Friday, August 28, 2015

Fall Update

As you all know, I'm starting college this fall.

Actually, I'm starting college today. Like, the day this is being published.

And as you already know, I'm attending Yale out in New Haven, Connecticut, miles away from home. Unfortunately for my parents (and me), we live close enough to take on the 14 hour drive, but far enough where weekend trips home are not a possibility.

College is going to bring a lot of new changes for me. For starters, I have to share not just a bedroom, but a suite with three awesome suitemates. I also have to share a bathroom (ugh).

Gif via Know Your Meme
Contrary to popular belief, college isn't just a place you go to party for four years. It's a place where you go to grow and mature, learn the skills of a profession or trade, and prepare to embark on your journey as a contributing member of society (and party). 

As you imagine, I'll be super busy with all that colleging this first semester. I have no promises as to the regularity of blog posts. For now, I will try to post every Friday rather than every Tuesday and Friday. If I have the time to generate extra material, I'll post on Tuesdays as well, so stay tuned to my social media (@stepiksayshi on Twitter and Instagram) for notifications on my postings.

To all of you in college, good luck on first semester! Y'all are gonna slay! To those of you in high school, good luck on these important last steps before whatever you choose to do later! Ciao!

Friday, August 21, 2015

A State of Emergency

17. That's the number of trans women murdered this year. 14 of those were women of color.

In 2014, 14 (too many) trans women were killed. It's only August and that number has already been shattered, only to be replaced by more blood shed and violence. 

Say their names:
I don't care if this is bombarding you with links. Their memory must live and carry on.

I don't care if you "don't believe in trans," or if you think "the trans identity doesn't exist," or if you think being trans is a sin. If you believe that, I politely ask you to leave this blog because you will find the majority of the content here to be very offensive, especially the content in support of trans people. I don't care if you have an issue with transgender people because no issue, especially one that causes no clear harm to anyone, merits the murder of innocent civilians. These women were just going about their daily lives without harming a soul and their peace was met with violence.

I'm finding it incredibly difficult to write this blog despite the amount of rage that's fueling it. Usually, anger is a source of inspiration to craft a message, but this is anger tinged with sadness and melancholy. I didn't know any of these women, but my heart goes out to all of their friends and families.

Violence against trans people is seemingly endemic. We think the L and the G of the LGBTQ+ community have it bad, but we've largely written off the violence that faces the trans community. Trans people are the targets of crimes, yet usually their deaths are treated as isolated issues rather than a larger trend of hate crimes. Often times, a trans person protecting themselves is even seen as the aggressor and is afforded little legal protection, as in the case of Eisha Love. Trans women of color (TWOC) are disproportionately targeted in violent crimes. TWOCs fall into two marginalized groups that experience large barriers in society, making them especially at risk in terms of their safety.

Yet how can we have so many hate crimes against trans women in the time of Caitlyn Jenner? Didn't she normalize trans?

As much as I wish anyone could normalize trans, we're a long ways off from that. For starters, Caitlyn is white and presents herself in a traditionally cisgendered manner. She also had the money to transition flawlessly. The majority of the murdered women were TWOC; basically, Caitlyn's version of trans is largely different from their version of trans. I mean no disrespect to Caitlyn Jenner; she's awesome and an important part of the trans acceptance movement. But it'll take more than one media icon, especially a white one, to make trans largely accepted in our society.

What about Laverne Cox, or Janet Mock?

Well, they definitely have more intersectional identities and they're important media voices/activists. Janet Mock says that media identities alone won't be enough to stop the violence and to normalize trans. She is one voice out of millions from your TV set. Transgender women have suffered media erasure for years; one year of media visibility won't solve much. There are still so many misconceptions about what it's like to be trans and why TWOCs are the targets of violent attacks.

It's not all hopeless though. There are things you can do to help. For starters, sign this petition for the White House to formally investigate the rising death toll of trans women, especially TWOCs. Secondly, take to social media. Share this blog post, share the articles linked above, share the names of the murdered women. This is a movement that needs visibility, and thus it needs active participation. I'm not saying you need to take to the streets and picket, I'm just asking everyone to engage in the conversation. 

It'll take a while, but I firmly believe progress is possible, if we all just pitch in.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Feminist Dorm Room

If you're the same age as me, you're probably about to move off into your college dorm (or you might already be there)! Will I do a dorm tour here on the blog? Maybe, depending on how long it takes me to get my room in check. But even if a dorm tour never surfaces, at least you'll get my feminist dorm decor tips!

