Friday, December 28, 2012

My Top 5 iPad/iPhone Apps for Activism

Hey all! I recently got an Ipad Mini and I have been obsessed with it! I have offically lost all of my productive value!
I do think though that iPads, tablets, what have you can be amazing resources and knowledge bases to use. There are so many apps out there geared towards education, learning, gaining new skills and critical thinking. It's not all nonsense or entertainment!
Clearly, technology is the future and moving forward we will see these devices become integrated into our education. Thus, I think getting a head start in using this technology for social change/learning about social issues/justice (which is already happening in massive amounts) is integral.

So with all that being said here are my Top 5 iPad Apps for activism!

1. Simply Sharing: A Passion for Justice : This is a short, interactive app that takes you through learning about justice, what causes injustice, examples of injustice and how to fix it. A really great comprehensive guide to learning about social change and peace. I loved how it was very reliant upon YOU the consumer. You got to express your ideas, thoughts and learn interactively.

2. Cruelty- Free : This app from Leaping Bunny features lists of companies that don't use any animal testing/cruelty in the making of their products. Such a great and easy way to research this. You could take your device to the store with you and see what falls on the list as cruelty free. Time saving and very convenient!

3. NBC Politcs: Provides quick, fast updates about the current political scene. I love how it gives you nice tidits instead of 3 page articles. Sometimes you just want news and updates fast without having to read something that is long or tedious.

4. Kindle : I love reading and books are amazing tools! Knowledge acquisition is so important! You can have millions of books on the free Kindle Cloud app and read them anywhere, anytime. Its like having a kindle! And there are many, many free educational books. Another huge plus!

5. The ACLJ Social Action App: This app is really created for those who are passionate about social justice. You can sign petitions, view blogs, get news, , listen to radio programs and watch videos on all kinds of relevant current events. This app has everything in one place which is really nice.

Those are some of my favorite apps! I would love to hear about yours!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Real Cost of Christmas

Happy Holidays everyone!
I find that holidays are one of those weird things that are full of materialism and probably exist for the purpose of perpetuating capitalistic ideals. I mean sure, we all say that it's about family and friends and giving the heart of it all is a huge white man that gives good little boys and girls presents. I think saying that presents aren't at the center of Christmas is a lie. I know that personally presents are probably my favorite part of the holidays. My birthday is also in December so it's really the only time of year I get things from other people; the rest of the time I have to buy myself something if I want it. We are socialized to be this way. Our culture glorifies this holiday materialism while simultaneously shaming those who are seen as too selfish. Saying you are in it for the gifts buys you the label of being a greedy pig. So you really just can't win.

Also, I think that Christmas at the end of the day is a waste. We are buying ourselves things we "think" we need. According to the American Research Group this year the average person was planning on spending $854 on gifts. Just think if everyone took that money and gave it to charity how much better off our world would be. Also, According to an infograph from ThinkProgress, the amount of money we spend on Christmas decorations alone in the United States could end homelessness.

 I think facts like this really show how out of touch we are with reality. We think that Christmas is a good thing and that we are helping to give hope and love to other people through giving. But, if we really wanted to put our money where our mouth was we could simply give all that money to charity and those in need and bring an end many modern day social problems. Just by canceling Christmas alone for one year we could probably bring millions out of poverty. We could eliminate much of the need for government assistance. We could even out class lines. The funny thing is, this really is possible.

So next year why don't we all think (including myself) about doing something philanthropic with our money. If everyone say only spent $800 on gifts and put the other $54 dollars to good use, even by that miniscule change, imagine the good we could do. Forego that gift to your Aunt Shirley or your second cousin to do something great for humanity!  

I am planning on doing this by becoming a member of Hollaback! which requires a $60 donation. It's such a great cause and it's something I am really passionate about! Also, as a member I get to be involved with organizational decisions, events, etc. which I think is an awesome treat :D.

Have a safe and happy holiday everyone!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's Not Hopeless

Sometimes I just don't know if being an activist is worth it. I understand that fighting for the change you believe in is ALWAYS relevant but I think sometimes you have to ask yourself if you are really accomplishing anything. Call me a cynic, but I have my doubts.
It just seems impossible to reach people sometimes. I know that probably everyone goes through this but some days I find it just gets to me. I think that a lot of what I talk about I talk about to other activists. And that's all fine and dandy, but the real reason that I blog and advocate is to reach people who need this message. To empower them.
But then I rememeber people like me. Those who are lost and finding their way who happen to get themselves immersed in this stuff. So many people have the potential! It's just about reaching them and finding your audience.
It's not hopeless. I just need a reminder sometimes.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

World Aids Day

Today, December 1st is World Aids Day which is “an oppurtunity for people to unite worldwide in the fight against HIV.” ( You can wear a red ribbon in acknowledgement of the day and of the millions of people on our planted who are effected. 
Aids is the most advanced form of HIV and can only be passed through bodily fluids such as blood, semen and breast milk. Touching, talking or even sharing a bathroom with someone that has HIV will not give you the disease. People with HIV/AIDS are normal, everyday people just like you and I. There is a weird stigma around the disease when in reality being effected is just like having cancer, heart disease or any other illness. 
Below is an infograph from Amplify Your Voice and some facts on HIV from
Have a wonderful Saturday!
HIV Facts:
HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus which attacks the body’s immune system — the body’s defense against diseases.
HIV can be passed on through infected bodily fluids, most commonly via sex without a condom or by sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug equipment.
There are now more people than ever living with HIV in the UK — more than 90,000 — with around a quarter of those unaware they have the virus.
Here are a few more facts about HIV in the UK:
  • Over 90% of people with HIV were infected through sexual contact
  • You can now get tested for HIV using a saliva sample
  • HIV is not passed on through spitting, biting or sharing utensils
  • Only 1% of babies born to HIV positive mothers have HIV
  • You can get the results of an HIV test in just 15-20 minutes
  • There is no vaccine and no cure for HIV

Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Thoughts on Abstinence Only Sex Education

 Abstinence only values and education have shown to be ineffective at preventing STD’s and pregnancy. Abstinence as a value system is based on the idea that the only good way to avoid STD’s and pregnancy is by not engaging in sex.
My parents went by this when I was in middle school and I always felt sort of weird about it. I wasn't nearly as critical about sexuality back then, but I always thought that waiting until marriage was something that I’d never do. Sex made me extremely uncomfortable either way, weather I saw or heard of sex that wasn't related to marriage or heard about why it’s important to wait and be abstinent.
Now, from this I think that abstinence only values are corrupted and bigoted. It really comes from a lot of shame that our culture and religion associate with sexuality. It doesn’t allow for critical thinking or open thought. It’s a very restrictive set of ideas that limit one’s possibilities for exploring their sexuality. I think any time limits are placed on this (that are not done for health’s sake) are oppressive and reinforce the shame around sex.  Therefore, I feel that this is harmful and not something we should be encouraging parents or schools to enforce.
I think that kids will definitely rebel from this . I know this from my own experience and from statistics! Those who go through abstinence only education in school are just as likely to have sex as those who have comprehensive sex ed and most of those who participate in purity programs will end up breaking their promise to not have sex before marriage.  
I think too from my own experience that those values made me want to rebel against them. I really wanted to have fun and do things that were against my church and my parents so that I could make a statement and do things my own way. All of that repression of normal, natural, healthy sexuality is going to make teenagers experience a lot of anxiety and a lot of times that comes out through rebellion, even if it isn’t by disobeying in regards to sexual activity.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Recap

Great victory tonight! A record 19 women in the senate, meaning that we now have a senate made up of 19% women. Not great, but a record from the previous 17. 
And great job, President Obama. I am truly proud to have represented you, campaigned for you. So sorry I was too young to vote for you. 
Also first senator elected that are openly queer,Tammy Baldwin, first disabled senator Tammy Duckworth elected and first Asian, Mazie Hirono. 
Also gay marriage legalized in Maine, Maryland and Washington!!!!
Congrats to all on this amazing, historic night!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Election Predictions

The election is getting closer and I can feel my anxiety rising with each passing day.  In the summer, I thought Obama had it in the bag, but lately I’m not so sure. It seems Romney has gained some ground with his choice of running mate, win at the first debate…and a Thursday Gallop pull that showed Romney has a 7 point lead. Yikes….now I’m starting to panic.
                  I’m not why this is happening. Obama is clearly the better candidate; he supports marriage equality (and is the first sitting President to ever do so), believes that everyone should pay their fair share, is making health care more affordable and giving women the equality they deserve. Romney on the other hand believes in “traditional” marriage, wants to cut the wealthiest American’s taxes by $250,000, wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and when asked about how he felt about the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, he said he would have to “get back to you” .

            So how is this race even close? Romney represents everything that is wrong about American politics…rich men using the system to gain power and wealth. He is not someone that I believe belongs in politics. I want a president who understands the American Dream and who has also struggled. Who hasn’t had their dreams given to them on a silver platter.  I believe that Barack Obama is that man. He, in my opinon is the best person for the job. He grew up poor without a father, put himself through school, went on to be a community organizer in the depths of Chicago, then put himself through Harvard for his law degree and became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. He then went on to be an activist and professor at the University of Chicago. He has worked his way up and is a prime example of the American Dream.

      My predictions? I do think Obama will win. The margins though, will be close. I think it will come out to be about 53/47. I don’t think we have the election won already and have to keep working to ensure that Barack Obama continues his term as President. That is why I am volunteering at my local field office tomorrow, to show my support and give a few hours of my time. Being involved is crucial to our democratic process; make your voice known and heard. And even if you don’t support President Obama’s reelection, please go vote. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Disney Get's It Wrong: Sophia The First (Latina?)

A new Disney Princess is about to be unveiled and she is a Latina...or so they say. Sophia is her name and she will be making her debut in the TV movie Sophia the First: Once Upon a Princess on November 18th. 
While on the surface this seems like a step forward, having a Latina represented in Disney's princess franchise, there is one problem.... it doesn't really seem like she's Latina. If you look at the images of her, she seems to appear white, perhaps of Western European dissent. Unless you know that she is Latina, there is no way to tell by looking at her. And in fact, producers aren’t even emphasizing this point! Joe D’Ambrosia, VP of Disney Junior says that “We never actually call it out….what I find fascinating is that every girl thinks they’re Sophia.”
Sofia the First: Disney's first Latina princess

She has blue eyes, a reddish-brown shade of hair and ivory skin. That does NOT look very Latina to me! In fact, I think that she looks more like me than any of my Latina friends. If I was to watch this movie, I would have no indication that she is Latina. The thought would never even cross my mind. It’s outrageous, as it’s not actually making Latina’s more visible in the media! If we cannot tell that she is Latina, then diversity is not actually being shown!
Here is a picture of me, next to a picture of Sophia
I think we acually look very similar, which is NOT GOOD! She is supposed to be Latina and I am Irish and Scottish. How does it make any sense that we have visual similarities?! Why is it that she looks so white?
And while we are on the subject, why is her name Sophia? Sophia is not a Latina name and has no origins in the culture. In fact, Sophia orginates from Greek and is used primarily in European and Russian languages[1].  By this, her name shouldn’t even be Sophia…her name should be reflective of her being a Latina.
This whole ordeal  is very upsetting, to both myself and the Latina community. I participated in a discussion about this on Facebook and my Latina friends expressed a lot of concern and outrage: “She looks nothing like me” one said, “This is upsetting and misrepresented” said another. “If that’s what Disney thinks a Latina is then I wonder what they would consider me!” quipped another feisty young Latina. Their comments hit home for me and made me realize what a real issue this is. When you don’t have any characters, actors or Disney Princesses that look like you, it can really feel like you aren’t there at all. And when one does come out, but is a horrible representative of you (and is claiming to be like you) it’s even more upsetting.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Being Othered

