First and foremost, shout out to Jovita and Lawrence Nwadike for birthing me and supporting me. Shout out to my
sister for being a pretty cool person. Shoutout to my ancestors for being the reason I am capable of doing anything that I do. Shout out to Tulika, Jhem, Becca and previous FEM members who have done the radical work needed to make FEM what it is today. While we have a long way to go, I am honored to be a part of an organization that is dedicated to the work of radical feminism and dismantling violent structures everywhere.
Our consumption values and habits can be analyzed at the intersection of many conspiring systems of oppression such as; capitalism, racism, and cisheteropatriarchy.
Many marginalized people navigate these systems, on a daily basis, with little to no room for individual choice or self-determination. From the food we eat to the porn we watch; we are forced to participate in corrupt and unsustainable patterns of behavior due to the self-destructive system of capitalism. The way cis men are primarily socialized to treat other genders reflects the characterization of our bodies as commodities rather than human. Marginalized genders are often consumed by the world around us in a way that stifles our individual freedoms for the goal of social control. Our private consumption habits and unhealthy coping mechanisms reveal the way we internalize systems of violence and unconsciously reproduce them in our everyday lives. All of these examples of consumption illustrate how it works on a structural level. Consumption plays an integral role in our behaviors and material realities and have the potential to be insidious when placed in context of broader systems at work. Sociologists have been studying consumption as a framework for understanding global issues. In Stanley Blue’s “The Sociology of Consumption,” he recognizes the “interdependence of individuals, that people have shared norms and values, as well as shared understandings, and that social institutions shape social actions and therefore patterns of consumption.” In other words, ‘individual’ consumption
habits and values are not entirely individual.
There is a level of interconnectedness that leaves us dependent on each other to make more mindful consumption choices in order to minimize harm for those in more marginalized intersections of violent structures.
It is our duty to critically analyze our role in the larger systems at play, examine our personal consumption habits, unlearn the ways in which we’ve been primarily socialized to consume the world around us, and act with larger global solidarity in mind.
The writers, designers, and creatives in this print issue tackle the dimensions of consumption in varying ways. From Lesbianism to Marx’s theory of Alienation, our print issue asserts that consumption must be viewed as a system with cumulative impact; one that shapes the power we exact on our environment and works to shape our individual behavior. Chiamaka Nwadike, Editor-in Chief
Editor-in-Chief Chiamaka Nwadike Art & Design Directors Shannon Boland Elizabeth Gomez Malaya Johnson Arts & Creative Editor Meg Anderson Campus Life Editor Lia Cohen Dialogue Editor Alana Francis-Crow Gendertainment Editor Kayla Andry Politics Editor Heidi Choi Writers Meg Anderson Heidi Choi Lia Cohen Shanahan Europa Alana Francis-Crow Jem Garcia Ania Lakritz Sam Marmet Deirdre Mitchell Alondra Serrano Gonzalez Devika Shenoy Taryn Slattery Eva Szilardi-Tierney Elena Torres-Pepito Helen Zhong Designers Grace Ciacciarelli Jolene Fernandez Emma Lehman Paloma Nicholas Emma Sher Elena Sviatoslavsky Design Contributors Joie Cao Magnolia Casey Joy Chen
Lauren Cramer Birdie Li Sophia Muys Nicole Nobre Karina Remer A Wold Finance Directors Jessica Cen Neha Dhiman Maya Kramer Radio Manager Marion Moseley Social Media Manager Brenna Nouray Social Planning Manager Cindy Quach Video Directors Alana Francis-Crow Jem Garcia Front, Back, Inside Cover Photography Malaya Johnson EIC Portrait Andri Santos-How FEM Magazine dedicates itself to furthering the application of intersectional feminism to dismantle structures of oppression. We recognize that oppression operates along a multitude of intersectional axes, and we strive to present perspectives that might be otherwise marginalized, erased, or silenced in the mainstream media. We aim to offer perceptive critique of pop culture, report news and current events that we believe are essential to the feminist cause, and provide a space for creative feminist work.
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5’2” x 3’5” Plaster, dirt, fake and real fruits.
Inside, Beyond the Reaches of the Sun! Meg Anderson art by Sophia Muys
How to Ace Every Kind of Oral: By a Queer Woman, for People Everywhere Jem Garcia art by Elena Sviatoslavsky 26
A White Picket Fence Sam Marmet art by Joie Cao
#BeMyFriendAndBuy MyProduct: Brands Are Not Your Buddies Eva Szilardi-Tierney art by Magnolia Casey
Sorry Men, Lesbians Don’t Exist For Your Consumption
Alana Francis-Crow art by Emma Lehman
On Consumption: Athletics and the Fight for Justice for Student-Athletes
Lia Cohen and Devika Shenoy art by Paloma Nicholas
Beauty for Myself? Elena Torres-Pepito art by Grace Ciacciarelli 15
Fighting Fatphobia: A Feminist Take on Weight Helen Zhong art by Nicole Nobre
Ethical Consumption Heidi Choi art by Jolene Fernandez 17
Force Feeding False Education: How UCLA Brands for its Benefit Dierdre Mitchell art by Karina Remer
The Impact of Stress on Student Consumption Habits Alondra Serrano Gonzalez art by Lauren Cramer 38
Shattering the Happiness Illusion
Taryn Slattery art by Joy Chen
The “You” in YouTubers: Capitalizing on Parasocial Relationships Shanahan Europa art by Birdie Li
Romance of the 7th Ania Kravitz art by Emma Sher
FEM Newsmagazine is published and copyrighted by the ASUCLA Communications Board. All rights are reserved. Reprinting of any material in this publication without the written permission of the Communications Board is strictly prohibited. The ASUCLA Communications Board fully supports the University of California’s policy on non-discrimination. The student media reserve the right to reject or modify advertising whose content discriminates on the basis of ancestry, color, national origin, race, religion, disability, age, sex or sexual orientation. The ASUCLA Communications Board has a media grievance procedure for resolving complaints against any of its publications. For a copy of the complete procedure, contact the publications office at 118 Kerckhoff Hall @ 310-825-9898.
Table of Contents
Ask me in the belly button of beasts scarred from surgery how to feel a body in its cracks and separated tissue.
by Meg Anderson art by Sophia Muys
Ask me, if you can open your mouth a crack, to tell of the surgery of a body and the removal of an organ and acid bubbling hot and ask
who rots in the biohazard bin like I do? Who has broken the fever and the skin and the swelling of an abdomen? Who could I ask to break the soil or break through the atmosphere or harvest a graveyard harvest an alien corpse harvest teeth in the edges of surgical scars or tell me that you have such bad news perhaps you ought to sit down, unfortunately, your sickness isâ&#x20AC;Ś not from this world
AGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH why bring a body back from fentanyl only to bury it in the backyard why bring a body to the brink of the star field — the edge of life in space! grow a me-tree in a lab 6000 years from now only to remove my organ again only to die only to die again — in space! grow something from my belly button much rich soil for the taking much that will never be sought on this planet. grow something from this surgery and don’t let it rot in a biohazard bin.
A White Picket Fence
written BY Sam Marmet “The American Dream is back,” proclaimed Trump during a speech at a White House breakfast in 2017. Originating from the mystique of frontier life, the American Dream is a set of ideals that champion upward social mobility achieved through hard work and determination. The American Dream is a promise that our nation makes and a conviction that many Americans fervently consume. It is a corner office, a white picket fence, and a life better than that of your parents. The American Dream is relative: it is informed by the experiences of various communities and their aspirations, but maintains aspects of the desire for generational wealth. The United States paints a pretty picture of its American Dream while maintaining the lowest rates of social mobility among Western nations. Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winning economist, has classified the US as among the worst of Western nations in offering equal opportunities for social advancement, citing the policies of our institutions as the culprits. While “70 percent of people born into the bottom quintile of income distribution [will] never make it into the middle class.” Americans are fed the bootstrap myth: with hard work and determination, people can pull themselves out of any circumstance, and failure to do so is a reflection of one’s character. The working-class is conditioned to view themselves as “rich people in the making” rather than an oppressed class denied the resources needed for social mobility. We live in a world where for the first time in history, institutions have the power to eliminate scarcity. Yet, never have people been so helpless while facing the consequences of capitalism. While over 2,000 billionaires are allowed to walk this Earth hoarding wealth, various oppressed people face extreme poverty, an impending climate apocalypse, and the looming threat of nuclear disaster.
art by Joie Cao
From the 1930s to the 1960s, people consumed the American Dream through plays, books, and church sermons. During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of a vision “deeply rooted in the American Dream” in his “I Have a Dream” speech. At the time, it represented freedom and equality, the hope for a united community spirit and the disappearance of prejudice. By the 1970s, the phrase was co-opted by advertising companies and became associated with home ownership. This is still its legacy; in the early 2000s, George W. Bush signed the American Dream Downpayment Assistance Act which subsidized home ownership during the housing bubble that led to the Great Recession in 2007. It seems the American Dream is now the pursuit of material prosperity and the source of alienating conditions. Marx defines the working class (proletariat) as those who must sell their own labor power. In the US, the working class is a social category typically comprised of those engaged in manual-labor, and sometimes alternatively defined on the basis of income. For Marx, human beings are constantly in interaction with the historical material conditions of their society. Material conditions are the interplay of the natural world, the production of material life, possessions, consumption, class structure, and economic systems. What does it mean to be? Marx’s concept of species be-
ing, or the essence of being human, asserts that we transform the world freely and consciously in order to meet our needs. Under capitalism, America’s working class has this theoretical freedom to transform the world stripped from them, resulting in alienation: a loss of control, specifically the loss of control over the means of production, and alienation of the self and from others. Marx asserts that by nature, humans are creative conscious beings that objectify themselves in the products they produce. In other words, the products we produce with our labor become personal because we attach a “piece” of ourselves within the things we create. Under capitalism, working class people make the commodity (such as clothing) as the commodity. The control over the things they produce is stolen from them, and they are forced to perform routine labor that takes away the personal from it — for example, in factories or on the assembly line. According to Marx, labor is our “conscious life activi-
ty;” we meet our needs through our ability to transform nature and find meaning in the work that we do. If humans affirm themselves through their own production and enjoyment of the product they produce, what happens when the capitalist owns both the labor and the product? Under capitalism, it is neither our labor nor our final product; the working class becomes a commodity, which deprives them of fulfillment and the ability to transform the world freely. Alienation is not just a state of mind that one enters, but an objective process. As Marx saw it, people dehumanize themselves and others when labor becomes a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself. When humans become commodified, they are put in constant competition with one another. It is the constant pursuit of that white picket fence that keeps people as opposing forces, and the American Dream that tells us we can do better and be more, even as social mobility disappears before our eyes.