As my roommate said, a room just isn't a room without its fair share of feminist wall-hangings. She's completely right. Like, why wouldn't you cover your walls with beautifully ironic items that simultaneously vouch for gender equality? And contrary to popular belief, it's not that expensive or difficult to convert your dorm room into a feminist haven. There are plenty of feminist decor DIYs on the interwebs (or create your own; feminism prides creative expression!). Plus, it's a good excuse to further develop your BFF relationship with Etsy. 

Here are a few items I think are the perfect touch for any budding man-hater's bedroom.

For the scientist

Poster via Look Human

Pillow via Look Human
For all you science gals, there are plenty of items out there celebrating women in science, or the STEMinist movement. You can go basic with just a STEMinist poster (there's also a mug available) or get a throw pillow celebrating Ada Lovelace, the founder of modern computing! Take advantage of Look Human's promotional sales right now to buy your gear.

For the Womanist

Print via Jade and Serif

Mug via IngenioBoutique
Feminism should celebrate girls of all races and ethnicities, so why not show some dark girl pride in the dorm as well? The Womanist movement has spawned some amazing (and affordable) art. Show some love for historic icons with this Sojourner Truth print, or take pride in natural, black hair with this mug (bonus: this mug was made by a mom earning some extra money to cover her girl's college expenses via Etsy!)

For the ironic misandrist

Mousepad via Cafe Press
Cross-stitch via Nasty Grandma

Flask via Zazzle
Warning: these are not for the faint of heart. These items are for the staunch lover of irony who has no fears of alienating men in the near future because they know that any man they should encounter that is worth their time will find this funny. Embrace your inner misandrist with some misandrist printed decor such as a cross-stitch*, a flask (good for college parties if you don't want to drink but want to look like you're drinking), and a mousepad. 

*Hint: if you know how to embroider/cross-stitch, make your own embroider hoop message! That's what I did.

For anybody who thinks equal rights are awesome

Sticker via Modern Girl Blitz

Pillow via Look Human

Pillow by Furious Feminist
And here are just a few decor ideas that can suit any feminist, regardless of their preferences! And yes I like pillows, who doesn't? 

A lot of the time, when you're buying feminist art, you're supporting feminist activist/creators not just by spreading their message but by giving them the financial security to continue their activism and to continue to pursue their passions. It's like killing two birds with one stone: support your fellow feminists, and get an awesome dorm room to boot!

If you decide to add a feminist touch to your dorm/bedroom, post your pictures on social media and tag me using #theyouthemisms so I can see your lovely decor ideas!

Friday, August 14, 2015

French Canada

Montreal from above
For the past week, I've been traveling in French Canada, specifically Montreal and Quebec City. I don't know about you, but I love to travel, even if it means just checking out a new neighborhood in my home city rather than going abroad. My mom decided we needed a mommy-and-me trip before I left for college, so we left the boys at home (namely my dad and my dog) and set off for Canada. I loved French Canada; it doesn't quite feel like Europe, but it's not quite the same like America or other parts of Canada. It very much has its own culture that's equal parts endearing and enticing.


Enjoying coffee on the patio
Our first stop was Montreal. We stayed in Le Village (the gay village) at an awesome bed and breakfast called La Conciergerie. Just waking up and seeing the sun through our windows, and then going to the outdoor patio with a cup of coffee was amazing. The best part of staying in the Village was our proximity to other parts of Montreal. We were right next to a train stop as well as trendy districts such as Mile End and the Plateau.

Montreal is a fairly walkable city, so walk we did. The city is named after the giant hill that sits in the middle of it, called Mont-Royal. We ended up climbing Mont-Royal and walking around it quite a bit, and the views were spectacular. It was also great just to see locals jogging, biking, or walking their dogs around the hill; it gave the place a lot of life.

My lobster roll from Muvbox
What really gave Montreal life was the food. Omigosh, Montreal is a city for foodies. Their signature dish is poutine, a French-Canadian invention that feature french fries drenched in gravy and cheese curds. It's a delicious artery bomb waiting to happen, but that didn't stop me from having it multiple times, namely at one place called Patati Patata. Patati Patata is a tiny diner offering fresh sandwiches and the like, and based on the line going out the door, it's clearly a local favorite. Another on-the-go spot like Patati Patata was Muvbox Lobster Roll, a small pop-up stand by the old port. The stand sold some of the best lobster rolls I'd ever had, mostly because the lobster was so fresh. And as for dessert, there's a place in the Plateau called Cacao 70 that is basically a chocolate restaurant. Like, I ordered a smores pizza. And it was soooo good.