I am the white girl. The one that stands out in a crowd of minorities. The one who doesn’t “get” black culture. The suburban, privileged diva.  This is who I am.
                How did I get this label? Well, I participate in a variety of social justice programs in the city closest to my surrounding suburb. I have made documentaries, art galleries and wrote articles. I have also learned about oppression, privilege and power dynamics, sexual violence and prevention. Because of my experience, I am a proud activist.
                All of the projects/programs I have participated in have been in an urban area. Because of this, I have to venture out of my cozy suburban ranch into the city with the poor, gunshots and government housing.  Because of this, nearly every, if not all, of the other people I have worked with belong to a racial minority.
                Thus, I have been othered. I experience what it is like to be different, the odd one out, the black sheep. All of the awesome people I work with share a culture, history and identity. They talk about racial prejudice and understand it in a way that I never will. But at the same time, I now know what it is like to be them, at least symbolically.
                The suburb I live in is probably 95% white. It is quite a rarity to see anyone belonging to any other racial group. If there is someone, they are quietly outcasted and looked at differently. Even if these attitudes aren’t completely external, they exist. You can feel them during a class lecture on slavery. You can hear them when a rap or hip-hop song comes on the radio. You say them, when you talk about the “black” kid.
                Engaging in my social justice work has opened up my eyes to a whole new way of examining racism. I never before saw the prejudice within myself, or those around me. Racism was not something I ever really thought about. It just wasn’t a part of my life.
                Hearing of the experiences of Blacks, Hispanics, Latino’s and Asians, has made me think more critically about race. I now understand just how the intense racial history in our country still echo’s in our institutions to this day. Also, being the different one has allowed me to acknowledge my own privilege. I feel what it is like to be different, to feel like I don’t belong. Even if nothing is said, everyone knows there is something different about me. That I am not like them and have grown up with numerous advantages they have never had. And while this makes me sad, more than that, it inspires me. It inspires me to work hard to fight against racism. It inspires me to keep pressing on and moving forward. To acknowledge my own racial privilege and think critically about race. To stop prejudice that I see towards others of racial minorities in my own life. To embody equality.
So being the white girl isn’t all bad. For once, I get to experience what it is like to be othered. Even for just those few moments, I see it with my own eyes. And that is the most powerful thing of all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I Want YOU to Register to Vote

                2012 is an important year in America, as in November we will be electing our next President. There has been election buzz now for about a year and it’s still heating up. You see the ads, the speeches, the debates….but does it really matter? How much of a difference does voting make? Does your vote really count?
                The short answer is yes. Everyone’s votes really do count. The Presidential election in 2000 between Bush and Gore is a prime example. There was a large dispute over who won the election, as it came down to the electoral votes of Florida. There were some issues at the polls with the new Butterfly Ballots.  Therefore the actual winner of the election was unclear. The vote was also very, very close. There was only a .5% margin between Bush and Gore, which came down to about 2000 votes!
                Voting is also an important part in living in a democracy. Think of all those around the world who don’t have the same privileges  as we do, as well as those that came before us and  gave their lives in the pursuit of free elections. Not voting is, quite frankly, showing a lack of appreciation for the rights countless patriots have worked to give us. If nothing else, honor them.
                If you aren’t already, register to vote! This must be done at least 30 days before the election, which means you have until October 6th! You can register at many places public high schools, libraries, The Bureau of Motor Vehicles and office of your counties Board or Elections. Also, make sure you bring proper photo ID on Election Day to the polls, or you will be unable to vote! Most importantly, make sure you research all of the candidates (and not just those vying for the Presidency). Good luck!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Activism....Say What?

What does activism really mean? How can we assert our own personal values without conforming to the crowd? How can we be ourselves but still a part of the collective? Is this possible?
                I personally see a lot of pressure in the activist community to have an ideology. You have to have some cause/issue you work for or else….what are you really? A crazy hippie? A wanna-be?
                I’m not sure what the real answer is. I don’t know what it really means to dedicate your life to something. At least, on that level. “True” activists are willing to die for what the believe in. They will let nothing and no one stop them. It is often these dedicated people who are responsible for social change.
                So does that mean being that type of activist is best? Or am I using the American value of success to derive that conclusion? What makes someone successful, what are the characteristics of success?
I’m keeping an open mind for now. Let me know your thoughts!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fresh Face Friday!

