On Days like Today

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On days like today I am not ready to act, I can only write. On November 8th I wrote a Credo. Actually, on Credo Day at an intensive literature program in New Hampshire I wrote a Credo. The only reason why that fact is relevant is that I wrote that Credo just days before the then largest mass shooting in America had occurred. I clung to my credo that night. I cling to my credo again today; only 15 months later.

I believe in the power of human connection and I am not done writing those words yet.

Two days ago I reread Audre Lorde’s “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.” It inspired me to write a different piece, one about the power that comes from feeling as strongly as I do. Chaotically strong. “I have known since a young age that I feel things stronger than the average human,” the piece began. I cut to a birthday card my sister wrote my on my 21st birthday “I remember watching you realize and learn everyone else does not love like this.” I remember learning that too. And I remember forgetting that yesterday and how jarring today felt when I realized how easily others can compartmentalize the day into being just another Monday. November 8th, 2017 was a Tuesday and June 12th, 2016 was a Sunday and I didn’t even have to look up what day December 14th, 2012 was because I already know it was a Friday. I am missing a lot of dates and presidential elections are not mass shootings but these were days I was sure I was not numb.

“I am not a robot. I believe in the power of human connection more than I believe in a Christ or a savior or in myself. It is this very power that shakes me; frightens me; leaves me occasionally feeling paralyzed by my own consciousness that I am not numb,” I wrote.

But on Saturday I felt inspired by this emotional access: “What a power to feel so alive. To have your whole body tingle by your own doing; by your inner craving to access more. To live deeper; to suck out the marrow of life. This power feels best when extracted from and exerted inwards. It feels empowering. It feels erotic. ‘The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings,’ Lorde writes. Lorde, do I yearn for this chaos. Channeled chaos. Chaos that consumes you, drives you forward, fills you with that feeling that you are here and you won’t be and you are all too aware to forget it.” These words feel more haunting today.

I don’t know how to describe human connection except for in the fleeting yet overpowering feeling I get through collectively shared experience. I know that certain chords played on an acoustic guitar bring me back to a type of satisfaction and purpose I struggle to recreate. I know that being in the passengers seat singing Lorde after reading Lorde next to someone who is similarly moved by these very feelings drives me straight to my journal. I know that yellow lighting conversations at Isalita on a Friday evening make me wonder why anyone would ever chase after fame instead of this feeling. What is the career title for this feeling? I know I will go to the career fair tomorrow and want to ask about the companies’ innovations towards a coalition society built upon a deep-rooted empathy for one another and I will be stared back at by the confines of a suit. I know that seeing pink in the sky makes me feel small and that when I read this to my best friend she will correct me and say “smoll” and that I will be physically present but in that moment my thoughts will simultaneously trail me to the kitchen table. Now its 2 a.m. and my roommate is telling a story about being hit by a turkey sandwich and I can still feel in my stomach now how hard I laughed. In fact I don’t even laugh, I honk.

All of my emotions: honks. Loud and impulsive and jarringly alive. I’ve been told that when I smile you can see all 800 of my teeth on display. If my emotions were art I’d like to think I’d gain a spot at the Louvre.

That is all art is: the ability to turn these feelings into something tangible. To channel this chaos. Sometimes this feeling is empowering and erotic and blissful like it felt to me on Saturday. Lorde writes “And there is, for me, no difference between writing a good poem and moving into sunlight against the body of a woman I love.” But on days like today, this ability to feel can be overwhelming. And so I write. And I angrily tweet at Taylor Swift’s passivity to tweet “there are no words” to 85 million people instead of the strong words there are like “terrorism” or “pass restrictive access laws.” And I instead tweet “ahhhhhh” and write this article because I didn’t know how to synthesize these feelings into 140 characters.

Today I can only write. It soothes me and it re-energizes me. Because tomorrow, I fight. Tomorrow I visit https://everytown.org/. Tomorrow I call my senators. Tomorrow I will text ACT to 64433. On Wednesday I will attend “You Can’t Justify Injustice: Rally for Ciaeem Slaton” because sometimes our biggest threats are in the systems built supposedly to protect us. When the issues that drive you are the very same ones that can paralyze you, find the mechanism that keeps you moving.

