Take It Light

So, in an unfortunate turn  of events I lost my wallet while I was out the other night. I lost everything. My drivers license, my credit card, my debit card, my insurance card, a handful of gift cards and some cash. I also lost my house key and my student ID that I use daily.

You may say “Maia, how on earth could you lose all that at the same time?” To which I answer, I have no idea.

I was having a really great night. I was out with my friends, not a care in the world, and we were having a wonderful time. Then one after another, little problems and tiffs started to arise. In my haste to leave the bar (I am 21, do not fret) I didn’t double check all of my belongings on the way out. I was sure I had my wallet and cell phone when I got in the car, and could’ve sworn I put them on the seat between me and my friend. But when yet another disaster occurred, double checking my belongings was pushed to the back of my mind. When things finally settled down, I dug around the crowded back seat and fished out my phone, only to find that my wallet was nowhere to be found.

The next day I searched every place I could think of. I called the bar I visited, I retraced my steps, I searched the car (3-5 times), and even called the police station. I enlisted help from my friends and even posted on campus wide pages. Unfortunately, as time wore on it became more and more evident that my wallet was not to be found. So I began the journey of canceling and reordering what needed to be replaced.

To be completely honest, when I first realized my wallet was M.I.A., I kind of had a meltdown, border line tantrum. Thankfully, the only person to witness my tears was my ever patient boyfriend. After he talked some sense into me I went to bed, still full of worry, and managed maybe 3 hours of sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things that were missing and the potential cost of replacing things (it wasn’t low).

Unfortunately, there is little hope that I will find my wallet. However, everything is not all gray skies.  I did realize some positive things from this little fiasco. First off, I have some pretty great friends. It’s easy to forget in the whirlwind and stressful environment that is college. But the friends I did ask for help were very sympathetic and willing to look with me. Second, I have the most amazing mother in the world. She spent close to 45 minutes on the phone with me walking me through what I needed to do to keep my accounts safe. She let me vent my stress about the situation. And she went to the store and the post office the same day to send me things I needed from home to start rebuilding the lost contents of my wallet. I also learned the hard way that you should not bring your entire wallet out with you. And you should probably carry something more substantial than a wristlet (take note girls!).

Throughout the whole process of searching, canceling, etc., a mantra my parents like to use kept crossing my mind. It goes:

“Take it light, but take it.”

Throughout this terribly inconvenient lesson, I actively tried to remind myself that yes, this sucks, but it could be worse. And this is just a small setback that I need to deal with. I lost some stuff that I would have preferred not to lose. But the important things can be replaced, and it’s not the end of the world.

Mr. Trump, President

On November 8th, 2016 Donald Trump was elected the next president of the United States of America. On January 20th, 2017, he was sworn into the presidential office. In the weeks after the election results were published, conspiracy, doubt, and disappointment surrounded Mr. Trump’s ability to uphold such a dignified office. Slurs and insults were crafted and thrown his way, his nominees were heavily criticized both in their hearings as well as by the general public, and the phrase “not my president” has been splattered across social media, blog posts, and shouted at rallies and protests.

In the last 24+ hours since the presidential inauguration Women’s Marches have overtaken several major cities in the United States as well as cities abroad. Women, men and others have taken to the streets to make their opinions heard on a varying range of issues from equal pay to the right to choose to have an abortion. And of course social media is plastered with images from these marches, as well as opinions both supporting and disagreeing with the rallies and protests.

On a larger scale, citizens are already in a state of distress over proposed changes on long standing issues such as healthcare, education, environmental policy, and support of the arts. And again, social media is a platform for average citizens and people of influence alike to share their views.

As I scroll through these posts the wings on my heart beat ferociously, excited by the number of people  willing to stand up for what they believe in. But there is also a ball and chain weighing down my heart that grows heavier when I look at both the changing of our government and the people who can’t see past the radicals on both sides.

I feel torn in a million ways as I try to digest as many differentiating opinions as possible.

From here on I will unabashedly share my opinion, here’s your warning.

