Back On Top

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@weezyvc

Dear Reader,

This post, like everything I write, comes from a place of explicit sincerity. For some reason, it felt important to remind y’all of that before I get started. Here we go.

Needless to say, this election was a fucking nightmare. When I think back to that dreaded week in November when it all came to a head, I still feel its horrible remnants. The hope I had built up from my peers and my supportive community came crashing down in a matter of hours. Some people were able to put their anger directly into action, while others had a more difficult time getting back on their feet. For three days following the election, I physically struggled to get out of bed. I had no fight in me whatsoever – which was extremely difficult for someone as passionate as I am about actively participating in working toward change. I had experienced depression before, but this was the first time I had ever felt depressed to the point of not knowing any way to end the suffering. All around me, my peers were encouraging the importance of fighting back. But I didn’t know how. I couldn’t find it in me.

And if you’re reading this and rolling your eyes, saying to yourself “Stop being so dramatic” or “Get over it”…congratulations, you’re privileged. Take a second to meditate on that. It’s hard to accept and acknowledge your privilege, but it’s too necessary to ignore. Because believe it or not, we are not acting spoiled or overdramatic about this. We are trying to swallow the fact that there are people in our country – peers, friends, relatives, etc. – who do not understand the extent of our adverse circumstances. We are struggling to understand how people we love and care about can actively (or sometimes passively) support the deterioration of our civil rights. And if you don’t think the circumstances are that drastic, you’re woefully ignorant. And that’s not me being an entitled millennial or whiny feminist – it’s a fact. Educate yourself.

Here’s the deal: the new administration is dangerous. Because of these people in power, basic human rights continue to be denied to marginalized communities, including women (and basically all genders that are not cisgender men), LGBTQ+ people, people of color, immigrants, low-income citizens, people with disability, the homeless, incarcerated, and so many more varying intersections of people in the United States. And while I could go into detail about how there is actual proof to back up these claims, I truthfully don’t feel qualified enough. Instead, here are some sources:

My main intention for this post is to share how we can continue to take care of ourselves in such a heightened moment of need. While I have spent as much time as possible taking care of myself in this post-election dumpster fire, there is still a fear that the reality of Friday’s inauguration will hit me harder than I’m ready for. For any of y’all who are feeling similarly afraid, I wanted to share some self-care techniques that might help you get through the weekend. Because I am unable to participate in any of the women’s marches happening this weekend (if you are looking for somewhere to march, take a look here!), I figured sharing some of these techniques would be a good idea for anyone else who wants to feel productive, supportive, or just plain distracted.

1. Surround yourself with like-minded people

For some people, having time to themselves is a crucial part of their self-care routine. However, if you do better during difficult times when there are people around you, it could be particularly important this weekend to make sure they are like-minded friends, peers, etc. For example, while spending time with family might be a go-to method for you to unwind, make sure you’re not putting yourself in a potentially toxic environment. This could also be the case with friends or others in your immediate circle. Make plans now with people you trust will understand your needs. At least for these few days, try to take politics off the table by asking those around you to respect your wishes and wait to have those conversations at another time. 

2. Make your voice heard

Personally, this is my favorite way to combat any feelings of defeat or lack of purpose. We all have the power to take action and participate in making positive changes in our society. I find that by actively voicing my opinions against our system’s injustices, I can stand a little taller with the satisfaction of making even the smallest dent.

As some of you may know, I am a volunteer at the Harry Potter Alliance. We are currently running a campaign called Neville Fights Back to encourage everyone to take action in our political system. The HPA offers links to help find your representatives and their contact information so you can easily make your voice heard – literally, you can call them and share your message. I also like this infographic called How to call your reps when you have social anxiety. Personally, I hate speaking to other humans on the phone, so I found this resource super helpful.

Additionally, I stumbled across this handy dandy Google Doc called the “We’re His Problem Now” Calling Sheet. Basically, this is your one stop shop for who you can call, scripts for exactly what to say, and additional tips for how this actually works and why it’s important. Share it like crazy and give Kara all the credit for being an activist superhero.

