Open Call for Submissions – Writers and Artists Wanted

 

Do you have an original piece that sheds new light on the human experience? Then please send it to minustheboxmag@gmail.com. The theme for the February issue is “I will survive – In Honor of One Billion Rising”

Minus the Box, a new quarterly online magazine, is requesting submissions to be included in its February issue. The magazine is dedicated to young, progressive, educated, and diverse self-identified women. There is no limit to what can be covered. All self-identified women are encouraged to submit; regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. The more diverse the better. Our goal is to create a positive space where all young women can feel appreciated for the individuals that they are.

Submitted pieces should be thoroughly proofread, correctly cited – MLA format, and a minimum of 1000 words. Minus The Box does not pay for contributions, authors retain full copyright of their work. Although there is no monetary compensation, our goal is to heavily promote this publication and its featured writers. The act of submitting a piece for consideration constitutes the express permission for Minus The Box to publish that work. Please indicate if the work submitted has been previously published.

In order to be included in the magazine’s February 2013 issue, work must be submitted by January 28, 2013. Send submissions and a brief biography to minustheboxmag@gmail.com.

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Walk a Mile in My Heels By Katherine McAllister

When I was a kid, being a girl meant dressing up in pretty clothes, painting my nails, occasionally trying on my mother’s make up and high heels, and waiting for my inevitable boobs to come in.  Years later, I’m 23, and I still dress up, I have my own make-up rather than having to steal my mothers, and the boobs have arrived, well sort of.  But while growing up, never did it cross my mind, that one day being a girl would mean having to defend myself from a potential government that wants to take my rights away.  I grew up learning about all the women through history that already fought these battles whether it was at the Seneca Falls Convention or the pivotal outcome of Roe v Wade.  I appreciated these women for putting themselves on the line to pave the way for fellow and future women.  I looked up to them for their strength and bravery to say, “We are women, and we are just as important so deal with it.” But never did I think that the battles already won by the women from history, would become my battles in the present.  Never did I think that I would have to step up to the plate and say “Stay away from my uterus!”  And yet here we are, living in 2012, and still fighting for our rights and our bodies.

It is election year and with that comes contentious debates, but this year it also brings a new grouping of people who wish to take away rights from women and lessen our value in this country.

The men in power who attack women, and then insist they care for us should think carefully before they speak.  When you tell me that rape is just “another method of conception,” you clearly don’t care about me Mr. Paul Ryan (http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/paul-ryan-rape-just-another-method-of-conception/).  When you tell me, that you want to defund planned parenthood, a safe haven for many girls to go to when they are pregnant and lost or simply need a form of birth control, you don’t care about me Mr. Mitt Romney  (http ://www.huffingtonpost. com/2012/03/13/mitt-romney-planned-parenthood_n_1343450.html).  When you tell me, that if I were raped I should “make lemonade out of lemons” Mr. Santorum, you don’t care about me (http://www.indecisionforever.com/blog/2012/01/25/rick-santorum-tells-rape-victims-to-make-lemons-out-of-lemonade).  When you tell me that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” you not only don’t care about me Mr. Akin, but you have a warped sense of reality and endanger all women to fall prey to those who can say they didn’t rape us legitimately (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/08/22/todd-akin-s-legitimate-rape-timing-couldn-t-be-worse-for-republicans.html).  To all the men in power, power of any kind, who find themselves arrogant enough to even think they can speak for women and their bodies, if you have proven not to care about me, why should I go to the voting booth and care about you?

How would you men feel if Viagra could no longer be made available?  I mean it’s covered by insurance, but, let’s face it, what woman with all these restrictions you’ve all placed on her, would want to have sex at all? So if we don’t want to have sex with you, kind of pointless to help your penis, no?  If our forms of birth control are going to stop being covered, shouldn’t yours?  What about vasectomies?  I mean, if Mr. Romney wants to defund Planned Parenthood and take away women’s resources of not only not getting pregnant but not contracting diseases, then, isn’t it only fair we take away another form of your birth control?  Isn’t a vasectomy just “murdering” your chances of having a child?  What if we placed a ban on masturbation?  I mean, isn’t that right there just a waste of a possible life? Sure you’re just having fun but that’s viable DNA being thrown out right there.  If women are considered pregnant two weeks prior to conception in Arizona (in other words, every time a woman has sex she’s considered pregnant), isn’t it only fair that you too have to rid yourself of any sexual activity that doesn’t involve procreation?

If these scenarios seem ridiculous to you, it’s because they are.  But with such a preposterous line of arguments against women, it seems fitting to offer up an equally preposterous line of solutions for men.