Women’s March
Columbia, South Carolina
Photo: Megan Brockhard

Women and men alike marched together across the globe in support of equality. Please don’t assume that the views of radical feminists are the sole views of those who spent their time marching. Please stop saying that the marches are exclusionary and that you must believe in “x, y, and z” in order to march. You can disagree on the issue of abortion, but agree on the issue of economic equality and still march. Again, I reiterate that not all those who marched are radicals. In fact I think you’ll find that a large majority of those that participated in the Women’s Marches are moderates who do not agree with all the opinions of their fellow participants. They just felt the need to speak their dissent, and these marches were the perfect platform.

Women’s March
Columbia, SC
Pictured: Chloe Evans

There are many types of feminist. Please stop shaming men and women who say they are a feminist.At its grassroots, feminism simply means believing in the equality of the sexes. You can do that in heels, boots, tennis shoes, sandals, dresses, pants, shorts, skirts, bathing suits, leotards, jerseys, makeup, dreadlocks, bald heads, long locks, tattoos, piercing, pearls, and so on.

I guess my biggest point is not every person who marched, or identifies as a feminist is a man hating, baby killing, socialist who wants women to rule the world.

Like many who marched, I have struggled to accept that Mr. Trump will serve as the 45th President of the United States of America. I cannot bring myself to call him anything besides Mr. Trump, or Donald Trump. There are a lot of things that concern me regarding the turnover of power in the White House and Congress But I’ve promised myself that I will wait and see. So many supporters of Mr. Trump have lashed back at anti-Trump criticism with statements like “He hasn’t even done anything yet”. And you know what? To a certain degree, they are correct. But I can not see him as an innocent man.

I also don’t see him as a stupid man. That’s why his empty promises, allowance of prejudice, and immature comments are inexcusable to me. Mr. Trump can argue all he wants that he never made fun of a disabled reporter. But that is not what the public saw. And instead of apologizing and using his influence to make a statement in support of the disabled, Mr. Trump went on the defensive. In fact, Mr. Trump goes on the defensive in many situations when an apology would have shown true character and strength. His defensive actions and subsequent inability to take criticism degrade my respect for him. A man that takes to Twitter every time he is criticized in a public forum is simply acting immaturely.

Trump supporters often also advocate that Mr. Trump is not prejudiced, hateful, racist, or sexist. Maybe he isn’t. But there is no doubt that a very vocal part of his following fed off hate and prejudice. During his campaign we saw his supporters heckling African Americans, calling Secretary Clinton horrible names, insulting Muslims, slandering immigrants, and more. Even if the worst was not said by Mr. Trump himself, he let the hatred of others permeate his following and did nothing to quell the anger and replace it with unity, peace, and acceptance. Mr. Trump undeniably played into the polarization that plagues our nation.

Finally, and what might concern me the most about Mr. Trump, is his view of women. He’s said it himself, Mr. Trump loves women. Apparently he can’t get enough of them. Can’t keep his hands off of them. And that makes me nauseous. Rape culture goes beyond the physical act of rape and into the way we talk to others, talk about others, interact with others. Mr. Trump’s derogatory statements about the way women look are distasteful and unnecessary. Mr. Trump’s quote “Grab them by the pussy” is abhorrent. I don’t care how old that recording is, and I don’t care the circumstances under which those words were muttered. They are disgusting. Do not rationalize it as “locker room talk”. Men and women agree that there is neither a time, nor place for such foul language to be used. Mr. Trump’s attitude towards women mostly worries me because of the position of power he has held, and the huge increase of power he has just obtained. Mr. Trump has been a respected businessman of wealth and means. He is influential, there is no doubt. So when he treats women, humans, as though they are objects, he is setting the example for others to do the same. Wether he means to or not. His actions make it seem okay for that guy in the bar to think it was okay to grab at me. His words make it seem okay for a man or a woman to verbally accost someone else about their appearance. His jokes make it seem okay to ignore a “no”, or an inability to respond.

