of people. But because TikTok has infamously lacked the rules and regulations of many other social media platforms, just about anyone can amass thousands upon thousands of views and likes for things that probably shouldn’t be viewed nor liked—nor even said aloud.

While the internet has made racists, transphobes, and xenophobes comfortable with spreading hate either anonymously or with little consequence, TikTok has exacerbated the problem by allowing people to assert their opinion without any credible basis. We could namedrop a variety of issues that have suffered from the spreading of misinformation across social media, but there’s one that I thought we had all laid to rest years ago.

I’m talking about vaginas and their odors and flavors.

Since downloading TikTok, I’ve seen immature men and misguided women make claims about what vaginas are supposed to smell and taste like. These videos boil my blood because they often shame people with vaginas for having vaginas that exude any sort of odor or flavor that isn’t palatable.

I wouldn’t want any of these TikTokers near my vagina to begin with. And the part of me that has learned how to identify garbage that hasn’t been taken out yet does not care one single iota what these people think is palatable. Spoiler alert: it’s probably exclusively dinosaur chicken nuggets and fruit snacks (there’s nothing wrong with either unless this is all you eat).

However, I am most concerned for these women who are regurgitating misogyny. Thus, this is a situation that calls for education.

So, what should a healthy vagina smell and taste like?

For starters, it should smell. Normal odors include fragrances that are metallic, bittersweet, bleachy, tangy, fermented, or sour. Menstrual cycles, bacterial flora, fluctuating pH balances, or discharge can all be attributed to these smells—and all are perfectly normal. In fact, you want your vagina to produce any of these odors because that means your vagina is doing its job.

Similarly, your vagina might taste metallic, salty, or sour, and again, that’s perfectly normal. Our vaginas spend most of their time experiencing all the activities we go about during our day. This can give them hints of sweat, musk, and body odor, which is nothing to be ashamed about.


Hear what they’re saying #learnontiktok #womenshealth #femaleempowerment #femalanatomy #femininehygieneroutine

♬ Blinding Lights – The Weeknd

What your vagina should not smell or taste like is flowers or fruit. It also shouldn’t smell or taste fishy or rotten because that means you could have bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, or even a case of forgotten tampon.

The takeaway is that your vagina should smell and taste like a vagina. If someone has a problem with that, then you can point them to the nearest bodega or grocery store because they’re probably craving something from the produce aisle and not whatever fun was to be had in the bedroom.

Like most products designed to target women, these TikToks are just trying to make those of us with vaginas feel bad about ourselves. But they’ll have to get in line behind all the other people, brands, and governments working on this nefarious plotline.

The next time you run into one of these TikTokers, just know they are simply airing their dirty laundry on the Internet. Maybe we should thank them for waving their red flags publicly and warning all of us with vaginas that they hate us and our bodies.

But don’t worry, vagina-shaming TikTokers. I hate you, too.

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Career Career Advice Now + Beyond

“A man’s job”? These women beg to differ

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a non-traditional career is defined as “one that employs 25% or fewer women in the specific field.” The bureau, to this day, has a list consisting of 100 occupations that fall into the category of non-traditional career paths for our gender because either the profession is not apt for women or vice versa.

In Pakistan, the situation is even worse. Women are mostly concentrated in sectors known for low levels of productivity, less income stability and low security of employment due to their dual role at home and the workplace. The rate of unemployment among women is consistently higher than that of men, both in rural and urban areas.

As upsetting as it may sound, the truth is that we are underrepresented in occupational groups such as technology, science and anything that requiresstrength.’ The reason for this is that these fields are labelled as “a man’s business.”

Regardless of these labels, many women actively choose to ignore them and pursue their ‘non-traditional’ passions. I reached out to women online to find out more about their ‘manly’ careers.

Here are their fields and what they had to say about them:

1. Biotechnologist

Biotechnology is used in many areas such as agriculture, food processing, energy production, etc. “Experts in this field are high in demand yet women are advised to only seek an academic path after becoming a biotechnologist,” said Vengus Pirzado, who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s in biotechnology from the University of Karachi.

