What If I Don’t Want to Be a Woman Anymore?

Does anyone else remember the F.A.O. Schwarz Friendship Tree? He’d always say, “Thanks for coming to play with me!” (I’ve tried to Google the rest of his spiel on numerous occasions, but I just can’t seem to fill in the blanks.)

However, I do recall how he’d entice children with claims that there were “things to touch and feel and more.” Yet, for any woman suffering through this election cycle, that seemingly innocent invitation from an old mechanical centerpiece may cause an involuntary twitch. In fact, it sounds vaguely familiar…

Oh, that’s right. It sounds like “locker room talk.” You know, something that might’ve come straight from the 2016 Republican presidential nominee’s mouth.

Women! We’re nothing more than objects for men to grope and fondle.

After all, he’s Donald J. Trump. He’s a star.

(Stars can do whatever they want.)

Welcome to his world of toys.

For women, the 2016 election truly marks both the best of times and worst of times. While Hillary Clinton promises to hold our collective hand and lead us on the path to progress, Trump wants to grab us all ‘by the p—y’ and drag us down the path to destruction. To harken back to First Lady Michelle Obama’s iconic speech at this year’s Democratic National Convention, Trump wants to pull us low, while Clinton strives to lift us high.

But, unfortunately, no matter which candidate leads the electoral majority, misogyny has already won the popular vote.

If Trump wins, men who wish to exploit his view on women will see this moment as their opportunity to justify any lewd and crude behaviors they’ve suppressed until now. If Clinton wins, every single move she makes will be analyzed and scrutinized until the end of time. (I’d say the end of her term, but we know any and all problems impacting our country will be attributed to her time in office for at least the next 50 years or so. At least.)

Despite the fact that her historic win would shatter the glass ceiling, women, in general, will be forced to wade through the shards that fall on Clinton’s behalf. All women will be held accountable for her actions because, while men exist and operate independently, women are often seen as one collective unit. Thus, her success will be our success. Her mistakes will be our mistakes. Her failures will be our failures.

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Even if Hillary Clinton wins the election, we cannot write this off as some epic victory for women overall. This one battle will not end the war. In fact, it will likely fuel the fight. We like to pretend our country has moved beyond its humiliating past. Many honestly thought that electing our first black president would end racism, but we can clearly see that race relations are as volatile as ever. Many believe that electing the first female president will eliminate sexism and misogyny, too, but this agonizing campaign indicates otherwise. We’ve peeled back the bandage and exposed wounds that haven’t healed. Based on Trump’s rhetoric alone, it’s hard to imagine they ever will.

Like Full Frontal host Samantha Bee—notorious breaker of glass ceilings herself—recently said, Clinton’s presidency would unleash a ‘tsunami of misogyny’ upon the American people. Still, Clinton has yet to win, and we’re already drowning in vitriolic sentiment. We’re about to reach the breaking point even though we haven’t yet approached the starting line.

Well, what if I don’t want to be a woman anymore? What if I’d prefer to live as some androgynous being who’s respected for their brain, not judged by their genitals? What if I want to shirk the assumption that I’m some plaything created for men’s visual and physical pleasure, nothing more?

Over the last year—the past few months, particularly—we have been forced to call into question not only how people perceive us, but also how we perceive ourselves. It’s both disconcerting and discouraging, exasperating and exhausting. We bear the daunting and perpetual burden of trying to prove our power and our worth time and time again.

But if we don’t, who will?

It’s tempting to throw in the towel. The hatred and oppression emanating from Trump’s followers alone could inspire any woman to crawl under their blanket and remain hidden for the next decade. But if we refuse to embrace our womanhood and fight for equality, we will never gain the respect we deserve. We must carry on the legacy of those women before us—those whose sacrifices brought us to where we are today. We owe it to past, present, and future women in our country and across the world to continue this fight, as misogyny will not cease without effort. Sexism will likely exist in some form for lifetimes to come, but we have the opportunity to be the generation that makes great strides toward gender equality once and for all.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)

 

 

How About We Build That Border Wall Around Donald Trump Instead?

sticker375x360-u4For the last year, Donald J. Trump has used his platform to both humiliate and denigrate Mexicans and those of Latino heritage. He’s called them “murderers” and “rapists” in his attempt to gain support for the border wall he hopes to build if elected president. But, after the whirlwind reveal of his supposed “locker room talk” last month, all eyes are on the culture of abuse right here at home.

