Celebrities Pop Culture

Joss Whedon has been accused of abusive behavior yet again

Followed by Ray Fisher’s allegations of abuse of power and misconduct by Joss Whedon, former Buffy the Vampire Slayer stars have come forward with their own experiences of alleged abuse by Joss Whedon. Much of these allegations repeat what others who have worked with Whedon have claimed over the years.

Earlier in July 2020, actor Ray Fisher reported allegations of abuse of power by Joss Whedon on the set of Justice League. He tweeted that Whedon’s behavior on the set was “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable.” These allegations were followed by a subsequent internal investigation launched by WarnerMedia. The statement from the company provided little explanation of the course of action it would pursue. However, Fisher has since refused to appear in any DC films.

On Wednesday 10th February, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia on Buffy, accused Whedon of abusing his power.

On Wednesday 10th February, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia on Buffy, accused Whedon of abusing his power. Carpenter has previously claimed that she was “afraid” to go public with her allegations, as it could considerably impact her career. However, in the wake of the MeToo movement and increased awareness and advocacy for women’s rights, she admitted she feels much more confident today coming forward with these allegations. Carpenter recalls being body-shamed by Whedon during her pregnancy and subsequently dropping out of the show. 

Carpenter was motivated to come forward in solidarity with Ray Fisher’s allegations against Whedon that made rounds in the news last summer. Amber Benson who played Tara on Buffy also issued a note of support for Carpenter and backed up Carpenter’s claims regarding Whedon’s behavior. In a tweet, she wrote:

Even Sarah Michelle Geller who played the titular character Buffy Summers came forward in support of her co-stars. In an Instagram post, she stated that while she is proud to be associated with Buffy Summers, she does not want to be associated with Joss Whedon forever. 


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Geller’s partner Freddie Prinze Jr. said in 2003 that his wife has had to deal with a lot of nonsense behind the scenes on the show. We know that Whedon has publicly mocked Geller’s work in the past. He called her work in Cruel Intentions “a porny”, which Geller claimed to be “incredibly hurtful” to her. 

Michelle Trachtenburg, who played Buffy’s younger sister on the show, also asserted that Whedon did not display “appropriate behavior” around her as a teenager. However, Trachtenburg did not provide a detailed account of Whedon’s behavior. However, she did claim that there was a rule saying that Whedon “was not allowed in a room alone with Michelle again”.

Allegations about Whedon’s behavior have been surfacing for a while. The global successes of Marvel’s The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron directed by Whedon resulted in him being brought to direct competitor DC’s Justice League. It was a challenging production that was made worse by Whedon’s “gross, abusive, unprofessional, and completely unacceptable” behavior according to Fisher.

Whedon has come under great scrutiny in recent years due to allegations of misconduct. He has had to leave several projects such as the Batgirl movie for Warner Bros., Pippa Smith: Grown-Up Detective for Freeform, and most recently The Nevers for HBO Max.

Whedon has yet to respond to the latest allegations made against him and his reps have refused to comment. However, what these recent allegations clarify is that toxic and abusive behavior by those who hold significant power is more prevalent than we imagine.

In the past, young actors were regularly villainized, it was Geller who bore the brunt of fan backlash, whilst Whedon always got a free pass and his career continued to grow. Whedon received praise and appreciation amongst fan circles for interacting with fans regularly through Buffy message boards. On the other hand, Geller was demonized for not accrediting Whedon and all that he did for her career.

In an increasingly evolving cultural climate, many people have come to realize that abusive behavior by those in positions of dominance is unacceptable. Those exploiting their power need to be held accountable. Despite being the victim, it took Carpenter almost a decade to gain the courage to finally share her story.

Abusers can have any gender, but most often in history, it’s been proven to be men who walk away with no consequences. We need to overcome the misogynistic patterns. Instead of being blindsided by the fame and praise of men in positions of power, we need to at the very least hear out the victims and recognize the existence of a pattern. Without this, we continue to fail the future generation of actors and actresses. 

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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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LGBTQIA+ Celebrities Gender The World Inequality

Rowling’s transphobic essay didn’t deserve the nomination for the Russell Prize 2020

The Russell Prize is a pretty new award – it started in 2017. The prize celebrates the ‘holy trinity of writing’; which includes language, moral force, and the knowledge or learning behind it. The recognition is meant to celebrate writing that is monumental, well-written, and capable of inciting change. In 2017, Ronan Farrow’s essay about Harvey Weinstein, published in the New Yorker, won the prize. The 2018 and 2019 winners were a blog post on toxic journalism and an essay on Bing Crosby. In 2020, one of the contenders is JK Rowling‘s essay on trans rights.

The essay was published on her own blog, where she writes about her experiences online, the hate she’s received for her views, and the ‘cancellation‘ she’s undergone as an author and a public figure. One can probably argue that Rowling’s essay is well-written, but it is not informative, and definitely not knowledgeable. Throughout her essay, she argues that trans women’s rights will impede on women’s rights, that trans women are not women, and that women will be unsafe if trans women are allowed into women-only spaces. 

She also notes (with concern) of the ‘explosion of young women wishing to transition’ and those ‘detransitioning’, because of regret. Her argument is that it’s easier than ever for people to transition – resulting in people transitioning to ‘avoid homophobia’, or to ‘avoid misogyny’. Furthermore, she swivels back and forth between arguments – either stating that gender identity is a choice, one that people choose to move between, while also claiming that she knows a ‘transsexual’ woman who she fully sees as a woman.

Rowling’s essay is controversial, to say the least. Her arguments are discriminatory, and her reasoning for why people turn to transition is flawed and inaccurate. Her claims of ‘talking to various experts’ are unfounded, as there isn’t a single citation in the essay. It’s hard to accept her words at face value. Many have called her essay factually incorrect.

One argument she makes is that young people transition to avoid facing homophobia. What she fails to note is that transgender gay people exist. Gender identity and sexuality aren’t mutually exclusive.

She also fails to acknowledge that transgender people face more violence and discrimination, in fact they even face discrimination from other members of the LGBTQ+ community – Miss Major Griffin Gracy, a trans activist claims that mainstream LGBTQ+ movements shut out members of the transgender community.

Another argument she makes is one that’s common amongst TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) – that accepting trans women as women would result in men entering women’s only spaces to prey on women. However, reports have shown that police officials and schools haven’t seen evidence of this happening, and organizations dedicated to women’s rights have debunked this argument as a myth.

The BBC argued that her essay deserved the nomination, claiming that “offense is the price of free speech.” I can understand how this statement can be used to commend a piece of work – when an author is brave for speaking their mind, for blowing the whistle on harmful practices, or for highlighting something the public needs to know. Some ideas can offend certain groups, and it’s hard to draw the line between what should and shouldn’t be celebrated, based on a particular group’s perception or acceptance of that idea.

With regards to Rowling’s essay, however, it’s incredibly difficult to digest that claim. Her essay is offensive in its misinformation, in the ideas it supports. Her arguments are unfounded and her claims aren’t backed by studies or research. Rowling does have the freedom to say what she believes in, but she also needs to recognize that she’s a public figure and that her words have power. We’ve seen her ideas being used by senators to block more inclusive laws – for example, one senator used her quotes to block Senate consideration for the ‘Equality Act‘ – and this essay fuels that fire.

This has gone beyond ‘academic debate’ to real effects on people’s lives.

