Overstimulation

IMG_0434Overstimulated

by people and noise and faces and smells

and suddenly he appears,

drowning out the fast paced blur with his

Sharpness.

 

Overstimulated once more

but now all her senses are him.

As he leads her away,

she is unfazed and stumbles along.

After all, this is just a dream,

Right?

 

Wrong.

 

Because it was real and it happened.

And it was not nice and pleasant as imagined

in girlish fantasies of true love.

And it was not sexy and passionate as described

in cheesy romance novels read at the beach.

 

But it was real and it happened.

Though she tried to protest

though she wishes it hadn’t

though she will try to forget.

 

Wrong.


Sareena Kamath

Art by Erica Liao, Art Director, What the F Magazine 

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Meet Bob

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Have you met my new boyfriend?

Probably not. Silly question. See, I keep him a secret. I keep him in a drawer, in a Ziplock bag, in the hopes that no one will find him. I keep him away from prying judgmental eyes. I keep him to myself.

Why, you ask? I’m not exactly sure. I’d like to think that I’m past being ashamed for pursuing sexual pleasure. Sometimes I fancy that I’m beyond the type of narrow mindset that plagued me in my younger years. I’d like to think I’m a liberated woman. But despite my assurance in the strength and beauty of other women, and my unwavering commitment to not denying them their sexuality, there are corners of my mind that have reservations when it comes to ME. These corners have pressing, pestering questions.

Like:

  • What would your mother think?
  • What would your baby sister think?
  • How about how BOB changed your own perception of yourself.
  • Are you an indulgent girl now? This is not a girl I recognize.

But maybe that’s because I’ve suppressed that part of me for so long. Scratch that. I’ve suppressed, ignored, and misunderstood my own body and its needs for so long that I don’t recognize a version of myself that doesn’t neglect my own sexuality. No doubt.

But BOB has helped me with that. Despite what some traditionalists might argue, ordering my boyfriend off Amazon was the best decision for my love life. Not because BOB is special, but because when I’m with him I actively seek it, nourish it. It being my own happiness, my pleasure. It seems wrong to deny anyone these emotions, so how can it not be wrong to deny myself them? Am I not human, too? Why should such a good thing be a sin, if it makes me happy and hurts no one else?

And yet knowing this in my brain is different than accepting it as truth and in practice. My brain believes in the logic, but my body often rebels against it. This has not been erased by BOB’s presence, but it has been helped. The fact that I don’t own up to him is proof enough of that.

Nothing is completely fixed. Besides, me being happy isn’t tied to any notion of fixedness. I just want to accept, embrace, and enjoy my own sexuality without lingering guilt. BOB is not my soul mate, he’s not even human, but he’s been instrumental in my self-discovery and self-appreciation.

Now I at least have that off my chest. It’s another step towards the end that is being who I want to be. And now you’ve met my boyfriend. My first, as it were. His name is BOB, short for Battery Operated Boyfriend. Don’t tell anyone about him though, alright? This is just between friends.


Sadie Quinn

Staff Writer, What the F Magazine

Art by Kate Johnson

Looking “Nice”

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I look in the mirror every morning and my mind immediately jumps to criticism. My stomach isn’t flat enough, I look bloated, my booty isn’t big enough, my boobs got smaller, why does my face look like that, and on and on and on.

I spend hours every week at the gym, mostly because exercise is my way of relieving stress and because when I don’t go, I feel sluggish and unfocused. But while I’m there, regardless of my healthy intentions, there’s always that nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me I need it in order to look good.

I eat plenty at meals, never hesitating to go for that second cookie or another bowl of pasta. I love food. Like really love it. I will eat anything you put in front of me, especially if the food falls in the dessert category. But every time I eat, regardless of how much, I always take a quick look in the mirror afterwards, lifting up my shirt to see how far my stomach sticks out, to see if I still look “small enough.”

I recently started wearing crop tops. I bought a few several years ago, and they sat in my drawer for months at a time, until I would take one out, try it on, look in the mirror, and then take it off and put it back in the drawer. It took a lot of courage to actually wear one in real life. I now put one on, think I look great, but as the night goes on I start to wonder if I really do look okay, or if everyone passing me is looking at my stomach and wondering how I could dare to go out dressed like that.