This country was built on the idea that we are all created equal.  And if I have to stand up and fight all over again on issues that shouldn’t even be brought up, then I will.  I am no longer a little girl.  Today I am a woman.  And you know what, Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan, Mr. Akin, Mr. Santorum, and every other “Mr.” out there who’s arrogant enough to speak for women, don’t you dare judge, condemn, or even attempt to speak for women on anything unless you have walked a mile in their heels.

Keep your minds on helping the country and away from imprisoning our uteruses.

 About The Author – Hey my name’s Katie McAllister. I’m a college graduate in NYC, owner of my little dogs Goliath Apollo Creed and Thor Van Damme, lover of Mac n Cheese(from the Kraft blue box especially), always one to take a spin in a revolving door than to walk through the regular door, and has already earned my masters in couch potato-ing with movies and TV. I grew up in a tiny town in upstate New York.  And while I can appreciate that atmosphere I knew it was never for me.  I was looking for excitement and I was looking to be a part of it.  So I got my grades, graduated high school, and took a train to come live in Manhattan.  I stepped out of Grand Central and immediately I was Dorothy Gale with my ruby slippers and all; in Manhattan I had left my Kansas and I had found my “Oz.”As I’ve gotten older I have realized the power of my voice, the power in all our voices actually.  Now that could be because I come from a very loud family but it’s also in large part due to what I see occurring around me. Too often SILENCE has contributed to a stagnant lifestyle with no changes in sight;  something that can be used as an excuse for politeness when let’s face it, there’s nothing polite about keeping quiet when something is wrong in the world. So here I am, not hushing or keeping it down, and letting my voice carry on just about anything: food, movies, tv, politics, or even mac n cheese. I have a passion for writing, especially when it comes to injustices in the world.  I never appreciated the “quiet” of things in life. I was always loud, talkative, and noisy from the time I was five years old right up until the present at 23 years old.  When it comes to important issues in our world, let’s face it, silence is overrated.

Welcome by Minus The Box

 

Hello and Welcome to the inaugural issue of Minus The Box!

First, a sincere thank you to the writers that contributed their great talents to this very special project. I hope you enjoy reading their work as much as I did. As I had hoped, the pieces included in this issue give new insight into what it means to be female-identified in the 21st century. The contributors hail from many different backgrounds and influences. This rich diversity works toward furthering our mission of a more understanding and accepting community.

Second, a special thank you to the summer intern Jordana Narin for her invaluable research and commitment to this project. Her insight and positive feedback provided great inspiration.

This inaugural issue is dedicated to self-acceptance. Love Thy Self is not only the theme for the first issue but is also one of the goals of Minus The Box as a magazine. This issue embraces a dedication to creating a positive and supportive virtual environment for those of us discouraged by mainstream media and the values it purports. We aim to create an environment where ALL self-identified females feel safe, welcomed, supported, and encouraged.

Peruse the following submissions with an open mind and you are guaranteed to leave richer than when you arrived.

 

Happy Reading,

Giovannah
Founder and Editor

Editor’s Introduction by Giovannah Philippeaux

It happened one night in the shower (the best ideas always come in the shower). I was feeling low and self-loathing and could not figure out why. And then it hit me, I had spent my whole life being told I wasn’t good enough, either by teachers, classmates, or popular media. My hair was too curly, my lips too big, my hips too wide, and my skin too dark. Years of being told that I was “imperfect” finally sunk in and I believed it; beginning to see myself as the world saw me – not good enough. I got angry that night. Angry at a media that had so effectively corrupted the belief systems of my teachers, classmates, friends, and ultimately me. We all bought into the lie that there was only one kind of beautiful, and that to be accepted and liked you had to fit that mold. And what of the rest of us? What of those who do not fit the media ideal? Are we condemned to lives plagued by low self-esteem and self-loathing?  Are we to grow angry and bitter, having media hate compound self-hate? I yell angrily NO! There is nothing wrong with me but there is something wrong with a media culture that refuses to acknowledge the beauty of diversity.

Thus evolved Minus The Box. I truly believe that people are crying out for a space where they can be accepted for who they are and not for who they are supposed to be; I know I am. A positive and supportive space free from corrupt corporate influences. A space where being a person of color or not, being gay or straight, being rubenesque or skinny is common place and accepted. This is going to be more than a quarterly journal, this is going to be a community. A community of like-minded people dedicated to progress, diversity, education, and acceptance. When the world tells you you’re not good enough, come here and let us remind you of how perfect you are.