3. Unplug

It might be a good idea to stay away from social media as much as possible. While this can often be an outlet for us when we want to feel connected to a greater cause, it could be draining to continue refreshing your pages only to find repeated coverage of the same event. Trust me, if anything extraordinary happens, you can read about it on Monday.

4. Donate

When it comes to donating, most people immediately think of money. While that’s definitely a wonderful option if you have the means – FYI, I’m personally a big fan of the movement to Donate $20 to Planned Parenthood on 1/20/17 – money isn’t the only way you can contribute to the causes you care about. We all have our own unique passions and skills, and this is your opportunity to share them in a way that can be both selfless and selfish. Write, create art, share your voice and share it out loud.

5. Don’t forget the basics

If you feel like you need to stay in bed all weekend, don’t get discouraged. Just make sure that at the very least, you’re taking care of yourself on a very basic level. Eat breakfast, drink plenty of water, take your medication, change your clothes. Take a short walk around the block for some fresh air. Text your best friend. Rely on your favorite self-care techniques, whatever they may be.

Let me know what your plans are for this weekend. Are you going to a march? Spending time with your pup? Having a Harry Potter movie marathon? ALL THREE? The possibilities are endless! Stay strong. Remember that you’re not alone and we are all in this fight together. I love you.

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Bo Burnham, Waitress, #GirlLove, and The Fosters

Hi friends!!!! It’s definitely been a while! Right now I’m trying to get back into the routine of writing on a somewhat regular basis, so I figured I’d do something simple. So many thoughts are floating around in my head about fun stuff I’ve been wanting to share, so I decided to put it all in one post. These are some of the the things I’ve been really digging lately, dudes!

Make Happy—Bo Burnham

I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve watched Bo Burnham’s Netflix special what. So obviously, when I heard his new show (filmed right near my old stomping grounds in Westchester!) was being released on Netflix, I knew to expect something great. And what’s funny is while I really enjoyed the show, Bo Burnham is not the type of person I could imagine giving a shit about a review from a 22-year-old with a blog. But at the same time, his show is so powerful in a really interesting way that I can’t help but comment on it, so I’ll ask for a moment of indulgence. Whenever people discuss the trouble in comedy with “being PC” or worrying about offending people, I always point their attention to Bo. Along with other favorite comedians of mine like Grace Helbig and Aziz Ansari, Bo is a prime example of how you don’t have to be offensive to be funny. It’s a crazy concept that seems impossible to people these days, but watching shows like Make Happy restore my faith in the world of comedy. Mind you, there are a lot of dumb jokes about farts and masturbating, but aren’t we all secretly 12-year-old boys when it comes to what makes us laugh? Maybe that’s just me…oh, well. Bo’s style of comedy combines a series of bits with a lot of song mixed in, which I think really adds to his ability to capture an audience. Music and comedy—is there a better combination? He discusses the familiar and targeted lyrics that are found in country songs, the generic shift that is happening in hip-hop, and the fact that you should not be relying on upbeat, pop anthems to make your troubles go away. So many obvious themes that we all know to be true put into silly songs and paired with amazing delivery. My personal favorite is (obviously) “Straight White Male”. And that one lyric about your dick not being a gift…brilliant shit. The number one theme I take away from Bo’s show is a strong commentary on performance. This commentary does not focus on the fact that Bo is on stage entertaining an audience, but rather the way this gets translated into our everyday lives. Throughout the show, Bo takes time to remind the audience to think about their actions in a number of different ways. By having a thoughtful conversation with the audience about where we choose to focus our attention, Bo gets us to think about performance in a way that is maybe a little meta, but absolutely intriguing and worth an hour of your time.

