1Winter 2021 femnewsmagazinewinter2021
Editor’s Note by Alana Francis-Crow
Disconnection, in some ways, is a difficult subject to create work about, because it’s an indicator of disjointedness. How do you write about a lack of a bridge where there should be one, of gaps where there should be links? Disconnection breeds confusion, disorientation, and uncertainty. As a result, it takes a great deal of thoughtfulness and discernment to be able to point out disconnections we’re not meant to be aware of. Oppressive powers don’t want us to ask questions like: How can UCLA transition smoothly to online learning after telling disabled students for years that it was impossible to attend class virtually? How can a film about a Korean American family created by an American cast, crew, and production company be categorized as a Foreign Film by the Golden Globes? How can politicians get away with hoarding wealth while their constituents suffer? It takes a lot of hard work to be able to ask these kinds of questions –– to observe the world and point out its gaps. To draw new connections between ideas. As usual, I’m incredibly proud of how FEM staff has tackled this challenging subject. Of course, it goes without saying that we’re all feeling disconnected on a deeply personal level as well. Every single person I know is struggling with loneliness and isolation because of COVID. In this issue, we feature several personal pieces in which writers share their individual experiences with the theme of Disconnection. This issue includes some much-needed cathartic jokes about what it’s like to attend Zoom University, as well as a poignant letter written in English addressed to a mother who only speaks Mandarin. This quarter, there were an unprecedented (there’s that word) number of first-person pieces, I think, because this theme just hits so close to home for so many of us. Amidst all this disconnection, there are slivers of clarity and hope. I was particularly inspired by reading an account of a professor who’s working hard to make his class as accessible, interest ing, and stress-free as possible during the pandemic. It brought me joy to know that at least in a few pockets of the UCLA community, people are trying their best to make this awful and tragic time slightly less terrible. I somehow always find a way to end these notes by connecting the theme to the act of writing itself, but I just can’t help it! I see writing as a way of identifying and examining disconnections in the world and ourselves. Like Jane Shin writes in her poem for this issue, “Nothing makes sense –– / That is probably why I write.” Enjoy the Disconnection issue. Editor-in-ChiefAlanalove,Francis-Crow2020-2021
2 FEM Disconnection Issue
EIC: Alana Francis-Crow
Copy Editor: Ashley Leung Staff Writers: Chloë Vigil, Bella Nadler, Sarah Huang
Section Editor: Eva Szilardi-Tierney Content Editors: Shannon Kasinger, Angela Patel
Copy Editor: Sophia Obregon Staff Writers: Tessa Fier, Navya Nagubadi, Mar Escusa, Vanessa Diep, Kelsey Ngante Dialogue and Opinion
Copy Editors: Alexandra Baran, Emma Lehman
Politics Section Editor: Mar Escusa Content Editors: Kimia Faroughi, Emma Jacobs
Editors: Axel Tirado, Charlie Stuip
Design Heads: Shannon Boland, Grace Ciacciarelli, Lauren Designers:CramerMing Chen, Collette Lee, Maizah Ali, Emma Lehman, Hailey Lynaugh, Haiqi Zhou, Karina Remer, Katelynn Perez, Lilah Sniderman, Neha
Social Media Manager: Jackie Vanzura Social Media Staff: Lexie Bell, Emily House, Mary McGlinchey Social Planning Section Head: Cindy Quach Social Planning Staff: Anna Mook, Lakshmi Burugupalli, Katelin Murray, Sarahi Lopez, Uwaila Omokaro, Lyndsey Garrett Finance Section Heads: Rachel Chau & Mayfair Rucker Finance Staff: Ananya Iyer, Devanshi Agarwal, Isabel Enriquez, Izzie, Ru-Faan Chen Intern: Abby Giardina Radio Radio Manager: Julia Schreib Radio Staff: Anjali Singhal, Deirdre Mitchell, Delilah Williams, Diana Castro, Emma Lehman, Jamie Jiang, Lavanya Pandey, Naomi Humphrey, Aliah Gaoteote Video Video Heads: Shannon Boland & Natalya Hill Video Producers: Lilah Sniderman, Mary McGlinchey, Cindy Quach, Daniella Hagopian, Ifueko Osarogiagbon Video Interns: Anna Ziser, Cassidy Kohlenberger, Jerylee Perez, Rania Ali
Dihman, Shreya Dodballapur, Maya Lu Social Media
Entertainment Section Editor: Shanahan Europa Content Editors: Kelsey Chan, Eva Szilardi-Tierney Copy Editors: Maya Lu, Olivia Serrano, Natalya Hill Staff Writers: Isabel Armitage, Maribella Cantú, Grace Fang, Ifueko Osarogiagbon, Chloe Xtina, Jessica Thomas, Makayla Williams, Jamila Cum mings Arts and Creative Section Head: Taryn Slattery
Section Editor: Maya Petrick Content Editors: Madison Thantu
Staff Writers: Jane Wang, Amanda Mak, Jasmine Kaur, Savannah Spatafora, Pilar Shen-Berro
Managing Editor: Concepción Esparza
Staff Writers: Eva Speiser, Ovsanna Avetisyan, So phia Pulido, Anouska Saraf, Joey Sigala, Ha My Le Campus Life
4 FEM Disconnection Issue Table of Contents 1. Vanessa Diep, alienation 2. Katelynn Perez, The Remedy 3. Shannon Kasinger, The Person who Leaves 4. Sophia Pulido, Letters from This Body/Letters to Nobody 5. Emma Keenan, Why doesn’t every class have a meme channel? 6. Shanahan Europa, Golden Globes: “You don’t look American.” Me: “Well, neither do you!” 7. Jane Wang, Haircut + Disembodiment = Time Capsule 8. Tessa Fier, (In)Accessibility at UCLA 9. Haiqi Zhou, Dear 10. Chloe Vigil, The Five Moods of Transferring During a Pandemic 11. Jane Shin, Between End Times, A Confession on Writing 12. Kimia Faroughi, They Don’t Really Care About Us 13. The Disconnection Playlist
FEM, UCLA’s feminist newsmagazine since 1973, is dedicated to the empowerment of all people, the recognition of gender diversity, the dismantling of systems of oppression, and the application of intersectional feminist ideology for the liberation of all peoples. FEM operates within an anti-capital ist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist framework. Our organization seeks to challenge oppression based on sexuality, gender, race, class, ability, religion, and other hegemonic power structures. We create a wide range of compassionate multimedia content that recenters narratives often rejected or ignored within mainstream media. Beyond journalism, FEM engages in actionable praxes by building coali tions with other campus and community members. As self-reflective feminists, we are committed to unlearning and relearning alongside our global audience as the sociopolitical landscape in which we are situated continues to transform.
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 per mission 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
Alienation is one of the greatest consequences of a society structured around capitalism. In the workplace, workers often feel like cogs in a machine; they are alienated from the fruits of their labor, the means of production, their fellow workers, and themselves, toiling at wage jobs to simply afford basic needs. In short, workers do not own their labor, nor are they able to reap the benefits of their work. Any profits made are given to those who own the means of production, which refers to the things used to produce goods and services. Corporations like Amazon hire underpaid wage workers whose labor produces revenue for the company, while that revenue is accumulated in the hands of the company owners.