Natalie Brennan

Editor-in-Chief, What the F Magazine

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What’s Wrong with Race?

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Ever since the election, the topic of race relations in the United States has been wrenched to the forefront of American politics. Van Jones notably called the election results a “white-lash” against a black president on Election night while he was on CNN. My question is, how long were we all going to wait until we discussed racism and race relations in this country?

Racism did not start yesterday. It did not start with Donald Trump announcing his terrifying campaign to become President of the United States. It didn’t start in the aftermath of 9/11. Racism and its subsequent institutional effects have been happening for CENTURIES, and not just in the United States, but wherever colonialism has set foot. Countries were built on the oppression of minority peoples, particularly of Black and Native American people in the United States. Basically, racism has seeped into our governmental, political, economic, and social structures ever since people decided it was okay to classify someone’s worth based on the color of their skin for their own benefit.

So, now that I’ve clarified that racism has existed for a very long time, let me ask the golden question: Why do people find it so difficult to discuss race?

In my personal experience, I find that there is a general discomfort when the topic of race is brought up. People tense up, start looking nervously down at their fingers or say some form of “well, it’s a lot better now than it was in the 60s” or “well, I don’t see color.” Refusing to acknowledge the deep seeded racism in the institutions of our country is equivalent to being a bystander to someone being bullied. By refusing to “see color,” one chooses to ignore the systematic racism and discriminations that minorities face every day. By keeping silent, you are allowing racism to happen and that shows your privilege. You are able to ignore the narratives of race and racism since their consequences will never affect you.    

Friendly note: If you find yourself starting a sentence with the phrase “I’m not racist,” I automatically assume that I’ll be hearing some sort of ignorantly racist comment.  

Just because you don’t talk about or “see” racism doesn’t mean it still doesn’t exist. Racism, segregation, and institutional discrimination did not end with the emancipation of black slaves or Jim Crow. Racism is not limited to the horrific lynchings of Black Americans. It also includes the consistent denial of Black and Native Americans of their basic human rights. Look at what’s happening at Standing Rock. The Flint Water Crisis. The videos of police brutality against minorities that I see throughout my newsfeed. All of these incidents, and many more, have occurred all without justice. These are serious issues that disproportionately affect racial minorities and low income families. Do we really have to debate about the basic safety of minorities, whether it’s access to clean water or interacting with institutions that are technically supposed to protect us and give us justice? Isn’t it their basic human right?

I know talking about race is uncomfortable. I know it’s easy to believe the narrative that “these occurrences happen only once in awhile.” It’s easy to get caught up in your own bubble, whatever your political identification is. It happens to me, too. However, racism still exists everywhere and we can not afford to deny that anymore. By ignoring the issues of race relations in our country, we are allowing these tensions to build up. So I ask you, white people, to take a good look at yourselves and stop blaming minorities for the negative experiences they’ve had. They weren’t the ones to create the “us vs. them” narrativewhite people did.


Ilina Krishen

University of Michigan, Class of 2019

B.A. History


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

How to be a feminist who reads Cosmopolitan

IMG_0508When anyone asks me to tell them about myself, describe hobbies I like to pursue, or what I’m passionate about, my response always involves stating that I am a feminist. I am fighting the fight for gender equality–the fight which one day I hope will close gender gaps across occupations, give everyone equal pay, give women the right to their own bodies, and lastly, empower women to know they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.

