“Hillary Supporter”

It is morning, and I am sleepily making my fiance eggs before he goes to work. After he leaves, I am at a crossroads, like every morning: do I go back to bed, or do I face the world and see how far I get before crawling into bed and going to sleep? I choose to face the world, and I sleepily stumble onto social media, waiting for my tea to boil.

And then I see an article, that I honestly clicked on because I thought it wasn’t real. The news article was shared by the person (a friend on my social media whom I have only met a once or twice) who was in the news article, and had her photo. It honestly looked like one of those quizzes where you put in your profile information and out comes your jail sentence and a random friend is also the culprit. And then I read the comments on the post, people telling her to “not live in the past,” and that they “hope she betters herself.”

So I click, cautiously.

It’s an actual news article, shared by her because people kept talking about her arrest on social media, and she wanted to confront it. Kudos, I applaud your ability to do this, and I respect your ability to confront your past (it almost feels a bit like a scarlet letter, but I digress). I read the article, and I find myself on the comments, which I don’t normally read, but then I see:

MAGICMIKEXXSL (yeah, I’m calling you and your fragile masculinity out) say “To bad so sad, another good looking chick gone astray…” and then:

ITSTRUE comments in reply to this “sadly between drugs and probably being a liberal, shes more than likely brain dead.”

And also:

REAL AMERICAN (give me a fucking break): Don’t they know they want heroin now, not meth. They could make so much more money joining payed to protest crowd. fit right in.

And because I can’t make this up:

CARL VANKRAKENBERGER writes: “Hillary supporters.”

I am livid, and confused. I spend an hour fuming on this, and by the time my fiance comes home, and I tell him this story he simply says sadly “comments are the scum of the world.” And I know this, but look at what happened here. A young woman gets arrested and people start attacking her looks, and her character.

But her boyfriend was also arrested. There are no comments that solely attack him, his looks, or his character. We live in this “post-feminist world,” a world where men and women are “equal” and yet there are no comments that say “what a shame, he was such a hunk.” She takes all the blame and she carries it alone.

But what’s more interesting is the threat that this young, attractive woman causes. Suddenly, men that consider themselves “real Americans” come out of the woodwork, scorning her with “Crooked Hillary,” another woman that has been demonized out of winning an election because she refused to back down. She becomes a stand in for all of the protesters who do not like Trump, who get “paid” to protest. She is not seen in these comments as a felon, or a drug user (and I want to say that the article does not say explicitly or insinuate that she was using drugs), she is seen as a direct political threat.

And that’s interesting because nothing she did is explicitly political. She isn’t running for office, or running a campaign. These people are seeing her drugs as something political and they aren’t even realizing it. The “war on drugs” complex has so terrorized these people that when women make drugs, which is ‘rare’ (read: as seen on the news), they assume that her agency makes her a threat to the political establishment that fuels their comfort and moral grounds. They all work together to shame her, to make her fit back in the little box where one day, if she “changes,” men will no longer look at her and think “it’s a shame, she’s pretty.”

But her boyfriend, well, boys will be boys and make drugs in their apartment.

 

Valentine’s Day Musings

It is 7:00 in the morning in 2004 on Valentine’s Day. I am in the forth grade and getting ready for school. I put on my uniform (and at this point in my life I still like it, because this is my last year in a jumper. Next year it’s a skirt and sweater!) and go down my steps. I walk into my kitchen and there is is: my Valentine’s Day Basket. My mom rocks. Every holiday, no matter the occasion, she makes me pancakes. Even now, a large reason I go home for holidays is the pancakes. Every holiday that I lived at home, she made me a gift basket for the occasion. This year its chocolate and this dog stuffed animal from HotTopic, because I’m 11 in a Catholic school, trying to be edgy and different from my peers who all dress like me.

 

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Good ol’ Dax

And next to those 2 things, a card with hearts on it that says “we love you and we’re proud of you. You’re beautiful and smart Happy Valentine’s Day love mom and Dad.” And next to my dad’s name there’s this little bearded face he would always draw. I thanked my mom, hugged my new stuffed animal and chowed down on my pancakes, feeling loved and happy.

