Why We Still and Will Always Need Feminism

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at a table in Mason Hall selling cupcakes for a fundraiser of an organization I am a part of. Towards the end of my shift, I was approached by a middle aged white man asking me specifics about the cupcakes. Upon learning about my minor in Women’s Studies, he proceeded to inform me that feminism and the field of women’s studies was no longer needed as both sexes now have equal rights as well as pay. I began to argue back about the complexity of feminism, but I was continuously cut off by his “evidence” based on his sister’s workplace experiences. I also tried to explain how everyone has a different narrative and experience; like how a white woman’s experience will differ from a woman of color. He countered that racism was non-existent and ended by citing Martin Luther King. He further stated that the statistic for sexual assault was grossly inaccurate, claiming the statistic was probably 1 in 50,000 as compared to the current statistic of 1 in 5 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetime. At this point, I was sitting at the table, in shock of his apparent ignorance and impatient for him to buy a cupcake or allow the growing line of stunned students behind him to buy one.

This is scary. How many times do feminists have to explain why feminism is still necessary, and not man-hating? How difficult is it to understand that feminism address everything from basic human rights to true economic, social, and economic equality between all people? Also, his narrative as a white man would differ from my experience as a woman of color, or any other minority. As a white male, it is completely biased for him to state that racism and sexism no longer exist, since he belongs to a group that has not endured the effects of these two. Just because your direct female relatives have not endured sexual assault does not take away the fact that sexual assault is real.

This occurrence happened to me over a month ago in the days leading up to the election. After the results of the election came out, I became even more frustrated and angry, because it shows that this rhetoric still exists today, and we need to address this. I refrained from writing my reactions about this as I wanted to be calm when writing this piece, not angry, but the truth is, I can never stop being angry about this. I know that not everyone who voted for our current president elect is racist, misogynistic, or bad people in general. What saddens me is that his racist, misogynist and downright offensive comments were not enough for people not to vote for him. Instead of turning our heads away from this rhetoric, we have to accept that it still exists and actively combat it. Instead of fighting and polarizing people with opposite beliefs, we need to have open discussions with them. We need to address that racism, sexism, and sexual assault (as well as many other issues) are real. Looking away from a problem does not erase that the problem exists; it only reinforces the problem and allows it to continue.


Ilina Krishen

University of Michigan, Class of 2019

B.A. History

Advertisements

What the F am I listening to? 10 podcasts for a feminist winter break!

podcasts_b

I’m basically just a stereotype of myself at this point, but whatever. It’s almost been a year since I wrote 9 Podcast Recommendations, and now I’m back with 10 fresh new recommendations of podcast episodes. Whether you need something to listen to for the trip home, while you’re cleaning out your room, or for whatever fun winter shenanigans you happen to be up to, here are some of the best podcasts of the past year.

 

  1. Call Your Girlfriend, #72: Giving and Gifting
    In this podcast, two kickass women, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, talk pop culture, politics, and shine theory (aka, women shine brighter when they support one another). Love, love, love the discussion in this episode on privilege, activism, and allyhood. Aminatou and Ann also talk about how supporting women does not mean blanket approval of everything women do (cc: Taylor Swift), but rather investing in each other – and sometimes that investment is constructive criticism.
  2. NPR Politics, Covering 2016 As a Muslim
    Usually, this podcast is a rundown of the latest political news. But in this episode, Asma Khalid, who reported on demographics for the 2016 election, reflects on her experiences as a visibly Muslim woman on the campaign trail. She discusses the extra work she had to perform, her identity as a midwesterner, and how the tokenization of her identity can be just as hurtful as stereotyping. (Also, things that warm my heart: this photo of her with Sam Sanders at the White House.)
  3. Another Round, #73: New Studio, Who Dis (with Janet Mock) & #72: Water Protectors and Fear Allerton
    Heben Nigantu and Tracy Clayton talk pop culture, race, gender, mental health, and squirrels in the podcast Another Round. Episode 73 is a landmark episode because – after a long separation – Heben and Tracy are finally together in the stude again! Also, they talk to the brilliant Janet Mock about her new film, The Trans List. Episode 72 is another great one – they talk to Dr. Adrienne Keene about Standing Rock and #NoDAPL, and hear stories from people there on the ground.
  4. In the Thick, Will History Absolve Fidel Castro?
    This is a political podcast, brought to you specifically by journalists of color. As someone not particularly well-versed in Cuban history, I appreciated the context and multiple perspectives Maria Hinojosa and Julio Ricardo Varela provided on the death of Fidel Castro.
  5. 2 Dope Queens, #23: That Time I Had Sex With The Rock
    Jessica Williams (of The Daily Show) and Phoebe Robinson (author of You Can’t Touch My Hair) host this comedy podcast that more often than not features stories about race, sex, and Bono. I can’t pick a favorite from this past season, but definitely entertaining is this episode, which features – well – a (fictional) story about having sex with The Rock. #YQY!
  6. Sooo Many White Guys, #8: Phoebe and Roxane Gay Toast to the Good Life
    Phoebe Robinson (also of 2 Dope Queens) interviews artists who aren’t White Guys in this intimate and funny podcast. Again, all of them are good – but #8 features Roxane Gay, and you can’t go wrong with that.
  7. Planet Money, The New Telenovela
    This podcast features stories about economics, but this episode in particular looks at the woman who revolutionized telenovelas. And yes – they mention Jane the Virgin.
  8. Code Switch, Asian American Letter on Behalf of Black Lives
    Another podcast specifically brought to you by journalists of color, about race in America. In this episode, Shereen Marisol Meraji and Kat Chow spoke with Christina Xu about her crowd-sourced project, Letters for Black Lives, which is a resource for AAPI/immigrant children to talk to their parents, families, and communities about #BLM. There are letters in 20+ languages as well as some which are tailored to specific communities, all addressing anti-Black police brutality. (An aside: as a Chinese American woman myself, this episode fucked me up and made me cry at work.)
  9. More Perfect, The Imperfect Plaintiff
    If you’re interested in the Supreme Court, you should listen to all of More Perfect. This episode in particular, though, dives into some of the history behind landmark affirmative action and LGBTQ rights court cases.
  10. The Longest Shortest Time, #99: When Grace Lin Realized She Was Chinese & #88: W. Kamau Bell Talks to His Mom About Sex
    This is a podcast about parenting, but it’s not necessarily for parents. In #99, a thoughtful dialogue about identity and Asian American and PoC representation in literature. Also, some discussion on a question I’ve thought a lot about: how do you introduce your kid to your Chinese heritage, especially when you yourself can barely speak Chinese? (Also, how do you talk to your kid about identity? Race?) In #88, as the episode title describes, comedian W. Kamau Bell (you might know him from United Shades of America) has a frank, funny, and insightful discussion with his mom about her sex life while she was raising him as a single mother.

