1973

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Quite frequently, I wear a white t-shirt with the year 1973 plastered across the chest in dark blue font. When I take it off, I put it back on its hanger: on our living room wall. In late August, my wide-eyed roommates looked at each other—and all the blank walls—after we fully moved into our first apartment. We covered the walls in Mod-Podge style of any and all things “women.” A perk of being twenty-one is that you can get away with taping your favorite shirt to the wall and calling it art. And art it became. The wall—the shirt—became integral parts of my last year.

Mostly, people confuse the shirt as tour merchandise from an English indie pop band. “I think you’re thinking of the 1975. But hey—good band,” I lie—they’re mediocre—but in situations like this my default is to appease. I would usually let the mistake slide entirely, but this shirt deserves more than the gender roles that somewhere along the way I internalized. This shirt demands recognition, it settles for nothing less than unapologetic.

I’ve had the shirt since last April. I bought it for 35 dollars on prinkshop.com. The shirt highlights “1973” because this is the year of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. These are the facts and figures behind the shirt. And while they are important, these details, like any other historic event and capitalist product, are also in part problematic.  The act of buying a semi-expensive shirt that supports women’s rights is marketplace feminism; it is trendy, it is commodified, and it screams privilege. I attempted to justify this with the fact that Prinkshop makes all of its clothing in the United States and 30% of the shirt’s profits went to the National Institute for Reproductive Health, but nonetheless this may still make me a Bad Feminist.*

While Roe v. Wade was an important step in the right direction for reproductive justice, it by no means championed women’s rights. Although at different points in the decision it was highlighted that a woman has the right to choose, the Court made sure to emphasize that the primary right that was being reserved in this decision was that of the physician to practice freely. In claiming that the unconstitutionality lay in states’ attempts to block doctors from performing abortions, rather than states’ attempts to block women from having abortions, the Court shied away from the larger issue that is the right of women to be the sole controller of their own bodies.

Roe v. Wade is not the landmark case that it is commonly remembered as. But that is not to dismiss the case entirely. Even with this knowledge, I still feel comforted by the shirt against my chest. The shirt has become detached from its Supreme Court legacy as it has begun to pave its own. It has become a symbol of empowerment for me. The shirt came just days before I left for an immersive literature and hiking program in the New England woods. I thought there would be something romantic about wearing it as I climbed my first mountain. As I inched my way up Mount Major, I looked down to remember the bodies who had gone through more struggle than what my own was feeling in that moment. I came out of the woods to a world I was not ready to face. As the election drew closer, I pulled the shirt closer and closer. I wore the shirt as I went to the polls; without a bra, in high-waisted mom jeans. I waited in line with my best friend for two hours to cast our votes for what we hoped would be the first woman president. I made her take a picture of me with my 1973 paraphernalia and first “I voted” sticker. This photo pains me as I scroll by it in my camera roll, but something urges me to keep it. It hits me each time with a peculiar transcendental feeling that my future daughter may one day appreciate it. I wore it as I anxiously did homework that election night as the results moved closer and closer towards Donald Trump. And I was still in the shirt as I got back in my bed at 3am when the election was all but over. Although clothed, I felt quite naked. Maybe even nude. Raw. I FaceTimed my sister; to which on a screen, from 3,000 miles away I saw the same puffy eyes, red nose, and 1973 Prinkshop shirt. Seeing her face pop up on the screen, in that shirt, instantly sent my emotions to overload.

In a way, the shirt feels haunted by this night. Instead of 1973, sometimes I see November 9th, 2016. I wear the shirt as the man running this country threatens to repeal Roe v. Wade, and I am forced to remember that the current political climate seeks to reverse this Supreme Court decision, not criticize its conservatism. I for the first time feel more connected to 1973. To the legacy that paved the way for me to not have to worry as intently about my reproductive rights. I wore the shirt at the Ann Arbor Women’s March and thought of the women who marched before me, who fought for 1973. I feel motivated to look towards the future and make 2018 a year that young women want to wear on their chests as they continue the fight towards equality.