The Notre Dame Basilica
Other than food, we also checked out some basic tourist attractions, like the Notre Dame Basilica. We visited the botanic gardens and the biodome, which was amazing. There was a capybara and a sloth at the biodome, so obviously my day was made. We also checked out the Rodin exhibit at the Museum Beaux Arts, which was fantastic. Overall the museum was pretty small, but I discovered a new artist (for me at least) named Marion Wagschal, who reminded me of a female, contemporary Egon Schiele. 

Overall, Montreal was a great city to be in, but it was time to move on to our next destination.

Quebec City

The old city in Quebec
Quebec was a different beast from Montreal; the city looked like a little French town, provincialities and all, transplanted to the St. Lawrence river. The old city, on top of the hill around which the city was built, was all fortresses and old buildings. It was incredibly picturesque. 

We spent significantly less time in Quebec than Montreal, mostly because the city was so small and there wasn't as much to do. The gastronomic adventures didn't stop in Montreal, however. On our first evening, we tried a local Quebecois beer as well as bison tartare, another Quebecois specialty. Minus the fears of catching salmonella, we really enjoyed the tartare. We also tried a traditional French Canadian meat pie called cipaille (pronounced "sea pie"). The following day, we went to a restaurant specializing in rabbit, where we ate a rabbit meat pie as well as baked rabbit. While I felt sorry for the furry little beasts at first, that feeling faded once I they were in my stomach.

Quebec had a really rich history that you could palpably feel as you walked down the streets. All of the French as well as British influence was clearly visible, whether it be in the architecture or the local dialect. We mostly just walked around, even in the pouring rain, taking in the views all around us. In fact, we skipped out on a bunch of touristy stuff (outside of a walking tour of the old city) because by that point, we just wanted to absorb the city on our own without any more facts and figures. We didn't even eat breakfast at our hotel or a restaurant; we went to the local market, purchased some fruits, deli meats, and bread, and made our own breakfasts using local wares. Minus my complete inability to speak French, I felt like a local.

That's a summarized account of my time in French Canada. It was a great vacation, and I highly recommend it to anyone, especially young adults who might be wishing to travel abroad for the first time. French Canada is easy to navigate and isn't too far from the US. Plus, virtually everyone in Montreal speaks English, with a fair amount of people speaking English in Quebec as well. Like I said, French Canada is a great underrated tourist spot, and I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Facebook Conundrum

I've been thinking a lot about Facebook lately, mainly because I've never used it as much as I have this year. Say what you will, but the social media site isn't just an internet wormhole, it's an incredible tool to connect with others. The social media site permeates so much of what we do and basically everyone (including my neo-luddite mother) uses it.

I've been thinking a lot about the permanence of Facebook.

Is Facebook going to be like MySpace, slowly fading out of view while being supplanted by something bigger and better? Or is Facebook here to stay, to follow us as an internet shadow for the years to come? Will Facebook conquer the social webs of the internet, much like it has already absorbed Instagram? These are all questions that plague me.

Facebook seems like it's here to stay, but that also implies that we have to buy into its framework. If Facebook just keeps expanding and evolving with the times, it'll solidify its social monopoly and the frontier of social media and interpersonal relations will stagnate, at least in my opinion. By the same token, if there's high turnover in social media platforms, the permanence and the few meaningful connections we make over the internet are lost. 

If Facebook is here to stay, the other question I have is whether or not our current social media profiles are here to stay too. I'm thinking about the pictures I posted my freshman year of high school. Right now, they're a cute throwback to the simpler days, but what will they look like to me when I graduate from college? From graduate school? When I get married? Maybe those photos will still be meaningful to me on a personal level, but largely irrelevant to those who are friends with me at that point in my life on Facebook. And as we all know, whatever we post on the internet, no matter how hard we try to take it down completely, is always here to stay. In a way, if Facebook becomes a permanent facet of our society, what we post on the site today and everyday becomes a permanent part of our visible identity.

