Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Fight Isn't Over

Map via lgbtmap.org
Never have I been more consumed with joy for others as this past week when the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in the United States. Even though I missed Chicago Pride this year, the positive energy was palpable in the air.

But though the battle may be won, the fight isn't over.

Marriage equality is a crucial milestone in this nation's fight for equality. However, marriage equality is only one of the many rights the LGBTQ+ community is fighting for. Unless we fight for those rights too, we'll never reach true equality.

For starters, as excellent as homosexual marriage is, it's still going to be an institution largely accessible to only gay white men. Marriage isn't cheap; even if you're nuptials are being held at the circuit court, there are fees and hoops you have to go through. Furthermore, in more rural areas where courts are far and wide, gay marriage is less accessible. Due to racial and gender privilege, gay white men are more likely to live in an affluent area and have the means to afford a marriage. In the LGBTQ+ community, gay white men are the closest thing to society's ideal human: a heterosexual, cisgendered, white male. As a result, they are the most palatable part of the LGBTQ+ community to the cis-hetero public, and thus it is their rights that are championed the most vehemently. 

Photo via the Human Rights Campaign
The Human Rights Campaign, the so-called cornerstone of LGBTQ+ activism, is itself fraught with inequality. It employs mostly cis-gendered white gays and lesbians, which results in an advocacy lacking in intersectionality. Marriage has become the cornerstone of their equality campaign, ignoring issues such as LGBTQ+ youth homelessness and the trans stigma. They might claim that the fight for equality is nearly there, but here's a taste of some of the issues we need to resolve to achieve true equality.

Ending Employment discrimination laws
Just because gay people can get married, doesn't mean that they're not discriminated against in the workplace. Somewhere between 19-43 percent of gay people experience discrimination or harassment in the workplace, and a whopping 90% of trans people report being harassed at work. Furthermore, LGBTQ+ people can be fired or not considered for a job on basis of their sexual or gender orientation. Only 21 states have any protection from such discrimination, meaning that in the majority of the U.S. LGBTQ+ people have little to no job security on the basis of their identity.

Graphic via equalitymatters.org
Busting the Trans Stigma
Even though we're going through a wonderful transgender acceptance moment right now, there's still a huge stigma surrounding the trans community. The trans community experiences the highest rate of hate crimes, especially amongst trans women of color. They're also the most likely to not be hired for a job based on their gender identity. Further perpetuating the trans stigma are simple things like refusing to use proper pronouns or denying trans people access to the bathrooms that conform with their gender identity. From semantics to crime, trans people currently get the short end of the equality stick, and both allies and the LGBTQ+ community have a responsibility to end that.

Ending Bi/Pan Erasure
When we talk about the LGBTQ+ community, sometimes we ignore the "B" and pretend it doesn't exist (And we almost always erase the "P," since the whole acronym is LGBTQPIA). As comfortable as people may be with homosexuality and heterosexuality, we have a startling phobia of non-monosexuality. In this way, we deny people a portion of their identity. The Bi and Pan community is often labeled as indecisive, sexually greedy, and selfish. Bi and Pan are real identities, and in erasing them from our discussions of the LGBTQ+ community, we're erasing any chance of sexual freedom and of breaking the mono sexual standard.

Increasing Economic and Racial Inclusivity in the LGBTQ+ Community
The people who have access to proper health care, good jobs, and yeah, marriage, tend to be white, middle to upper middle class queers. The people left behind? Anyone who's not white and rich. When we exclude intersectionality from our discussions of LGBTQ+ issues, we're excluding the majority of the LGBTQ+ community whatever changes we make ultimately will still exclude those people. This is one of the fatal flaws of the LGBTQ+ movement.

Look, we've made significant progress, but we're not done fighting. It's the responsibility of allies, queer people, and everyone in between to keep fighting for these rights. I have faith in the us as a community because after all, if love won on one day, why can't love win everyday?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Summer Fashion

So it's summer, and while you may want to roll out of bed and just walk around in a swimsuit all day, unfortunately society deems that we must look presentable when out in public. Bummer.