Lesbians Don’t Exist For Your
Consumption Alana Francis-Crow
Men are obsessed with lesbians. Leave it to men to insert themselves into something that is –– by definition –– not about them. Of course, men love lesbian porn; it’s by far the most-viewed category on porn websites. Men also seem be in constant pursuit of the elusive girl-on-girl make out sesh (as long as the women involved are cis, femme, white, skinny women with long hair and long nails). Pop culture examples of men’s lesbian fixation are as abundant as they are insulting –– in an episode of “Friends,” Chandler and Joey offer to give up their apartment (in Manhattan!) for the chance to watch two of their friends who are women kiss for one minute.
art By Emma Lehman
So why is it that men seem to find lesbian sex so fascinating? Some people argue it’s because of the forbidden appeal of watching something taboo. Others postulate that it’s simple math; more women present on-screen equals more opportunities for arousal. (In 2017, a professor at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus made the bold claim that lesbians actually evolved because men are naturally aroused by two women having sex.) Actually, I think there’s something much deeper going on. Men view the existence of lesbians as a threat to the patriarchal system that grants them an immeasurable amount of power. In another episode
of “Friends,” Joey and Chandler attend a lesbian wedding in which many of the guests in attendance are lesbian. Joey looks around sullenly and says, “It just seems so futile, you know? All these women and… nothing. I feel like Superman without my powers. I have my cape, and yet I cannot fly.” In this scene, Joey feels upset because, for once, something is not about him. Since he is surrounded by women who are not interested in men, he is unable to fulfill his role within heteronormativity which requires that women center him. Since the women in this scene aren’t clamoring for his validation, his power in the situation is destabilized in a way that makes him truly uncomfortable and afraid. Under patriarchy, everything is supposed to revolve around cis men, even the concept of womanhood. The very etymology of the word woman is contingent upon men –– the word evolved from the Old English word wīfmon, meaning “wife-human.” The political understanding of womanhood reflects the word’s etymological roots; U.S. society has always viewed women as objects that exist in relation to men. In this country, women are meant to provide labor for men and to be passed down from father to husband through marriage. Since the U.S. functions through maintaining heterosexist gender and familial roles, U.S. society is deeply invested in making sure lesbian relationships are delegitimized. Monique Wittig, French lesbian feminist theorist, famously argued that since lesbians stray so far outside of the patriarchal understanding of womanhood, “les lesbiennes ne sont pas des femmes” (“lesbians are not women”). Sara Ahmed echoes this sentiment when she writes in “Living a Feminist Life” that “... in a heteropatriarchal world, there might be nothing odder, or more striking, than women who have as their primary sexual partners other women.” Since lesbians’ lives do not revolve around men, we shatter this patriarchal definition of womanhood. That scares men, whether it be consciously or subconsciously. Of course, our existence threatening the historical definition of womanhood does not make us immune to the effects of patriarchy; lesbians are subject to a great deal of patriarchal violence. We’re also still forced to consider men in our everyday lives, like when
many of us are forced to overperform femininity in the workplace for survival. But the fact still remains that lesbian existence poses a real threat to how womanhood as a concept has historically been understood. Men have developed multiple tactics that attempt to strip lesbians of our power and recenter themselves within our worlds. They try to relegate butches to the second-tier status of “pale imitations of men,” as Sara Ahmed puts it. They try to marginalize lesbians who don’t please them visually by calling us hairy, angry, crazy dykes. (This concept of the angry, hairy dyke is further applied as an attempt to discredit feminists in general, queer or otherwise.) They try to pathologize our love and desires by claiming that we are not good enough for men so we have to settle for women. One of the most insidious ways men try to strip us of our power is by attempting to consume us. In order for something to become consumable, it must first be turned into an object –– an easily-digestible, delicious object made with a target audience’s desires in mind. In this case, that object is women, packaged in the form of lesbian porn. Pornhub, one of the most popular websites for online porn, reached 33.5 billion visitors in 2018 alone. According to their self-published annual reports, in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 (so far), the most searched category on the website was ‘lesbian,’ making it the most widely-viewed type of porn on the site of all time. While many of the other ways men attempt to marginalize lesbians are very clearly heterosexist and misogynistic, the fetishization and consumption of lesbians flies slightly lower under the radar. “What could be so wrong with watching lesbian porn?” a man might ask. “Double the boobs, double the fun!” (These exact words were uttered by a man I once tried to discuss this subject with.) In reality, men’s fixation with lesbian porn is far from harmless. Feminist lesbian philosopher Julia Penelope refers to lesbianism as a form of willfulness. She writes, “[t]he lesbian stands against the world created by the male imagination. What willfulness we possess when we claim our lives!” There are so many vast, wonderful communities of lesbians
existing and evolving in the world –– communities for fat lesbians, trans lesbians, Black lesbians, hairy lesbians, nonbinary lesbians, lesbians who fall in love, get heartbroken, have kinky sex, or don’t have any sex at all. These communities are as blissful as they are complex. When lesbians claim our lives, as Penelope so beautifully puts it, we create a world for us, made by us. The world created by the “male imagination,” on the other hand, is very different. This “male imagination” takes the wonderful, nebulous concept of lesbianism and flattens it into something
created purely for the purpose of the male gaze –– something I don’t recognize as lesbianism at all, and that may even be its antithesis.
The male imagination attempts to cheapen lesbianism into something that is visually pleasing. It has no personal stake in the actual pleasure of the women being portrayed on-screen; in fact, it would prefer if the women being portrayed were not actually experiencing emotional or physical pleasure at all. Most mainstream lesbian porn lacks any trace of emotional intimacy –– have you ever seen a video entitled “A Committed Lesbian Couple Engages in Loving Sex”? And oftentimes, despite falling under the category of ‘lesbian,’ these videos do not actually seem to portray lesbians at all. Rather, they’ll churn out some halfbaked plot about an angry wife getting revenge on a woman with whom her husband cheated or about two women who have sex while their husbands are off at war. When it comes to the actual sex acts in which these women are portrayed engaging in, most of the time, they don’t actually seem like anything real lesbians would do to actually give their partners pleasure. Yes, I’m talking about scissoring. Porn often portrays scissoring as the main event of lesbian sex, when that’s far from true for many lesbians. Mainstream lesbian porn erases and invisibilizes lesbianism’s rich meaning and history, replacing it with a packaged performance of false pleasure and desire that’s easily consumable by the fragile-ego’d man. The idea that women could actually be exclusively interested in having meaningful and layered romantic relationships with other women is deemed unthinkable –– women should only make out or have sex in front of men
and for the purpose of men’s pleasure. In other words, lesbianism is robbed of legitimacy under heteropatriarchy. Sure, people understand that women can occasionally have sexual encounters with one another (bonus points if you catch it on camera). But these encounters are rarely viewed as indicative of a real relationship, which is why many men don’t consider their girlfriends having sex with other women as cheating. Lesbians are systematically stripped of our subjectivity, and trapped in the godforsaken male imagination. Lesbian porn is obviously created for the male gaze. But more and more, women are watching porn as well (Pornhub reports that about a quarter of its viewers are women), and just like men, they frequently watch lesbian porn. While Pornhub does not collect data based on viewers’ sexual orientations (yet), it is safe to assume that many of these viewers are lesbians. In that case, what does it mean to consume something in which you yourself are the product? What does it mean to be turned on by something you know is created at your expense, something that does not reflect your experience? In her book “Pleasure Activism,” adrienne maree brown, Black queer feminist writer and activist, asks in a chapter about porn, “I am… concerned with what we watch when we watch pornography and how it interacts with desire pathways in our brains and bodies. What are we programming ourselves to desire?” I’m not suggesting we should judge the lesbians who choose to view mainstream lesbian porn (but please, go ahead and judge creepy men who fetishize lesbians). I’m simply curious about the self-alienating effect viewing this kind of porn could have on us. How can we collectively move past being confined to getting off using an insulting caricature of ourselves and reconnect with our true, deepest desires? Men could make a million lesbian porn videos (and they have!), but it still wouldn’t take away lesbians’ power. Our communities are resilient, radical, and strong. Men can catcall us
all they want, but our lives will never be about them. We possess untouch-
able worlds within us that they could never even imagine.
art BY Grace Ciacciarelli
Beauty for Myself?
written BY Elena Torres-Pepito
I think that by the time you’re able to identify repeating patterns on YouTube “My Plastic Surgery Story” videos and are inclined to write an analysis of them, it’s pretty clear that you’ve failed to have a productive summer. As I spent my July evenings watching video after video of women talking about their procedures, I noticed how they justified them by claiming that their decision was for their own personal happiness. For the most part, they denied any outside influence. This irritated me.
You don’t pay thousands of dollars to get your boobs cut open and plastic placed inside of them because you think the surgery alone will lead to personal fulfillment! I wanted to scream at the screen. A straighter nose or fuller lips just couldn’t be the missing piece in a person’s search for happiness. Physical changes, in a vacuum, won’t make you happier, smarter or kinder. Rather, it is the way people react to the more conventionally attractive you that leads to an improved
quality of life. People know that it matters how others view them. So why can’t they admit that they change their appearance to control how others judge them? As I wondered about people’s apparent reluctance to acknowledge social influences, I realized that I’d been doing the same thing. I’d been judging these women as if I hadn’t spent months insisting that I put on makeup every single morning because I thought it was a “fun way to express myself.” I maintained this excuse as if I were unaware of the difference in the way people treated me when I had makeup on versus when I was walking around with my bare face, acne, under-eye bags, and all. I know makeup helps me look better. Sure, it’s fun. Sure, I buy more lipsticks than any man would ever be able to differentiate between. My makeup habits aren’t 100 percent for other people, but I realize, for the most part, they are. This isn’t illogical. I know that it’s better for
me, especially as a woman in a patriar-
chal society, to look as good as possible in order to receive basic human decency. This
isn’t just from personal experience and observation, but from news articles and scientific studies detailing the effects that makeup and conventional attractiveness have on people’s (especially women’s) lives. A 2011 study conducted by scientists from Harvard Medical School, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Procter & Gamble Cosmetics found people perceived women who wore makeup as more competent. A 2016 study by scientists from the University of Chicago and UC Irvine found that those who spend more time on grooming earn more than those who spend less time. Additionally, the halo effect in psychology states that those that are seen as more attractive are also perceived to be smarter, kinder and harder-working. The desire to be beautiful is not just vanity — achieving this standard has very real effects on our lives. If improving our appearance helps us in our personal lives and with our careers, then why are we reluctant to acknowledge that? Considering the amount of time and money I’m spending to get my bachelor’s degree, and the hundreds of hours of unpaid volunteering that I’ve done to pad my resume, spending a little bit on makeup is one of the less absurd things I’m doing to get the life I want. And, if I’m trying so hard in every other area, I wouldn’t want the failure to improve my appearance to be what holds me back. I know that looking a certain way is not a magic ticket to success, but not looking a certain way could be what keeps me from it. Even so, there’s a sense of shame that goes along with admitting that you modify your appearance for societal pressure. As I began to consider and acknowledge this shame, I tried working through my own feelings. When my friend (who’s a man) asked me why I wore makeup, I came up with an excuse. I didn’t want to admit that I wore makeup because I wanted people to think that I was attrac-
tive. Then I’d feel too vain. It would be as though I were too worried about external validation and didn’t have enough confidence in myself. It would be like admitting a personal failure. To do something for yourself, on the other hand, now that is empowering. It shows trust in oneself, and self-sufficiency. It’s cool. It’s emblematic of a woman who doesn’t care what men think of her because she has better things to focus on. This sort of thinking has been encouraged by modern feminist movements such as “Choice Feminism.” Choice feminism considers anything that a woman chooses to do as empowering, simply by virtue of the fact that a woman made the decision herself. Even if the decision involves spending thousands of dollars on breast implants, if you claim that the decision is for yourself, then it is empowering. This viewpoint seems a bit confusing — how
can choosing to comply with oppressive beauty standards be empowering when they have the potential to hurt the woman’s health and put financial stress on her? In addition, choice feminism opens the
door for way too many companies to launch advertising campaigns that frame the purchase of their products as some sort of revolutionary, feminist act. From NYX’s “Be You. Be Daring.” ads for lipstick and eyeshadow to Lancome’s “My Shade. My Power” campaign to sell foundation, this conveniently lets companies advertise their products while appealing to the socially-progressive, “woke” culture of the younger generation and posing as feminist. Unsurprisingly, this form of advertising seems to be an effective way to sell products. It’s much nicer to imagine that we’re spending time and money “for ourselves” rather than acknowledging the social pressure that we face. It’s more comfortable to avoid addressing the systems of power at play that control our career and social opportunities and that render us worthless and disposable if we fall too far out of the norm.