None of that is right. A person deserves to be treated like a human being, regardless of their sex, their gender, their race, their ethnicity, the way they dress, the way they walk, the way they talk, and so on. 

For decades the White House has housed families of decorum, class, and dignity. The Clintons and the Bushes are a rare breed of political elite that had an air of regality. The Obamas are relatable, and seemed closer to the public than families with generations of politicians, but still their family maintained modesty and dignity, true class. The Obamas also exhibited humor and perseverance. Mr. Trump is known for being blunt and crass, ignoring anything reminiscent of political correctness. For many this is part of the appeal. He is seen as a noble outsider, different than the corruptible politicians that have claimed power in the past. But I believe he is sadly mistaken if he thinks he and his band of cronies disguised as appointees can bully their way into success and “purify” a system under upheaval. For the same reasons that Mr. Trump appeals to many, he is also sorely lacking in the knowledge and wisdom required to be a part of the political atmosphere.

Politics is a game of complexity. It requires hard decisions, tact, and compromise. I have not seen an inkling of that in Mr. Trump, and that is why I have a pit in my stomach and lead in my heart.

 

What A Long Strange Trip…

On a whim, I applied to go on a Birthright trip for this past winter break. I applied late, and wasn’t sure what trip I would get assigned to. But being the networking system that is the Jewish community, I wormed my way onto the same trip as a very old friend. The appeal was that 7 years ago we had traveled to Israel together on a school trip, and wouldn’t it be neat to return to Israel together?

On this note, I packed my bags after a week of languishing15895254_10211780970670905_6701168271040536201_n at home and headed to the airport, first to fly to New York, and then onto Tel Aviv.

I was surprisingly nervous in the days and hours leading up to my departure. I chose to go on a trip with onlyone friend, and one other person I was friendly with. I wanted to experience a foreign land with foreign people. But I was worried that I would float through the trip enjoying the places and the experiences, without really connecting with others.

I shouldn’t have worried. 

Yes, the trip by itself was amazing. Simply being in a country so saturated with life, culture, conflict (unfortunately), and spirituality is enough to incite an emotional and visceral response of wonder. But truly, my trip would not have been the same without the people with whom I traveled.

I should have known that the people I traveled with would be the reason my trip was the life altering event  that it was. 15726740_10211780996431549_3107911860087968905_n

I have always been interested in stories about people. Be they near, or far, I think there is tremendous value in learning about people around the world, and the best way to do so is to listen to their stories. Everything is affected by people. Places, culture, religion, inventions, buildings, art, you name it, they are all influenced or created by humans. By traveling with such a mixing pot of people, my trip became this wonderful experience that transcended any expectations I could have hoped for.

I could spend all day trying to describe the people I met on this trip, and honestly, it would be to no avail. I met people who inspired me to think harder about who I am and what I value, especially from my faith. I met people who encouraged me to smile more, and laugh harder. I met people who challenged me to consider another way of thinking, another way of life, another way of communicating.

And I appreciate all of it. 

I appreciate bearing witness to a country many are quick to judge. I appreciate listening and learning from the residents who inhabit this magical land. I appreciate the ladies and gentlemen from my home country who reminded me of the diversitythat our great nation nurtures. I appreciate the beauty of nature and what G-d has created for us to inhabit and respect. I appreciate the centuries of history imbedded in such a holy land. I appreciate that opinions may dissent, but compromise can be reached. I appreciate that peace is far from simple, but there are people who are fighting for it. I appreciate that I have been able to take things for granted, that others can’t.

So to wrap up this soliloquy, I would like to say thank you.

Thank you, to the Israelis on my trip who answered my incessant questions, for encouraging me to practice my broken Hebrew, for acting as unofficial tour guides, for making me laugh, and for sharing your opinions, experiences, and culture with me so that I may learn.

Thank you, to our staff, for keeping us out of danger while educating us about the beauty and pain that composes the intriguing state of Israel.