Biotechnology, as an industry, continues to stagger in progress with gender diversity. A Credit Suisse report shows that the recruitment of women in senior management roles has decreased globally from 18.9% in 2014 to 15.5% in 2016.

“All my teachers mock me by saying that I am a girl who is eventually going to get married,” Pirzado told The Tempest.

Despite been told multiple times that biotechnology is a field best for men, this 19-year-old is adamant to prove all the haters wrong.

2. Film Director

Remember the thought-provoking action film The Matrix? Do you know that there were women behind the science-fiction blockbuster? Not one but two amazing women directors, Lilly and Lana Wachowski. These women do more than just make a perfect film. The struggle to prove their worth on-set is another task these women deal with.

Representation of women in films is a point to ponder over the world. According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, men account for 66% and women 34% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on films selected and/or screened at the festivals in 2019-2020.

Shafaq Khalid, a film director based in Karachi, Pakistan, told me how initially men in the fraternity would not acknowledge her existence, let alone take instructions from her.

“When asked a question, vendors would address a male crew member rather than look me in the eye and answer it. It was frustrating at first but I have learnt to establish my authority somehow,” she told The Tempest.

According to her, the best part is the utter disbelief these misogynists experience when an idea gets approved or she gets publicly appreciated for her work. You go, girl!

3. Gym Instructor

Would you rather pick an instructor who understands your body and trains you accordingly or do you only care about their gender? If a man is an instructor, he is considered to be macho. When there is a woman trainer, however, more eye rolls than ab rolling exercises are done.

Sexist assumptions can hold employees back and channel them into the wrong roles. Women have been shut out of senior positions or diverted into roles seen to require stereotypically ‘feminine’ skills. According to the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs), there are a total of 13,770 registered personal trainers in the United Kingdom and only 35% of them are females.

A barre instructor based in Karachi, Pakistan expressed her concerns about not being able to find a perfect match due to her unconventional career choice as she nears 30 years old.

“Whenever I am supposed to meet a boy in an arranged marriage setup, my parents present me as a nutritionist instead,” she told The Tempest.

The fact that this girl is honest with her work and a better trainer than most men in her profession does not count for much in her personal life. Only her gender does.

4. Tour Guide

Zehra Shallwani, 27, co-runs her own inbound tour agency by the name of Dastan Travels and Tours in Karachi.

“Time and again I have been told to get a ‘real job’ and leave this business to men as it is too odd for a woman to be a tour guide,” she told The Tempest.

Women are usually regarded to stay indoors and considered unfit for jobs that require fieldwork or mingling.

Having lived in London during her higher studies, Shallwani is indifferent to such remarks and does not get bothered much. Just because women are getting accustomed to such sentiments does not make them okay.

5. Truck Driver

Trucking has long been considered a male domain, requiring long hours, lots of travel and the occasional interaction with sketchy characters. However, that is certainly changing with Irene, a 35-year-old woman based in Karachi, Pakistan who likes to drive trucks.

“Driving heavy automobiles gives me a different kind of high,” she told The Tempest.

It all started when they were moving houses and could not find a reliable truck driver to move the stuff from one place to another. That is when she took charge of the truck and, as they say, there was no looking back.

The trucking industry is male-dominated but it certainly is no longer a man’s world. Women have been joining the trucking industry at a steady and growing rate in recent history all across the world, with trends changing in Pakistan as well.

Women continue to take places as drivers, artists, film directors, dispatchers and brokers in increasing numbers all over the world, even if patriarchy tries to stop them. We love traveling and adventure. We get paid less for the same work and position as a man. Many of us even raise kids, support families and ourselves without asking for any kind of welfare or handouts. These are the same reasons men enter any profession. Therefore, there is no profession as a man’s job.

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Activism Gender The World Inequality

Gulabi Gang: India’s badass all-women vigilante group

The streets of Banda, Uttar Pradesh were once filled with despair. Ranked 154 our 447 on the Planning Commission’s index of backwardness in 2003, caste-based violence, domestic abuse, and poverty were pervasive throughout Banda, with little to no police support. In the midst of such chaos, the Gulabi Gang formed to combat the widespread domestic abuse and violence against women.