Waitress

With an amazing cast of talented actors, a moving and authentic storyline, and music by Sara Bareilles (I still can’t spell her name without the help from Google—thanks for lookin’ out, pal), Waitress has been getting a lot of praise lately, and it is definitely all warranted. After seeing the show about a month ago, I still haven’t taken the cast album off repeat. I have always been a big fan of Sara Bareilles’s songwriting, and the translation of her music to the stage with this particular story makes for a great theater experience. The basis of the show surrounds a small town diner with employees who don’t exactly love the way their life is going, especially the main character, Jenna, who is expecting a baby with her manipulating (to put it kindly) husband. Though this is a storyline we’re all familiar with, the cast does a fantastic job bringing a new life to the plot, characters, and message. While I was fairly sure of how the show was going to end, that didn’t leave me uninterested. Far from it, actually. There are so many intricate details attributed to every character that you feel yourself transported to Joe’s Pie Diner with them, rooting for Jenna and her friends so they can live their dreams, no matter the circumstances. I’ve never been great at reviewing theater, mostly because of my firm belief that everyone experiences the story in their own personal way. Just from the soundtrack alone, I am so moved by this work. From Christopher Fitzgerald’s show-stealing “Never Getting Rid of Me” to Jessie Mueller’s emotional solo “She Used To Be Mine”, each of these actors deliver such fresh and captivating performances that I am left wanting more. I am looking forward to seeing this show again, as I am confident it will be running for some time. If anyone is looking for a buddy to accompany them to this masterpiece, just holler. Ya girl is always down to spend some money on quality theater 😉

#GirlLove—Lilly Singh

Amidst all of the drama going on in the media lately, Lilly Singh is an absolute breath of fresh air. She has been one of my favorite content creators for a while—her videos are incredibly genuine and you can always tell the hard work she puts into her passions. Recently, Lilly started encouraging the use of the hashtag #GirlLove on Twitter to emphasize the importance of women supporting each other in a society that so often forces us to be in competition with each other. “Girl-on-girl hate is such a huge issue,” Lilly writes in the description of her first #GirlLove video. “It’s about time we got rid of this lame trend and came together to build women up.” Since this first video was posted, Lilly has worked to raise money for the Malala Fund in honor of educating women around the world, participated with other YouTubers on a #GirlLove panel at Vidcon 2016, and just recently announced a new web series that is dedicated to delivering this powerful message. I’m sure it’s a surprise to nobody that I’m a big fan of this campaign, but it’s not only the feminist in me that loves Lilly’s mission. I always get inspired by the people with platforms like Lilly’s (almost 10 million subscribers…YEAH, SHE’S THAT GOOD) using their voices in order to make a change. Sometimes YouTube gets a bad reputation for people making silly videos and making money off of it—which definitely happens. And while these videos are definitely entertaining, they also have the power to create a platform for people to contribute to the problems we all face everyday. Lilly’s dedication to spreading the message of #GirlLove is so important, especially in a time when we all seem to be so caught up in the drama of people’s lives who we don’t even know. So with this post, I’m shooting some extra #GirlLove to Lilly Singh. You’re killing the game and I can’t wait to see the big moves you make in the future.