Thank you to my fellow Americans for reminding me that the Southeast is not like the rest of the states, it is in fact, a s15822968_10211780950630404_462396560203660110_nilly place. Thank you for reminding me of the beautiful diversity that our country nurtures. Thank you for inspiring me to explore my own home and expand my domestic horizons.

Finally, an overall thank you to every individual person on board Shorashim Bus 300. Each and every one of you made me smile more, laugh harder, think deeper, feel stronger, and listen closer. You shared your values, your opinions, and your beliefs unabashedly and unfiltered. I know that with strangers, that is often hard to do. Thank you for reminding me that people are good, that there is so much to learn, and to never shy away from an adventure. I will miss you all so much in the coming days.

If I could leave one piece of advice for you, and for myself, it’s a reminder that it is never good bye. Simply put…

See you later, my friends.  

 

Don’t Just Wear Your Safety Pin

In the wake of the election choosing Donald Trump as our President-Elect, our nation has become more evidently polarized than we have visibly seen in years.

That does not mean that division and fear is new. Absolutely not. The United States has been plagued with inequality and prejudice since it’s infancy. But as time progressed, some groups achieved some form of safety. Slavery was abolished. Women earned the right to vote. Waves of immigrants entered the country and achieved citizenship.

But that does not mean these minor achievements eradicated hate. Blatant racism didn’t disappear, and institutionalized racism thrived. Women still do not earn equal pay to men, and are far too often treated like pieces of meat. Immigrants are still prejudiced against in the workplace and blamed for economic crisis.

But for many of us, we don’t see or feel such prejudice. The color of our skin, or our gender, or our socioeconomic status is worn as an armor. For most of my life I had no idea the benefits I rely on simply because of the color of my skin and the privileges my parents can afford to provide to me. My education, the clothes I wear, the technology I use, the vacations I take and so much more are opportunities and objects that so many people don’t have access to.

I believe in our Constitution, in our Declaration of Independence, our government, and our civil servants because I have privilege. 

As of late we’ve seen writers pen articles expressing opinions about white privilege from every possible angle. But one consensus seems to be the same; calling out white privilege leaves a bitter taste of guilt in the mouths of so many white Americans. So much so that they (we) feel the need to renounce our privilege and explain in all forms why we aren’t as privileged as someone else.

I won’t lie to you, white privilege makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel guilty and even a little resentful. But you know what? It should. 

Only recently have I truly realized the aspects of privilege that I benefit from on a daily basis. I am not afraid to speak my mind because I am privileged in such a manner that leaves few repercussions for invoking my First Amendment rights.

Part of my privilege is that I get to choose to express my differences. My skin is a layer of protection that so many people are not afforded. While I choose to wear my difference in the form of a golden Star of David, others have no choice but to wear their differences simply because it is the color of their skin.

That brings up another interesting concept, which is the concept of choice. Recently, the safety pin phenomenon has gained popularity. Hell, I shared an article. The basic premise of wearing a safety pin is that you are announcing that you are an ally to those who currently face, or will face unsolicited prejudice. You are proclaiming through this safety pin that you will support a POC, a member of the LGBTQ community, a Muslim, a women, etc. who might, or is, currently facing acts of hate. I was very much on board with this idea and felt like it was important to share with others.

And then I read an article in the Huffington Post. It was called, Dear White People, Your Safety Pins Are Embarrassing. The author made the point that wearing a safety pin was a cop-out. He argued it was just a way to make people feel better about themselves and noncommittally say that they are an ally. I read the whole thing. And obviously felt uncomfortable. But I do not regret my decision to share this article about wearing a safety pin, I will continue to wear a safety pin, and I will continue to encourage others to wear a safety pin.

But I will clarify why you should wear a safety pin, and what commitments you must uphold if you choose to wear one. 

When you put this piece of metal on your body, you are saying that you will act. An action doesn’t have to be joining a protest rally, physical fights or a verbal debate on social injustice. An action can be as simple as asking someone how their day was as a distraction, or physically putting your body between a victim and a perpetrator in an instance of hate speech. It is okay if you are afraid. But remember that many of the privileges you have, someone else doesn’t. The point of the safety pin is not just to make you feel better and pretend like you are going to be a part of the movement for change. The point of the safety pin is a physical piece of evidence stating that you are going to act on your promise of being an ally. 

