Tag: election

On Tuesday, we elected a man who had double-digit sexual offense accusations to be our 45th president. We elected a man as President who repeatedly spoke of groping women and called them “pigs” and “slobs.” We  elected a racist and misogynistic man president, instead of a competent and experienced woman.

This makes me sick to my stomach.

Being a girl in the United States today means being constantly taken for a sack of meat. It means frat boys at the entrance of parties only letting girls enter  – and only the ones who they deem to be “hot” enough – so that brothers can maintain their monopoly on women. It means having to justify not wanting to sleep with this or that boy. It means having to explain why you don’t want to be grabbed by the ass by a boy you barely know. It means being called a slut or a bitch because you refused to go on a date or to sleep with a certain guy. It means having to put your headphones in and your chin up when you walk down the street to tune out the constant harassment.

Growing up a girl means being sexualized before you even understand what that means. It means checking with your father, mother, brother, or best friend about whether that skirt is long enough for you to wear outside. It means the constant “do I look skanky?” and “will I get in trouble?” It means having to second-guess yourself in the mirror every day to make sure you aren’t “provoking” anything or “asking for it.”

This isn’t about the glass ceiling, equal pay for equal work, or academic and professional discrimination. This is about how we relate to our identities and our bodies, about what it means to grow up a girl.

I consider myself a feminist, and yet, I find myself falling into the trap of all these accusations. I find myself wondering whether I was really right to refuse that date, whether it was really okay for me not to go back home with that boy. Boys and men have disrespected me more times than I can count. I have been called a slut for not going along with what a guy was asking of me a shameful number of times. Like this, myself and millions of other women walk on eggshells to avoid the stigma of oversexualization. We keep our eyes down and pull down our skirts not to be noticed, and we fight off unwanted gestures as swiftly as possible.

We all suffer from this, girls and boys, who play along with the trend to appear “tough,” yet we keep quiet. Yet again, yesterday we elected a misogynistic man to preside over this country. We elected someone who not only exposes and embraces the entire array of sexual violence – from harassment to assault – that we face every day, but also legitimizes it. On Tuesday, 53% of white women voted for a man who considers them nothing more  than objects.

We have normalized sexual violence to such an extent that it has become imperceptible. We hide behind our libertarian ideas of hookup culture, drink an extra shot and assume everything is fine. We forget the rapes, the unwanted touching, the gross comments, and, most of all, the pressure. The pressure to pretend that everything is okay, that we are young and free and so is our sexuality. We blame each other for being stuck up, for not playing along.

I firmly believe that this is fundamentally wrong. I also believe that this wrong will only be fixed when we all stand behind our female role models and help them lead. Until we trust our fellow women enough to stand with them and fight against this image. Until we all stand together and fight everyday sexist violence, until we realize it is not normal, we will not be able to change anything.

Ana is a junior in the School of General Studies majoring in MESAAS.

The Lion is the only campus publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com.

Although I had intended to continue the series on the neuroscience of education, when I sat down to write a column a day before the United States votes for a new president, many new senate members, and hundreds of ballot measures, I’ve found that this election has truly consumed us all. So instead, today’s column will be dedicated to the young realm of neuropolitics – and what ramifications neuroscience may have for tomorrow’s vote.

Although contentious elections are nothing new, this cycle certainly feels more polarizing than years past. Many people on both sides are in disbelief as to how supporters of the opposing candidate could possibly overlook the horrible things they’ve said or done. Both sides are utterly confident that not only are they correct, but that all the facts support their position. Here is where fMRI has an answer.

In one of the first studies of its kind right before the 2004 elections, 30 self-identified ‘strong’ Democrats and 30 Republicans reviewed John Kerry and George W. Bush making self-contradictory statements while having their brains imaged. In an experience familiar to anyone who has tried this tactic against a member of the opposing party, the participants were critical of the hypocrisy in the opposing candidate while letting their own candidate off easy. While that result is predictable, the fMRI results were not at all.

The participants achieved this feat of mental gymnastics by quieting down the part of their brains necessary for impartial reasoning like the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and instead lighting up emotional circuitry such as the amygdala, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the insula, which will all be important later. Specifically, an area of the brain called the basal ganglia lit up, which is, among other tasks, responsible for rewarding selective behaviors with dopamine. Effectively, partisan brains were triggering dopamine rushes for ignoring the issues in their own candidates’ statements and criticizing their opponents. Once entrenched, it seems very difficult to combat confirmation bias by rational arguments when the ‘rational argument’ part of the brain is offline during these discussions.