It is frustrating to me that in 2012, a space such as this is still necessary. I would have hoped that by now we would have come to a point in our human evolution where we automatically understood the intrinsic value of diversity. In fact, biological diversity is an invaluable foundation for our delicate ecological system; yet we’ve managed to forget this.

Well here’s to our diversity!

 

 

Sincerely,

Giovannah P.
Founder and Editor

Open Call for Submissions – Writers and Artists wanted

 

Do you have an original piece that sheds new light on the female experience? Then please send it to minustheboxmag@gmail.com. The theme for the November issue is “Our Voice: Power and Politics”

Minus the Box, a new quarterly online magazine, is requesting submissions to be included in the November issue. The magazine is dedicated to young, progressive, educated, and diverse self-identified females. There is no limit to what can be covered. All self-identified females are encouraged to submit; regardless of ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. The more diverse the better. Our goal is to create a positive space where all young women can feel appreciated for the individuals that they are.

Submitted pieces should be thoroughly proofread, correctly cited – MLA format, and a minimum of 1000 words. Minus The Box does not pay for contributions, authors retain full copyright of their work. Although there is no monetary compensation, the goal is to heavily promote this publication and its featured writers. The act of submitting a piece for consideration constitutes the express permission for this magazine to publish that work. Please indicate if the work submitted has been previously published.

In order to be included in the magazine’s November 2012 issue, work must be submitted by October 22, 2012. Send submissions and a brief biography to minustheboxmag@gmail.com.

Lessons from an Angel By Jordana Narin

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They come in all colors, religions, and ages too. Usually, they come when we expect them. But sometimes, the most transformative heroes of all come when we don’t.

I walked into Camp Dream Street on a sunny day in late August 2010, completely unaware of what lay ahead of me. I knew volunteering at a camp for children with cancer and other blood disorders would be like nothing I’d ever experienced; what I didn’t know was how much it would change me. I met my campers, ten amazing eight year old girls, later that morning as they piled off the buses and I immediately connected with each of them. But I formed a special bond with one camper, Aya, over a conversation we had. Aya has sickle-cell anemia, and if the blood flow in her body is disrupted by temperature change, the sickle-shaped cells clog and cause a painful crisis. Because of this, when she swims Aya needs to get out of the pool every fifteen minutes to dry off and keep her temperature steady. Once, as Aya got out of the pool and came to sit next to me, I saw her legs beginning to lose color. I took a heating pad off my stomach and began to rub her with it. As Aya saw me doing this, she asked, “You’re broken too?” She proceeded to tell me how she’d stopped telling friends about her disease because the one friend she’d confided in called Aya “broken”.

The day I gave Aya my heating pad was approximately two months after I had been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s Disease is a chronic autoimmune disease which inflames the lining of my digestive tract and leaves me with sometimes unbearable pain, which is why I was wearing the heating pad that day. Knowing that I was Aya’s only counselor in an analogous, albeit much less severe situation, I felt it was my job to clear up the strewed misconception she had of herself as a sick child. In the simplest words I could string together, I began to tell Aya that neither she nor I were “broken”; instead we had little parts of ourselves that were special. I affirmed that these “special parts” were not what broke us but rather what built us, and hoped Aya believed me. All the while, I was still trying to convince myself of the truth in the words coming out of my mouth.

On the last day of Camp Dream Street, there was a talent show for all of the campers. My entire bunk performed a Hannah Montana song, “Nobody’s Perfect,” received by the other kids with tremendous applause; afterwards, Aya stayed on stage. She took the microphone in hand and said, with the brightest smile on her face, “Never let anyone, your friends or yourself, call you broken. We’re not perfect, but we’re all superstars!” She looked right at me, and I smiled as a single tear streamed down my face. The months of attempts by doctors, parents, and friends to convince me that I would be okay weren’t able to do the trick, yet two short sentences from a small girl with a giant heart made everything click. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.” I’d like to challenge Mr. Fitzgerald. In Arabic, the name Aya means miracle, and that’s what Aya was to me. As a sick, disadvantaged youth, Aya could have let her story play out tragically. Instead, she fought back, and while doing so inspired me more than anyone I’d ever met.

A hero doesn’t change who you are, she rather shows you who you can be. Heroes aren’t leaders because they are better, instead it’s because they make each and every person want to be better. Real heroes don’t help save the world from big, bad villains. Instead, heroes are those who help you save yourself, and maybe accidentally, maybe not, cause you to stumble upon not only solace but courage. Perhaps most importantly, heroes are the people in our lives who demonstrate to us, through both their words and their actions, why love and acceptance of oneself is of utmost importance. The pieces of my puzzle have changed because of Aya, but I’ve found that I’m not broken, I never was. The parts of who I am simply connect differently now to form an even greater picture. Aya taught me that my disease, no matter how much it affects me, will never be what defines me, and through her words I was able to resurrect an image of myself I thought I’d forever lost.

