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

When Queer Inclusion Becomes All Inclusive: Thoughts and Takeaways from the 2017 MBLGTACC Conference

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A few weeks ago, I had the honor of being chosen by the Residence Hall Association (RHA) to attend the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference (MBLGTACC, affectionately pronounced mum-bul-tech) in Chicago, Illinois. This was a trip of many firsts for me—my first conference as a student at U of M, my first time in Chicago, my first road trip with friends (as opposed to family).

The conference itself was informative and inspiring. The first keynote speaker, Patrisse Cullors (yes, the Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Movement), set the mood for the conference with her moving words, “Our resistance has always been queer.” Peter Staley and Jannicet Gutierrez were also keynotes for the conferences. I will not deny shedding a few tears during Staley’s powerful speech, or when Gutierrez shared her story. All the speakers were empowering and emotional, giving everyone hope for a brighter tomorrow, and the strength to continue resistance and existence during these hard times. One of the most poignant quotes that remained with me even weeks after the event was “Mi Existir es Resistir”—“My Existence is Resistance.” There was a very powerful moment at the conclusion of Jannicet’s speech, where she had the crowd repeat those very words after her.

But the conference wasn’t only filled with powerful words and emotional moments. Throughout the weekend, participants attended workshops oriented towards the LGBTQIA+ community. Some were more fun and visual (such as the Kink 101 workshop which I actually attended), and others were more serious and mission-oriented (like the Direct Action 101 workshop), but all were very informative. The entire weekend was filled with action, knowledge, and history; it was an amazing opportunity and experience for me and many others.

However, the MBLGTACC made me realize two very important things. One, that contemporary curriculums are still lacking in LGBTQIA+ education, as well as representation. Of course, this is a fairly apparent realization. Because of the marginalization and oppression of the community, especially in regards to intersecting identities (fun fact: despite what popular culture and mainstream media might have told you, the first stone at Stonewall was not thrown by a white gay man, but by a black trans woman, Marsha P. Johnson), it’s fairly easy for even the most liberal of college campuses to assume heteronormativity and gloss over people and movements crucial to not only the community, but to US history as a whole. While U of M does offer a Introduction to LGBTQ Studies class, there is only so much a professor can teach within a 4 credit course. And on top of that, isolating all that knowledge into one queer studies class assures that only those seeking that knowledge will find it. The histories and needs of the LGBT community and their contributions to society should be the focus of not just Women’s Studies classes; they should be included within topics such as English, History, and Political Science. Medical students should be aware that not everyone fits the neat little boxes the medical community loves to sort people into, and it’s about time we start to find ways to make medical care easier and more accessible to transgender, nonbinary, and intersex folks. Those studying politics and public policy should be aware of the innate and multidimensional struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community to properly advocate on its behalf. Students of history and anthropology should be made aware of the historical social constructs of sexuality, and how these impacted the identities of many historical figures, and shaped cultures around the world. It’s 2017, it’s time schools recognize these changes need to made, and started taking action to make them, rather than just giving the issue lip-service.

Another thing this conference made me realize, is just how inaccessible conferences are to so many others. I was lucky enough to be sponsored by the RHA, and so I basically only had to pay for food and souvenirs. But the conference, even though it was one of the more inclusive I’ve attended, also had its faults. Not even considering the obvious factors such as travel and boarding expenses, there were still so many obstacles standing in participants’ way. As lovely as the city is, Chicago is expensive as hell. I know of a few people who were forced to stay at the hotel because they couldn’t afford to eat out. And the conference itself was about a 15 minute walk away from the hotel, which might pose a serious problem for those who who deal with chronic pain, or have issues with mobility due to disability. And while, granted, these are not issues everyone has to face, I believe it is important to not generalize participants’ experiences and stories for the sake of having a nice backdrop for your conference. And I don’t mean to single MBLGTACC out here, because this is an issue I see at virtually every conference I’ve ever been to. It takes more than trigger warnings in the program booklet, or gender inclusive restrooms to make a conference truly accessible.

But I digress, and will take a step down from the soapbox now. I truly had an amazing time in Chicago (even though I somehow managed to spend $30 on candy), and I learned many important things at the conference (from how to properly use ropes in a sex scene to femme history). And if I seem passionate over minuscule things (although I would argue that these are not minuscule issues at all) such as a lack of queer tidbits in classes, or a 15 minute walk, it’s because I truly believe it to be important to have takeaway points and criticisms of even the most inclusive environments so we can strive to do better in all aspects. I sincerely encourage anyone, from all walks of life and who embodies any identities to participate in next year’s MBLGTACC. I know I’ll be there for sure.


Alexandra Paradowski

Event Coordinator, 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

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

“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

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