However, every morning Monday through Friday I wake up at 7:45am and get ready for the day. Brush my teeth, wash my face, get dressed, fix my hair. I walk to the nearest dining hall, where I fix my bowl of honey nut cheerios with some peanut butter on the side for protein. Sitting down at a table, I pull out my phone, open Snapchat, and scroll over to the “Discover” page, and open the Cosmopolitan Magazine section. I spend my breakfast reading through the articles Cosmopolitan is featuring that day. While reading articles entitled, “19 Celeb Engagement Pics That Are Cute AF” and “What Experts Know About Getting Lip Injections,” I don’t think too much of it. But then I come across the next article entitled “How to Please Your Man in Bed” or “The Hair Style That Your Man Will Love.” Maybe I roll my eyes a little or look up to see if anyone’s looking over my shoulder at my phone, before I click on it, but then I go ahead and read the article. Smiling and laughing, most of these types of articles are my favorite to read. Sometimes because they are so ridiculous, but a lot of the time because they are so relatable. I finish the articles with five minutes left to finish my breakfast before class, and that is when I become irritated with myself. I am a feminist. I am all about empowering women to believe in themselves and have confidence. Yet I am thoroughly entertained by these articles about how a woman should change her behavior in a certain way to please a man, articles that make men the priority. So here is where my question lies: Can I be a truly devoted feminist if I read and enjoy articles that are against my feminist values?

Initially, I think to myself that the answer to this question is “No”–that I should stop reading Cosmopolitan Magazine on Snapchat and completely boycott it. But then I slow down and think about the question further. Okay, so maybe some of the articles I read are not representative of my values, but that shouldn’t mean I can’t still choose to read them, especially if it makes my 7:45am breakfast more enjoyable. I have concluded that feminism is about supporting women and their individual choices, even if their choices or their brand of feminism do not always align with yours. As long as I promote my core feminist beliefs, it is absolutely okay for me to enjoy a guilty pleasure like reading Cosmopolitan. Feminism is not a one size fits all mentality, because feminism serves a different role for everyone. Feminism should be about doing what makes you happy and empowering one another as women, and I can still do that and enjoy reading the Cosmopolitan articles.

**Note: For the purposes of this article, the word “women” is meant to be inclusive of everyone but specifically those who identify as women.


Hannah Saghir

Marketing Manager, What the F Magazine 

Growth

IMG_0491My church back home met in a stadium we rented out every week. It was roomy and dirty and kind of like a maze, but it felt like home. Starting in middle school, I developed a group of friends that were dorky and kind and saw the world the same way I did. It was around this time that I started journaling, writing about the conflicts in my small world and the endless faith that I had. This church reached out to kids, did community outreach, hosted a musical and huge summer camp every year, and created a huge impact in Houston. Along with my campus, there were five others that followed one pastor’s lead. We were a mega church, though small for Texas standards. It was big and a little bit loud but it was home. 

I went into high school with a faith that could move mountains. I had so much hope and sincere belief that made the bad days not feel too terrible. I tried my very best to be kind and selfless, but I wasn’t very good about doing it for the right reasons. I took a little too much pride in my reputation, and saw my value as the amount of friends I had invited to church. I still had a strong connection to God, a feeling and knowledge that gave me hope and peace. But I started to realize what I might be doing wrong. 

This sort of awakening came with my dirty descent into liberalism. My opinions broadened, and I started asking more questions about what my parents believed and why. I realized that I lived in a sort of echo chamber where I wasn’t hearing a lot of perspectives. I heard from people who lived in nice neighborhoods and went to church every weekend and went on mission trips to Haiti and Belize and China. I looked up to them, but I started to realize how small my worldview was. I couldn’t imagine someone being content without having a relationship with God, or even someone cool with blatantly breaking the Bible’s rules. With my sort of feminist journey, I started to see the different perspectives around me. There were people who had been hurt by churches, even my church specifically, and I started finding friends willing to talk and question my beliefs. I was interested in the change, but it did come as a sort of challenge. If my perspective was widening, was I betraying the person I wanted to be? 

The easy answer is of course not. Seeing how other people see things, how others deal with faith and conflict and confusion, was so intriguing to me. I started getting hit with new trials. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and saw my friends around me struggling in school and life in general. It was so hard to continue the sort of blissful feel-good outlook I had before.  I still had my faith but it was harder to uphold. 

With that change came my sort of liberal struggle. I would bring my best friend to church and realize that this place, my home, was not without flaws. Their teaching methods started to grate on me, and the endless appeal to young people in a very outdated way stopped being endearing. 