I’m 22 now, about to be married and living far (not really but it feels like it) away from mom. I gave Dax away this year to charity (it hurt more than I thought it would, but I like to think some edgy 10 year old in a Catholic school trying to find herself got him). But this morning, even away from my mom and her pancakes, I still feel happy and loved. It’s not (largely) because of my fiance. I honestly think it was because my mom always taught me that this holiday was about self love rather than romantic love. My Catholic schooling didn’t really romanticize the holiday, we learned about St Valentine and Roman culture that lead to Valentine Day festivities, and gave each other Valentines at snack, but it wasn’t really a big deal. And my mom, all through out my life did not ask me if I had a Valentine. She always made me pancakes with chocolates and card that said the same thing as it did every other year. She always made me think that what mattered is that I am beautiful and smart in the eyes of my parents and that I was loved by them, and even now this holiday isn’t romanticized to me. Today is a day of self love and acceptance, where I eat chocolate cake for breakfast and watch Netflix all morning instead of being stressed. I text my parents that I love them and then read for hours instead of doing the dishes (I’m currently reading: Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). And I like this, because today doesn’t make me feel sexy or pressured to be romantic and overt, it makes me feel loved and happy, just the way I am.

Her Name is Malala

Malala Yousafzai’s story is one of the most empowering stories I ever read. Her strength, intelligence, and moral compass are something to behold, and something that her memoir My Name is Malala, shows beautifully. It’s such an interesting read because it explains to much history, along with showing her place in it all.

And the title, My Name is Malala so beautifully states her agency. She is Malala. This is her story, her battle. Which is why I really hate the the name of the film based of her life, He Named Me Malala. 

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We readers allow editors to do a great injustice to a lot of literary titles. We allow women to be called girls (Gone Girls, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Girl on the Train), we allow titles to be changed to be sexy, when the title originally showed violence (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was originally Men Who Like to Hurt Women). So why am I surprised that this intelligent, courageous woman had her agency taken away in between her beautiful memoir and her film? I really don’t know, honestly, but it also really honestly bugs me.

In the novel, she talks of how her father named her Malala, a name of a warrior woman, but also of misery. However, she takes on these traits as she takes a bullet for education, not her father, not anyone but her. It was her life and her decision, and it’s made very clear in the novel that this is so. But the movie’s title makes her passive. He named her Malala, like that is why she did this. This title change is literally how my freshman professor at Albright taught me passive voice. Dr Gilliams wrote on my paper “avoid passive voice.” And when I asked her what that meant, she simply said “I drove the car is active. The car was driven by me, is passive. Your name is Kayla. Your mother named you Kayla.”

With the passive voice, all things imply that she has no agency, which is untrue. She won a damn Nobel Peace Prize for her agency. Also, who is this he? It’s ambiguous, so it could be God, or it could be her dad, or some random guy on the block. Regardless of who named her, it does not matter anymore. She is no longer a baby, like that title implies. She’s now 19, but was 15 when she was shot–which is also not a child’s age. She was in complete control of her life, like she currently is. This title makes her important stance on education and women’s rights and makes it seem like it is because of her name, or who named her. But it’s not. With this title, we’re allowing a woman, like many other, to be flattened into someone who no longer is in control of her actions, thoughts, and messages about empowerment. We are allowing her name rather than her identity take responsibility for her actions and powerful message.

Macrame Project for ENG323

My tapestry project comes from the inspiration of the Lenni Lenape peoples, who used twine to hand weave baskets and other things needed. I used their traditions of using things from the past—dead—and things of the present—alive to create a balance that eventually lead to my tapestry, which can hold up to 3 plants. The planters on the left hold up to 6 inches, and the one in the center is 4in. I plan on putting this above my kitchen table and putting some native herbs in here. I don’t exactly know what yet, but there is a native plant nursery relatively near by that I want to check out in the spring for that part.

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The planter in the left is a spider plant, on the right is budding succulents!

When making this project, I found a large stick from outside my home. The Lenni Lenape are from this area—close to the Delaware River, NY, and Delaware—and I wanted to use resources that are natural to this area. This branch came from a maple tree, which is not only native to my property, but also native to the area. The twine is not actually true twine, rather, it is hemp. I chose hemp because although it’s not native to this area, or what the Lenni Lenape traditionally use, I was making this with the mentality of their mindfulness and ritual. This natural, undyed hemp I used is more sustainable than natural twine, because hemp is easier to grow and not as destructive to the ecosystem when harvested, as trees are. It really connected me to my work for it to be sustainable while honoring the Earth.

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This twig is almost 5ft tall! I made the plant hangers in the back!

The knots I used were the larkshead knot (which tied the twine to the branch), the half hitch, which is in the center and on the vertical, and the hitch knot, which was the other knot that made up the other 80% of this. These knots are not only the easiest to learn, but can be used to make a variety of things.