In politics, the people are alienated from a government that doesn’t represent them. Rather, the government represents corporate interests and the neoliberal order, in which privatization is favored over making resources available as public goods. Under neoliberal policies modeled on free market principles, profit maximization and hyperindividualism are prioritized over human prosperity and collective solidarity. We, as individuals, are alienated from our communities as capitalist norms push the idea of “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps” and the normalization of suffering, instead of being able to look to our communities for support. For instance, outrage over tax raises and budget deficits overshadows demands for social welfare, increased minimum wages, and the cancellation of student debt. These issues have existed long before COVID-19, but have been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic and subsequent economic depression, highlighting existing inequality and exploitation. Without ownership over the means of production, representation in political decisions, or connection to our communities, the individual lacks the means to true self-actualization; we are not fully realized economic and political individuals under capitalism. How can one truly prosper as a human being in a capitalist society so disconnected from the needs of people?
6 FEM Disconnection Issue alienation writing by Vanessa Diep; design by Shannon Boland
In thinking about our current situation under this pandemic, I feel that the overwhelming sense of detachment from ourselves and others finds some solace in the inability to relate to our pets. Many people have managed their anxiety by caring for a new dog, cat, etc. Because they are unable to pass judgment as humans do, a pets’ disconnection from us is a positive thing. Whenever we are frustrated with the world, they fill the void with their daily needs, quirks, and unconditional loyalty. I wanted to illustrate this by enveloping a pet owner and their dog in an explosion of color and shape. The confusing dreamscape is an analog for our relationship to our pets—their therapeutic effect on us is inexplicable to anyone else besides our subconscious.
The Remedy design and artist statement by Katelynn Perez
8 FEM Disconnection Issue
Despite there being no conceivable way to abandon all attachments to capitalism while we are actively living under it, this person is not critical enough to realize this, and thinks themself to be exempt from the reach and control of capitalistic systems. Instead, their ability to “leave society” is done through subscribing to capitalism by accessing the stolen wealth of their family and ancestors. This wealth was acquired through white supremacy, colonization, and theft from the Global South. This ability to retire to nature shows just how limited white, wealthy environmentalism’s depiction of the American outdoors is. Not only is it incredibly expensive to make this endeavor, but it’s not often an option for low-income folks; racism and antiBlackness preclude people of color from easily choosing this way of life. Historically, natural/rural environments have sometimes been a dangerous place for non-white persons. As a result, some people of color may fear their time in the outdoors. However, since many of these deserters are white and wealthy, safety and monetary costs don’t inhibit them from pursuing this life. Instead of sending a fuck you to capitalism by participating in mutual aid (one of the only true ways to minimize capitalism by building communities
The Person who Leaves writing by Shannon Kasinger, design by Hailey Lynaugh
When we talk about those who leave society to live “off the grid,” who are we actually talking about and what does this entrance into this sort of life look like? This person is someone who chooses a lifestyle away from modern grids of society, some of which are electricity, plumbing, and the financial/food supply grids. Desiring this form of life usually results in someone adopting a Walden-esque perspective (the famous book of Henry David Thoreau) going to live in nature to “live life to the fullest” and disconnect from modern society. Using solar energy, growing one’s own food, and making residence in isolated nature are some of the ways this life is conducted, especially under the claim of living a life of sustainability. Especially right now, when physical contact with other people is already almost non-existent, some people are inclined towards a more remote life and see this life shift as easy. These notions of self-sufficiency sound fine and dandy... until one considers what these people are truly running from, and who they’re leaving behind in the process. Instead of a truly sustainable life, someone who leaves society in this way is someone so privileged, someone who sees themselves as so exempt from notions of accountability to the communities that surround them, that they deem it okay to abandon the fight against oppressive society itself by leaving it completely. These people are white, definitely of abundant financial means, and with a distinct history of not being affected by punitive systems of power in the United States. Because of their privilege and whiteness, they feel zero obligation to help in dismantling these systemic institutions. Despite having the social and financial capital to lend themself to the aid of BIPOC and the movements they spearhead, they make a decision to “live off the grid.” There is an abundance of moral superiority in choosing personal gratification over an obligation to aid marginalized people and subsequently abandoning any potential financial contribution towards their fight. This usually looks like someone using their trust fund, provided by the generational wealth of their family and their whiteness, to live off the land in a rural part of America, perhaps in Colorado or Oregon. The environment does not hold intrinsic value for these people, and much of their gravitation to nature is rooted in the desire to only experience the aesthetic picture of it. There is no recognition of the profundity of the world or nature in this action as it is inherently selfish, and “reconnecting” with the pretty parts of nature doesn’t dissolve any of that egoism.
On the subject of cost: often involved in these plans is the purchasing of land and construction of housing for this “secluded” life. The erection of such a house can cost $20,000-$30,000 for land plus $20,000 for manufactured houses and up to $120,000-$150,000 to contract out for the building of new houses. It goes without saying that this lifestyle is not financially feasible for most people. Instead of detaching from capitalism, possessing this kind of wealth inherently implicates you in capitalism; this position of wealth is maintained and sustained in every instance where redistribution of wealth by rich people doesn’t occur. This is also not sustainable living in the slightest and an example of whiteness co-opting spaces of nature through the concept of ownership. The United States exists on stolen land, ripped from Indigenous people through genocide and displacement. Now Indigenous communities currently reside in about 3% of their land (as of 2012), and much of it is located in the same parts of the Western United States that these new-age colonizers build their new lives on. This appropriation of Native lands through further possession disrespects both Indigenous communities and the common principle held amongst many Indigenous peoples (such as the Shoshone and Navajo communities) of the sacredness and living qualities of land. Perhaps this is another aspect of the moral superiority complex of those who leave society: the belief that living off the grid and nearer to nature is actually less an act of colonization than living in modern society when they are one and the same. Invasive actions like these escalate into encroachments like the corporate pilfering of Indigenous land, such as in the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline that threatened Native communities’ water supplies. The relationship between whiteness and Indigenous land is always an implementation of colonization and imperialism, and this is a contemporary implementation of those concepts. What is the inherent motivation behind this dropping out of society? As we can see, it cannot be a disconnection from capitalism, because there is no actual disengagement occuring. These people of privilege are not those systemically oppressed by the racism and anti-Blackness, transphobia, classism, sexism, and fatphobia that persecute marginalized folks in every aspect of society; so what is there to escape from? In essence, these people seek to evade redistributing their wealth and repurposing their privilege for the benefit of society’s most marginalized peoples. Doing so would provide BIPOC and working class folks more resources to organize against their oppression, which these deserters aren’t concerned about.
9Winter 2021 of support independent from governmental and non-profit organizations), “removing” oneself from society actually entrenches one deeper into the tendrils of capitalism and privilege (both social and financial).
Let’s consider another version of this person who leaves society: maybe they don’t leave society physically by living in nature, but remain and do nothing to use their wealth and privilege for the liberation of BIPOC and those suffering under capitalism. The root problem of the kind of person who would leave is a lack of accountability and an abundance of privilege, and the varying degrees of this mentality all result in an abdication of responsibility. This willful ignorance both of the experiences of disenfranchised people and our roles as those with privilege in helping to combat systems of oppression maintains the complacency we see white people of every socioeconomic class perpetuate each day. It is truly a question of perspective whether you are a stay-at-home deserter: how does your contentment with sustaining your privilege make you just as bad as people who abandon society altogether? When there is a perpetual need to confront and subsequently dismantle systems of power from the foundation up, dropping out of society to disconnect from systems of power abandons the people still fighting these oppressions. This compulsion to live separate from our world is a complete disregard for our roles as white people in creating and maintaining white supremacy and our responsibility in abolishing it. While there is no true ethical existence or consumption under capitalism, it is equally unethical to think oneself more deserving of a disconnection from the world’s difficulties than those actually suffering under systems of punitive power. These structures of oppression originated from white colonizers, and we are preserving that heritage of colonization by continuing their actions. It is vital that we do not let this spiting of accountability go unanswered. All those that do not aid in the fight against systemic oppression are only furthering it.