The final step back was at camp, where I was a counselor for six middle school girls. I was a senior, and I had really planted myself in a worldview about education, equality and acceptance. The very first message of camp took place in a huge room with a stage in the center. They had a cool band, and games, and the energy level was high. The head pastor started teaching and the crowd was silent, the first time 600 middle schoolers could be tamed in millennia. I listened to the man that had taught me since I was the age of the kids with me, and fell into his smooth southern drawl. His lesson was about sin, how everyone does it, but he offered the solution of forgiveness through Christ. The problem was what he presented as sin. In a room full of young, impressionable kids, he put lying and bullying on the same plane as “gender confusion” and self harm. Instead of offering help, or a discussion about how to speak to God about these things, he just told them they were wrong. Of course, they could be saved, there was hope, but only if they could erase their sexuality or mental illness. 

We went back to the room afterwards and I had a sick feeling in my stomach, not sure what I could say to these girls without ranting against the pastor I was supposed to respect. Funnily enough, one of the girls brought it up. She was a little confused, so we talked about what he meant and how maybe, this man didn’t know everything after all. We talked about trusting God, and prayer and being kind to others, tackled racism and being kind to LGBTQ people, and had the most constructive conversation I could remember. 

In that time of what felt like loss of a home, I found hope. I realized that of my love for God was non negotiable for me, but I could find a new home. These kids, despite hateful messages, were kind and listened to new perspectives already. I could be like them. 

I’m going to a new church now where I feel more comfortable being myself. I see hope in the new pastor, in my recent journal entries, and in my new bible study. Past me, who was closed-minded and definitely not a feminist, probably wouldn’t love where I ended up. She is an important part of me, and so is my faith, but I’ve realized that I can still grow and change and live a liberal and progressive life while still loving God.


Amanda Donovan

Graphic Designer, What the F Magazine

I’m going to keep writing about myself (and that’s okay)

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The author Rivka Galchen recently had an essay published in the New Yorker titled “The Only Thing I Envy Men,” partially about the experience of finding women writers. She wrote about the many women-authored books she loved that had gone out of print. She wrote of women-authored horror books, crime fiction, and the works of women writers in genres that we do not associate with women writers. She wrote about writing about women writers, and what a stumbling, clownish task it can be. They become more “women” than “writers.”

Earlier this year, I wrote about my impostor syndrome with the hope that those who read this magazine could relate to it. I wrote about my mental health and persistent self-doubt because I believe it is feminist to tell one’s truth. But I also wrote about it because I am, and have always been a creative, attention-seeking person. When I was little, I would dance and sing in the margins of rooms, making a show of shyness but hoping others were watching. I grew up wanting to be both a princess and an artist. So, I wrote it to reach out to my fellow overextended women and fatigued feminists, but I also wrote it for the simple reason that I wanted to write about myself. I wanted to write about myself not from the shining place over the valley of repeated failure, but from the valley itself.

After I wrote it, however, I became self-conscious. I started to feel sort of like, oh, please. Like, enough already. I felt narcissistic. I felt like it wasn’t okay to go on about myself for the length of an essay because, I had a feeling that I was somehow contributing to negative stereotypes about millennials and about women writers and about internet feminists. I felt like I should give up wanting to be a writer and go apply my degree to something practical, with earning potential, like marketing. Kind of an extreme reaction to have to a blog post I wrote in about half an hour, but still. That’s how I felt.

But now, four weeks out from my college graduation, I’ve realized that what I’ve spent the last four years doing is, actually, actively encouraging other people, other women, to write about themselves. How many times have I sat across from a contributor at a coffee shop and discouraged them from turning in a bloodless manifesto instead of a story? How many times have I said things like “I need to see you in this piece”? Too many to count. I refer to the contributors whose work I edit as “my writers,” but I blush every time I tell someone that I’m a writer, because it sounds, in my voice, like this overfeminine, precious thing. It feels like saying “I’m a babysitter.”

But I know in my little princess-artist heart that writing is maybe the only thing I really want to do. And I want to write about myself, not because I want to represent the condition of women or even necessarily because it’s this feminist strategy of personal narration, but because I just do. And somehow, I don’t think it would present the same quandary were I not a woman; did I not feel on some uncontrollable molecular level that nobody wants to hear what I have to say.