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This is a half-hitch, which naturally spirals. In the back is hitch knots

The mindfulness I used with this project was the most thought I’ve put into a work like this. When making it,  I went against my original idea of adding beads I made because I fell into the rhythm of making these knots over and over and loved how organic it became. I originally meant to have more “peaks” to represent the valley that I live in right now, but the large abstract ‘peak’ before the planters really just felt right to me. It mimics my backyard more closely and I love how there are no hard lines in this entire thing. It makes it look more organic.  I listened to myself work, with no distractions. For the 5 hrs I made this thing (in one sitting!) I did not use my phone, I didn’t listen to music. I really just enjoyed making this–it was a really relaxing meditation for the end of my college career. I reflected on making this, but also the things I’ve made in the past 4 1/2 years of college, and what I have done in that time. It’s strange to think that this massive part of my life is over, but I’m also excited for the next part of my life. Like my marriage in June, grad school, and hanging this damn thing up.

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This is the hitch knot, joined to the twig with larkshead knots

 

“What Are You Doing After You Graduate, Kayla?”

There are two (because I literally faced my life-long fear of going down–but not up–escalators yesterday) things that give me existential dread. They are as follows:

  1. Deep space. There is something comforting about being alive in this little tiny galaxy among others, but that’s where it stops for me. Watching Interstellar literally gave me nightmares for a week. If dying wasn’t ominous already, possibly dying alone in deep space just really did it for me.
  2. The question/s “What are you doing after graduation,” “What are you going to do with your English Lit and WGS degree?” and “Why that?”

The second one can best be as answered such:

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Because, asking people questions such as those aforementioned, are quite frankly weird. We don’t ask–or I don’t ask–why people went to school for biology, teaching, or psychology. Why should my major be something I have to constantly defend with a power point, a remark to the next question which is always “do you think you’ll make money doing that?”, and a thick skin. But, after 4 1/2 years of people asking me those questions on a daily, twice on the holidays, I created a guide that others who are thinking about being an English or WGS can use when they feel like Spongebob.

  1. Being an English major was a great idea, and I loved every minute of it. Reading really awesome books while your professor who you respect to the point of idolization brings you in fresh baked brownies because it’s raining is literally the best class ever. For all of you thinking “I wish my professor would make brownies for me”–take a class with Dr. Jennifer Forsyth, she’s a great baker and one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met.
  2. Being a WGS minor was my second best idea, after the English major part. Mostly, because it fit really well into my grid sheet and offered me incredible classes like Native American Women Writers (Dr Amanda Morris), Women and Violence (Dr Colleen Clemens, and Archetypal Women (Dr Linda Cullum). I met some of the most friendly, loving students in those classes, which is an added bonus because almost all English/WGS classes are discussion based. It’s important to feel like you belong and can talk freely in these spaces.
  3. My professors in my WGS classes literally turned me from a ‘slacktivist’ to an ‘activist.’ I can’t be stopped. I am looking into working in non-profits that help women because I want to help the world, and this is how I want to do it. My WGS gave me clarity of what issues I am passionate about, and how I can figure out ways to fix them.
  4. Being in WGS classes made me vocal. Very, very vocal. It’s because I feel confident in what I say and what I stand for. Before my WGS, I thought that things oppressed the lives of women in popular culture. Now, I talk about it. Loudly, passionately, to those who don’t want to listen. I talk to those that do. I make my opinion heard, and I let others know that it is mine.
  5. Being in WGS made me realize that there is no “sisterhood.” There is nothing that joins women naturally, and being a woman does not mean you are a feminist. Most women aren’t. And that’s ok. Being a feminist means that you will face women who do not want change because they individually benefit, or they don’t know that they are hurting from an injustice. You are there to better your life and the lives of others, not shame people for not understanding the implications of capitalism on their everyday lives.
  6. You literally have your own moral support team, made up of brilliant people who think you can do this. Dr Clemens (who doesn’t bake brownies but gives you a great pep talk and some cool feminist stickers) is literally the person I go to for everything from academics to emotional stress. Dr Morris (who you’ve probably heard of because everyone talks about how intelligent and friendly she is and that have taken every class offered by her) walks into a classroom and makes you feel listened to and important just by her being there. How could you not want that?
  7. And it’s your life. Yours. Who cares if someone else has an internship because they’re studying molecular biology? You’re in a class where you watch movies and discuss ideas. You’re in a class where study parties entail talking about social issues and putting together activist movements on campus. You’re making a change in real-time with your own ideas.One of the biggest things I’ve learned from my time at KU is that you can’t make people happy–only yourself.