Fresh Face Friday is a campaign put together by Miss Representation to talk about the media’s relationship with makeup. And more importantly, thedemand that women in our society wear it every day. When is the last time you turned on your TV, went to a movie or opened up a magazine and saw someone without a face full of products? Unless it was an article bullying celebrities who decided to go fresh faced, probably never.
This stuff really affects women. Girl’s self esteem declines by 75% after reading fashion magazines. A study done by the Journal of Consumer Research reported that women felt worse about themselves after viewing advertisements featuring beauty products. Only 2% of women think they are beautiful. 90% of women would change at least one aspect of their physical appearance.   We clearly have problems with our self-image in this country.
What’s to blame for all of this? In large, advertising. Ads are created that purposefully make women feel ashamed of themselves. These advertisements create a void by telling women that without their product, their lives will be miserable, worthless and not even worth living. They’ll never find a man, have a successful career or be able to find happiness unless they have said product. By doing this, there is then pressure created to conform to the companies standards and buy, buy, buy. After all, who wants to a wrinkled up, miserable aging individual? No one!
This is why we must fight back. Tomorrow, we can do just that. For Fresh Face Friday, all you have to do is go make-up free. That’s right; no eye shadow, foundation, concealed or even lip gloss. Then, if you wish, you can take part in the live Twitter party taking place from 12-2PM PT. Tweet @RepresentPledge and/or hash tag #FreshFace to voice your opinion or showcase your own fresh face! This is such a simple way to get involved and express your opinions on what is wrong with the media.  Can’t wait to see you all there!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I think sex education is so important because everyone has a sexuality, sexual identity and sexual orientation. Most everyone will engage in sexual activity at some point in their lives and because of this it important to know the facts and be informed! Sexuality is one of the most personal and beautiful things about us as people and because of this it is vital that we nurture it in healthy ways. As a society, how we view sex is intimately connected to how we treat others. It also is connected to how we relate to ourselves and others.We have to instill the fluidity of sexuality, gender and sexual orientation so that we can create a more accepting and compassionate society. Because of this, it is so important that we are all educated about sexuality as well as our bodies.

The Ethnocentrism of Food Politics

  During last week’s class, someone brought up the Asian (largely Chinese) cultural norm of eating cats and dogs. They expressed disgust and distain for the practice and largely this is the attitude held by Americans towards it. Eating cats and dogs is seen as inhumane. It is illegal to eat dog in 6 states, but as Jonathon Foer of the Wall Street Journal says, “Eating man’s best friend is as taboo as a man eating his best friend.” [1]
Yet, even though it is socially unacceptable to eat dogs and cats, it is perfectly acceptable and in fact encouraged that we consume pigs, cows and chickens. This in large has to do with how we interact with animals; we have domesticated dogs and cats. We keep them as pets, name them and consider them family members. Thus, we have humanized them and tend to view them as worthy of better treatment than other animals.
            Ours is not the only culture to selectively classify animals. The French eat horse but also keep dogs; Spaniards love cows but eat horses1. We see this same phenomenon cross culturally. In the words of George Orwell, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”1 Indeed, this viewpoint is a hypocritical one. This classification is not based on the animal’s intelligence, loyalty, creativity or strength. If we look at American food norms specifically, we see that our hierarchy among animals seems flawed. Pigs are more intelligent than dogs, and they are in fact as intelligent as human three-year-olds2. They are extremely social animals and also have the ability to play video games.
            The main point is that expressing that it’s disguising for those of other cultures  to eat dogs and cats is an ethnocentric one. It compares the cultural standards of Asians to those of America and assumes that the American idea is better. It’s important to understand how relative cultural and social norms, values and beliefs really are. What is sacred to one is unfathomable to the other.
            Morality in this way is highly subjective. There is no universal standard of acceptability when it comes to eating animals. The ideas vary from culture to culture and there is no one right answer. From this then, we can see that Americans criticizing others for eating animals that they domesticate is not relevant to other cultures, as they also have similar notions. Sure, it is perfectly okay to hold the beliefs of your culture and not engage in eating animals that go outside of American norms. It is also okay to love and keep some animals as pets. The problem is when we criticize others for having their own set of values and beliefs. We as a culture must be more accepting of other perspectives and not hold all other culture’s to the standards of our own. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

We Are All in This Together

I watched Bill Clinton’s speech at the DNC last night and I have to say, I was blown away. That is one feisty, funny, intelligent, thoughtful, sensible man! He knows and understands the principles of democracy. He has such amazing insight on American politics and has a passion to make America a better place. A fair place. A place where anyone can make it and it’s okay to be a woman, non-white, gay, or disabled. A country where fairness, cooperation and honesty get us farther than greed, oppression or bigotry. Where Wall Street doesn’t run the show and the economy isn’t controlled by millionaires and billionaires. Where everyone pays their fair share and takes pride in it. Where, as he put it, we are all in this together!
                It’s important that we all be willing to help one another and have a desire to make things better for not just ourselves, but everyone else who’s struggling. We have to have the heart to understand, the sense to compromise and the mind to listen. We can’t continue doing things as we have been. We can’t keep giving tax breaks to the wealthiest in America. We can’t deregulate Wall Street and let them operate laizze-faire. We can’t start wars we have no business starting. We can’t deny women health care services because of our own moral standings. It’s been shown, time and time again that this approach Does. Not. Work. We can’t just step aside when it comes to fiscal policy and step inside when it comes to body politics.  
                A massive part of this whole equation is partisanship. Washington has become a battleground of ideological warfare. Instead of working to find common ground and fixing significant problems, everyone is more concerned with being right. Politicians spend time debating versus implementing public policy. Everyone is more concerned with sticking to their own beliefs instead of working to a compromise.  The middle ground is almost non-existent. There isn’t any room for agreement along opposite party lines and compromise is seen as weakness. This type of hostility is what is creating so many of our governmental problems. Nothing is getting done and no one is happy.
                I think that is why Bill Clinton’s “We are all in this together” is such an important message. We must live it and embody it. Because if we are all in this together, there is no who is left out or ostracized. As one America, we embrace each other’s differences and can appreciate differing points of view. We can discover how to work together to come to compromises, we can create a system built on cooperation and we can become a stronger nation. Together, we can rebuild our economy and make the system fair for everyone. We can create jobs and get out of debt. It is possible and we can do it….but only if we decide to put aside our differences, respect one another and once and for all declare that we are all in this together. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Perfect Feminist

