Will We Ever Close the Gender Pay Gap?

openingremarks26__01a__630x420By 2020, the U.S. Treasury expects to replace Alexander Hamilton’s spot on the $10 bill with the face of an unidentified woman. But, as The Daily Show correspondent, Jessica Williams, highlighted during an episode of the Comedy Central news program, this gesture seems like an ineffective, and relatively pathetic, attempt to appease female critics. “Honestly, at the end of the day, I don’t [care] about who’s on the bill. What I do care about is getting an equal share of the bill. I’d rather have 10 full Hamilton dollars than $8.45 of lady bucks,” Williams noted.

But, as most understand, equal signs and dollar signs rarely align when it comes to median annual income across the country. According to one recent report by the American Association of University Women, the gender wage gap has made some strides over the last 40 years. In 1973, women made 57 cents for every man’s dollar, but as of 2013, women now make 78 cents for every man’s dollar.

While these figures illustrate significant progress, there’s still much to be done. As of 2013, male median income averaged $50,033 per year, while women earned only $39,157 per year. Younger women, ages 20-24, currently earn an average 90 cents for every man’s dollar, which also signals potential progress, but by age 35, median income growth slows considerably for female employees, as they earn only 75-80 cents for every man’s dollar until they reach retirement. Many cite educational and experiential differences as primary drivers behind such disparities, but even when both factors are comparable, the gap still persists. For women of color, these disparities are even worse.

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From the Seeds of Hate, We Must Cultivate Love

Even the City of Love cannot escape the hate. </3

CTujsdZUkAEo0a4Tragedy strikes every day, whether the headlines say so or not. Terror—both domestic and foreign—has become so commonplace, in fact, we longer ask ourselves if, but when. When will my city become the next terrorist target? When will my school fall victim to mass murder? When will I end up another statistic in this war against gun violence? Refugees abroad continue to flee from this daily horror, risking their lives to escape an unbearable reality, and families at home grieve for loved ones lost, bombarded by prayers from government officials who still put their right to bear arms above their constituents’ ish to live without fear.

Today, however, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Paris, France, as they seek to make sense of the terrorist attacks across their beloved city last night. Moments like these compel everyone to toss their trivial worries aside in solidarity. (Our parking tickets and broken phones no longer seem so devastating, after all.) Instead, we here in America cannot help but recall images of September 11th, when we were the nation in mourning. We remember the fear. We empathize with their despair. We reciprocate the uncertainty. Though attacks of any nature throughout the world assault our s
hared humanity, the Paris Attacks hit home, in particular, because they remind everyone that terror can wreak havoc anywhere, not just those countries ravaged by death each day.

In his statement, President Obama said: “This is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share… We are bound by timeless democratic values that the cowardice and perverse ideologues of extremist networks can never match, wherever they are. Such savagery can never threaten who we are. We will respond. We will overcome. We will endure.”

Many have noted, in the aftermath, that the recent attacks in Beirut and the perpetual plight of Syrian refugees fail to receive the media attention they deserve. But it’s in the wake of the Paris Attacks that we have the opportunity to raise awareness and gain support for all those suffering across the globe. While this tragedy has changed countless lives forever, we now have the opportunity to turn this negative into something positive by changing the way we perceived the world forever, as well.

As President Obama explained, these were attacks on all of humanity because, at our core, we are all essentially the same. No matter our religion, race, or nationality, we’re all made of skin and bones. We all yearn to live in peace. Every atrocity appeals to our solidarity, yet we inevitably fall back into the same self-centered rut as we bounce from tragedy to tragedy, dedicating ourselves to the given cause only momentarily before politicizing the events that have transpired in an effort to leverage personal agendas. Once again, we’re all related, but we fail to see eye to eye—brothers and sisters engaged in senseless sibling rivalry.

But in this instance, we can enact change once and for all. We can go beyond the blue, red, and white lights that adorn prominent buildings throughout the world. We can embrace our humanity and engage one another through peace and love, not resentment and hate. How many people must die—how many communities must crumble—before we channel our strengthen to fight for, not against, each other? To quote Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

We discover life’s true value in the face of death. Let’s honor all victims’ lives—those in Paris and those around the world—by rooting our efforts in love, for we’ll inevitably nurture a garden in which hate can no longer grow.