So, wear your safety pin if you choose. But don’t let it be a meaningless accessory. Wear your safety pin and fulfill your promise of using your privilege to support others who currently don’t have the same privileges. Be an active part of the movement to eradicate white privilege and foster equality and empowerment for all people. 

 

My Secular School Doesn’t Respect My Religion

A personal interpretation of how a public university is not as secular as it says.

On the outside I am a privileged white girl who has received, and is still receiving a top education. I have many opportunities and seemingly few obstacles. What makes me different is not an external characteristic, like my skin color. Right now images of police brutality and race related violence cover our domestic media. Prejudices against the African American community, especially in the form of police brutality are smeared across our screens. Politicians pander to the ever growing unrest over immigration policies and an influx in immigrants as well as the rising misdirected fear of Muslims. I will admit that I am fortunate enough to not worry about the prejudice that African Americans, immigrants and Muslims are facing. Their concerns and their unrest is 100% valid. But that does not mean that their struggles are more valid or more important than mine. Because every struggle is valid. 

My differentiating characteristic is my religion. I was born into and raised in a Jewish household. I grew up having Shabbat dinner, learned how to speak Hebrew in school, studied Jewish culture, and attended services. I will admit that my religious experience petered out a little when I got to high school, and other activities took over my interests and time. However, my parents still emphasized the morality and ethical lessons of Judaism. They raised me to be proud of my Jewish identity and not be afraid to show it. While I may not be religious, my religion is important to me. 

Until I got to college, I was never really concerned with being a minority and having my religion interfering with my education or vice versa. For 1st through 8th grade, I went to a Jewish Day School, so we always had important Jewish holidays off of school. When I went to public high school I was still in a very large Jewish community, and the school board excused our absences on the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. But college was the game changer.

I go to a public university, so the school is secular and respects all religions. However, I noticed a trend among my classes beginning first semester freshman year. Our academic attendance policy states that days absent should not exceed 10% of our class meeting times. Generally, that gives between 2-3 absences per class. Students mostly want to save their absences for if they are sick or need to go out of town. I however, have to strategically plan them around the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. If I choose to be absent on both of these days, then I have to hope I don’t get sick or injured or have any family emergencies that could cost me my last absence, or potentially face penalization. Penalizations can mean points off your final grade that have the ability to drop you a full letter grade.

I know what you’re thinking. There has to be a clause for extenuating circumstances. And you’re semi-right. The university asks teachers to be respectful of “participation in University-sanctioned events”, “military duties”, “mandatory admission interviews for professional or graduate positions that cannot be rescheduled”. Beyond that it is suggested that teachers also be respectful towards “death or major illness in the student’s immediate family”, “illness of dependent family member”, “religious holy day”, and/or “illness that is too severe/contagious for a student to attend class”. I suggest checking the undergraduate bulletin for better descriptions. 

So there’s the problem folks, it is only suggested that teachers do not consider my religious holy days as an absence that could potentially penalize me. But to be honest, I have not really had any teachers truly respect my choice to attend services on our holiest days of the years. They have told me that my absence will count to my allotted 2-3 and I’ll have to catch up on what I miss. And if it’s possible, to please still turn in assignments on time. Because I value my education as well as my religion, I have even made the effort to go back to classes after I leave services, even if I have chosen to participate in a religious fast.

I also know your next argument. “Well, it’s a public university so their policy applies to all religions, even Christianity.” To that I would like to make this equation. In terms of importance, Christmas is the equivalent to Rosh Hashana, and Easter is equivalent to Yom Kippur (it’s a rough equation). The university (and most public secular schools) conveniently schedules Winter Break over Christmas, and Easter is always a Sunday and there are no classes on Sunday, so, if you want to go to church, there’s no issue of absences stopping you. 

I’ll leave you with a question. How secular is my public university, and how free am I to practice my religion without repercussions?