What makes this essay difficult to digest is because she comes from a place of pain and trauma – she’s a survivor of domestic abuse and wants to fight for women’s rights. However, feminism includes trans rights. Trans women are women, and women’s rights should include support for trans women, too. Fighting for women’s rights should not result in another community suffering. One group does not need to be marginalized for another to rise up. 

I’m irked by her nomination because it shows support to transphobic ideals. She is a good author – her words are influential. We see her ideas being celebrated; her transphobic views are shared, discussed, and rewarded. Without a shred of evidence, she’s become a figure of authority on trans rights.  I’m tired of these ideas continuing to gain traction because of her work. Her writing continues to be in the spotlight for its controversy, and this is another essay that attracts attention, and another way her words affect real people, their lives, and their very sense of being.


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Gender Policy Inequality

Did the #MeToo movement fail in Pakistan?

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual Assault/Rape

The #MeToo movement has been monumental around the world. It has, however, achieved little in Pakistan. To its credit, the movement has helped open up important conversations about sexual harassment and discrimination against women in the country. In recent years, we have seen an increase in the number of women that have spoken up about their experiences of sexual harassment and publicly outed their harassers. However the problem lies within the responses to these accusations, which remains to be mixed. 

The movement made its way to Pakistan in 2018, when singer, Meesha Shafi accused her colleague Ali Zafar of sexual harassment on multiple occasions. Despite court proceedings, there was no visible outcome in the case. Both singers filed defamation suits against one another. 

Since then several other “reputable” media personalities have been accused of sexual harassment, but these accusations were once again met with mixed reactions. Some people immediately question why the victim chose to come forward so many years later. And often times victims are slut-shamed and accused of seeking fame or attention for personal gains.

The backlash against #MeToo heightened the fears of many women forcing them to stay silent about their experiences of harassment. Feminism is largely dismissed as a Western concept by not just the masses but the state premier himself. Pakistan is one of the lowest-ranked countries in the world in terms of gender equality. All forms of violence against women are extremely prevalent. Each year an estimated 1000 women are killed by their families over damaged honor. When the situation is so dire, victims expect little to no empathy or justice.

Victims who have dared to speak have found themselves confronting the stringent cybercrime law that was enacted to protect “women” from online harassment. The 2016 Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act allows the government to access user data, censor content, and criminalize certain forms of communication. The bill was labeled “a clear and present danger to human rights” by Human Rights Watch. Victims often take on pseudonyms or anonymously report experiences of sexual assault on social media. 

Whilst many supporters had been disillusioned by the slow progress of the movement, the recent motorway rape incident in Lahore shook the country to its core. A woman was traveling from Lahore to Gujranwala when her car stalled on the motorway. While she waited to receive assistance from the police, she was interjected by two armed men who saw the woman alone with her children took advantage of the situation. The woman was raped by multiple assailants at gunpoint, and her valuables were also taken away. 

The incident on its own was enough to spark a resurgence in the #MeToo movement. What further fueled people’s anger was the police chief’s attempt to blame the victim for the assault. His statement was met with demands for his removal along with reform in the way police respond to sexual violence.

Many expected the case to serve as a catalyst for a major change. Mass protests took place across the country for days after the incident. Protestors put forward several demands, which include criminalization of acts of sexual violence that do not include penetration, structural reform to increase police accountability, and training for police, prosecutors, and judges in handling sexual violence cases, along with other measures to improve safety for women. 

Unfortunately, however, it has been over a month since the incident occurred and little has changed. In fact, in recent weeks we have witnessed a surge in the number of rape cases reported. In some cases, harassers have been arrested and are undergoing investigation. 

According to official statistics, at least 11 rape cases are reported in Pakistan everyday with over 22,000 rape cases reported to the police in the last six years. However, only 77% of the accused are convicted, which makes up only 0.3% of the total figure. Police officials have pointed out that only half of the rape cases are registered, which means that the actual figure of rape cases could be as high as 60,000 in the last five years.

Whilst, the motorway incident sparked the resurgence of the #MeToo movement, the events that followed have once again brought the movement and its role in Pakistan in question. It appears as though the movement has remained largely unsuccessful because we have yet to see a reformation of women’s rights in the country. However, the problem here is a larger one. Perhaps, the problem lies in the mindsets of the masses. Surely, #MeToo can encourage victims of sexual abuse and sexual harassment to speak up about their experiences. However, when the mindsets of the society on the whole are instilled with misogynistic patterns. There is little a movement can change.

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USA Reproductive Rights 2020 Elections Gender Inequality

Amy Coney Barett’s feminism is not here to save us

There’s no one way to be a woman. So why, in 2020, do we still expect all women to be the same? In many ways, this year has pushed us collectively to expand our intersections of identity, and redefine our activism. But what does it mean to fall under one banner, one slogan? How can we remain on one side of history and still maintain individualistic thought?

The recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been met with the seemingly collective fear of women across the US for their bodily autonomy. Well-intentioned messages flood Twitter to remind uterus-owners to stock up on birth control now, before we enter the new age of womanhood (read: Gilead). What a privilege it is to utter “Justice for Breonna Taylor,” “Abolish ICE,” and “My Body, My Choice” in the same breath, as if the three do not meet at a crucial intersection.

The irony is that the bodies of Black women were subjected to the horrific trials that produced modern-day birth control. The ever-updating news cycle revealed that the bodies of detained women in the US are again subject to illegal medical procedures and sterilization in the same week as Amy Barrett’s nomination. The only bodies to retain autonomous choice, it seems, are those of white women. These are the women for whom difference of opinion is not a matter of life and death. How else can Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Trump’s top choice to fill her seat, Amy Coney Barrett have tread the same career path?

This is not a matter of pitting women against women, but a reminder that our fear of Barrett on the bench stems from an age-old economic theory of scarcity. RBG was the second woman to sit on the Supreme Court—the first Jewish woman. In 2009, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the first Hispanic and Latina to become a member of the Court.  For as long as there’s a qualifier preceding a woman’s role, there’s a second, silent fear: what if she’s the only? While it’s simply not true—this fear has fueled our motivations in almost every field: model minority myths, purported college demographic quotas— the idea of nine women on the bench still seems far-fetched. Impossible. This is what makes us angry at Amy Coney Barrett—afraid even. She’s being offered the opportunity to represent all of us, but her track record shows her preference for the conservative, non-immigrant few. 

Last week’s confirmation hearings remind us that Barrett identifies as an Originalist–that is, much like her mentor, the late Antonin Scalia, she believes that the Constitution is not a living document, but rather one frozen within the context of the year it was ratified. She once again emphasized in her hearing that “it’s not up to me to update [the Constitution] or infuse my own policy views into it,” something she has been reiterating toward every question regarding her opinions on Roe v. Wade and her conservative Catholic views. Comforting, right?

However, despite Barrett assuring us that she is the consummate public servant, her promise that “[she] would assume this role (regarding her nomination to the Supreme Court) to serve [us]” feels hollow. The fear is real: historically women who do not have to fight for their right to exist have exercised the luxury of choosing to renounce things they don’t need. Consider Susan B. Anthony’s lack of interest of securing the right to vote for Black women in the United States, for example. It’s important to note that white women are not the founders of feminism—rather only the face of the modern word, as it emerged in the Western world. 