Those are just my thoughts. I'm currently on vacation in the Quebec Province of Canada, so I didn't really have the time for a long, researched, dedicated post about something current or what-not, but I hope y'all enjoyed this little tidbit of my brain. And stay tuned for a Montreal/Quebec City recap coming soon ;)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Why I'm a Feminist

I preach a lot about feminism on this blog, but I don't think I've ever really explained why I'm a feminist. And you know, I think it's a perfectly valid question to ask, after you ask whether or not I am a feminist. It's also okay to not be a feminist if you have a legitimate reason to do so (read: saying women are already equal to men or that feminism is about the matriarchal takeover are not well-researched reasons to not be a feminist). I decided to come clean as to why I identify as a feminist in hope of shedding a little light on the intricacies of feminism.

1. I believe in the equality of the sexes.
Raw, un-adulterated feminism is about the equality of the sexes. In the 21st century, I think that's a notion that's pretty easy to get behind.

2. I'm a white, cis-gendered female.
And as a white, cis-gendered female, my identity carries a lot of privilege and I am well served by main-stream feminism. While I personally don't identify well with main-stream feminism because it benefits those who already have the most privilege in society, feminism at large is very accepting of who I am. Furthermore, since I don't have the most intersectional identity, I don't really fit in other groups that empower females of specific ethnic/racial group or LGBTQ+ females. Feminism is kind of this overarching umbrella group and I just fit better under that umbrella.

3. Feminists form a community.
Not all feminists agree on everything, but feminists do form a community. We have our own inside jokes (anyone bathing in male tears tonight?) and our own support networks. And while mainstream feminism is very exclusionary, thanks to the internet more and more people are learning and aiming to make feminism an all-inclusive movement, bringing in people of all sexual orientations, gender orientations, races, religions, and economic classes. Feminism is a wonderful way to connect with other like-minded people and also a wonderful way to come together with others to advocate for people's rights.

4. And there is a STEM sub-community.
There are lots of sub-communities within the larger feminist community. My favorite one is the STEMinist community, aiming to get more women in STEM fields. Being a woman in STEM, this community is my life-blood. I've met so many incredibly women in mentors who have helped me cut through the red tape and fight misogyny in the STEM world. As I mature and grow into this community, I hope that one day I'll be the mentor too.

These are just a few of many reasons why I'm a feminist. I get why feminism might not be for everybody; TERFism, racism, and other general preferences for cis white women are some of the barriers in feminism. But overall, I think feminism in our generation has the potential to be an incredibly positive movement, so I hope my reasons for being a feminist entice someone else too.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Lollapalooza Recap

Crowds on Day 1
Lollapalooza: the three days of the year when being redder than a lobster due to sun burn and feeling pain in every joint of your body is appropriate for a teen. But seriously, everything hurts this morning.

I just got back from three wild days at Lolla and I'm exhausted. The weekend was interesting, to say the least. The highs were high and the lows were very low, but overall it was well worth the $280 I dropped on tickets and the other $100 on food (eep). For those of you who didn't make it to Lolla, here are a few of the details from my Lolla experience.

Day 1
The view for MS MR from our spots
Who I saw: MisterWives, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, MS MR, Alabama Shakes, alt-J, and Paul McCartney

I watched Paul McCartney from up on the hill
Highlights: Day 1 was actually a pretty good day. I had a lot of fun and saw a lot of bands I really liked. Day 1 was the day where the little things really stood out, like spending time with friends and such. At MisterWives, hearing lead-singer Mandy call out society on gender roles while doing pushups was pretty great. Dancing to the jazz stylings of St. Paul was also pretty nice. We got pretty close to the stage at MS MR as well. To cap the day off, listening to Paul McCartney and singing along with a few of my closest friends was absolutely amazing.

Lowlights: Well, the heat, obviously. It was burning hot. The real lowlight was actually some of the adults we encountered. Lolla is mostly populated by the under 30 crowd, but with headliners like Paul McCartney and Metallica, there were quite a few older people this year. Not only were many of them rude, some of them were plain violent (I was hit and pushed by a middle aged man yelling obscenities at me, and this guy was sober). My friends and I ran into several unpleasant encounters with such people and it totally bummed our vibe.

Day 2

Our view for Banks
Who I saw: Catfish and the Bottlemen, Hippo Campus, Tame Impala, Banks

Sorry for all the zoom, but that was our view at Tame Impala
Highlights: Not gonna lie, day 2 was really, really weird. It's kind of difficult to pick out the highlights from this day because it's a bit of a jumble. I guess highlights come down to seeing Banks and Tame Impala. I liked but didn't love Tame Impala's album, but we had amazing spots close to the stage and they're just an experience live. The crowd was super rowdy and fun to be in. On the other hand, I'm a huge Banks fan (I own her on vinyl) and she was just as good live (if not better) than the album. It was an experience to say the least.

