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

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

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

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