ICON: FEM Fall 2022

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I C O N

FEM NEWSMAG FALL 2022
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Editor’s Note

We applaud celebrities for serving iconic looks on the red carpet or for giving a moving performance in a film. Peo ple that are idolized are con stantly expected to contribute something to consumer soci ety, in order to be considered iconic. However, it’s just as sig nificant to recognize the ways in which figures in media, pol itics, and in our own lives may let us down. Public figures are now more than ever subject to critique, at the cost of being “canceled.”

Trends come and go, along with the people that represent them.

White feminism in particu lar has centered symbols and images that embrace “pussy power” and “women support ing women,” while simultane ously pushing for the cis-het neoliberal imperial agenda with white cis women at the forefront. The decision as to who qualifies as a “true” fem inist or a “feminist icon” is an institutional one, as Rayne Fisher-Quann mentions in their interview with Beiana. Some people are handed down or given the platform and the resources, while oth ers are censored, silenced, or even murdered for their values or even just for their existence. Marginalized people and com munities consistently subvert, reclaim, and decolonize repre sentations and narratives that have been produced by white supremacist, patriarchal, and

elitist institutions throughout time.

To a large extent, the focus on icons centers individualism, homogenizing a whole move ment, thread of work, or com plex experience to a single per son or a select few. However, the community is at the heart of global and local struggles, networks of love and action.

As Alexus talks about in their article, the individual is used to represent the movement, misinterpreting and at times fully disregarding the goals and values of the collective.

Icons can be analyzed at the intersection of systems such as capitalism, racism, cishet eropatriarchy, colonialism, and other violent structures. The writers, designers, and creatives explore Icon through many lenses, from Mariah’s ar ticle about her ties to Latine icons as an artist and calling on “La Raza,” to Tessa’s piece on the narrative constructions of California and UCLA that intentionally distance them from origins as colonial, geno cidal projects. The Icon Issue aims to look at icons, iconog raphy, and the ways in which these representations and their meanings affect social movements, politics, history, media, and memory. Thank you to Angela Patel for pitch ing this wonderful theme.

I would like to express my appreciation for our 2021 to

2022 Editor-in-Chief, Cin dy Quach, for providing her support and shaping FEM to what it is today, for her I am incredibly grateful. Thank you to my managing edi tor, Sophia Obregon, along with Senior Staff and FEM members for your commit ment to FEM’s mission and building our community. I am indebted to my ances tors, who have survived and persisted: the icons whose legacy surpasses coloniza tion and exploitation, and lives through me and those that come after me. Enjoy the Icon issue.

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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 teh Communications Board is strictly prohibited. The ASUCLA Communications Board fully supports the Univeristy of California’s poli cy on nondiscrimination. 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 Commu nications Board has a media grievance procedure for resolving complaints against any of its publications. For a copy of the complete procedure, contact the publica tions office at 118 Kerckhoff Hall, @ 310-825-9898

Our Mission

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 op pression, and the application of intersectional feminist ideology for the liberation of all peoples. FEM operates within an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist frame work. Our organization seeks to challenge 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 coalitions with other campus and community mem bers. As selfreflective feminists, we are committed to unlearning and relearning alongside our global audience as the socio-political landscape in which we are situated continues to transform.

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by Tessa Fier, design by Cassandra Sanchez

by Amanda La, design by Coral Utnehmer

Playlist.........................................................................................2
The
What You Want To See..............................................................................17
We are the Daughters of the Women with a Unibrow that Could Not be Plucked..........................................................................................20
Pain: Revisiting the Virgin Suicides.......................................23
Women....................................................................................26
Photoshoot..............................................................................29
Role of an Icon..................................................................................34
To Speak or not Speak Ill of the Dead...................................................38
Why Are So Many of Our Queer Icons Straight?..................................42
Filling in the Blanks of History: The Lost Legacies of Hollywood’s Actors of Color..........................................................................................48
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Table of Contents The ICON
The Reign of Rayne: Internet Princess.....................................................6 by Beaina Bedrossian, design by Coral Utnehmer America as an Icon:
Golden Facade..................................................13 by Shreya Kollipara, design by Bela Chauhan
by Mariah Hernandez, design by Katelynn Perez Pretty in
by Kristin Haeglin, design by Katelynn Perez Memeable
by Bella Garcia The ICON
The
by Alexus Torres, design by Katherine Mara
by Minnie Seo, design by Ashley Luong
by Sabrina Ellis, design by Cassandra Sanchez
THE ICON PLAYLIST Track1GimmeMore by BritneySpears Track 2 pink diamond by Charli XCX Track 3 Material Girl by Madonna Track 4 Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen Track 5 Deceptacon by Le Tigre Track6 HoldUp by Beyoncé Track 7 SAOKO by ROSALIA Track 8 All for You by Janet Jackson Track 9 It’s Like That by Mariah Carey Track 10 Movies by Weyes Blood Track 11 America Has A Problem by Beyonce Track12 ThatGirl by BreeRunway Track 13 Doo Wop (That Thing) by Ms. Lauryn Hill 2 2