Greek Life Under Fire Again

greekvillageOnce again, Greek life at the University of South Carolina is under extreme surveillance. In an unnerving turn of events, the rate of hospitalizations due to alcohol consumption has sky rocketed to approximately 200%. The rate of Greek women being hospitalized has exponentially increased, and approximately 18/44 women hospitalized were part of the Greek community.

Honestly, no matter how you look at these numbers there’s no positives. The truth is that these hospitalizations could have, and should have been avoided. As a new student at the University you are required to complete Alcohol Edu, an informative and interactive program designed to educate students about safe alcohol consumption, and the dangers that accompany consuming alcohol, and consuming alcohol underage. New members and active members in Greek life are required to complete an additional program, Greek Life Edu. The goals are similar to Alcohol Edu with additional information on the dangers of hazing.

So clearly Greek life is not naive about alcohol consumption and other issues among their community. Authorities have taken the initiative to try and inform their members so that they can make intelligent decisions regarding their health and safety, as well as look out for their fellow brothers and sisters.

So why have there been so many hospitalizations due to alcohol consumption? I don’t have that answer, I can only speculate. What I do know as a college student is that drinking is a part of the collegiate culture. I firmly believe that if you ask almost any college graduate, they will say the same thing. However, I think it is an individual decision to consume alcohol, and under what circumstances. We are given all the tools to consume alcohol responsibly, and it is then up to the individual to chose the path they want to take.

Clearly, many individuals have taken a harmful path of alcohol consumption. And several of these individuals are in sororities and fraternities, thus representing Greek life. In order to combat unrest from University authorities and donors, the Sorority Council has proposed a plan to regulate sorority presence at events where alcohol will most likely be served. Some of these regulations are:

No sorority woman will be allowed to attend an unapproved fraternity or sorority event, if seen at an unapproved event, disciplinary actions will follow.

All events must be approved approximately 10 days prior to the event.

Only beer and wine may be served, and all events must provide food and water to attendees.

Event attendees must arrive 30 minutes before they are scheduled to leave for the event to allow a period of “sobering up”

If I’m honest, while the regulations are new, they don’t seem that absurd. It makes sense to serve food and water at events, especially if there is alcohol present. And many Greek organizations are already required to get their events approved.

Much of the unrest comes from the time frame of this decision as well as the (generally) fraternity sponsored events that are more impromptu, such as pregames and darties. These are often decided last minute and often center around drinking. In these respects, it will definitely be more difficult to get such events approved.

Another major point of contention surrounds tailgates, particularly the upcoming tailgates for the first USC home game. Because the regulations were proposed only approximately 7 days prior to the game, no fraternity tailgates were able to achieve approval. This means that theoretically, the fraternity tailgate lots will be devoid of sorority women. If seen at one of these fraternity tailgates, sorority women face individual consequences or chapter wide social probation.

I’m sure I’m missing a lot of information, and I would love to see more concrete statistics on the issues as well as a more cohesive version of the proposed plan from Sorority Council.

From my personal viewpoint, I do not see the benefit of trying to regulate impromptu social gatherings like darties, pregames and tailgates. Greek life is very large on the USC campus, considering that the number of sorority potential new members alone sat somewhere over 1,600 this year. It seems impossible that they can so strictly regulate such a large mass of people, but I know they will try. I understand that Sorority Council’s decisions are from a protection standpoint. Their goal is to keep sorority members safe and help women in Greek life thrive. However, I think it is wrong to only address, regulate and provide consequences for sororities. Irresponsible alcohol consumption impacts fraternities as well. I believe that if we’re going to see a healthy change, and a decrease in hospitalizations of Greek affiliates, we need more education. Clearly a computer program is not enough.

It also concerns me that nothing is being done about the hospitalizations of non-Greek affiliated students due to alcohol consumption. Should their safety not be taken into account as well?