The YouTubers that I spent the summer watching are also a part of this system. As they talk about their surgeries and procedures, they normalize them. While plastic surgery was at one point something people tried to hide, now YouTubers talk about it confidently in internet videos watched by millions of people. No doubt some of this confidence comes from the understanding that the YouTuber can state that her procedures are “for herself” and do not reveal any personal weaknesses. This type of positive publicity is provided by women who often have procedures done free of charge because of the advertising value the surgeon knows the exposure will have. It increases the demand for expensive, medically unnecessary procedures, and normalizes ever greater levels of body modification in order to be deemed “beautiful.” Personally, I’ve gotten quite tired of lying to myself. The cognitive dissonance is just uncomfortable, and I hate feeling ashamed for playing by the rules as they have been set out for me. When we pretend that the hundreds (or thousands) of dollars and the hours and hours of our time that we spend on our appearance are for ourselves and no one else, then we are not able to candidly analyze the world in which we live. This lie prevents us from
interrogating the beauty standards that we find ourselves bound to. When comply-
ing with this narrative, we aren’t able to talk about discrimination based on appearance, and the way that a certain level of conventional attractiveness is a prerequisite for respect for a woman regardless of her own personal accomplishments. We aren’t able to discuss how beauty norms are shaped by race and class prejudice, and importantly, we aren’t able to talk about whether or not any of this is fair. Since beauty norms are created based on Caucasian conceptions of beauty, and require great amounts of time and money to perform, then even with significant effort they are not achievable for everyone. Since a certain type of femininity
is required to be respected, then trans women and those who may prefer to look more masculine may find themselves pressured to change in order to be viewed as fully human. As we all
struggle to meet the standards of conventional beauty, the “I do it for myself” narrative creates a numbing effect that is convenient only for those who don’t want people to think critically about these things. This includes corporations that just want us to feel good about buying their products. In an attempt to begin these conversations, we need to interrogate the intentions behind our actions. We can achieve this through self-reflection and by not taking our assumptions for granted. We need to keep an open mind and be honest with ourselves. Instead of feeling shame, we need to focus on why we’re inclined to feel shame, and what forces created that feeling. Once we have worked through why we do what we do, then we can begin to speak with each other candidly. Hopefully, with some effort, we will become comfortable with discussing our appearances and the pressures we face in our careers and personal lives. As we explore our experiences and see how they compare to those of other women, then we will be truly empowered. With this perspective in mind, we will be able to more precisely critique how our appearances affect our lives in areas where it should have no bearing. Once we can speak of this freely, then we will have the power to begin to transform our culture to not require the consumption of products and time out of our busy lives in order for us to be valued, respected and admired. As we begin these critical conversations, we will be able to see more clearly how social standards and norms affect our lives, our appearance, our spending habits and our mental health. Once we can discuss these topics freely, we can engage in larger conversations about the changes we want to see.
Ethical Consumption by Heidi Choi art by Jolene Fernandez
In a globally interconnected economy, the simple task of buying a good so basic as milk from a grocery store can have a myriad of ethical implications. Was this dairy milk sourced from animal abuse, sexual assault, and careful genetic inbreeding of cows? Or was it soymilk extracted through unsustainable agricultural practices on converted forests? Are the workers involved in production of the milk, whether it be animal or plantbased, receiving fair wages and decent working conditions? What about the workers in the grocery store in which this product is being sold? Has the scale and scope of the industry resulted in a whole state dependent on a fragile, singular export? Are sustainable practices even possible in a market-driven economy?
What about brands such as Patagonia—a beacon for white hipsters to feel good about investing in fabric recycled from plastics? Surely, such brands are a hallmark of how innovation and sustainability can come together to impart “good” in a capitalist world. That is, if we ignore how Patagonia’s business model and brand of sustainability requires recycled textiles which actually increases the demand for plastic bottles, rather than reducing the production of plastic. In 2015 we found out about Patagonia’s involvement in human trafficking, yet some applauded them for taking steps toward accountability. For a company popularly considered one of the most ethical of its kind, Patagonia falls short of what should be considered an ethical business model. Clearly the bar for doing what is right, rather than what is easy, lies miserably on the floor when human trafficking can be normalized as an unintended byproduct of the supply-chain line. To give capitalists the benefit of the doubt would be to assume that they’re not irresponsibly reproducing colonial dynamics which abuse land, labor, and resources. “There is no ethical consumption under capitalism,” bemoans the privileged philosophy major, attempting to highlight that ethical consumption nor production is reasonable or possible in a global capitalist society. Is this the sorry truth of our world? Can we actually create “ethical” impact with our dollars?
Yes and no. Surely, cutting animal products out of one’s diet and encouraging others to do so has led to tangible disruptions in these industries,
shown by the $1.1 billion decline in dairy sales in 2018 as reported by The Dairy Farmers of America. And encouraging the reduction of individuals’ carbon footprints can generate positive influence on society at large. The veganism movement at large can be considered a collective boycott against animal cruelty. But, like many other issues, individual ethical consumption is only part of the bigger picture. For many, resources such as fresh groceries are a barrier imposed onto low-income neighborhoods, popularly described as “food deserts.” Vegan activism decontextualized from environmentalism, antiracism and decolonization can cause inadvertent harm to sustainability efforts and human rights. For instance, accusing Indigenous communities of environmental harm for catching animals to eat is a decontextualized form of veganism. These harmful ideas ignore the historically sustainable relationship in permaculture which Indigenous folks have in contributing to their ecosystems. A representative case can be found in how Indigenous groups in the Amazon have converted the largely nutrient-poor soil of the rainforest into the most fertile soil on Earth. U.S. models of conservation pay no mind to this relationship and instead, restrict access for Indigenous groups from use of the land through the creation of national parks. Humans can change the land and play a positive role in the ecosystem. They have in the past and still do in areas where these practices are allowed to persist. A bigger picture of climate justice which centers decolonization could jumpstart a truly sustainable and integrated model for humans and the environment. If we were to recenter decolonization in our ethical practices, we would understand that the global shift in human impact on the environment coincides with the time of European Arts &Anthropological Creative conquest of the Americas. scholars consider the collision between Old and New Worlds as the beginning of the Anthropocene, the era in which human activity has dominated the climate. Colonization of the Americas resulted in the population loss of 55
million American Indians, as well as unprecedented (within the past dozen millenia) population replacement, domestication, large scale agriculture, and the reorganization of Earth’s biota. In the vein of imperialism’s impacts on the environment, the U.S. military-industrial complex is the single biggest polluter on the planet as well as one of the biggest perpetrators of genocidal violence throughout the world. What consumption practices can divert from imperialism? Austerity measures imposed onto the Global South through predatory loans and militaristic occupation, unfortunately, cannot be resolved by buying a reusable straw. Although miniscule steps are still steps forward, the environmental crisis we are currently in demands sweeping changes not only within our consumption practices but in the fundamental ordering of society and models of production. It is therefore imperative that we organize for ourselves and in solidarity with others in the struggle to protect the Earth and the rights of all living beings inhabiting it. Capitalism’s decay in the era of climate change is a turning point for whether or not the ruling class will scramble to retain their wealth through enacting fascism — as current happenings in neo-colonial countries from Chile to the Philippines are bringing to the international stage — or be severed from power by the people’s demands for a more just society. The impact of ethical buying practices pales in comparison to structural practices of industries which throw away 43 billion pounds of food a year while leaving millions to struggle with food insecurity. Although individual ethical consumption can be an empowering refusal to participate in the most wicked systems currently in place, it cannot stand alone. Individual ethical practices must coincide with collective boycott and action. We must reevaluate the goals which inspire ethical consumption and focus on building a society which can achieve them.
Force Feeding False Education: How UCLA Brands for its Benefit written BY Deirdre Mitchell art BY Karina Remer
“uCLa Is thE NuMBeR oNe pUbLIc UNiVerSItY iN ThE nATiOn”
Well, that’s true —
according to the US World and News Report’s list. But the way this saying has been marketed as UCLA’s tagline, you would have thought that it was spoken from the mouth of “god” himself. What does this title even mean? What does number one encompass? And does this ranking even benefit the undergraduate population? Quite frankly, being the number one university in the nation is an arbitrary designation with subjective guidelines which does not provide any real insight on the school and its offerings for undergraduates. Despite this, UCLA’s image cashes in on this declaration as a means of financial gain through increased applicants and donors. I cannot speak on behalf of the entire school population, but I will speak for myself when I say that this is bullshit. Every day, I see and hear multiple tours led throughout campus where the same vague affirmations and statistics are spewed out to wideeyed and fresh-faced high school students. Basking in the sun, they stroll around campus and consume curated information presented to them by an overly-enthusiastic tour guide who has
spent hours preparing the most digestible, ideal image of UCLA. Ideal, that is, to UCLA’s board of directors. Tour guides casually stroll backwards through UCLA’s 419 acre campus as though it has been their second home since birth and know each square inch by heart. On top of memorizing every crevice and fun fact of UCLA’s, they also
dedicate their limited supply of extra energy to perfect the already perfected script. Leaving a small space for creative freedom, the script lays out the guide’s experience at UCLA, detailing how lucky they are to be studying at this renowned institution with vast opportunities.
experts in their fields. Students are not given the opportunity to connect with their professors and are primarily taught by overworked and underpaid teaching assistants. Rather than focusing on the quality of education, the school prioritizes the work of its faculty outside the classroom.
The irony here is that these students spend time that could be used to study, explore the LA area, or take care of their community to instead promote and champion an institution where they can’t even reap all of the benefits. To their credit, these tour guides are paid minimum wage to give these laborious tours multiple times a week in between classes and other activities, while their efforts contribute to bringing the school over 100,000 applicants. At least in part because of their performance, UCLA acquires roughly $7 million in application fees.
For the most part, most professors prioritize research over teaching students. With over $1 billion donated for research, these professors and their independent work serve as academic advertisements for UCLA. More time and energy put into research means an increase in published findings and an increase in acquiring money for the school. Ultimately, the professor and their labor does not matter unless UCLA can use their work to sustain and inflate its image as a pioneer in research, which in turn attracts donors. Ergo, UCLA’s marketable status as a “research institution” depends on compromising the quality of education to fixate on research production quantity.
Out of these applicants, about 8,000 actually enroll at UCLA per year. More often than not, they come to understand that the information presented on their tour, in the pamphlet, and seen online is not necessarily accurate. Rather than seeing the “accomplished” and “self-motivated” students described on campus, first years realize that other students often feel lonely, lost, and without the resources needed to succeed. Coming onto a campus with over 30,000 undergraduate students, first years typically only take general education classes with over 300 people, which adds to the feelings of loneliness. Taking a class with hundreds of strangers is incredibly isolating and counterproductive, but at least they’re being taught by
Considering that research relies on disregarding undergraduate education, one would think UCLA would have the decency to not force research upon prospective students. Yet, you would be wrong because they shamelessly serve it to these kids as an extra side benefit of coming here. Studying at a “research institution” provides students with the opportunity to acquire professional experience and work researching in their field as undergraduates. However, this requires monotonous labor from students that does more to benefit these professors, and in turn the school’s funding, than it will ever benefit the student. Stu-
dents sacrifice more to participate in this field of work by surrendering their valuable and limited time to a study that won’t even acknowledge their name. In addition to the pressures of research, it is nearly impossible to actually secure a spot in desired courses, and, for a lot of students, this deters their planned route of graduation. Moreover,
students in the College of Letters and Science are not assigned academic advisors. Instead, these “valuable” students are given limited access to thirty-minute sessions with varying graduate students for help in deciphering their path. So,
yes, UCLA students prove to be accomplished and self-motivated, but more out of necessity to survive within a school that neglects their existence and wellbeing.