There is no burn-out from the world for someone whom society privileges and presents no social or economic hardship for. Many who do this echo sentiments of “soulsearching” and needing to “find themselves,” as if this world does not privilege the identities of these people. What are the actual barriers in society keeping these people from being able to find and be themselves within society? No one’s involvement in capitalism is truly voluntary, but for those who benefit from its riches, their participation is very willful. Opposite to this reality are the lives exploited by capitalism, that involve depletion through rigorous labor for meager earnings and having little ability to experience upward mobility (especially if you’re Black). Instead of staying and confronting white supremacy and capitalism, these passive recusants abandon their role in this fight in favor of selfishness to further cement themselves in their privilege and whiteness.
Letters from this Body/Letters to Nobody
writing by Sophia Pulido; design by Collette Lee I. Dear Pulido, I was wondering if you’d come back. II. Dear Pulido, I want to be here. I want to open every door I can, to find opportunities for myself. I am immensely privileged to even hope for that. I keep thinking about it: whatever opportunity there may be, whether I manage to find it or not, must be a product of luck, of unfair advantage. But they have also made it known that none of these pos sibilities are open to us, not really. We’re not people here, just tuition-payers. We can be sent away at a moment’s no tice, for nothing more than a few extra hours or a change in class format that we have no control over. And we’re the lucky ones. You are used to acknowledging your privilege, but overes timating how much you have creates the illusion that you know where you stand. I’m not welcome here: I’m extreme ly grateful to be allowed to stay. And I live with that thought turning over and over and over again in my head; how dangerous to think that people do not inherently deserve good lives, that there is a “right” way to exist. How can I be so alright with following, so desperate to comply? It is difficult to live somewhere once you realize how little it makes sense. We do anyway. We live and walk among people who wish us gone. We hope for lives (for just the education advertised to us) it turns out we have no right to have. III. Dear WhateverSophia,opportunity there may be, it will only ever be for you, individually. You want to believe that whatever you will end up doing can make the world marginally better, but how much of that is for your own benefit?
10 FEM Disconnection Issue
V. Dear Sophia, I hate your stupid fucking accent –– the words twisting the wrong direction every way you look. A colonized tongue. As if your homeland has not been colonized enough.
11Winter 2021 How much of your feminism is built on wanting to be a “good person” instead of on wanting people to have good
Someone told me I “spoke really good English” the first week I was there. I resented it, almost as much as I resent ed having to prove my English Proficiency –– as if fourteen years of predominantly English instruction was not proof enough; as if an education system ruled by American col onization was not proof enough. Colonize us for years then wonder why their language had infiltrated ours. Colonize us for years –– frame themselves as ideals so that English becomes the unsubstantiated mark of intelligence –– then wonder why my first language is not my native one. And then make me pay to prove it. I hate your stupid fucking accent, how it’s gotten “better.” I hate that better means “even less noticeable.”
I know how long it took to get your accent to how you wanted it, to make your native language understandable despite it. I remember how it felt to curse, to feel, for a split second, that you could be part of your own culture –– if only in anger. I remember the guilt, too, for forgetting the privilege that came with your position in all your efforts to escape it. For someone who has never known anything but the Philippines, you know nothing at all about what it means to be Filipino. But that’s fine, nobody does, really. What a disservice to believe that it’s a monolithic culture, even within the same families. Our family trees stretch back and forth to any other land, looking for the wealth taken from our mountains, seas, and labor. Perhaps the most Filipino thing you’ve done is stretch: reach across the breadth of the Pacific, in the hopes of finding something to build, something to hope to take home. Perhaps the most Ameri can thing you’ve done is to do it for yourself.
Howlives?unselfish can you be if you decided to leave in the first place? (But then, how much of that was your choice to begin with?)
IV. Dear Pulido, I don’t know who to be here.
VI. Dear Sophia, I have days I fear you never will. postscriptum Hindi ka ba nahihiya? Ang pag-iisip mo ay kanila na rin; ang tanging sining mo ay kanila. Salitang hiram: utang na babayaran ng kultura at pagkatao. Kung ang kabataan talaga ang pag-asa natin, saan ka ba lumago — saan ka tumakbo? Napakayabang. Hindi sa’yo nakasalalay ang kinabukasan natin; samantalang, pipili ka pa rin: kaya mo bang harapin ang tinalikuran mo?
Why doesn’t every class have a meme channel?
writing by Emma Keenan; design by Ming Chen
12 FEM Disconnection Issue
If there’s anything that I have learned in my almost a year (*gasp*) at Zoom (Doom) university, it’s that connection is nearly impossible over Zoom. Something is lost in transla tion, maybe everything, so instead of trying to make Zoom as “normal” as possible, UCLA Professor Daniel Snelson does the opposite. In his class, Graphic Novels and Com ic Poetics, Professor Snelson centers the art of comics, a medium that is not typically embraced in the English Can on or taken seriously by academia in general. The content alone is defiant, but the approach to learning is an even further departure from tradition. Rather than trying to force a conventional classroom onto a digital environment, he embraces the digitality and experiments with it. By designing a classroom that is equally as unprecedented as the time we are living in, Professor Snelson has creat ed a vibrant community that encourages interaction and potentially even fosters friendship. The first step is simple: abandon CCLE (Common Col laboration and Learning Environment) and embrace Discord. CCLE is a campus-wide service that normally serves as the center for posting homework, essays, discussion posts, and all other course information. We approach this server with our school brains on, because it only exists in relation to UCLA. There is nothing about the server that promotes discussion on topics outside of as signed posts. Discord, on the other hand, exists outside of academia. It can be used for book clubs, gaming, and more. You name it, and there is probably a server for it. Our class server is set up with a slew of channels ranging from #listening, to #anime-recs, to my personal favorite, #cute-pets (everyone can benefit from a picture of a dog dressed in a troll costume). Mustering the courage to slide into someone’s Zoom DMs has become a thing of the past. These channels invite conversation and interac tion that’s not enforced, making the class conducive for making e-friends (friends only encountered in electronic environments). When you haven’t made a new friend or seen old friends in months, these interactions are pre cious and really do wonders for curbing the isolation we are getting all too familiar with.
Originally created to bring people together around games, Discord centers play, something that Professor Snelson also values. Synchronous Play is on the sylla bus: “I aim to produce live and meaningful interactions despite virtual distance and technological mediation. We will break into Mozilla Hubs, Gather Town, High Fidelity, Discord, and many other platforms (idk, Minecraft?) in the search of collective experiment and active conversa tion — and will produce collaborative content that could not be made otherwise.” As a classmate pointed out, the word “work” (homework, group work, etc.) has been replaced with “play” in this class. Rejecting capitalistic values of work and production and instead exploring play as a model for learning and academia promotes a level of engagement that counters the rigidity of distanced digital environments — imho learning can and should be fun.
After just three weeks of the quarter, I have walked on Batman’s face, built rooms in space, and ran around in a Gather Town replication of UCLA’s campus. Walking on Batman’s face was also in Gather Town, where pages from “Soft Lead” by Chan Chau were inserted as the floor ing, allowing us to engage with the material in an unparal leled way. After reading Tillie Walden’s “On A Sunbeam,”
When we do use Zoom, we abandon vanilla Zoom and embrace Snap Camera, a free desktop application that al lows you to put on Lenses when on your computer. In the early chapters of the pandemic, I sat, sweating profuse ly in an air-conditioned room, feeling nauseated by the constant awareness of my asymmetrical face (something a boy told me in second grade and I still think about).