Clad in “Gulabi”, or pink sarees, these women wield bamboo sticks as they accost male offenders. Most, if not all, members of the Gulabi Gang are of oppressed castes, as are the women they assist. The gang was initially created to “punish abusive husbands, fathers, and brothers in an effort to combat domestic violence and desertion”. The gang has various stations set up and each station has a “commander” that takes care of the problems of the women in her area. Through word of mouth, the location and purpose of these stations are spread to women in the district. 

When a woman comes to the station to narrate the story of her abuse to the group, the police are immediately called. If the police fail to take charge, the Gulabi Gang takes over. Often, the gang accosts male members and calls upon them to understand their wrongdoings. If the men do not relent or resort to force, they are publicly shamed or beaten with bamboo sticks. Because the gang has over 200,000 members, they receive enough support from the women of each district, and by carrying bamboo sticks with them and walking in large groups, they prevent men from being able to successfully retaliate. Recently, the group has started to offer cost-effective services such as henna application, tailoring, and flower arrangements to provide their members with a source of income to sustain their lifestyle. 

The work of Gulabi Gang has resulted in legislation to designate 33% of parliamentary seats for women in India. Even though this has brought upon many positive changes for women empowerment in India and legislation to promote gender equality, the Gulabi Gang continues to operate in their relevant areas. They prefer to work outside of politics because of the widespread corruption amongst Indian politicians. 

Over time, the gang’s scope of issues has expanded from domestic violence to child marriage, dowry deaths, and access to education. They also target human rights and male oppression by actively encouraging men to get involved in activism. Many members of the Gulabi Gang are men who support the causes that the gang raises awareness for.

Because the scope of the gang has grown so much, the woman have been able to engage in undercover projects to bring deep-rooted government corruption to light. In 2007, the founder of the gang, Sampat Pal Devi, heard that government-run stores were not distributing food and grains in a village fairly. Due to widespread poverty, hundreds of families depended on this food to survive. The Gulabi Gang observed the shop undercover and found evidence that the store was shipping the allocated grains to open markets to make a higher profit. The gang reported the store to the local authorities, who ultimately ignored the complaints. However, this incident solidified Gulabi Gang’s reputation as an organization that fought for justice. 

In 2008, Gulabi Gang stormed an electricity office in Banda to force them to turn the electricity back on. The office had cut the electricity to the district off in an effort to extract bribes. Additionally, the gang has stopped multiple child marriages and protested to receive justice for oppressed-caste rape victims. In India, police indifference to the rape of oppressed-caste women is pervasive, as is government action. 

As an Indian-American feminist, I am blessed to be able to walk in the steps of the empowered women of the Gulabi Gang. India has a poor reputation with women’s rights and gender equality, which is often not acknowledged within the Indian community. The work of the Gulabi Gang is exposing how deep-rooted women’s oppression is in India, as well as creating solutions to empower women while fighting the patriarchy. 


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History Historical Badasses

Meet Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, one of Nigeria’s badass suffragettes

For stories of Black history and excellence, check out our Black History Month series. Celebrate with us by sharing your favorite articles on social media and uplifting the stories, lives, and work of Black people.

*Cue boxing announcer’s voice* In this corner, fighting against colonialism and the patriarchy, all the way from Abeokuta, Nigeria, give it up for Bere, the Lioness of Lisabi, women’s rights activist, Chief Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti!

You’re probably thinking that was pretty extra for an introduction. But trust me, this woman deserves it. Ransome-Kuti is often known for being the mother of the famous Afrobeats musician and activist, Fela Anikulakpo-Kuti. But as the first Nigerian woman to drive a car, a fierce educator and women’s rights activist, Fumilayo Ransome-Kuti is a legend in her own right.

