Interview with Alex Creece, July Featured Author

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Starting this month, Rosewater will be having a “featured author” each month. The editors choose a contributing author, ask them a few questions, and focus that month on publishing many of their pieces. This month, we have chosen Alex Creece, a dedicated Rosewater contributor. Alex’s pieces have historically crossed genres, focusing on personal narratives, virtual reality and occasionally the overlap between the two.

Where did you grow up? How did it shape your writing?
 
I grew up in Australia and Dubai (UAE). I’ve always been extremely shy, but I think this trait has helped me become perceptive and find my voice through written words, rather than pressuring myself to talk for the sake of merely filling the silence. I’ve also met lots of vastly different people in my life so far and I try to strike up a good balance between upholding my ethics, but still being open to new information and making sure I am respectful of diverse opinions, not just ones I already agree with. I am passionate about my principles, but I like to make sure I am never too proud or righteous to be wrong or learn something new.

Which authors have most shaped your writing style?
 
Octavia E. Butler, H.P. Lovecraft, Margaret Atwood, Franz Kafka and Maya Angelou. I love oddities and honesty in literature.
 
What is your favorite Rosewater piece that you’ve written?
 
Witchcraft in the Modern Workplace. It has a lot of heart. And witches.
 
Describe your writing style in six words.
 
Whimsical, unashamed, vulnerable, introspective, sincere and…playful.
 
What advice do you have for young writers?
 
Share your work. I used to be terribly secretive about my words, even with my friends. At some point, I think I just became more interested in getting the feedback than I was afraid of it anymore. I’m so glad for that. Keeping my writing to myself didn’t give me enough opportunities to improve and expand on my ideas. It kept me in a bubble of self-preservation. Vulnerability is one of the most refreshing aspects of literature, and it’s even more wonderfully vulnerable if others can engage with your words too. No piece of writing will ever be universally appreciated, but if it matters to you, it will probably resonate with at least one other person. Your words cannot hold as much freedom if you clutch them too close to your chest.
 
Some of your pieces have dealt with difficult topics, like cat calling, mental health, and body image. Is writing your self-care? Do you have other ways to take care of yourself?
 
Writing is an important aspect to my self-care but I try to make sure I do lots of little things to help myself, just as I like to do for others. I was talking recently to my beautiful friend Tyran about stress management and he told me that I needed to make sure I was setting aside some time every day, even just fifteen minutes or half an hour, to dedicate to writing or any other kind of thoughtful catharsis. This has been helping me a lot, as I am trying to frame my own needs and well-being not as a pipe dream, but as a daily priority. Even in small bursts, dedicating regular time purely to my own interests makes me feel less suffocated, and as if I am switching off the other channels so I can listen to myself and properly tune in.
 
Where else can we find your writing?
 
Ramona Magazine, Antipodean Sci Fi, Literary Orphans…I actually have a list on my website, but it is in need of an update: http://www.creecedpaper.com/works/
 
What is next for you, writing-wise or in general?
 
I’d like to write some more short stories when I get a chance. I’d also like to get out of my comfort zone and try a new style or genre, or attend a workshop, or even read some words out loud where other people might hear them. As for what’s next in general, I’d like to continue finding ways to use my powers for good while still dressing like a villain. I hope that takes me somewhere interesting and helps a lot of people along the way.

DON’T Talk to Me ~ Free Desktop Wallpaper

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Read. My. Body. Language. Don’t talk to me!

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A Reminder of Sexism on International Women’s Day

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”
– Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities”

On International Women’s Day, the global community took time to appreciate the work that women around the world have done to further the cause of their liberation, as well as to recognize that which remains to be done. For many, it was a day of celebration, but it was also a day of gratitude. The brave, intelligent, and powerful women who have gone before us into the wilderness, cutting a path so that others may follow, have led us to where we are today. The view from our current location is far more hopeful and beautiful than that which our sisters saw 100 years ago. Unfortunately, old and young women alike were reminded of the long and winding road that still lies before us that day. As a high school student, I am very aware of the presence of sexism in the minds of my male peers. However, their actions during a month for celebrating women and their accomplishments, exposed their beliefs to the entire community.

There are unusually many Catholic schools in my area, relative to the local population. Of the five Catholic high schools, four are single-sex – two all-girls and the rest all-boys. On International Women’s Day, a group of disgruntled young misogynists from one of the boys’ schools decided to spread messages of sexism and hate throughout the school, extending these messages online through social media. They wrote things like, “repeal the 19th” and “all they’re good for is sex, cooking and cleaning” on the chalkboards at school. They also sent these messages through Snapchat to both female and male students. A student from one of the girls’ schools was horrified by what she saw, some of which were sent directly to her, and decided to confront these young men. Word of her retaliation spread throughout the male population at the school. They were offended at the idea of being forced to accept some sort of accountability for their horribly sexist actions. Instead of apologizing, they replied with derogatory tweets and Snapchats, among them the lovely sentiment that her boyfriend should control her better. Some even created an anonymous Snapchat account and sent her hateful messages, one of them reading, “you fucking sensitive whore, take a fucking joke.”

It is true that, in order for these sentiments to have spread, they needed to be supported by the approval or inaction of others. Other boys spread the messages or looked away. It is likely that the faculty, working for a school that fervently claims to educate “men for others” as outlined in their mission statement, met the comments with apathy and chose to ignore them. For some time, the president of the school said nothing more than that the actions of some students did not represent the school as a whole, probably in an attempt to preserve either the school’s or his reputation.  This was false, as this incident was certainly not isolated. Even those who didn’t instigate this female degradation gladly shared in the spirit and eagerly passed the other boys’ messages along. 

Around the same time as this incident, the very same students also edited a perfectly innocent photo from a female student’s Instagram account, making it appear as though it was from a video on a porn website. They took an unsettling amount of time producing this image in an attempt to damage her reputation. Just like the aforementioned sexist messages, the photo was enthusiastically shared by the male students, who claimed to be looking for a laugh at the expense of the girl. The question of whether or not they were aware of the degrading effects their actions could have, only leads to unfortunate answers. If they were aware, then they were knowingly trying to assert themselves as superior to their woman peers. If they weren’t aware, then we can assume that their sexist attitudes are so deeply ingrained through socialization that they don’t even realize how they are affected.