***

My best friend and I talk about body image all the time. We are both feminists who hate when women are judged for their bodies, we don’t hesitate to compliment women we see in public, we love looking at pictures of confident women with all body types, and we both believe that every woman should feel beautiful in her own skin, regardless of how she “compares” to societal beauty standards. And yet we both have a mental prototype of how we “should” look, and we often discuss how we just want to look “nice” and “healthy.”

But what does that mean? What is “nice”? Does having a personal standard for how I believe my body should look make me a bad feminist? Does it mean I’m shaming other women, even if that’s not my intention?

Societal beauty standards really got me fucked up. Instead of caring about my own opinion, I find myself entirely focused on what others think of me. As a heterosexual woman, I do care about the opinion of men, but I have realized that I care about the opinion of other women even more. I want them to think I’m pretty and to think I look great, and to view me the same way I view the confident women I see every day.

It’s difficult not to have an opinion on the way I look, and although I truly believe that all body types are beautiful, I am still extremely uncomfortable with the idea of my body looking certain ways. I’m constantly torn between “she looks great” and “I could never look like that.”

I envy women who are comfortable with their appearance and who have pushed past the constant judgment from men and other women to prove that every woman is beautiful. Size and shape don’t matter, what matters is self-love, but for me, that level of self-love has been very hard to attain. That doesn’t mean I don’t try, but so far in my life, criticisms have beat compliments the majority of the time.

***

Since I started spending my time with more feminists, of all body types, races, and ages, I have entered into more discussions about body image, and I’ve seen more and more examples of women who love themselves without any hesitation. I have a strong group of friends who compliment me and make sure I know that when it comes to my body, my own opinion is the only one that matters.

It may not seem like it, but I really have come a long way. When I look in the mirror, I tell myself I look good, even if I don’t believe it right away. I exercise to be healthy, and am starting to discover how strong my body can be. I allow myself skip days, and cheat days, and although I try to be healthy, I know that I really will be okay if I eat a couple extra cookies. I have started wearing what I want to, and it’s easy to forget about my insecurities when I’m with my friends.


Katie Slajus

Volunteer Coordinator, What the F Magazine

Art by Amanda Donovan, Graphic Design, What the F Magazine

Posing as Myself

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Hi, I’m Tori, and I am tangibly close to graduating from college.

I never actually thought this day would come. Not because I didn’t think I wasn’t going to make it, but it was always so far into the future. Eons and decades and centuries away—always a distant reality that I never thought I would have to come face-to-face with.

But with graduation, there comes post-graduation. And that means going out into the real world with a real job and a real salary and a real apartment. However, after eons and decades and centuries of being a full-time student, I don’t know exactly how to succeed at a real job.

And with that dilemma, I have another big problem: I don’t know how to obtain a real job. The process is political, complicated and downright confusing. And once my application somehow advances to a competitive level, I shoot myself in the foot, because guess what? I kind of suck at interviewing.

This snag isn’t because I don’t like talking to other people—on the contrary, I love talking to people. I even love striking up conversations with people I don’t know in line at Starbucks. I like hearing other people’s thoughts and world-views and opinions—it’s probably why I spend hours on hours looking at the top contributors on Quora.

But I suck at talking about myself. I hate talking about myself. It gives me social anxiety to talk about my accomplishments and internships and successes, and I want to stop immediately after I open my mouth.

I don’t want to go into details of what I have been responsible for and executed in past projects. I like to skirt the surface and just say it was “a great experience” instead of giving concrete examples of what made it a valuable lesson; without specifics, I sound childish and inarticulate.

I feel like this might be a mild case of the infamous impostor syndrome. Maybe I can’t talk about my experiences and accomplishments because I am unable to internalize them and feel like I can’t take responsibility for the results. If I am asked questions about a specific role I took, I get nervous I might be found out as a fraud—even though I’m not! I really did contribute to these projects! Sometimes, I did practically the whole thing.

Maybe I don’t want to seem arrogant, because arrogance is one of the top qualities of a disliked woman. I much prefer humility and not having the spotlight on me, unless it is to occasionally tell a joke and be surrounded by the warm and familiar laughter of my friends.

