Category: Politics

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. 

Photo Courtesy of The Onion

 

Since my last post was less fun, we’re going to start this week’s column off with a game! It’s like a “pick your own adventure” game from way back when we were kids, with equally disappointing results and a little more abrasive language.

Here is the scenario:

You’re in a lovely dive bar near your campus, just hanging around and enjoying your Saturday with a few beers. Suddenly, a gentleman approaches you. You’ll allow it, as you are well aware that you are looking damn fine. Small talk ensues, and he asks what you do. For purposes of this game, you reply, “Oh, I study political science, focusing on security,” and suddenly, your response opens a floodgate. Vocabulary from basic international relations theory loosely related to current events are thrown into a cocktail of attempts at explanation. It’s like your very own salmon shorts clad Jervis! The explanations and buzzwords keep flowing and picking up pace, and you seem to be trapped! Do you:

a.)   Look desperately at the bartender to see if she can rescue you from your own personal hell with another round

b.)   Politely try and change the conversation to something slightly more engaging

c.)   Attempt to interject your own well-informed opinion

d.)   Get up and leave

Well, as I’m sure you’ve all deduced by now, I found myself in this very scenario! And I’m sure you’re all dying to know which ending I picked.

In reality, I applied all available tactics. First, I gave the “save me eyes” to no avail (side note: gentlemen, you should really learn to recognize this look). When that didn’t work out, I asked him about his internship at a law firm (gag, I know), but not even that could deter him from his professorial path. Finally, I outright said, “Yeah, I actually study this a lot, and I think it’s super fun to apply theory to everyday situations!” I then briefly explained my column to which–I SHIT YOU NOT–he responded, “Doesn’t that kind of delegitimize your knowledge of the subject?” At this point, I opted for Option D from above.

So sir, whom I desperately hope is now reading this, I have two things to say–which is more than I said throughout the entire duration of our brief encounter. First, doesn’t saying something so obnoxiously stupid and crass delegitimize your penis size? Second, fuck you.

Now that I have sufficiently publicly shamed this poor boy, I can get to the actual point of this piece: mansplaining. This scenario expertly depicts what exactly mansplaining is. I’m sure this is a term you’ve come across recently, especially if you’re more inclined to read liberal newsfeeds. But essentially, it is when men attempt to simplify or explain a subject to women because they, for some reason, don’t think the woman initially understood. Now, I’m a pretty passive feminist, but this is something that has increasingly started to bother me more and more. Perhaps it’s because I’m a woman in a predominantly male-oriented field, but it never feels good to be “taught” something you have literally dedicated hours of studying to, by means of slightly condescending words. This is not to be conflated with actual new information, or perspectives, which I welcome regardless of gender.

Still confused on what exactly mansplaining is? Let me Jamie-splain it to you!

Mansplaining is like America telling literally any EU member state how international institutions and organizations work. If America were to childishly lie about what an international organization is and how it could possibly function, without recognizing that international organizations and institutions dominate the majority of EU member states’ political dialogue, that would be equivalent to mansplaining.

Or, even more rudimentary: America explaining to Greece (also known as the founders of democracy) how democracy itself works. Greece, however, could take some notes on basic economic principles, but that is beside the point.

In summary, mansplaining is so very stupid, and in the words of my good friend from that bar, it delegitimizes any point or position you take afterwards. Instead, I recommend that you simply clarify where you are each at in terms of understanding, and then go forth and have exciting and engaging conversations.

Photo Courtesy of Joan Marcus

After a previously sold-out run off-Broadway, Lynn Nottage’s breathtaking play, Sweat, opened recently at the Studio 54 theater. The show, based in Reading, PA, focuses on deindustrialization and its lasting ramifications. In our current political climate, Sweat’s arrival could not be more timely. The show forces its audience to fully delve into the lives of blue-collar workers in America. In a country becoming increasingly divided, as evidenced through the 2016 Presidential Elections, Sweat explores and explains with breathtaking eloquence and clarity the malaise that has spread through many segments of the nation.

For those who have not seen the show, it focuses on the lives of friends working together at a local steel mill. Slowly, as jealousy flares and the workers realize their jobs–and the cultural status that came with them–are dwindling, they each begin to turn on each other. In trying so hard to save themselves and clinging to the work ideals many of their past family members have learned to expect, they are forced to find new work as the impacts of globalization and deindustrialization affect their town.

The show’s strong text is paired with skilled actors and a mundane yet detailed set. The play is primarily set in the local bar, where audience members watch the lives of these workers unfurl as if they were flies on the wall. In each interaction, one can see the close friendships of the characters. In particular, the show focuses on the close bond between two friends: Tracey (played by Johanna Day) and Cynthia (played by Michelle Wilson). In initial scenes, the two characters laugh and drink, jovially sharing stories about their students and their factory jobs, just like normal close friends do. However, after Cynthia is promoted to a role off the factory floor, jealousy flares as Tracey copes with not getting the promotion she truly wanted. As this jealously increases, tensions rise with conversations about race (as Tracey becomes convinced Cynthia was promoted solely for being Black) and the responsibilities of friendships.