The Fosters

I’m not sure there are many people left on this planet who haven’t heard my pitch for jumping on board with Freeform’s incomparable The Fosters, but for the four of you, here’s my rant. Some people may be turned off by the network previously known as ABC Family, afraid of dealing with uninteresting, teen-driven plots for audiences who are fans of shows like Pretty Little Liars, but I beg anyone who appreciates quality storytelling to put those fears aside for the sake of The Fosters. I truly believe this show has some of the best writers on TV right now. The stories they are telling are interesting and complex, but something I really appreciate from these writers is the way they can address topical issues in such a beautiful way without messing with the natural plot. Aside from the fact the very structure of the show is built off diversity and offering multiple perspectives, the audience has the opportunity to take these perspectives to the next level in a very easy way. We see stories about survivors of sexual abuse, long-lasting race issues among families, violence and bullying in schools; while these are topics often portrayed on TV, I feel that we are so used to seeing the same outcome—some kid gets in trouble, or maybe the consequences are prolonged for drama, but eventually there is a happy ending. But The Fosters does an amazing job of delivering some harsh realities. Sometimes there isn’t proper closure and sometimes justice isn’t always achieved by those who truly deserve it. But wrapped up in these harsh realities is a family structure that works toward accepting that what really makes these difficult moments in life worth getting through are the people around you. Listen, I’m not the most dedicated TV watcher. When shows start drifting away from what initially drew me to them in the first place, I tend to lose interest and eventually stop watching. And the more I watched The Fosters, the more I worried this was going to happen. There was so much quality content that I kept thinking “When is this going to start sucking? Can this show really continue being this good?” Thankfully, it did. Of course there are certain plot lines that I’m not crazy about and there are those occasional episodes that don’t excite me as much as others, but overall, it’s definitely a show that continue to love season after season. Every episode, I can’t help but notice how wonderfully certain topics were executed, or how long I am left thinking about conversations that were being portrayed. The Fosters gives quality attention to real life issues, offers real life solutions, and makes us really consider our positions in what we see reflected in our own lives.

Best of Wives and Best of Women

It’s finally happening, everyone. It was only a matter of time, but I’m finally writing about Hamilton.

(Side note: This post was inspired by the Charlie Rose interviews with the cast, so check those out!)

I was struggling to decide whether or not I could actually write this because I still haven’t seen the show. But I have listened to the soundtrack approximately two hundred times, followed all of the actors on Twitter and Instagram, and watched every #Ham4Ham performance and all the other YouTube videos of the cast that exist (minus bootlegs, of course). Plus, this is my blog and I make the rules. So here ya go.

I’m sure you’ve all heard more than you’ve asked for about the musical Hamilton. And let’s be real, it was probably from me. So you must be wondering what else I could possibly say about the hip-hop musical about the founding father Alexander Hamilton. And here’s the plot twist for you: I don’t want to talk about Alexander Hamilton. I want to talk about Eliza.

Earlier this year, my roommate had the opportunity to see Hamilton and I couldn’t wait to hear all of her thoughts. This had been a show I had been dying to see since last summer when it was Off-Broadway at The Public, and I didn’t know many people who had actually gotten the chance to see it, so I was eager to hear first-hand opinions from someone I knew was also a big fan of musical theater. When she came home the night of the show and I asked her if it lived up to the hype, her answer was a fierce yes. But what surprised me most was that she continued by saying, “It had one of the most feminist endings I’ve ever seen.”

This obviously caught me off guard; how could that be true about a musical centered around the life of some old dude in the 1800s? I wasn’t denying that there were possible feminist elements in the show, but the most feminist ending ever? It didn’t add up. But then came my time to be fully immersed in everything Hamilton. I familiarized myself with the soundtrack, the history, the inspirations, and all of the work that was and is put into the show. And after a few (hundred) days spent obsessing over this work, I was finally able to understand her comment. Let me tell you- Hamilton is a goddamn feminist masterpiece.

Of course the show is mostly about the life of Alexander Hamilton- how he came to America as an orphan and established the first national bank and wrote a crazy amount of essays that would be responsible for most of his legacy as a founding father. But the show also gives insight to Hamilton’s personal life- his admiration for Washington, the death of his son Phillip, and the relationship with his wife, Eliza.

*enter doves*

Hamilton was not the best husband, and that is putting it nicely. Often times he was more concerned with leaving his legacy as an American and willing to die for his new country than he was with his family. He spent more time and energy on his plans for Congress than quality time with his wife and kids. At first Eliza puts up with this; “I know who I married” she says. Not to mention the not so secret feelings he had for Eliza’s sister Angelica and the affair with Maria Reynolds, just to name a few of his disloyal tendencies. Eliza is lied to and betrayed, angry and confused, and she refuses to be controlled by her husband’s unfaithful behaviors. And yet, despite all of this, Eliza decides that his memory must be honored after he dies. Eliza is the one responsible for Hamilton’s legacy.