Before (and after) becoming a mother, Ransome-Kuti achieved a lot. Born in Abeokuta as Frances Abigail Olufunmilayo Thomas in 1900, she was the daughter of a chief and dressmaker. Frances’ parents believed in the power of education, so she was one of the first girls to attend Abeokuta Grammar School. Afterwards, Frances attended Wincham Hall School for Girls, a finishing school in Chesire England. When she returned, she dropped both English names and began using her shortened Yoruba name, Funmilayo.

Now a name change probably seems pretty minor, but it was the first sign of her anticolonial stance.

[Image description: Shuri, a young woman, looking up and saying “Don’t scare me like that, colonizer!”] via GIPHY 

Let me hit you with a bit of context real quick. During the year of Funmilayo’s birth, Abeokuta and its surrounding area formally entered Britain’s rule as the “Southern Nigeria Protectorate.” Here’s the thing: the transition to British governing systems had a big impact on gender dynamics. Before that, most Yoruba kingdoms had traditional forms of government, which included a system that had both men and women-led governing bodies. Once British rule started, those traditional forms ceased, taking with it political positions for women. The British sexist beliefs meant that women scarcely held government positions, and they brought these ideals to Abeokuta. Like Ransome-Kuti herself said during her work as a political activist, “We had equality before the British came.”

So there you have it. British rule began, and women’s leadership ended.

After her short stint in Britain, in 1925 Funmilayo married Isreal Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, a fellow educator (did somebody say #couplegoals?). They had four children: Dolupo, Olikoye, Fela, and Beko. Funmilayo quit her teaching job, but she didn’t become a stay-at-home mother. In 1932, she helped establish the Abeokuta Ladies’ Club (ALC). If you’re wondering if that’s as pretentious as it sounds, you’re correct! The club was mainly for Western-educated, middle-class women, and they mostly convened around sewing, motherhood, charity, and social etiquette. However, by the mid-1940s, after helping an illiterate friend learn to read, Funmilayo realized something:

“The true position of Nigerian women had to be judged from the women who carried babies on their back and farmed from sunrise to sunset, not women who used tea, sugar and flour for breakfast.”

As the ALC became more feminist and political, Funmilayo saw that the women’s movement could not succeed without the majority of women. So in 1944, the ALC changed its name to the Abeokuta Women’s Union (AWU), with Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti as its first president. Next up? A cultural glow-up. To make the union more inclusive, the union adopted Yoruba as the language of conversation and dressed in Yoruba attire.

One of the AWU’s first movements took things to the market. As a result of World War II, women were in a particularly precarious position. As a British colony, Nigeria also suffered economic consequences, and women suddenly found themselves having to contend with food quotas and price controls from the colonial administration and extortion from local authorities, who frequently confiscated their rice. So the women’s union took action, in an Instagram-live worthy showdown which Fela (her son), described, saying:

“These women went straight to see the District Officer of Abeokuta who was a young white boy. The District Officer must have said something in a disdainful voice, like: ’Go on back home.’ To which my mother exploded: ’You bastard, rude little rat…!’[–]Imagine insulting the highest motherfucking representative of the British imperial crown in Abeokuta, Ohhhhhhhh, man! I was proud.”

Mrs. Ransome-Kuti wasn’t here to play, thank you very much.

Another major accomplishment the AWU achieved under Ransome-Kuti’s presidency was in 1947, when they fought against sexist tax laws. The colonial government paid the Alake (traditional leader) of Abeokuta to enforce a tax that charged women more than men. Sadly for him, the AWU was having none of it.

In November 1947, Ransome-Kuti led thousands of women to the Alake’s palace, singing and dancing in protest. They demanded an end to the taxation, and also used petitions and letters to argue their case. Tensions continued to escalate until 1948, when the women’s efforts led to the suspension of the tax on women. Funmilayo’s efforts in the revolt earned her the nickname “Lioness of Lisabi”. The AWU’s efforts also led to the temporary abdication of the Alake in 1949.

After those successes, Funmilayo-Ransome Kuti continued to work with the AWU and even dabbled in national politics. She traveled nationally and internationally, spreading the word about women’s rights for years, until her untimely death in 1978.

Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti’s decision to include the market women in her movement is a strong reminder of the importance of an inclusive approach to gender equality: one that acknowledges intersectionality. By recognizing that progress could not be won through elitist means, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti inspired an entire generation to fight for a more equitable future.

In conclusion, we have no choice but to stan.

[Image description: Michelle Obama clapping] via GIPHY

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History Historical Badasses

You know Rosa Parks, but you don’t know Elizabeth Jennings and Claudette Colvin

For stories of Black history and excellence, check out our Black History Month series. Celebrate with us by sharing your favorite articles on social media and uplifting the stories, lives, and work of Black people.

We all know Rosa Parks, the American civil rights activist who is known for standing up against racial injustice. Okay, actually, she was seated when she took her stand, but you get what I mean. We learned about the pivotal role she played in the Civil Rights Movement several times in school and we rightfully still celebrate her today.

A picture of Rosa Parks smiling while sitting on a bench with Martin Luther King Jr. sitting in the background behind her.
[Image Description: A picture of Rosa Parks smiling while sitting on a bench with Martin Luther King Jr. sitting in the background behind her.] Via Flicker
















When she refused to give up her seat in the section designated to Black people to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, it led to her arrest. When she was arrested, she was met with support from her community and members of the Black community from across the country. This level of support is what initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott that lasted for 381 days.

Rosa Parks continued her work for racial equality and became an influential leader in the Civil Rights Movement.  However, she is not the first or only woman who fought against racial inequality by not getting up from her seat on public transportation. If you are surprised to hear this then I would like to share the stories of two women who also sat in their seats to take a stand.

Are you ready?

In 1854, Elizabeth Jennings, a free Black schoolteacher, was headed to church on a July Sunday morning. To get to church that day, she boarded a horsecar in Manhattan, New York. When she got into the car, she was told to get off and wait for a horsecar that operated for Black passengers. However, during this time, Black New York residents were expected to walk as horsecars designated for Black people were rarely available. In response, Jennings refused and resisted multiple physical attempts to remove her from the car until the police came to force her out of the car.

A black and white photo of Elizabeth Jennings posing in a long dress and standing with her arm resting on a chair.
[Image Description: A black and white photo of Elizabeth Jennings posing in a long dress and standing with her arm resting on a chair.] Via Zinnedproject










The Black community in New York responded just like the Black community in Montgomery would respond about 100 years later.  They held a rally at the church Jennings attended. Jennings sued the driver, conductor, and the Third Avenue Railway. She was represented by the future President Chester A. Arthur and won her case. Judge Rockwell from the Brooklyn Circuit Court ruled, “Colored persons if sober, well behaved and free from disease, had the same rights as others and could neither be excluded by the rules of the company nor by force or violence.”

Additionally, she received a total of $225 in damages.  Her court victory was a catalyst to the ongoing fight for equality in New York public transit. By 1873, the Civil Rights Act was passed in New York.  The act prohibited explicit discrimination on public transportation in New York, right before the New York subway first opened.

We also have Claudette Colvin, who refused to get up from her seat on the bus at the age of 15. Just 15! Colvin was arrested for not giving up her seat 9 months before Rosa Parks on the same bus system in Montgomery, Alabama. Colvin was on her way home from high school and when the bus driver told to get up to give her seat to a white woman. She responded by saying that she had paid to ride the bus and that it was her constitutional right. When she refused, she was put in handcuffs and was arrested.

A black and white head shot of Claudette Colvin. She is wearing a plain shirt, glasses, and has short curly hair.
[Image Description: A black and white head shot of Claudette Colvin. She is wearing a plain shirt, glasses, and has short curly hair.] Via Wikipedia

Colvin was charged with violating segregation laws.  She spent several hours in jail before her minister paid her bail. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People considered using her case to confront segregation laws. However, the association decided not to because of her age and her being pregnant at the time.

Despite the National Association for Advancement of Colored People not using her case, she became a plaintiff in the Browder v. Gayle case. The ruling of this case declared that the segregated bus system in Montgomery was unconstitutional.

