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

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

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