To learn more about the show and how it came to be, we sat down with its playwright Lynn Nottage who–in addition to playwriting–is a Professor at Columbia’s School of the Arts. Nottage, originally from Brooklyn, studied at Brown University for her undergraduate degree and later studied and taught at the Yale School of Drama. She has won two Pultizer Prizes and received both the Guggenheim Fellowship and MacArthur Grant.

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Photo Courtesy of Ogawatsusyou

Much like my Uber rating, I am unabashedly proud of my “sensual soundtrack.” I’m sure you’re familiar with the one, lurking in the “secret” section of nearly every millennial’s Spotify. The playlist that magically makes its way to the speakers after a couple of glasses of wine, as the distance on the couch between you and your company slowly vanishes. Crafting that perfect ear aphrodisiac is my strong suit…. or so I thought until I heard my roommate’s concoction drifting through our paper-thin walls.

Delicately titled “I’m Getting Laid”, her playlist is not merely ambiance. No, it is a ballad, taking you on an epic journey that Homer himself would be impressed by. I don’t mean to be blunt, but it is sheer fucking genius. The exposition of her masterpiece begins with the ever so classic Marvin Gaye–and not that Kygo bullshit–but the actual authentic, original, dirty, baby-making music. Drake and 80’s rock hits concoct the rising action and eventually culminate in a conflict of palpable sexual tension accompanied by The Weeknd and The Arctic Monkeys. And finally, the apex of the journey (I would say “climax,” but that’s a bit gauche): it begins with Beyoncé’s “50 Shades of Grey” rendition of Crazy in Love, which is followed by more Weeknd (obviously). It’s truly tantalizing. As things begin to calm down, more soft pop flows from the speakers and spooning eventually transforms into a “boot and rally” of more raunchy R&B. Finally, the actual resolution of soft electronic music as you recover, sinking into your satisfaction.

While I would not follow her prescribed playlist to a T, it is awe-inspiring–a good model for understanding nationalism in today’s world.

Today is the “beginning of the end of nationalism,” as my Danish friend informed me. While I am largely ignorant to the European political scene, I have learned that, apparently, the upcoming elections are demonstrating a tendency to lean away from the more nationalist parties. To be honest, this isn’t surprising.

Like sex-playlists, nationalism is a good impetus for action, yet cannot serve as a solid foundation for the entire apparatus. While it takes different shapes according to the implementing actor, it is largely the same concept worldwide: a heavy emotional pride cloaked in politics. States and sex both have many complex parts synergistically working together, and a faulty reliance on a single apparatus such as nationalism (or a playlist) will likely lead to failure. From Hillary’s desperate attempts at patriotism at the Democratic National Convention, to Le Pen’s decline in popularity, it is evident that success cannot ride on nationalism alone.

While still crucial to the overall success, neither nationalism nor sex playlists, alone can climax in success.  

In the aftermath of President Trump’s election and inauguration, we asked Columbia students how they felt about the next four years. Here’s what they had to say:

 

I still haven’t really fleshed out my ideas, and it will be difficult to truly see how the election affects me until Trump’s presidency gets underway, but at the moment I’m looking at myself and I recognize I’ve enjoyed pretty much every benefit of society: I’m a well-off white male, hardly a target of misogyny or racism, so this result doesn’t affect me, existentially so, like it does my transgender classmate or Hispanic brother-in-law. But it still feels…wrong. And surreal. Yeah, it feels wrong and surreal that half the country aligns themselves with a man who represents the antithesis of many values I stand for and more importantly, the nightmares of millions of people who now how to live in fear. These people, as it is too often forgot, are HUMAN BEINGS and ought to be treated and respected as such, yet their ability to live without fear of harassment and prejudice and racism and sexism has taken a backseat to the specter of an America that becomes less great with every graffitied swastika and bigoted Facebook post.
-Bennett Smith, CC’20

 

 I think that, over the past eight years of Obama’s presidency, progressives have become somewhat complacent, not realizing that the progress we’ve made over the years is far from permanent. I think the election was really a wake-up call for liberals, and shows that, over the next four years, we’re going to have to work hard to overcome our own divisions to protect the gains we’ve made and promote a forward-thinking future. While a figure as contentious as Donald Trump has the potential to sow division, I hope that, over the next four years, progressives can reach out to those who disagree with us to understand where they’re coming from, why they believe what they believe, and whether we can find any common ground. That doesn’t have to happen in the halls of congress or the streets of NYC—it can happen right here on campus, where I think a commitment to empathy, even when uncomfortable, will serve us all well in the long-run.
-Arman Azad, CC’20

 

With the election of Donald Trump, the United States has a special chance to make much needed and unique changes. We’ve elected a man that will always put this nation and its citizens before all else. No party or ideology will come first, the partisan deadlock in Washington will come loose, and government will once again start working for the people. The days of empty rhetoric have passed. The era of real action has arrived. The next four years shine brightly ahead with the promise of new jobs, infrastructure, and investment fueled by reduced taxation and regulation and a renewed sense of faith in and love for this country. The path to a stronger, prouder, brighter America for all Americans, no matter how they identify or where they come from, is clearly set before us. With President Trump in the White House, guided as always by the invisible but all powerful grace of God, no citizen of this mighty land need worry that our Great Nation is in the right hands.
-Dante Mazza, CC ’19