Looking attentive was exhausting and my body dysmor phia hadn’t been that bad since I was 14. There was no way to avoid feeling depleted after class. I spent the following hours feeling like a shell of myself, doomscrolling on TikTok, and dreading going to the next class. Now, I attend class as an animated version of myself, or as baby yoda, or as a carrot. The performative nature of Zoom isn’t erased, but it’s decreased and that is something to celebrate in itself.
13Winter 2021 we spent the second half of class designing a room in Hubs. Sure, I was still sitting at my childhood desk, but I was running around in our space-themed room on my computer, moving faster than I had in months.
Another thing to celebrate (although it should be the norm *sigh*): white cis male authors are the minority on the syllabus, and Professor Snelson always uses the correct pronouns for the authors we read. It is also worth men tioning that every. single. required. book. is made *freely accessible* online via high-quality facsimiles. Even when that process entailed Professor Snelson testing dozens of settings unsuccessfully, realizing that the only way to “capture” the book would be through photographs, which meant taking photos of every page and then converting them into a PDF (OOPH). While it hasn’t happened yet, Professor Snelson mentioned that at the end of the quarter, our three months of learning and creation won’t be stashed in a box in the back of the closet or lost in a dark corner of Google Drive. Instead, we will collect our favorite memes, comics, comic reactions, final projects, and other class ephemera in a printed book that will be available for anyone interested in ordering a copy. Until then, I’ll continue to send pictures of Bernie Sanders sitting *literally anywhere* in the meme channel, scroll through a series of cute pet pictures, and for the first time in months, feel excited to go to class.
14 FEM Disconnection Issue
As I watch the trailer for “Minari” (2021), a film about a South Korean family pursuing the “American Dream” by starting a farm in Arkansas, nothing strikes me as un-American. As an Asian American watching the scenes unfold — a South Korean family moving into a trailer home, the second-grade son feeling different from his white classmates, the immigrant father breaking the earth for their new farm — nothing is out of the ordinary. Simply put, I wholeheartedly feel that this is an American movie. But unfortunately, I am not the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the group that chooses the Golden Globe nominations. And according to archaic HFPA rules, because more than fifty percent of “Minari”’s dialogue is not in English, this film about the “American Dream” is only eligible for the Best Foreign Language Film Category. Hold on! Let me get this right. A film produced by the American production company A24, a story written by American director Lee Isaac Chung based on his own experiences, starring American actor Stephen Yeun, and set to release first in America...is not an American film? Unfortunately, not in the eyes of the HFPA. Based on the publicly available Golden Globe Awards eligibility descrip tions, films submitted for best foreign language film award consideration are not eligible for consideration in Best Motion Picture Drama or Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (which are exclusively for English-language mo tion pictures). Naturally, I’m calling bullshit. And alongside many other Asian American Hollywood celebrities, so did Director Lulu Wang who was smote in the same fashion. Wang, whose 2019 film “The Farewell” was also relegated to the Golden Globes’ foreign-language category, tweet ed, “I have not seen a more American film than #Minari this year. It’s a story about an immigrant family, IN America pursuing the American dream. We really need to change these antiquated rules that [characterize] American as only BasedEnglish-Speaking.”onWang’sownreal-life
writing by Shanahan Europa; design by Lauren Cramer
Having watched “The Farewell” with my mom (i.e. sobbed on and off for 1.5 hours), it was impossible to deny its Americanness. You know, it’s very interesting how we could easily glean this from the Mandarin dialogue when professionals who do this for a living could not! What an absolute shame. To me, there were many standout scenes that emphasized the inherent tension of Billi’s Chinese American identity. For example, the first night Billi is set tling in at her hotel in China, she has this conversation with the hotel manager:
Although BIPOC make up approximately 46% of the United States population according to the 2019 U.S. Census, the 2020 UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report found that we only accounted for 27.6% of leads in the top films for 2019. On the topic of language (you know, the hill the HFPA is determined to die on), the same census found that 22% of people speak a language other than English at home — Spanish, Chinese, Tagalog, and Vietnamese being the most popular. Considering the oversaturation of whiteness on and off the screen, the least we ask for is representation reflecting our percentage of the population. Yet, we’re not even getting that! Knowing all this, the label “foreign” min imizes the legitimacy of Asian Americans and other mixed ethnicity groups when we make up a solid portion of the U.S. — a minority population that’s predicted to become a majority in the upcoming decades, especially as the nation continues to diversify faster than initially predicted.
experience, “The Farewell” is about Chinese American Billi (Awkwafina) and her family traveling back to China after her grandmother is diag nosed with terminal lung cancer. Not wanting to interrupt her grandmother’s otherwise happy life, Billi’s family hides the truth from her under the guise that everyone’s visiting for a wedding. Despite its American production company, director, cast, and premiere location, just like “Minari,” the majority Mandarin dialogue of “The Farewell” meant it could only contend in the Best Foreign Language Film category. This is not to say that foreign language films, Golden Globe Award nominated or otherwise, are inherent ly bad! But this specific categorization of “Minari” and “The Farewell” is wrong. This “fifty percent English dialogue” rule and the HFPA’s refusal to reconsider their definitions of “foreign” and “American” screams two things loud and clear: xenopho bia and monoculturalism. While I’m not surprised that both “The Farewell” and “Minari,” films created by and starring people of color (POC), are being snubbed by a eurocen tric institution, I am frustrated as hell.
Golden Globes: “You don’t look American.” Me: “Well, neither do you!”
A month after “The Farewell” premiered, A24 published a note written by Wang encouraging audiences to watch her film. In it, Wang said, “[It] is an AMERICAN FILM, challenging what it means to be American and who gets to claim Americanness. That’s why I’m writing to you now, asking you to go see the film in theaters, because we need American movies like this to keep getting made.”
My parents immigrated from the Philippines to the Unit ed States in the 90s. My sisters and I were all born on American soil. Although we visited the Philippines every year until I was twelve, I’ve always identified as more American than Pilipinx (acculturation does that to you), yet proudly claim the label Asian American. I’ve been bullied, fetishized, discriminated against, and alienated.
But watching “The Farewell” let me imagine a reality where I could hug my Nanang one last time and say Thisgoodbye.ismy Asian American experience. And this is why I don’t see myself in the “Lady Birds,” “The Breakfast Clubs” and other white, American movies of Hollywood. “The Farewell” and “Minari” are my American experi ence, and this is true for so many other POC and immi grant families. Hollywood and the HFPA should lose their xenophobia and learn to read subtitles. It’s really not a good look.
[America? You don’t look American]
15Winter 2021 HOTEL MANAGER [Are you visiting from abroad?] HOTEL[FromHOTEL[Yes.]BILLIMANAGERwhere?]BILLI[America.]MANAGER
This makes Billi pause, but she’s used to it. The awkward pause emphasizes the manager’s comment “You don’t look American,” making us recall how Billi (like many Americans of color) has probably been told the same thing back in the states. Ironic, considering the Golden Globes also doesn’t consider this film American. In fact, her family doesn’t consider her Chinese enough ei ther. They repeatedly remind her how selfish and emotion al she is (contrasted with collectivism and stoicism, traits valued in many Asian communities) and that she “barely speaks Chinese.” Yet, this is what the “dash/hyphen Amer ican” identity is all about: code-switching, identity conflict, and liminality. This identity is really anything but foreign be cause it has existed in this country for hundreds of years.
When my own Nanang was dying in 2016, I flew back to the Philippines with my parents to see her. We were too late.