Lowlights: There were plenty of lowlights (this was the worst of my three days by far). For starters, we went to see Walk the Moon but the crowd was terrible and again we were attacked by old men, so we left the crown and sat in the fields. But the speakers were messed up so we couldn't hear them. Basically, we didn't see or hear Walk the Moon. Next, at Tame Impala, a girl was crowd surfing and she was dropped on my head. My neck still hurts because of it. And at Banks, all hell broke loose. Right after Banks the Pepsi stage had G-Easy, a rapper. Well, the G-Easy crowd decided to rush the stage, essentially trampling those of us who were at Banks. Things became so violent that at some points my feet didn't even touch the ground and I was being carried by bodies. It took us forever to get out of that mess and we were just sobbing on the other side. It was terrifying and we went home after that.

Day 3

The legend, Florence Welch, in the flesh, taken while I was bawling my eyes out
Who I saw: The Wombats, Circa Waves, Twenty One Pilots, Of Monsters and Men, Florence and the Machine

The Wombats: my ultimate nerdy music crush
Highlights: All the performers! I literally saw three of my favorite bands (The Wombats, OMAM, and Florence) in one day, and they all rocked it! For OMAM and Florence, I literally got in the audience during Twenty One Pilots and stood for four hours, progressively moving closer and closer to the stage, but it was well worth it. I bawled like a baby during the first few songs of Florence's set because I was so convinced that her set would most likely be cancelled due to weather. That day felt like a religious experience, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Lowlights: The evacuation kind of sucked. It gave us a nice breather during the day, but otherwise I would have preferred to stay in the park. Also, the crowd while waiting for Florence was packed like sardines and I wasn't sure I would be able to hold out long enough to actually see Florence, but oh it was soooo worth the wait.

That's my Lollaplooza recap. We came, we conquered, and on Monday we slept it off. See you next year, Lolla!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Local Tunes

Last weekend I took a trip to Wicker Park Fest, and despite a light case of heat stroke, I was reminded of how amazing local Chicago music can be. I mean, Chicago has such a rich history with jazz, blues, rock, and even rap (hey there Kanye West). Today, we host one of the biggest music festivals world wide, Lollapalooza, as well as a bunch of smaller festivals and some of the world's top jazz clubs. This city honestly has it all, yet many Chicago based musicians don't get the recognition they deserve. So, I hope I can give them some recognition here.

In Tall Buildings

Image via Schubas//Lincoln Hall

In Tall Buildings played an impressive set at Wicker Fest. He has just this really chill yet simultaneously intense energy when on stage; you can't look away, but you're also surprisingly mellow. Coupled with the back-up band's technical proficiency on their respective instruments, they not only produce quite a show but they produced an awesome new album called "Drivers."

Veruca Salt

Image via
When I first heard their song "Laughing in the Sugar Bowl" on WKQX, I was immediately hooked. Veruca Salt has been around the 90s, and you can definitely hear it in their iconic alt rock sound. I've never seen then live (I unfortunately missed them at Wicker Fest), but I bet they'd be amazing. What makes them even cooler is that they're a female-fronted rock group, the foundational predecessor for groups like Florence + the Machine and Wolf Alice. Their new album "Ghost Notes" is an alt rock confection.

Milo & Otis

Image via Neo Soul Cafe
Milo & Otis combine quirky lyrics, soulful R&B, and chill indie music to create a down-to-earth, pleasurable listening experience. Honestly, their sound is so mellow and smooth I feel like I'm melting when I listen to them. They're a cool show to see at a music festival, but they also make for great lounging music when you have a few friends over and you're just chilling in your PJs. They unfortunately aren't on Spotify, but you can stream their music on their Bandcamp.

The Orwells

Image via the Washington Post
On a more famous note, if you haven't heard of The Orwells, go listen to them now! A native Chicago band, they hit it big last year with their single "Who Needs You." The Orwells have a modern rock sound and are super exciting to watch live. To me, they're like the less famous American version of the Arctic Monkeys, they're that good (okay well they aren't really like the Arctic Monkeys but you get the point).


Image via Dizzy Bird Records
Heaters is another band that I checked out at Wicker Park fest this year.  I definitely get some Tame Impala, California vibes from them, but they still have their own original sound. They use cool effects such as warped vocals and slurred guitar that gives the music a nice trippy feel without being too excessive. I ended up staying for their entire show (a rarity for me at a music festival) because they were that good.