After my summer spent with Aya, I redefined my world view, and learned to love myself because of Crohn’s, or more precisely the perspective and opportunities the disease has afforded me, rather than in spite of it. Having to face this struggle so early in life has redefined how I interpret success. Rather than self-pity, rather than allowing myself to forever be doomed “the sick kid,”  I began to consider life in a much larger context than the average starry eyed teen, embracing a new community and a different type of success than my peers. My gastroenterologist introduced me to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, through whom I now run marathons, coordinate charity walks, and hold fundraisers, all successes I would have never encountered had I not been diagnosed with Crohn’s. Additionally, my desire to seek advice from other adolescents facing chronic illness spurred me to create a support group of my own, where Crohn’s patients can deal with all issues tough to stomach, literally and figuratively. My disease, while at times unbearable, has opened my eyes to a world I would have otherwise never known existed, and for that I am forever grateful. Aya, a most indelible, unintentional hero, taught me that the power derived from loving every part of one’s self far outweighs the restraints that accompany a feeling of terminal inadequacy.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They come in all colors, religions, and ages too. Sometimes, they come when we want them. But more often than not, heroes come when we need them most, when we feel most lost and alone, when we have forgotten all reason to love ourselves. My hero came in the form of an eight year old miracle named Aya.

 

 

About the Author
Jordana, currently a high school senior, is the editor-in-chief of her school’s newspaper and founder of its Young Democrats club. A self-proclaimed book-worm, she spends much of her spare time reading, and her favorite books are Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Walt Whitman’s poetry collection Leaves of Grass. She has hopes of one day pursuing a career in political journalism, as her ultimate goal is to effect change, reveal truth, and ignite passion through the written word.

Why Feminism is My Faith by Avani Patel

One of my favorite things to do when I come home is to find snippets of my past and delve into them, reviving the stale thoughts and memories that have been tucked away for a later date. This time, I found something especially valuable. A diary entry from July 25th of 2011 reads, “Following my mother’s orders, I offered food to our guest and the rest of the table full of middle-aged men. They sat and relaxed as we were delicately preparing the 5-part meal.  They watched as it was being served, commanding what they wanted so as not to life a finger – God forbid they ruin the beautiful ass-prints being created in the seat cushions. What is this tradition that is justified by religious roots? Why are 5-year old women being trained to serve 45-year old men? Last time I checked – isn’t it supposed to be the elder who help the younger, being wiser and well seasoned? I can’t, I won’t, have a man treat me this way. I will never feel below him, and I will never let myself be in a position to be.” It was around this time last year that I had lost my faith in religion. I saw it as a cult – with individuals conforming to self-destructive ideals and outdated traditions that permeated their daily lives. What was more terrifying than losing this sense of faith was realizing that my distance from religion would inevitably create distance with my highly religious mother – a woman whom I love more than anyone in this world.

Slowly, things changed. I went abroad and saw a country where Catholic women were strutting their stuff in dignified attire that complemented their confident air. I saw a strong woman in a Christian host mother who had a boyfriend at age 70 and preached to us about never letting a man stop you from doing what you want. These glimmers of hope seemed promising, and something about their novelty pushed me to enroll in Feminist Theologies. I wanted to turn these glimmers into fireworks – to prove myself wrong. But what I found was so much more than what I was looking for. In looking at the scriptures, I found writings that made my stomach churn. In looking at the traditions, I found rituals that raised my skin. Beyond all of this, in looking for faith behind the discomfort, I found feminism; which to me, is much more than the scripture and the tradition – it is bigger and better than any of it. We look for certain things in religion, but it is when it offers us something we didn’t know we could find, or something we weren’t looking for, that it becomes indispensable.

Take, for instance, a common reason that first pushes people towards religion: liberation from the physical world. The way in which people may search for this type of escape is through an imagined deity. Because religion is a patriarchal institution, however, the majority of deities exist in the male form. Rather than being tied to this norm, feminism offers a wider range of role models through its lens. Judith Plaskow, for instance, confronts this inequality by revealing the crux of the issue: that notion that God even has a specific gender at all. There exists a problem of the “dominating other” that comes with assigning a specific sex to God, due to the almighty power that is associated with the notion of a higher being. Although we have contentions with the fact that currently, God is usually portrayed as male, this problem would not be solved by making God a female, as there would still be one sex that rules over the opposite one. Feminism does not stoop to the level of its religious ancestors by placing one sex above the other, but instead strives to maintain equality. A shift in pronouns, therefore, would result in a shift in power, which still does not push towards an egalitarian world. Sallie McFague, however, offers an alternative way to perceive God that may offer us a different form of faith that helps us overlook a deity’s sex.