Even in this day and age, when many believe feminism is no longer necessary in the developed world, misogyny still runs rampant through men and women’s mind. A school claiming to develop “men for others” has instead created men who are only interested in themselves and are aggressively anti-women. Even the male students who spoke out against the actions of their peers were immediately dismissed as being far too similar to the women being degraded. After some pressure from the female student who received the hateful Snapchats, the school administration decided to punish the sexist students by making them volunteer for 10 hours at an abused women’s shelter. Both I and many other women in the community don’t believe that this is sufficient, or even a punishment at all. One can only hope that these young men will later come to appreciate the humanity of the girls and women around them, for it appears as though even that has not yet been realized. Lift your eyes to the hills, ladies, for the path to our liberation is much harsher (and farther) than we anticipated.

Transition

God, I hate change. There is just something inside of me that clenches whenever the word is mentioned. I get this mental image of myself as a small child throwing myself face down on the carpet, beating my fists and screaming. And yet, there is an equal part of myself that firmly believes that change is good for me, that it is life-affirming and somehow some mystical change will propel my life forward, making it all so much better.

A New Year, in this respect, always sort of tickles me. We talk so much about change: throughout the year we seek to change policies, politics, societal attitudes, educational curriculums, equality laws, fantastical big advancements that could make huge strides for humanity around us, and yet, come January 1st, we all keep saying the same old things. Cliches about gym memberships, new diets, old diets, new ways to save money are often resolutions we made many years ago and yet still haven’t found a way to actually include in our regular lives. Because we really don’t change too much, in either our actions or our words. And that’s okay. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule and some people thrive on change – living through one new adventure to the next, trying one craze after another, that is what works best. Perhaps in this circumstance, their change would be to just do one thing and not change. Patterns, no matter how they are shaped, are comfortable. Change is not.

The only thing I find comfort in is the cliche of change. I find hope in the changes we all keep striving for on a daily basis and I find camaraderie in the fresh turn of a New Year, a calendar we have constructed to make sense of our world, a return or sorts to a new beginning of yet another spin around the sun. There is something truly special in a universal recognition of the one day of the year signaling a change for the whole world, on a date that itself never changes. We may change how we look, how we act, how we speak and how we smell, but we shall consistently be a sum of our parts. We can change, but never too much.

However, I worry that our desire and drive for change can leave us feeling uninspired and dissatisfied with the lives we currently lead. That we may be holding ourselves back by not letting go of past selves, past loves, past habits that were as comfortable as your grandmother’s old armchair. That when we focus on what we don’t have yet (equal pay), or what we could lose (LGBTQ rights), we lose sight of the great gains we have made (same-sex marriage) and we don’t necessarily recognize the great achievements we have accomplished. The ideal would be to do both, to celebrate our accomplishments as stepping stones towards our almighty goals. But I wonder if that feels a little too farfetched at the moment because as a society, the journey ahead of us is told to be so treacherous, so full of land mines and probable calamity that it can make our great achievements seem small. Those landmark historical arguments we won, that at the time felt like we’d surmounted Everest, can feel like molehills in comparison. And that feeling of dissatisfaction, of reviewing something you were so proud of and realizing you’ve got to keep doing it every day, all day, can push you to the point of despair. If we’re dissatisfied personally, we’re often dissatisfied politically; but it’s very hard to fight either when you’re holding this hurt deep within your person. How do we fight every day, all day, if we don’t feel that our fight has been good enough? And we’re wrong; our fight has been fantastic, but it’s hard and that light at the end of the tunnel keeps dancing just a little bit further on.

I still struggle with change. I might charge into battle tomorrow morning demanding that men’s mental health needs to be championed, that consent from all parties irrespective of gender needs to be respected and that I consider it my basic human right to be able to walk home without feeling afraid – gigantic changes I want to happen in society and the way we educate ourselves, as well as others . Yet, the thought of replacing my car from one that’s currently hemorrhaging money to one that isn’t  – a clear change that makes life better for me – makes me want to vomit. I like my routine, and I like what I know. I like my comfort zone, and whilst I want something better and bigger for society at large, the change required to make my comfort zone more comfortable in the long-run feels too big. I think it’s because it’s so personal, and it’s on me; changing my car isn’t a decision I can ask a focus group to make for me. I wonder too where this fits with self-care, and the aversions we can feel to self-care that are often based on self-worth, only we don’t wish to acknowledge it. At this point in my life, driving a very nice ‘old banger’ fits my identity. It’s my first car, the one I’ve driven down windy country lanes, since I was eighteen, from high school to university to postgrad. It’s carried me through three different cities and three different eras of my life. While everything else around me has changed, my car hasn’t. I wonder if I feel that maybe I don’t deserve that change yet; if I swap it for a younger, sportier model, something that feels slightly more grown-up and dependable, do I think I can also make that leap in my feelings of self-worth? Do I deserve this change? Have I earned it? Can I live up to it?

Change is a wonderful equalizer, if not for the strong feelings it seems to stir and the decisions it seems to enforce upon us. We must either stand against the tide or bow to it. Personally and politically, 2017 signifies a great deal of tension and shift. Personally, I will finally finish my seven-year university career in May. Politically, the UK should be exiting the EU this year and with the uncertainties of Scottish Parliament being willing to move with this, my Scottish home could feel compromised. My passport will become something of a museum relic, with the title of ‘European Union’ no longer valid. I can’t even begin to contemplate America’s next hundred days. The changes that will applied due to democracy at home and in my second home (my treasured academic home) will bring personal and political changes to everyone. All identities (and self-worth) may feel shifted, altered or even unhinged by this change.

When I first began working on this theme of change, it was December and, trying to convince myself that upgrading my car would be a good thing, I began to believe that change was the thing that would save the world – that a Trump Presidency and Brexit would be horrific, but that their “change” could be the catalyst to make us shout louder, to reassess what it is that we want and what exactly we’re fighting for. That the change could be the making of us. As I struggle to remember how the buttons differ in my new car, and consistently stall the start/stop transmission, I’m also aware of how much of a fight one has to make to transition. How it’s a constant, daily thought pattern that must be almost reprogrammed. And I think of the Women’s Marches all over the world and hope that we can fly our flags and wave our banners daily, no matter how tiring and frustrating it may feel.