The differences that divide us seem to run deeper than confirmation bias. A growing body of research shows some fundamental wiring differences in the brains of liberals and conservatives. One study was actually able to use brain regions of interest from an fMRI to determine political affiliation with 83% accuracy, which is over 10% higher than the next-best factor of parent’s ideology. In general, a conservative brain will more strongly react to disgust and react with more emotionality to uncertain concepts or events, thanks to a larger and more active insula and right amygdala.

Liberals, on the other hand, are less fearful of new stimuli and less reactive to negative events, and more likely to adapt to changes in established patterns. Some of these effects can be attributed to their larger and more reactive anterior cingulate cortex, which has long been known to monitor and mediate conflicting information. From the psychology side of things, personality data shows that conservatives value loyalty, stability, and are both risk- and change-averse.

Meanwhile, liberals are more likely to change their opinions and base decision-making on new information, specifically the kind of fact-heavy information that activates the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Without placing a value judgement on either ideology, it seems that biological differences in how people process and respond to information aligns with ideological differences.

Of course it’s important to keep in mind that the brain is a highly plastic structure, so there’s a classic chicken-and-the-egg problem in play here. Twin studies, long the gold standard for measuring genetic influence, attribute somewhere between 40 to 60% of political preference up to genetics, as manifested by differences in brain structure. It’s also possible, even likely, that slight anatomical differences might snowball into bigger ones if those neurological pathways are strengthened by continued exposure to politically charged information.

As with much of neuroscience, it’s sometimes unnerving to think about how our decisions are so frequently based on the activation of subcortical structures, not conscious thought. While we may find it difficult how someone could possibly vote for the other candidate, perhaps political neuroscience can contribute some understanding to the underlying motivations that determine political choices. So as we decide on a new president this Tuesday, give a thought to those scientists trying to figure out what’s going on in your brain while you’re making that oh-so-important choice.  

Uniquely Human runs alternative Mondays. To submit a comment or a piece of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com.

Photo courtesy of James Xue (SEAS ’17)

Marijuana, or as NSOP would discuss it, that thing we think some of you might do so here’s our number; don’t get caught. Despite the war on drugs that pledged to keep children clean from the harmful effects of weed, the drug has a lot of users ranging from celebrities to presidents. Therefore, a lot of people wonder why weed is still illegal. There’s no evidence that marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol and tobacco, both legal products, and the push to illegalize the drug drove incarceration rates through the roof, especially for people of color. Throughout the country, states individually have started to legalize marijuana, first medically, but now for recreational use. Democrats on a national level want to push in this direction, stating that “because of conflicting federal and state laws concerning marijuana, we encourage the federal government to remove marijuana from the list of “Schedule 1″ federal controlled substances and to appropriately regulate it, providing a reasoned pathway for future legalization.” That if true is major, especially if a Clinton administration interprets the law in that way.

It still may mean you can’t smoke on campus.

As I already stated, some states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, which should theoretically make it legal to smoke on campus. However, the Obama administration didn’t change federal law, it simply declined to crack down on states that decided to legalize the drug. But colleges are mandated to engage in drug-prevention programming to receive federal funds. As long as marijuana is deemed a dangerous drug by the federal government, colleges cannot let you smoke regardless of a state referendum. Hillary may change this, but Wikileaks says she’s not thrilled with the idea, so if New York legalizes recreational marijuana, which it hasn’t, you would still have to walk past 110th Street. Oh, and the Republicans want to end this confusing patchwork of state legalization, and Donald Trump only supports medical marijuana. It’s hard to cover the status quo. For people waiting for weed to be legal to smoke, you’ll have a long wait under the Republicans. At the least with the Democrats you only need to wait until New York State allows you to. That’s not happening in New York State because we have no referendum mechanism and the state government on this issue doesn’t seem to want to move quickly. There’s one other hurdle to you smoking pot consequence-free, Columbia.

Unless the President or New York State mandated marijuana be legal on every campus, Columbia could become a smoke-free campus, not unlike a dry campus for alcohol. They may have many reasons to do this, from wanting to attract conservative parents to continuing the War on Fun, but the fact is they could. This goes into an important caveat for a lot of issues I’ve talked about before; just because the executive says something doesn’t mean your fight is over. Even with the threat of losing federal funds looming over like Damocles’ sword, No Red Tape would argue Title IX has yet to force Columbia to treat sexual assault seriously. If you actually want to use marijuana in your dorm without worrying about RAs writing you up, if and when the national government or New York State end their bans, you’ll probably need to press the issue, perhaps for the rest of your college experience. However, we don’t get to that step without legalization, and that will largely depend on who wins the upcoming Presidential election.

