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I can be problematic.

These words aren’t easy to get out. They’re a string of words I have to drag out slowly past my teeth, but it’s true: I can be problematic.

I often excuse my emotions with the misogynistic idea that my emotions are just a result of that time of the month during which I’m shark bait. 

I’m talking about during my period, if that wasn’t clear. 

Ever since I was young, I’ve been a fairly emotional being, and it’s not something I’m proud of. I’m sensitive to people’s tone of voice and the way they phrase their words. While it’s something I understand about myself, it’s not something I ever like people to witness. 

I prefer, like any mature adult, to cry in the shower.

It’s inevitable, though, that sometimes the waterworks come at inconvenient and public moments, and this is when my problematic behavior arises.

The first time I can recall it happening was in seventh grade. I was at a leadership seminar for middle school students working on a group project when one student and I got into a heated argument and exchanged not-so-kind words. Me, with my sensitive nature, immediately began to feel tears forming. I tried to contain them, but the girl next to me noticed how tense I was and asked the fatal question: “Are you okay?”

The dams opened wide, and I sat against the wall and cried. People tried to ask me what exactly made me cry, but I didn’t want to tell them. I was ashamed of myself and my reaction. I thought that I should’ve been more reasonable and that I was just overreacting. Embarrassed, I didn’t want to have to explain myself, so I dug through my mind for an excuse and grasped at the first one I found: my period.

Not a single person questioned me. They simply let me be, which was exactly what I wanted. And so, it became a habit. When my eighth-grade math teacher reprimanded me in class for talking to a friend about a question, I was on my period. When my mother yelled at me for not answering my phone, I was on my period. When I got back less-than-ideal test grades in pre-calculus, I was on my period. 

I perpetuated the stereotype that women are emotional and irrational, especially when they’re shark bait. 

Granted if we were actually shark bait and were constantly threatened with being devoured, perhaps it would be understandable if we were a bit irrational. 

But we’re not. We’re just on our menstrual cycles.

The problem with blaming women’s emotions on periods is that it is a harmful generalization that’s used as a way to deem women irrational and unfit for certain professions. It’s used as a way for people to dismiss the thoughts and actions of women they disagree with, and it’s used as a way to invalidate what a woman is feeling as a real emotion, no matter what time of the month it is.

Hillary Clinton had to face this in her campaign, and I’m ashamed to say it’s a generalization I’ve taken advantage of, especially as someone who identifies as a feminist. 

All of this shame over a stereotype I took advantage of made me wonder where the shame that lead to me perpetuating this stereotype came from.

The answer I arrived at, surprisingly, was misogyny.

As a child, I can remember numerous occasions where adults told me to stop crying, to stop trying to attract attention, to stop freaking out over nothing.

There was this expectation, even when I was young, to always be happy. To be flexible and let problems roll off my back. To not be hysterical, because that’s what unintelligent girls are, and I was to be intelligent and reasonable, happy and accommodating.

These are the words society want and expect us, as women, to be. These are the traits of the ideal woman of today: she is always smiling, never lets gender inequality make her angry or upset, and goes with the flow because she is reasonable and charming.

I was taught to smile because it is only with a smile people will truly hear me out. I was taught to keep my voice level and be prepared to concede because it is the only way to even partially get what I want. I was taught how to be a woman in a world where men can yell and react viscerally without being labeled as delusional. I was told how to be a woman in a world where men can be firm and commended for standing for what they believe in, but a woman is just being stubborn when she does the same. I was taught how to be a woman in the context of patriarchal gender roles.

For too long I’ve followed these rules, buying into the myth that my period made me weaker due to the emotions that came with it, believing I needed to behave in a certain way to make up for it, and using this myth as an excuse for myself when I failed to live up to the pleasant standard of behavior expected of me as a woman.

Well, no more.

My feelings and reactions, whether they happen when I am on my period or not, are valid. I’m not being over sensitive; I am just reacting like any other human does, like the men in our society are allowed to do to a certain extent. I am not crazy, and my voice does count, even when it’s heard through tears. 

I am a woman, and when I cry it’s not just because of my period. I’m attuned to the way people speak and phrase their words, leading me to sometimes see meanings the speaker may or may not intend to convey. But that’s okay because I’m no longer shark bait whenever my tears fall. Instead I’m a girl who does not fear expressing her emotions. 

This year marked the 30th Anniversary of the arrival of Columbia College’s first class of women. It was celebrated in an event called CCW30, which brought together graduates and undergraduates from all years and walks of life; there were even outsiders, including a young woman from NYU, who registered to join the celebration.