Rather than depicting this spiritual being as a frightening force, McFague asks us to consider a God who is more like a genderless friend that wants to guide us in the correct way to lead our lives. By shifting the emphasis from a dominating sex to an equal entity, she offers a unique way to think about God, and in doing so, gives us a unique way to think about the world. Instead of offering liberation from the world, then, Sallie gives us liberation within it – an idea that is echoed by Buddhist teachings. To see God in every aspect of our physical lives, in every rock and tree, we are able to take solace in this warm feeling of acceptance, making us vehicles to our own fate. The divine that resides in our everyday lives gives this spirit an added component that we do not often find in archaic religious scripture: accessibility. Instead of wasting our effort on the attempts to create a powerful picture of a person without a sex, we instead find God in what we actually see – making this picture one that is not only easier to imagine, but one that is not dependent on sex. Moreover, the positive reinforcement that is offered by McFague’s theory is uplifting, and perhaps more effective than having a booming Godly figure that acts as an unmerciful overseer.

This shift in God being above us to within us instills a unique sensation that is absent from the scripture and tradition we are used to. Within archaic texts, we find covenants, rules, promises, and commandments. With McFague’s approach, we find a force that literally engulfs us with a warm embrace. This is not to say, however, that this God is one who lets morality run amuck. Instead, this feminist view of God goes beyond the narrative approach we are used to and forces us to have faith not only in the physical world, but our own selves to leading life the correct way. By being vehicles of our own fate, we are in control for the first time, which is a notion that is empowering enough to inspire good rather than evil. By ousting any idea of sin and punishment, McFague puts faith in us as individuals, which is perhaps the kind of can-do attitude that will help us better embody the values that will make our lives complete.

Apart from freeing us from the constraints of a deity, there is another important sense in which feminism is liberating. By freeing us from the stagnant texts themselves, its emphasis on reinterpretation allows us to no longer be bound by the bindings. What this means is that feminism gives us the ability to perform critical analysis of the scriptures and traditions, which to me seems like a skill that is far more important than the scriptures and traditions themselves. Blind faith is a deadly force, and the ability to recognize the merits and problems within a religion is an essential component of properly practicing it. A feminist lens is one that is constantly questioning and working towards an ultimate goal of an egalitarian world. By placing the emphasis on this objective rather than being bogged down by specific sentences, it shifts our usage of the texts to being tools to and end rather than ends in and of themselves. Classmate Selenah Bequette-Kaiser aptly points out that we need to change the panels of this broken floor rather than replacing it entirely. A feminist perspective allows us to use our acquired insight to manipulate these texts in a productive way, while still maintaining what is valuable from these traditions.

Although feminism does not limit itself to individual sentences within scripture, this does not mean that it fails to recognize the importance of language within a faith’s teachings. God-language has been a subject of much contention throughout feminist theological analysis, as Johnson alludes to when comparing a tyrant-like God who inspires fear to a beneficent God who promotes forgiveness. By honing in on the way that descriptions of the divine largely effect the followers, she urges us to figure out what the “right way to speak about God” is, which is an answer that is not necessarily spelled out in the scriptures that we are exposed to. In order to accomplish this, we must use the tools of feminist analysis. Because this strategy allows for enough freedom to stray from the norm, but isn’t so lax as to disregard detail, feminism finds a balance in its hermeneutic approach.

In addition to concrete scripture, people may also look to religion for the stable traditions it offers in order to take comfort in the way that orderly procedure can unite individuals. To this end, feminism instead offers us reason to jump out of this comfort zone and instead unite under the umbrella of progressive ideology. Feminist thought changes in step with society, constantly attempting to incorporate the curveballs that are thrown our way. For instance, take the growing concern of homosexuals and transgenders in the religious sphere. In recent years there has been a clear increase in the number of individuals who have “come out” or switched genders. This phenomenon was completely absent at the time these scriptures were written; therefore they lack a clear space for people who do not fit into the gender binary that is present within them. Feminism, however, is here to help. Focused on emphasizing the idea of equal individuals, no matter what gender, it offers ways to read these texts in a way that promotes acceptance to a wider range of people. While we may look to tradition to unite us, it does not currently unite all of us. Feminism strives for this unity between all individuals, regardless of sexual identity. Instead of creating spheres, it breaks them down, and this sense of community goes beyond what we currently find today.