This wouldn’t all fit on a shirt. And so for now, 1973 is enough. And maybe that is exactly the genius behind the shirt. To provoke questions, to force engagement, to open up points of criticism, and to provide a stark reminder that we are in desperate need of a new year to represent women’s rights.


*You can similarly find this book by Roxane Gay taped onto the wall right next to the 1973 shirt. I wish I was semi-kidding, but as the image above proves, I am not.


Natalie Brennan

Assistant Editor, What the F Magazine

Looking “Nice”

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I look in the mirror every morning and my mind immediately jumps to criticism. My stomach isn’t flat enough, I look bloated, my booty isn’t big enough, my boobs got smaller, why does my face look like that, and on and on and on.

I spend hours every week at the gym, mostly because exercise is my way of relieving stress and because when I don’t go, I feel sluggish and unfocused. But while I’m there, regardless of my healthy intentions, there’s always that nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me I need it in order to look good.

I eat plenty at meals, never hesitating to go for that second cookie or another bowl of pasta. I love food. Like really love it. I will eat anything you put in front of me, especially if the food falls in the dessert category. But every time I eat, regardless of how much, I always take a quick look in the mirror afterwards, lifting up my shirt to see how far my stomach sticks out, to see if I still look “small enough.”

I recently started wearing crop tops. I bought a few several years ago, and they sat in my drawer for months at a time, until I would take one out, try it on, look in the mirror, and then take it off and put it back in the drawer. It took a lot of courage to actually wear one in real life. I now put one on, think I look great, but as the night goes on I start to wonder if I really do look okay, or if everyone passing me is looking at my stomach and wondering how I could dare to go out dressed like that.

***

My best friend and I talk about body image all the time. We are both feminists who hate when women are judged for their bodies, we don’t hesitate to compliment women we see in public, we love looking at pictures of confident women with all body types, and we both believe that every woman should feel beautiful in her own skin, regardless of how she “compares” to societal beauty standards. And yet we both have a mental prototype of how we “should” look, and we often discuss how we just want to look “nice” and “healthy.”

But what does that mean? What is “nice”? Does having a personal standard for how I believe my body should look make me a bad feminist? Does it mean I’m shaming other women, even if that’s not my intention?

Societal beauty standards really got me fucked up. Instead of caring about my own opinion, I find myself entirely focused on what others think of me. As a heterosexual woman, I do care about the opinion of men, but I have realized that I care about the opinion of other women even more. I want them to think I’m pretty and to think I look great, and to view me the same way I view the confident women I see every day.

It’s difficult not to have an opinion on the way I look, and although I truly believe that all body types are beautiful, I am still extremely uncomfortable with the idea of my body looking certain ways. I’m constantly torn between “she looks great” and “I could never look like that.”

I envy women who are comfortable with their appearance and who have pushed past the constant judgment from men and other women to prove that every woman is beautiful. Size and shape don’t matter, what matters is self-love, but for me, that level of self-love has been very hard to attain. That doesn’t mean I don’t try, but so far in my life, criticisms have beat compliments the majority of the time.

***

Since I started spending my time with more feminists, of all body types, races, and ages, I have entered into more discussions about body image, and I’ve seen more and more examples of women who love themselves without any hesitation. I have a strong group of friends who compliment me and make sure I know that when it comes to my body, my own opinion is the only one that matters.

It may not seem like it, but I really have come a long way. When I look in the mirror, I tell myself I look good, even if I don’t believe it right away. I exercise to be healthy, and am starting to discover how strong my body can be. I allow myself skip days, and cheat days, and although I try to be healthy, I know that I really will be okay if I eat a couple extra cookies. I have started wearing what I want to, and it’s easy to forget about my insecurities when I’m with my friends.