We all know the story and the work of Rosa Parks, but few people know the stories of Elizabeth Jennings and Claudette Colvin.  Jennings and Colvin’s stories serve as a reminder that it takes more than one person to institute real change. We should always remember that there are many people that we do not learn about in our history books that made sacrifices and helped influence important changes.

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Career Now + Beyond

Just because I teach children does not mean I have maternal instincts

While I have never thought of myself to be particularly maternal, I find it relatively easier to work with children. This is why I have increasingly considered exploring a career in teaching. However, this may come with a cost. In an interaction with a distant relative, I expressed my interest in pursuing teaching as a career and simultaneously not wanting children of my own. What followed next was an inexhaustible lecture on how having children is one of the greatest pleasures of life. I tried to explain how I do not picture myself as a mother in the future. According to them, however, I might have the instincts in me somewhere because nothing else can explain my desire for teaching. On the contrary, I think that teaching as a profession would provide me with a sense of fulfilment that is separate from my parental choices.

It is often inherently assumed that most women want children of their own at some point in their lives. In recent years, there has been a growing conversation about normalizing women not wanting children of their own due to various reasons. Many women choose to prioritize their careers instead of starting a family. More often than not, these women are still interrogated and counseled on the importance of having children. Ever since I began teaching, I have been questioned by various colleagues and friends about having changed my opinions on having children. I, however, do not feel that teaching has affected my maternal instincts. 

Teaching is often perceived as a gendered occupation. Whilst this has changed in recent years with more men entering teaching, it still remains largely female-dominated. According to author Bryan J. Nelson lack of male teachers is mainly because “working with children is seen as a woman’s work, men are not nurturing and something must be wrong with them if they choose to work with children.” Nelson explained that there is also the existence of a fear that men are more likely to harm or abuse children compared to women. It is difficult to determine whether or not men are more likely to be abusive than women in teaching, however, these stereotypical notions have undoubtedly added to the gender gap in the profession.

There seems to be a preconceived notion that all teachers would want to have children of their own. Even if they initially begin their careers with not wanting children, after spending an ample amount of time with kids it is assumed that they would eventually embrace motherhood. I, however, wish to challenge this view. As a teacher myself, I have never felt the desire to have children of my own even after spending long hours working with them.

I began teaching in my early teens and since then I have periodically taken on teaching/tutoring jobs. In all my jobs thus far, I have found teaching to be the most gratifying and a career that I see a future in. However, not once have I felt the desire to have children of my own. People may assume that this will change once I get married but I have also spoken to teachers who are married and would not like to have children of their own. Some teachers have also said that they would not have had children of their own had they began their careers before having children.

People find it difficult to dissociate one’s career choices from their life choices.

People often say that ‘childless teachers cannot truly understand children’. This statement automatically implies that women without children may not have maternal instincts. Maternal instinct, however, is largely a myth. It comes from deep love, devotion, intense closeness, and time spent thinking about the child. And is not limited to just mothers. Psychotherapist Dana Dorfman agrees that many aspects of maternal instincts are a myth. It is not necessary to be a mother to understand and care for children. Understanding and care come from observation and experiences. Many people land in jobs that they have had no prior experience in, however, with time they learn and excel at their job. So, why are teachers subjected to this form of generalization?

The idea that being a teacher affects one’s maternal instincts or vice versa is largely misogynistic as it exposes the underlying trend of women being incomplete without children. In the case of teachers, it becomes rather problematic because people find it difficult to dissociate one’s career choices from their life choices.

Globally women have gained greater autonomy to choose their careers and overcome misogynistic trends prevalent in societies. Choosing teaching as a career option and simultaneously not wanting children is largely questioned and viewed skeptically. So much so that people often go to extreme lengths to explain to me that working with children will lead to me changing my mind sooner rather than later. However, that is yet to happen.