But that is no way to go out into the world, and going out into the world is what I am doing. So I am trying to treat myself the way I would treat someone whose work I’m editing, or the way I would treat a little girl like the one I used to be. I am trying to be a woman writer so that the works of women writers are that much harder to lose. That’s what this blog post is about, in case you were wondering. There’s no moral of the story, just me, writing about myself. Because I want to. Because I can. And because, well, that’s the kind of thing I like to read.


Hannah Engler

Editor-in-Chief, What the F Magazine

What the F I’ve Been Reading

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Listed below are some of my favorite feminist reads (mostly novels and poetry collections), lovingly labeled so because of their exploration of intersecting identities, admiration for women, and ability to emotionally affect me.

  1. White Teeth by Zadie Smith: What I liked about this book was its in-depth look into multiple characters’ minds through different generations. I personally felt like this book had a lot of feminist relevancy because of its exploration into multiple cultures and how they intertwine. Because it focuses on two families and is set in a modern-ish London (the book was published in 2001), readers get to see the perspectives of many different characters who are unique in their personalities, thoughts, and experiences. White Teeth is one of my favorites because Zadie Smith so excellently weaves the families together without anything feeling like a convenient artifice.
  2. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine: This book is a series of poems, often in prose style, that focus on the different kinds of racial aggressions experienced by black Americans. Often accompanied by startling images and pieces of art, the poems highlight the omnipresence of racism in everyday situations. Its attention to race is particularly important because of its emphasis on the need for intersectionality. The line that sticks out to me the most is “Because white men can’t/police their imagination/black men are dying.”
  3. Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce Carol Oates: I just really like this book because it’s centered around a bunch of badass teens weaponizing their femininity in order to be independent in the 1950’s. I thought the relationships between the women in this book and how they work together to be a new kind of family was powerful, even though many problems occur because of it.
  4. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng: This book is one of my absolute favorites. As a heartbreaking portrait of a family struck by tragedy, it tells the story of a Chinese American family whose oldest daughter has just been found drowned in the local lake. The way in which Ng writes allows her to flawlessly switch perspectives, detailing the family’s history and each character’s struggle with their multipole identities.
  5. Jane: A Murder by Maggie Nelson: This is a hybrid poetry/prose/diary book that explores the murder of the author’s aunt in 1969 Ann Arbor. While the topic is a brutal one, the feeling that pervades the book is one of important woman-ness and the love between women and family members.
  6. A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar: This is another amazing book that explores sexuality, religion, and the intersection of identity. It’s a great “coming of age story” that follows Nidali, who is born to an Egyptian-Greek mother and Palestinian father, as she moves from Kuwait to Egypt to America and discovers herself along the way. While it has some heavy topics spread throughout, its tone is lighthearted, which is a combination that makes it difficult to put down.
  7. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf: A classic feminist manifesto. Goodreads describes the essay as “noted in its argument for both a literal and figural space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by patriarchy.” Originally published in 1929, it discusses how women have been systematically excluded from writing spaces because they were denied the same educational exposure as men.
  8. Zenzele: A Letter for My Daughter by J. Nozipo Maraire: This novel, written in the form of letters, feels steeped in the love between a mother and daughter across time. The chapters focus on different things ranging from gender inequality to colonialism and Zimbabwean freedom fighters to relationships within the family. The author is able to weave present-written letters with stories of the past and wrap them up as small lessons or anecdotes that are still relevant even though this book was written over twenty years ago.

Miranda Hency

Blog Editor, What the F Magazine

Overstimulation

IMG_0434Overstimulated

by people and noise and faces and smells

and suddenly he appears,

drowning out the fast paced blur with his

Sharpness.

 

Overstimulated once more

but now all her senses are him.

As he leads her away,

she is unfazed and stumbles along.

After all, this is just a dream,

Right?

 

Wrong.

 

Because it was real and it happened.

And it was not nice and pleasant as imagined

in girlish fantasies of true love.

And it was not sexy and passionate as described

in cheesy romance novels read at the beach.

 

But it was real and it happened.

Though she tried to protest

though she wishes it hadn’t

though she will try to forget.

 

Wrong.


Sareena Kamath

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