The Perfect Feminist
In feminism, there is this idea that feminists are supposed to behave in certain ways in order to be true to the movement. They aren’t supposed to be “girly” or wear pretty dresses, bright make-up or high heeled shoes. Feminists aren’t supposed to make sacrifices for the men in their lives, they are supposed to not even need a romantic relationship. They aren’t supposed to enjoy women’s magazines or daytime television shows.  Feminists are not supposed to be emotional or show any signs of weakness. They aren’t supposed to cry or scream or look foolish. In short, feminists are supposed to be made of stone.
                These notions about the so called “perfect” feminist are damaging to not only feminism, but to women. They force women into this tiny box of acceptability that most don’t even want to be anywhere near. It forces women to suppress their emotions and feelings and forget their joys and pleasures in life. They can’t enjoy the beauty of romance or the passion of a marriage. The ideas that make up what a feminist is supposed to be ultimately PUSHES BACK the movement.
                We can’t make progress without freedom. Until feminism allows women to be who they are without restraint, we can never have equality. Until the polarization of the sexes ends, we cannot realize an egalitarian society.  Feminism often restricts women in how the behave, just like the patriarchal, oppressive forces they are against! Only it’s worse, because it is disguised behind a mask of liberation.
                Feminism, I am rejecting your ideas about feminists. I will not change who I am in order to wear the label proudly. I will not compromise my ideas, values, pleasures, goals or relationships. I will not bow down to your idols, I will not submit to your matriarchs. I will love men and enjoy my relationships with them; I may even make sacrifices in order to be with them. I may move across the country, I may give up my job. I will enjoy fashion and beauty, embrace them and continue to read Vogue, Glamour and Cosmo. I will scour the runways in search of the latest trends and spend an hour applying my make-up. I will read romance novels and cry when they end sadly and dammit, I will enjoy it.  I will be myself, nothing more, nothing less.  These things you see, don’t make me weak or stupid or a walking internalization of sexism. They make me, me. They also make me perfect. I am the perfect version of myself.  And yes, I am the Perfect Feminist.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Sexual Issues Facing Teens

I think the top sexual issues affecting teens today are STD/STI\'s, abstinence only sex education and a lack of LGBTQ rights and protection.  1/4 teenagers has an STD or STI and the rates of contraction are on the rise. This is a disturbing trend and I think we as a society need to provide teenagers with access and information about having safe sex. This means lots of free condoms and demonstrations in sex ed, access and demonstrations of dental dams and access and information about testing. Also, along with this, teenagers are getting inaccurate and misleading information in abstinence only education, which is the current model funded by the federal government, and used in most states. 
         Teens are not learning about contraceptives, abortion, menstruation, abuse/violence, LGBTQ issues or sex for pleasure. Because of this, teens are uneducated about their bodies and sexuality. This means they are engaging in normal, healthy sexual activity without having  the proper knowledge on how to protect themselves from STD\'s/STI\'s or pregnancy. They are also not learning about healthy sexuality in any sense of the term and we are raising a generation that doesn\'t have accurate information about sex. 
              Also, this generation is one of the first to acknowledge LGBTQ rights, but is still very much lacking. There is a lot of hate speech, discrimination and harassment LGBTQ youth face and many schools have no policy to protect those individuals from bullying. This leaves a huge percentage of people without a safe space. This is obviously a problem, as LGBTQ youth are at higher risk of committing suicide or other self-harm behavior. These issues need to be talked about and addressed so that we as a society can fix these very real problems teens are facing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Feminism is Not Outdated

Being a feminist activist in the twenty first century isn’t exactly celebrated. This so called fourth wave feminism is not socially acceptable; identifying as a feminist is usually frowned upon. Feminists are seen as man-haters and menopausal freaks. But, the work of feminism is still not done, even in American society, with women making  81 cents for every dollar a man makes, for doing the same work. Or, the fact that according to the New York Times, on an average day, about 19% more women than men report doing household chores (this is because of the expected gender roles). Even looking at the recent attacks by the government on reproductive health care can show the sexism that is written into the fabric of our society.
The above information doesn’t even account for women who don’t live in America. 140 million women worldwide who have experienced female genital mutilation. There are Even more don’t have access to education, or aren’t allowed to be in school after they menstruate.  You also have to remember those who aren’t even allowed to leave their homes without their husband’s permission. With this kind of oppression, it is laughable to say there is no need for feminism.
Feminism is what we need to embrace to fix these societal inequalities. We must get rid of the taboo around the label feminist and instead learn to embrace it. Just because you are a feminist doesn’t mean that you want to dominate men! Quite the opposite!  A feminist believe that men and women deserve equal rights; nothing more, nothing less. Feminism has opened so many doors for women already, from getting us the vote to the decriminalization of contraception to a more active presence in sports. It is because of this that we must carry on the legacy, and keep fighting for the changes that society needs to make.
Activism is at the core of feminism. Feminists have used activism as a tool to express their ideas and create social change since the beginning of feminism! Just think of the hunger strikes that the suffragists waged from prison cells or the women of the sixties hosting riots in support of birth control.  Activism is key to any movement and feminism is no exception.
Learning to embrace equality is essential to ending oppression. Male privilege is real and its time that our society acknowledges and accepts that fact. Feminism is not the enemy. Women worldwide need us to use our voices to speak up against injustice. So come then, pick up your sign and join the movement; the fourth wave feminism movement.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Oppression and Liberation