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Health Care Health Wellness

7 menstruating myths we need to debunk

As an Indian woman from Texas, I remember how big of a deal it was to get your period, especially amongst the older women. It was an achievement, a sign that you were grown up and ready to take on more responsibilities. Unfortunately, the importance placed on periods by older generations of women meant that there were lots of “old-wives tales” surrounding it that were based in social and scientific inaccuracy. Here are some of the myths that I frequently heard during growing up:

1. Using tampons would ruin my reproductive system

I’m convinced that being conditioned to believe that tampons are dangerous is a universal brown womxn experience at this point. Like all of my friends, I was not allowed to use tampons because my mother was convinced that they would get stuck if the string broke. Her fears were not without merit; she had met a woman who contracted Toxic Shock Syndrome because of a broken tampon and had to have it surgically removed. However, this was before tampons were as well-researched as they are now. In reality, Toxic Shock Syndrome is rare and tampons are generally safe to use!

2. Starting my period meant that I was finally a real woman

When I first got my period, it was a moment of pride for my mother. Her first daughter was finally a “real” woman! Elderly women would gush over me when she would tell them, but I never understood why. Menstruating didn’t make me feel anymore feminine; I was the exact same person. If anything, I wanted to stop menstruating the second that I started. The cramps, nausea, dizziness, mood swings, and acne didn’t seem worth the validation I received for meeting patriarchal standards of femininity. In reality, menstruation has nothing to do with being a woman; transgender men menstruate as well, yet they are not women. Associating menstruation with feminity is an outdated concept that overlooks the sociological and scientific distinctions between sex and gender. 

3. I should avoid exercising during my period

In Indian culture, menstruating women are asked to “quarantine” themselves in one room, far away from the rest of the family. My family is more progressive, so I never had to do that. However, I was advised to not exercise during my periods. As a dancer, I realistically cannot miss a week of rehearsal every month, so I always go to rehearsal anyway. Exercising during your period is actually good for your reproductive system. It can reduce period cramps, combat mood swings, and generally decrease PMS symptoms. 

4. Everybody experiences PMS (premenstrual syndrome

While most women experience PMS symptoms, not all of them feel like their insides are being shredded apart because of their period. I was so used to hearing that “cramps are completely normal”, I suffered through extreme cramps for years before seeking out treatment. My cramps were so debilitating, I often couldn’t go to school or work when I was on my period, which is abnormal. Extreme uterine cramping is a symptom of endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and uterine fibroids, yet doctors still write it off as “normal”. Women are much more likely to suffer from chronic pain than men because doctors are known to have an implicit bias against women for having “psychological” pain. 

5. There is no way to stop your period other than pregnancy

During our sexual education seminar at school, I remember asking if there was a way for me to stop menstruating or reduce my blood flow. This seminar was taught by a Catholic woman who didn’t believe in birth control, so I was told that other than pregnancy, there is no way to stop menstruation. However, birth control can be used to completely stop periods. In fact, I am doing that right now with a hormonal IUD as a way of controlling my extreme PMS symptoms. 

6. Unnaturally stopping your period is unsafe and can affect future fertility 

As an IUD-user, I was often advised by people with no medical education that using birth control would make it more difficult for me to get pregnant in the future. However, my doctor confirmed that this is completely false and that my fertility would be back to normal a few weeks after removing my IUD. There is no evidence that using birth control can affect long-term fertility. Pregnancy rates in women who previously used hormonal contraceptives are similar to pregnancy rates in women who have never used hormonal contraceptives. In reality, using birth control can actually have a long-term positive effect on the body by decreasing the risk for certain reproductive cancers. 

7. Menstrual blood is the “bad” blood that our bodies need to get rid of 

Shaming the female body began at a young age in my community as young girls were often taught that menstrual blood is the toxic blood that our bodies get rid of to maintain hygiene. In reality, menstrual blood is a mixture of regular blood and tissue (endometrium) from the uterus that contains nutrients to sustain a fetus. There is nothing “toxic” about the blood; it is just like the rest of the blood that flows through the human body. 

Menstruating is a normal part of the human body, so it should be treated in a manner that reflects that. By spreading false information about menstruation, we are disadvantaging younger generations of people who menstruate. Regardless of religious beliefs, it is imperative that we start spreading accurate information about our bodies as a way to destigmatize them.

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