Expecting students to maintain a certain level of independence and responsibility is one thing. However, having that expectation unsustainable and difficult to accomplish, especially considering the rigor and intensity of the quarter system. Yes, some people enjoy rapidly consuming information just to forget it within ten weeks, but I do not. The Admissions Office display the quarter system as something that has helped students in college due to the faster pace, the lighter workload, and the fact that if you hate a class, “it’s over sooner.” None of these reasons reflect the values of students who actually respect learning as a practice. In my opinion, the quarter system demands heightened speed of work for quicker turnover rates rather than centering quality education and active learning. Students have long classes and over packed schedules with minimal time to do anything beyond the classroom. They can’t dedicate enough of themselves to their studies because the quarter system just doesn’t give them the time, but it also does not provide a feasible way to cultivate an identity outside of academia. Students, however, do not give up one or the other, they usually end up sacrificing their sleep and wellbeing. Because UCLA projects this image of “academic excellence,” students feel the immediate pressure to succeed, internalizing a competition between each other and their GPAs. This competitive mindset extends beyond just studying, as
students feel a similar pressure to be involved in extracurriculars, jobs, or internships. According to the admissions teams, extracurricular activities “offer every undergraduate a place to find kindred spirits.” With over 1300 student groups, clubs, and organizations, UCLA is supposed to act as the gateway to lifelong friends and a sense of community. Well, this might be true if the school didn’t rely on students competing with each other for the same position in organizations. With the expectation to fill up a resume with as much bullshit as possible, students do not apply for organizations with the same intent. So, even if you think you have found “your people”, they might not reciprocate the feeling. Despite sensing disappointment or rejection in their education, outside interests, and social life, UCLA students are fed this idea that they have the entire city of Los Angeles to their disposal. As a person enveloped by the rapidity, stress, and abundundent workload, finding time to explore one of the largest cities in the world fails to be a priority. Besides, Los Angeles proves to be one of the least accessible cities for students who do not own cars or have hours to kill sitting in traffic. Westwood may have a Los Angeles address and zip code, but don’t be fooled—it is hard to
be a part of the larger community.
“We” as in yes, I myself am included in this tomfoolery of believing every exaggerated word of praise spoon fed by the admissions process. Even though I just spent the last one thousand words critiquing UCLA, I was the student that “drank the kool-aid” and am now unwillingly paying for it. Being one of the 30,000 undergraduates that decided to come here, it’s not hard for me to imagine why I chose it in the first place. Slipping into a “food coma” while dreaming about UCLA comes naturally after being overloaded with a plethora of planned promotion. Nevertheless, this state of elated intoxication cannot last forever, and normally precedes an aching reminder of a consumption we regret, but we can’t revoke.
The “You” in YouTubers: Capitalizing on
written BY Shanahan Europa art by Birdie Li
I didn’t truly reconcile my feelings with Michelle Phan until she reappeared again this past September. Like many of her subscribers, I felt like I deserved an explanation—after all, I had been a loyal follower since the beginning. She owed us that much. Right? But no, her return video was just an ad for a new lip gloss. It seemed that my sisterly attachment with Phan had led to a sense of entitlement to her life behind the screen—an entitlement that soon led to disappointment.
A legend in the YouTube beauty world, Michelle Phan is credited with being the world’s first influencer and one of the most iconic names on the platform. She started her YouTube channel in May 2007 and quickly became one of the most (if not the most) popular beauty gurus during YouTube’s early days. When I first discovered Michelle Phan, I was ten years old. I had just stolen an eyeshadow palette from my mother’s vanity and was shaking with excitement. When I typed “makeup tutorial” in the YouTube search bar, Michelle Phan was the first result. I clicked on her video, and after that, I was hooked. From then on, I viewed her as an older sister, guiding me through every major stage of my adolescence. She taught me how to curl my hair for picture day, made sure I looked pretty for middle school dances, and helped me perfect winged eyeliner for high school homecoming. She was there for all of it.
This feeling of entitlement and loyalty that I felt towards Phan isn’t just a localized experience. In their 1956 paper “Mass Communication and Para-social Interaction”, sociologists Richard Wohl and Donald Horton originally coined the term “parasocial relationships” to describe this phenomenon of a person developing a one-sided interpersonal relationship with media characters. While research on parasocial relationships has been applied to radio, television, and film, it wasn’t until recently that modern researchers began exploring its implications for social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. In a 2017 study entitled “Parasocial attributes and YouTube personalities,” researchers Arienne Ferchaud, Jenna Grzeslo, Stephanie Orme and Jared LaGroue claimed that improved broadband speeds and increased mobile device usage has made consuming online video part of daily life. Considering this, and the nature of YouTube’s ability to reproduce the feel of faceto-face communication, the site is a breeding ground for parasocial relationships. But how are these parasocial relationships
Then she disappeared in 2015 without a formed in the first place? After a viewer estabtrace. No update on her Twitter, Instagram, lishes an initial attraction to the YouTuber and or YouTube to console her millions of confused subscribers. The teenage me was devastated.
their channel (whether it’s because of a physical attraction or shared life experiences), increased
consumption of that creator’s videos and content facilitates the development of a parasocial relationship. The persona can reinforce this relationship in various ways. It could be Michelle Phan directly addressing her audience with a “Hello, dreamers” or “Hi, gorgeous,” or simply encouraging their viewers to leave a comment responding to a particular question or the content, setting up the expectation that the persona may reply directly to you. In the same 2017 study, the researchers found that self-disclosure is a major factor in intensifying these relationships as it mimics the trajectory of interpersonal relationships. “YouTubers who self-disclose are able to build deeper parasocial relationships with their viewers, encouraging viewers to not only like them, but to self-disclose in return.” ‘Get ready with me’ and ‘Q&A’ are two types of videos where this self-disclosure occurs the most. They directly engage the viewer by setting up the expectation of an intimate, face to face experience while also revealing personal details about the YouTuber.
life interactions, parasocial relationships potentially contribute to our overall, positive wellbeing. Parasocial relationships are usually only psychologically harmful to the viewer when they are pushed to an unhealthy extreme. Naturally, when any behavior is no longer in moderation it typically becomes harmful to our health and wellness. The same can be said for parasocial relationships. The question is, of course, at what point do they become dysfunctional? Researcher Tilo Hartmann answered this question in her paper “Parasocial Interaction, Parasocial Relationships, and Well-Being,” saying dysfunction occurs when the viewer’s investment in the relationship leads to obsession or delusion — obsession to the point that the
viewer alienates themselves from real peers and delusion when they forget about the one-sided nature of parasocial relationships and “increasingly desire or even expect reciprocity.” This in turn “hamper[s] an individual’s healthy adjustment to an inclusion in relevant real-world social settings.”
In one Q&A video, makeup and beauty vlogger Bethany Mota participates in the “TMI Tag,” where she answers deep questions like “Where do you go when you’re sad?” and “Greatest fears.” This divulging of deeply personal information fosters the parasocial relationship between Mota and her subscribers. Disclosing such details creates the illusion that the viewers are privy to information the persona only tells their close friends and family. And if that isn’t enough, YouTubers’ posted content and their interaction with fans on other social media platforms (like Twitter or Instagram) seem to intensify the parasocial relationship, showing them even more “behind-thescenes” and sneak peeks into their off-camera life.
With the ability to monetize their videos, YouTubers can see the benefits of creating and enforcing parasocial relationships with their subscribers. Building parasocial relationships leads to a loyal fanbase, a consistent click-rate, and stable income. More subtle ways YouTubers guarantee fan loyalty are by encouraging their viewers to like the video, subscribe to their channel (if they haven’t done so already) and to enable channel notifications. The implicit message behind these “like and subscribe” messages is that the viewer should subscribe if they want to continue getting videos from the YouTuber. Essentially, the YouTuber benefits by capitalizing on their viewer’s emotional investment: more subscribers mean increased celebrity status and more money.
Forming these deep, unreciprocated relationships with your fanbase does have its pros and cons. These parasocial relationships feed
The conversion of subscribes, likes, and views to a paycheck makes it clear that YouTubers are businesses contained within a person. They are knowingly encouraging parasocial relationships because it is, for the most part, how they maintain their livelihood. In a 2016 study, “Forming digital self and parasocial relationships on YouTube,” researcher Chih-Ping Chen interviewed Taiwanese YouTubers and found that “these content
one of our strongest and most fundamental human needs: the need to belong. Hu-
man beings flourish when we maintain meaningful bonds with others and feel socially supported. So, when watching mediated personalities like YouTubers is processed no differently than real
producers actively work reactions when those expectations are disap to elicit pointed.” parasocial response in their viewers.” This was exactly the case with Phan and her col The most lective four-year hiatus. On Phan’s 2019 return successful video “Hello :),” many stated they were glad to see YouTubers are her come back since they had been following her truly masters at since their childhood. Others were disappointed exploiting with the content of the video, especially after her fanbase extended absence. One subscriber, Lily Raimey, loyalty for commented, “I feel like she’s ‘back’ just to adver peak profit; tise, but I really hope that we get more personal the top earners making upwards of tens of mil- ‘chill with me’ vloggy vids.’ Another user, The Fox, lions of dollars a year according to a Forbes ar- echoed Lily’s feelings, commenting, “Yeah, it’s ticle. When they capitalize on our attachment to pretty obvious she’s back for free marketing and them, their labor becomes more than filming and Google bucks.” As fans who have watched her for video editing; it includes provoking the right emo- almost a decade, her subscribers are used to tional response to deepen that parasocial rela- makeup tutorials, intimate Q&As and life advice. tionship and our loyalty. A vlog promoting her company’s new lip gloss seems off brand and disingenuous. While it’s important to be aware of the more pragmatic side of building these relationships, YouTu- An expectation of specific content, uploaded at bers’ motivations aren’t exclusively monetary. specific times, goes back to the reason Phan left Arienne Ferchaud, co-author of the “Parasocial YouTube back in 2015. In an interview with The attributes and YouTube personalities” study, said Cut, Phan reflects on her leave, simply saying, “I in an interview with The Verge, “That’s not to say was burnt out. I was just tired.” Phan is an examthat the only incentive is money — it’s not. Peo- ple of how subscriber’s expectations and entitleple also want to feel like they’re close to the au- ment towards a YouTuber’s content, negatively dience...There is more social interaction [than a impact creative output. medium like television], and I think creators want to have that, otherwise they would not do You- These hiatuses may serve as a reality check Tube. They would do something else.” on our emotional investment to these creators. When it comes to the consumption of YouTubers, Unlike the typical movie star or musical artist, and media personalities in general, it’s importsubscribers can directly interact with YouTu- ant to remember that they are showing us what bers through the “like/dislike” and comment sys- they want us to see. Within the realm of YouTube, tem. Unlike celebrities, YouTubers usually don’t parasocial relationships actually go both ways: have social media managers or agents; all their viewers consume the constructed personas, and content and interaction comes solely and direct- YouTubers exploit our emotional investment for ly from them. When fan interaction and loyalty capital. While we may access different sides of is how you make money, a YouTube career de- them from their other social media platforms, we mands vigilance in responding to comments and do not truly know the person behind the screen. social media interactions in general. Too little, By being self-aware of these parasocial relationand you risk alienating and losing subscribers; ships, we become more attuned to the processes too much, and you risk burning out and feeling and methods that create our sense of entitlement overwhelmed. to YouTubers’ content. Although we can’t help but form attachments to personas (YouTubers or In her article for The Verge, writer Megan not), we can at least be more critical about Farokhamanesh observes that “viewers who feel who we want to invest our time, energy, friendship or intimacy with their favorite cre- and emotions on—they’ll be profiting ators can have higher expectations and stronger from us either way. Gendertainment
How to Ace Every Kind of Oral: By a Queer Woman, for People Everywhere written BY Jem Garcia art BY Elena Sviatoslavsky With oral, it’s important to enunciate — spell out every letter. Take your time to establish the broad strokes of your topic — make sure the audience follows your tempo to its thundering climax. If you’re not presenting in your first language, you’ll need to get comfortable stretching and flexing the limits of your vocabulary. Not everyone is a natural at oral, but if you practice, you’re guaranteed to improve — and touch your listeners deeply...
minora, and the vaginal opening itself, with the perineum beneath everything. While we won’t be discussing the perineum, you’ll have to be comfortable kissing across every part if you want to be able to impress just about anyone (yes, toss your salads1). Before you graduate to that, however, here’s a run-down of each part of the vulva alongside what I’d recommend you do. We’ll do parts of the vagina next, and you can mix and match as you’re most capable:
I’m talking about how to eat pussy, by the way — because FEM can’t have a print issue 1. “— I have a HUGE clit, so somethemed “consumption” without one! To ace this kind of oral, let’s dive in with the proper attitude, information, and resources to do it right.