I do not believe that we will ever see a termination of underage drinking on college campuses. And I don’t think there will ever be a day when there are no hospitalizations of students due to alcohol consumption. I do believe that we need to take some sort of action against these issues. I am disappointed that these “actions” have taken on the form of what appears to be punishment, and punishment only for sorority women. I don’t believe that the heavy regulation of sorority women will incite fraternity men to host safer events alone. I think if you have a problem with fraternity men, address it with their organizations. In the same tone, I don’t think that fraternities and sororities are the sole issue, even though they love to be blamed. The fact of the matter is that COLLEGE students drink, and often they do it in excess. But threatening to get rid of Greek life on campus is simply unfair and irrational. Greek students participate abundantly in campus activities, support local and national charities and encourage their members to strive for success. According to Sorority Counsil’s webpage, the sorority community logged 62,105 service hours and raised approximately $382,980 for charity, while maintaining an average GPA of 3.45 in one year. All positives.

I also wonder how you can argue removing traditional Greek life without disturbing multicultural fraternities, business fraternities, pharmacy fraternities and other more specialized organizations that function in similar aspects?

There’s no easy fix here, it’s obvious. But I urge Sorority Council, Fraternity Council, University authorities and enraged donors to reconsider bans, extreme regulations and the removal of Greek life, and instead work with the “offending communities” in order to build a more comprehensive, educational and overall healthier plan to educate both Greek affiliated students and non-affiliated students to act smarter and take better care of themselves.

Informative Article on HerCampus.com on new USC Greek life policies. 

 

Beautiful? Or Interesting?

Society mutates our perceptions of beauty and what we see as desirable.

The world is dominated by media and technology that is easily accessible to consumers. At the touch of a button on a handheld device, you can be informed off all the happenings in the world. Media influences every aspect of our life and has the ability to mold our thoughts and actions.

Celebrities are one such tool to shape our likes and dislikes. They are placed on a pedestal and then scrutinized in every angle. They show the common folk what is good to consume and how one should look doing so. No matter what they are famous for, celebrities all have one thing in common. They are beautiful.

Even though beauty is simply biology, trends are ever changing.

Discovery did research on the beauty of symmetry and the science of sex appeal. They found that the more symmetrical your face is, the more beautiful you are considered. Additionally, features that indicate fertility and survival are inherently desirable. For women, wide hips and large breasts mean high levels of estrogen and the ability to bear children. For men characteristics like broad shoulders and facial hair signifies high levels of testosterone, indicating that in a primitive world he would be able to hunt and provide for his family.

Trends, however, do not necessarily follow biology’s every whim and are constantly changing. During the Renaissance, women who were curvy and a little plump were considered desirable, but fast forward to the 1990’s and the bone-thin look was considered chic.

Today the trends have once again changed. I think Tina Fey describes best the aesthetic women strive to attain in her book “Bossypants”. “Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.”

Miss Fey may be crass, but she makes a good point.

In 2016 we have irresponsible and unreasonable beauty ideals.

Despite campaigns by companies and advocacy groups like Dove, society will not let everyday women fully accept the body they are born in. We are taught, albeit it subconsciously, to put ourselves down and admire images that are unrealistic.Women and men alike face body image pressures and endure body shaming.

My all time favorite story to tell is not one I remember.

maia-011596It was relayed to me by my mom and my dad because I was only about 6 months old at the time. We had just moved down to the Atlanta area from Baltimore and my parents were mingling with some of my dad’s new co-workers. They’d brought me along, and apparently, I was enjoying myself in my baby carriage. One of my father’s co-workers, a kind Southern lady noticed the carriage and came over to say hello. While leaning over to look inside she began to say “Your daughter is so – “. Beautiful, cute, precious, adorable, pretty are all words you would expect to hear right?

Actually, she said “interesting”. This kind lady told my parents that their first born baby girl was interesting looking.

I don’t see this as an insult, but I think it is funny as hell and perfectly describes me. I have olive skin that tans quickly. I have big brown eyes, thick brows, a “strong nose” (Thanks, Dad), and I have dark hair. All of these attributes were not what this sweet Southern lady was used to seeing, and certainly not what she had been taught was beautiful.