1Upon hearing the theme of the issue was ‘Icon’ and knowing that we would be making an Icon themed playlist, my head immediately rushed to the greats: Beyoncé (the great est), Mariah, Madonna, Janet, and none other than the Princess of Pop herself Britney Spears. I had so many options to choose from in Britney’s catalog - do I go classic and pick a … Baby One More Time debut song? Oops!... I Did it Again’s red latex perfec tion? A tune from In the Zone where “Toxic” and “Me Against the Music” – a song where she held her own with a Madonna feature at 21?!? – shine? The/ my answer is Blackout’s “Gimme More.” I could write an entire dis sertation on the sonic and visu al experimentation of this era: she’d exchanged her trademark blonde for jet black hair on the album cover, made electro pop dance hits that would foreshad ow the Eurodisco influence of late 2000s club hits, and was also experiencing highly publi cized personal struggles while churning chart toppers. But to keep it short, no song introduc tion is more iconic than “It’s Brit

2From Charli’s iconic quarantine album, How I’m Feeling Now, “pink diamond” is a other one of her beloved hyperpop an thems. “pink diamond” talks about the fun and intensity of being a star: having “a big heart,” going “real hard for days,” and so seriously ques tioning whether “the club [could] even handle us?” Inspired by a quarantine interview of JLo, who on air recalled discussing diamonds with Broadway and Hollywood icon, Barbara Strei sand, Charli said she “instantly thought, ‘Pink Diamond is a very cute name for a song,’” lat er tweeting such on April 29th, 2020 (Genius). “pink diamond” is an anthem for all the stars, niche microcelebs, and main characters of the world. It’s a song that I would personally like to dance to in the club one day because it’s so fun and truly does go “real hard”- just as Charli intended it to. Marie Olmedo

3Madonna is one of history’s pop prin cesses who has left a long musical lega cy and influenced the culture of feminism in pop media. She lives in a “material world,” a world dominated by capitalism, and consum er culture. She uses this song to satirize how American relationships are materialistic, mon ey-driven, and often gender-skewed. Songs like “Material Girl” and “Like a Virgin” are iconic not only in their timeless popularity, but also in the way that Madonna has discussed different cul tural problems and opened up new ideas about feminism and social theory that continue to be studied today and beyond. Amber Stevens

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As someone whose childhood was filled with nothing but Queen hits, nothing can be more iconic than “Bohemian Rhapsody” to me. Not only is it a timeless bop that I think is impossible to hate, it also evokes a sense of nostalgia and home to me. Every time I hear it play, I can’t help but be transported back to the time my sisters and I tried to make a music video for it with our sunglasses on, all of us sloppily air guitar-ing Brian May’s solo. It was the one song my entire family could agree upon despite our vast differences in music tastes. Not coincidentally, of course, “Bohemian Rhapsody”’s lyrics is also thick with queer subtext, which I think makes the song even more iconic than it already is. With its masterful fusion of different genres and its unmistakable beat, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is definitely a testament to Queen’s artistry and their ability to bring generations of people together. Tiffany Peverila

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5An instantly recognizable hit for fans of the feminist rock sub-genre riot grrrl, “Deceptacon” by Le Tigre gets stuck in my head for days after I listen to it just once. Bumping my head to the shouted lyr ics and beating instrumentals always gives me the boost of confidence I need before any important event, encapsulat ing an icon’s contagious sense of empowerment. Authentic representations of women as loud, angry, or discontented in media—without a seductive “femme fatale” persona or the demonized rage of a villain— are less common in the main stream. So, in addition to the glamor and flamboyance al most synonymous with icons, Le Tigre’s charged passion de fines an icon to me. “Decepta