As much as I love fashion, I hate getting dressed in the summer. My style tends to be really layered, and in the summer less layers is probably better. As a result, I often hit a summer style roadblock. I just hate how sticky and humid I feel in pretty much everything.

I decided to come up with four functional summer looks that I actually enjoyed wearing and that didn't make me look like a hot mess (pun fully intended). Hopefully these are a good source of summer style inspo for you too!

LBD Lovin'

Dress: Target, Denim Jacket: Levi's

Necklace: Urban Outfitters, Earings: Pitaya

Shoes: Union Bay
 Who doesn't love an LBD? A nice swingy one for summer is the perfect way to both stay cool while maintaining the ultimate chill factor (yes another highly intended bad pun).

Print on Print on Print

Shirt: Gap, Shorts: Anthropologie, Head Scarf: Thrifted

Ring: Madewell

Shoes: Cynthia Rowley
 First how all, how cute is this parrot wall? I absolutely love it! It's part of a charming used book store that I frequent. This is a bit of an eclectic outfit, combining different patterns. The head scarf keeps my hair out of my face and the light, silk shirt from gap is super breathable and perfect for a summer evening out. Plus, the funky aquatic printed shorts bring their own uniqueness to the mix.

Purple Daze

Denim Jacket: Same as above, Skirt: Thrifted, Shirt: Gap

Earings: Art Festival

Shoes: New Balance
  Midi skirts are coming back, and they're especially trendy with a cute pair of sneakers. I think some of the quirkiest (and cheapest) midi skirts can be found at your local thrift shop, like the one I found above. My new New Balance 410s are my new favorite pair of shoes because they're so adorable but so freaking comfortable. Paired with a simple tee and skirt, it's an effortless look.

Breezy Cover

Jeans: Madewell, Shirt: Urban Outfitters
Shoes: Franchesca's
I know what you're thinking, how are you going to stay cool in the summer in jeans? Well, this outfit isn't intended for a 90 degree scorcher. For those milder 70 degree days or summer evenings, a pair of boyfriend jeans are the perfect way to cover up from mosquitos while letting your legs breath a little. Coupled with a white peasant blouse, you got yourself a nice summer outfit.

Those are the outfits I've planned out! Hope you like them! Tag your OOTD's with #theyouthemisms so that I can get a feel for your personal style!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

TED Talks

Like many people, I've spent hours shamelessly pouring over the internet (in fact I'm writing this at 12:06 AM because who needs sleep) and all it has to offer. I've definitely spent my fair amount of time watching silly cat videos on Youtube or scrolling through Pinterest. However, the internet is also an amazing learning tool if you decide to make it. Before you nag me about how you already do enough learning in school, let me preface this post by saying the internet is a different type of learning. It doesn't have to be used to learn algebra or how to conjugate verbs properly, but rather it should be used to explore your interest, to inspire you, to make you think critically and question, which is something a school education might try to do, but will never fully accomplish. Oh, and some of the stuff online is just really freaking cool.

TED talks are one of my favorite online hubs to watch. TED stands for technology, education, and design, and the website features hundreds of lectures by prominent movers and shakers in fields ranging from sociology to botany. The goal of these talks is to inspire and to challenge people to think. There are definitely issues with TED, such as that it grossly over simplifies complex ideas or that it's an superficial, ego building machine. Despite this, there are several TED talks that I've found truly inspirational or that have challenged my mental paradigm, and those are talks worth spreading.

Uri Alon: Why truly innovative science demands a leap into the unknown

Uri Alon pinpoints exactly what's missing from the education most kids grow up with: mistakes aren't just okay, they're necessary. Education, from its setup to its goal, describes life as a straight path from A to B; if you work hard and never sway, you'll always succeed. Failure is discouraged. Yet failure has spawned some of the most important modern discoveries, such as rubber. Alon stresses that failure is the source of the most creative and useful scientific results. It was in improv classes that he learned how to cultivate an undesirable position into a success, which he later applied to his research. Just as this lesson is applicable in both science and improv, it's applicable in every facet of life.

Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

Whether or not you see yourself becoming a politician or an engineer, you will pretty much always have to interact with people on a face to face level. You might as well be good at it then! Regardless how talented or creative you are, your ideas are worthless to others unless you can convey their importance verbally.  My Model UN coach used to show us this video halfway through the season to help us refine our speaking styles, and it definitely helped. Julian Treasure breaks down how to be an effective speaker and his tips are applicable to both public speaking as well as one-on-one conversations. 

Cameron Russell: Looks aren't everything. Believe me, I'm a model.

Like many young girls, I dreamed of being a princess or a model (that is, until I stopped growing at 5' 3"). Cameron Russell, a successful model and globetrotter, breaks down the picturesque perfection of being a model and the fashion industry in general. She points to the unjust racial and economic legacy that the industry relies on, as well as the needless sexualization of young girls for the sake of a good picture. Her main point is that images are powerful; we base our thoughts and beliefs off of pretty images, yet those images are constructed by teams of professionals to send that particular message. When we look beneath the image, things are no longer as pretty as they seem. This not only pertains to the modeling industry, but to any situation worldwide.

Helen Fisher: The brain in love

This is a talk I've watched over and over again and still manage to enjoy it. It's not as "educational" as many other TED talks, but somehow, it still resonates with me. I think I'm just drawn to Helen Fisher's honest, romantic, and idealistic description of love, and with due reason of course. As Fisher describes, our brains are programmed to crave romantic love despite knowing the pain that love can cause. In a world of climbing divorce rates and cynical statements that love is futile, it's a nice, hopeful reminder that all humans need love, so hopefully you'll find it. 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story

You may have heard of Adichie's other TED talk that perhaps Beyonce might have quoted, so I decided to give this one a shout out. In this talk, Adichie describes the pervasiveness of stereotypes and how they flatten both the human and the individual experience. Everyone is more than just a single story imposed on them by someone else's imagination. When we get past the single story to see who people really are, we eliminate the hatred and bias that governs so many of our interpersonal relations today. Eliminating the single stories that we impose on discussions of race, class, and gender, are the first step to living in a much more equitable society.

Those are my favorite TED talks. Share your favorite TED talks with me on social media using #theyouthemisms! 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Feminism: An Introduction

I've blogged about feminism before, but I feel like I threw you guys into this without a proper introduction. Hi, I'm Steph, and I'm a feminist! Hopefully, you are too, even if you don't know it yet! But in case you aren't swayed, or just don't really know what I'm talking about, here's a concrete introduction to feminism.

What is feminism?
Feminism is defined as:

a) The theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes;
b) Organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests.

If you believe in either of those things, then congratulations, you're a feminist! Come, join us! We have gender equality and cookies!

What is feminism not?
Basically, if it's not included in the definition above, it's not feminism. There are haters who claim that feminism's goal is female supremacy. This is not true. Do not listen. Female supremacy is just the polar opposite of the male-dominated world we live in now; it doesn't create any sense of equality!

One of the most ubiquitous myths about feminism is that feminism is the same as man hating. Again, this couldn't be farther from the truth. Feminists don't hate men. We simply hate that for so long we've been seen as inferior to men, and sometimes we get a little bit frustrated with that. And honestly, sorry if your feelings get hurt, but a few people hating men is pretty benign and not nearly as harmful as what happens when people hate women.

Wait, so do feminists hate men or not? 
Basically, if you've seen any of these or these products floating around, you're witnessing the ironic, satirical beast that is the hipster feminist. It's all just harmless play and part of the ironic misandry movement. The objective is that by exaggerating accusations of misandry, we show how ridiculous these accusations are.

Via male-tears.tumblr.com
Who can be a feminist?
Anyone can be a feminist! You don't have to be female-identifying or fall into any other category. If you're a guy, don't worry, there are plenty of male feminists out there and we need more to help destroy the patriarchy.

Speaking of the patriarchy, what is it?
The patriarchy is fancy talk for the male-dominated society that we live in.

Wait, but it's the 21st century, does the patriarchy really still exist?
YES! In the US alone, there are only 20 female senators, 1 in 6 women will either be raped or be the victim of attempted rape, and women are still habitually underpaid compared to men. And this is in the US, a pretty developed country. Things are even worse when you go abroad to countries where girls get married as young as 13 and where genital mutilation is still practiced. This is why we still need feminism; there's progress to be made virtually everywhere.