First things first! What is a pussy? Can’t pet the cat without getting to know them. For starters, know their name(s). What people tend to call the vagina isn’t actually the vagina. The vagina refers to the internal muscular canal that connects the external area, correctly known as the vulva, to the cervix at its deep end. The technicalities may be intimidating at first, but it’s important to understand the differences between the vulva and the vagina — the external and the internal parts you’ll be going down on, which require different approaches. Not to mention, all vaginas are different. You ought to be prepared to reacquaint yourself with every new kit like it’s your first ever. Externally, you’ll typically find the vulva is made up of the glans clitoris, the labia majora and
times direct stimulation is too good that I can’t cum, I feel like I’ll pass out —” — My editor, getting too real with me
If you’ve read any other self-professed expert’s guide on oral, then you know that the clit can be your best friend — the glans (the external part of the clit) is a tiny bud with about twice as many nerve endings as the whole cabeza of a penis! Many vagina-bearers need clitoral stimulation — and because it’s so sensitive, you’ll want to check in with your partner about what rhythm and angle hits just right. Take your time to figure out how quick, consistent, and direct they want your motions to be. In some cases, they may want you to avoid direct touching. This shouldn’t be too hard as it’s usually hidden under the clitoral hood. However, you’d still have to watch out for the lower half of the glans, which tends to be the most sensitive area and tends to peek out during arousal (due to increased blood flow). If your partner likes direct stimulation, then you would usually have to lightly push the hood upward and part the lips to touch all of the pearl. (Hot tip: it’s easier and sometimes gets your partner turned on if you ask them to spread themselves for you.)
My hard and fast guidelines: the glans is most fully stimulated by flat strokes up and down, most quickly stimulated by flat strokes left and right, and most dynamically stimulated by pointed strokes circling it. But if direct stimulation is too much, then you can press and rub over the hood, or over the lips near the clit, or even over a protective layer like underwear with your tongue. Sometimes you can still tease the glans with a gentle kiss, if nothing more direct. The lips I keep mentioning, which you can kiss too, refer to the labia majora and minora — the outer and inner lips respectively. The lips meet underneath the clit, and the closer the area to the clit, the more sensitive that part of the lips tends to be. Long, flat strokes that traverse the bottom of the lips to the top of the clit are a simple and easy way to hit all the sensitive areas of the vulva in one move. This is a good trick to both tease your partner and start exploring where everything is placed.
2. “If the vagina is just a tube, how do tampons not just fall out?”
— A real health advice column on the internet, god help us
Then we have the opening to the vagina: your way to the rest of the clitoris, the vaginal walls, and the cervix. Note: some people might want you to just focus on the vulva, which is okay. Other people think it’s hot if you dip your tongue inside the opening — and some wouldn’t want you to stop there. In this finger-food culture, you’re very encouraged to eat with your hands! When you meet that person, thank them for this opportunity by sliding two or three fingers inside. Get expressive with it by timing that move with your mouth and licking their clit like it’s a skittle. Experiment with different positions to make it easier on your neck. Be so effusive that they thank you. “But what should I do exactly with my fingers?” my disciples ask me. Understand that the clito-
ral body extends almost four inches behind the labia. It starts behind the upper spongy vaginal walls mythologized as the “G-spot2” and extends through the urethra, ending towards the anus. So many guides curate their digital tips around lavishing attention to this “G-spot” to stimulate the rest of the clitoral body — but I find this term misleading, so let’s throw that out. As stated before, there are many different kitties — you probably shouldn’t pet every one the same way. Don’t limit yourself to the supposed G-spot close to the opening — think of that area as more of your starting point. As needed, carefully extend deeper until you find the spot that makes your partner see stars. In my different experiences, this can be an angle right within the G-spot territory or totally out of that range! Cats come in different shapes and sizes — there’s no one perfect angle. Don’t be afraid to use longer toys if that helps. In the same vein, explore how slow or fast they’ll want you to move your fingers — you can laugh all you want, but it’s honestly helped me to find the right speed by pretending that my hand’s a vibrator with different levels. A silly concept with ingenious applications. As for the walls of the vagina, they tend to be very tight most of the day. They need time to loosen and lubricate — so foreplay is required. It’s a good idea to focus on getting your partner ready through external stimulation, and maybe even get your partner to cum first that way, before you start pushing any fingers in. If you can work up to it, your partner would probably enjoy being stretchedby three fingers or more — thickness pleasurably stimulates the walls much more reliably than length. Finally — the cervix, which is a non-issue unless you’re trying to fist your partner or use a large toy. Be gentle if so — you can hurt your partner if you go that deep. Realize that it’s a vulnerable experience to be reached into — the deepest impression you can make depends on your display of empathy, not pushing them to their limits.
3. “Not all of us were born pussy masters. Some of us started as babies born into a wild ocean, and we had to almost drown before we could swim!”
- Me, I’m quoting myself because I was hilarious, and I am my biggest cheerleader
Now that you know what you’re working with, it’s important to use your knowledge responsibly. Being cocky is a dick move — that’s not what we’re centering here. Too often is the act of eating pussy reduced in media to foreplay when it is its own whole, legitimate sex act. This goes without saying for many queer couples. For cis men reading this, the truth is that most people with vaginas don’t cum from just penile penetration. If you want to worship your partner correctly, you should be offering to eat them out about triple the amount you’re offering to now. It’s a radical, awesome way to flip the script that cishet sex unfairly prioritizes cis men’s pleasure, to the point that cis women think the best sex they can hope for is just sex that doesn’t hurt. And this should go without saying, but it’s brought up way too often as an excuse not to go down on someone — so here’s a quick note on pubes. As my wise editor said, looking over this article and talking about the injustice — “get over it. Braid that shit!” Let’ get the fuck down and freaky with equality. And remember, only a clear, affirmative yes means yes. This information is useless if you don’t communicate with your partner about what they are comfortable with at every stage. This isn’t just a consent issue but a diversity issue — everyone is made differently. What works for some couples may not work for others, so all the techniques you want to try out should be discussed. However, this doesn’t have to be so clinical! Simply ask them things like, is this going too fast for you? Am I pressing too deeply? If you’re comfortable, can you show me how you touch
yourself, or guide my head with your hands? It can be integrated into dirty talk as well, by praising them every time they let you know they like something by their moaning, or making a game out of slowing down or speeding up the more graphically they can explain what they want you to do. Communication can be sexy! If they’re unwilling to have that conversation, no matter how lovingly you assure them that you want to learn what they like ... it may not be anything you’re not doing. They may not be ready to take this step with you, and you should only be having sex with people who you can both share your most vulnerable desires with and laugh about queefs with in the same conversation. There’s so much more to share, but that’s all the space we have for this first endeavor. While this hopefully helps you, an aspiring pussy master, get results — the last thing I want to say is not to take any of this too seriously. Eating pussy is supposed to be fun — not something you’re graded on. The end goal doesn’t have to be an orgasm, especially if you’re still learning each other’s bodies. Furthermore, remember that protection is important. Dental dams are made for oral, but I know many couples wish someone invented something better. If they don’t work for you, then it’s smart to talk about getting tested with your partner before going down on each other. And once you’ve done that...
Well, what are you waiting for? Go forth and spread sex positivity, one pussy at a time!
You can look this up on Urban Dictionary yourself. I believe in your Googling skills. Researchers disagree on the existence of the G-spot — an area that’s supposedly responsible for vaginal orgasms when stimulated, as it nestles against the clitoral body. While I’m skeptical of this term for my own reasons, I think much of the general public’s confusion stems from the fact that they also disagree on whether vaginal orgasms are possible,3 but I digress ... 3 From my own manically random experiments and from very non-scientifically polling my friends, the pussy hobbyist I am can only humbly proffer this opinion: researchers who say vaginal orgasms aren’t possible, shouldn’t feel so pressured to be perfect that they have to disseminate false information to explain their failures. Try, try, try again, Science — because that’s the attitude that improves lives. 1 2
#BeMyFriendAndBuyMyProduct: by Eva Szilardi-Tierney You open up Twitter, like any normal day.
You’re scrolling through your feed, all the usual jokes, headlines, and irate subposting from your friends. Huh, someone retweeted the Totino’s Pizza Roll Twitter account: “Things I’ve learned since becoming an adult: Gas is expensive Gummi Bears are NOT bouncing here and there and everywhere Mario Kart on the N64 is the best Mario Kart Pizza Rolls have always been there for me” (@totinos 2019) Haha, damn, that’s so true, adulthood is hard… But I love that a snack food can relate. That’s pretty out there for a brand, whoever runs this
art by Magnolia Casey account really gets it. Woah, now they’re making jokes with the Gushers Twitter… Better hit Totinos with a ‘follow.’ Most of us who use social media will recognize this scenario and know that this is the state of brand advertising in 2019. Name brands from Delta Airlines to Pepto Bismol run their social media accounts posing as one wisecracking young person whose main personality trait also happens to be that they’re a huge fan of said brand (and want you to be, too). And it makes sense: companies know that their biggest potential market is millennials, most of whom use social media and respond to internet culture and vernacular. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials currently comprise the United States’ largest generation, and in a study conducted by Elite Daily were found to have greater brand loyalty than other generations. So, brands funnel their multi-million-dollar advertising budgets into learning and strategically deploying memes in order to sell juice or cookies or nausea medication to twenty and thirty somethings. This is how we end up with tweets like this from diner chain Denny’s:
“Our coffee has been available in dark mode for like, 60 years. Why isn’t this news?” (@DennysDiner 2019) Here, Denny’s capitalizes on a current social media trend to deliver a pretty transparent advertisement for their establishment. It’s more or less the Twitter version of a conventional television or print ad that uses a current event as an opportunity to promote its product (like the athletics-centered ads companies run during
big televised sports games). The difference is that a Superbowl ad can’t be sandwiched between life updates from friends or family the way that a corporate tweet can. Unlike other forms of advertising, on social media the difference between advertisements and personal posts becomes practically invisible when the ads double as entertainment. So, although the aforementioned tweet (and others like it) is still clearly an ad, it embeds brands and consumption into your social sphere in a way that was previously impossible.
But some of these tweets have a seemingly more serious approach to relatability, like this one from juice brand Sunny D that states simply, “I can’t do this anymore” (@sunnydelight 2019). If reading this makes you concerned for the mental wellbeing of a bottle of orange juice, you’re not alone. Like any friend would, the MoonPie Twitter account quickly replied with a “What’s going on sunny” (@ MoonPie 2019). Thankfully, Sunny D confirmed the next day that everything was fine, and that it appreciated the check-in. But what a frightening post—many of us have had the experience of panicking over a friend’s cry for help on social media, and so we feel relieved that the bottle of juice you see at the convenience store is safe. Or maybe you think it’s funny because the idea of a food product posting on social media about feeling trapped in its own depression is so ridiculous. This tweet references the social media phenomenon of posting about feeling hopeless or deeply disillusioned, often expressing despair over the futility of our capitalist system. Though such posts can be just a cathartic way to vent frustration and seek validation, they also sometimes precede real attempts at self-harm and can be generally concerning to read.
you’re engaging with it, and the name Sunny D is now definitely on your mind, which is the goal. This is the design of these brands. At the end of the day, a brand is an extension of a corporation. And corporations will co-opt whatever voice gets them the most engagement in order to sell their product. Nihilism is one such voice; another is appropriating African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) and trends from Black Twitter. Companies consistently use language and memes that originate from Black communities to sell their products. How many times did brands drop the phrase “hot girl summer,” a phrase coined by rapper Megan Thee Stallion, to sell Wendy’s burgers or Oreo cookies? Or how often are shorter AAVE-derived quips deployed, such as Popeye’s tweeting “y’all good?” (@PopeyesChicken 2019). This appropriation further demonstrates brands’ grabs at relatability, but in this case with the use of digital blackface. Though digital blackface (commonly defined as the co-opting of language and jokes that originate from Black communities by non-Black people to gain social capital) is a topic deserving of its own article, in the context of corporate Twitter, what matters is how mostly white advertisers working for white-owned businesses commodify Blackness through using AAVE and images of Black people to sell their products.
