Copyright flypaper magazine.

Let Feminists Be Feminine

As I’ve stated a few times, I identify as a feminist.

I’m a feminist and a college student – which tend to conflict more often than not. People are often pretty hostile about my refusal to fall back on principles that I don’t agree with – whether it comes from not laughing at a sexist/racist joke, not participating in a party with a clearly anti-woman theme, or generally questioning the idea of intellectualism in academia and its exclusion of women nearly across the board.

But when I first started to identify as a feminist – what really got to me was the questioning of my femininity.

I’m someone who focuses a lot of things that are traditionally feminine – makeup, nail polish, fancy clothes/dress/etc., and I’m sure I have a host of other traditionalist pursuits.

I also decided to cut my hair, which confused everyone around me and coincidentally happened around the same time I decided to openly identify as a feminist. And the comments typically went like this:

How do you stand your hair being so… coarse?

Why did you cut your hair? It was so beautiful before with your curls!

How can you be a feminist when you spend so much time putting on makeup?

I thought feminists were all ugly… but you’re not.

And this is just another example of why I choose to be a feminist. The fact that people feel as though a woman’s credibility should be questioned based on her race, appearance, style, and general lifestyle choices are reinforcing why we need feminism.

If someone falls too far from conventional femininity, people won’t take their opinion seriously. If you’re too close to it, then you’re not really fighting for a cause because you’re falling into traditional norms.

And yes, there is a certain aspect of femininity that reinforces patriarchal notions, but that doesn’t encompass all of feminism by any way, shape, or means.

If someone is actively helping the cause of feminism, recognizing their privilege, and working to create a more inclusive dialogue that all can participate – then they’re a feminist. Their appearance doesn’t confirm or deny any of those aspects of their personality.

At the same time, if someone decides not to fall into traditional ideas of femininity, that doesn’t make their opinions any less valid either. Considering the absolutely vicious things people will say to those who refuse to fit into conventionality, they’re taking great steps to support their sense of personal and social identification.

Overall, feminism is not about physical appearance. It’s about changing sense of ideology, purpose, and focus. Feminism is not, and will never be a monolith. And if you want to limit it based on narrow definitions of attractiveness or physical appearance, then you’ll be missing on how much it has to offer.

Copyright The Gloss

***Flawless (Senior Advice)

Disclaimer: This is just a fun reflection post I put up for my birthday. I make no promises to offer and worldly sage advice, just a few more thoughts on senior year and turning 21. Enjoy!

Yes, I know the caption image is from the song “Superpower.” Yes, I am an avid Beyonce fan. No shame. 

So I forgot to do a post yesterday – it was a pretty hectic and laid-back weekend at the same time. Today’s my birthday, and I’m finally turning 21 with less than 90 days to graduation. It’s also Dr. Seuss’ birthday, which I’m devastated that no one has mentioned up until this point.

More than anything, it’s nice to have a quiet day where I can reflect on how far I have (or haven’t) come since freshman year. Oddly enough, I can say that I’ve managed to accomplish everything that I wanted to do.  And a bit more than that as well. I’ve been a lot of people at Lafayette College who have broadened my perspective on the world and what it means to be a global, engagement, and active citizen, which  is more than I really could have hoped for at college. Most importantly, I’ve learned that I’m really never going to stop learning – which seems a bit obvious to most. But for me, I really had hoped to go to college, learn some marketable skills, and graduate. But now, I can sincerely say that I’ve done a significant amount more than that. And that’s really more than I would’ve asked for at college.

I think one of the greatest things about this year is coming to terms with what it means to be a college student, and a member of Lafayette’s community. More than half of the student body is full of over-committed overachievers (myself included), but I think that’s one of the many things liberal arts colleges offer that we can’t quite get anywhere else.

While I think its very useful to be involved in a single activity that they give their heart to. I strongly recommended allowing yourself to try things out. I really didn’t find my niche until junior year, and my that point I was having to deal with the level of social capital – both positive and negative – that I had created at our college. I think that it’s really important to be allowed to explore for a variety of reasons, not even just for the general learning experience.

I don’t think college is really about finding yourself. At all, really.