(By the way – also have sex on the mind? Submissions are open for Issue 11: The Sex Issue. We want your thoughts on sex, sexual health, sex ed, or sexuality! Email whatthefmagazine@gmail.com!)


Erica Liao

Art Director, What the F Magazine

The Leftovers of Labels: The intersection of who I am and who you think I am

sadie-1

It’s a three-dimensional, geometric world out there.

Yet, too often I’m whittled down to a two-dimensional representation that isn’t fitting, or fitting enough.

In my mind, when we as a society simplify and categorize ourselves for the sake of ease, we get trapped inside the categories imposed upon us, but we don’t fit. It’s like we’re living creatures imprisoned, stuck inside a cage too small to hold us, with limbs protruding from between the latticework of metal.

Psychologically, it’s natural for humans to give labels, to assign categories, to use order (and sometimes hierarchy, ew) to make sense out of the insane entropy of everything. But the way I see it, labels kill complexity. It’s too easy to rely on labels and forget people are more. And I know it’s not revolutionary or interesting to say that we as humans are complex, blah blah blah, we’ve heard it before. But allow me to remind you: we are more than our labels. We are more than the box we check on sexuality, race, religion, gender, and so on and so forth.

Now, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t embrace our identities, but let’s be okay with existing outside of them when they don’t do us justice. Let’s be okay with being somewhere in between. We are more than our identities, even the intersection of them. Let us love our identities, but let’s not get trapped inside of them.

The reason I bring this up is because I’m a Latina woman, technically. I’m a member of a vibrant culture that is different in so many ways from the American culture I’ve been raised in. In that way, I’m indisputably Latina. Every summer of my life, I spend three months at a home away from home, surrounded by aunts, cousins, grandparents, nieces, hammocks, and sunlight. That’s a fourth of my year, every year, and a fourth of my life in Brazil. It’s where my mom is from, and it’s a place I have so much love and pride for. For Brazil I possess a patriotism that I admittedly don’t have for the United States, as much as I love it here, too.

I’m only half Brazilian by blood, on my mom’s side, but I’m infinitely more connected to my Brazilian side than my dad’s side. Because of this, I’ve never even called my dad “Dad” or “Father”–he’s Papai to me. And yet, I wonder if being half is enough. I am passing white. People who don’t know me don’t know I’m Brazilian, and they have no way of knowing by my appearance. I’ve never gotten discriminated for my Latinx background by strangers. People who do know my background have sometimes asked ignorant questions about whether or not Brazilians are all naked indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest, whether all Brazilian women go topless at beaches, and other sexualizations, objectifications, and gross generalizations of Brazilians in general, but I’m somewhat distanced from that. I’m quite aware of who I am to those that ask me these questions. To them, I’m someone who can report on the realities of Brazil, rather than a “true” Brazilian who would or could be offended by anything like the inappropriate fetishization of “sultry” South American women. Simply put, to them, I’m white.