Via jessicavalenti.com

What's intersectionality?
Intersectionality is a term feminists use to describe the unique experiences and identity of a given individual. For example, the experience of a queer black woman will undoubtedly differ from that of a cisgendered white woman. All of these different experiences are  incredibly important, so when we talk about feminist issues, we have to keep identity in mind. In turn, this makes things such as race/ethnicity, socioeconomic class, and sexual/gender orientation feminist issues because all of those things impact women.

This is my quick intro to feminism. I hope you discovered that you're a feminist! I definitely didn't go into great detail or depth, but this is just an overview. I definitely want to continue with some of these posts exploring contemporary social issues as I think it's important to discuss these things at a young age and to be an informed citizen. Let me know if you found this post helpful or want to see more posts like this either in the comments below or on social media using #theyouthemisms!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Evil Eye Manicure

I love a fancy manicure (though to be honest I rarely have the patience to do one). With the Evil Eye trend taking off in the past few months, I thought where else to immortalize it than on my fingernails?

The Evil Eye is a symbol that originated in the ancient cultures of the Mediterranean and the Indian sub-continent. In Judaism specifically, it's defined as an individual's ability to bring malice upon someone else simply with a gaze. The Turks extend the concept of the Evil Eye to eye color, saying that an unusual eye color is a sign of wickedness, with blue eyes being considered the most deceptive. Turks carry special pendants to protect themselves from the Evil Eye called Nazar Boncugu, which are made out of an amalgamation of molten glass, iron, copper, water, and salt. These are the famous blue circular pendants that populate tourist areas and have penetrated Western culture. Evil Eye pendants are also frequently part of the Hamsa, a Jewish and Arabic symbol shaped like a hand that is meant to protect from the Evil Eye as well.

Hamsa (Left) and Evil Eye Pendant (Right), courtesy of levantinecenter.org
Between the Hamsa and the Evil Eye pendant, many fashion houses from Kenzo to Urban Outfitters have used these symbols as an inspiration for recent fashion seasons.

Kenzo Fall 2013, courtesy of The Fashion Bomb Daily
Now I'm going to take my own inspiration from this ancient symbol an put it on my nails. Before starting a fancy manicure, I usually follow these steps to get a high quality manicure at home (and because it just feels luxurious). 

Sally Hansen Double Duty Base and Top Coat, Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear in white, Sally Hansen I Heart Nail Art Pen in black, Wet n' Wild polish in Putting on Airs, Julep polish in Kelsey
For this manicure, you'll need a base and top coat, nude colored nail polish, white nail polish, a black nail pen, either light or dark blue nail polish (whichever works best with the shade of nude you're using), scissors, a bobby pin, and five bandaids.

Start with clean, dry hands. Paint a light base coat onto nails.

Paint a single coat of white nail polish on. Don't worry about getting a super opaque or even color as we'll be painting over most of the white later. Make sure your nails are completely dry before moving on to the next step. In the meantime, read a magazine or catch up on Netflix.

Cut the bandaids in half. You should have 10 half-bandaids, or one for each finger.

Stick the bandaids on your nails, approximately covering 1/3 of your nail.

Paint the nude nail polish over the bandaids.

Peel the bandaids off. You should get lovely white half-moons on the  bottom.

Pour some of your chosen blue nail polish onto a piece of paper. Using the tip of a bobby pin, paint a rectangular stripe running from the nude to the bottom of your nail.

After letting the nude and the blue color dry for a bit, draw on some eyeliner, three eyelashes, and the pupil using a black nail pen. Let this dry, clean up the edges with a q-tip and some nail polish remover, put some top coat on and voila! You're done!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Thoughts on Graduation

And I'm writing this... off my new Macbook Pro! I've successfully become a walking, talking, Apple advertisement.

If graduation means getting a new laptop, I should seriously graduate more often.

This past Sunday, I graduated from high school. It was a flurry of emotions, some good some bad. Most of them consisted of me being annoyed that I had to sit for three hours and that the graduation cap was seriously messing up what could've been a good hair day. Or being annoyed at the incessant amount of photos my parents demanded. But at the end of it all, it was a good day. I received my diploma, spent quality time with my family and then with my friends at grad night, and had a chance to say goodbye to the teachers and administrators that impacted me the most.