Katie Slajus

Volunteer Coordinator, What the F Magazine

Art by Amanda Donovan, Graphic Design, What the F Magazine

Posing as Myself

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Hi, I’m Tori, and I am tangibly close to graduating from college.

I never actually thought this day would come. Not because I didn’t think I wasn’t going to make it, but it was always so far into the future. Eons and decades and centuries away—always a distant reality that I never thought I would have to come face-to-face with.

But with graduation, there comes post-graduation. And that means going out into the real world with a real job and a real salary and a real apartment. However, after eons and decades and centuries of being a full-time student, I don’t know exactly how to succeed at a real job.

And with that dilemma, I have another big problem: I don’t know how to obtain a real job. The process is political, complicated and downright confusing. And once my application somehow advances to a competitive level, I shoot myself in the foot, because guess what? I kind of suck at interviewing.

This snag isn’t because I don’t like talking to other people—on the contrary, I love talking to people. I even love striking up conversations with people I don’t know in line at Starbucks. I like hearing other people’s thoughts and world-views and opinions—it’s probably why I spend hours on hours looking at the top contributors on Quora.

But I suck at talking about myself. I hate talking about myself. It gives me social anxiety to talk about my accomplishments and internships and successes, and I want to stop immediately after I open my mouth.

I don’t want to go into details of what I have been responsible for and executed in past projects. I like to skirt the surface and just say it was “a great experience” instead of giving concrete examples of what made it a valuable lesson; without specifics, I sound childish and inarticulate.

I feel like this might be a mild case of the infamous impostor syndrome. Maybe I can’t talk about my experiences and accomplishments because I am unable to internalize them and feel like I can’t take responsibility for the results. If I am asked questions about a specific role I took, I get nervous I might be found out as a fraud—even though I’m not! I really did contribute to these projects! Sometimes, I did practically the whole thing.

Maybe I don’t want to seem arrogant, because arrogance is one of the top qualities of a disliked woman. I much prefer humility and not having the spotlight on me, unless it is to occasionally tell a joke and be surrounded by the warm and familiar laughter of my friends.

Maybe I’m scared to death of authority figures. I laugh nervously and smile and trail off my sentences; it’s the little girl inside of me who is terrified of the principal’s office and getting into trouble by saying the wrong thing. That hot burn always still creeps up into my cheeks when confronting someone I want to impress.

Maybe it’s just hard to get outside of my comfort zone. Whose comfort zone is being grilled by someone who potentially controls your future?? Outside of my comfort zone is a place that is extremely uncomfortable and often awkward—and very far from the comfort of my bed.

However, as I look back on my past 4 years at Michigan, I know I have conquered scarier things. Heck, I survived the Polar Vortex, waiting outside for the Bursely-Baits bus in -20 degrees Fahrenheit after my 9pm German class. If I can survive that winter (and by winter I mean about 6 months of 2013-2014), I can do anything. That season made me tough.

In every uncomfortable situation, I think practice makes perfect. And practice it will be for me, until the nerves and butterflies fly away. I will practice talking about myself until I can squash that nervousness and pretend like everything I’ve done is the best goddamn thing anyone has EVER done on the face of this Earth and WILL EVER do.

With my fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude, hopefully I will land a real person job. And with that tangible post-grad job, I can continue to add more and more accomplishments to my resume. I am still hesitant about graduating, but with the possibility of starting my career, I want to find experiences that I can find pride in talking about—and I will shout them loud and clear.


