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 

My Carefree World

image1The problem with being a feminist is that I assume all my friends are feminists. By surrounding myself with open-minded, liberal people, I often forget that any opinion outside of my bubble of goodness exists. Going to a fairly liberal school, I really forget that anyone else other than those who think like me exist. The election was a big wake-up call. I felt like I was being told that my existence didn’t matter. I couldn’t wrap my head around the thought that people actually still see women as less than men. I know that sexism still exists in statistics and news, but it is easy to remain in my happy-going mindset where sexism happens somewhere else and not here, in my home. Yet, all of a sudden, Trump is our president, and I assume everyone I see is sexist, racist, and a giant bigot. But, after time, I slowly crept back into my carefree head space.

Last week, my friends and I went to Toronto for a weekend away. We were merry in our vacation bliss: eating at fancy restaurants, having expensive drinks, and walking around downtown. Before we knew it, Monday rolled around and, with a solemn disposition, we packed up our bags and began our four-hour trek back to Ann Arbor.

An hour into the drive, we pulled over to get gas and stretch our legs. We were talking and laughing, waiting for the tank to be full. I sat back in the car and couldn’t see exactly what my friend (who is a man) did, but it prompted my other friend (who is a woman) to ask, “Why can all guys move their cheeks like that?” I can only assume he must’ve moved his face in a funny way.

We laughed it off and were about to leave the station, when a middle-aged white man in a pick-up truck drove from behind us to next to us. “Why do you guys always do that?” he asked. I immediately thought this man was going to say something quite racist, as we were a group of six Indians. “Sorry, what?” my friend asked, confused. The man repeated himself, and then proceeded to say, “That girl said, ‘Why do guys always do something.’ I didn’t hear the rest, but why do you girls always say stuff like that?” “Oh shit, this is a sex thing,” I realized, as I remained frozen in thought. He then turned to my male friend and said, “If you want to sue her in court, I will support you.” My friend politely forced a smile and rejected his advice. The man drove off and we all laughed in disbelief.

My male friend who the man had talked to was in a different car; my car consisted of my two female friends and my boyfriend. I sat there thinking about all of the things I wished I had said to that man. I grew angrier and angrier at myself for not saying anything at the time. After about ten minutes of driving in the car, I blurted out, “I’m sorry, I’m just still so offended by what that guy said.” Both my friends vehemently agreed saying how they thought it was odd and rude. However, my boyfriend was confused. He agreed the guy was weird, but he did not understand why I was personally offended. To which I replied how what he said was incredibly sexist. “No it wasn’t,” my boyfriend responded, “I mean it was weird, but it wasn’t sexist.” I immediately turned to my friends, hoping they would be as shocked as I was, because I need others to feel like me being offended is validated. And, luckily, they were just as surprised.

I, as calmly as I could, explained to my boyfriend that the reason it was offensive was because, as a woman, I have to brush off so much sexism that I face every day, and meanwhile, a man can get so offended from the slightest preconception. It hurts because a man was making a big deal about facing sexism when I have been programmed to smile, touch my hair, and laugh it off, saying it was “sooo crazy.”

My boyfriend completely agrees that sexism exists, and it is a problem, but he could not understand why it hurt me personally. As amazing and kind as he is, he is a man, and to no fault of his own, he has male privilege. We are told we must be educated about the privilege we have in order to acknowledge it and fight for those who don’t have our privilege, so it made me sad when somebody so close to me did not understand that the man in the pick-up truck was speaking from a place of male privilege. He didn’t end up understanding how I felt, but he did eventually have blind sympathy for me. Even though he did not know why I was offended, he still ended up trusting that I was upset and sympathized with me, regardless of the reason.

There I was, suddenly back in Trump’s America, although I ironically was in Canada during this whole occurrence. But Trump’s America is represented by that feeling I had, when I think the way I feel and the person I am does not have as much value in the world. And now it has been almost a week, and I have slowly snuck back into my own world, where everyone values my existence, believes what I say is something to be heard, where I can behave however I want and dream to accomplish all my goals. Here, I am, and here I’ll stay, silently, until my women need me again.


Nandini Chakrabarty

Finance Rep, 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

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