But I do believe that college gives the chance to discover who you are in relation to the world at large. The activities you take on, the professors you learn from, and the memories you create are all a reflection of the person who you have become in this world. I don’t think this viewpoint is isolated to college, or that college is the only way that you can accomplish these goals, but I think that it’s important to recognize that college may be one of the only places to get a full view of theories and methods behind social, scientific, and general societal concerns. You don’t have to take advantage of everything, but you should definitely refocus your efforts as well as you can.

… and if nothing else, do as much as you can to maximize your tuition dollars.

Image Copyright Clare College

WordPlay

As a resident INFP, I think a lot about the nuances and politics of language. We even had the chance to talk about it in relation to sexuality and relationships during our ALF meeting today.

In both of my disciplines, I’m constantly arguing on we structure terms and the implications of those words. For example, we’re very quick to assign terms such as ‘fundamentalism’ or ‘uniformity’ to Islam, while allowing other world religions to have a freer sense of flexibility. Or the fact that you’ll rarely ever hear the word thug used in relation to anyone other than a black man. Or, as we expressed in ALF, the terms surrounding sex – hit it/screw her/nail her/bang her/etc. are pretty violent. And as a victim of sexual assault, that really struck me in a way that I hadn’t completely thought of before.

What does it mean to structure ourselves around a series of implications and stereotypes? Is that something we can explain away just because that’s how society has continued to be? Or is this something that we should change for the better?

I’ll always argue for the latter obviously, but it is notable that to an extent, we don’t consciously understand or actively try to oppose these stereotypes. Not that we’re validating them either, where’s the line between complacency and ignorance? Maybe there isn’t one.

What’s your take on the future of Higher Education?

What’s your take on the future of Higher Education?

Happy Friday everyone!

This article comes at such a convenient time for me – I had the pleasure of meeting Lafayette’s newest President yesterday, and she had so many fascinating things to say about the future of higher education and the resulting discussion on whether our degrees/education/experience/etc. has any form of quantitative market value. Additionally, she brought up the need to integrate new technologies with higher education models – using MOOCs as the obvious example. 

And that got me thinking – is that really what I want from my college? I can sincerely attest to the awesome nature of MOOCs – Coursera is one of my favorite websites, and I’ve been using Lynda.com to revisit some software models that I’m gotten rusty with. But at the same time, I think that there’s a lot to be gained from in-person discussion experiences. It’s one of the greatest things about my college in that perspective. 

I think that there are a lot of different takes on higher education models and whether some degrees are more useful over others – but ultimately that perspective leads to a damaging derailment of what college is. Yes, we all want degrees that provide market value and can further our careers. At the same time it’s important to remember that college should teach us more than that. Most of my greatest college experiences were outside the classroom experiences – through clubs, committees, and most often jobs. And this is probably the liberal arts student speaking to me, but I also think that the mentoring relationships that I’ve gained in college are equally as important as my other experiences. 

But I absolutely agree with Selingo’s point that some parts of the college experience are taken for granted. There should be a significant focus on career development, financial management, civic engagement, and even skills that should be general – language learning, computer and information literacy, and public speaking – that colleges should refocus into their curriculum. Students should be allowed to structure their college experiences, but it would be helpful if there were a set of base skills that they all had to learn. 

I think there will be a lot more revisiting in the future, but the ‘future of higher education’ isn’t quite what I’m worried about anymore – I honestly believe that many colleges are actively working to change their perspectives on what they can offer students. Unfortunately, we may be a risk for colleges being used as a substitute for the convoluted – and ultimately destructive – nature of the entire U.S. education system. Fixing one element of the problem may be a temporary fix, but it doesn’t get into some of the bigger problems – but I’ll tackle those in another post!

What are your suggestions for working/improving the world of higher education?

Why College Students Should Write Every Day

Toby My Dear

It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.

- Ernest Hemingway

Maybe it’s the inner humanities and social science major inside me talking, but one of the things I regret most in college is not taking enough time for my writing. I think there are so many hidden benefits to writing, and it’s often overlooked for many people. As someone who has taken on a lot of writing positions through jobs and internships, I know for one thing that writing is an evolving process. I don’t think you ever become ‘perfect’ at writing, you just improve and adapt over time.