We have an unofficial tradition of going to the beach the following morning and watching the sunrise
Graduation to me didn't seem like a huge deal. From the moment I stepped into the halls of my high school, it was pretty much set that I would graduate. But that's because I attended a well-off, suburban public school. That's not the case for everyone. The high school class of 2013 set the graduation rate record at only 81%, and this is factoring in schools like my own where everybody will graduate. The disparities persist, however. A third of low income kids do not graduate, racial minorities and English language learners have significantly lower graduation rates, and some states still have graduation rates as low as 33%. I'm not here to be a giant cheese bomb, but a high school diploma is truly a blessing and it shouldn't be taken lightly.

My high school diploma is setting me up for the next four years of my life, aka college. And that's terrifying. I'm supposed to have the next four years figured out and I don't even know what I'm having for lunch today. And I have to do that far away from the people I love.

My aunt and me (left); my mom, my dog, and me (right)

I'm scared because I've basically spent the last four years surrounded by the same people in a concealed learning environment. Most of the people I know are going to different schools that are mostly located really far away from where I'm going to school. It was hard enough making friends in high school, but it's even harder as an adult when you're transplanted to a new location where you know nothing and no one. I'm still home for the summer, but even so I'm already starting to anticipate the isolation of being away.

Next fall, I'm attending Yale University. I'm so incredibly excited for the amazing opportunities I'll get while at Yale and I'm glad my hard work in high school payed off. But like I said, Yale's far away, aka 886.6 miles. I'm lucky that one of my best friends is also attending Yale next year, but even so, a weekend trip home isn't really an option on a college budget. I'll have to get used to seeing my dog (oh, and my parents) only via Skype.

Me and Lauren, my sister from another mister, and a fellow Yalie

The other thing that I'm scared about for Yale is its rigor and caliber. The classes are going to be hella hard, and everyone around me is going to be hella smart. I do think that that's the right environment for me, but it'll definitely be a new feeling to not necessarily always be at the top academically anymore. As the common adage goes, the only way to improve is to surround yourself with people who are better than you. Ultimately, that's why I wanted to go to such a competitive school. However, it'll still be quite an adage to go from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond.

Graduation and getting ready for college definitely remind me that I'm not really a "kid" anymore. I'm technically an adult and I have been one for a few months, but it's really starting to sink in as I'm learning how to be on my own. That made me ask myself, am I young enough to be writing this blog? Does being young transcend the legal age of 18? After some thought, I think it does. Hell, Tavi Gevinson is older than me and she's still editor of Rookie Mag! I think being young is more being new, being inexperienced, still trying to figure things out. And young can last a pretty long time. It's all about how you feel, and I have no intention of aging myself quickly.

That was definitely a more personal post than normal, but I wanted to share my thoughts in hopes that maybe someone else feels this way too, and it's always nice to find a kindred soul. If this post did resonate, let me know, but mostly, thanks for reading and empathizing :)

P.S. Maybe in 10 years this blog will be called Adultisms!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Bad Feminist

Here is the book that is a New York Times best seller, just went into it's 12th printing cycle, and is the UCLA class of 2019 common book. And for some reason it took me almost a year after its publication to read. 

Gif via giphy.com

One of my close friends and I were perusing a Barnes and Noble recommended reads bookshelves when we saw the book. The words "bad" and "feminist," for two self-proclaimed feminists like ourselves, are trigger words, automatically commanding our attention. We debated getting one copy and sharing, and then we realized that we wanted to read it simultaneously in order to discuss it. Definitely worth the $15.99 wallet drain.

Bad Feminist is an acclaimed book of essays by the writer Roxane Gay. Published in August of 2014, the book has catapulted Gay into the public eye, with appearances at prominent events such as TED Women, several writing festivals, and interviews with the likes of the Huffington Post. We're all bad feminists: let's be real, nobody's perfect. We just operate under the facade of being perfect feminists, perfect women, perfect humans, and use that perfection to marginalize those that openly aren't perfect. It takes gumption to break from that mold, to point out the flaws in oneself and others, and Roxane Gay does so masterfully and compassionately. 