(Image by Jean Jullien)

Knock It Off, Nostalgia!

iStock_000002879254_SmallIf George Santayana was correct, and those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, then those who become consumed by nostalgia are doomed to dwell in another era. Pop culture buffs, in particular, have created this trap from which the entertainment industry cannot escape.

Nostalgia has become the primary impetus behind creativity throughout Hollywood, according to recent memory, driving numerous endeavors to “reboot” or “remake” the movies and TV shows of yesteryear. Yet, while this wave of inspiration—or lack thereof—appears to be motivated by an unyielding yearning for days gone by, one may also perceive this trend as an attempt to capitalize on prior successes. (Who am I kidding? That’s exactly what they’re doing…)

Most studios and investors prefer to sink money into ideas that are essentially past their expiration date simply because these once profitable entities still remain vivid within our collective consciousness. But these lackluster attempts to restore characters and concepts to their former glory could very well be the key to their imminent demise. You see, it’s their memory that holds the appeal. TV shows, such as Full House, and films, such as Poltergeist, remain popular in their original form because they carry an innate timelessness that cannot be replicated. Despite the1980s vibe, each exists outside the confines of the given decade, allowing generation after generation to enjoy what attracted audiences in the first place.

Of course, remakes and reboots are by no means new to the industry. Hollywood’s history is chock full of unnecessary spinoffs and sequels. (Please see Three’s A Crowd, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), and every installment of the Leprechaun series for reference.) But today, it’s as if nearly all major films and franchises are born from what already exists. It’s as if there’s simply no room for unique thought and creativity in today’s entertainment space. Just check out this list of upcoming movies as assembled by Grantland:harris-sequels-2

Also, if you can’t get the original cast to sign on, that clearly means you shouldn’t pursue the idea any further. The Prince and Me and its subsequent straight-to-DVD iterations, for instance, defy industry expectations, ultimately representing all that’s wrong with the entertainment world today. Not only was the initial film rather lackluster and poorly received, overall, but also its three follow-ups—which I can happily say I’ve never seen—steadily deteriorated, as the creators grasped onto farfetched concepts despite the exit of their primary star, Julia Stiles. (I wish I could tell you that 2010’s The Prince and Me 4: The Elephant Adventure was something I just made up myself, but alas, even I was unaware that this atrocity existed.) Who decided to spend money on these $5 bargain bin liners instead of investing in something worthwhile? Even something risky would’ve been more profitable, I’m sure.

Our society desperately needs to open the pathways for innovation and invention. Yet, instead of rewarding unique concepts, we get too-soon remakes, like She’s All That (which came out in 1999, mind you) and Girl Meets World, the more modern, slightly urbanized version of its original incarnation, Boy Meets World. If Hollywood continues down this road, we will be forced to indulge the same ideas over and over, leaving no room for new forms of nostalgia to blossom. Our children will only have our stale, used memories to revel in themselves. Let’s nurture future creatives by allowing the new to become old again.

Maren Sanchez, Law Will Always Be Your ‘Home’

b42a3e8f-1c66-4ee8-a467-af0cb725e8ccWe live in an era where death transcends life—where those who have passed remain alive and well in both image and memory. Digital media invites us to revel in the energy that once was and the beauty that always will be and, in the wake of Maren Sanchez’s death last April, the Internet shined its light on an indomitable star that clearly burned out much too soon.

When I learned of the tragedy at Jonathan Law HS, my heart hurt in ways I’d never imagined. Though I’d never met Maren, it was as if I’d known her my whole life. She was in the very place I’d been just 10 short years before, you see. Based on tweets from throughout the community, one could easily deduce that she was every girl who’d ever walked Law’s halls, and like none other at the same time. She embodied the spirit of the school’s future and upheld the legacy of its past.

But it wasn’t until I came upon an old YouTube video that the looming emptiness began to crush me from the inside out. Maren appeared on stage—glowing like an angel, no less—to sing “Home” by Phillip Phillips, and I could no longer contain the muted emotions that had been brewing all day. I spent my evening train ride crying behind darkened sunglasses, broken by the fact that the voice emanating from my phone had been silenced for good just hours earlier. How? Why? But no answer would suffice. If only the rewind button could work in real life.