And even more unfortunately, people often sell themselves short on their writing abilities. After being a writing associate for Lafayette’s college writing program for a year, I’ve learned that there are many different writing styles based on linguistic styles and cultural perceptions of writing.

But why does this really matter to college students?

Most of our work is comprised of writing research papers, personal statements, and lab reports – so we often feel that writing well is something that we already know. It’s tiring – sometimes I feel that I spend more time writing papers than actually learning about my projects/classes – but improving your writing skills has a lot of benefits.

Personal Development:

For those of you still in the Valentine’s day spirit, writing is a sweet (and less costly and cliche) way of express your feelings for someone. I’m a big fan of letter writing myself, as I believe it is an amazing way to describe yourself and your experiences in a way that doesn’t come across in person.

In college, writing can be a combination of relaxing and creativity. Even if you write on a completely casual level, it can be a much better way of reflecting than just ignoring your own personal thoughts and experiences.

Professional Development:

Cover Letters, Resumes, Business Reports – all of those need a solid handle on business writing. While it can be very time consuming, practicing and attending workshop – or even just reading a few online articles can help improve your stake in the professional world. And since getting a job is the end goal for most college students, it’s a valuable skill to learn while in college.

The job market keeps changing especially in the world of digital media – so its important to learn how to sell yourself via writing in a number of ways – 140 characters, Images, Infographics, and many other styles. That online portfolio won’t write itself unfortunately.

Element of Surprise:

It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous.

- Robert Benchley

It’s really amazing what kind of things writing will do for you – especially once you put it out there in the world. Writing has connected me with really amazing people online, helped me to educate my fellow students, and even discover my love for marketing.

One of my friends is an English major, but her talents in writing has brought her to the fields of communication, education, and even put her at the forefront of some of our college’s publications.

While the actual ins and outs of writing are something that we discover in time, there are so many fantastic and unconventional things that can happen when you put your writing out there for the world to see. Often enough, many of those things are rejections, but its pretty hard to put anything out into the open and not have it criticized. (Maybe if you cured cancer?)

Regardless, I wish everyone the best with their writing and urge everyone to keep at it, even if you don’t think you’re particularly good at it. You’d be surprised what you’re actually good at when you put your mind to it.

 

What do you need to stop wasting your time on?

What do you need to stop wasting your time on?

I absolutely loved this article. I think its incredibly true to life, and points 20-25 hit me right close to home.

And while I think that one could go on forever, there’s one thing that at least for college students I believe is an important thing to stop wasting time on: 

Stop trying to get everything ‘right’: Unfortunately, you won’t get everything right. Whether it’s the right answer, the right question, the right idea, it happens. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to get things right at all, but change your approach from getting things right to understanding instead. What is it that you understand now? If you ask people why they want the right answer – most of us will chalk it up to grades. But at some point your experience won’t be measured in grades or quantitative evaluations, so focus on your internal progress, not getting the right answer.

So, what you think are big time wasters?

How to stick out like a sore thumb (in style)

Warning: This post concerns some serious topics of race and gender. And it will most likely make you uncomfortable. If you’re fine with that, read on. 

In case anyone who reads my blog hasn’t noticed, I’m an African-American female.

This is 100% true, I promise. Feel free to check my profile if you’re still not sure.

And I’m a double major in economics and religious studies at a liberal arts college. And I’m a perfectionist, a social media obsessed millennial, and a fan of mystery novels.

In other words, I’m just like you! But at the same time, I’m not.

It’s not a concept that many are comfortable talking about, but if we’re being honest, being black and female makes me stick out like a sore thumb. I’m currently serving as a trustee student representative and I’m taking a high-level business econ class this semester and guess what? I am the only non-white person there. This often means that I’ll get a nearly hilarious barrage of questions related to my perception of Lafayette – because it’s presumably different? – or whenever the topic of race/ethnicity/gender/etc. gets mentioned, everyone uncomfortably shambles around, hoping to not make eye contact with me.