 

I’m No Angel, and You Don’t Have to be, Either

Going into Victoria’s Secret gives me massive anxiety. To be fair, almost everything does, but VS really is on the top of my list of “Things I Don’t Like to do.” But when I do, it’s for bras, because I have this super-hard to find bra size (32DD). (I guess I could get fitted for a bra at one of those high-end 100$ a bra stores, but that makes me feel like a sleek and modern Italian sports car, not a woman on a mission who doesn’t want her nipples to show through her shirt.) I’m not ashamed of my body, my breasts, my larger bra size. I like my body, hell, I love my body. It is me, and I am it. We get along great. But then I walk into this place that smells like a sexy retirement home with shimmery curtains on everything and I feel large and loud. The drawers that they keep bras in for anyone over a C cup creak. The underwear that you want in a size that isn’t a model-small is in the bottom of heap in a drawer where you have to wave down a sales person to help you find as you uncomfortably ask for your size. Literally yesterday, when I told her that I was a medium-large, she frowned and said “we have limited types for those sizes.”

What does that even mean? Aren’t I, someone in between sizes 8-16 the average American woman? Everyone in this store buying things right now is most likely my normal, healthy size and you limit your sizes for them?

But then I look around and see women in bras and five-inch heels all over the walls. I see the words “BE AN ANGEL.” Stamped on all the pictures in the corners. The models are in lingerie and wings, nothing else. Where are their soft bellies and beauty marks? Why are they all light-skinned and pouting? Why in the dressing rooms are their black-and white nudes of models that I can see in the mirror’s reflection while I get changed with no heads so I can imagine myself as them?

I understand the marketing of this situation. The goal is to be sexy, and to be sexy is to be thin and flawless (at least in the eyes of consuming America). There is a great video by Jean Kilbourne, called Slim Hopes that everyone should take a moment and watch, but its basically this: being sexy sells. Being sexy means being slim. If you’re not slim, you’re not sexy. If this is the American beauty standard that VS wants to sell to, most American women will not achieve it and therefore feel insecure, wanting to buy more little pieces of lingerie and diet until they fit into that model of “being an angel.” And it feels almost like there is nothing we can do about it, because it feels like the world doesn’t want your mortal, soft body that you like having and you become intimidated, buy a bra that’s either: white person nude, black, white, or gray (while the angels of the store buy ones that are lacy and bright blue with little rhinestones on the straps), and leave.

But there is something you can do. You can love your body afterwards, stand naked in your bathroom or bedroom and in your new bra and think “wow without that weird dressing room lighting and no weird model photos behind me, this bra makes me look good and feel good.” Actually, say it out loud. Tell a friend that you bought a bra and that you feel good in it even though you had this massive insecurity about walking around in that store. Bring them with next time and talk about how while this bra is nice, the other one was more comfy and you prefer being comfy. Admit that you don’t have to look like an angel, because you’re not an ethereal being with religious undertones who definitely shouldn’t be sexualized. You’re a human, and a beautiful woman.

Why I Will Not Be Watching ‘Fantastic Beasts’

J.K. Rowling, I’m coming for you.

As a child, I loved your books. But, feminism is about learning that things you love don’t always love you back (I’m not a deep writer, I’m paraphrasing Lindy West because I can’t find the exact quote, but she said it about Howard Stern in Shrill).As I have blossomed into the bitch that I am, I have found that your books also portray women as bitches, but not in a reclaiming the word–hell yes I’m a bitch and I fucking curse too–kinda way.  Your female characters fall flat and I expected more from you, honestly. You, a woman that was writing stories for your children (who has 2 daughters and a son!), put women in these awful troped-up roles where they need men’s approval.

I don’t want to elaborate, but I’m going to. Your portrayal of Harry’s mother, Lily, makes me upset and wonder the way you saw yourself, as a single-mother, in your children’s life. Lily, this beautifully talented and intelligent mother who is repeatedly explained as “top of her class, top of her role,” is reduced to the shape of Harry’s eyes. Not his eye color. Not his face. His eye shape. Rowling, she saved Harry’s life using some sort of magic that literally killed the man that was singlehandedly creating a genocide of a race of people. Lily belonged to this race. Lily stopped this. Not James, not anyone else. And yet, she is reduced to an eye shape. Her son gets all the credit for this as “The Boy Who Lived.” James receives the credit for  Harry’s courage, wit, loyalty, and–oddly–knees. Where does the pride and recognition come in for being a mother that loves her children so much, she literally stops evil incarnate and selflessly kills herself to protect her son and husband? Why does her husband’s traits  carry over, but not hers? Why did you not take this moment to show your daughters (and son) that you were raising alone that mothers can have the power, love, and strength to stop evil and stand up for their life? That those aren’t masculine traits, they are traits that make you a wonderful person capable of changing the world?