Not only are these brands co-opting language that doesn’t belong to them, but the appropriated jokes and terms then generate profit for the companies while giving nothing back to the communities that created them. Language created by Black communities is genericized as brands use it for mass marketing while giving no credit to its origins. Of course, that’s not what’s going on here; rather, But for these brands, profit is always Sunny-D is capitalizing on these posts in order to the bottom line. humanize the brand by implying that orange juice is capable of suffering from depression. By turn- Companies take this goal very seriously. For examing genuine expressions of pain into a marketing ple, social media analytics company Locowise made opportunity, Sunny D minimizes the human de- a blog post entitled “Cold? Humorless? How to Crespair that spurs these posts. But the tweet doesn’t ate Relatable Social Media Content” describing how stop with just making light of existential dread; it to use “vulnerability” and humor to make their posts actively obscures the causes of such disenfran- more popular. This is just one of hundreds of simchisement by turning it into a joke supporting a ilarly titled articles informing advertising compacapitalist enterprise, the very root of alienation. nies on how to best craft a more human social meBut whether you find the tweet upsetting or funny, dia presence. Some ad agencies build their entire Gendertainment
business model around it. So when Steak-umm tweets “crazy how one day we’ll all tweet for the last time,” (@steak_umm 2019) it might sound like an existential musing you would see from a friend having a bad day, but it most likely came from many meetings and a lot of money directed towards developing a brand identity that has “ironic/absurd” appeal. Brands are not your friends. As bizarre and unsettling as it is to have a nonhuman capitalist entity trying to ingratiate itself into your social life, the real problem with this particular type of relatability advertising is more insidious. Take, for example, Sunny D tweeting “Not really feeling the whole school, college, work for the rest of my life thing. What other options do I have?” (@sunnydelight 2019). While it’s funny to consider a bottle of juice trying to hold down a job, whoever wrote this tweet is expressing a real anxiety shared by a lot of young people. But of course, Sunny D doesn’t really share this existential dread of the future. How could it? Even if the company’s social media manager wrote that tweet expressing a genuine personal fear, they already have a job. What’s more, they work for a company managed by one of the largest beverage distributors in North America. The Dr. Pepper Snapple Group is a hierarchically organized, publicly traded, multinational company that made $6.7 billion in 2017; it is the quintessence of the status quo. So, for Sunny D to air a grievance about the grinding pressure of late capitalist society while simultaneously representing a company that is the cornerstone of such a society is, at best, ironic. At worst, this dissonance blurs the line between consumer and producer to the point of impeding attempts to change this capitalist system. When brands present themselves as individuals who understand the unfairness of unpaid internships, it becomes more difficult to identify how the structure of their companies contributes to a system that expects free labor. The loyalty that brands build among their consumers by commiserating over the capitalist grind makes customers reluctant to critically analyze brands because the relationship developed is always supposed to be that of friends, or, at the very least, peers. As more and more of our interactions with our friends take place through the same social media channels utilized by brands, the line between friend and brand is further muddled. The Totino’s or Wendy’s brand
ultimately becomes humanized as a funny internet presence rather than a calculated corporate entity— and you wouldn’t hold your friend, the brand, accountable for systemic inequalities. Take Denny’s, a brand that has capitalized on ‘random’ humor for years, as an example. Nowhere in their deadpan joke tweets is there a mention of the class action lawsuits filed against the chain for violating minimum wage laws in Connecticut and Ohio. The company would find it likewise difficult to find a meme to explain why they’ve faced so many racial discrimination lawsuits, including the 1994 case that ended in Denny’s paying a $54 million settlement. Despite the Denny’s Twitter lacking any mention of their less ethical choices, these things are still going on. It’s just more difficult to notice (and care) about them when Denny’s is doing its best to convince you that they’re just a zany and loveable breakfast purveyor. Advertising is always manipulative, but brands have never before had access to consumers on the same personal level that their friends do. They’ve never previously been able to turn real sympathy for faked mental illness into brand loyalty because they’ve never been humanized in the same way. And as an approximation of a human, these brands are beginning to be consumed as people; companies put so much effort into crafting a realistic, relatable, specific persona for their Twitter account in order to make them appear to be an autonomous entity. Twitter users idolize “cool” brand Twitter accounts like Steak-umms in much the same way they would a celebrity. Advertising is now about curating your brand to the point of making it into a witty humanoid that could plausibly stand in as a friend. Don’t be fooled. Don’t let a brand posting about how we live in a society trick you into believing that it is an individual human being with the same values as you. Certainly don’t believe that just because the advertising is more subtle, or sometimes conspicuously absent, that anything fundamental has changed. They’re still a corporation, they
still want your money, and they’re still the problem.
Athletics and the Fight for
Justice for Student-Athletes by Lia Cohen and Devika Shanoy
art by Paloma Nicholas
UPDATE Since writing this article, in a historic moment for university athletics, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) has reversed its previous stance and followed California’s lead in allowing athletes to profit from the use of their name, image and likeness. In an official statement released on Oct. 28, 2019 the NCAA Board of Governors urged all three divisions to “consider updates to relevant bylaws and policies for the 21st century” immediately, but no later than Jan. 2021. After facing criticism over its opposition to California’s Fair Pay to Play Act, the NCAA has taken a step in the right direction, but the policy must be well-crafted and stakeholder-informed in order to ensure student-athletes receive the rights they deserve.
“And yet to every bad there is a worse.”
English novelist Thomas Hardy’s words present a pessimistic outlook applicable to collegiate athletics programs. Recent media highlighted the lack of transparency and financial corruption through the widely covered college admissions scandal. Furthermore, the “bad” problems that plague athletics departments result in more than just incriminating news coverage; the “worse” exploitation of athletes is often overlooked. When you mix mass media with the American fixation on sports, you create large collegiate athletic departments that contribute to extensive consumption and waste creation. Meanwhile, athletic programs exploit athletes for university rankings and recognition. Through an analysis of the wasteful practices of university athletics, the mistreatment of UCLA’s athletes, and California’s legislative efforts to guarantee the rights of athletes, this piece seeks to shine a light on the different factors that affect consumption in the context of university athletics. The waste generated by university-sponsored athletic events helps contextualize the role of athletic programs in contributing to overall campus resource consumption. A 2014 study conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia, which has 5,000 fewer students than UCLA, found that 47.3 met-
ric tons of waste were produced during five home football games at one stadium. In other words, the amount of waste produced by one school during football games weighed over three times the mass of the Big Ben. Estimating these numbers while incorporating the increased number of sporting events and students at UCLA would create even more waste. In addition to the physical waste created by sporting events, UCLA athletics uses a vast amount of financial resources to support its programs. According to the Wooden Athletic Fund, approximately 292 scholarships totaling to $16.2 million are provided to student-athletes. In other words, out of 929 total student-athletes, 31.3 percent of them receive financial resources from the university, with an average of $55,479 per scholarship. According to the UCLA Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, this value reads much higher than the average financial aid of $18,808 per student that is distributed to 55 percent of undergraduate students. While money donated specifically for athletics must be used to support athletics programs, these donations cover only 18 percent of UCLA athletics’ annual revenue. Why do student-athletes get favored over the general student population? The answer could be a complex mixture of reputation, revenue, ranking, media coverage, and funding origins.
The massive amount of consumption by UCLA athletics recently extended beyond legally allocated resources as part of the widely reported college admissions scandal. Banking on the lack of transparency in athletic programs, wealthy parents paid UCLA athletics for their children’s admission into the school. At UCLA, the Los Angeles Times reported that several non-athlete students were able to leverage close connections and large sums of money in order to get into the university, causing national outcry and eventually some consequences. UCLA athletics’ role in the college admissions scandal highlights universities’ continued need for transparency in a system that relies on athletics for school recognition and profits. The prioritization of athletic programs in the allocation of academic resources cannot be analyzed without considering the primary stakeholder—the athletes themselves. While playing a role in a structure that contributes to mass consumption and waste, athletes often fall victim to being consumed as a commodity, representing the “worse” that Hardy alluded to. Nationwide, colleges and universities make $14 billion every year from student athletics, and the NCAA takes in a staggering $1 billion annually. According to the Los Angeles Times, universities with top athletic programs took in more than $200 million in the 2017-18 season, and 62 head football coaches across the country earned two million dollars or more in salary per year. Meanwhile, the NCAA bars student-athletes from earning money even as they rack up billions of dollars in revenue based on athlete-driven entertainment, jersey sales, and television deals.
Earlier this year, California attempted to change this reality by passing SB 206, The Fair Pay to Play Act, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in a historic move for the rights of college athletes. SB 206, introduced by state Sen. Nancy Skinner and Sen. Steve Bradford, made California the first state to give student-athletes the right to earn money from their name, image, and likeness, and will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. SB 206 builds on former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon’s previous fight with the NCAA to allow college athletes to get paid for endorsements and use of their name, image or likeness, as long as it doesn’t interfere with university partnerships. The bill does not pay athletes for participating in college sports. Instead, the bill explicitly achieves four main goals: it bars California colleges from penalizing students who elect to monetize their name, image, and likeness rights, prevents colleges from modifying a student’s athletic scholarships based on the student receiving income, prohibits the NCAA from banning California colleges from intercollegiate sports if student-athletes elect to exercise their NIL rights, and recognizes the right of colleges to generate revenue for their athletic programs by forbidding student-athletes from deals that undermine their school’s existing endorsement contracts. When walking around UCLA, a lack of investment in athletes is not the first thing that would come to mind. From the new basketball and football centers to other world class facilities that seem to grow in size and number every year, universities like UCLA constantly pump revenue and donations into athletic programs to make the school more attractive to recruits. Meanwhile, individual athletes do not personally reap the benefits of the profits they generate, due to an “amateurism” model that prevents them from earning a dime for their name, image, and likeness. As UCLA athletics continues to consume and produce resources at a high rate, student-athletes often work 40 to 60 hours a week at their sport with no pay in exchange
for an education they often don’t have time to invest in. Although many athletes in top sports receive more scholarship money than the average student, most athletes do not receive full-ride scholarships that cover room and board. Several studies have revealed that many student-athletes in the US live at or below the poverty level with no time to work an extra job. At the same time, several investigations into top-tier college sports have found that coaches pay athletes, offering cash incentives to join their schools in a process that often criminalizes the athletes—a majority of whom are students of color. For athletes in sports that either have a short career span (e.g. gymnastics), or lack a professional league (e.g. women’s softball), college years are the prime earning years, and the notion of amateurism that claims athletes should wait until professional sports for earnings is no longer applicable. Add to this athletes’ vulnerability to injury, which in severe cases can lead athletes to lose their scholarships and often their careers, and the range of challenges athletes face comes into full focus. Although the argument for college athletes to be paid for endorsements has traditionally been applied to male athletes in top tier sports like football and basketball, SB 206 has included the experiences of female athletes as well. With the rise of female sports on college campuses after the passage of Title IX, some of the best female athletes in the world are in US collegiate athletics programs. However, there are sometimes no equivalent professional leagues for them to enter. This presents a very difficult choice: get a college education
and prepare for life after being an athlete, or skip school, take the endorsements, and hope it works out after your career is over. Swimmer Missy Franklin, a five-time Olympic gold medalist and UC Berkeley alum, was unable to accept endorsements during her college career and now, as a 24-year-old retiree, will never get those years of earning potential back. PAC-12 athletes who have been able to get paid and receive an education, however, have proven that individual rewards don’t ruin college sports. According to the Los Angeles Times, swimmer Katie Ledecky earned $355,000 in Olympic medal bonuses before enrolling in Stanford University, earning “eight national championships to help the Cardinal win two NCAA titles in 2017 and 2018.” Ledecky gave up her last two years of college eligibility to pursue a professional career and will graduate in 2020 while training for the Tokyo Games. SB 206 was designed to grant basic rights to student-athletes so that they never have to make these kinds of choices again. While sports like gymnastics and swimming have a limit on career longevity based on age and physical requirements, any athletes whose name, image, and likeness are used should have the right to benefit from the profits. Although each athlete’s story is different, the problem is generally the same: under NCAA rules, athletes’ talents are consumed by the public while their schools benefit from their popularity with no accountability to their well-being. SB 206 offers an entry point for athletes in California to bring their voices to the table and support themselves in the process — but there is still a long way to go. From wildly popular sporting events to top-dollar spending and under-the-table admissions scandals, athletic programs occupy a realm between community and profits that can both benefit and hurt the institutions they belong to. In order to protect student-athletes, the NCAA must follow California’s lead in equitably addressing the financial and social exploitation that student-athletes face.