As we enter 2017, uncertain of just how much the world could change in the next hundred minutes, never mind the next hundred days, I wonder how we might transition next.

 

One Message, Many Voices: The Women’s March

By RACHEL BOLTON

Everyone has seen the photos and videos. Thousands of people in cities all over the world, standing up for what they believe in. The sheer number who participated is overwhelming. Even weeks after it happened, the Women’s March is still being talked about.

Maybe you were one of the protesters, or you knew someone who went. I went to my local march in downtown Boston. I’m proud that I went, sending the message that women aren’t going to give the current president an easy time. The stories of that day are just as varied as the people who attended. My story is entirely my own and doesn’t represent everyone’s experiences.

My choice to go was last minute. I followed the Facebook page for the march in Boston, and two days before the start, I made the decision to go. I felt unspeakably dissatisfied with the results of the election. (Don’t worry, I did vote.) I am still amazed that the American people didn’t elect Hillary Clinton.  While I didn’t agree with all of Secretary Clinton’s actions and views, I believe she would have been a capable and intelligent president. She spent her life working for the government in ways that made her, in my opinion, one of the most qualified candidates in history. Instead, America elected a man who has never held a government job and has a verifiable history of outright racism and sexism.

Going to the march would allow me to put my frustration and anger to good use. I didn’t want to be one of those people who merely complains and does nothing about it. Since all good protesters need a sign, my roommate and I cut up a cardboard box for a canvas. My sign was foldable, something that would come in handy the next day.

I put a quote from one of my favorite sci-fi shows, Babylon 5, on my sign:“No dictator, no invader can hold an imprisoned population by force forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom.” I thought it fitting for everything that has happened since November 8th. 

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Holding my sign at the march. Photo courtesy Rachel Bolton.

I live in Salem, a place known for its history with the infamous Witchcraft Trials. Up in the North Shore of Massachusetts, Salem is about a half hour train ride from Boston. There was no way I was going to try to drive there when I knew the city going to be busy. Since I was taught by my dad to never be late for things, I aimed to leave for Boston two hours before the march started.

When I got to the train station that morning, I expected it would be a little more crowded than usual. It was packed, I could barely find a place to stand. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said they would have more trains available that day, but I overheard two women talking that the trains had been full since several stops ago.

My stomach sank. I didn’t want to miss out on what I knew would be a historic moment. However, the commuter rail did stop and I got onboard when a woman opened the door.

The train car was like a proverbial can of sardines. Luckily, my unwieldy sign folded up, and I tucked it under my arm.  I don’t think anyone else could have fit after the stop in Salem. Despite my claustrophobia, I was impressed to see that so many people wanted to be a part of the march, even piling into an overcrowded train so they would be able to participate.

The most interesting conversation I had that day was with an older woman I stood next to. After apologizing for having to be in her personal bubble, she told me about her and her family’s history of activism. Her mother had marched with Martin Luther King in Selma, and she herself had protested the Vietnam War in Washington D.C. She planned to meet up with her son at the march, joking that she wanted to bring her grandson too, but he was three and she thought he was too little to appreciate it.

The starting point of the march in Boston would be Boston Common, a large park in the middle of the city. After I got off the commuter rail, it was just a short subway ride to the park. Luckily this wasn’t as packed but most of the people on the subway with me were also attending the march. The driver of the train guessed where we were going and announced he was rooting for us. Everyone cheered him on for his support.

As soon as I took the elevator out of the station, I immediately felt the energy in the air. I participated in a Black Lives Matter protest in college, but that was much smaller in size. That march had around two hundred people in it, but I could tell that the Women’s March was far beyond that number. I would later find out that 175,000 people attended the Women’s March in Boston.

 I expected it to be both an act of unity after the election and a good starting point for further activism post-inauguration. It was. Already, there were groups of people holding signs and chanting. I met up with my friend, Riley, soon after I arrived. I wanted to have a buddy for safety’s sake, although I’m privileged to say I never felt nervous or concerned for our wellbeing during the march. 

Riley saw my sign, and being a resourceful art student, quickly made her own sign out of markers and a notebook. Holding on to each other so we didn’t get separated, we began to move further into the park.

I thought that the protest would be mostly young white women, but I was happily surprised to see it was not the case. The crowds were diverse in age, race, and gender. Whole families were there – even little kids holding signs of their own. Pink pussy hats were as far as the eye could see. It’s amazing to me that the president’s dreadful comment has been turned into a symbol of solidarity.

One of the most fascinating parts of the day was seeing what people put on their signs. Besides seeing plenty of angry anthropomorphized uteri, the Star Wars theme was a popular choice. Since her death, Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia has become a face for women stepping up and leading social justice movements. I also spotted several of Rogue One’s heroine Jyn Erso’s quote, “Rebellions are built on hope.”

According to the woman who organized the march, the organizers expected that twenty-five thousand people would attend. Boston ended up being one of the largest sister marches with a hundred and seventy-five thousand people in the park at Boston Common. I told Riley that if more people showed up, we would need a bigger city to contain the volume.

My spot was too far back to let me see them, but the march had decent microphones for their speakers. The Mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, was there to endorse the goals of the marches. Walsh’s speech made me proud to be a resident of Massachusetts. He reminded the crowd that our state has a legacy of being the start of or supporting numerous social movements, from the American Revolution, to abolitionism, and being the first state to legalize gay marriage.

Mayor Walsh hyped up the crowd with his message, readying us for the appearance of Senator Elizabeth Warren. The moment she said hello, all of us marchers started chanting her name. It took a minute or two before it got quiet enough for her to talk.

Senator Warren greeted the women and friends of women of Massachusetts, thanking us for giving her the opportunity to speak. She went on to talk about her disagreements with the policies of the current administration and about how they are not the ideas that will benefit the United States. She said, “We are here! We will not be silent! We will not play dead! We will fight for what we believe in!” The crowd enthusiastically agreed. I knew she was a great speaker, but I was truly impressed with what she said. I sincerely hope that she will run for president in 2020. 

After the speakers finished, Riley and I continued to stand, waiting for the actual marching to begin. Unfortunately, we ended up waiting a long time to move. I stand on my feet all day for my job, so I was used to it. But after nearly three hours in one area I was ready to start walking.