We see this effort for creative inclusion manifested in works such as “The Big O Also Means Olam,” in which Hanne Blank expresses discontent with the fact that Judaism’s laws as they stand do not explicitly spell out procedures outside of a heterosexual, monogamous couple. Instead of sitting on this as a stagnant law, however, she urges us to think outside of the box, as feminist theology is constantly pressing us to do. For instance, the Jewish law that dictates a man to give his wife a certain amount of sexual pleasure per week can also be applied to polyamorous couples. These individuals may designate a certain number of nights to commit to each other each week, if a primary commitment is unable to be ascertained. This forward-thinking way of applying what seem like inapplicable rules is a valuable quality of feminism that keeps it moving into the future.

In looking at the reasons that people may turn to scripture and tradition for validation, we see that feminism wins by not only fulfilling these reasons, but going beyond them as well. To me, feminism is far more important than any of these archaic texts or upheld ideals. It is a hermeneutic approach that takes the best of what we’ve got and creates something far more beautiful than what we began with. By giving us faith in a re-imagined deity, it offers us peace within the world around us. By giving us a critical lens, it gives these texts utility for a more noble goal. By giving us the constant ability to redefine, it gives us a faith that is always applicable, and never outdated. Feminism is clearly liberating in more than one way, and for that reason, far more dear to my heart than any tradition or old scripture may dictate. While I may still fear that a difference in faith will create distance from my mother, I am no longer afraid of the faith itself as being anything short of beneficial to me.

 

Works Cited

Blank, Hanne. “The ‘Big O’ Also Means Olam.” Yentl’s Revenge: The next Wave of Jewish Feminism. Comp. Danya Ruttenberg. Seattle: Seal, 2001. 194-205. Print.

Johnson, Elizabeth A. “Introduction: To Speak Rightly of God.” She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse. New York: Crossroad, 1992. 3-15. Print.

McFague, Sallie. “God and the World.” Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987. 59-87. Print.

Plaskow, Judith. “Reimaging the Unimaginable.” Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991. 121-69. Print.

 

 

About the Author
Avani is a rising senior studying Philosophy and Religion at Tufts University. Based in New Jersey, she is a freelance writer and a sucker for a good book. She has been published in her school’s daily newspaper The Daily, and South Asian literary magazine Salaam.

A Love Letter to Myself by Lucy Claire Curran

One day, a few weeks back, my inner critic was being more vocal than usual. My inner critic—a creature that looks something like a cross between the Grinch and Smaug, the dragon from The Hobbit—was telling me to abandon my dreams because they were too ambitious. So far that morning, I had written one scene of my book and had played around with watercolors. I had also consumed the larger part of a box of granola and spent a fair amount of time staring out the window. It was almost 1 p.m. I felt like a total failure.

A little background: I was in the midst of taking six months off from other work to finish the manuscript of a novel I started last summer during one of my final college courses. I pledged to myself that I would savor this time, and do my best to write from a place of joy whenever possible. Overall, I had been enjoying the time off, but I was at the start of Month Four, and I was starting to get worried.

What to do? According to SARK, a writer and thinker whose work I admire, loving ourselves is the first step to take when we feel as if we don’t have enough time, energy, or love to give to the world. She recommends an exercise to jump-start this process of self-love, which I find simple yet elegant. She recommends writing a love letter to ourselves and posting it somewhere visible.

Now, I have to admit that, when I first came across this exercise, I was like “Oh boy. Can you say HO-KEY?” I resisted the exercise because it felt dorky and, what was worse, it felt self-indulgent. Finally, though, in part because I didn’t know where else to turn, I sat down on the floor of my room, took out a pen and paper, and began—self-consciously—to write. Here is what I came up with.

Dear Sweetest Darling Self,
      You are so dear to me. Even in the midst of your fears and uncertainties, you are so dear. I love you forever. Without even trying, you make the world a better, brighter place. Shine on, and let your actions spring from the endless treasure trove of joy within you. I am always here, always by your side, and always loving you.
Much, much love,
Your Self

I then proceeded to go all out and create a more polished copy of my letter, complete with illustrations done in delicate colored pencil. When I was done, I sat back and admired my handiwork. For some reason, the process of writing the letter had loosened me up a little. I still wanted to laugh at myself, but laughter felt less derisive and more accepting. At last, I stood and tacked the two pages up above my desk with red pushpins.