a Feminist Take on Weight Body positivity is trending. Examples in popular culture abound, from Instagram hashtags to ad campaigns, all of which send a clear message: it is no longer fashionable to hate your body. As body positivity has gained cultural momentum, corporations have caught on. Whether it be prominent underwear brand Aerie incorporating plus-size models into their advertising (and reaping hundreds of millions in sales) or Weight Watchers rebranding as WW, companies everywhere have learned to co-opt the language of empowerment and inclusivity. The new cultural fixation is not on thinness but on healthy habits. Diets are replaced by detoxes or lifestyle changes; instead of weigh-in meetings, WW customers now attend â&#x20AC;&#x153;Wellness Workshops.â&#x20AC;? But underneath the veneer
by Helen Zhong art by Nicole Nobre of self-love and acceptance lies the same insidious rhetoric that has fueled fatphobia in America for decades. Fatphobia, or the oppression of fat bodies, has existed in various forms for centuries. Fat individuals face fat-shaming and weight stigma in a society that promotes thinness as ideal. Fatphobia also encompasses institutionalized oppression in employment, housing and healthcare. Though current body positive narratives purport to prioritize health over thinness, health and wellness are still equated with weight loss. Fatness is treated as a problem to be solved rather than what it actually is: an example of natural genetic diversity.
Unfortunately, fatphobia is often overlooked in analyses of intersecting axes of oppression. Many people acknowledge that fat-shaming is unkind, but do not consider fatphobia to be a significant form of oppression analogous to racism or sexism. Others believe that fatphobia is simply a concern about health, or argue that those who encounter fatphobia can avoid it by exercising personal control over their weight. Such an analysis ignores the ways in which body size and fatness are profoundly political. Fatphobia disproportionately
targets marginalized communities and intersects heavily with racism, classism and misogyny. This is both a
cause and a result of the fact that in America, the fattest people tend to be from under-resourced communities of color. Fatness in the popular imagination is heavily classed and racialized. Sabrina Strings, sociology professor and author of “Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia,” traces the roots of Western fatphobia to the Atlantic slave trade. Race scientists in the 18th century suggested that Black people were “gluttonous,” linking fatness with notions of African “savagery.” Fatphobia, especially directed toward Black women, predated medical discourse that painted fatness as a public health concern. Fatphobia has never been about health, Strings argues. Rather, it represents “one way the body has been used to craft and legitimate race, sex and class hierarchies.” The racialization of fat bodies deeply affects how they are discussed. In her article “The Color of Fat: Racializing Obesity, Recuperating Whiteness, and Reproducing Injustice,” political science professor Rachel Sanders compares public discourse surrounding the recent opioid epidemic to that of the socalled obesity epidemic. The opioid epidemic is largely understood to be a public health crisis that goes beyond individual blame. In the 2020 Democratic Party presidential debates, candidates repeatedly implicated pharmaceutical corporations, overprescription and rising
poverty rates as causes of the epidemic. Meanwhile, discussions of “obesity” and governmental interventions frequently rely on narratives of individual choice: public education campaigns such as USDA’s MyPlate or Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative; mandatory nutrition labels and calorie counts in restaurants; and local soda taxes. All of these efforts betray an underlying assumption that fat people just need to make healthier choices to lose the weight. Unlike opioid abuse, which is acknowledged to be the result of broad social and economic factors, “obesity” is still largely viewed as a personal failing. It is no coincidence that while the face of the opioid epidemic is white and rural, the “obesity epidemic” is predominantly represented by a Black woman. Weight has thus become an indication of self-control and morality. The thin person is the embodiment of the ideal, neoliberal citizen-subject who controls their health by making “good” choices. As Charlotte Biltekoff explains in her book “Eating Right in America: The Cultural Politics of Food and Health,” neoliberal discourse has redefined health as a responsibility rather than a right. She remarks, “Citizens were increasingly expected to make responsible choices as consumers, to adopt preventative practices, and to exercise self-discipline.” Under this new framework, it is no longer the government’s job to support the health of its citizens. Rather, we have a duty to the government to stay healthy, in order to maximize productivity and minimize national healthcare expenditures. Therefore, those categorized as “obese” are assumed to have failed, not only in maintaining their personal health but also in their obligation to the state to be a productive citizen. Consider this rhetoric in the context of race and class politics. Earlier, we noted that the image of “obesity” in America is a Black woman — to be more specific, a poor Black woman who is a recipient of public benefits. Fatphobia thus collides with racialized fears of “welfare queens” to produce the image of fat Black
women as lazy, deficient in self-control, and a drain on public resources. Welfare is another avenue through which fatphobia is weaponized against the poor. Weight and health are commonly used to justify restricting or cutting funding for food stamp programs. In 2008, Michael Pollan suggested in the New York Times that “junk foods” be excluded from food stamp coverage. In 2016, New York Senator Patty Ritchie proposed a bill to prohibit the usage of food stamps on foods like soda, candy and cake. Several other programs across the country have implemented similar systems to promote the consumption of “healthy” foods. These efforts are largely driven by the misconception that fatness is a result of overeating. In reality, most studies suggest that fat people eat no more than thin people do. Data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which was based on a sample of 20,749 people, indicated that “neither the caloric intake nor the caloric intake adjusted for physical activity level and age was higher in the obese subjects.” A similar study in the British Medical Journal surveyed 3,454 subjects and found a small but “highly significant” negative correlation between weight and caloric intake. The idea that overeating causes “obesity” obscures the fact that the hungry can and do become fat. Food insecurity is one of the reasons poor people are likely to be fatter — irregular access to food causes metabolic and hormonal changes that promote weight gain. This is a natural physiological response to deprivation; when the human body detects the threat of starvation, it fights to increase fat storage as a survival mechanism. Attributing fatness to the consumption of “junk foods” — which tend to be the most affordable and energy-dense foods — further stigmatizes poor and fat individuals and diverts attention from the urgent risks posed by food insecurity and hunger. Among the Left, the prevailing argument against fat-shaming is that those living in poverty have less access to “healthy” foods and
therefore should not be shamed for their “unhealthy” weight. At first glance, this argument seems sound. Low-income people of color are disproportionately affected by food deserts, which are areas with limited access to nutritious and affordable food. We should certainly seek to eliminate food deserts, but not as a “solution” to weight gain — rather, because access to food is a fundamental human right. Ultimately, any line of reasoning that ascribes fatness to a lack of healthy food relies on several false assumptions: the assumption that weight depends on individual choices and is therefore within the realm of personal control, that individual behaviors determine health, and that gaining weight is intrinsically unhealthy. The widespread belief that weight is simply a matter of personal control is the reason the diet and weight loss industry in America is thriving. The United States weight loss industry is worth $72 billion, and 45 million Americans attempt a weight-loss diet each year. But for decades, the medical literature has shown that 95 to 98 percent of diets do not result in sustained weight loss. The majority of dieters actually gain back more weight than they had initially. This phenomenon holds true across all types of diets, whether the diet is based on calories, food type or macronutrients. In fact, individual choices have limited effect on one’s health at all. According to the CDC, individual behaviors account for less than 25 percent of population health. Far more relevant are the social determinants of health: social class, poverty, access to quality housing and healthcare, discrimination, and stress, which can be affected by all the preceding factors and more. These socioeconom-
ic factors impact the health of fat people far more than their actual weight does.
It is often taken for granted that fatness, medicalized as “obesity,” leads to poor health; this is because scientific studies have long shown correlations between fatness and negative health outcomes such as heart disease, type 2
diabetes and shorter life expectancy. But most of these studies fail to take into account the confounding variables that predict both fatness and disease. In other words, correlation does not indicate causation — it is not fatness per se that harms health, but rather adverse social factors that disproportionately impact fat people. For example, because fat people tend to belong to other marginalized populations, they experience oppressive conditions that lead to chronic stress. Stress is extremely harmful: it has been linked to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, all of which are typically thought to be caused directly by fatness. Stress also predicts weight gain, because it increases the release of hormones that affect appetite and fat storage. Put simply: stress is unhealthy, and stress can cause weight gain, but weight gain in itself is not unhealthy. Fat people are also more likely to diet and experience weight cycling, which is the repeated process of losing and gaining weight. A 2007 UCLA study linked weight cycling, or “yo-yo dieting,” to “increased risk for [heart attack], stroke, and diabetes,” which are all ordinarily attributed to fat itself. Weight cycling is also associated with cardiovascular disease, increased blood pressure and high cholesterol. In the end, weight loss attempts pose a greater health risk than fatness ever will. In addition, fat individuals face weight discrimination, which further complicates their health. Weight discrimination has been linked to shorter life expectancy, as it acts on risk factors like social isolation, stress and economic strain. It is near impossible to disentangle the health effects of weight discrimination from the effects of fatness itself.
Fatphobia would not be justified even if fatness did cause disease, because health is not a requisite for justice. be healthy to deserve rights.
But it is important to illuminate the relationship between weight and health because fat liberation requires being critical of narratives that stigmatize fatness. The understanding that weight is not indicative of health is key to uncovering the way fatphobia operates as a tool of social control; the medicalization of fatness simultaneously obscures the effects of oppressive power structures on health and blames fat people for their own oppression. What we know today as body positivity was born out of the fat liberation movement of the late 1960s. Fat activists, inspired by contemporary social change movements, used confrontational, disruptive tactics to protest fatphobic discrimination. Fat Underground, a fat feminist collective based in Los Angeles, published the “Fat Liberation Manifesto” which explicitly identified the movement as “allied with the struggles of other oppressed groups against classism, racism, sexism, ageism, financial exploitation, imperialism and the like.” Sara Fishman, co-founder of Fat Underground, explained the organization’s name: “its initials expressed our sentiments.” If those of us who advocate for body positivity are to raise any real challenge to fatphobia, we must look back to the movement’s radical anticapitalist roots. Fatphobia is a deeply
entrenched system of social, political, and economic domination, and
no amount of woke lingerie brands is going to change that.