Eliza is the only character in the show who doesn’t rap and this isn’t coincidence. Unlike Hamilton, who needs to “write like he’s running out time” and say as much as he can in the least amount of time possible, Eliza has time. Songs such as “That Would Be Enough” and “Burn” show her intense passion and her ability to portray that in a caring and thoughtful way. But the song that truly encompasses Eliza’s influence is the final number of the show, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”, the love letter to this brilliant feminist.

At the end of the show, Washington sings “You have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” And even though Hamilton works endlessly and tirelessly everyday of his life through his writings and his actions to be remembered as something more than just a poor orphan from St. Croix, it is Eliza who keeps his memory alive. She lives for fifty years after Hamilton’s death and decides to put aside her sadness and anger toward her late husband in order to put herself “back in the narrative.” She takes the initiative to deconstruct all of his writing, to make sure Washington is properly memorialized, speaks out against slavery, and opens an orphanage, which she believed to be her greatest accomplishment. The orphanage she founded still exists today – Graham Windham – and was inspired to raise kids like Hamilton who want leave their mark on the world.

Because of Hamilton’s fatal duel with Aaron Burr, he did not have the time needed to carry out all of the expansive dreams he compiled over the years. But because of Eliza, who has the time, and her compassion dedication to do good, Hamilton is remembered through her. And while we all can’t have an Eliza, it is definitely inspiring to see someone with that much passion having their dreams come true even when they are no longer around to see it.

Torches

 

Some people may like to spend their free time binging on Netflix or catching up on the latest episodes of their favorite TV shows, but I would much rather watch YouTube. With a short attention span like mine, new episodes of TV shows are hard to keep up with. But with my favorite YouTubers, I know the kind of entertainment I’m signing up for. I know what content I like, usually there are weekly updates, and if worse comes to worse and I’m not a fan of the latest video, I can skip it and look forward to something else next week. There’s no commitment necessary, but for my favorites who always keep me entertained, I’m certainly dedicated.

YouTube is obviously at a peak of success right now. Content creators are succeeding in a multitude of different mediums while continuing to publish videos their fans know and love. Mainstream media is starting to recognize these big names in TV segments, promotion of events, and attention to the hard work all of these people are putting into their channels. As an avid YouTube consumer who watched a lot of these people rise to such great success, the enormity of their impact on society is both overwhelming and extremely gratifying.

For this year’s International Women’s Day, a video was published announcing a project with a number of female identified YouTubers – #OwnYourVoice. These women are serving as Change Ambassadors for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Action Campaign to advocate for gender equality. These content creators are coming from all over the world to team up and work together on issues they are particularly passionate about. This campaign includes Hayla Ghazal (UAE), Chika Yoshida (Japan), Ingrid Nilsen (US), Jackie Aina (US), Louise Pentland (UK), Taty Ferreira (Brazil), and Yuya (Mexico). They have all lent their voice to certain issues surrounding gender equality from intersecting perspectives, which is so inspiring to see from such a diverse community.

From body positivity to restroom reform, these women have made it their mission to make a change in society for the better. Hearing the voices of women of color, LGBT women, and a number of different experiences in partnership with the UN speaks greatly to the impact this medium has and the way it is using its position to inspire change. One of my favorite things about being a YouTube consumer is the intimate nature these videos offer. The content creators you are seeing are working from a place of personal motivation, they let you see parts of their life through social media and engagement with fans, and they give people the opportunity to connect with them in a way that you rarely see from other public figures. The immediacy of YouTube gives the viewer instant gratification – they can share and comment and like and tell their friends why you, too, should be paying attention. These YouTubers began their careers so simply, by sitting in front of a camera and sharing their voices with the world. Not only has this amplified majorly over the past decade, but now, as opportunities such as #OwnYourVoice show us, their passions are our passions, too.

