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!