As a woman in Columbia College, I find this hard to contemplate (not referencing that NYU students would want to cross the line to join Columbia, of course; that’s endearing, not surprising). I arrived in a time when 47% of the incoming class to CC and SEAS identified as female (according to the incoming class statistics provided by Columbia University). I arrived in a time when we were represented.

The women who surrounded me during CCW30 came into a Columbia College that was structured and indoctrinated under the ideology of women being different, not belonging, and thirty years ago Columbia College took its first steps to completely reimagine what it means to be a Columbia College student— paving the way for myself and others.

What I hear most often on campus about the transition is “SEAS did it first.” Indeed, SEAS had its first woman undergraduate in 1943.

The truth is, that Yale is going on 48 years of allowing women in as undergrads, and Princeton’s first class containing women graduated in 1973.

We were a bit late on the uptake.

Should I be ashamed that Columbia College took as long as it did, as some statements seem to imply?

Listening to the CCW30 stories from other Ivy League women who graduated in the early days of the co-ed movement, I hear about slut-shaming in the streets, Deans suggesting instead of dorms, schools build brothels for the incoming women; I hear about the pain and abuse suffered by women in the incoming classes of colleges and universities that I have long respected.

When I ask the first class of CC women what the worst struggle they faced was, I hear about a dozen variations of “getting the boys to shower.” It sounds like living with teenage brothers, and it makes me laugh.

A part of me is incredibly pleased that these women can say that.

And yes, they still had to fight. Sports teams, amenities, all of the things we share now didn’t come easily to them, but I’m glad that jumping in a bit later in the game seems to have meant our women didn’t face the same degree of malice others faced in the rights movement.

It’s a bitter-sweet realization, especially for a campus that identifies so strongly with activism.

And it doesn’t change how proud we should be of these women, who showed us that a couple hundred years of tradition is still a breakable wall.

Raucous singing took over Low Library’s entrance hall at one point during CCW30 as 30 years of CC women began to belt Columbia’s anthems as one (though not all in one key).

The thing is, these women are not just remarkable for taking their place as the first class of women in CC history. These women are remarkable because they have created a lasting community. They still reach out with open arms to support the Columbia College sisters that came after them.

Within a day after the event, I was receiving emails about grabbing coffee and getting feedback (“How can we continue to support the women of Columbia College?”), and suddenly it was like I stepped into the alley behind the Leaky Cauldron and pressed the right brick.

This is the point where the lesson of the day comes into play:

Honestly, until CCW30 opened my eyes, the place I felt most comfortable as myself, as a woman, was sitting with my friends in Diana, adopting Barnard culture. I didn’t actively seek out “fuckboy” free CC or try to build a place for the women around me; why would I need to? There was one next door.

The 30th anniversary of women in Columbia College has changed that for me. I recognize that I can’t continue to step away from the spot these women opened up for me in Columbia’s halls. I can love the safety of having a haven of strong, independent women down the street (SO: Jennifer Kaplan), but I can also work to maintain the same thing here in CC. More than maintaining that space, I can work to improve it.

The first class of women in Columbia College didn’t stop their efforts just because the doors opened or because there was a precedence that allowed them basic human rights. Deans not slut-shaming them from podiums didn’t mean they would stop before making themselves Deans as well— they kept reaching: they appealed to have time on the sports fields, getting up for 5 a.m. practices when Baker was always already booked, they set up an alumni network that remains active in our lives with events like CCW30, and they brought us to the point where we could fight for things like free tampons and pads (though to be quite honest, I’m still crossing my fingers for Always Infinity to appear [with the wings]).

Right now they’re out in the world fighting for women as well. Lilly Burns (CC’09) of Jax Media produces “Broad City,” revolutionizing the portrayal of women in the media. When was the last time you heard someone on a male-dominated network break the period-talk taboo to do anything but suggest that women are incapable of handling emotions during “their time of the month,” after all? Instead, Lilly Burn’s work is fresh and honest, breaking those unspoken barriers.

 

She is not the only one.

I am including a link below to the Alumni Association’s list of speakers from the CCW30 event in the hope that they help you think about who you want to be, understand what CCW30 was, and understand why this 30th Anniversary is so important.

https://www.college.columbia.edu/alumni/events/ccw30/speakers

Take this summer to think about who you want to be in the coming year, and what doors you want to be remembered for opening.