And the same can definitely be said for “Minari.” These films reveal the deeply multicultural past, present, and future of America. Supporting their creation and success validates both Americans of color with roots spanning decades and the immigrants arriving right as you read this. Failure to recognize America’s longstanding multi culturalism (*cough cough* HFPA, Hollywood, and white America *cough cough*) does more disrespect and violence than these institutions would like to admit.
writing by Jane Wang; design by Neha Dhiman
Haircut + Disembodiment =
while, it’s easy to forget where the weight comes from. Your mouth, and the undigested fiber lurking within. Do you swallow it or spit it out?
16 FEM Disconnection Issue
The sun never rises; it’s black all the time. Confrontation is easy in an echo chamber. We’re all hypocrites now. We’re all hypocrites. Stop lying to me. [One more minute in this house and my head will explode.]
Forgetting about its physical outline, the way it dissolves when no one is around to watch. And then the shock of the vessel when it reappears. There comes a point in the aloneness when it becomes impossible to stave it off, to chew, sleep, shower it away.
[I swallow and can’t get the taste out of my mouth for Theredays.] are heat flashes often, and the inside of my skin, the dermis below the epidermis, crawling with ants. My body.
Overothers.months of isolation, she disintegrated. I don’t know her now, her patterns of association and her attachment to what she thought she deserved. 2. Exile, like a bruise, has gone from purple to green. From a soft and royal night to a blank un-civilization, Wash ingtonian forest for acres. Me and the motionless mass surrounding me. The motionless mass I inhabit. Stupid demarcations keeping me separate from the floor, refusing to let me melt. I have other things on my mind anyways. This panic! This elevated heart rate, a category five hur ricane, waiting on a text response from a supposed lover who feels miles away. The sharp wind cutting bare legs to ribbons, wrapping skin in itself like a blessing, a caress, a Thetrick.wind stops and we’re reduced to crawling. The as phalt, the crunch, the mealiness in my mouth. Think back. We stood in the mall in an awkward pose, mimicking each other, waiting for a laugh. Return to the starchy ground and the rottenness of the soil, mites and worms, the bitter burnt-garlic-ness of it. The cross blinking like a stoplight. We hold burdens in odd pockets of our bodies. After a
Wash the dishes. That’s right – chew, and then swallow. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon? Well actual ly, the juxtaposition of the structuralism with the post-impe rialistic battery of imperialistic strategies is something that necessarily makes waves in mainstream discourse today because the ineffable moderate blah blah shut up you’re not saying anything; you’re talking about real people and you’re not saying anything. You take bets and make money by chasing people into booby traps. [My guts will explode.]
I want them splattered red, green, ugly, all over the book shelf. Is it time for a haircut yet? How long has it been? Tell me why I look the same. [I want them to watch.]
She’sexpensive.onlyrecently learned what American freedom feels like – nights out, long drives, and indomitable, unbearable stress. Prefers being alone to being with people. Trusts the simulacra to be honest. Makes fun of herself for the sake of
My thoughts become the only proof that I’m still here. Well,
Let me drag the trash cans out to the curb. Take me on a grocery run, and play music in the car because there’s nothing to talk about. Don’t call me down for breakfast –leave me to my space, my forest, my headache, my unre lenting need for explosion. Maybe I’m imprisoning myself. I roll over, muffling my breath. Having a topography of a chest, a silhouette with round burdens that makes it hard to sleep on my front – I hate that.
What the fuck is this body for. Slam the gas. [No one is watching.]
1. Let me be clear. She’s an idiot. She has long dark hair and tastes paint using her fingers and actually believes people when they say they’ll do what she asks. She expects to live in a round world one day, a world that leads back into itself, a snake swallowing its own tail. Where did she go wrong? Nearly two decades breathing the same air as the rest of us, and she thinks she stands on a mountain of perspective. Thinks she gets to tilt her chin up and look down her nose. Apples from that old tree always bruise upon impact. The tangerine morning sky turns blue at high noon, as the sun passes over the peak. Running makes her legs sore. But there’s shame in taking up space, of being aware of it. Movie theater tickets are far too
Maybe the hair grows back. Maybe it twists and turns around your body, hovering just above and not touching your skin. Freedom of movement in a dream. Another wish.
New Therewishes.aresmall wishes, hard to make out, faded with age. Lesser burdens. Brighter lights. Even spacing. Time to gether, time alone. Wishes that wash over you like a breath of lukewarm air in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Touch.
Destruction. Do you even know what they mean anymore? Do you care to?
Winter 2021 that and the topography of my chest. The hateful breath ing. The emails. The time, galloping like a racehorse, a river. Time, trickling like molasses. I don’t apologize. Not for myself, nor for anyone else. 3. You probably won’t remember any of this in a few years. The past compacted, a stone garden into a grain of sand, months indecipherable from years. You’ll pull your lover closer and think about dissolving into other bodies – bridging the gap between cells – instead of returning to the forest. Kiss and don’t hold your breath. Forget to thank the garden each day for deliverance. Re peat her name like a mantra, like a promise.
The one thing that could have helped me was semi-remote schooling. I asked my CAE counselor if it was possible for me to watch recorded lectures on days I was too nauseous to come to class. I asked if I could take tests online since my symptoms are unpredictable and can make it difficult for me to make it to the testing location or complete the exam in one sitting. In short, I asked for accommodations and was told it was logistically impossible.
Given my experiences with CAE, perhaps you can under stand my anger when UCLA announced in March 2020 that it would be continuing all classes and most services (e.g., academic counseling) remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was clear that what my CAE counselor had told me was an impossibility was well within UCLA’s abil ities all along. It simply hadn’t been worthwhile to provide virtual alternatives as accommodations. I wonder if it had ever been seriously considered. Was the cost too prohibi tive? The extra training too burdensome? Was I simply not worth it?
What I have observed of UCLA’s accessibility efforts and pandemic response leads me to believe that the discon nection I experienced so acutely during my first winter quarter was produced by UCLA itself. Given my illness, I couldn’t reasonably be expected to attend all my class es, or participate fully in every discussion, or turn in each
For months during my freshman year, I attended classes nauseous and shivering — or not at all. I spent the hazy mornings before school contemplating whether I had the mental and physical strength for classes or if it would make more sense to stay home. Much of my first winter at UCLA was spent in a corner of campus, fumbling with the child-locked bottle caps on medications that would mask my symptoms enough for me to make it through the next hour or two. I was profoundly disconnected from my friends, clubs, and campus, fearful that if I didn’t find a cure for my mysterious sickness soon, I might have to leave UCLA permanently.
I am chronically ill, and that illness is unpredictable and out of my control. I may not have symptoms for weeks, or I might have a severe flare-up that requires days or weeks off from school to recover. Therefore, accommodations that attempt to regulate my illness, or expect it to operate on a predictable schedule, serve very little use to me. For example, attendance adjustments were allocated differently depending on the class’s duration and frequen cy, and required a form be submitted as soon as possible. Professors sometimes asked why I hadn’t contacted them earlier to tell them I would be absent, as though it was la ziness rather than grueling pain and mind-numbing drugs that had prevented me from alerting them. And while CAE may limit me to one attendance adjustment per quarter, I don’t have the luxury of turning my illness on and off when it’s convenient. If accessibility is the goal, what’s the use of accommodations that have to be rationed?
I ended up dropping my winter courses halfway through the quarter due to exhaustion. During the first three weeks of the term it became more and more difficult to reach my classes each day, and I was so exhausted from the effort it was practically impossible for me to retain information and do homework. I could feel the little health I had regained during winter break slipping away, and I knew that if I did not withdraw from UCLA there was no hope of me receiv ing the accommodations I needed to stay. I was forced, by UCLA’s inaction, to choose between my health or my Whengrades.Ifirst became sick, I registered for academic ac commodations with UCLA’s Center for Accessible Educa tion (CAE) and was given a list of possible accommoda tions. My counselor and I met to select the ones that would help me, but when I scanned the list, I found none that would significantly change my ability to continue at UCLA. Even ones that may have made a difference were imple mented with so little understanding of the way accessibility works that they were essentially meaningless.