Oppression is the real reason that social justice exists. Since, if there was no oppression everyone would have equality. Oppression is one of the tricky terms that everyone seems to know, but can get tongue tied when asked to explain its meaning. According to, oppression is “the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel or unjust manner.” It all lies in how power is used and the context that authority is used in.
Oppression is facilitated in many different ways; through exploitation, discrimination, shaming, unequal allocation of resources and inequality, to name a few. All of these methods work to enhance oppression and keep these ideas in place. They are self-sustaining. Reinforcement is key to keeping the status quo and without oppressive ideas being held in the culture, doing this becomes impossible. It is why, then, the attitudes of moral high-ground, hierarchy and superiority are rampant in society.
Why, then, do we tolerate this? Wouldn’t it make more sense to overthrow these regimes that exude oppression on to us rather than to allow it? Encourage it, even? The answer lies in the reason oppressive social constructions are flourishing; because we are made to be a part of it. Oppressive ideas are instilled in us from the day we are born. Those ideas become integral to our identities and thought processes and formulate our ideas about the world; Fat people are lazy, women belong in the kitchen, men are supposed to be tough, consumption is good, poor people don’t work. The reason these ideas can exist and becomes memes is because we are taught to perpetuate it.
These oppressive ideas we learn through socialization are reinforced constantly through parents, friends, TV, books, magazines, advertising. It is seemingly inescapable. Because these ideas become a part of the culture (through reinforcement on a massive level) they become normalized. These attitudes are normal and also, expected. The expectations then create social pressure, so that we are all but forced to advocate them ourselves. This is then how social norms are created. It is expected that you meet these norms and validate them and not doing so can have serious consequences. Severe shame is often placed onto those who do not validate societal ideas which can spiral into even worse catastrophes of violence.
This is why it is important that we fight back. One of the best ways of doing this is through education. Educating yourself on our society, the way in which it works and what we can do to change it is the key to liberating yourself from these oppressive social constructions. We have to work to then spread the message and send it on! We must help others on their journey to liberation! Just think, if even one in ten people did this, how powerful we as a society could be against these systems! Think of all the social change that could take place! Through education and critical thinking we can create a generation of socially conscious individuals that are not willing to impose oppression on others.
Change is possible. It is not only possible, it is happening constantly. It is a system that is fluid and that we can become a part of. Ending oppression means global change. It means we can have the freedom to live in a truly organic state, in which creativity can flourish and people can be their truest self. This liberation is why ending oppression is so important, because liberation can set us free. Look within yourself and find your liberation. And live it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why I Love Feminsim

One social issue that I feel most passionate about is women’s rights/feminism. I think this largely is due to the fact that identify as a woman and have used this as a platform to approach other issues of marginalization and oppression. I’ve now been involved in social justice work for a year and half and have learned more than I could ever begin to describe! Both from books and real world experience, I have gained knowledge and insight on oppression, liberation, economics, social constructions, systematic discrimination and intersectionality. But, it all started with feminism.
                I remember so vividly the first moment that I truly realized that there wasn’t equality between men and women. I was in the seventh grade and was reading an interesting book on current events during some free time that we had. I remember reading the line “women are only paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work” and being stunned. My jaw was on the floor…I couldn’t believe that women didn’t get paid as much as men. As we proceeded to switch classes I remember walking down the hallway feeling intense rage seep through every pore on my body. I knew I wanted to, had to, change this. I had to live to see the day that women were true equals.
                Since then, I’ve done a lot of reading on feminist theory. I poured myself into book and learned everything I could about feminism. I have to say, I’ve fallen in love with the movement. From there, I started reading various feminist blogs and critiques of the current movement (both positive and negative). Interestingly, feminism is not how I was first introduced to activism, but it has played an integral part in my understanding of social justice. Feminism was the spark that led me to read other books on racism, sexuality, queer theory, sizeism, ableism and economic privilege. It fostered my own curiosity and led me down the path that I am taking. Feminism is what truly lights my fire and gets me enraged. It’s when I first understood that I am oppressed, but also that I am privileged. Feminism is the issue I care the most about because it has been the domino that has knocked all of the others down. For that, I will be forever grateful. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Finding a Medium

Today I went shopping at Plato’s Closet, a gently used/discarded clothing from other stores shop that caters to teens and twenties. I discussed how size-ist I feel this store and most other stores are towards fat people, as well those that are very tall or short. It felt so good talking to you all about this, as I often feel I have no outlet to express my anger and frustration over these kinds of things. So, when I went shopping there today, I felt a bit anxious but also excited because I love clothing!
When I started looking around, I instantly found some cute shirts on sale (which always happens) but wanted to also get some sort of skirt or dress. I started looking around and was once again discouraged to see such a small amount of Large and Extra Large clothing. 
I decided to then just comb through some of the racks and found an AMAZING pink skirt with drapes and sequins covering it! I fell in love instantly. I looked on the tag and saw it was a medium, but decided to try it on anyways. Once I slipped it on, I saw it fit like a glove; not to big nor to small! I was thrilled! It was a MEDIUM and a bottom no less (I usually can never find a bottom that fits that is smaller than an extra large)! So, I bought it and am still thrilled! The skirt was from American Eagle so props to you all for making ACTUAL SIZES THAT FIT!!! I love how positive energy can give you positive experiences. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Identity Labels

What is an identity label? It's simply a label that you use (or that has been assigned to you) that says something about who you are. That "something" is usually a socially constructed idea or value set that society is/has enforced. For example: Being a female means the label of woman is assigned to you at birth (but you can change it!) and is held that you should care about your appearance, not be sexual and submissive. This IDEA is associated with the label itself. These ideas will probably come into your mind when you think of a woman. But, the concept of woman isn't inherent on its is created and given meaning by society.