Since the organizers weren’t expecting so many attendees, the marchers moved slowly. In order to get out from the park to the street, everyone had to funnel through one tiny gate. Linking arms, Riley and I started moving forward. Knowing that people were starting to get frustrated with the pace, the organizers asked us to introduce ourselves to the person next to us. We ended up speaking to a Quaker Church group who all came together.

Finally, Riley and I were able to slip through a hole in the gate to get to out of the park and into the march. Residents of the apartment buildings waved rainbow flags overhead. Once we got to the path, things started move faster. It felt nice to stretch my legs. I held my sign up in the air, glad my voice was one of many.

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A small section of attendees. Photo courtesy Riley Cady.

My first exposure to female protesters was the character Mrs. Banks in Mary Poppins. I remember thinking as a kid that if I was alive back then, I would have been a suffragette too. It is with  a strange mix of annoyance and pride that I can look back and tell my younger self, “Don’t worry, you’ll get your chance to protest inequality too.”  Like the movements of the past, the world listened. The Women’s March was an undeniable presence in the cites that held it, the news, and on social media.

I was grateful to experience this day, but only thing that I’d do differently would be to bring a water bottle and a snack. After a while, my stomach started to growl.

Besides my superficial problems, the march brought up a lot of intersectional issues that need reflection. Although the uteri signs were humorous, it is important to remember that not all women have uteri and there are also men and gender nonconforming people who do have one. As a cis gender woman, it is easy for me to relate to the imagery, but there are people who are uncomfortable with the portrayal of uteri as an explicitly female trait. 

Then again, women’s reproductive organs have been historically seen as inappropriate or things to be ashamed of. Putting them on a poster shows that uterus-havers aren’t going to let the government dictate what happens to them.

While the crowds were diverse to a degree, there were not as many people of color in attendance relative to the representatively diverse city that is Boston. White women have a history of ignoring or shutting out women of other races in their activism. We also can’t forget that the majority of white women did vote for the republican candidate. My fellow privileged white women and I need to acknowledge that history and make sure we are making space for and supporting the women of color around us.

Because the majority of marchers were white, and because I was in a liberal part of the U.S. there wasn’t a fear of being harassed for protesting. This will not always be the case for other marches or other minority marchers, especially if they are about more controversial issues or have a majority of non-white protesters.  The protests at Standing Rock are an example of this. 

It’s incredibly inspiring that the Women’s March globally was a success, all of us have to remember that this is just the beginning. We can’t sit back now and congratulate ourselves for participating. With regards to myself, going to the march inspired me to not be a passive activist. I have to be out here, visibly supporting the causes I believe in. I can’t just sit back and share articles on Facebook and think I’ve done enough.

As the new administration continues, we all have to take care of each other, no matter what our age, race, sexual or gender identity, or national origin. Like the march, and like Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan, we are stronger together.

 

 

I Make More Money Than My Honey: Reflections of a Reluctant Breadwinner

When I was a little girl I wanted to grow up to be smart and spunky. I also wanted to meet a boy who was my bitter rival and sworn enemy, but who gradually came to have a secret passion for me. Of course, that passion would only be revealed when I rushed to his side at a time of grave illness and he professed his undying love for me. So basically, I wanted to grow up in a turn of the century novel for young adults.

When I was in my 20s, I wanted to meet a man who was my equal in every way and who saw me as an equal. We would both have fulfilling careers, exciting philosophical conversations over glasses of wine in French cafés, and we would split the housework 50/50. Or even better, I would have a high-powered career and he would take care of the kids. He’d be a great cook and he’d keep the house running smoothly. In essence, I wanted a sexy, intelligent man who was also a 1950s housewife.

These are just two of the fairy tales about love that have colored my romantic life. And what I’m discovering is that the earlier tales don’t disappear. They just get covered over temporarily by the next story, like an archaeological dig of love and longing.

I met Daniel, now my husband, in engineering school when I was 23. He’s unconventional, spontaneous, he feels deeply, and he has a true moral compass. He stood out from other engineers -– on the inspirational poster showing a crowd of penguins, he’s the one painted bright yellow.

Except for the sponge manufacturing factory date, we rarely went to places or events that were intrinsically interesting. It was Daniel’s quirkiness that made our outings memorable. One evening we left his apartment in character – me a wide-eyed country girl visiting Montreal for the first time; he, a foul-mouthed Russian aristocrat – and spent the date in our roles. Another time he demonstrated his repertoire of crazy faces and invited me to grimace back at him. I was entranced.

Daniel is smart, but unlike my 20-year-old self’s fantasy man, he doesn’t enjoy philosophical conversations. He respects me, but laughs in my face when I’m trying to pull a fast one.

My main con is acting sweet and innocent, while in ruthless pursuit of what I want. A few months before our baby was born I was “asking” Daniel “nicely” if he would mind taking care of our older son while I traveled out of town to visit an old friend. He listened to me, and I watched resistance come over his face like a blind rolled down over a window. Why was he being such a jerk? I needed this getaway, I deserved it, and who was he to stand in my way?! Suddenly his face changed, as he realized what was going on. He laughed, and then he switched into Birdie role. He mimicked my saccharine voice and fluttered his lids over wide innocent eyes. At the same time, he used his left hand to imitate the driving force behind my words. His hand came toward me like a drill, relentlessly pursuing me, as I playfully ducked and parried. A second later, I dissolved into laughter, recognizing myself in his act. He’d totally nailed it. Now, with my intense need and demand out in the open, we were able to have an easy, productive conversation. He was happy to give me a mini vacation, and I felt seen and relieved.

I love Daniel’s home cooking. He also has a higher standard of household cleanliness than I do, as I learned when we moved in together five years after we first met. I’d just left a good job to go to grad school. He was working, making decent money, while I was racking up tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. It was awkward for a modern woman. We could theoretically share costs, but my half was just coming out of my loans. So, to cope, we dropped the charade and he paid for most things.

Several years later, he was burned out from an office job he hated and was taking time off to follow his bliss. Hopefully. Or at least find a career that didn’t make him want to stab his own eyes out. He gradually found work he loved as a psychotherapist, but it took time: four years for school and several more years to begin a practice and grow it

I graduated from naturopathic medical school and was trying to make a go of it in private practice. I quickly saw that being financially successful would take years, along with having entrepreneurial talent and a comfort with the unknown that I didn’t yet possess. I was also 33 and aching to start a family. I realized how passionately I wanted a home of my own, and maternity leave that wouldn’t leave me fearful about my finances.

