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

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 

Can feminism be fashionable?

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Chanel Runway 2014 (VOGUE)

It’s not a secret that the fashion industry is pretty messed up and we are all affected by it, whether we love fashion or aren’t interested in it at all.

With fashion show after fashion show, we see the feminist movement creeping up on today’s catwalks. As models walk down wearing feminist t-shirts it’s hard for me to decide whether I’m into it or not. With more people talking about feminism nowadays, I question: Is the attention on this movement is only happening because it has become more popular and cool? If designers are treating feminism as a trend to sell clothes, make money, and gain customers, do they really mean what they are promoting on the runways? It brings about this idea of “light hearted feminism” instead of promoting activism and raising awareness about the seriousness and complexity of the women’s rights movement. Feminism is nothing without true ACTION. By having models walk down the runway with posters and feminist slogans it brings attention to the issue, but doesn’t really do much more. However, the exposure can be positively influential and those who may have not cared about it all may begin to pay attention to it now.

Many designers are doing it right. All of the proceeds from designer Jonathon Simkhai’s “Feminist AF” t-shirts go to Planned Parenthood. Designers are raising awareness, and showing their support and political views, which could be very influential to their customers. The industry came together in the record-breaking Women’s March and helped make #NastyWomen and #ImWithHer hashtags that more people were willing to use. We saw brands feature models of different ethnicities, body types, skin color, etc. Some fashion magazines and advertisements are becoming more diverse and representative of different types of women. But, if the brand doesn’t actually sell clothes for women of all sizes, but is promoting it, what do we do with that? If the brand claims to support feminism but uses it to make money and wears feminist words lightly, then what is their real intention? When a designer like Christian Siriano who has been focusing on diversity and realistic representation of women throughout his career makes a political statement with a “People are People” t-shirt, it makes sense. But when a brand does it to gain popularity or “fit in”, it’s questionable. It’s the nature of the industry to move from one trend to the next. Fashion trends die out. Let’s make sure feminism doesn’t.

So, can feminism be fashionable?

It comes down to the individual. When you look at t-shirts with feminist sayings, does that make you feel good? If promoting that movement does, then fill your wardrobe with Simkhai’s shirts! Feminism in the fashion industry should be all about making women feel good about themselves. A lot of the industry’s problems lie in how they express beauty ideals. Women are taught to hate their hair, their stomach, their legs, their dark skin, their light skin, their boobs and butt, and the list goes on forever. If fashion designers can first teach us to love our selves and how we look, then we can move forward and support the industry in its activism. By seeing that on the runway, in ads, or in magazines, we can incorporate it into our own lives and use fashion to embrace the people we are as well as those around us. Don’t do it for the brand—do it for yourself. You don’t have to do your make-up or hair everyday. Or, you can do a full face of makeup and wear heels to class. You don’t have to wear a bra all the time and you should wear your bathing suit proudly! Of course this is not easy because of what the industry focuses on, but as feminist individuals we can turn that around. Use fashion to make YOURSELF feel good. If the industry moves forward with this attitude and is sure to truly and realistically portray genders, bodies, class, ethnicities in the right way, then we will begin to feel better about supporting brands that claim to be raising awareness. If you focus on what you love about yourself and use what you wear to show it off, then that is how feminism can be fashionable.


Got my inspo from this article I absolutely loved by Olivia Muenter!

Also check out this youtube video “ON FEMINISM IN FASHION”


Adrianna Kusmierczyk

Social Media Assistant, What the F Magazine

Meet Bob

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Have you met my new boyfriend?

Probably not. Silly question. See, I keep him a secret. I keep him in a drawer, in a Ziplock bag, in the hopes that no one will find him. I keep him away from prying judgmental eyes. I keep him to myself.

Why, you ask? I’m not exactly sure. I’d like to think that I’m past being ashamed for pursuing sexual pleasure. Sometimes I fancy that I’m beyond the type of narrow mindset that plagued me in my younger years. I’d like to think I’m a liberated woman. But despite my assurance in the strength and beauty of other women, and my unwavering commitment to not denying them their sexuality, there are corners of my mind that have reservations when it comes to ME. These corners have pressing, pestering questions.

Like:

  • What would your mother think?
  • What would your baby sister think?
  • How about how BOB changed your own perception of yourself.
  • Are you an indulgent girl now? This is not a girl I recognize.

But maybe that’s because I’ve suppressed that part of me for so long. Scratch that. I’ve suppressed, ignored, and misunderstood my own body and its needs for so long that I don’t recognize a version of myself that doesn’t neglect my own sexuality. No doubt.

But BOB has helped me with that. Despite what some traditionalists might argue, ordering my boyfriend off Amazon was the best decision for my love life. Not because BOB is special, but because when I’m with him I actively seek it, nourish it. It being my own happiness, my pleasure. It seems wrong to deny anyone these emotions, so how can it not be wrong to deny myself them? Am I not human, too? Why should such a good thing be a sin, if it makes me happy and hurts no one else?

And yet knowing this in my brain is different than accepting it as truth and in practice. My brain believes in the logic, but my body often rebels against it. This has not been erased by BOB’s presence, but it has been helped. The fact that I don’t own up to him is proof enough of that.

Nothing is completely fixed. Besides, me being happy isn’t tied to any notion of fixedness. I just want to accept, embrace, and enjoy my own sexuality without lingering guilt. BOB is not my soul mate, he’s not even human, but he’s been instrumental in my self-discovery and self-appreciation.

Now I at least have that off my chest. It’s another step towards the end that is being who I want to be. And now you’ve met my boyfriend. My first, as it were. His name is BOB, short for Battery Operated Boyfriend. Don’t tell anyone about him though, alright? This is just between friends.


Sadie Quinn

Staff Writer, What the F Magazine

Art by Kate Johnson