What’s an icon playlist without Beyoncé? Her song “Hold Up” and the accompanying music video embodies Black feminine rage and frus tration, urging viewers and listeners alike to challenge what their notion of feminism should look like. This album, “Lemonade” specifically is a reaction to her ex perience with Jay Z’s infidelity, and became an iconic display of how her emotions as a Black female artist should be empowered rather than seen as “imperfect feminism.” Beyoncé connects and empowers her audi ence in a cultural moment. Amber Stevens

7There are few things of 2022 that are truly more iconic than Rosa liá´s album Motomami. Debuting her new take on hyperpop as well as songs in her usual Latin Pop style, Rosalia sim ply does not play when it comes to making amazing pieces- “SA OKO” is no exception. Drawing from reggae ton influences, “SAOKO” is a song for icons by an icon. Its danceabil ity and its consistent ly-solid-booming bass makes “SAOKO” one of my favorite songs of 2022. In the song’s chorus, Rosalia sings of transforming into a butterfly and “Sex Si ren,” wearing gorgeous “Drag Queen” makeup, and simply being ev erything. And isn’t that what most icons are, simply everything? Marie Olmedo

8“All for You” is a per fect pop song. I am of the strong opin ion that all the great pop artists of today studied dutifully from Janet Acad emy with a major in Moth er-ology. Everything about this song is iconic - it being almost 3 decades into her career and being a number one hit, the music video, the dance break… I have to give tens where tens are due! Kelsey Ngante

9Mariah Carey in vented comebacks. I mean it. Mariah came back bigger and bet ter than ever with her #1 album The Emancipation of Mimi. “It’s Like That” is the album opener and lead single that helmed in a record breaking era of chart topping and iconic music videos for Mariah Carey Kelsey Ngante

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Bree Runway makes me feel like an undiscovered celeb rity. The attitude, the pureraw-house energy emanating from the beat and her voice remind me that I have indeed been that girl. I don’t fol low the trends, I am the trend, I am the aesthetic, the artistic drive to constant ly reinvent myself and be unafraid to take up space and suck the the energy out of every room I walk into.

If you love film or musical production so masterful that it sweeps you up into its magnificence like an ocean wave, you must listen to “Movies.” Maire Olmedo

This song for me embodies the re ality of being an It Girl in an op pressive state. America has a prob lem, and I am the problem. The strength it takes to love yourself unconditionally, de spite living in a body marked as deviant by society, is iconic. It feels like the bold queer black radical energy I try to embody in all my expression. Tia Barfield

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13Lauryn Hill is an undeniable landmark and absolute icon in music, R&B, and activism. Her creative melodies and the unmatched wisdom contained within her lyricism have earned the genius eight Grammys. Lauryn Hill has always been inspired to create music that would recognize the sacrifice of advocates before her and encourage her peers to live proudly be cause of it, according to a 2021 Rolling Stone interview. Her debut solo album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” ex plores her life, love, and religion within

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The Reign of Rayne: Internet Princess

Sometime during the mo notonous, nebulous de pression that was 2021, my endle ss scroll through the TikTok For You page led me to now 21-year-old Rayne Fish er-Quann. Despite the some what off-putting quality of her videos, which at the time she was filming on an Android, she caught my attention with her eloquent and thoughtful deconstruction of the popular narrative surrounding women with mental illness, and, from there, I was sold. Rayne, a girl my age, who spoke with the same intonation and vocal fry as me, was able to almost per fectly articulate my thoughts on many of the most relevant issues I cared about.

On both her Substack and her TikTok, Rayne centers cultur al criticism and often uses specific instances of celebrity gossip or online drama to ex plore the new and pervasive ways in which patriarchal and capitalist hierarchies are up held. Her takes on the most relevant issues within mod ern-day feminism and leftism have gained her an audience of over 230,000 followers on TikTok and have made her a self-proclaimed “Internet Prin

cess,” or, in other words, an icon.

I sat down with Rayne to dis cuss the role of icons within feminism, the propagation of an online leftist/feminism movement, and how she is affected, both personally and in her work, by her influence within her niche.

What do you think a fem inist icon is or should be? Are they useful for the end goal of liberation or does the status of “icon” distract from the work of communi ty organizers and activists, cultural critics, artists, and politicians?