I started to feel anxious, and resentful toward my husband. I woke up to a strong but secret expectation that my husband would provide for us. I envied other people who could go through life with a ‘Trust the Universe’ sensibility, but when my husband talked like that I could feel hot contempt rising up in my throat. “You owe me a home, a baby, and security!” I silently screamed. My thoughts shocked and horrified me. What had happened to my modern values about equality of the sexes?

It was time to do some soul searching. My husband was not providing the things I needed to feel safe and fulfilled, but he didn’t have the same needs as me. It wasn’t his path. Something changed drastically the day I woke up to the fact that if I knew what I wanted, it wasn’t anyone else’s job to make it happen.

It was up to me.

I combined my engineering background and my medical studies to find a full-time job. Now the bank would take us seriously. Mortgage pre-approval and a whirlwind house hunting expedition quickly followed. A few months later we moved into our cozy three bedroom home –- one for us and two for the babies we badly wanted. Something fundamental had shifted for me as I threw myself toward my dream. We’d been trying to conceive for many long months, and after dozens of heartbreaking pregnancy tests, we finally saw that tiny blue plus sign in the window. We’d conceived the very first month after moving into our new home.

There was magic in the air. I was happy, and my life even felt a little enchanted. But the inequity in our work life balance started to get to me. I was working my 40+ hour work week and commuting an hour or more every day. It was me bringing home the bacon and picking up the tab for a few years. I didn’t like it.

Daniel got to work from home every day, and what exactly was he doing, anyway? How much time was he spending watching TV? Facebook? He definitely wasn’t seeing clients every day those years. Was he putting enough time into creating his website, and marketing? Was he pulling his weight?! I had forceful opinions about how he should be spending his time. He was surprisingly unwelcome to my helpful suggestions.

It took a while for a new sense of balance to be restored. Daniel’s practice began to grow, and I could see the pleasure and meaning it brought him. I also began to fully appreciate all the other ways he contributes to our family life. He shops with great care for quality ingredients that he uses to prepare delicious meals. He vacuums with an athlete’s intensity. He notices when the parking sticker needs to be replaced, makes the appointment with the bank when it’s time to contribute to the kids’ education funds, and most of all, he’s a loving and committed dad to our small boys. With our first son, he took night shifts every second night, holding our baby in his arms and feeding him a bottle. School lunches, play date drop-offs, runny noses – he is in. Our 9-month-old baby squeals with delight to see him because Daddy means fun, comfort and love.

My marriage is not a fairy tale. My husband is not a knight in shining armor. He’s not even a turn of the century romantic lead. There’s a part of me that wishes he were, but the clear-eyed adult part of me sees the ordinary heroism in the way we try to be real with each other, and in how we show up for our kids.

White Out: How Disney Discontinued Their Discussion on Race

I was recently listening to one of my new favorite podcasts, Another Round, and they started reminiscing about how The Proud Family was such a solid show for its time.

(Side note: if you don’t already listen to Another Round, you should check it out! Tracy and Heben will fill your earbuds with contagious laughter, as well as smart critiques revolving around race, gender, pop culture and media).

The Proud Family was a really empowering show, but thinking about it now, back when I was little and didn’t know anything about feminism, I realize that I took shows like this for granted. I started thinking more about the shows and the made-for-tv movies the Disney Channel had created when I was growing up. Many of these were empowering and diverse in a way that you just don’t see in mainstream media today. One movie that will always stand out in my memory is one called The Color of Friendship.

Set in 1977, the movie is loosely based on the short story “Simunye” by Piper Dellums, written about real events that occurred during apartheid South Africa. The movie portrays the story of how Mahree Bok, a white South African, and Piper, a black American from DC, form a strong bond despite their differences. Mahree decides to study abroad for a year but is met with surprise when she arrives in DC, as she is expecting to stay with a white family, while Piper’s family, the Dellums, who are black, expected to have a black student staying with them.

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Mahree arrives with a lot of assumptions and stereotypical views, mostly from her upbringing. She and her family benefit from the apartheid as a wealthy white family in South Africa. When Mahree arrives in the US, both she and Piper are taken aback by the disparity between their cultural norms and their expectations. Mahree doesn’t understand that there can be black politicians and Piper doesn’t understand that there are white South Africans.

After activist Steve Biko is killed, protests break out all over the world. Mahree makes an ignorant comment about Biko’s death and Piper rips her a new one, explaining how she has no idea of the racial struggle happening in South Africa. Piper’s father Ron, who is a very outspoken opponent of the apartheid, teaches Mahree about the book Roots. Both girls learn to put their judgements aside and figure out how to bridge the gap between them. Together, the Dellums help Mahree understand the damaging aspects of the apartheid. One of my favorite scenes is when Mahree tells Ron a story that her maid Flora told her, about a weaver bird which built communal nests that many other birds lived in, symbolizing the possibility of racial harmony. In the end, Mahree returns home, understanding the world a little better. She even sews a flag inside her jacket, showing it to Flora, as a way of rebelling against her family.

In terms of tv shows on Disney Channel, The Proud Family was one of the most empowering ones. Each character has a personality and there are few (if any) racially based stereotypes. If you didn’t grow up watching this show, it premiered in 2001 and tells the story of teenager Penny Proud, along with all the funny, difficult moments that come with trying to find her independence. Penny is a normal girl with a diverse set of friends, like Dijonay, Sticky, LaCienega, and Zoey (one of the few white people in the show). She comes from a middle class family and often has to take care of her twin siblings.

Shout out to Suga Mama, who is the most bad-ass grandma ever. She watches wrestling and is all about attracting the men, which defies ageist ideas about elderly ladies being less sexual than young women. There’s something for everyone in this show.

The Prouds star in ``The Proud Family'' Thursday on Family Channel.