But what about Amy Coney Barrett’s feminism? After all, as women, shouldn’t we be on the same side? If anything, she’s a reminder that women, despite facing similar obstacles, are varied and complex. Feminism doesn’t deride motherhood or womanhood–it’s not meant to shame femininity or identity. Rather, it is best viewed as with most successful movements, through its intersectionality. A feminist doesn’t have to be a woman, doesn’t have to be unmarried or without children. However, a feminist does have to care and advocate for other marginalized groups. Therefore if feminism must include bodily and reproductive rights, it must do so for any and all uterus-bearers; eschewing a cis-heteronormative lens, and consider both those who choose parenthood and those who choose otherwise. 

Amy Coney Barrett is the right’s feminist icon because of her working motherhood, which in itself is not the issue. If anything, the fact that her hearing was filled with reminders of her seven children is a reminder that her personal choice to be a parent is now touted as a feminist flag for female success in the workplace: if Amy could be a working mother, then women have breached that final hurdle. However, it ignores her choice to do so: her choice to be a mother is as valid as another’s choice to not be a mother. What’s important here is that Amy Coney Barrett’s long-held anti-abortion views do not suggest that. 

In the aftermath of the 2016 US election, we saw many women vote against their own interests, and puzzled how we, as women, could be so divided. It’s worth noting, that feminism is quite literally, not for everyone. The 2010s resurgence of feminism and the need to make it palatable led quickly to the condemnation of White Feminism. This is a reminder that until they are truly intersectional, movements cannot achieve success. Sure, without feminism, Barrett would not have pivoted to the role she is nominated for today—but to support her blindly, in the name of feminism, or solidarity—is an injustice to any woman who does not fall under Barrett’s own scope. 

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History Historical Badasses

Remembering Patsy Mink, a trailblazer in Asian American politics

Today, women hold a significant role in US politics. One hundred and twenty-seven are serving in both the House of Representatives and the Senatealmost a quarter of Congress. This is a record number, with 48 women of color. Among them is Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), the first woman of color to be nominated for vice president by a major party. But looking back from where we are today, there is another important woman to remember: Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color in the U.S. Congress.

For most of her career, Mink served as a representative for the 2nd district of Hawaii. She also briefly served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State. Mink’s legacy is marked by her outspoken support for education, women’s rights, and her anti-war stance. But while many women choose to pursue politics as a career from the beginning, politics was not Mink’s first or second choice of career, but it was a necessary one. 

As a Japanese American, Mink was born in Hawaii in 1927. She graduated from the University of Hawaii with a degree in chemistry and zoology. But despite her qualifications, she was rejected from several medical schools as a woman. Eventually, she attended the University of Chicago Law School, as one of two women in her class. But again, Mink struggled to get employment. As a wife in an interracial marriage and a mother, she was turned down from law firms. It wasn’t until 1959 that she began campaigning for a seat in Congress. Although she lost her first campaign, she won in 1964 to take the seat that she would serve for the majority of her career. 

According to the Honolulu Advertiser, Mink said, “‘I didn’t start off wanting to be in politics—I wanted to be a learned professional, serving the community. But they weren’t hiring women just then. Not being able to get a job from anybody changed things.’’ 

When Mink entered Congress, she was the first woman of color and the first Asian American woman in the House of Representatives. As a result, she was called an “Oriental doll,” “Patsy Pink,” and “diminutive” by opponents and the press. But her work was not to be minimized. Mink served on the Committee of Education and Labor where she introduced the Early Childhood Education Act. It would assist the first child-care bill, student loans, bilingual education, and more.

Still, the foundation of Mink’s work was women’s rights and she was unapologetic about her determination. “If to believe in freedom and equality is to be a radical, then I am a radical,” Mink said in her 1960 speech at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

In 1991, Mink supported Anita Hill’s right to testify against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and joined marches to protest when Hill was initially denied. Mink also marshaled support for the Equal Rights Amendment, to end gender discrimination in government laws. But her most significant contribution to women’s rights is Title IX. In 1972, Mink co-authored the law with Representative Edith Green to mandate equal treatment for women and men in education.

Since then, Title IX has had lasting effects. The number of college-educated women has outpaced men since 2007. Where Mink was only one of two women in law school and previously turned away from medical school, women have now overtaken men in enrollment for both law and medicine. Title IX has also become drastically important for women in athletics, protection against sexual harassment and violence, and discrimination in financial aid. 

Although she candidly spoke about her career in politics as not her first choice, Mink’s work has allowed other women to study and pursue politics as their own first choice. In the 2008 PBS documentary, Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority, Mink said, “Life doesn’t have to be this unfair, it can be better. Maybe not for me, I can’t change the past. But I can certainly help somebody else in the future so they don’t have to go through what I did.”

Although Mink passed away in 2002, her work reminds us that when we talk about representation today, it’s not just another buzzword or platitude; it shapes who the future looks like.

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World News Gender The World

A look into the predatory and pornographic Telegram group in Malaysia

TW: Mentions of sexual harassment and child pornography.

A disturbing Telegram group called V2K has been exposed for distributing and sharing unsolicited pictures of women in Malaysia. These pictures range from selfies from social media accounts, vacation pictures in swimwear, nudes, and even paid-for child pornographic images.

The #predatorgram, as it has been dubbed on Twitter, was exposed by a handful of Malaysian women who discovered their pictures were circulating in the Telegram group without their consent. 

The Telegram group has almost 40,000 members that range from students to businessmen. The men share unsolicited pictures of women and girls to each other for their pleasure. The pictures are either taken from social media, or nudes are requested which are sent as revenge porn. Sometimes the men ask to trade nudes in exchange for another girl’s nudes. Personal information of the women and girls such as phone numbers, home addresses, and social media handles, is also shared with their pictures. 

The violation of privacy matched with the disgusting objectification of women and children happening in this group is a major reason why so many women feel unsafe, unprotected, and angry on social media.

That is exactly how Syakinah (one of the women at the forefront of exposing the group) felt when she discovered her own pictures were being distributed on the Telegram group. 

“It’s not that there are reasons I don’t feel safe, rather there are no reasons to feel safe. At every level, women are vulnerable. At a personal level, women and girls are raped by their own family members and husbands. In society, women are treated like objects for male pleasure. Finally, at a legal level, the laws themselves are full of loopholes that allow men to escape justice. The part that makes this worse [is] that everyone is aware of these things but does not try to change them.” says Syakinah. 

Currently, Malaysian law does not define sexual harassment or assault in explicit terms.  Malaysia is set to introduce a new Sexual Harassment Bill which will provide detailed definitions of what sexual harassment is, improve the way sexual harassment survivors report their cases, and change the punishment for predators. The hope is that this bill will address the inequalities and harassment experienced by Malaysian women. 

The news of this Telegram group also raises questions about consent and the way women are harassed in an increasingly digital and internet-driven world. 

“Social media has created the illusion of access,” says Syakinah. “These men believed that because the pictures were posted online that it belonged to them for any use.”

Why do these men struggle to understand the concept of consent? In the bubble of social media, men do not live in the same world as women. They have difficulty conceptualizing the oppressive experiences of women because the patriarchal society uplifts them and the internet has become a new way to exert their power over women in a digital, instantaneous space. 

However, Syakinah does think that the internet has been helpful to women in Malaysia despite the appearance of such groups online. “Malaysia currently still lacks general education on women’s rights and via the internet, we are able to educate ourselves by looking at other countries where women’s rights are more elevated and talked about.”