Identity labels can be helpful in terms of them creating the ability to quickly give an overall idea of how you identify. They are typically just one or two words that give people a context to interact with you in. The problem? The context is often filled and created by stereotypes. Because of this then, we often find ourselves being judged. If your identity falls into a marginalized group, you will probably face some sort of shaming or negative assumption made about you because of your identity. You are signified as less and thus treated that way.

Often, this is when we run into prejudice and oppression. Oppression is a not necessarily outright, overt or even  meant! It happens because of how we associate ideas and values given to us by society. Our brains compartmentalize information and form conclusions very quickly to know how/when to act, but this unfortunately perpetuates false ideas. When we see a black man dressed in dark clothing walking the streets at night, we assume he is up to no good because of the images we see in the media, the ideas we are given about people and the way our brain connects these notions. Black is bad and so is dark clothing and walking the street at night is shady. We then probably will feel our bodies tense as the person walks past us, even though there is no evidence that he is trouble. We assume it from foremost his skin color, which is associated with the identity label of black. Then all of the other contexts of the situation also come into effect as well as images we see and the ideas we get from those around us. This then creates the fear that we feel.

The fear comes from how our brains are wired and it's very hard for even the most conscious person to control. That doesn't mean we can't make an effort, though! The best way to go about negating these stereotypes and false ideas is to be critical. Think about how the books you read, TV shows you watch, social media you use and the video games you play contribute to your ideas and perspectives. Notice when you are consuming these various forms of media what your ideas are and how the reflect the ideas/images in the actual media. Notice your friends attitudes and how they change yours. Think about how your school or work activities do the same. Use this critical thinking to transcend these ideas and liberate yourself from their oppressive nature. Do everything in your power to change your ideas about people and catch yourself when you are making a judgement. Use your identity labels with pride (if you so choose) and never feel like you should be treated as less because of them. Treat people the way you want to be treated and don't made assumptions when you wouldn't want others to do the same for you. Basically, treat people with the respect they deserve and be critical in your actions so that you can do so.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cause of the Week: SlutWalk

I'm sure you have probably heard about SlutWalk before... men and women marching through the streets, scantily clad, with signs and chants about how society blames victims for being raped. That sort of paints an accurate picture, but you really have to understand SlutWalk's history to fully understand the movement.

According the Wikipedia, On January 24, 2011 Constable Michael Sanguinetti spoke on crime prevention at a York University safety forum at Osgoode Hall Law School.[8][9]He said: "I've been told I'm not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."[9] Co-founders Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis decided to use the word slut in their response.[10] They observe that historically, "slut" has had negative connotations, and that their goal is to redeem the term.[5] They write that women "are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result." 
The first SlutWalk was born; over 3,000 people came together to speak and march to the Tornoto Police Headquarters. Women dressed like "sluts" in order to send a message. The movement caught on like wildfire and there have since been SlutWalks all over the world, including New York City, England, Australia, Seattle, and Asheville. It has gotten a slew of media coverage, press and attention from feminists
I think grassroots movements like this one are key to creating social change. For centuries, we have seen oppressed groups come together to strike, march and protest. This on-the-ground-activism has played a pivotal role in bringing issues like this to the forefront. Sure, women's rights advocates and prevention specialists have talked about slut shaming before. They have written books, given speeches, held forums and conducted research. But before SlutWalk, there was never any publicized events of this nature. There were never any public displays of slut...and did there ever need to be. Since SlutWalk began a year and a half ago, I have seen major changes in the ways activists treat women's bodies. I have seen mobilization where there was none, a voice, a passion given to women of all shapes and sizes. Suddenly, sluts had a voice and it was pretty damn cool to be one. Slut was officially taken back. 

I believe that SlutWalk will ultimately play a role in beginning the conversation in society about the double standard between men and women's bodies; men can show skin, be topless and its no big deal, it's not sexual at all; but if women do the same they are dirty, inappropriate and anything but proper. People are beginning to wake up and see the body shaming that happens every day. People are beginning to see the rape and sexual violence that happens because of it. People are beginning to see the destructive nature of this notion. People are beginning to change.

So go out there and be a slut, show your skin, love your body and don't be afraid! Love yourself and dress any way you feel comfortable dressing. Empower other women around you to do the same and challenge societies ideas about appearance. Encourage them and their journey of self discovery. Be bold, be proud, be beautiful. Be Slut. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Feminism is For Everyone

Recently, I read bell hook's "Feminism is for Everyone". I had been wanting to read the book for a long time, as I read a lot of feminist theory and also am a fan of hooks herself. So, I decided I would order a copy from my local library.

I was rather excited when I first opened it up. I found myself entering a world of intellectual honesty, hard truths and bravery. The way she presents the material makes you feel like she is both your sister and wise grandmother. She speaks about feminism, race, and history from a very honest point of view. She is willing to go where many feminists are not. She is willing to talk about the mistakes feminism has made. She addresses the seemingly taboo issue of man-hating within feminism. This fact alone put a huge smile on my face! If only she realized the dialogue she was opening, the critical thinking she was facilitating. This was the kind of book that needed to be on every bookshelf.

I was so excited to read a book that had passion and insight behind it. I've read so many other books by feminists that try to dress up the issues, to try and make them somehow easier to deal with. To make the pain and suffering experienced by many less vocal. It was this sort of dishonest rhetoric that has disappointed me time and time again. This book, however has changed all of that. It has made feminist theory and literature once again beautiful to me. It has created a sustaining dialogue that encourages radical thought.