One of the most personally memorable episodes was the one called, “She’s Got Game. ” During a game of boys vs girls football, Penny’s friend Frankie bets the girls can’t win. When Penny does, he doesn’t take it well. The next day, he teases Penny, saying he could have beat her if he wanted to. Feeling challenged, Penny decides to try out for the football team but isn’t allowed because she’s a girl. When Penny shows up for try outs, the coach is refuses to let her on the field, calling her “baby doll” and telling her to “go home and bake a cake.” Penny convinces him to let her try and she catches every throw (or something like that – I know nothing about football). However, at the end of the practice, the coach still won’t let her be on the team. Frankie approaches her and tells her to just accept it, since “girls can’t play.” Then he explains how he’s glad she didn’t make it since he wants to take her to homecoming and it would be “weird” to go to homecoming with a teammate.

With some help from Zoey’s lawyer aunt, Penny petitions the school to let her play and her petition is accepted. In her first game, the coach refuses to put her in the game until he is forced to after too many of their players get knocked out. Penny proves that she can play when she gets tackled by almost the entire opposing team, but gets right back up again, then catches ball after ball. In the last few minutes, she’s about to score a touchdown, but the ball slips out of her hand, causing them to lose the game. She’s understandably upset, but what’s so rewarding about the episode is that no one blames her for losing because she’s a girl. At the homecoming dance, everyone supports her, even her teammates. Her friend Frankie gets over his sexist ideas and they dance together at homecoming.

Another important episode, called “I Had a Dream” focuses on Black History Month. Penny’s history class is learning about Black History Month and are each assigned someone important to black history.  Penny and many of our classmates don’t see the point of learning about the past. In an effort to make it more interesting, their teacher, Mr Webb has them dress up as their assignment. Penny dresses as Angela Davis, activist, teacher and writer. Big plus, Zoey dresses as Madame Walker, the first black millionaire and inventor of the world’s first hair straightening product. No black face in sight whatsoever.

Penny slips and gets knocked out, then is transported back to the year 1955. She comes face-to-face with segregation and a time before Black History Month, before many inventions were created (like dishwashers), as well as a time before many black people got recognition for their inventions, such as Garrett Morgan, inventor of the traffic light. She sees her fellow black classmates placed at the black of the classroom with textbooks that are falling apart. Her friend Zoey refuses to talk to her because white kids and black kids “can’t be friends.” The white janitor and Mr. Webb (a black man) have swapped places. When Penny tries to explain that Mr. Webb was their teacher, the idea of a black teacher is laughed at. Penny manages to unite her fellow classmates and defy racial barriers. She gets up in front of the press, her fellow students, her family and friends, repeating Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, “I Had a Dream.” She realizes how important this was to the civil rights movement. Penny comes to appreciate why the past is so important to understand and how it’s relevant to her present life. She learns, as her teacher says, that a person who doesn’t understand their past, doesn’t have a future.

The reason shows and movies like are so important is because when you’re growing up, the media you consume  makes you reflect on yourself and others (whether subconsciously or not). The Proud Family, The Color of Friendship, and other series or movies like these show young people of color that they should be treated equally to white people, their entire race should not stereotyped in media. Yes, they are black, but they are so much more than that. By showing intelligent black figures in media, it empowers black teenagers. There’s a lot of good media out today combating racial prejudices, yet in a way, media for children and teenagers isn’t as varied and outspoken as channels like Disney used to be. We need more movies that talk about important issues like race, apartheids and gender discrimination. We can all stand to learn something from them.

Scanning through a list of current Disney shows, the lack of diversity is almost painful. There’s Girl Meets World, a throwback to Boy Meets World. Though it was one of my faves, it had a predominately white cast, until Angela entered the show in season five. Girl Meets World seems to following the same trend.

Jesse is a about a small town Texas girl who moves to New York City to try to become an actress, but ends up being a nanny instead to a wealthy family. The mother, Christina, is a supermodel and her husband is a movie director. They have four children: Emma, Luke, Ravi and Zuri. Zuri is adopted from Uganda and is sweet, but sometimes very sarcastic. Luke is a white boy adopted from Michigan. He’s a good athlete but doesn’t get good grades. Ravi is a fifteen year old boy from India who was also adopted by the Ross family. Hindi is his primary language but he can also speak English. So, basically if Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt had a Disney show. Even though it has some secondary characters of color, the main protagonist is still a white girl. This is yet another example of how people of color, whether children or adults, are only used in media to support and empower the main role, often played by a white person. Roles for people of color are used to push the plot forward, but are no more than that. By having a rich white family adopt children from places like Uganda and India, it screams, “Look at us, we’re so charitable, we’re ‘helping’ people who aren’t white.”

The only potential for diversity that I found was a show called K.C. Undercover, starring Zendaya, who is currently one of the most famous black female teenagers in the media and recently appeared in Beyoncé’s Lemonade visual album. Zendaya has been in the spotlight for a while.  In addition to appearing in Lemonade and writing a book about tween style, she is also an ambassador for Convoy of Hope, a nonprofit organization that works on children’s feeding initiatives, community outreach and disaster response. Talk about a great teen role model. She was also in another Disney show previously from 2010 to 2013 called Shake It Up. K.C. Undercover is about K.C., a  high school student who is training to be a spy. She is a math genius who discovers her parents are undercover spies and is recruited to become one as well.

The family works together to continuously fight against a criminal organization called The Other Side. Besides being a spy, K.C. is a basketball player and skilled in karate. Her brother Ernie is a computer genius, who is often ignored by his parents. It’s refreshing to see a show for younger audiences that features black families that are intelligent and play powerful roles. Another bonus is K.C.’s ex-boyfriend Brett, who is an enemy spy, played by Asian-American actor, Ross Butler. Interracial topics are another issue that doesn’t get explored enough in media. It’s nice to see a show that features this. The fact that they’re enemies has a lot of potential. Here’s hoping Disney uses it.  

Lastly, there’s A.N.T Farm, a show about Chyna Parks, an 11-year old musical prodigy who has just become the newest A.N.T, a high school program in California for gifted students. This is really hopeful, as the star of the show Chyna, is played by 18-year-old African-American, China Anne McClain. Her best friend in the show, Olive, has an eidetic memory, meaning she can remember images, sounds or objects after only a few seconds of exposure. Her other friends include Fletcher Quimby (weirdest name ever) who in love with her (more interracial relationships!) Other stars include Gibson, the counselor, tutor and therapist at A.N.T. Farm, who is a strange, goofy guy that isn’t very bright. The “it” girl (is that what kids are calling them these days?) is Lexi Reed who considers the A.N.Ts students to be immature.