So now we bring up the point that beauty is not only decided by others but influenced by the environment. Different cultures will admire different attributes, but generally, there is an overlap. Like Miss Fey noted, society likes to pick and choose features that are desirable, even if it is unrealistic to have them all at once.By now I’m just rambling, but my point is that there’s no clear definition of what’s beautiful. We’ve seen a push for more accepting modeling ads and calls for lessons in

positive body image to be spread through awareness programs. I’m sure that the media will still revere individuals based on their appearance alone and I’m sure that beauty, fashion and health-related businesses will still push products designed to “create the best you.”

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But I want you to know that every time you look in the mirror, you are seeing someone who is beautiful and unique and no magazine or commercial can say otherwise. Oh, and you’re interesting, too 😉

Dear Emily Doe

Thank you for being a hero.

I had every intention of writing a different article for this week, but then I saw the news that Brock Turner has received early release after 3 months on his 6 month sentence for “good behavior”.

Excuse me Brock, if you’re such a good boy, why did you rape someone?

I have tried to write this article about 5 times. Honestly, I don’t know how. A large part of me is angry. Another part of me is nauseous. Still another part is disheartened and the last bit of me is not surprised.

I am angry because Brock Turner is essentially walking away a free man, able to do as he pleases. Yes, there were consequences for his actions, but they were virtually nonexistent. His sentence was only 6 months long. His actual time served was only 3 months long. Honestly the more severe consequences he’s facing are a life-long ban from USA Swimming and the infamy that he brought upon himself.

I am nauseous from the details of this case because a human taking advantage of another human who cannot consent is sickening. I am nauseous because Brock Turner has no concept of the severity of his actions and the trauma he caused his victim. I am nauseous because Brock Turner and his family care only about Brock Turner.

I am disheartened and not surprised because this case is not one in a million. Rape and sexual assault happen far, far too often on college campuses. Approximately 20-25% of women and 4% of men report having been assaulted while on a college campus. That number is absurd. It should be 0%. Brock Turner is walking away because he is a privileged individual. He is a college athlete. He comes from a stable home. He is a he. The sad reality is that if a woman accuses a man of rape or sexual assault she is met with criticism and judgement. Authority, friends and even family ask her if she’s sure, what she was wearing, was she drinking? Because you can never really trust a woman, am I right?

It seems that a reoccurring theme in Brock Turner’s case were letters. Brock wrote a letter. Brock’s father wrote a letter. Brock’s victim wrote a letter. I have skimmed Brock’s letter and his father’s letter. I should have read them in entirety but it just made me too sick to my stomach. I did read his victim’s letter though. I read every last word because she deserves someone who will listen to her and not judge her. She deserves a sympathetic ear because Lord knows she did not get one in court. So I decided to write a letter back.

Dear Emily Doe,

I don’t have the right words to say to you, so I will substitute that I am so, so very sorry. You have lived through a trauma that no woman–actually, no human–should ever have to. You have relived the trauma in front of an audience. No one should have to do that.

Despite the adversity and criticism you have faced throughout this trial, throughout the aggressive questioning, the hospital tests and the arrogance of the Turner men, you have stayed strong. And for that I have the utmost respect for you.

I can not say that I know what you have been through. But that’s not to say I don’t have a personal connection.

I know your life has changed since that fateful night. Dan Turner may say that the consequences of his son’s “20 minutes of action” are severe and life changing. But his son was not stripped and raped. He spent 3 months in jail. He won’t swim. He’ll live in infamy. But compared to the way your life has been altered, all that is nothing.

Emily Doe, you are my hero. I respect your choice to stay silent but to still speak out. Thank you for speaking for those who can’t and inspiring others to join your voice. Unfortunately, Brock’s actions against you cannot be taken back, but please, don’t let them define you. You are beautiful and strong, and an arrogant child like Brock does not have the right to take that away from you.

You are not the victim everyone says you are.

You are a survivor.

Aspiring dancer and amateur writer

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