I’m sort of wary of the role of the icon, and the consequenc es of the role of the icon, both

for the feminist movement, for the general population, and also for the icon them selves sometimes. I often feel uncomfortable with the label applied to myself, because like everybody else in the whole world I am a pretty normal person, I do some good stuff, I do some bad stuff, I do some stuff that is feminist, I do a lot of stuff that isn’t feminist be cause most stuff isn’t actively feminist. I think feminism is a movement of structure, I don’t think it’s like an identity label that people can just adopt, I don’t think that we should feel pressure for every single thing we do to be actively feminist, and I do kind of worry that, especially with the ease that people are marketed as icons these days, that it can also set people up for failure a little bit because feminism is a move ment of structure and all left ism is a movement of struc ture, so I do also worry that in any part of leftism searching for leaders and icons rather than uplifting the work of the collective can be counterpro ductive, I think it can often be quite liberal, and serve liber alism by creating these com modifiable, marketable icons. The most important work

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quite frequently is not glam orous. I value the work that I do, I love being a writer, and I think that a lot of people find value in my work. I’m very very lucky to be in that posi tion, but all of my friends who spend the time that I spend writing organizing, and on the ground, are doing more for feminism than me to be total ly honest. So I do kind of feel uncomfortable with the label applied to myself and I think it is frequently applied to the wrong people, but I think that at the very least you would just have to do a great deal of extremely impactful work to earn the title, like, I would easily consider Angela Davis a feminist icon.

having an icon or leader in a leftist movement is a great thing for the proliferation of the movement but also there is a negative aspect to that as it is very in line with the hy per-individualistic liberal ide ology. I think that there is also something about a culture of icons rather than a culture of celebrating movements that encourages people to get into a sort of very individualistic, performance-focused version of feminism that, again, I’m very wary of.

Do you feel as though pop ular liberal feminism warps our perception of who is or isn’t an icon?

Absolutely. I think that liber al feminism is very interested in the commodification and branding of feminism, and so I think it is very interested in the production of icons. There are many examples, I feel, where you can kind of tell certain people who are marketed as feminist icons, it’s rarely like a from the ground-up thing, it is very frequently like it feels like there’s some institution that is deciding that these people are feminist icons, rather than them genuinely being any part of a grassroots move ment. Icons are very market able, for better or for worse, there are many aspects where

You’ve said on TikTok before that TikTok will never be a revolutionary tool. Do you think that online discourse is entirely pointless, or just that it is often unproductive and reductionary?

I think that we are kidding ourselves if we think that any part of these platforms is on our side or is interested in being used for genuine good or in service of genuine lib eration. People have talked about in great length how people of color, specifically Black people, Black women, or even people who like, don’t have access to good lighting or technology are systemical ly silenced and disserviced by these tech platforms/compa nies and algorithms, which is why I think it’s foolish to think that these platforms are the be all and end all of what left ist discourse and conversation should be or revolutionary action should be. I think you can use TikTok or Twitter to

like, spread information about mutual aid funds or about the steps that people can take to get involved in their commu nities. I think that any tool that can be used to proliferate information can be helpful, and can be a step in getting people to a further place. And I do also think that the inter net is useful for a lot of the stuff that I do, which operates I guess on a more personal level. I think TikTok is great for giving girls advice about when they should dump their shitty older boyfriends, I think that’s something it’s useful for. And obviously, that’s a relatively small thing, but it’s something that does impact the lives and conditions of young women.

That reminded me of this video about censorship.

Totally, like Black people have their videos taken down all the time, I went through a period where even my videos were being taken down constant ly, if I mentioned anything about criticizing men as a sort of class or oppressive group. I got suspended three times and my account almost got deleted. It really puts into per spective how these platforms are not on our side, and the perspectives that you hear on TikTok are not the full range of perspectives that exist.

I wanted to bring up your Substack, and ask if maybe you think it’s a better plat form or space online that is more useful as a revolution-

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ary tool than social media since you’ve talked about preferring your long-form content before.

Something that I really like about Substack, for me per sonally, is it is an anti-censor ship medium. If I say offhand edly “I hate men” my Substack will not get taken down. Which is great. But at the same time that has also allowed like a variety of extremely negative and harmful voices to exist on Substack. Substack has also gotten in huge trouble for platforming so many insane opinions that I feel ashamed to be on the same platform sometimes.