The one major critique I have of this book is its redundancy. Bell seems to repeat herself over and over again throughout. While her points are excellent, they seem to be emphasized again and again. The book itself is only about 120 pages, but with the current content could be cut down to about 70. In fact, I think cuttings its length would strengthen the book. It would make the message stronger, the convictions greater and wouldn't leave the reader lost in redundancy.

Overall, this is a great read for any feminist, or anyone that is curious about feminism. It covers everything in a short, quick read from the basics in feminist theory to history to culture. It's everything you could want in a book about feminism!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Laci Green: My Take on the Drama

I have followed a social justice blogger and sexuality YouTuber named Laci Green for years now. She has always reminded me of myself; very passionate, intelligent, funny and beautiful! I aspired to be like her!

She hosts a YouTube webshow called Sex+ that explores sexuality, body image and relationships. She has over 180K subscribers and millions of views on YouTube.  It's really inspiring to see a young woman go out and create social change!

Lately though, some shit has been going down! Laci is an active tumblr user. She posts very often and also responds to her audience. A few weeks ago, she posted some "before and after" pics of her body transformation.

2 years ago, I weighed 162 pounds.  Today I weigh 126.
I didn’t lose the weight by hating myself down to a size 4.  Not through dieting, not through crazy amounts of exercise, not through calorie counting, or purging.
I lost 35 pounds by learning to love and take care of my body.  I realized that part of loving myself is giving my body what it needs.  I changed my diet to include mostly plants, I cut out soda and fought hard against my addiction to sugary/fatty foods.  I began to see food as fuel and to use it as such.  I also made sure my body was in motion for at least 1 hour everyday, and these days I am even working on becoming physically stronger.  I knew that my old eating/exercise habits would not suit me as I began to age.  I knew that I wasn’t treating my body well.
When I truly began to love it, it took a new shape.  I loved my old shape.  I love my new shape.  I love it all because I love me! x)

The problem? She has just posted a video about fat shaming. She is equating herself with what she eats, her habits and her size. As if that is what's important. How she looks. And as if HER habits are the BEST habits.

She later posted a half-assed apology, but I don't think the concerns of the post ever really resonated with her. I definitely see where she went wrong, but I also see that she was just trying to love her body and is happy with who she is. That's great. I think the whole issue comes down to a failure to recognize her own mistakes as well as an overreaction from the tumblr crowd.

As if all this wasn't enough, she then got into it with someone else, talking about Islam. Basically, she bitches and moans about how organized religion sucks and her upbringing was filled with sexism.

Q: Sorry if you already answered this, but I came across your other channel and just watched the video where you say Mormonism is “probably one of the most sexist [religions] that I’ve come across, beside Islam.” Since you are white and have never been Muslim, could you issue an apology, or update the video with an apology in the description? I am an atheist too, but there is horrible sexism in many religions, and in secular culture as well. It’s not right to single out Islam. It’s Islamophobic.

A: You’re right, it’s not right to single out Islam. Many religions and cultures are extremely sexist and I despise them all equally. This wasn’t the intent of my statement and I apologize if it came off that way.

The video (which is kinda old and came before I learned how to be fully “PC”) is about my experience, and in my life, Islam has perpetuated more gendered violence and sexism toward the women in my life and family than mormonism ever did. Both these religions have wounded me and my loved ones deeply, much of which was on the basis of sex and gender. Just writing about this makes my heart sink. No amount of screaming “Islamophobia” will change that, and it’s actually a wonderful example of how childish and ignorant religion makes people out to be. People get so wound up in defending anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-human, piece of trash organizations that they can’t hear criticism for what it is: a human experience that is real, that is valid, that is unjust.

Yes I am white and no I am not Muslim nor have I ever been. There are certain experiences I can never speak about, such as actually being Muslim or being a person of color. I can, however, speak about my own, and to argue that I must have dark skin or have been a practicing Muslim in order for me to do so is more of the same oppressive bullshit.

I grew up in a multicultural family. My dad’s side of the family immigrated from Iran 20 years ago. My dad himself immigrated to America when he was 16. My family is Muslim on my dad’s side and Mormon on my mother’s (although my dad eventually converted to mormonism). I grew up in a climate where these two religions dominated my life in a really painful way. 

I don’t owe ANYONE explanations of why I feel the way I do. I don’t need to rehash things that have hurt me and that I’ve moved on from. My feelings and experiences are perfectly valid on their own. If you want to call it “Islamophobia”, I’ll call you ignorant. This isn’t about quantifying pain, this is about my own experience with that pain. Calling that “Islamophobia” undermines what Islamophobia really is and how it operates. I fucking hate organized religion, including Islam, and all the pouting in the world won’t change that.

OK here's the deal: she is allowed to have her own opinion about Islam and religion in general. But, where she crosses the line is in insulting and attacking someone else's beliefs. Attacking and slandering others because they belong to Islam. That is called discrimination. Which she actively speaks out against. Hmmm......

NOW she has received death threats from some haters. They sent her pictures of her apartment building, her address and threatening messages. She is in great distress and has thus left tumblr for the time being.

hey peeps,
i am going to be taking a break from tumblr.  i’m not sure how long. i have been getting a slew of people (who i can only guess are from “social justice” tumblr) telling me to kill myself, making violent threats, sending me my home address they somehow found.  my inbox this morning was graced with pictures of my apartment building. 
i honestly have no words.  
love you all.

I am outraged by this. This was taken WAYYYY to far out of context. Harassment? Threats? NOT COOL! NEVER! IDC what the other person has said or done. It never is okay to do that to them. This is really why the internet gets such a bad name and why it has done so much damage to so many. 

So while I feel the outrage towards Laci was justified, I feel the actions this group are intolerable. It really sucks that this stuff happens and we have to be aware and speak out against it.