Ufon’s mini-series, Columbia and the 2016 Election, will run through the November 8th Presidential Elections.

The Lion is the only Columbia publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

If you watched the last presidential debate, you probably noticed that the first topic Chris Wallace pressed the candidates on was the Supreme Court. Control over the Supreme Court is always a contentious issue, but Justice Antonin Scalia’s death and the sudden Supreme Court vacancy has made the tension more much apparent.. Whoever wins this election will be tasked with appointing a new Justice and possibly two others, potentially changing the ideology of the majority of the Court for 25 years as Wallace put it. This has enormous repercussions for a host of issues from gun control to abortion, but I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about affirmative action.

As you might know, the Supreme Court upheld the inclusion of affirmative action in college admissions policies over the summer. In doing so, it said that since educational diversity is a valid goal for administrators, colleges and universities should have wide discretion in considering race in admissions policy. Since administrators cannot explicitly rely on a quota system, they consider race as part of holistic review. First-years probably remember hearing almost every college they applied to admit to using this policy. In short, holistic review means that admissions considers a wide range of factors when considering a student, including academics, extracurriculars, and diversity. It was this policy that was under threat before the Court this summer, and the same policy that current Columbia President, Lee C. Bollinger defended in 2003.

Your choices this election are rather stark. When the Court ruled over the summer, the traditional conservatives dissented, though not for stereotypical ‘Republicans don’t understand black people’ reasons. Justice Samuel Alito who wrote the dissent for the second Fisher v. University of Texas in Austin case articulates that affirmative action as practiced has “gone berserk” and helps affluent African-Americans more than Asian-Americans. This is interesting since the same petitioners behind that case are also advancing with another case against Harvard University centering around Asian-Americans. If Trump appoints two conservatives or centrist Justice Kennedy is persuaded by these arguments with one Trump appointee, affirmative action through holistic review is dead. Hillary Clinton, we can gander, probably will appoint justices that will affirm affirmative action, ensuring that even if Kennedy is swayed by conservative arguments, affirmative action will stay.

Look, we can have long lengthy debates over the value of affirmative action in colleges, but I don’t want to delve too deep into whether we should have affirmative action. What I will say is that throughout the country, one of the most prominent demands from activists has been an increase in diversity within the student body. Holistic review is the only way colleges can do that somewhat directly. Columbia might be able to produce similar effects by focusing on socioeconomic diversity within its large applicant pool. I imagine someone who cares about racial diversity would still want Columbia to be able to prioritize racial diversity instead of hoping the mechanics work out. But I also imagine people who want admissions to be fair and more predictable would prefer Columbia adopt standards that can be measured and scrutinized. Whatever your side, this debate will be decided by who controls the presidency and the Senate.  

Ufon’s mini-series, Columbia and the 2016 Election, will run through the November 8th Presidential Elections.

The Lion is the only Columbia publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com

Photo Courtesy of Alixx Lucas

Dear Donald,
sometimes I have to thank you

sometimes I have to thank you
for bringing them down
because you expose those who also wish to
bring them down

Dear Donald,
sometimes I have to thank you
for dismissing our pain
for laughing our pain
for stabbing our pain
because you expose those
who wish to do the same

Dear Donald,
your hands are far too small

far too small to carry the weight
of this country
far too small to hold the hand of a mother
whose son’s been shot in cold blood in the street

Dear Donald,
sometimes I have to thank you for reminding me
of this country’s ailment
constantly making natives feel like foreigners
consistently fighting to keep foreigners out

Dear Donald,
who are you protecting?
what are you protecting?

Are you protecting America?

“Make America Great Again”
When was America great?

Were we great when we defiled eachother?
Were we great when we persecuted eachother?
Were we great when we enslaved eachother?
Were we great when we fought eachother?
Were we great when we killed eachother?

“Make America Great Again”
you say

I’m not interested in that America

But
Dear Donald,
sometimes I have to thank you for reminding me of what America is
who it protects
what it protects
and all that needs to change

Alixx is a junior in Columbia College studying Neuroscience.

The Lion is Columbia’s only publication with an open-submissions policy. To respond to this piece or to submit one of your own, email submissions@columbialion.com