Tori Wilbur

Finance Director, What the F Magazine

Art by Erica Liao, Art Director, What the F Magazine

“STOP USING GENDER AS A QUALIFIER”

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I hear a lot of people comment about how they believe in the strength and rights of women because they have been surrounded by strong women as they were growing up. Sometimes, it’s used as a qualifier: “I have been surrounded by strong women my whole life, so I definitely believe in girl power.” As a feminist, I definitely believe in the rights of women and their capabilities to show strength, resilience, and independence. As a human, I have been surrounded by strong women as well. However, as I write this and reflect back on the women who have influenced me in my life, I find myself dejectedly realizing that almost all of them had a sense of internalized misogyny within them.
Maybe that’s why they saw themselves as strong women in the first place – in their minds, for women, they were indeed very strong and powerful. It was almost as if they saw themselves as being strong despite their gender, instead of because of it. This attitude could also be found in their fear of trying to out-do the accomplishments of men around them (i.e. “That’s a man’s job” or “A wife should have food ready for her husband when he gets home”).
And, maybe that’s why I always felt at odds with what what they were saying. They wanted me to be strong, smart, and ready to take on any challenge, but at the same time, keep in mind that there were certain things that women were supposed to do by default of being women. To this day, I feel irritated when I hear someone say “She’s very ______ for a woman” or “He’s very ______ for a man.” I honestly do not understand the point of gender being associated with certain behaviors or expectations. In reality, I find this can limit not only the potential of what someone can accomplish or do, but also what they believe they can accomplish or do.
I try my best to call out someone when they use a gender qualifier, but sometimes it is beyond exhausting because I feel as if I have to stand up for equal rights and feminism and explain everything in my head to someone who probably doesn’t care. It is too overwhelming. At this point, my patience has run low to the point where I may just hire a skywriting company to publish “STOP USING GENDER AS A QUALIFIER” everywhere in the world. Considering I am a college student, I definitely do not have the money for it. However, I am definitely adding it to the list of things I want to crowd-fund in my life.
But, this isn’t something that only happens in remote parts of the world; it’s around us every day. Misogynistic attitudes or misandrist attitudes are often internalized within us, deeper than we could ever realize. You have to take into account that everyone comes from different walks of life, and you can’t expect them to have feminist views right away, especially since feminism is something that is not internalized or taught from an early age for most people.
So, long story short, I don’t have a quick-and-easy solution. Maybe, I don’t even know the problem. Maybe, it’s part of something bigger. Regardless, I try to look at it from a feminist lens, with the permanent internal security that if I do so, even if I don’t have the easiest or best solution, trying to find a solution while keeping equality for everyone in mind is something that will at least put me on the right track.

Ree Patel

Community Outreach, What the F Magazine
Art by Erica Liao, Art Director, What the F Magazine

And She Lived Happily Ever After

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As a little girl, all I wanted was to be Ariel. She had red hair, she loved the water, and she ended up with a gorgeous prince who saved her life. I had red hair, I lived on a lake, and I soon realized that all I wanted was a gorgeous prince of my own to save me.

***

In middle school, I found a prince with dark hair and olive skin. He played trombone and lived off of Life Savers mints. But he was raised in a family that never missed church and was well-educated on the Bible and their faith. My family and I never went to church. He was a Baptist and I was a “I don’t really know what to believe.”

We sat on a hill surrounded by blades of grass and warm sunshine as he taught me about how the world was created and what he believed. But while I obsessed over learning a religion so a boy could love me, he and his family decided that trying wasn’t enough for them.

***

My heart ached time and time again when the olive skinned prince or my beautiful best friend or any other peers showed me signs of doubt, disappoint, or distaste. My mom preached that you shouldn’t care what others think of you, but my feelings towards myself were built on the approval of others.

As I was tearing myself down brick by brick for not being enough, I became a mother figure to my group of friends: giving advice, a shoulder to cry on, any sort of comfort. I gave away my bricks to build up others.

***

I first became close to my high school sweetheart because I was setting him up with another girl. But when she found out that he was atheist, she was no longer interested. I was still a self-proclaimed “I don’t know what to believe,” so we hit it off and started dating.

We were a couple that you could spend time with and not feel uncomfortable around. We fit together like two puzzle pieces, building each other up with our own bricks, bringing our bricks together and supporting each other. Our friend groups started to merge, and we danced the night away at five high school dances. In the two years we were together, I was convinced he was my prince. He was ready to save me.