18 FEM Disconnection Issue (In)Accessibility at UCLA writing by Tessa Fier; design by Grace Ciacciarelli
19Winter 2021 assignment on time. If I had the option to take classes and tests remotely or contribute to organizations and clubs without having to be physically present, then the burden of alienation would not rest solely on me; by failing to provide adequate accommodations and support, UCLA pushed me out of my campus, classes, and community. But in the face of an institution like UCLA, what power do I have to remake the system so that it suits my needs? And why should I have to beg for access in the first place?
I’m not naive enough to think that UCLA cares about true accessibility. Despite the manufactured narrative of disconnect between academia and the ‘real world,’ UCLA is firmly grounded in capitalist structures. And capitalism and disability are incompatible. An economic system that equates a narrow definition of productivity to worth, and which ties people’s right to live to their ability to perform wage labor, is incapable of valuing those whose bodies and minds can’t match these productive standards — that is, people with disabilities. The same economic system that allows disabled Americans to be paid subminimum wage is apparent at UCLA in the rigid attendance require ments, overwork, and strict definitions of productivity. So, as a capitalist organization, it was never going to be in UC LA’s interests to provide accommodations beyond those that could easily be integrated into the status quo. For hope and guidance, I look to the disability justice movement. Founded by queer, disabled women of color, disability justice rejects valuing people based on what they can produce. People are valuable simply by being. It celebrates the many different ways in which people exist, move, create, and interact. And doing this benefits everyone, not just people with disabilities. Patty Berne, one of the movement’s founders, said in an interview that “people see disability justice as a framework and a prax is for disabled people. And it’s not. It’s for anyone with a body. Nobody is made to serve capitalism — not just people with disabilities. Our bodies are not controllable and define-able within the productive standards of capital ism.” While disabled people may be more readily alienat ed by capitalist standards of productivity and efficiency, they impact everyone. No one I know, abled or disabled, is able to attend every class, turn in every assignment on time, and ace every test with no impact on their health and Iwellbeing.wonderhow
many of my fellow students at UCLA are dis connected by our school’s policies, norms, and structure, whether or not they realize it. How many of them might benefit from being able to relax, take time off, and care for themselves when they need to? If we were each in charge of our own wellness, without surveillance and condescen sion from those assigned to ‘manage’ us (whether it be professors or trained accessibility staff), and trusted to care for ourselves, how much happier and freer might we be? What if, instead of limiting metrics of value, we were able to contribute in our own ways, and connect with each other wherever we are? What if we all had what we need to be equal members in our community?
I wonder if you have molded me into who I am today – this
Dear , writing and design by Haiqi Zhou
20 FEM Disconnection Issue
I remember you telling me, multiple times, that my class mates were boarding this metaphorical bus because they were good students with good grades. You asked me, ev ery time, whether I wanted to be abandoned, left to chase that bus. Although I was no more than 10 years old, I could sense the absurdity in that metaphor, but a larger part of me wanted to be on that ridiculous bus that suppos edly led to your approval. So I wanted good grades and compared myself to other people in order to be worthy in your eyes. And now I don’t know how to see myself without looking at my grades.
Dear , I write to you knowing that you won’t be able to understand a word I say. This doesn’t bother me. What harm can a letter in English do? We can’t understand each other when we speak Mandarin anyways. This letter will not be anoth er futile attempt to communicate with you. It will be what it should be – an unsent letter. Me talking to your voice in my head, the parasitic voice that is always there, that has become my own thinking. I’ve lived my whole life as if I were taking an exam, always thinking about the correct thing to do at each moment. Growing up, I tried to adhere to as many rules as possible. (I don’t know if you know this, maybe you do – you know everything about me, after all.) Even when there are no written rules, I find the invisible ones.
I remember, after my then-friend betrayed my secrets, you said: “You should never tell others what is going on in your private life.” And that is what I did – I was always on guard, afraid of being hurt.
21Winter 2021 tortured, exhausted person whose own thoughts are hell. You must have always known where I would arrive, be cause you started preparing me for the bleakness of my future a long time ago.
didn’t have to be like this, that you didn’t have to go away when you see me suffer. But with our separation, physical and mental, I think I have found the power to disconnect from your voice that has haunted me all my life, to doubt the ideas that were poured into my head. As I write and rewrite this letter, I realize that our disconnection makes me look inward for strength and helps me grow, and you know that already.
You told me so many things, . As bad as my memory is, I remember so much of it. You told me that I would suffer in the future. That much is Youtrue.told me that I was a failure. Those were your angry words, I know, but it hurt a lot.
Let me start again, . I haven’t written many letters to you. The last time I wrote, it was about my panic attack. I wrote about how lonely and abandoned I felt, how you were the person I trust the most with my feelings and thoughts. What I failed to mention in the letter is that you are also the person who pushes me away the most often. When that happens, I feel clueless and helpless. Where, or who, do I turn to? Who will understand me? In moments like this, our inability to communicate is like a cold stone wall that I bump into, forcing me out of my dream. I am awake now. I have escaped the dream of our long-ex pired attachment and am finally able to see my total reli ance on you, to see how much I wanted to blame you for my own disasters. You tried your best to love me. You also unloaded your past traumas onto me. You told me before that you could not control your fits of rage. I wasn’t able to understand you, but now I can, for sometimes I find it hard to contain my own anger, too. You made me who I am, , and I wonder all the time if I have the power to walk away from you. Looking at myself in the mirror, I see the scars left on my face by all the pimples you popped. Those nights with the soft white bedroom light never escaped me – the feeling of the warmth of your lap and the coldness of my own blood on the tissue against my face. When I see myself, , I see you in my scars. From your words, your compliments and your punish ments, your facts and your assertions, I acquired multi tudes. I doubt my thoughts and actions so constantly that I don’t think I can ever settle on a fixed idea. There are so many dimensions of myself that I think a portion of me will always understand you – for isn’t it true that I am you and you are me? There is also a part of me that wishes things
When I was in primary school, you said that Krishnamurti has the answer to life, and now it is faith in Jesus Christ that will save me. “Faith is, for many people, a kind of hid ing place,” said James Baldwin. Are you hiding, ? Are you still turning your head away from this creation of yours that resembles the shape of your pain? You told me that I don’t love you, that I never did, and that I never enjoyed listening to you. You said I couldn’t see my lack of love for you because I didn’t want to believe it. It is endlessly confusing to me why you chose to believe it.
22 FEM Disconnection Issue
writing by Chloë Vigil, design by Maizah Ali
2. Annoyance: You started off joking about taking a quarter off, but you didn’t spend 2+ years in community college for Zoom University. UCLA admin DEFINITELY created their rules against deferral to attack you, specifically. Whatever, you’ll totally qualify for housing.
The Five Moods of Transferring During a Pandemic
1. Denial: It’s April, there’s a pan demic, and you just got into college, baby! What could go wrong? Join those admitted student group chats, buy overpriced dorm decor, go wild — things will definitely be back to normal by the fall… right?
3. Rage: You don’t qualify for hous ing, and your pile of dorm decor is nonrefundable. Remember that group chat you joined back in April? There WILL be a biz-econ major in it, and he WILL make you want to fight anytime he asks a question. You leave the group chat after he inevita bly calls they/them pronouns gram matically incorrect.
5. Acceptance: Turns out your col lege merch shopping spree was just what you needed! Wear that $50 sweatshirt ‘til it reeks — you’ve earned it.