My letter is there still, positioned so that I can look up from my work to see it, the edges of the pages fluttering in the breeze from my open window. It might be hokey, but I really enjoyed writing it and then reading it to myself. (What can I say? I’m sort of a sucker for flattery!) But truly, I think that most of us spend our whole lives looking to others for affirmation and validation. If we are able to find it within ourselves, however, we open up a whole new wellspring of creative potential within us. What’s more, we become more able to offer support to others with true and authentic generosity. When we have enough ourselves, it becomes much more possible to give.

 

 

About the Author

Lucy Claire Curran is a freelance writer living and working in San Francisco, CA. A recent graduate of Harvard College with a degree in English, Lucy Claire is currently at work on the manuscript of her first novel, entitled The Third Hit. In addition to writing poetry and prose,  Lucy Claire loves reading, painting, laughing, and going on adventures. Check out her blog about her writing process at: http://todayilivedmylife.wordpress.com/.

And They Lived Happily Ever After by Adrianna Sgouris

Most girls grow up reading fairy tales that start with once upon a time a girl was nothing out of the ordinary until she met a prince and had her happily ever after. These stories and the media stress that life doesn’t start until they meet someone and fall in love. This is a problem for young women because they make women feel that in order to be successful you have to be physically attractive, thin, and find a man by a certain age.  The majority of these fairy tales and the media are ways for society to control the lives of women and girls around the world.

Many people in this generation put so much emphasis on getting married, being a certain body shape and having children. But society should not be putting this notion on women’s shoulders that in order to feel like they have the perfect happily ever after there needs to be man beside them and they have to be size two. Being perfect and having a picture perfect life is overrated and women need to realize that there is no ending, life keeps going unlike fairy tales that end after the princess and the prince get married. As women we need to be more encouraging toward each other to help women feel happy with themselves rather then putting all their worth on finding their prince charming.

I believe that we need to teach women the most powerful relationship that they will have is with themselves. Women need to take the time to get to know themselves and be happy with that and not for someone else’s purpose. Once you are comfortable with yourself everything follows your personality, hobbies, style, career, relationships, etc. That saying, it is also not wrong to want to get married and have children but women need to realize that is not the only thing they have to offer the world. Everyone has their own path and every women needs to figure out what she wants to contribute to the world. Even though it may be against the old fashioned dream life society needs to be more accepting of other women who don’t feel the same way about marriage and relationships.

I feel these pressures almost daily as a nineteen-year-old girl growing up into my own as an adult. My mom is one of the many people who nag and tell me that I should be going on dates more. She also finds it very strange that I do not have a boyfriend right now and that by having one I would experience more. This bothers me because I don’t feel that in order to experience things that I need a boyfriend. It is hurtful to hear from her “You have no experience because you don’t go on dates often” and “I went on so many dates and had a boyfriend when I was your age.” It is not just my mother that puts these standards into my head but the media also plays a big role too. People make it seem like there is an unspoken rule that women need to be in a relationship with a man to have a fulfilled life and if a women is not married or in a relationship by a certain age something is wrong with them.  Nothing is wrong with these women and we all need to take the initiative to stop these judgments on other women.

Society’s image of females is that we are expected to be good innocent girls who are looking for the perfect man our entire life. However, there is a double standard in this culture with the way women and men are expected to behave and it is dangerous to the lives of women. The most popular example of this is when women and girls are single and enjoying their life by seeing a lot of people. If they are seeing many men they are branded as dirty sluts while men are applauded on being with a different girl every night. This double standard is unfair because single women should be more socially accepted to pursue as many people as they want without having threatening words be thrown at them. But the sad part many people fail to realize is that most of these comments are coming from women!

The media is the worst criminal in this game of what women should look like and what life they should live. Take a look at some of the popular movies, advertisements, magazines, and TV shows and you will see that the common woman featured is flawless and thin. As women we need to be sticking together against the pressures and name calling that society makes us believe is right instead of tearing each other down. When someone calls someone a bitch or makes mean comments about another women’s body they are really insecure about their own issues and are taking it out on others. This habit is not moral and can cause major problems to a women’s self esteem.

The media affects women and girls in an unhealthy way for our bodies and mind. Between advertisements, celebrities, and models the media gives women impossibly hard standards to compete with about what is beautiful. This has lead to many self-esteem and body issues for women and many end up with disorders like anorexia and bulimia. These disorders are affecting young women and recently kids as early as four are going on diets to lose weight. The media needs to represent every body type to give each girl a role model to look up to instead of having  a one size fits all mentality.

The only way society is going to change is if the media, civilization, and fairy tales stop giving a one size fits all mold of what is beautiful and instead embraces everything amazing about women.  There is not a certain way to live life and until people stop feeling sorry for the women who don’t get married women will keep feeling bad for themselves because their not living the American dream complete with the nuclear family. This problem is not going to change unless we all come together and fix this. Until then the number of women and young girls that are unhappy with their bodies will keep rising up.