Take the time to watch all of these inspiring women speak about why they are motivated to work toward gender equality. With so many different representations of women present as Change Ambassadors, the UN and YouTube have a pivotal opportunity to lend a hand in the issues that are greatly affecting our world. I am so excited to see the work that these women continue to do. It is projects like these that remind me just how attainable change is, and the effort we are all capable of contributing to making it happen.

Hayla TV https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOMXDu2zybA

Chika Yoshida https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6didxWX3bU

Ingrid Nilsen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9t9XvB8b-w

Jackie Aina https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2z1vVfvvlc

Louise Pentland https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llAH5muYjRs

Taty Ferreira https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZ2jnPQnw-0

Yuya https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qDZuZyXRYE

 

A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out

I enrolled in my first Gender Studies class my sophomore year of college, and I remember from the first day, our professor stressed that if there was one thing to take away from her course, it would be to “question everything.” When she said that, I couldn’t help but think, “Hell yeah, I do that anyway so this class is going to be a perfect fit for me.” If only I knew then just how wrong I was, and how angry I was about to be.

The class was a simple, introductory class about the way gender effects our everyday lives – what we see in the media, the way we interact with others, how certain perspectives are dictated by (hold for dramatic effect…) the PATRIARCHY. I learned more in depth about the strict gender roles society assigns to us from the moment we’re born, the fear of the word “feminist,” as well as the damaging constraints of the gender binary. I was familiar with some of the topics we discussed, but looking at them from such a focused lens was a whole new experience. It was fascinating to me, and once again, angering.

I couldn’t help but notice that more often than not, I would leave my eighty-minute class deeply frustrated and confused. I tended to direct a lot of these emotions toward my professor. Was she thinking too deeply about these issues? Did everything need to be so analyzed and dissected? How could she not like Beyoncé? (A completely different story for another time). I spent most of my semester telling my friends and family that while I loved the class and the material that was being taught, my professor sometimes took it a little too far. I thought of her as a very passionate – and quite angry – feminist. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but I didn’t think it was productive to let her own personal opinions fuel our lectures.

I don’t remember exactly what the turning point was for me. I think I was on the subway returning to my dorm. The subway, I had come to learn, is a breeding ground for gender stereotypes. It’s a microcosm of sorts, so it’s not always reliable, but nonetheless, it was enough for me to realize something. Being able to apply such a specific example from class to my simple commute home clarified that it wasn’t my professor that was making me angry. It was the fact that she was right. About EVERYTHING.

The fact that she spent an entire lecture discussing Robin Thicke’s music video wasn’t what made me frustrated, it was the fact that it was indeed problematic and not enough people were recognizing it. She didn’t discuss the origins of marriage because she was against getting married, but it was rather a way to deconstruct the heteronormative expectations we’re all so familiar with. Maybe instead of focusing on stricter dress codes, we should be focusing on teaching kids not to sexualize one another.

The clarity was overwhelming. I was relieved to know that all of the things that I had so often been frustrated about had a name: feminism. I clung to this title and owned it. Still do. I promise, it’s not scary. To put your fears to rest, I’ve provided this simple chart:

Not a feminist

As I continued to take more classes about gender, I learned more and more about the complicated dynamics of society, motivated more than ever to be a part of a change. I was a lot more comfortable with being angry. Anger motivates change. Emotion breeds action.

A gentle reminder, though… I don’t advocate being hella salty at all times. (For the older folk who aren’t as hip and cool as I am: “hella salty” = “very disgruntled”). Do you have to have an argument with people who use the phrases man bun or guyliner? I don’t really think it’s worth it. But being conscious and aware of the problems of gender inequality, heteronormativity, and other forms of marginalization is something I think we should all continue to work on. The more attention that is brought to a problem, the harder it is to ignore. This could mean anything from posting on social media to having a simple conversation with a friend over coffee. Anyone who knows me is aware that I know exactly how to get the party started: heated discussions about pronouns and gender politics. Aw yeah. It gets pretty wild.

All we can do is try to stay educated about solving these problems. How, you ask? QUESTION EVERYTHING. Eventually, you might start finding some answers.