The book is split into sections: Me; Gender & Sexuality; Race & Entertainment; Politics, Gender & Race; and Back to Me. Despite these categories, the essays remain intertwined, giving the book the feeling of one cohesive whole. Much of Gay's critique relies on discussing literature and entertainment, such as The Help, to describe many race, gender and class issues she notices in society. What is unique about Bad Feminist in regards to other essays is Gay's unique, pensive voice that permeates every page. Gay relies on her perspective as a (sometime) queer black woman to articulate society's marginalization of her demographic as well as other groups. However, despite Gay's every right to be angry with those who've contributed to the marginalization of voices like her's and others, Gay retains a compassion and empathy for nearly everyone, noting that the oppressed is just as imperfect as the oppressor.

Bad Feminist explores the notion of imperfection and how that impacts every facet of identity and society. In a society that demands perfection, it's hard to point out the structural flaws that keeps us from attaining it; it's hard to admit that we aren't already there. Gay herself admits she pretty much falls outside America's definition of perfection, so instead she uses that position to embrace imperfection. Bad Feminist simultaneously is poking at Gay's own issues at being a feminist (one that finds the song "Blurred Lines" fairly catchy and loves reality TV) as well as feminism's larger issue of excluding non-heterosexual, cisgendered, white women. What Gay does is lets us see the fractures in a functional, albeit slightly terrifying, society. Just like the institutions of American society, she articulates how a person can both be broken yet visibly fine, and how these are the kinds of things we need to actively point out for us to fix the general inequity that governs American society.

Gay's voice is so powerful because of her gleaming compassion. As my aforementioned friend, Sarah, described, "I like [Gay] because she's radically feminist but also radically empathetic." (She also attributed that quote to the book itself, but with both of us combined we still couldn't find it online or in the book so I'm attributing it to her.) Gay doesn't have an obligation to be compassionate to any man in her critiques of gender, any white person in her critiques of race, any heterosexual cisgendered person in her critiques of sexuality, or anyone with a combination of those traits. But she is. She doesn't flatten the oppressor into just those traits. As a cis, hetero, white person (aka me and lots of others), it's definitely easier to read literature that is nice to white people and praises them. However, such literature shouldn't be written to make us happy; it should be written to inflict change. Gay doesn't flatter white people or men or anybody really; what Gay does is she reminds us that beneath our different identities, we're still all human, so let's treat each other as such.

Bad Feminist is definitely one of my favorite non-fiction reads. It's not too long, it's captivating in its subject matter, and its voice is remarkable. You don't have to be a feminist (though you should be a feminist) or a lofty academic to read and enjoy this book! I hope my pseudo-review/analysis is enough impetus to go pick it up from your local library or bookstore, so if you do, make sure to either comment below with your opinions of it or use #theyouthemisms on Twitter and Instagram to share your opinions!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Summer Updates

So if you've decided to delve into the archives of this here blog between 9 PM and 8 AM central time, you might have noticed a few changes. Namely, a more unified blog structure (i.e. font and picture sizing) as well as an embedded Twitter and Instagram feed (follow me!).

Yes, I made some updates. I technically started this blog for my senior year English class, but I graduate from high school in two days (scary, right?!) and I want to continue blogging because I really enjoy it. I want this blog to be my creative outlet, and for that I need it to have a productive and uniform design.

I also want to take the writing side more seriously. I've set a pretty ambitious blogging schedule so far. For at least the month of June, expect a new blog post at 8 AM central time on Tuesdays and Fridays. I'm apologizing in advance if I miss a post; I'm still pretty new to the idea of committing myself to creating new and original content so this is quite a challenge for me.

I'm also expanding the scope of my blog. Now that I'm no longer limited by class requirements and tedious school rules, I'm free to blog about whatever fluff I want! That means fashion/beauty posts, DIYs, entertainment/fun posts, and a slew of other things never before seen here. I'm super excited for them, I hope you are too!

Well, that's all I have to say for now. Bring it on, blogosphere!