 

womens movement history

Starting today, July 24, NYC enters its 2017 Summer Restaurant Week. Despite the name, this popular event actually takes place over the course of three weeks, as the event goes until August 18. For lunch/brunch, restaurants are offering a $29 pre-fixe menu, and for dinner, they’re offering a $42 pre-fixe menu. While some restaurants offer different dishes for each meal, for others, these menus are exactly the same, so try and score a lunch reservation if you can. Or a brunch reservation if it’s the weekend!

Keep in mind, though, that certain restaurants only offer their pre-fixe menus at certain times. Many only have Monday-Friday lunch menus this year, so save yourself the disappointment and use the filters on the Restaurant Week website. You can choose whether you want a Sunday Brunch restaurant, a Monday – Friday lunch, a Monday- Friday dinner, etc. You can also select filters for neighborhood, type of cuisine, and more, and you can even check out the menu on the same site!

When booking these reservations, it’s also important to note what time the restaurants serve these meals, especially when it comes to brunch because times for brunch tend to vary the most. This might take a little sleuthing (aka going to the restaurant’s website), but it’s better than showing up to a restaurant planning on paying $29 and ending up with a $60 bill.

Here are some of the restaurants our staff at The Lion is most excited for:

  • Ai Fiori: Our managing Editor, Veronica Roach, ate here during winter restaurant week and wouldn’t stop talking about their delicious soup and dessert.
  • Nobu: It’s some of the best sushi you’ll ever have, according to Tech Team member Will Essilfie, and you get to dine somewhere Drake once rapped about. What’s not to love?
  • Gaonnuri: What makes this restaurant special isn’t the food, but the views, which are breathtaking. If you’re looking for an upscale place with amazing ambience and views, this is the place to go.
  • Red Rooster: A fantastic restaurant with an amazing vibe and menu. Great place to visit Uptown, hear some good music, and talk with friends.
  • Tao Downtown: The atmosphere at this restaurant is quite hip and resembles a bar or nightclub. The Asian food served is also quite good, but it is not one of our Directors of Campus Outreach, Yi Jun, calls authentic Chinese food.
  • Cafe Boulud: This is a good French restaurant on the Upper East Side and has a very clean and classic decor. The food is pretty good, and the restaurant has a very classy atmosphere. It is a perfect place to go to after an outing to the Metropolitan Museum or after shopping on the Upper East Side.
  • Root and Bone: Our Editor in Chief, Arlena McClenton, is eager to try Root and Bone’s shrimp and grits. She’s always searching for authentic Southern food in NYC.
  • Indochine: This restaurant is great as it was a ‘young and hip’ atmosphere and ambience. However, while the food tastes pretty good, keep in mind that it is not traditional Vietnamese cuisine but instead a French fusion.
  • Aureole: Delicious modern western cuisine that is totally worth every dollar. It is quite fancy, so be prepared to spend once you get there if you don’t go during Restaurant Week.
  • Tuome: This restaurant serves a delicious fusion of Asian and western cuisine for a reasonable price. Yi Jun, one of our Directors of Campus Outreach, would recommend it for dinner if you find yourself in the East Village.
Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone. Photo Courtesy of Joan Marcus.

“There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.”

Helena Rubinstein, cosmetics entrepreneur and rival of Elizabeth Arden, repeated that over the course of her career. Beauty was revolutionized by Rubinstein and Arden, but more importantly, they were powerful entrepreneurs in a male-dominated workforce. War Paint, a new musical at the Nederlander Theatre, gives us a glimpse of the day-to-day of the lives of these women and their rivalry.

The set design was beautiful, the costumes were magnificent, and, of course, the two-time Tony Award-winners Patti LuPone (Helena Rubinstein) and Christine Ebersole (Elizabeth Arden) were fantastic, as expected. The musical progresses from the advertised topic, the rivalry of these two beauty entrepreneurs, to a broader reflection on their internal struggles as powerful women. By the end of the musical, drugstore cosmetics lines have devalued the image of timeless beauty, and the two women are forced to reflect on the value and impact of their lives’ work.

While a compelling and moving narrative put to incredible music, the flow of the lyrics was sometimes stilted. Elizabeth Arden, despite her humble upbringing and incredible corporate empire, was portrayed as a brainless blonde in contrast to Helena Rubinstein. She was ‘obsessed’ with her packaging, as opposed to obsessed with how good her porcelain containers were for business. In wartime, the outfits of her sales representatives were exaggerated by ‘military women’ in short skirts, contrasted sharply by Rubenstein’s clinical containers and women in military-inspired uniforms. The rivalry between the two women was written with a strong hand and exaggerated dialogue, while their hesitant coming together seemed much more natural. And at the end of the performance, a question about the unresolved impact of cosmetics on women’s freedom seemed to be misplaced. The narrative of two successful women strong enough to create a lasting industry was diluted by the question of their lasting impact, not on professional women but on beauty standards.