Let us honor these women and girls by heeding Syakinah’s call for self-reflection. “Every person needs to reflect on themselves. Men need to realize that yes, all men are part of this problem. Not all men do these things but all men benefit from the patriarchy. Correct your friends and yourself. Self-reflection is hard but necessary for betterment. For girls, be unapologetic. Don’t be afraid to say when something makes you uncomfortable and upset.” 

Due to the public outrage, the Telegram group has now been disbanded. However, the issues that groups like these are exposing need to continuously be addressed for women’s rights and safety to be prioritized and protected. The fight for women and girls in Malaysia is a fight that should be taken up by all everywhere. For we can’t be truly empowered unless all of us are. 

Please sign the petition to table the Sexual Harassment Bill in Malaysia.

USA Editor's Picks Politics The World

17 of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s most memorable Supreme Court rulings

During her nearly three decades on the high court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court opinions gave voice to women fighting for equal rights and opportunities. As a young lawyer, she argued a number of key gender equality cases in the courts before eventually being nominated to a federal appeals court in 1980 and then the Supreme Court in 1993.

During her early years on the court, Ginsburg was one of two women justices. After Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement in 2006, Ginsburg spent several years as the court’s lone female voice.

RBG fought all throughout her life for not just women’s rights, but the rights of all humans. In an interview with NPR, she explained the legal theory that she made her mission:  “The words of the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause — ‘nor shall any state deny to any person the equal protection of the laws.’ Well that word, ‘any person,’ covers women as well as men. And the Supreme Court woke up to that reality in 1971.”

Ginsburg’s own last words are a reminder of everything that is at stake upon her death. Days before her passing, she dictated to her daughter the following: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

1. Moritz v. Commissioner, 1972

Known more colloquially as the backstory to “On the Basis of Sex,” this monumental case headed by Ginsburg was brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in which the Court held that discrimination on the basis of sex constitutes a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

RBG defended Charles E. Moritz, a single man caring for his elder mother who was denied a caregiver’s tax deduction. The law only allowed this deduction for women or married men, and Moritz was neither. By focusing on how gender-based discrimination hurt a male, RBG was able to make the courts take an unprecedented stand.

The decision to extend the caregiver deduction to single men was historical, as it confirmed that the tax code conflicted with the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. This one single case cast an enormous shadow of doubt over hundreds of US laws and their potential unconstitutionality.

2. Reed v. Reed, 1971

The first brief that RGB wrote for the Supreme Court would end up becoming a historic one.

Ginsburg represented Sally Reed in the Reed v. Reed case. Sally was going to court because she thought she should be the executor of her son’s estate instead of her ex-husband. The core matter of the case was whether a court could automatically give preference to a man over a woman as executors of estates.

RBG fought all throughout her life for not just women’s rights, but the rights of all humans.

The Supreme Court’s decision? No.

Quite literally, the ruling outlined that the administrators of estates cannot be named in a way that discriminates between sexes. That became the first time ever that a court struck down a state law because of gender-based discrimination.

In a unanimous decision, the Court held that the law’s dissimilar treatment of men and women was unconstitutional.

The Court argued that “[t]o give a mandatory preference to members of either sex over members of the other, merely to accomplish the elimination of hearings on the merits, is to make the very kind of arbitrary legislative choice forbidden by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. . .[T]he choice in this context may not lawfully be mandated solely on the basis of sex.”

[Image Description: RBG on the stand in the movie 'On the Basis of Sex'] Via IMDB.
[Image Description: RBG on the stand in the movie ‘On the Basis of Sex’] Via IMDB.

3. Frontiero v. Richardson, 1973

RBG argued as amicus in this case in Sharron Frontiero’s favor. This case was a landmark the United States Supreme Court case that decided that benefits given by the United States military to the family of service members cannot be given out differently because of sex.

At the time, members of the military were “entitled to an increased basic allowance for quarters” and “comprehensive medical and dental care” for their dependents. However, for a husband to be considered a “dependent,” at least half of his material support had to come from his wife. This criterion did not apply to male servicemembers with wives.

Frontiero claimed that the statute “deprived servicewomen of due process” and violated the equality guarantee of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The district court ruled in favor of the Secretary of Defense; Frontiero appealed her case directly to the Supreme Court. Frontiero was a lieutenant in the US Air Force who was denied benefits for her husband Joseph, whom she claimed as a dependent.

“This absolute exclusion, based on gender per se, operates to the disadvantage of female workers, their surviving spouses, and their children,” Ginsburg stated during the case. The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in Frontiero’s favor. This case was fundamental in informing the military establishment that men and women must be considered equal in terms of pay, allowances, and general treatment.

4. Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 1975

In 1975, Ginsburg represented a man who sought survivor’s benefits to care for his child after his wife’s death in childbirth. The existing Social Security Law stated than only widows (not widowers) were entitled to this benefit.

In 1972, Wiesenfeld’s wife Paula Polatschek died in childbirth, which left Wiesenfeld with the care of their newborn son. Wiesenfeld applied for social security benefits for himself and his son and was told that his son could receive them but that he could not. Social Security Act provides benefits based on the earnings of a deceased husband and father that are available to both the children and the widow. The benefits for a deceased wife and mother, however, are only available to the children.

Men and women must be considered equal in terms of pay, allowances, and general treatment.

In 1973, Wiesenfeld sued on behalf of himself and similarly situated widowers. He claimed that the relevant section of the Social Security Act unfairly discriminated against on the basis of sex and sought summary judgment. A three-judge panel of the district court granted Wiesenfeld’s motion for summary judgment

Once again, the court decided in RBG’s favor and ruled that sex-based discrimination was unconstitutional.

5. Craig v. Boren, 1970

This case, which took place in 1970, had radical consequences.

Ginsburg filed a brief and sat with counsel to challenge an Oklahoma statute that stipulated different minimum drinking ages for men and women. In 1972, under Oklahoma law, a beer with an alcohol level of 3.2% could be purchased by women at age eighteen and men at age 21. The age differential could be traced back to the nineteenth century when Oklahoma, then a territory, established different ages of majority for men and women.

By the 1970s, however, the state’s explanation for treating men and women differently had changed. It was a matter of safety, the state argued; far more young men were arrested for drunk driving than women, and far more young men were injured or killed in car accidents related to drinking.

In the Supreme Court’s opinion, the fact that 2% of the men and just under 1% of the women between 18 and 21 had been arrested for alcohol-linked driving violations hardly constituted grounds for different treatment. Did the additional one percent justify the punishment of the remaining 98% who had never been arrested?

But of more lasting importance than the Court’s interpretation of the numbers was its interpretation of the criteria that it should use in evaluating laws of this sort.

Dumping the old easy-to-pass rational basis test, the Court argued that “classifications by gender must serve important governmental objectives and must be substantially related to the achievement of those objectives.” The court not only overruled this but also imposed, for the first time in history, intermediate scrutiny on laws pertaining to gender-based discrimination.

6. Durren v. Missouri, 1978

Ginsburg fought her last case as an attorney in 1978. Durren v Missouri challenged Missouri’s law which said that women could opt-out from jury service.

When RBG concluded her oral argument for this case, then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist asked her: “You won’t settle for putting Susan B. Anthony on the new dollar, then?”

Ginsburg later reported that she considered responding, “We won’t settle for tokens,” but instead opted not to answer the question.

[Image Description: RBG and Obama hug] Via SkyNews.
[Image Description: RBG and Obama hug] Via SkyNews.