These are a few of my favorite locally based musicians. Chicago's a great city for music and if you're interested in discovering some good alt tunes, Chicago's the place to be!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Image via Business Insider

We've all been there...we brought our laptops in bed for some quality one on one time before bed, and pretty soon it was 4 A.M. and we've wasted all night scrolling through the rabbit hole that is Tumblr. 

Guess what, I'm going to fuel that passion.

Sorry, but vamping is pretty fun. Especially during the summer, when you can justify going to bed when the sun rises and awakening at the crack of dusk for a night out with friends. And even if you exercise a good deal of self restraint and just take the occasional internet trip in the mild afternoon, I can guarantee you that the following sites can keep you occupied for hours.

Little Alchemy: Little Alchemy is a brilliant little internet game that will literally keep you occupied for hours, or until you beat the game. Starting with only four elements-fire, water, earth, and air-you have to make creative mixtures of two elements at a time to make all 540 elements in the game. There's a handy dandy hint section if you absolutely must figure out how to make a jedi (yes that's an element) this very moment, but it's pretty fun to figure out on your own. 

Yass Cat: If you haven't yet seen the Yass Cat, you've been living under a rock (yes you are Patrick Star). The only thing better than the Yass Cat is...A FIVE MINUTE LOOP OF THE YASS CAT. You can thank me after your five minutes of uncontrollable laughter.

StumbleUpon: A site literally designed for the intellectual vamper, StumbleUpon allows you to pretty much stumble upon the gems of the internet. Essentially, the site sends you to random websites and based on your response (you can give a site a thumbs up or thumbs down) it tailors future sites to your taste. It also let's you refine the randomness a little by searching within just a certain discipline or by making a preselected list of disciplines that interest you.

Buzzfeed: Buzzfeed is my ultimate internet bae. Between its multiple Youtube channels and online quizzes, Buzzfeed puts out a lot of hilarious content on the internet. The site also reports on viral stories as well as serious news, building pages and pages of interesting internet things to pore through. Buzzfeed makes the internet rabbit hole a real problem.

Sporcle: This is your way to play out every high school fantasy about winning the Scholastic Bowl State Championships from the privacy of your own bedroom. Sporcle is an amazing online quiz sites with quizzes ranging from geography to Harry Potter character quizzes. I dare you to spend less than an hour on this site. 

Geoguessr: Satisfy your inner wanderlust with Geoguessr. Geoguessr drops you in a random place on the Earth (you can refine it to continent/country/etc. if you want) and by navigating through the streets in a Google Street View type way, you have to guess where you are. Available in both single player and challenge mode, this is the perfect way to travel the world without leaving your bed.

Here are just a few of my favorite ways to get lost on the internet. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, July 24, 2015


Image via
Earlier this week, Twitter exploded when Nicki Minaj took to the social media platform to vent her frustration that the "Anaconda" and "Feeling Myself" music videos weren't nominated for "Video of the Year" at the VMAs. 

VMAs, you dun goofed.

Or is it all just part of the music world's master plan to reward only white, cisgendered musicians in traditional performance categories?

Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" was a revolutionary video; not only did it break Vevo's streaming record back in August, it celebrated and glorified the black female body, one that's usually sexualized without context and vilified for its skin color and curves. Yet the video was only nominated for two niche VMA categories, Best Female Video and Best Hip Hop video. Basically, the VMAs said this video was only good "for a woman" or only good "for a hip hop artist," again relegating women and black culture to their own corner. Meanwhile, the skinny, white, Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" video garnered 9 nominations...

I bear no ill will towards Taylor Swift or her music. But I do bear resentment to how she used Nicki's frustration to further whitewash the music industry by criticizing Nicki for calling out the racist music standards and by trying to cover up the deeper issue of racism.

Whitewashing refers to white people co-opting the cultures of oppressed people, usually without adequate respect or recognition for the source culture. It can also refer to trying to keep things white-only. The VMAs managed to do both this year, but they aren't the only culprits. For decades, music culture has whitewashed the accomplishments of POC musicians (especially female ones)and consistently celebrated their white counterparts. 

Need a few examples?