With all this ricocheting in my mind, I can’t help but wonder if the crude stereotypes can be as hurtful to me as they are to my mother, for instance. How can they be, when to others I’m an intermediary, naught but a typical American with special and juicy insight?

Granted, I am defined by myself my identity is internal and self-constructed. But the fact remains that my own perception of myself can’t help but be informed by what others perceive me as. When others don’t perceive me as Brazilian, am I as Brazilian as those natural born, or with distinctive accents or characteristics that display their origins?

Complicating the issue further, I speak Portuguese and not Spanish. An important facet of what ties most of the Latinx community together is a common language, which I lack. I can’t help but feel like the word Latina doesn’t apply to me, it’s a lie, because I think that I’m not like others that share the name. It’s hard to consider myself a Latina woman when I’m not of Spanish heritage. Although it’s not strictly correct, Latina is nearly synonymous with Hispanic in our culture. But I’m not Hispanic.

I’m Brazilian, so you tell me, should I check the box that says Latina/Hispanic? Or should I check that ambiguous category of other? I’m not that either, but it might be closer to the truth.

I don’t know whether I mean it when I say I’m Latina. I don’t know if I should be allowed the label, and if I am allowed it whether I feel true to it.

But, I mean this:

I’m going to find out. In the meantime, I’ll remember that it’s okay to be a three-dimensional person outside of two dimensional categories. It’s my sincere hope that you will do the same.

Until then, tchao meus amores.

Bye my loves.


Sadie Quinn

Staff Writer, What the F Magazine

University of Michigan, Class of 2019

B.S. Biochemistry and B.A. Comparative Literature


Image credit to NY Times, Pablo Declán

But You Don’t Look Sick

Michigan Stadium is seen before the start of the NCAA college football game between Michigan and Notre Dame  in Ann Arbor, Michigan

College football season is finally coming to a close. I was never into football as a kid, or many sports at all. And although I didn’t buy season tickets or anything, I liked to think of the Michigan football games as a representation of all of the pride the school had to offer, where students of all ages and backgrounds could come together to celebrate.

I went to my first game in September. I was so excited, bursting with school pride. My friends and I hit up some parties on the way down South U, then made it in line for the stadium. That’s when it all went down hill. No bags are allowed in due to safety precautions, but I’m a type one diabetic, which means that I have tons of medical supplies I need to have on me at all times. I figured it wouldn’t be a problem; I didn’t even think twice. I got in line at the gate and showed my ticket, but the guards wouldn’t let me through because of my purse. I tried to explain it was for my medicine, but they sent me to another line to get assistance. I went to another line but they weren’t much help either, and they just sent me to a separate line for people with disabilities. At this point my friends had gotten in already, so I was all alone.

I waited in the disability line. Ahead of me was a man in a wheelchair who was with a woman carrying multiple bags of supplies and a pregnant lady with a giant tote bag. The man in the wheelchair and his friend were let through immediately without question, and all the pregnant woman had to say was that her tote was full of supplies and was sent through. She didn’t even have to open the bag. Then it was my turn. I explained to the guards that I carried a purse for medical supplies, and opened the bag to show them my needles, test kit, pills, etc. They told me the purse would not be allowed in. I said, “I need it,” but they refused. I was choking up, saying I need my medical supplies to stay alive and I wouldn’t go in without it. Then they said I’d have to put the medical supplies in a smaller bag and drop the purse at home. I said I couldn’t, I lived a mile away. Then they tried to say I could go to the other side of the stadium, check my bag, carry the medical supplies, then walk back to the student gate, get approved again for the medical supplies, then maybe get in. I was done by that point, alone and frustrated and upset, so I just interrupted the man and said, “You know what, this is disgusting. I don’t even want to go to the game anymore, goodbye.” And walked back towards my dorm crying.

In the stadium that was supposed to represent pride for my school and all of its diverse students, leadership, and individuality; I felt nothing but exclusion and disappointment. I wasn’t trusted by my own school because I have a chronic illness. A man in a wheelchair and a woman expecting a child were fine, but not a young woman like me. And why?

It’s simple. I don’t LOOK sick. I’m happy, I’m lively, I’m of average weight and height, I can walk and talk and do anything any able-bodied person can do. So how could I possibly sick? I don’t look like I need a bag for medical supplies so of course I must be trying to sneak in beer cans or pill bottles and needles full of party drugs. Invisible illnesses are real. Just because someone isn’t in wheelchair, has a cast, visible scars, etc. does not mean they are not in pain. Just because someone’s illness isn’t immediately noticeable doesn’t mean they are just complaining, making excuses, or looking for pity. Invisible illnesses need to be treated just as equally as visible illnesses. We need more awareness, properly trained employees, and less stigma. People of all abilities and disabilities should be accepted and supported, especially at a school that claims to be committed to providing equal opportunity for students of all backgrounds.

I may be a proud Michigan student, but I guess game days just really aren’t my thing.


Ariel Hope

University of Michigan

LSA Residential College


Photo courtesy of Reuters