Needless to say, weight and health are far from synonymous. Nearly all the supposed health risks of weight gain can be explained by the forms of oppression that are caused by and that intersect with being fat. This is not to suggest that fat people must Dialogue
the Impact of Stress on
Consumption Habits written BY Alondra Serrano Gonzalez art BY Lauren Cramer
The rigor placed on many college students entering a four-year institution has proven to be a large source of stress. As stress can lead to distracting coping mechanisms, college students often develop unhealthy consumption habits to cope with the pressure they face at school. As reported by the article “A Day in the Life of a College Student Aged 18 to 25: Substance Use Facts” the way college students decide to spend their downtime offers insights into how they handle stress. Students in fouryear institutions tend to rely heavily on activities that release endorphins, including but not limited to: “retail” therapy, over- and under-eating, excessive fitness routines, and heavy substance use. While the report acknowledges that activity and usage fluctuate over time, the fact remains that there is a
correlation between consumption habits and increased stress levels. For example, a fulltime student who works a part-time job faces regular stressors that students without a job would not be exposed to—leaving the working student susceptible to higher rates of substance abuse and other harmful coping mechanisms. Another reported means of consumption is time spent on mobile devices. More specifically, how much time students dedicate to social media. A study funded by the NACS Foundation—an organization that dedicates itself to awarding professional development grants— found that of the students sampled at 20 U.S. colleges, 74 percent chose social media as their top leisure activity. Media usage is often an easy distraction from regular activities. Since sites such as Twitter, Insta-
gram, Snapchat and others are easily accessible, many students find themselves losing a few hours every day to their phones. Students’ consumption habits contribute to a larger economy than some might assume. Refuel Agency reported that in 2018, college students were top financial contributors to the economy with a collective $574 billion in spending power. In addition, the study reports that college students spend more on discretionary means, such as eating out, entertainment, and clothes, than they do on books, school supplies, and other items required for classes per year. Many students reported feeling a sense of relief when spending money on non-essential or non-urgent items. In order to measure UCLA students’ consumption habits in response to UCLA’s high stress environment, I created and distributed an individual survey on the consumption habits of 314 students. In this survey, I asked a series of questions about students’ age, year in school, socioeconomic background, study/ work hours, and how they handle stress induced by academics. Additionally, students were asked to compare their consumption habits from before coming to UCLA to after, as well as their exposure to other substances that have been reported to be stress relievers for many students. The survey also instructed participants to state their engagement, if any, with substances such as alcohol or other drugs. Recorded responses were kept anonymous for the security and transparency of the respondents. The responses showed a correlation between the number of hours a student spent working/studying and level of stress reported. Of the participants, 85 percent reported having a part-time job, with 65 percent of them working 12 or more hours a week. Of the students responding to the survey, 78 percent reported spending 12 or more hours a week studying. A total of 82 percent reported being first exposed to alcohol and other substances at UCLA, but only 31 percent reported some sort of reliance on it as a coping mechanism. Although many factors such as relationships, family, and mental health can also contribute
to students’ consumption habits, this survey provides supplementary information to better understand what leads students to their current patterns. The survey also provided students a space to describe their personal experiences handling academic stress. In this section, many expressed feeling stressed and overwhelmed due to the lack of time to feel functional. Many reported feeling as if they were battling between “putting the paycheck in front of [their] education or vice versa,” and having their social life suffer as a result. Since maintaining a part-time job or internship often means giving up additional personal time, many students juggling work and school life found themselves either being too tired to socialize or simply not having time to fit it in. Keeping up with work and school often means sacrificing much of what makes up the traditional “college experience” — i.e. attending parties, going out at night, cultivating and maintaining community. The pressure of having urgent mat-
ters due all the time leads to prioritizing work over one’s mental health and healing time.
People who shared their difficulties with time management due to work or school reported a decline in their own personal and mental health because of it. With such high pressure coming from the work and school environment, neglecting oneself becomes easy as other things seem that much more pressing. This can be anything from not eating, sleeping less, or neglecting personal hygiene. Although neglecting personal health is not “consumption” in a typical form, it is an easy thing to sacrifice in order to minimize the amount of time students feel is wasted. Unhealthy consumption patterns can take many forms, such as excessive sleeping, watching too much television, substance abuse, and other harmful addiction problems. Through an analysis of the existing literature and the responses to my survey, it is evident that the academic rigor that many students face when enrolling in institutions like UCLA often leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms and consumption habits.
Illusion by Taryn Slattery We are utterly and fatally obsessed with being happy. Despite sounding reminiscent of something out of a dystopian novel, the United Nations publishes the World Happiness Report every year. It attempts to document the current levels of happiness in every country as reported by its citizens. Variables such as GDP, social support, and “freedom to make life choices” are presented in clean cut data tables that demonstrate how these factors result in different levels of wellbeing. The very existence of this 123 page report speaks volumes about how fascinated we are with this notion of “happiness.” Even an international organization, overflowing with social and political capital, dedicates itself to studying and then ranking how happy each country feels. The publication of the World Happiness Report forces us to scrutinize our own lives and procure a formula for contentment.
art by Joy Chen
A 1992 New York Times article entitled “Peace Is a Bookshelf Away” unpacks the explosion and subsequent flourishing of self-help books that are saturated in spiritual jargon. The self-help genre exists to address an everlasting yearning to feel purpose and meaning within our lives. A collective desire to immerse ourselves in rich, intrinsic fulfilment is reflected in the commercial success of these types of books. Self-help manuals and their empty promises of serenity imply that happiness is the pinnacle of human experience. However, we currently exist in a lifestyle that presents us with commodities as keys to unlocking contentment. This ultimately delivers a message that the pathway to this state of being lies in scouring the consumerist landscape for answers.
The mandate to find happiness is echoed to us through a variety of mediums, perhaps the most notorious being consumerist culture. We expend time, energy and money trying to chase the ideal of happiness that is advertised to us. Instead of reflecting inwards and questioning the utility of this pursuit, we look to the external to fill us up.
Capitalism is designed to profit from this void of happiness, dangling the forbidden fruit of fulfillment impossibly out of reach. If we were satisfied with ourselves as is,
we would not attempt to find wholeness through purchasing material items or performing labor that is unhealthily fixated on our self image. Corporations tempt us with offerings of inner bliss, but this transaction is inherently capitalist. The agonizing pursuit of self-improvement is sneakily ensconced within the pastel colored confines of digital beauty brands. Glossier, the minimalist online beauty corporation, insists that beauty happens when we invest in individualism. A blurb inserted above an image of its infamous Milky Jelly Cleanser affirms, “Personal choice is the most important decision a brand could ever make.” These facets of Glossier embody the gap between how we feel and how we think we should feel. Hellbent on feeling content, we drop $25 on facial oil that emulates the post-skin care application glow, we rejoice upon the arrival of the millennial pink parcel at our doorsteps, we spread viscous, iridescent serums on our faces in anticipation of gratification. However, this is only a momentary glimpse of fulfillment. A vicious cycle is generated where we as consumers become dependent on products as sources of transient contentment. In October 2019, Refinery 29, an online media company, released an article titled “8 Self-Care Products You Need This Fall.” A blurb introducing the slideshow of products suggests that we should devise a fresh fall selfcare routine to “try to find something to ward off any sad feels over the loss of
summer…” as if any semblance of unhappiness should and could be ferociously erased from our emotional lexicon by rubbing coconut scented body oil on our extremities. Of course, making the choice to invest in oneself is marketed to us as a voluntary quest. However, the self has become commodified: our desire to feel at peace has been turned into a source of profit for the capitalist patriarchy. Selfhood has become a point of advertising and, as seen in consumerist culture, a tangible external investment. Under capitalism, the self becomes inextricable from the products we buy and the rhetoric of happiness that is sold to us. True happiness is intentionally never revealed to us in a concrete, definite form. Most importantly, it does not exist. The nature of capitalism requires that we yearn to work on, improve, and perfect ourselves. In the rare moments that you’re not whisked away in the whirlwind of duties, capitalism urges us to “treat ourselves” and buy a face mask. Go on a retail therapy spree, take a selfie donning your newly purchased artifacts. When these purchase fails to fill the void, there is an entire market waiting to indulge the individual who finds solace in burying their grievances in the depths of their shopping cart. Perhaps we can all relate to this person. Instead of welcoming unhappiness, we find ourselves absorbed in the loathsome commitment to self-improvement. Even if we do not
feel happy, we feel obligated to perform happiness or look for ways to experience it within ourselves.
We make sure to document our “choice” to be happy whether it be on social media or in real time. Lining one’s bedside dresser with dollhouse-sized facial creams gives the impression that the self is invested in, cared for, and surveilled with a loving delicacy that can only be derived from within. Many of us have felt that tiny, irresistible tug of satisfaction upon returning home with full shopping bags, careDialogue
get hidden, displaced, or negated under signs of public joy.” Despite its benevolent connotations, the narrative of happiness actually refuses our unhappiness. When people are outwardly unhappy, they are often cast as irrational or angry without merit. This type of sentiment is often weaponized against marginalized groups who express their rightful frustration with their current conditions. It casts any attempt to reject the status quo of being happy as the very antithesis of “goodness” or what is standard. When the happiness myth is turned on its head, the ugly truths of the world we live in are unleashed. The illusion is shattered and we discover that the rhetoric of happiness is used to distract us from questioning the prevailing social order. fully unloading our treasure, and admiring our happiness made tangible in a momentary and monetary instant. However, capitalism is built on the very transience of satiation: when that fleeting glee dissipates into thin air, we are left thirsting for more, even if it is just a drop. This agonizing pursuit of happiness leaves us with a question: what is one left to do when there are no tangible solutions to an intangible feeling? Feminist scholar Sara Ahmed offers an empowering alternative in her essay “Feminist Killjoys (And Other Wilfull Subjects).” Liberating ourselves from the very obligation that we should be happy is the first step in unpacking the narratives that have socialized us to think in this way. Happiness, or the desire to attain it, is typically deemed as natural. We feel obligated to feel happiness in relation to the “right” objects, or in this case, products manufactured by the capitalist system. Ahmed declares that naming the objects that are supposed to make us feel happy as the very cause of our discontent is crucial in dismantling the concept of happiness. Refusing the equation of self-satisfaction with material objects is refusing the conditions of capitalism. As destructive as this pursuit of happiness is to ourselves, Ahmed highlights how happiness also functions to conceal “the bad feelings that
In joining the endless quest to locate happiness, we become complicit in maintaining the capitalist structure: one that profits off of our human instinct to feel fulfilled. We acquiesce to the status quo when we fail to question underlying racist, heteronormative, capitalist discourse that has heralded and continues to herald happiness as something we should strive to embody. If we accepted our unease, capitalism would not succeed. Without our desire to feel full and improve upon ourselves, there would be no profit to be made. Highlighting this disjunction of expectations is bound to dredge up uncomfortable feelings, but what if we mobilized our discontent? New narratives are configured when we reposition ourselves within emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness and confusion. We have been taught to villainize these feelings rather than funneling them into dismantling the concept of happiness as a tool of maintenance. Instead, we should consider an outward expression of unhappiness as a tool in exposing unrest that has been simmering underneath the surface. Happiness is complacency is erasure of discontent. Let’s choose to embrace anger. Anger is transformative. Anger is dynamic. Anger tears down the mirage and demands to be heard. In choosing to be angry, we choose to be free. Instead of muting our anger, we should be vigilant of the ways in which we have been socialized to seek happiness and untangle ourselves from the pursuit of self.
Romance of the 7th I love you even though I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know what you are anymore. In the silence of the summer nights, I gazed across the valley at the white complex on the hill that stares back at us opaquely as the Palace of Knossos. Somewhere in its weavings and windings, in a path that follows the eternity of constellations, you are there, feeling, for the first time, crepuscule over sunset, and to the west, the ocean, immense augur. In the morning I awake, the sea mist rolling through the viridescent gully, and get lost in the jungle of palmed apartments. Through the towering emptiness of the atrium, come the whines of bathroom doors and waves of faceless whispers, that rise with August grease. Impermeable to bound sputtering, I await the advent of your Word.
â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Ania Lakritz
art by Emma Sher Arts & Creative
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