Overall, War Paint brought this narrative into the 21st century with grace and respect for the immense task that both Rubinstein and Arden faced in building companies named after and run by women.

Photo courtesy of BBB.

Rousing applause closed the night at Bandstand, the latest of Broadway’s American musicals. Bandstand boasts an all-original storyline and an all-American plot, addressing the inaction of American government and society in addressing the needs of our veterans in a post-World War II, swing-era context. A tantalizing portrayal of the not-so-glorious aftermath of World War II, Bandstand catalogues the story of Donny Novitski (Corey Cott), a swing pianist from Cleveland with a desire to make it big in the city that never sleeps, and Julia Trojan (Laura Osnes), a recently widowed choir singer who decides to pursue the dream of being a jazz vocalist in order to cope with the unfortunate demise of her husband in the war.

The musical tells the story of a group of veterans gathered by Donny (in a wonderful scene in which each character has a chance to declare “I know a guy”) who form a band to compete in a national radio contest in New York City while struggling to fit into their old lives and deal with the lingering effects of the war. The prize could guarantee celebrity status to its winners, but dealing with complicated interpersonal relationships and the challenges of finding jobs in post-war America, provides obstacles to the band that confront not only the dismal treatment of veterans, but also the essential flaws haunting any pursuit of the American Dream.

Throughout the musical’s opening, Donny is tormented by his role in Julia’s late husband’s death, and is not alone in his burden. Every character bares the marks of the war on their minds, in their music, and in their hearts. Physical ailments are paired with post-traumatic stress and beautifully choreographed scenes wherein the actors physically struggle under the weight of men in military uniform— dragging their ghosts with them. Even Julia, as she joins the band of veterans, struggles with her own loss in the aftereffects of the war.

In addition to survivor’s guilt, Donny has to overcome his pride and fear. His failure to save Julia’s husband presents a very cutting scene on stage in part because Donny is the epitome of the trope of the overconfident male with complete faith in his ability to achieve the American Dream. In fact, in a beautifully belted solo, Danny even quite forcefully inserts himself among the era’s greats, denigrating Sinatra’s skills in comparison to his own.

Altogether, Bandstand hits on a sensitive and relevant topic in today’s society in a way reminiscent of White Christmas’ classic “What Can you Do with a General,” an early commentary on the aftereffects of war; however, with Bandstand modern theater brings us a portrayal more unapologetically gritty and honest…

And, as the musical clearly elucidates, contentious.

It is often hard to like Donny as he gives in to his pride and aggression, losing himself at times to his own mind, but as Julia comes around to see him in a different light, audience members cannot ignore his charm— nor the damage unfairly done to him by the lack of support and representation for returning veterans, veterans living in a society that does not want to acknowledge the scars inflicted on their brothers, fathers, and sons.

Occasionally the complexity of projecting multiple perspectives onto the stage (i.e. the first scene, which is both set at home with Julia and simultaneously abroad in the trenches) and pairing them with interpretive demonstrations of the characters’ mentalities manifests in Bandstand as strange staging and slightly confusing choreography. But, considering the massive scope of the undertaking, Bandstand does an impressive job of playing out its various plotlines.

The only real criticism that came to me in the mutterings of the audience and my own hesitations while watching Bandstand was the distinctly awkward inadmission of the concurrent issue of racial segregation during the 1940s and early 1950s. After all, Brown v. Board of Education didn’t even occur until 1954. As a result, it was a little disconcerting to see the token black character come to life in their use of Kevyn Morrow, the only POC cast member, as blanket ensemble in ambiguous roles with minimal speaking, the musical’s realism marred by its refusal to acknowledge its historical context in this regard. At one point, he is a preacher (for an all-white church), and, at another, he works as a radio executive (for an otherwise all-white station). To leave this unacknowledged is to pretend the harsh reality of the segregated social climate did not exist.

That being said, the musical dealt and dealt well with the issues it did confront, and it is understandable (though unfortunate and perhaps uncomfortable) that, in the stress of dealing with such a hugely important and controversial subject as the mistreatment of veterans, certain aspects of the play became “unreal” and certain unpalatable realities went unacknowledged.

Still, we can learn from Bandstand, in its message and its omitted lines, a great deal about the change that our society calls for, that America needs. So I would still call Bandstand a great American musical, and, with its hard-hitting message on veterans’ needs and its equally stunning choreography, certainly worth watching.