7. United States v. Virginia, 1996

One of her most famous cases during her time in the Supreme Court was this 1996 case.

VMI was a prestigious state-run military-inspired institution that did not admit women. However, the state of Virginia argued not only that women weren’t properly suited for VMI’s rigorous training, but also that the state’s creation of a separate military program at the women’s only liberal arts school, Mary Baldwin University, was sufficiently equal. The court disagreed and struck down VMI’s all-male admissions policy, with Ginsburg writing the majority opinion-making it clear that gender equality is a constitutional right.

“Neither the goal of producing citizen-soldiers nor VMI’s implementing methodology is inherently unsuitable to women,” she wrote, later adding, “generalizations about ‘the way women are,’ estimates of what is appropriate for most women, no longer justify denying opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description.”

8. Olmstead v. LC, 1999

This landmark case focused on the rights of people with mental disabilities to live in their communities (known as the “integration mandate”), under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Supreme Court heard arguments on behalf of two women, Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson.

Both were voluntarily admitted to the psychiatric unit of a state-run Georgia hospital but were then held there in isolation in the years following their initial treatments — even after being medically cleared to move to a more community-based setting.

The Supreme Court overruled this decision in a 6-3 vote. Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, in which she reinforced an important right afforded to individuals with disabilities, including mental illnesses. The “unjustified isolation” of Curtis and Wilson “perpetuates assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life,” she wrote.

9. Stenberg v. Carhart, 2000 & Gonzales v. Carhart, 2003

RBG consistently supported abortion rights.

Some of the landmark cases that she voted on where Stenberg v Carhart and Gonzales v. Carhart. The first of them made history for striking down Nebraska’s partial-birth law, which made performing ‘partial-birth abortion’ illegal without regard for the mother’s health.

RBG consistently supported abortion rights.

“A state regulation that ‘has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus, violates the Constitution,” she wrote. Ginsburg later cited Stenberg v. Carhart in her dissent against the court’s opinion of Gonzalez v. Carhart.

In the second case, however, RBG dissented with the court’s decision. “Legal challenges to undue restrictions on abortion procedures do not seek to vindicate some generalized notion of privacy; rather, they center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature,” she said.

In its ruling on Gonzalez v. Carhart, the Supreme Court upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. In her dissent, Ginsburg called the decision “alarming.” She decried the ruling, stating that the decision banned “a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”

She further took Congress to task for passing the legislation in the first place, citing ample evidence that they did so based on dubious “expert” testimony. “[N]one of the six physicians who testified before Congress had ever performed an intact D&E. Several did not provide abortion services at all, and one was not even an obgyn. . . . [T]he oral testimony before Congress was not only unbalanced, but intentionally polemic,” she wrote.

10. Bush v. Gore, 2000

Some of Ginsburg’s most notable Supreme Court opinions were actually dissents or disagreements from the majority decision — like in the case of Bush v. Gore.

The case determined the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. It ended at the Supreme Court after George W. Bush filed an emergency application to stop a Florida Supreme Court mandate for a manual recount of the ballots. The Court granted it, a decision that effectively handed Bush the victory in Florida, and in the election.

Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion made it clear that she disagreed with the court’s favoring of Bush. She famously wrote in her opinion, “I dissent.” The phrase was a somewhat harsh departure from the court’s decorum, in which dissenting justices usually note that they’re using the term “respectfully.”

[Image Description: The court clapping for RBG] Via SkyNews.
[Image Description: The court clapping for RBG] Via SkyNews.

11. Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, 2007

In Ledbetter v. Goodyear, which took place in 2007, Lilly Ledbetter filed a lawsuit against her employer claiming pay discrimination based on gender. Lilly Ledbetter sued her employer of 19 years, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, for gender discrimination, after she discovered the company had been paying her less than her male counterparts.

Ledbetter argued the pay disparity was due to her gender and a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Goodyear countered that the same clause required discrimination complaints to be filed within 180 days of the violation (aka the decision to pay her less money than the men) — so Ledbetter could only legally call into question the 180 days of unequal pay leading up to her official complaint, rather than the entirety of her nearly two-decade tenure with the company.

Although the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of Goodyear, Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion.

“The Court’s insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination,” she wrote. “Pay disparities often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments; cause to suspect that discrimination is at work develops over time. Comparative pay information, moreover, is often hidden from the employee’s view.”

In RBG’s dissent to the Bush v. Gore decision, she famously wrote in her opinion, “I dissent.” The phrase was a harsh departure from the norm.

And Ginsburg didn’t just quietly file her dissent with a clerk, as The New Yorker reports is often the case. Instead, she translated the official, rather technical document into a more widely understandable version, which she read publicly from the bench, making sure the gender wage gap got its due attention.

In that version, she noted that as Title VII stood at the time, “each and every pay decision Ledbetter did not properly challenge wiped the slate clean. Never mind the cumulative effect of a series of decisions that together set her pay well below that of every male area manager.” She pressed Congress to amend the clause, which they eventually did. When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill he signed.

12. Safford Unified School District v. Redding, 2009

While still serving as the only female voice on the Court, RBG is credited in influencing the ultimate ruling in which the court had to weigh whether a male assistant principal had violated a 13-year-old girl’s rights when he forced her to remove her bra and underpants when searching for drugs.

While the court decided that the assistant principal had violated the girl’s rights, the court also ruled that the school district was entitled to qualified immunity.

“They have never been a 13-year-old girl,” Ginsburg later told USA Today. “It’s a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn’t think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood.”

13. Shelby County v. Holder, 2013

This is often referred to as the decision that “gutted” the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which enacted special requirements for certain parts of the country that had a particularly terrible track record of suppressing minority voters.

Section 4b of that landmark legislation, which was intended to bar racial discrimination in voting, enacted special requirements for certain parts of the country that had a particularly terrible track record of suppressing minority voters. Under Section 5 of the act, a policy known as “preclearance” required states like Alabama, Texas, and Arizona to receive approval from the attorney general or a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C. before making any changes to their voting requirements.

But in 2013, Alabama’s Shelby County challenged the constitutionality of the decades-old act. And in a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court agreed, claiming that the restrictions were outdated in the modern era and that it was an unconstitutional violation for Congress — rather than states themselves — to set the terms of elections.

“Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes,” Ginsburg wrote, “is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

14. Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015

A number of same-sex couples sued their respective states over bans against same-sex marriages and not recognizing their legal marriages. Ginsburg’s vote helped overturn the marriage bans, legalizing same-sex marriage in all fifty states.

“Marriage was a relationship of a dominant male to a subordinate female,” she told them, according to a report by The Guardian. “That ended as a result of this court’s decision in 1982 when Louisiana’s Head and Master Rule was struck down … Would that be a choice that states should [still] be allowed to have? To cling to marriage the way it once was?” She also derided a procreation debate by asking whether a 70-year-old heterosexual couple would be allowed to marry when clearly they could not procreate either.

“We have changed our idea about marriage,” Ginsburg said during her oral argument. “Marriage today is not what it was under the common law tradition, under the civil law tradition.”

[Image description: Yearbook photo of Ginsburg, as well as her achievements and associations.] via TMZ
[Image description: Yearbook photo of Ginsburg, as well as her achievements and associations.] via TMZ

15. Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, 2016

This 2016 case tackled Texas’s Omnibus Abortion Bill (known widely as H.B. 2), which imposed strict restrictions and requirements on abortion providers, including a mandate that doctors performing procedures have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that clinics meet the same standards as outpatient surgical centers.