Miley in Bantu Knots via the Huffington Post, Katy Perry in Geisha clothing via WSJ

"Twerking" and Bantu knots weren't considered sexy and beautiful until Miley Cyrus did them, despite the fact that those are part of black culture's rich history. Katy Perry gets to dress up as a sexualized Geisha for a concert, but a traditional Japanese Geisha was renowned for her skills as a hostess, conversationalist, and performer. Lana Del Rey decided to dress up in Chola for her "Latina Gangsta Girl" video. And remember when Iggy Azalea won the fan-vote tallies for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album and Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album last year, beating out Drake for the award? 

Yeah, they all pulled that off because they're white.

The musicians and entertainers of color, the ones who have worn their hair in cornrows for years and who grew up around cholas, are called "too ghetto" for participating and drawing on their own culture. Yet those musicians don't get recognized or don't acquire main stream success. Some say it's because they aren't marketable. Lyrics about growing up in da hood aren't relatable enough for music consumers, they say. In that case, I believe the marketability those people are looking for is white skin, not lyrics or style or any of that. 

One of the art pieces in Roger Peet's new series "In//Appropriate" via Bitch Magazine
The music industry's blatant whitewashing doesn't just deny recognition to those who deserve it, but it also denies millions of people a tangible reflection of their identity. White musicians appropriate POC cultures in a way that ignores the traditions and history of oppression those people have faced. Miley's twerking exists in the world of a rich white person, devoid of the violence and poverty faced in by many young blacks. Lana Del Rey's Chola look ignores the fact that the look was created by young Latinas as a method of survival in a society that afforded them no social mobility. The music industry strips away the often painful cultural context of that which it appropriates from, reducing it to simple aesthetics, something that's pretty to look at as long as you don't know where it really came from. How painful must it be for young POC to see their identities stripped down until they are defined simply by an article of clothing or their makeup? How painful must it be to watch your culture be ripped from your hands at the hands of an all encompassing industry?

Taylor, I'm sorry, but despite your apology, there never was an argument in this Twitter debate. You had the ability to use your position of power as a white musician to speak up about whitewashing, but instead you glossed over it with your invitations and apologies. Nicki Minaj has a loud voice and she'll be heard. Problem is, how long will it take for every other non-white artist to get their voice heard too?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

DIY Paper Cactus

I love little plants. Cacti, flowers, succulents, you name it. Problem is, plants aren't the most portable of creatures, and it's a little difficult to move my bedroom plant collection to my dorm on the opposite side of the country. (That and I'm really bad at taking care of plants). Plants instantly brighten up any room, so why not make a few paper plants? It's cheaper and easier than caring for real live growing green things and they add a cute quality to a room. 

Hence, I'm going to teach y'all how to make a paper cactus.

  • White card stock or poster board
  • Brown construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Water color paint palette (mine was from Michael's)
  • Paint brush
  • Glue stick
  • Little cup with water

Start by painting the card stock in shades of green that you enjoy (I used the darker green, blue-green, and grey). My preferred method of painting was to lightly wet the paper first, then dip a slightly damp brush in the paint and paint it in long layered strokes over the paper, allowing the colors to blend together.

Let the paper dry when you're done painting one side.

Fold the paper in half.

Draw a cactus shape in pencil on the paper so that the bottom of the cactus hits the folded part of the paper.

Cut out the cactus so that you get a reflected two-piece shape. 

Glue the two sides together with a glue stick.

Take the folded cactus piece and use it to trace another version of the main body of the cactus. Repeat this step for tracing the arm of the cactus. Make the arm longer than on the original piece (i.e. so that it would reach the middle of the cactus body).

Cut out the two other cactus parts and glue them together like with the cactus body.

Cut a slit in the top of the main cactus piece that reaches about 2/3 of the way down. Cut a corresponding slit that reaches 1/3 of the way from the bottom of the other cactus piece.

Cut similar slits in the two arms pieces of the cactus.

Put the cactus together. If you need, dab a small amount of tacky glue at the corners where the main body of the cactus meets the other parts.

Shred the brown paper. You can use a shredder if you have one, otherwise cutting long thin strips with scissors works just fine.

Find a small pot or container (I found and empty blueberry container and painted it silver) and fill it with the shredded paper. "Plant" your cactus in the paper and you're done! If your cactus has a hard time establishing roots, cut our a small square out of the painted paper and glue the cactus to painted side of the square so that it can act as a stable platform.

Isn't it so adorable???

Tag your cactus DIYs using #theyouthemisms on social media so I can see your cute cacti and we can create a world of adorable paper cacti!