4. Disconnect: Zoom club recruitment? Zoom class? Zoom life? Do you even go to college? Buy yourself some overpriced college merch, and post a meme on your Instagram story about going to the #1 public uni versity. It’ll make you feel better.
24 FEM Disconnection Issue
The tide rolls in — ocean floor Folds onto my chest, Fresh salt on my mind: Somewhere in a past vision — Oasis worth crawling towards, Desert worth leaving behind. Run back up that shallow hill; Let go — when rope has Nothing left to give. No need to worry; I will stand and watch that Yellow leaf, persimmon sky — Your eyes — bright with fire,
II. END TIMES, Are we not living in end times, Waiting for chariots Of fire — black sun in frozen sky, Absolution from impassive eye. Weight that presses up In my ribcage as a scream — Solace — (un)reachable?
Between End Times, A Confession on Writing writing and design by Jane Shin
I. BETWEEN Between the slivers of concrete, Blades of grass elbow out To grow — what else remains unseen And alive, my silent mouth Tangled up inside — My brain — or stomach — or chest — waiting for the trip — A chance for the facade to slip, Turn letters to wishes. Waiting — waiting — for words to stick, Wring stories out from images. Please teach me the rhymes Of this unrhymable world — Please tell me what to write.
25Winter 2021 Face — growing brighter, Eclipsing the Sun. Someday — maybe soon — We will be no one.
IV. ON WRITING
III. A CONFESSION Words more evasive than before — Longer pauses — more Gropingblind— nihilistic turns ‘Round sharpened corners. Searching — or is it waiting — Hope slips fast, keeps waning, Like memories I can’t recall. Muddied mind with blurred pictures — Strange, oblique spaces — Question marks without answers: Perhaps one day they will return, But for who — is it me? And will I ever learn How to indulge nostalgia Without sinking back through the past? I am always becoming Someone else in my brain — Who do I fool and Who do I persuade? In all my poetry — So much ego. So much I and me.
I have heard it said that writing Is an act of violence. To try and express a feeling Is to corrupt that feeling, For the sake of making sense — Is it worth it? Is it worth it to try When you are aware That you can’t capture this moment — Can’t do it justice — Is it better to stay silent? Remain mute and perceptive? Nothing makes sense — That is probably why I write. To try and write myself into some corner where thoughts cross over into the realm of sense — To escape the feeling That nothing is real — Examine contradictions, And prove that they exist — To cement some expression And hope it transcends Transience — Reality — Ideas — Identity. I write to prove to myself — And inevitably — You — That there is activity Up here. Perhaps even I — With blind brain and fickle eyes — Can write myself an inch closer To what is real — is true — Perhaps writing can serve as Food for the ego And an escape from it At once. What I am trying To say — what I am striving for Is to hold ego in my hands And stab at paper with pen With enough conviction, Coarse emotion — force, That ego cracks — spills out, Runny yolk out the shell — Everything out — Out! Onto notebook lines; Tide and sky ironed flat, You and me left behind.
26 FEM Disconnection Issue
The conditions workers are met with, even during non-pan demic times, are grim. A 2019 study found that almost half of workers in the US work in low-wage jobs with a median annual income of $18,000. Just for reference, in a house hold of 3, this income level is less than the current federal poverty guideline. According to a report in 2019, the medi an cost of rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,216 per month. This means that a person who works a low-wage job will have to set aside four-fifths of their income for the necessary cost of rent. No one deserves to live like this. It turns out, not everyone has to. The average member of Congress makes $174,000 a year, and has a net worth of around $500,000. In 2019, the wealthiest congressional representative had an estimated net worth of more than $135,000,000. Most of the people elected to Congress have accumulated this wealth beforehand. That is to say, they are rich coming into office. It is therefore no surprise that the conditions of American workers do not seem to be well understood by those in the government.
writing by Kimia Faroughi; design by Shannon Boland
As a student who has worked part-time for most of the pandemic, I am surrounded by workers who come in every day to sustain themselves during such financially challeng ing times. These workers put themselves at risk and often deal with people who do not seem to value them or have respect for their health (i.e. people who refuse to wear masks). Small businesses have been forced to temporarily close due to COVID restrictions and, without any govern ment assistance to compensate, struggle to make enough to stay afloat. I have heard accounts from small business owners who turn off all their lights and board up all their windows to appear closed, but stay open in order to pay rent and put food on the table. Not to mention, millions of workers lost their jobs during the pandemic and now have even more limited sources of income. At work, I frequent ly talk to customers who have just lost their jobs or lost a loved one to the pandemic. I am lucky enough that I do not need to work to sustain a living, but even so I can see the discrepancy between the lives politicians lead and the conditions that many workers have to suffer through. This disconnect is especially jarring when realizing that these politicians are the ones that are supposed to be fighting for workers’ interests in the government.
They Don’t Really Care About Us: The Detachment of Public Servants
There is something so profoundly wrong with the idea that those making decisions about the lives of workers are ones who cannot even begin to understand their struggles. There are obviously exceptions in that there are people in Congress who come from working class backgrounds and champion justice for working families, but these members are few and far between. Most of those who are supposed to represent the American people in government have far different lives from a majority of them.
This past year of pandemic-induced chaos has been filled with talks of a new New Deal of monthly stimulus checks, student debt forgiveness, and increased access to health care. Sadly, and predictably, it has been all talk. The U.S government failed to provide relief for working people as they have time and time again. Decades of public servants failing the people they serve, or at least the ones they are supposed to, have shown how disconnected politicians are from the workers of this country. For student workers, like myself, the pandemic has put us over the edge. How long can we go on letting politicians fail to address the most basic needs of the people they represent?
I am sure many other workers, especially ones that are stu dents, feel this way as well. I reached out to a few students who are also part-time or full-time workers and discussed their thoughts on pandemic-relief in the US. I first asked how they felt the government has handled the pandemic, specifically based on meeting their needs as a student and worker, and to rate it on a scale from one to ten (one being terribly and ten being really well). The results are as 22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.follows:14.523537literally
In the later part of 2020, Congress was in and out of ses sion for weeks trying to put together a stimulus package to help Americans during pandemic times, and the most they could scrap together was $600. Yes, that is six followed by just two zeroes. That barely covers half the cost of rent for one month according to the national median; that number is the most Congress could agree on to support Amer icans for the past nine months. This came after the first underwhelming stimulus package which included one-time $1,200 checks (by the way, this does not cover the nation al median cost of rent either).
Many believe that the Biden Administration represents hope on the horizon. For example, he plans to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, a long sought after mea sure by workers. Additionally, $1,400 stimulus checks are in the works, and eviction moratorium has already been extended. However, what the Biden Administration has planned will likely not be enough. If Democratic leadership of years past has taught us anything, it is that the struggles that American workers face will be met with a neoliberal agenda, one that values limited government intervention at a time when we desperately need it. This effectively over looks the needs of workers and maintains the status quo of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Legisla tion that combats this, such as Medicare For All, cancelling rent, and cancelling student debt, has been rejected by Biden and much of the Democratic establishment.
0. this country is evil
The responses were unsurprising. With the exception of one answer, the respondents felt that the government has handled the pandemic inadequately, if not terribly (see: response 8).
I also asked whether the respondents felt that a majority of those elected to the government are in tune with the struggles of students and workers. One answer summed it all up: “No. They are not working multiple jobs at minimum wage trying to cover rent and tuition and utilities.” Here lies the issue. The lives of politicians are so different, so dis connected, from the lives of workers and students that the way they govern is extremely out of touch with the needs of those they represent. This translates directly to the legisla tion they write, which seems to have no conception of what it means to be a worker and/or student in this country, to lead a life working multiple jobs, trying to make ends meet.