RBG joined the majority in this 2016 case that struck down a restrictive 2013 Texas law that regulated abortion providers. She also authored a short concurring opinion that criticized the legislation on abortion. She said that the law was not aimed at protecting mothers, as Texas claimed, but to keep them from having abortions.

Ginsburg’s vote helped overturn the marriage bans, legalizing same-sex marriage in all fifty states.

“It is beyond rational belief that H.B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions,” she wrote. “When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners…at great risk to their health and safety. So long as this Court adheres to Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws like H.B. 2 that do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion, cannot survive judicial inspection.”

16. Sherill v. Oneida2005

Although this list has shown Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s support for gender equity, not all her decisions made a positive impact. While we uphold her legacy, let’s also learn from her more debatable decisions, such as the majority opinion on the case Sherill v. Oneida. 

At issue in the case was whether land parcels granted to the Oneida Nation by a treaty in 1794, which had since been sold and only recently repurchased by the tribe, should be considered part of its reservation and therefore be exempt from local taxes.

In her opinion, Ginsburg held that the Oneida Nation could not reassert its sovereignty over the land, and had to pay taxes to the city. “Given the longstanding, distinctly non-Indian character of the area and its inhabitants, the regulatory authority constantly exercised by New York State and its counties and towns, and the Oneidas’ long delay in seeking judicial relief against parties other than the United States, we hold that the Tribe cannot unilaterally revive its ancient sovereignty, in whole or in part, over the parcels at issue,” Ginsburg wrote. “The Oneidas long ago relinquished the reins of government and cannot regain them through open-market purchases from current titleholders.”

Not all her decisions made a positive impact.

In this case, the US Court held that the repurchase of traditional tribal lands two hundred years later did not restore tribal sovereignty to that land.

Over the years, however, Ginsburg spent considerable time and work seeking to work against her previously-bigoted opinions about America’s Indigenous People, citing her 2016 case around domestic violence within indigenous communities as hopeful proof of her changing relationship with the community. 

17. Sessions v. Dimaya, 2018

This case was a big win for Ginsburg — she played a hand in striking down legislation that allows certain non-citizens to be expelled from the country.

According to Slate, the case was the first time in her entire court career that she assigned a majority opinion as the most senior justice in the majority.

According to the Court, the vagueness of the legislation struck down was in violation of the due process clause, making a strong precedent against legislative vagueness in future court cases.

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Gender Inequality

Meet these 5 badass Nicaraguan women who are at the forefront of change

In the high conflict areas of Central America, women are leading protests, confronting authorities, and demanding freedom – all while changing perceptions along the way. In Nicaragua, young women are on the front lines fighting against the country’s authoritative president of Daniel Ortega.

On April 18, 2018 protests broke out in the country after cuts on social-security benefits and a nationwide discontent which had been simmering for years. 

Amid the uprising, countless Nicaraguan women were aiding the injured. They organized, protested, were incarcerated, and were inside the barricades.

Between the months of April and September, Nicaraguans took to the streets to demand change. However, protesters were violently attacked by police and paramilitary groups. As a result of the brutality 300 people have died and 100,000 Nicaraguans are living in exile. Meanwhile, the government continues to illegally arrest civilians and commit crimes against humanity.

Amid the uprising, countless Nicaraguan women were aiding the injured. They organized, protested, were incarcerated, and were inside the barricades.

They were everywhere, doing everything.

Two years later, women are still playing an active role in anti-government movements in Central America. To give recognition to the resilience of Nicaraguan women, The Tempest is highlighting the plight of five young Nicaraguan women.

1. Emilia Yang Rappaccioli

Emilia speaking at AMA event
Attribution: Madres de Abril [Image description: Emilia speaking on the microphone at one of museums events. ]
Emilia is an activist, artist, and researcher who focuses her work on the role of memory. When the protest broke out in 2018 Emilia was in Los Angeles working on her PHD at the University of Southern California (USC). She returned to Nicaragua weeks later. When she arrived she immediately joined and made her mark on the anti-government demonstrations.

On June 26, 2018 paramilitaries killed Emilia’s uncle. After this tragedy, Emilia joined the Association of Mothers of April (AMA). This is an association which was created with the mission of uniting, and representing, the mothers and relatives of the people murdered from state repression in Nicaragua.

Today, Emilia is the director of the Museum of Memory against Impunity. This museum was built in conjunction with the AMA in order to dignify the victims of the state and honor their memory.

Emilia along with Nicaragua Mother of April
Attribution: Madres of Abril [Image description: Emilia is third one on the left, joined by members of AMA.]
Emilia recalls that setting up the museum’s first exhibition was emotionally draining. She interviews around 200 victims about who they were, what happened to them, and how they remember the events.

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

When the museum opened its first exhibition in Nicaragua, at the University of Central America (UCA), people were able to reach out to the victims in AMA. She says this has helped Nicaraguans come  to terms with much of the pain that was caused. Most importantly, she sees how the museum has really helped people to mourn as a collective. 

Regarding the country, Emilia says there needs to be work done which is centered on understanding women rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and the rights of black folk.

2. Karen Guido

Karen dancing
Attribution: Karen Guido [Image description: Karen dancing for last day of exhibition for the Museum of Memory against Impunity.]
Karen joined the uprising from her native home of Monimbo, Nicaragua’s most rebellious town.

Traditionally, the people of Monimbo have used dance as a form of resistance and for Karen this is especially true.

In the time since the demonstrations, Karen is part of two youth led groups and gives yoga classes in the name of resistance. She describes how the on-going crisis is detrimental for one’s mental health. Yet through yoga youth will be able to cope.

She emphasizes the need for one to take care of their mental health in order to keep resisting.

One needs to take care of their mental health in order to keep resisting.

For Karen, as an avid lover of all arts, it saddens her to see how the practice of art is controlled and appropriated by the government. She dreams to live in a Nicaragua in which art is no longer politicized. She feels that individuals in Nicaragua should be allowed to express their art freely, spontaneously, and that art should be accessible for all.

Karen continues to dance for events commemorating Nicaragua’s popular uprising, as this is her way to keep the resistance alive. 

3. Nathalie Román

3. Nathalie Roman young with a megaphone
Attribution: Nathalie Roman [Image description: Picture of Nathalie Roman holding a megaphone in a manifestation.]
Nathalie is a political science student and prominent member of the Student Movement to Support Democracy (MEAD). When conflict broke out, she primarily focused on aiding the university students who were barricaded inside of the universities. At the time, she also helped construct one of the first youth movements that emerged from the protests.

Nathalie focuses her activism work on organizing student movements and advocating for the demands on university autonomy.

Her most recent project is Chacuatol Universitario, an initiative seeking to inform and involve more students in the discussion around recovering, and strengthening university autonomy. 

Nathalie understands that there needs to be change within Nicaragua’s traditional cultural political framework.

In a country in which there are mostly men making political decisions, and women’s voices are set aside, Nathalie believes that it is crucial for women to be appointed to political positions.

4. Rosi Ariana

4. Rosi Ariana
Attribution: Rosi Ariana [Image description: Picture of Rosi Ariana.]
Rosi is from Bullocks Wharf, a municipality in Nicaragua’s South Caribbean coast. She joined the protests while studying political science at Nicaragua Polytechnic University in the capital of Managua.