But as our relationship started to crumble from distance and stress, I couldn’t give enough bricks away from myself to rebuild our life together. After a period of on-again, off-again with this boy, I realized he wasn’t my prince.

***

My mom and dad were both born on September 20th, 1960. My mom had a crush on my dad in the ninth grade, they starting dating in high school, and they have been together ever since.

My parents went to the same college, but my dad transferred to a different school after just one year. My mother told me that she was thankful he did. She said that she loved him and always has, but she knew that if he would have been at school with her, she wouldn’t have ventured out to meet new friends, do new things, or done as well in school. She said that she missed him when he was gone, but she was able to grow as an individual instead of just grow as a couple.

My mom has been in a relationship with my father for almost forty years, but she is the most independent person I know.

***

I have learned a lot of new things in college. I’ve learned things through my classes: art history, design principles, anthropology. I’ve learned things through student organizations: I like to have control, organization is the key to life, loving what you do is important. And I’ve learned things through living on my own: I need alone time as much as I need time with friends, I can’t cook, I don’t need a prince.

Let’s say it again: I don’t need a prince.

I grew up wanting a mermaid tail and to breathe underwater and to be loved by a boy who would do anything for me. That was the ultimate goal. That was what would determine if my life was meaningful or not.

But my mother – a woman who is a vital part of the company she works for, a woman who would drop anything and everything to ensure I was happy, a woman who has been a committed wife for years – showed me that you don’t need someone else to make you happy. Happiness can come from your hobbies, your work, your family, your friends. You can build yourself with bricks from many different areas, not just a prince that hands them to you.

And if a prince comes, let him. He can have the dark hair that goes with my red, or he can have the awkward human legs that go with my mermaid-like swimming abilities. He can give me bricks and I can give him some too, but my life doesn’t need to be built on his bricks, because I have my own.


Paige Wilson

Assistant Art Director, What the F Magazine

We Should Not Be Silent

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Ever since the election, I have repeatedly heard the phrase “We Will Not Be Silent.” 

I’d like to correct that to “We Should Not Be Silent.”

For 18 months, I have heard Trump insult every single minority group. I have heard him call Mexicans “rapists,” propose a ban of all Muslims from entering the United States, and state on NATIONAL TELEVISION that Islam hates us. How could we let someone with this racist, misogynistic rhetoric run for office, especially the most powerful position in the nation?

We can keep asking ourselves how this happened, how did the political experts get the polls so wrong? How could we have stopped this from happening? Is our nation really that divided and racist?

Or, we can unite with all our causes and organize. We cannot pick and choose one cause over the other because they are all equally important. We cannot ignore the intersectional narratives that have always been ignored throughout our history. We cannot ignore the pain of people of color (SPECIFICALLY women), Native Americans, the LGBTQ community, people of color in the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, low-income families, and so many other groups who are going to be affected in the coming years (or weeks, from the way things are going right now). We have to address intersectionality and defend everyone from any legislation that would disproportionately affect certain groups of people. All of our voices must be heard.

I’m angry.  I’m tired of constantly being angry. I’m angry that I feel tired that we still have to keep raising our voices in order to defend ourselves and others from oppression and inequality. However, the hope inside me keeps telling me to keeping fighting until this oppression and inequality stops. No matter how tired I am, I will keep raising my voice. We all have to take every single opportunity we can to speak out and listen to each other. We have to keep taking these opportunities until we achieve equality, equal opportunity for all people. 

This will take time. Centuries of oppression will not be erased in a few months, years, or decades, even if we pass legislation now. This is not the time to give up. This is the time where we use our voices and use our rights to speak out. We have to be peaceful in our protest, in our voices, and in our fight against oppression.


Ilina Krishen

University of Michigan, Class of 2019

B.A. History