Before The Washington Post unleashed Trump’s 2005 Access Hollywood recording, it was already hard to deny the Republican nominee’s lack of respect for women. From Alicia Machado to Rosie O’Donnell, his prior verbal attacks were far less than presidential. Yet, once the video was made public, it became impossible for even his most staunch supporters to refute his lack of respect for both the mental and physical well being of women across the spectrum. His exchange with Billy Bush exposed his inclination to sexually assault any woman he deemed physically attractive—those most likely deemed “9” or “10” on his notorious rating scale—by instinctively kissing them or grabbing them “by the p—y.”

Since the reveal, Trump has repeatedly claimed that his remarks were nothing more than typical banter one would expect from the average male. But it’s in this justification that society must recognize that the overall normalization of objectification and abuse has permeated the surface layer of our culture, deeply rooting itself in our collective conscience and threatening to poison the mindset of our youth. If Donald Trump were to take office, the young boys and girls of this country would pay the ultimate price.

In recent months, we’ve seen numerous accounts of alleged sexual assault and rape that led to trials, but no convictions. As with the Brock Turner rape case, it appears that judges prefer to put the future of the man ahead of the well being of the woman, resulting in nothing more than a metaphorical slap on the wrist. Such cases perpetuate the idea that, even when caught, men will face little to no repercussions for their actions, thereby confirming that they can help themselves to any woman’s body if they so choose.img_8781-768x491

We are essentially teaching children that such actions are not only normal, but also accepted. Each time another alleged rapist or attacker evades jail, we are teaching boys that their actions will have few consequences. Each time we send another girl home from school for “inappropriate” attire, we are teaching the next generation that women must be on guard at all times because men cannot control their sexual urges. And if we elect Donald Trump, we will teach the boys of this nation that they can abuse women for decades and still hold the highest, most respected office in the world. We cannot allow this to become reality and we cannot allow these young boys and girls to grow up in an atmosphere that only widens the gender gap even further.

As it stands, even Trump’s attempt to deflect his controversies by focusing on Bill Clinton’s indiscretions further perpetuates the concept that women are responsible for men’s actions. Remember: Bill Clinton isn’t running for president, yet Hillary Clinton continues to face persecution for his sins. He’s not on the ballot and she should not be put on trial for his past actions. After all, Melania Trump hasn’t been forced to answer for her husband’s lewd behaviors.

Should we be happy that the Republican nominee for president continues to try and justify his remarks?

Of course not.

Should we be grateful that this tape has sparked a national discussion about how society treats women?

Absolutely.

Beyond all else, we need men to support our fight for gender equality, not rally against our efforts. Much like Emma Watson’s “HeForShe” initiative, we need the men and boys in our lives to be advocates for change. We need them to view women and girls as dignified human beings, not objects of visual and physical pleasure. We need to counter the damage Trump’s harmful rhetoric has caused by turning his atrocious behavior into an example of what not to do.

We have an exceptional, teachable moment on our hands and we have an obligation to further establish the sort of future we’d always envisioned for the children of our world.

Like First Lady Michelle Obama once said, “When they go low, we go high.” Let’s continue on the path toward creating a world that encourages every child to reach for the stars, instead of electing someone that thrives on fear and oppression, for his term will surely cause a negative ripple effect for generations to come.

 

(Images via Redbubble and Democratic Underground)

‘Bern’ Up the Polls: Why Sanders Supporters Must Vote for Hillary Clinton

board2Imagine, if you will, an intricate—albeit, metaphorical—game of Candy Land in which each block along the path represents the progress of the American political system. After years of gameplay, someone finally pulled the Ice Cream Floats card and we forged ahead with hope in our hearts. Barack Obama became our first African-American president, renewing the fervor that defines our country’s spirit.

Now, as we stand on the doorstep of that glorious candy cottage, our feet sticky and sweet with victory among the Molasses Swamp, Hillary Clinton’s nomination represents another breakdown of the barriers perpetuated by white men since the birth of our great nation.

But alas, as with any game of chance, risks and obstacles come with the territory. Donald J. Trump, for instance? Well, he’s the human equivalent of the Crooked Old Peanut Brittle House. Many may prefer to forget he’s lurking below the dwindling stack of cards, but picking him from the pile could set our hard-fought progress back immeasurably.