Maybe I’m scared to death of authority figures. I laugh nervously and smile and trail off my sentences; it’s the little girl inside of me who is terrified of the principal’s office and getting into trouble by saying the wrong thing. That hot burn always still creeps up into my cheeks when confronting someone I want to impress.

Maybe it’s just hard to get outside of my comfort zone. Whose comfort zone is being grilled by someone who potentially controls your future?? Outside of my comfort zone is a place that is extremely uncomfortable and often awkward—and very far from the comfort of my bed.

However, as I look back on my past 4 years at Michigan, I know I have conquered scarier things. Heck, I survived the Polar Vortex, waiting outside for the Bursely-Baits bus in -20 degrees Fahrenheit after my 9pm German class. If I can survive that winter (and by winter I mean about 6 months of 2013-2014), I can do anything. That season made me tough.

In every uncomfortable situation, I think practice makes perfect. And practice it will be for me, until the nerves and butterflies fly away. I will practice talking about myself until I can squash that nervousness and pretend like everything I’ve done is the best goddamn thing anyone has EVER done on the face of this Earth and WILL EVER do.

With my fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude, hopefully I will land a real person job. And with that tangible post-grad job, I can continue to add more and more accomplishments to my resume. I am still hesitant about graduating, but with the possibility of starting my career, I want to find experiences that I can find pride in talking about—and I will shout them loud and clear.


Tori Wilbur

Finance Director, What the F Magazine

Art by Erica Liao, Art Director, What the F Magazine

And She Lived Happily Ever After

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As a little girl, all I wanted was to be Ariel. She had red hair, she loved the water, and she ended up with a gorgeous prince who saved her life. I had red hair, I lived on a lake, and I soon realized that all I wanted was a gorgeous prince of my own to save me.

***

In middle school, I found a prince with dark hair and olive skin. He played trombone and lived off of Life Savers mints. But he was raised in a family that never missed church and was well-educated on the Bible and their faith. My family and I never went to church. He was a Baptist and I was a “I don’t really know what to believe.”

We sat on a hill surrounded by blades of grass and warm sunshine as he taught me about how the world was created and what he believed. But while I obsessed over learning a religion so a boy could love me, he and his family decided that trying wasn’t enough for them.

***

My heart ached time and time again when the olive skinned prince or my beautiful best friend or any other peers showed me signs of doubt, disappoint, or distaste. My mom preached that you shouldn’t care what others think of you, but my feelings towards myself were built on the approval of others.

As I was tearing myself down brick by brick for not being enough, I became a mother figure to my group of friends: giving advice, a shoulder to cry on, any sort of comfort. I gave away my bricks to build up others.

***

I first became close to my high school sweetheart because I was setting him up with another girl. But when she found out that he was atheist, she was no longer interested. I was still a self-proclaimed “I don’t know what to believe,” so we hit it off and started dating.

We were a couple that you could spend time with and not feel uncomfortable around. We fit together like two puzzle pieces, building each other up with our own bricks, bringing our bricks together and supporting each other. Our friend groups started to merge, and we danced the night away at five high school dances. In the two years we were together, I was convinced he was my prince. He was ready to save me.

But as our relationship started to crumble from distance and stress, I couldn’t give enough bricks away from myself to rebuild our life together. After a period of on-again, off-again with this boy, I realized he wasn’t my prince.

***

My mom and dad were both born on September 20th, 1960. My mom had a crush on my dad in the ninth grade, they starting dating in high school, and they have been together ever since.

My parents went to the same college, but my dad transferred to a different school after just one year. My mother told me that she was thankful he did. She said that she loved him and always has, but she knew that if he would have been at school with her, she wouldn’t have ventured out to meet new friends, do new things, or done as well in school. She said that she missed him when he was gone, but she was able to grow as an individual instead of just grow as a couple.

My mom has been in a relationship with my father for almost forty years, but she is the most independent person I know.

***

I have learned a lot of new things in college. I’ve learned things through my classes: art history, design principles, anthropology. I’ve learned things through student organizations: I like to have control, organization is the key to life, loving what you do is important. And I’ve learned things through living on my own: I need alone time as much as I need time with friends, I can’t cook, I don’t need a prince.

Let’s say it again: I don’t need a prince.

I grew up wanting a mermaid tail and to breathe underwater and to be loved by a boy who would do anything for me. That was the ultimate goal. That was what would determine if my life was meaningful or not.