Your portrayal of Hermione is a class-A Smurfette syndrome*. She needs to prove her worth, first through her intelligence, and then again through puberty. She is a woman who repeatedly is unafraid to be herself in a world where is constantly looked down at. Her lack of magical parents puts her in the same category of people that Voldemort killed and Lily fought for because she was in the same group. Hermione is this smart girl that Ron and Harry find annoying until they save her from a troll and then she proves helpful by repeatedly being smarter than them–which is really taken for granted more than being praised. Whereas, Ron only sits down with Harry and they are suddenly as thick as thieves. And her sudden arrival as this blossomed princess partway through the series is ridiculous. Harry and Ron don’t have a moment of transformation but Hermione pulls a Sleeping Beauty. She does not need to evolve into someone beautiful, because this could have been a teaching moment to show young girls that intelligence, loyalty, and courage is more beautiful (you know, those traits that she has but are never explicitly praised because only Harry has them–from his father). Young girls, women, and everyone in between sees Hermione as a role model. My friend named her cat after this woman, and she becomes the conflict of a love triangle and struggles to get out of it (don’t get me started on that pissing contest Ron and Viktor have over her, like a trophy they can win).

I could go on, talk about the exploitation of Ginny as a young, vulnerable girl trying to understand her body, or how your fans think that Umbridge is worse than Voldemort because she is a spinster that makes Harry do is homework , or how McGonagall is the perfect representation of a strong female elder but you chose to make her seem bossy and stern for making Harry obey the rules while Dumbledore hands out fucking treats with “go Harry’ written on them. But I digress, because, I will one day teach a class on why women and girls should look to other books to find more feminist representations of what they should be like. And besides, I’m here to question your new movie Fantastic Beasts.

Rowling, you made a mistake when she allowed  this trailer. It appropriates Native Americans, plain and simple. It starts with a book, showing a ship (Columbus? maybe. White person? definitely) going to the New World, the world of Indigenous America. The world that is not new, in fact its been there, with people for over 100,000 years.  If there was a shrugging emoji in WordPress, it’d honestly take up the rest of this paragraph. “Look beyond the surface,” as a native man jumps off a cliff, turning into a sacred totem animal. His face is blurred, he’s not representing a specific tribe, and “skin-walkers,” is and always has been a religious gesture. Not a super power. Also it’s done in sepia tones, making Native peoples look a little, I dunno, nonexistent in today’s world? *shrug emoji* And how dare you use this witch trials as something magical. How dare you justify the burning of innocent women who were used as scapegoats and objects to gain power and prove a point that was being decided by a white, Christian, group of males? And, fuck, I’m only half-way through this money grabbing movie trailer.

J.K. Rowling. This world you created for your new movie has cut too deep. This is not your culture, it is not your land, not your history. This is not your place. What did you or your team of writers research when you wrote about skin-walkers? How much do you know about a land that committed a genocide of people because they were here first? Do you know that Native Americans are still here, struggling to have control over their land, like with the Dakota Access Pipeline? Have you met a native man or woman? I’ve lived in America for 22 years and I only know people with shattered ancestral lines going back to them. Most people in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, don’t even know that these people exist let alone are being attacked by the government on a daily basis. Your use of Salem is insulting to women in America. You are making light of a situation that told women for decades, centuries, even now that women cannot divert from the social norm and have power. Americans are taught almost every year of American history and literature that this happened, and it is taught as ‘an accident,’ or a ‘religious scare.’ But it was really a war on gender and a way to stop female disobedience. You’re using it as a cash-cow.

J.K. Rowling, I thank  and appreciate you for making your novels, for showing little girls that they can be famous writers. I understand your place in popular culture and in history. I also recognize that as women, we don’t have to be feminist, and that you can write how you want to. But I am a feminist. And also a writer. And an activist. I cannot let your depiction of women, Indigenous Peoples, and American history go unnoticed. I’m choosing to argue with my words, and vote with my wallet. I will not be supporting your magical world any longer.

*when going to link an article to this, I only wrote ‘smurfette’ into Google, and was bombarded with search suggestions such as “smurfette sexy,” “smurfette dress” and “is smurfette the only female?” And some say feminism is irrelevant.