However, before Clinton can effectively start to chip away at the crumbling foundation of this nutcase—I mean, nut house—she must conquer one other complication: Bernie Bros. Much like landing on the blue space that requires you to stay put until you pull another blue card, Clinton has no choice but to stand firm and hope that these passionate, stubborn supporters eventually comprehend that, to bring Sanders’ visions to light, we must look to her as our guiding star.

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Bernie Sanders’ supporters have always seemed enlightened and informed, but I can’t help thinking that the ‘Bernie or Bust’ crowd hasn’t been listening at all. For many, voting for third-party candidates, or not voting at all, offers the most appeal—an ideal way to stick it to the establishment—but the only people who will pay for such obstinacy are the citizens these advocates supposedly stand behind in the first place. Not voting for Clinton ultimately equates to votes for Trump…and any Sanders supporter who’d prefer to see Trump in the White House clearly never understood Sanders’ “revolution” from the start.

One can easily deduce that Trump’s rise has fueled heightened racial and religious tensions because he serves as the mouthpiece for bigots who now know that they’re not alone in their way of thinking. Such backwards beliefs continue to run rampant throughout America, threatening to reverse decades of slow but steady advances toward justice and equality. Every word out of his mouth incites violence and anger in the hearts and minds of his most avid followers, positioning him as a bonafide danger to our national security. Countless politicians and officials have denounced his platform, citing his vitriol as fodder for inevitable disaster, yet blind supporters continue to rationalize his outbursts via borderline admissions that he’s simply not suited to fill this powerful position.

tumblr_oay4gm40Sd1qiuiebo1_540Yet while Clinton haters are also quick to recite her laundry list of transgressions, only the ignorant (and possibly mentally unstable?) can honestly believe that Trump has what it takes to guide our country. No matter your take on Benghazi or Clinton’s private email server, one cannot deny that she’s spent literal decades dedicating her life to public service. And I can’t help but wonder how voters and mainstream media would perceive said missteps if she were of the male persuasion. After all, former president Bill Clinton—our dear candidate’s husband—has managed to shirk his adulterous legacy in exchange for one of supporter-in-chief. Spectators marvel at his fascination with balloons, but fail to acknowledge the strength of the woman running the show—the woman who forgave him and repaired her marriage at a time when she could’ve easily given up. Her personal resilience and determination, right there, indicate that she will always persist when pushed to the breaking point.

Much like the public’s perception of President Obama (and every president in recent history, honestly), people assume that Hillary Clinton’s past, present, and future positions function independently. Most fail to recognize that each elected official works within the body of our government. Trump believes he can singlehandedly solve any and all problems throughout America, but true leaders understand that both successes and failures have been and always will be a team effort. Clinton will continue to command the support and respect of her most competent peers, as she walks alongside, not ahead of, them during her time in office. Most Democrats have already come together to back Clinton’s candidacy, while notable Republicans continue to condemn Trump and break party ties in support of Clinton, too. If that doesn’t make an indelible statement, I don’t know what will…

Despite all this, I completely understand how Bernie Sanders’ supporters feel because, honestly, Hillary Clinton wasn’t my first choice, either. But no candidate can guarantee that all their promises will come to fruition and no candidate can foresee the hurdles that will test their resolve. Our volatile atmosphere has left us all on edge, which is precisely why we need to come together to defeat Trump once and for all, even if that means voting for the lesser of two evils, as Stephen Colbert explains in the clip below.

 

 

I’m not saying I trust Clinton implicitly, but with so many well respected leaders—including Barack and Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders himself—in her corner, she certainly can’t be as bad as the ‘Bernie or Bust’ crowd may think. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and do everything in my power to ensure she earns the opportunity to prove herself over the next four years. (I’d still love to know if a man in her shoes would face this much incessant scrutiny, thought…) I recognize that I am privileged to vote for another historic candidate and that her success will inspire the next generation to chase their dreams.

For many, Hillary Clinton isn’t the candidate they want, but when faced with the alternative, we must all admit that she’s the one we need. Hopefully her promises and policies won’t ultimately leave a bad taste in our mouths for years to come.

 

(Images courtesy of Games MuseumThe Huffington Post, and Sarah Andersen)

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.

Read more…

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)

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