About the Author
Adrianna Sgouris is a nineteen year old freshman at Bloomsburg University. Originally from Cedar Grove New Jersey, she has no previous experience being published but
loves creative writing.

Am I enough? by Alicia M. Terry

I had the pleasure of seeing two dance performances at the American Dance Institute (ADI) in Rockville, MD this past fall. The first, entitled  “Beauty” caught the attention of my subconscious and forced me to re-evaluate what I PERCEIVE as beautiful.  I can confess to my conformity to beauty ideals; shaving my legs, relaxing my hair, dieting to get into that size 6 dress.  But after witnessing “Beauty,” I had to ask myself, why do I practice or abide by these rules, especially if they constantly put me at an inconvenience? The performance was done through the constricted scope of beauty ideals of Barbie during a beauty queen competition.  Growing up, I used to play with Barbies ALL the time; I mean it was one of my favorite toys and a lot of my childhood memories with my cousins are with Barbies. Think about it; if we see a person or image wearing a skirt, heels, and long flowing hair we instantly think of woman, female, girl.  Similarly we think of male terminology when given a picture of a person with a short haircut dressed in a three-piece suit.  How do we draw these inferences of femininity and masculinity upon women and men?

We are taught at an early age that girls and boys are different and they must behave in each gender role accordingly. Karin Martin explains in her article “Becoming a Gendered Body: Practices of Preschools,” how gender is taught to young children through social interactions with teachers, families, as well as amongst themselves as students and playmates (2010).  Martin observes several preschools and argues based on her data and results that children learn from early school years how to act or “do” gender roles.  She gives many examples that occur within the classroom that not only explains how the use of clothing and the imitation play ‘dress-up’ generalizes the roles of male and female, but more importantly she also describes how behavior is shaped and molded into false idealistic roles.  These roles are not innate or obtained naturally; they are simply performed. Thus, we learn these roles young and they transformed into out ideals of beauty. Yet, when I was younger, I was too naive to see what Barbie was telling me (my cousins, and other girls for that matter): you are not adequate as you are and you must change. This message is given to us as girls and women through all types of media, and the beauty of “Beauty” is that it captures this message and flips it around: you are adequate as you are and therefore you must change to your original.

During the performance, the beauty queens pranced around on stage with stuffed bras and revealing, sparkling, blinding, pageantry wear.  The dancer’s voices were in control of audio; all we saw as the audience were smiling faces. Thus they had no voice, which put more emphasis on the fake. Their bodies were without fluidity and conformed to restriction.  This is a reminder; how can we, as women, reveal the self if we are trying to emulate a false, unreal, ideal?  We can’t move, or possibly feel comfortable, or even be intimate with another partner if we can’t be real with ourselves. Sex is one of the most affectionate and revealing acts you can do with another, but if you are showcasing this façade that is FAR from the self, how can you possibly be intimate with someone? Well, you can’t; it would be just as awkward and fake as Barbie and Ken’s stiff ‘love making’ as portrayed in a scene of the dance performance.

The performance hit on more topics of the feminine body that included hip-hop and pop videos, plastic surgery, advertisements, eating disorders, and cosmetics.  All of which focus on the superficial pornographic rather than the uplifting erotic. The take home message is clear:

—-You

——-Are

———- Adequate.

Works Cited

Martin, Karin. “Becoming a Gendered Body: Practices of Preschools.” The Politics of Women’s Bodies: Sexuality, Appearance, and Behavior. Ed. Rose Weitz. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010. 27-48

 

 

About the Author
Alicia M. Terry was born in Petersburg, VA.  Her childhood took place between both Virginia and Maryland.  During high school, Alicia worked at a local Forever 21 store on weekends; Alicia excelled in her academics as well as extra curricular activities that included the school’s yearbook association.  Alicia also participated in community service projects such as a mission trip to New Orleans, LA post Hurricane Katrina and a Salvation Army mission trip to Chicago IL. Upon her high school graduation from Friendly High School, Alicia was accepted into the University of Maryland at College Park where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Hearing and Speech Sciences.  During her time at the university, Alicia worked with the executive staff to the Assistant Secretary of Information and Technology in the U. S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.  After graduation, Alicia decided to focus on her true passion for writing and publication and was accepted into a publishing assistant internship with the Feminist Studies Journal.  Her dream and ultimate future goal is to create an online non-profit magazine that highlights, recognizes, and inspires young African American women and girls.