Yet, while the news outlets continued to dwell on how Maren had died, her friends, family, and teachers chose to remember how she’d lived. They mourned her death by celebrating her life. Even now, one need only search the #MarenMemories hashtag on Twitter to comprehend just how much this young woman meant to so many people. She touched so many lives and brought the entire community together under the umbrella of love and joy. In her memory, Law and Milford came together as family, forming bonds that exemplify how one life can impact so many others for the better.

No matter how many years pass, Jonathan Law HS will always occupy an immovable corner of my heart, making everyone who has shared those very classrooms part of my extended family, Maren included. She, too, had found her home and, though time cannot undo what’s been done, we have the power to choose love over hate—to remember the good and learn from the bad. “If you get lost, you can always be found.” Just know you’re not alone, Maren. Law will always be your home.

(Image via The Jonathan Law Advocate)

#DearMe… Or, an Introspective Retrospective

In honor of International Women’s Day, join me and other gals around the globe as we offer our younger selves (and our readers!) some solid advice on how to stay strong and keep smiling.

generic-postmark-2Dear Former Self,

You’re young! Enjoy! Oh, wait. You already do. Guess you’re kind of ahead of the curve on that one… Everyone else always seems so eager to grow up, but as Mr. Scire once said, you’re wise beyond your years—to an extent. Don’t let that one go to your head, though. Remember! I said you’re young. You’ve got much to learn. With that being said, here are some things to keep in mind:

Beyond all else, embrace your mistakes. (They’ll teach you much more than any textbook ever could.) There’s one line from 13 Going on 30 that will resonate with you for years to come—

“I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I don’t regret making any of them, because if I hadn’t made them, I wouldn’t have learned how to make things right.” –Beverly Rink

For some reason, people (including your inner perfectionist) are afraid of failure. However, they neglect to realize that it’s in those mistakes that we learn what matters most and what changes must be made. If you never fail, you’ll never learn. Everything you do will help you become the person you are, and no matter what anyone else tries to tell you, that person just so happens to be pretty awesome if I do say so myself (har har). Thus, you must not dwell on any one problem for too long. Yes, this or that might seem like the end of the world in the moment, but you’re stronger than you think. Learn and move along.

In 10 years, you will also have developed the uncanny ability to determine who does or doesn’t belong in your life—those who lift you up and those who pull you down. You will even be able to isolate the moment when this new skill came to light. Life won’t last forever. We’re all watching the clock in some fashion. Therefore, at some point, everyone needs to decide who’s worth their time and who belongs in someone else’s monkey sphere. The things you once thought were important—work, popularity, etc.—suddenly won’t matter as much because they’ll ultimately keep you from spending precious time with those you truly love.

Don’t worry. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more advice for you in the coming decade. (Foresight isn’t exactly my thing.) But you’ve been doing surprisingly well thus far, so I’m not all that worried. You aren’t afraid to tell it like it is or stand up for yourself. Never lose that. Keep smiling, make people laugh, and do your best to inspire others to do the same.


Current Self

The Bachelor: Just Because You Don’t ‘Win’ Doesn’t Mean You Lose

800x533Much like the average Oscars telecast, ‘losers’ will always outnumber the ‘winners’ throughout Bachelor Nation. (Heck, even the ‘winners’ don’t always win, if you know what I mean…) Yet, as we’ve seen in just the last two seasons alone, those ladies who fail to find love at the end of the road often discover it along the way instead.

Most women apply for The Bachelor with the hope of finding love in an unconventional situation. What they don’t tell you, however, is that the love of your life might not be the man with the final rose after all. One need only peruse Instagram or Twitter to recognize that many of these so-called “contestants” have found stronger bonds in the form of friendship. Everyone assumes there will be catfights, but the women have been defying the stereotype, instead demonstrating the power of solid female relationships that outweigh the allure of some man.