This originally made me feel special – I’m the only person like me in the room! Then I got really annoyed – why does it always have to be me? Then I got self-conscious – now I have to be the best because otherwise, I’ll get stereotyped! And now, I just look at it for what it is: an unfortunate, but current reality of my situation.  In many situations, I will be the odd one out. And I’m not shy about offering my opinion based on my ethnicity and gender, but I will most certainty call people out for making generalizations on who they think that I am.

I can’t be anything other than who I am. And I choose to go into the fields that I wanted because I want to be a face or a voice for people like me, and people from a variety of backgrounds. Even though 99% of the time any accolades I get will be prefaced with [the first African-American female X] I’m surprisingly comfortable with that. I’ll never claim to speak for every community that I’m a part of, and I won’t let people assume that I do (or can, really).

Oddly enough, by being an individual voice – or sore thumb – I’ve learned how damaging generalizations and dichotomies can be.  I used to think in that fashion about my own identity – still do at some points. There’s no checklist that will capture who you are completely, and I urge you to give that same leniency to others.

Until then, you can stick out like a sore thumb – just like how I do.

Revamping Your Health Mindset

Whether it’s the beginning of a new year or a few weeks before the summer – there’s always the push to eat healthy and get into better shape. But even worse is the struggle to dedicate yourself to a solid plan, and stick with it on a day-to-day basis. Counting the New Year alone, only 8% of the American population manage to keep their New Year’s Resolutions throughout the entire year (myself included).  And unsurprisingly, 3 out of the top 10 resolutions are about health – with losing weight coming in at #1.

These are some pretty disheartening statistics right?

There is a really easy way to get around this: change your mindset instead of just your goals. We all have a natural, innate willpower to align ourselves with our larger, more beneficial values. Stanford University Professor Kelly McGonigal discusses this at length with TED. Use your willpower to push yourself into a healthy eating plan by deciding on what you really want to get out of eating better. This will only happen when you decide exactly why you want to become healthy, and turn it into a goal you’re excited for, instead of a commitment that you’re grudgingly trying to complete. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Take it one step at a time: There are two things in this world that can’t be completed in a day – Rome and your brand new diet plan. It’s perfectly fine to take some time and learn of the new ways you can promote healthy eating habits. And once you do, look for small ways you can break up those tasks. For example, make March the month where you drink a full glass of water every day, or prepare to sign up for weekly Zumba classes in June. If you’re looking for ideas, a healthy eating and nutrition startup in Philadelphia has a list of small ways you can improve your healthy eating habits as a starting point.
  2. Read up on the benefits of healthy eating: While there are plenty of benefits to healthy eating overall, plant-based eating is stated to have a number of positive benefits. From preserving the environment, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing weight, there are a host of reasons to try it. What’s important is that you find the one that will motivate you to stick with it.
  3. Become accountable to someone: The best way to stick to a goal is to have a friend, spouse, or family member hold you accountable. Essentially, let peer pressure work in your favor to stay healthy. Alternatively, bring that person along for the ride and push each other to become more fit, better eaters, or any goal that you are looking to accomplish. Make your new goal fun by including others on the path to living healthy lifestyles.
  4. Think long-term: What will be the benefits of healthy eating for you? Think 1, 3, 5 years down the road and decide what you hope to accomplish. If it’s maintaining a certain weight, visualize how great you’ll look in the future. If it happens to be reducing disease, envision spending time with your loved ones and being as healthy and positive as possible. Many of us work best when we picture our goals, so take the time to create a visual mental image of what you want to occur in the long term.

It doesn’t have to be January 1st to start creating healthy eating plans, so be sure to find different ways and opportunities to improve your health! What other ways do suggest for sticking to a healthy eating plan?

After College: 24 Things You Need To Know Before Turning 24

After College: 24 Things You Need To Know Before Turning 24

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of anything related to your 20′s, as I’ve written a whole post about positive things that 20 years old can do in the past. But I came across this post from After College a few days ago, and I just had to share it. Anyone in their 20′s should definitely check this out, as it’s a great guideline for how being in your 20′s is truly a case a trial-and-error for most of us.