Disney seems to have gone backwards in many ways. There just isn’t the range of shows that I remember growing up with. However, kids and teenagers these days have an advantage I didn’t. In an age where Netflix is producing better shows than cable tv and anyone can become a Youtube star, there’s access to better shows in other places. If you look, you can find media that represents you and makes you feel appreciated and heard. If only channels like Disney was willing to feature more content like this, maybe we would all grow up more aware.

Other 90s/2000s Disney shows and movies worth mentioning are:

  • The Famous Jett Jackson: Jett Jackson is an actor playing a secret agent who decides he wants to move back to North Carolina from LA to have a normal life
  • That’s So Raven: Raven is able to see the future, complications ensue. Need I say more?
  • Up, Up and Away: Scott Marshall is the only one in his family without any superpowers until he has to save his parents’ from an evil genius
  • Gotta Kick It Up!: Starring a pre-Traveling Pants America Ferrera, the movie tells the story of a teacher who helps a group of girls start a dance team at their school
  • Smart Guy: Ten-year-old boy genius Taj Mowhry has skipped six grades and is now in high school, battling the idea that white people are the only one who can be smart

The Semi-Enlightened Man

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Picture by Ariele Alasko

Let me tell you about a type of man that I keep meeting —I call him the semi-enlightened man.

When you meet this man, he is quite charming. He’s quick to pay you compliments and seems outgoing. All good fun. The conversation goes well and maybe you even agree to meet each other for a drink. Later, over drinks, you find out more about him. He seems to be open to self-reflection and even seems to think more about the bigger picture in life. What a relief! It’s always a nice change to meet someone who ponders his own existence from time to time and doesn’t go running for the hills the moment you mention the words “feelings” or “spirituality.”

Sometimes this guy is interested in Buddhism, wears prayer beads and shows you pictures of his recent trip to Thailand. He attends weekend retreats. He tells you he recently took a massage course in Greece to reconnect his mind and body. How nice! So far so good. After all, we are all improvising our way through life, aren’t we? When I meet someone who is honest about how he’s trying to get to know himself better in order to connect on a deeper level with others,  it makes me happy as a clam! “Waiter, keep the drinks coming!”

He then goes on to tell you that he’s very interested in the psyche of women and thinks relationships are beautiful. “Finally,” I think, “a man whose focus isn’t only on the more southern parts of the female body!” He believes sex and intimacy are not necessarily the same thing. He wants to live an authentic life, not one others have designed for him. Inspiring indeed.

But then he tells you about some of the most beautiful women he has had sex with. How they just laid there and therefore the sex wasn’t great. He explains that men don’t like models because they’re too skinny. Men like women who are curvier, softer, feel good about themselves and are able to just let themselves go in bed. He says you can find out a lot about how a woman is in life by how she acts in bed. He repeats that he loves relationships, but adds that he’s very much enjoying his freedom at the moment. Then he asks if you want to come back to his place to watch a movie. Wait, what?! All of a sudden this enlightened man wants no-strings-attached, casual sex.

So, I find out that enlightenment can very quickly become a mindfuck (pun intended).

Now, of course I love that men really do like women who feel good in their own skin, but if the main reason men like this is because it improves their own sex life, then we have a huge problem. It’s almost like a woman’s self-confidence should exist first and foremost to please a man in bed.

I want to tell this man that maybe the reason these beautiful girls were just “laying there”, is because they just didn’t feel comfortable once they sensed this man was secretly degrading them. Sharing your body with someone for the first time can be extremely intimate and requires a leap of faith. You trust that the person you’re sharing your body with will appreciate you for the person you are, not grade your performance while you’re naked and vulnerable.

So what if all the self-reflective, spiritual talk is actually just a way to get a girl in bed? Then she can start her free spirited performance for Mr. Enlightenment.

The semi-enlightened man does truly exists and sometimes it’s hard to identify him before its too late. This type of guy is so busy talking about how in touch he is with himself that he often doesn’t even take the time to see you. He doesn’t listen to you—yet he somehow thinks he has you all figured out and, of course, has to share that wisdom with you. He wants you to know that you’re afraid to lose control, because obviously he knows you better than you know yourself, having spent twenty seconds with you, wherein he mainly talked about himself and his path to enlightenment.

The kind of enlightenment that I’m interested in is a different kind. It’s very simple: put love into the equation. You realize how incredibly intimate it is to be with someone, so you’re happy when you’re with that special lady, regardless of the position you’re both in. Give it some time. You’re both opening up, daring the greatest risk of all—to be vulnerable. Equally. Sincerely. No performance, just two very brave people, growing together in shared intimacy. That’s the kind of enlightenment we should be seducing each other with. Because, if you ask me, it’s sexy as hell.

Deadpool: Bros Can Be Superheroes Too

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Now that the holidays are over and we’ve already seen Star Wars at least once, if not twice, it’s time for the next big movie. For a lot of people, this will be the superhero story, Deadpool.  I recently saw a Deadpool trailer and was, to be honest, not surprised at all. The trailer was called, “Blatant Bachelor Baiting TV Spot (w/2% real roses).”

It opens with Deadpool lying on a couch, holding a rose. “Oh hello!” He says. “You’re probably thinking, ‘my boyfriend said this was a superhero movie’. Well, surprise, this is actually—lucky you—a love story.” Begin superhero reason for existing, bad-ass shots of Deadpool suiting up and making giant leaps onto bridges, etc etc.

I found this trailer offensive for obvious reasons. The idea that a woman could never be interested in a superhero movie, would only be going because her boyfriend dragged her and is only interested in romantic comedies is a worn out idea that likes to skip along hand in hand with the laughable idea that a woman could actually be interested in nerdy things, like comic books and video games.

I’ll admit that the humor throughout the rest of the trailer was amusing. Deadpool manages to fight villains, all while maintaining a note of sarcasm, littered with jokes. So, I thought, maybe it was just this one trailer. Maybe it’s not as bad as I think.

Another trailer opens with Deadpool riding in the back of a cab, when he pops his head forward to talk to the cab driver (stereotypically an actor playing a South Asian cab driver), saying, “Kind of lonesome back here.” He struggles to get up front, bringing some comedy in his clumsiness, when the camera angle points up at his face from his crotch.