Side note: Don’t get me wrong! I have the utmost respect for Chris Soules, a.k.a. Prince Farming—who’s the polar opposite of last year’s mistake, Juan Pablo Galavis—as he’s proven himself to be nothing but sweet and sincere throughout this amazing (cha-ching!)** journey.

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.42.31 PMMore than anything, you can see this love in the way they say goodbye. Despite the fact that they’re all vying for the affection of the same man, these ladies cannot bear to let go of those they’ve come to know better than Chris himself. Jade Roper went to tears when Carly Waddell was sent home, and Becca Tilley was clearly not content to merely grasp hands with Kaitlyn Bristowe as she exited the temple in Bali. Though each woman clearly wants her chance for romance, none can handle seeing their friends in pain—an obvious sign that these girls are far more special than critics might have us think.

We must value these women and look up to them for who they are, not who the promos portray them to be. We must not look to Becca’s virginity as some “deal-breaker” or character flaw. Instead, we must look upon her as a woman who’s managed to stand by her convictions and virtues in an atmosphere that leaves one open to harsh criticism and hate. We should admire her stance and respect her decision, as she should feel proud for remaining true to her roots. We must appreciate Kaitlyn’s refreshing mix of class, candid humor, and vulnerability, for I cannot think of one person who didn’t fall in love with her right alongside Chris. (PS—#kaitlynforbachelorette all the way!) We must chuckle at Carly’s witty personality and marvel at her willingness to address the elephant in the room, because women shouldn’t be afraid to tell it like it is. We must support Jade’s honesty, for she should not be ashamed of her past, but rather confident in who she was and who she’s become.Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 1.43.24 PM

Without doubt, there will always be the requisite outliers—Kelsey and Ashley S. brought an extreme level of ‘cray cray’ drama and tension to an otherwise serious search for love. (Did you see how giddy the remaining girls were when the crew carted Kelsey’s suitcase away, though? I wanted to celebrate right along with them!) And, of course, there are those amazing (cha-ching!)** women whom we never truly got to know. But ultimately, the show’s renewed success comes down to how real these reality stars just happen to be. Believe it or not, I’m actually rather jealous of the friendships formed and the tenacity displayed. No one can deny that each woman was wholly and unabashedly herself, for better or worse.

Roses smell lovely, after all, but when the colors fade and the petals fall, what’s left? In this scenario, relationships that will last long after the cameras stop rolling, I’m sure.

**If I ever meet Jimmy Kimmel, remind me that I owe him $2.00.

(Images via ABC, Becca Tilley, and Carly Waddell.)

“I’ll Be Back, But I’m Coming as Oil!”


Mrs. Doubtfire introduced us to the idea that, with enough strength, everybody can exact revenge on their enemies by yanking the emblem off the front of their Mercedes-Benz with one swift, gratifying motion. Sean Maguire taught us all that we’re just kids—that what we’ve learned from books can never substitute the education that comes from experience.

Robin Williams, himself, showed the world how beautiful laughter can be.

Yet, tonight we mourn the loss of this undeniable talent. This beloved man, whose comedic wit will forever remain in our hearts, took his own life because sadness had overwhelmed his. Tears of sorrow have replaced tears of joy, for our world has lost someone who will not be soon forgotten.

You see, Robin Williams managed to achieve what only the rare few can do. Robin Williams used his unique blend of humor and emotion to breach the barrier between comedy and drama, appealing to fans across the spectrum. While his family-friendly films, such as Mrs. Doubtfire and Aladdin, will remain part of every child’s repertoire for decades to come, his dramatic works, such as Good Will Hunting and What Dreams May Come, will forever cause us to question our own mortality and direction in life.

But, while today’s events may represent loss, his life and legacy are gifts that will never relent. We’ve gained so much simply by having known his humor. Often times, those who suffer from depression feel as if they’re all alone in the world, but as the outpouring of shock and sadness has proven, Robin Williams had the entire world in his corner. His life affected so many others, and his spirit will remain for generations. Perhaps that’s the beauty of celebrity—though he may have passed, Robin Williams will live on as long as his films allow. We can only hope that he has now found the same happiness he’s blessed us with for all these years.

For now, “All my love to you, poppet, you’re going to be all right… Bye bye.”


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