Both stimulus packages also included certain alleviating accommodations made for unemployment benefits, rent, and student loans. However, the contents of the deals reached by Democrats and Republicans in Congress have not even come close to providing substantial support for working families. Bizarrely and outrageously, the first stimulus package set aside $500 billion to bail out corpo rations. Thousands dead, millions unemployed, many more struggling, and politicians are catering to the “needs” of corporations instead of representing the interests of the public they serve.
The plight of American workers is partly the fault of the Trump Administration, whose mishandling of the pan demic, and the country in general, has caused irrepara ble damage. For one, the administration spent its years cutting funding for critical programs, namely the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. On top of this, much of Trump’s years in office were spent pushing anti-worker positions, such as ones that limit safety protections, oppose wage increases, and make it difficult for workers to organize. Additionally, by simply fail ing to act in response to the pandemic sooner, the admin istration is responsible for the deaths and unemployment of many workers.
In an unsurprising manner, Democrats introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, but not until 2025.
Yes, this is better than nothing, but we are in the middle of one of the worst economic crises in a long time and the
28 FEM Disconnection Issue needs of workers cannot be put on hold any longer. Work ers need a livable wage now. Furthermore, over the past few weeks, Democrats in Congress have been debating about the cut off point for the next round of $1,400 stim ulus checks, many urging to make it lower and therefore provide less aid to working families. It is astonishing that in the middle of a pandemic and economic despair, politi cians are advocating for less relief.
The detachment of public servants is not something unique to a political party, it is pervasive throughout the political establishment, in Democrats and Republicans alike. As Nina Turner, current candidate for Congress and well-known progressive, put it, “Something I’m willing to wager is that if we had less millionaires in Congress, $2,000 checks would’ve already been out the door.” The policies that workers and students advocate for are possi ble; after all, there was no issue in passing a $500 billion corporation bailout. It is just that politicians are so out of touch that they refuse to fight for the interests of workers in the Whatgovernment.ismostfrightening
is how likely it is that the depar ture of Trump’s right-wing extremism from the White House will result in a lull in terms of consciousness, that people will no longer feel the need to care about the most vulner able. It is necessary now more than ever to fight for the working class, especially when those in the government do not feel the need to go against the status quo to alleviate dire conditions. What is so outrageous about giving work ing people the right to survive during a pandemic? By adhering to the neoliberal status quo, one that harms workers and helps the wealthy, public servants are actively ignoring the public they serve. Instead, by choosing to ca ter to the needs of corporations and the ultra rich, they re flect an elite ruling class. The lives that politicians lead and the positions they choose to take are so far disconnected from the realities of workers that the cries for help cannot even be heard over this rift. It is difficult to remain optimis tic about the struggles workers have to endure when those that are supposed to represent them don’t even seem to care about them.
As one respondent put it: “AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE AND HOUSING.” All of the responses included some sort of heightened financial support, whether it be in the form of stimulus checks, increasing minimum wage, universal healthcare, cancelling student debt, tuition relief, or (pref erably) all of the above! Another respondent brought up an important policy as well: “$2,000+ monthly for the duration of the pandemic plus [retroactive payments] for the past several months.” Right now, the Biden Administration and Democratic leadership in Congress are pushing $1,400 one-time payments, which is not nearly enough to sustain a worker for one month much less to make up for nearly a year of economic hardship.
I asked the part-time or full-time student workers one final question about which policies they feel are needed to support both students and workers during the pandemic.
“On a Beach” - Etta Bond, Avelino
Tierra Whack provides playful commentary on the narcis sistic characteristics of only children. Whack shamelessly calls out her ex for his selfish ways and the hypocrisy behind calling on others for help. “Only Child” hits home especially in covid times as the song parallels the trage dy of people’s selfish actions having direct life or death impacts on others.
Jamie Jiang: “Tokyo Love Hotel” - Rina Sawayama
“Telepathic” - Ani DiFranco
“Telepathic,” despite the peppy and bouncy feel to it, is about unwillingly getting lost in the perspective of some one else, and more importantly, the danger in it. The disconnection here, exacerbated by perhaps empathy, perhaps a desire to know what’s behind a “wall of sneer,” is difficult to control and has the potential to hurt. When I first listened to the song, I thought of how difficult it is to leave behind the habit of making excuses for other people and reading so deep in someone’s potential that you leave reality and your experiences behind. (Also really catchy instrumentals!)
This song by Etta Bond and Avelino touches directly on the feelings of disconnection, especially during the COVID pandemic. All over the world, we are mourning the longforgotten plans and what-ifs that would exist if we were able to connect with others. This song is our frustrations written out in a solid bass line and vibey vocals. It’s all the things we would do if we could.
“Faceshopping” - SOPHIE I’ve recently been listening to SOPHIE a lot since her tragic death. This one in particular made a huge impact on me — it was the first SOPHIE song I’d ever heard. As a new col lege student trying to find ownership of my femininity, the song perfectly encapsulated a woman’s uniquely external relationships with appearance, aesthetics, and the discon nect between “identity” and “look”.
“Stop Calling the Police on Me” - Serena Isioma Inspired by the heavy police presence in her neighbor hood growing up, Serena Isioma’s “Stop Calling the Police on Me” criticizes the toxic environment created by heavy policing within black communities and the trauma that it causes. This song highlights the disconnect between Black communities and the society in which we live. Ac cording to Isioma, it’s “basically the cute version of ‘fuck the police.’”
“Good Days” - SZA Okay, I know, overplayed. But what can I say? When it’s this good, you have to appreciate it. Good Days by Sza is a tale of a woman severing her attachment to men who have disappointed her and the tug-of-war battle occurring simultaneously in her mind. Sza encourages the discon nection between our subconscious and our self-percep tion. Instead, she offers the chance to live in the moment while we are still young and to continue wishing for good days to come. It begs the question, can we disconnect from the selves we are so desperately attached to if it means better for ourselves and good days?
As I listen to “Ashes to Ashes,” I feel like I’ve been insert ed into a dream-like state, guided to a place underwater where the words echo, aptly mirroring the lyrics them selves where we hear a person experience a hazy combi nation of life, death, and a kind of social sensuality through the perspective of an unwritten song in a dream.
“Only Child” - Tierra Whack
29Winter 2021 Disconnection Playlist
Rina Sawayama is a queer Japanese-British pop star whose lyrics address the diasporic experience and the disconnect within, as well as the multitudes of love that queer people of color feel within this world. This song specifically is about her struggle to feel ownership over Japanese culture despite growing up in a Euro-America that fetishizes that culture.
“Where Can I Go?” - Laura Marling Laura Marling’s acclaimed album Once I Was An Eagle takes a dark, intimate look at loneliness, humility, and retribution. Unlike her previous albums, all of Once I Was An Eagle’s 16 tracks were recorded in a single day with very few accompaniments. In “Where Can I Go?” Marling reassesses her own relationship with being comfortably alone and others’ impacts on her feelings of loneliness. She sings “late at night he’ll come to me and tell me I’m alone. Don’t you think I don’t already know?” She explores the disconnect between being alone and being lonely claiming a strong difference. Letting go of others’ judgment can ultimately be freeing.
“Green Tea Ice Cream” - Linda Diaz Linda Diaz tackles the feelings of disconnection from our ownselves as we stumble through life weighed down by jobs, burnout, and our other burdens. The song offers an opportunity to reflect upon the sweeter things in life, become one with our divine purposes, and continue to grow every day. When we are one with and connected to ourselves and our passions, we are truly living
Lavanya Pandey: “Ashes to Ashes” - Jenny Hval