Meet Bob

bob

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

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

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

My Eggs, My Body, My Choice

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When I was in kindergarten, someone started a rumor that if you eat the black watermelon seed, you will grow one in your stomach. I remember frantically looking around the classroom, trying to recall every bite I had taken, worried that I was going to grow my very own pink and green baby. I didn’t think that my bones could house another body, I didn’t think I could do right by that kind of responsibility.

Four months ago, I sat on the cold bathroom tiles at a local Starbucks, after abruptly leaving class because my body had been identifying all the signs of pregnancy. After riding the bus alone, and buying a pregnancy test alone, I set a timer and patiently waited as my thoughts raced for what felt like the longest three minutes of my life.

Two minutes and forty-three seconds,

how can I harbor another life? I can barely survive myself, I don’t even have meals on a regular basis and I swear to god the only thing I know how to cook are eggs. Eggs. Hard boiled eggs, yellow and white, and eggs that I’ve fried, the eggs that travel and live inside of me. These are my eggs and this is my choice.

Two minutes and ten seconds,

is the father going to stick around? Should he be here with me, should I have told him about this possibility? This is not the next nine months of my life, this is the next eighteen years.

One minute and thirty-four seconds,

the debate on abortion is not about religion, regardless of all the different belief systems, you cannot revoke a person’s right to their own flesh and bones despite your own personal moral code. The United States supports not only the freedom of religion, but the freedom from religion; and because it has the separation of church and state, you should not get to dictate what I do with my body.

One minute and three seconds,

I believe that if you do not have a period, do not ovulate or go through menopause, if you do not nourish a being that lives and grows, then you should not get to take away the rights of those that do.

Thirty seconds,

abortions are going to happen regardless of the laws we make, so I think we should focus on keeping it safe. If cis men could get pregnant, birth control would be in vending machines, but instead we have women who have to march for the rights to their own body.

Two seconds,

I have never been more excited to see that single pink bar, to know that I didn’t consume the wrong seed, that there is nothing fostering a world inside of me.

I believe that the debate on abortion is not about anybody other than those directly involved. A person should always have complete say over what happens to their own body. And although I’m not sure what I would have done, had that one pink bar became two, these are my eggs, this is my body, and it is my choice.


Sydney Bagnall

Layout Editor, What the F Magazine

Art by Paige Wilson, Assistant Art Director, What the F Magazine

Do My Shoulders Turn You On?

“Show your mind, not your behind.” A faculty member said these words to the student body at my high school about a dress code incident that occurred earlier that day. Countless girls, including myself, were forced to change, or even miss class in order to go home and get “appropriate” pants because teachers sent them to the office on dress code violation, telling them that they were distracting other classmates. I came to school that day in a respectable outfit: black pants, a blouse, and a cardigan, but was told to go down to the office, even before I made it to first hour. They told me my pants were too tight but that I could keep them on as long as I put on a longer sweater that covered my butt. I had to miss the first part of my class, walk out to my car in 30-something degree weather (luckily I had a long sweater in my trunk). Other girls had to call home, call parents at work, drive home, or even put on baggy pants that the office provided for them. I just happened to luck out that day, but other girls were frustrated and even embarrassed, especially the ones who had to walk around for a grueling 7 hours in a pair of baggy men’s pants most likely from the lost and found.

When does dress code go too far, degrading young women and also hindering their education? Which is worse: that these young women supposedly distract young men, or that women are taught that their bodies are sexual objects and that they must cover them up? Dress codes can be conductive in certain workplaces to promote professionalism or a uniform look. But it seems like nowadays principals, teachers, and other staff in schools are using them to police young women’s bodies and shame them.

I first noticed this when I was around the age of 12, the age when young girls are entering puberty and start to become self-conscious about their bodies. This is also a prime age to teach young women about positive body image and self-confidence. This becomes extremely difficult when they live in a world where they want to dress in a way that’s comfortable and makes them feel confident but where authority figures are degrading them, telling them that their butts, legs, shoulders, and breasts are dirty and shameful. After trying to argue this point so many times in middle school and high school, I heard the same excuses over and over – there’s a male section of the dress code too, girls clothes makes it harder to follow the dress code, it’s easier to have the girls cover themselves up than to stop the boys from fantasizing – all excuses that seem pathetic and goddamn sexist. As a student, I never felt like I could defend myself in these situations because whenever I tried to argue my case, the teachers and faculty members always got their way. They had all the power in their hands, and the students were powerless. No one wants to fight a battle they know they cannot win, and at the end of the battle I either ended up with a detention or a trip to the office to call home in order to get appropriate clothes.  Dress codes are so inherently female oriented, stating things like no midriff, no sleeveless tops, no leggings or skinny jeans. We used to always joke about it, saying things like “do my shoulders turn you on?” but, now that I think about it, this was a very valid point. If my shoulders were to cause sexual arousal in a young male or, god forbid, a male teacher, that is not in my control and would be a bit concerning. What is so bad about showing shoulders or wearing skirts above the knee? If a male is distracted or has a problem with it, he should be the one to leave the room or receive the detention, not the hardworking female student that is trying to get an education.

A year ago today I would have been only half confident in these convictions but now, as a college freshman, my convictions have been strengthened. There’s no defined dress code in college but yet, magically, the males aren’t distracted in class. The girl to the right of me wearing leggings and the girl to the left of me wearing baggy sweatpants are both respectable young women, both learning the same thing regardless of the tightness of the fabric covering their legs. They come to class comfortably dressed in clothes that make them feel good, just like those middle and high school students, and yet aren’t forced to change their clothes, call home, or get a detention for it. I think we as teachers, students, mothers, fathers, or anyone with a relationship to a young woman, need to take a stand against this unnecessary body policing. We can start by contacting school staff and also publicizing these incidents among the community to raise awareness of this issue. We need to teach young women and men that this sort of shaming is not acceptable, not now, not ever. If we take these steps we can create a comfortable and fair environment in schools for young women and also destroy this cycle of body sexualizing and shaming.


Josephine Brown

University of Michigan

Reprinted from print issue 9 of What the F Magazine

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