Due to a law that the government passed which criminalizes any form of protest, Rosi integrated herself into the April 19 Student Movement (ME19A) in order to continue organizing against the government.

Now she is the coordinator and administrator of the ongoing projects of ME19A.

Rosi is concerned with the little to no attention toward the violence Nicaraguan women face. Especially women who live in rural areas of the country, like her hometown. Rosi says that women in these kinds of areas suffer from patriarchal violence. For instance, there are cases where women are killed by their husbands, for not having food ready when they arrive home from work.

There are cases where women are killed by their husbands, for not having food ready when they arrive home from work.

Rosi values the different factors within the feminist movement, but feels there needs to be more organization towards the demands of Nicaragua’s rural women. She hopes that one day she is able to help these women by making sure they receive justice and that their cases are not left in impunity.

5. Liza Henriquez

Liza Henriquez Nicaraguan indigenous woman

Liza is from the Mosquitia region of Nicaragua, living in the municipality of Puerto Cabezas (Bilwi) in Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Coast. She’s an indigenous Miskito woman, one of the many ethnic groups in Nicaragua.

Map of Nicaragua
Attribution: Lonely Planet [Image description: Map of Nicaragua.]
Nicaragua’s indigenous and communities of Afro descendant are among the populations which have suffered the most. Liza explains that her community, predominately those of Afro-descendant, has been involved in anti-government demonstrations way before the protests of April ’18.

Liza joined the protest of April ’18 while she was living in the country’s capital of Managua. After receiving threats from government sympathizers she went back home to Bilwi in order to continue protesting.

Once she arrived there, Liza summoned herself to help organize marches, hunger strikes, and participated in putting up “tranques” or barricades. She recalls seeing a 15 year girl shot in the head by a militant during one of the demonstrations.

Liza explains that there are more cases of young indigenous and Afro descendants who have been assassinated by armed groups – yet most of these cases are left in impunity.

Now Liza continues to organize through meetings with other young indigenous from different territories. It is during these meetings that she listens to the testimonies about how colonists or invaders are exploiting the land which belong to the indigenous communities living in these territories.

As for Liza she is always going to advocate for the end of exploitation of indigenous land, justice for the fallen, the inclusion of indigenous, and Afro-descendant women in politics. Lastly, also for a real implementation of Autonomy for Nicaragua Caribbean Coast. 

Liza is always going to advocate for the end of exploitation of indigenous land, justice for the fallen, the inclusion of indigenous, and Afro-descendant women in politics. Lastly, also for a real implementation of Autonomy for Nicaragua Caribbean Coast. 

Liza says that Nicaragua is not free until the country meets those demands.

Two years since massive protests, Nicaragua continues to be an area of high conflict. Despite the risks, these 5 young Nicaraguan women continue to organize, changing the panorama of the country’s traditional political framework.


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History Pop Culture

I adore ’20s aesthetic, but its depiction in pop culture is deeply troubling

Remember the months leading up to this year, where everyone was ready to pull out all the stops to ensure our generation gets to live through our own Roaring ’20s with endless parties and extravagance? And how quickly that went south when the year began? 

Oh, the ’20s. There’s no period in history that has been so loved by writers, filmmakers, musicians, and, of course, audiences. A century later, we still fawn over for in the glitz and glamor.

I cannot pass a thrift store or vintage outlet without looking at the cloche hats and beaded gloves without wondering what it would be like to live as a flapper girl, a whole new world ahead of her. It has long been an idealized aesthetic for me. Maybe that’s because the romantic image of a pining Gatsby is at the forefront of our memory of the ’20s.



The fact that the latest Great Gatsby adaptation, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, has consistently been available on Netflix since 2014 is a sure sign that everyone is feeling nostalgic for that long-gone period. What better time than now, then, as we live through our own ’20s of the 2000s, to pick apart the way this period has been glamorized in pop culture and entertainment. Despite having tragically dark elements that lurk in its corners.

There are countless movies and TV shows set in this era, as well as themed costume parties, but can we ever excuse this period of history? Racial oppression, the mistreatment of women, there is so much that happens behind the glamour. For that reason, I can’t bear to entertain anything that doesn’t at least hint at the dark parts of this sought-after aesthetic.

Of course, at the center of it all is The Great Gatsby with its flapper girls, pearls, and swinging jazz music. Who doesn’t dream of dancing the night away at one of Gatsby’s extravagant parties or being yearned for by the man himself? This story has long been my guilty pleasure.

The reason behind my guilt is that it completely overlooks any of the questionable and outright terrible parts of that society. Other than the class divisions that spurred the tragic love story, the story neglects entire populations of people. There’s a cleverly titled review of the book, “I Love The Great Gatsby, Even if it Doesn’t Love Me Back”, in which a self-proclaimed “small town, Black girl” tries to see herself in the story she loves but feels so alienated.

None of the named characters in any of the adaptations are people of color. It is almost like people of color would be anachronistic to the time setting, which is unfortunately what most producers for period pieces seem to believe. Blackness has no presence in this time period, they seem to say. The Gatsby story acts like race doesn’t exist, despite the rising xenophobic sentiment among the American public during the particular time period following the First World War.

[Image Description: An African American flapper girl sits on a chair, wearing a fur hat, coat with feathery trim and extravagant dress.] Via See Jane Sparkle
[Image Description: An African American flapper girl sits on a chair, wearing a fur hat, coat with feathery trim and extravagant dress.] Via See Jane Sparkle

And why should the story acknowledge any of that? It doesn’t seem to interfere at all in the lives of the white central characters. Even though they enjoy the jazz and Charleston dance, they’ve disentangled those things from their roots in the Black community.

Wrapping the story in a Jay-Z soundtrack doesn’t negate the fact that it is devoid of any African American representation. As for its treatment of women, the Roaring ’20s was a time of increased sexual liberation for women. There was a gradual public acknowledgment (not exactly acceptance) that sexual desire was not only limited to men, that women possessed strong sexualities.

In the growing urban environments, men and women mingled much more freely with less supervision. Automobiles were becoming a staple to American society, serving as a private place for young couples. “Brothels on wheels”, a court judge called them – not as a humorous quip but a condemnation. Because, at the end of the day, women were still conditioned to accept that fulfillment came from adeptly performing their duties as a housewife. 

It’s too easy of an excuse to say that “the times were different” during the ’20s. As if it was only recently that we gained awareness of intolerance and how to present it on screen. If F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t see the importance of including the surrounding society in his story, maybe his work can be written off as a product of its time.

[Image Description: A vintage portrait of two women smiling at the camera, dressed in flapper style.] Via See Jane Sparkle
[Image Description: A vintage portrait of two women smiling at the camera, dressed in flapper style.] Via See Jane Sparkle

But how did the 2013 adaptation miss that whole part of history? Is historical accuracy second to aesthetic? Or even worse, the classic argument of supposed historical accuracy, the claim that ‘those groups didn’t exist within those circles’, that it would be “untruthful” to try to weave in diverse characters to historical time periods. 

That’s laughable, of course. But many are still surprised when they see the – frankly, stunning – photographs of African American or Mexican American flapper girls. Pop culture’s adoration for this story and this period is concerning because it has been flagrantly whitewashing history

Representing an era like the ’20s just for the aesthetic is just lazy. On top of that, it is a form of historical erasure. Telling a story is a responsibility. For many people, watching The Great Gatsby will be their only exposure to the 1920’s time period. They’ll hear the jazz and see the beautiful men and women in all their extravagance and pine for the time period, wishing they were part of it. But the reality is far from the truth.