Later, after Deadpool spears a guy with his swords, he explains how this is a different kind of superhero story. The camera then pans across his butt, while he voices over the shot, explaining, “To tell it right, we got to take you back right before I squeeze this ass into spandex.” Cue background storyline.

This movie is problematic for several reasons. Firstly, they turn the male gaze on its head by showing shots of Deadpool’s ass and crotch, which would be great, as it plays on the ridiculousness of the usual pans across women’s butts. But these shots are done so with this mentality of “Haha, look at Deadpool’s butt, but no homo, man!”

Secondly, his whole motivation for becoming a superhero, while at first for noble reasons, winds up being mainly about getting back his woman from his worst enemy. It gets worse. Later on, in another trailer, while in the midst of beating up several criminals, all while in a high-speed chase, he throws a cigarette lighter socket in a guy’s mouth and says, “I never say this, but don’t swallow.” Cue my eye roll.

Towards the end of the same trailer, as a vaguely butch woman approaches him, he says, “Yeah, you’re way too much dude for me. That’s why I brought him.” He then gestures to a giant silver muscular giant, named Colossus. After the woman throws Colossus almost half a football field, Deadpool quickly responds with humor, “I mean, that’s why I brought her,” gesturing to an equally butch looking girl.

“Go get her, tiger!” He calls out to her as she runs to take care of business. Not only does it poke fun at the idea that any woman the least bit butch is more man than an actual cis man, but he also nullifies her effort by talking down to her as if she’s inexperienced at fighting. After butch woman #2 beats butch woman #1 up, Deadpool, awestruck and a little terrified, quips, “Oh I so pity the dude who pressures her into prom sex.”  As if butch woman will (of course) respond to most situations with violence.

We’ve seen enough superhero movies like this, featuring a mostly white cast, with very few empowering female roles. The only possible hope against this is when Morena Baccarin, who plays his love interest, delivers her line, “I’ve played a lot of roles. Damsel in distress ain’t one of them.” Then she punches some guy in the face. I’m guessing this is the only scene in the movie like this. After doing a little research (since I admittedly don’t know much about Deadpool), I learned the movie has several female superheroes, none of whom seem to feature much in the trailers. I can only bet that in the movie the most they do is play a supporting role to Deadpool.

What is most troublesome about this movie is that it’s trying to be different, but is just playing the same game. Deadpool is the snarky anti-hero, all while saving the day. The trailers (and I’m sure the movie) turns the gaze onto a male body, but does so in a way that says, “Look how ridiculous this is, butt shots and all. It’s impossibly for a man to be sexy the same way a woman is.” At the end of another trailer, Deadpool shoots through three men’s heads all at once, pauses, snorts the smoke from his guns, sighs and says, “I’m touching myself tonight.” It feels like the equivalent of a college frat house, complete with a wealth of sexist jokes and the classic ‘suck it’ gesture of pointing to your crotch and thrusting your hips.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a breath of fresh air in the face of movies like this one. I’m sure there will be plenty of people getting excited to see Deadpool, but for the rest of us, we’re ready to move on past these overused jokes for something new.

Why Trump’s Sexist Comments are Worse than You Think

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Donald J. Trump just keeps on proving that he is the complete opposite of a ladies’ man.

During his campaign rally in Grand Rapids, MI on December 21st, he sprang a series of attacks on Hillary Clinton that could only be construed as sexist. First, he speculated as to where Clinton was when she arrived to the stage a few seconds late following the commercial break during Saturday’s Democratic debate.

“What happened to her?” the business mogul and Republican frontrunner repeatedly asked the audience. “I know where she went last night, it’s disgusting…I don’t want to talk about it.” Trump intimated that Clinton was using the bathroom during the break, and was apparently shocked that women perform the same bodily functions that men do.

The sexist onslaught didn’t stop there. Later in his speech, he drove a vulgar dig into Clinton about her defeat against President Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary elections. “She was favored to win, and she got schlonged,” he practically roared with glee. For the uninitiated, a schlong is a penis. A large one. Essentially, losing a primary election is equivalent to getting railed by a big ol’ dick.

It is easy to dismiss Trump’s comments as boorish (at best) and ignorant (at worst), but there is something more insidious lurking within his sexist rhetoric.

By using images of biological functions and processes, Trump is evoking his fear of the abject, whether he realizes it or not (my guess is no). Coined in 1982 by Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, abjection means that humans are scared of anything that disturbs the social order, puts us at risk for being cast off, or makes us question a potential breakdown between “ourselves” and “the other.”

Basically, human beings have a subconscious fear of that which makes us confront our “corporeal reality.” It explains why most people are grossed out by blood, vomit, urine and waste. The sights, sounds and smells are just too real for comfort. The fact that we are barely one evolutionary step away from copulating and crapping in the woods is unnerving to us, whether we realize it or not. Anything that remotely reminds us of that is automatic grounds for revulsion and rejection.

Abjection has long been a feminist issue. In Managing the Monstrous Feminine: Regulating the Reproductive Body, Jane M. Ussher explains how the “fecund female body” has been regulated, revered and reviled in medicine, mythology, art and culture throughout history. Barbara Creed also draws on Kristeva’s work in The Monstrous Feminine, which explores how women are vehicles of abject terror in horror movies.

This is not the first time that Trump has reduced women to their “gross” bodily functions. He ignited outrage when he commented that Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly “had blood coming out of her wherever” after the GOP debate this past August. This was in response to Kelly questioning him if his comments that women were “fat slobs, dogs, pigs and disgusting animals” (his comments about comedian Rosie O’Donnell) constituted appropriate commentary for a president to be spouting.Although it is widely held by feminists that PMS is mostly a social construct, one aspect of menstruation that isn’t constructed is the shame and stigma surrounding PMS and menstrual periods. Girls are taught very early that periods are gross and hormones will turn you into a shrieking banshee during “that time of the month.” These attitudes are suggestive of abjection of the female form.

Trump’s comments, then, must really underscore how he views women. I don’t want to put words in Trump’s mouth, but does he really see women as raging she-beasts barely in control of their bodies? More importantly, should a guy like this be holding the highest office in the county? For Trump’s sake, he better not have any women in his Cabinet at the White House if he becomes president. Otherwise, he’ll have to fire them or they’ll wind up shitting and bleeding all over the carpets.