 

As someone whose family still lives in a former USSR country, I’m not optimistic for the next four years given Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia. Trump’s indications that he won’t necessarily fulfill NATO obligations are a threat not to be taken lightly or brushed under the rug as he takes office. Having been in Latvia during the election made it quite clear to me who wanted what: the Latvians overwhelmingly supported Hillary despite being traditionally more conservative, while the ethnically Russian Latvian citizens were pro-Trump. On this front as well as all others, I can only say that the best case scenario is one in which he accomplishes nothing over the next four years.
Molly Mittler, BC ’19

 

The election of this president is emblematic of a bigger issue that encompasses racism, sexism, and xenophobia. The policies that his cabinet and his nominees have stated or even hinted at will transcend those barriers of effect. Donald Trump is obviously different from previous presidents. While the war on drugs destroyed the lives of black people, and while presidential silence on the AIDS crisis echoed the apathy for the death of so many, Trump’s policies will also affect the base that so eagerly voted for him. While I may lose the critical benefits awarded to me by a party that is at least trying, benefits that made many of us apathetic to the horrors that could so easily come from our complacency with the system, the one solace that may possibly console me is that the ignorant, the angry, and the misinformed which so eagerly voted for a demagogue will feel the repercussions of these next four years too. But, in the words of Dylan Thomas, we will not go gentle into that good night. The best of us will pull the country forward kicking and screaming like we have done so many times before. We will work to protect the rights of women, and the rights of minorities, and the rights of those less fortunate through marches, protests, sit-ins, and in the most important way of all, by voting in 2018 and 2020.
-Rafael Ortiz, CC’19

 

The inauguration of Trump makes me uncertain as an immigrant, a black person and a woman. Insecure of how emboldened racists and sexists feel right now with such a man as president for the next four years. I literally have four years before I complete my undergrad and I have never been this involved in American politics because this time it directly affects me. It is definitely interesting to watch how the years will unfold.
-Cynthia Welinga, BC’ 20



I find it disheartening and appalling that many have been defending this presidential outcome as democracy. Though President Trump was elected democratically, the notion of democracy, itself, has been lost. We are dangerously close, if not there already, to a state of tyranny upholding its ways in a veil of democratic values. We, as a nation, have fought hard for the past eight years to reestablish a sense of democracy, equal values and unity within the people. This election puts all we have fought for at risk. “We will not be divided” seems to be a popular response to the election, and I stand by it. However, the division which we must understand is that of the people and the sovereign. Our 45th President does not have interest in his people, but in our nations wealth. A businessman is not fit for president because his interest lies in the acquisition of property and not the well being of his people. He will bring forth this division which we are so strongly trying to avoid. He will bring upon us violence. These are dark times for us all. The misconstrued understanding of anarchy is not to go to war, but to reestablish equality. We must stand strong and fight against this formation of fascism and tyranny.
-Petros Gourgouris, CC’17

 

Although Trump’s message smacked too much of his campaign rhetoric and lacked unity, the inauguration was remarkable. Simultaneously in Gambia, a political transition also took place. But that one only happened because an international coalition forced a tyrant to step down; and it is for that reason–the reliability of the American government and sensibility of the American people–that I’m cautiously optimistic for the next administration.
-Blake Mueller, CC’18

 

Although I am disappointed with the outcome of the election, and the direction the Trump administration seems to be setting out for itself, I take heart in what President Obama said before leaving office. All Americans work together to bring about positive change. This is not a power reserved for one man. That being said, there are many people Trump’s administration affects far more intimately than myself, both in proposed policies and the culture it promotes. It falls on all of us to stand united to protect each other’s rights and liberties. I am hopeful we will do so moving forward. The millions at women’s marches across the world are evidence of our resolve to fight for one another.
-Scott Aronin, CC’15

 

To me, this inauguration represents the culmination of a political strategy of divisive racial discourse, fear mongering, and manipulation of basic facts that has ultimately put a party in power that unabashedly does the bidding of the rich elites of our country while concurrently tricking millions of poor citizens to vote for them. Never before has someone served as president who is the sole embodiment of a rich, white, privileged class who is the enemy of a robust, prosperous, and diverse middle and lower class, and who has continuosly served to divide the American populace and has weakened us as a nation. Reading about the gutting of basic rights in this country such as health care for tens of millions is heartbreaking, but it gives me hope that Columbians and young people across the country and world are not content to allow Donald Trump to systematically strip us of our power and our voice. For the next four years I know that Columbians will be on the front lines of the fight to protect our future from those in the American government who seek to destroy it .
-Adam Buford, CC’19

 

I think we’re going to learn a very hard lesson about idolatry in politics. One we should have learned before.
-Mae Graham, CC’18
If you’d like to submit a piece to the Lion, please email submissions@thecolumbialion.com.