[Image description: Black flappers enjoying a football game at Howard University, 1920.] via Pinterest
[Image description: Black flappers enjoying a football game at Howard University, 1920.] via Pinterest

It’s like a century from now, someone told the story of our Roaring ’20s, focusing on nothing but two (white, privileged) lovers split apart by the pandemic. No mention of the Black Lives Matter movement, the reformations, or any other international affair.

Doesn’t that feel so thoroughly disappointing? 

You would think, surely there has to be a more complex way to memorialize this time by…

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Book Reviews Pop Culture

“The Nightingale” shows us that war heroes aren’t always men

Kristin Hannah’s book The Nightingale is impactful, important, and not something that fades from memory easily. I read it quite some time ago but the story still weighs inside me.

It’s about women. It’s about struggle. It’s about love. It’s about war.

The Nightingale is the story of two French sisters, Vianne Mauriac and Isabelle Rosginol, as they resist Nazi forces when World War II engulfs France.

Despite being sisters, Vianne and Isabelle are as different as two people can be. Vianne, the older sister, believes in following rules and peacefully surviving through the time of war. Isabelle, on the other hand, is more rebellious, fearless, defiant, and wants to fight in the war. As the war wages on, the differences between them become more pronounced.

“You are stronger than you think you are, V,” Antoine said afterward.

“I’m not,” Vianne whispered too quietly for him to hear.

Vianne’s husband, Antoine, is sent away to fight as a soldier. After he’s gone, Vianne is left alone with her daughter, Sophie. She continues teaching at a school along with her friend and neighbor, Rachel.

Throughout this time, she faces many challenges – Nazi officers billet with her, her body is violated, and her Jewish neighbors are arrested. Later, she begins rescuing Jewish children and hiding them at the local Catholic orphanage when their parents are taken away. She’s afraid, but she has suffered enough and wants to make a difference.

Isabelle, in the meantime, becomes a part of the French resistance movement, and hatches a plan to assist allied airmen out of France after their planes are shot down. She becomes known as the Nightingale for her work. Isabelle is dangerously vulnerable at this time as she faces a threat of being caught by the Nazi forces.

Later, Isabelle is captured by the Nazis and interrogated. Doubt shadows them – they don’t believe the Nightingale to be a woman. Isabelle’s estranged father saves her then, by claiming to be the Nightingale. He’s executed in her place.

“How can I start at the beginning, when all I can think about is the end?” – Isabelle Rosignol

I live in a country, Pakistan, that has been pushed to brink of war several times. And each time that happens, the role of women in war, and their sacrifice, is often ignored. Women bear the brutalization of war – many are raped and sexually violated – but even then, no one talks about them. Misogyny cages women, even when there’s a war impending.

This book presents a hidden perspective. It shows that women too are war heroes, in their own right.

Vianne and Isabelle are powerful characters. They represent all women who bravely take part in war and fight for their countries – those who survive, those who lose their lives in the middle of it all, and those whose struggles stay with till the end of time.

Vianne is abused at the hands of a Nazi officer and is left impregnated with a child who’ll always be a painful reminder of the past, of war, of the enemy. Vianne’s story resonates with many women who are violated during war.

Isabelle walks into the unknown and puts her life in danger. She leaves behind her name, her story, her life. She makes a mark in the world. She fights. And she wins. She speaks her mind, defies the Germans, makes this war her own. Her story resonates with women who refuse to back down. 

Vianne and Isabelle are real women. They aren’t merely characters of Hannah’s imagination. They’re true people, they’re stories that we often forget.

Get The Nightingale here for $12.23.

Want more book recommendations? Check out our first ever global Reading Challenge!

USA Editor's Picks World News The World

We have to stop ignoring this massive Jeffrey Epstein conspiracy

Conspiracy theories are just another one of America’s great stains.

From 9/11 rumors to what’s going on at Area 51, conspiracy theories are not new to America and stem from the constant lies and inconsistencies in our government. Americans live in a place where we are monitored, mistreated, and lied to, all under the guise of freedom and democracy.

The latest news that seems a little bit fishy is the apparent suicide of Jeffrey Epstein on Saturday, August 10th.

If you haven’t heard of Epstein, he’s generally not worth knowing unless you’re into sex trafficking. He was a powerful financier, who also happened to be a convicted sex offender accused of trafficking minors.

Many women have come out with allegations against him. Back in 2007, he escaped his then-indictment with a minor jail sentence that allowed him to leave jail and continue to work.

God forbid a millionaire ever have to miss a day of work and opportunity to keep making millions.

The naive public hoped that after his “sentence,” he could go back into the real world as a renewed citizen who wasn’t into raping little girls (allegedly), but new allegations landed him back in jail. It brought feelings of hope, and, once again, victims thought they’d finally get some kind of justice.

We thought maybe this time, someone will give a single fuck about victims.

Joke’s on us, though, because Epstein has escaped, for the last time. Fellow conspiracy theorists like myself feel there’s no way in Hell this powerful and arrogant man felt any semblance of remorse and killed himself.

It’s a load of bullshit.

Especially when, just a few weeks ago, we got reports of “an attempted suicide” from Epstein.

So, somehow, they want us to believe that this man with connections to our president (with many alleged sexual assaults under his belt), celebrities, and men in power, was just suspected to be suicidal in his cell? And, following that, wasn’t even monitored?

He just happened to be left with the materials to successfully kill himself. And there’s no video or concrete evidence.

A very likely story indeed. Right? Then, of course, it’ll soon come out that all his files capable of indicting other powerful pedophiles are mysteriously missing or deleted.

Literal bullshit.

This country doesn’t care about victims.


They care about power and money, and victims are interfering with that.


First the president, then Brett Kavanaugh, then the Catholic Church, and now the Boy Scouts.

Unfortunately, all these allegations haven’t led to any justice. it’s only led the abusers in power to be sick of us.

They don’t care, they don’t want to fight for us.

They don’t want to hear it anymore.

These kinds of men want to talk to women any way they want and we just have to swallow their shit for the rest of our fucking lives.

They’re men that want to slay transwomen left and right because these men hate themselves that much.

They want boys to shut up. They want boys to perpetuate their sick practices on the generations after them.

These are men that want to have sex with 12-year-olds because they “look 18.” And somehow, that’s a valid excuse, which doesn’t make them complete pedophiles.

They’d rather spend their energy locking up victims who mean absolutely nothing to them because they aren’t white and rich. I mean, look at what happened to Cyntoia Brown, for God’s sake!

There was no way Epstein would ever have gone through yet another public trial, in which the truth would be uncovered about the vast networks he managed, networks of pedophiles and rapists, networks incapable of humanity and morality. There was no way Epstein would ever have gotten the punishment he deserved.

The powerful people who are happy to run our country into the ground as long as they float on top weren’t going to let any of that happen.

It’s why so many people believe Epstein was murdered. That he didn’t kill himself. As though we’re living in a literal House of Cards. He came too close to opening his mouth, and the powers-that-be didn’t want that.


I don’t think the victims will ever get justice.

It makes me so angry and so sad and I feel so helpless. 

But we have to put that all aside. Now, more than ever before. Please tell your stories.

No matter how trivial your story may seem, you have power. You have power in your voice, in your story, in your truth. Never doubt that.

We stand with you. We are listening. 

And nobody can ever silence our voices.