But my mother – a woman who is a vital part of the company she works for, a woman who would drop anything and everything to ensure I was happy, a woman who has been a committed wife for years – showed me that you don’t need someone else to make you happy. Happiness can come from your hobbies, your work, your family, your friends. You can build yourself with bricks from many different areas, not just a prince that hands them to you.

And if a prince comes, let him. He can have the dark hair that goes with my red, or he can have the awkward human legs that go with my mermaid-like swimming abilities. He can give me bricks and I can give him some too, but my life doesn’t need to be built on his bricks, because I have my own.


Paige Wilson

Assistant Art Director, What the F Magazine

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

Defacing a Generational Understanding

My grandmother used to tell me that “they can take your house, they can take your money, they can take your family, but they can’t take your education.” And now that I enter my last semester of college, nostalgic for something that hasn’t yet ended, I reflect on her words.

Last July my grandmother turned 90, her life colored with change and tainted by destruction. At her age she has a tendency to criticize more than she compliments, but this day was especially remarkable as she began to reflect on the beautiful memories that were to come from the events she expected to be present for—a granddaughter’s wedding, a trip to New York, a great-grandson’s birthday, and lastly my graduation. It was then that I realized these milestone moments served as a sort of motivation, that life had so much to hold, that “G-d willing” she’d be present to see them.

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I understand that a woman, who had suffered great loss in the Holocaust, fled the Castro regime in Cuba, survived breast cancer, and had raised two children as a single working mother was bound to have been hardened by life’s experiences. Yet despite hardship, the success and happiness that she celebrated on her 90th she attributed to her education, teaching me that even when you have nothing, you have what you learned. Even as she escaped and survived persecution or disease, her education as a female college graduate gave her the tools to overcome adversity.

I can’t begin to describe how much I respect and honor my grandmother, as both my family and a college graduate. Her confidence and faith in an education is unwavering. In her eyes, while the institutions of higher learning may be flawed, they are not to be questioned. Maybe due to her past strife or her current day fortune, education holds a sort of respect that is earned and unquestioned.

There is one-stall women’s bathroom in the second floor of Weiser Hall covered in graffiti; messages of all sorts frame the interior walls. My grandmother would shudder at the sight—the vandalism would be seen as a sort of disrespect to the University and an aggressive expression of hostility toward education.

But to me, the dialogue and conversation covering the walls is inspiring. As I sit there with the echo of a sage woman who has lived and seen what I can only hope to understand or experience, I read these tags—some more prolific than other, some written in a thread-like manner, some rants and irrational frustrations, and some words of encouragement for facing the drudgery that comes with attending an institution for higher learning.

It is here, in the most unlikely of places, that I begin to recognize the weight of my education as I start to transition completely into adulthood. My grandmother has lead a life carrying the logic bestowed upon her, but her criticism came to halt as she confronted her educational past. I understand that she has spent her life battling, that her source of strength came from what she’d been taught.

However, the powerful nature of learning doesn’t stop at application, that’s where it begins. In the stall of Weiser Hall’s gendered bathroom, looking at the remarks and commentary surrounding me, I came to recognize that only through questioning, criticizing, and critically thinking will I really come to learning what I am taught.

The cultural complacency demonstrated—this is the education my grandmother, and people before us, without privilege or resources had endured, and as feminists in this new world, it is our duty to reject that. It, at times, may appear like vandalism or unwarranted, but with all due respect, my function as a student at this university is not to cover up its blemishes, it is to point them out for repair.

My grandmother is a fountain of insight and I love her dearly; she will forever be accredited for my never-ending desire to learn. Although she is so vital to my being, it is pertinent to acknowledge that her words don’t define me (or the many like me struggling to understand how to apply their degrees outside the confines of this school), they motivate me.

As President of this incredible organization, I have been so lucky to have the power and ability to vocalize what others before me, such as my Grandmother, may have not. Hence, I urge you to not simply accept the knowledge imparted upon you, but rather to challenge its significance and application during this time of shifting political climate, cultural adaptation, and social oppression. I hope that as feminists we can understand the vitality of our learning process at Michigan, embrace its benefits, while also using these same educational tools (or permanent markers) to critique and reshape it.

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Jacqueline Saplicki

President, What the F Magazine