But what I do think is very valuable about it is that it is really important that peo ple fight the sort of cultural push to get rid of nuance and critical thinking, this sort of anti-intellectualism push on social media, I think there is a lot of power to be had in like, thinking really really critically about things and seeking out as many perspectives as you can, and not just like getting a surface level view on every issue that comes up on your TikTok For You page. I think our attention is an indescrib ably valuable thing, which I do think is being purposefully and systemically attacked and destroyed by the platforms we exist on. I think that is ex ceptionally dangerous for the leftist movement, and I also think its really great that I’ve started to see a ton of people, a ton of young girls, a ton of

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people who are part of the feminist movement or the Black liberation movement, start these sort of guerilla Substacks and blogs and stuff like that where they really dive into these issues and I feel so happy that this is becom ing a more popular mode of communication. There are so many things that I’ve said on Substack that I never could have said in a two-minute vid eo on TikTok, because it is just like not a platform where that kind of discourse is allowed to exist or thrive or is even pro ductive a lot of the time. So I feel often very inspired and very happy that there is such a large and growing audience of people that are interested in really diving into the issues that are important to them.

What or who inspires you to produce the content that you do surrounding cultural criticism and feminism?

For me, abolitionist femi nism was like the thing that changed my whole life. It transformed my mental health; transformed my rela tionships, changed the way that I relate to myself and my mental illness, and the people around me. And that’s people like Mariame Kaba, adrienne maree brown, I think is such an inspiration, obviously An gela Davis. I feel very inspired by adrienne maree brown in a ton of ways, because I think that her work really exempli

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design by Coral Utnehmer

fies the things that I aspire to do, which is like, I feel like she writes in a way that is the most perfect possible inter pretation of the personal as political. Because I think that the personal as political is something that has become bastardized and quite nega tive in a lot of ways, but I think that adrienne maree brown’s writing really encourages us to transform our interperson al relationships and our rela tionships with ourselves as a step towards transforming the world around us and trans forming our communities. Brown views interpersonal re lationships as something re ally beautiful and radical and sacred, and that’s really some thing that I hope to do too, to encourage people to value their relationships and value the world around them and use that as a very important part of their leftist practice.

How does having a following influence your work, or even your perception of yourself as a feminist? How do you navigate the pressure to exist online as a “feminist” or “leftist”?

There are a lot of parts of me that are honestly not suited to having a large audience, it’s not, to be completely hon est, something that I particu larly love or something that’s good for me. I’m almost like, extremely sensitive to crit icism, I have a type of OCD that is extremely occupied with the moral ramifications of my actions, and when you

have an audience or reach that approaches the millions sometimes, it is genuinely untenable. Because there’s an infinite array of ways that people can engage with and interact with and be triggered by the things that I say, and that’s tough to deal with. As much as I want to, and believe that I have a responsibility to serve my audience in some ways, I also am like, a whole person. And it’s important for me to keep that too and not just turn myself into a kind of like brand or television chan nel that is completely at the will of the people who con sume me. So it’s very hard to balance those things, like I said before, I think it is ex tremely easy for very normal people to be turned into femi nist icons, almost against their will, and it’s tough. Like, I’ll tweet something bitchy about “The Bachelor” or whatever and people will make Twitter threads or Reddit posts about how they were disappointed in me for saying something catty about people on “The Bachelor," and that’s some thing I take seriously when it happens. I hate the feeling of disappointing people. But I also really believe that this is like Roxanne Gay’s “Bad Fem inist,” not everybody can have every single thing they do be perfectly feminist all the time, I don’t think that’s a sustain able goal or standard to hold anybody to, with any size au dience or any kind of person. And yeah so there is a great deal of pressure, I’m probably the first person to say that the

internet is not great at seeing people as whole, multifaceted people, particularly women.

What is your relationship with your audience like? How important is their perception of you? Does it influence anything beyond your work, like your aes thetic? Do you try not to think about it?

Both. There is that pressure, and I try not to think about it. I mean, the writing scene right now, the popular writ ing scene, is very dominated by women which is great in a lot of ways, but I often think that this is because writing in particular has become such an aestheticized and branded medium. I think that there is an archetype that people some times expect of me, like the waifish, cigarette-smoking, tortured writer, and it’s tough because that’s not something I’ll ever be able to super effec tively emulate. At least, not to a conscious degree. A lot of people on the internet pull it off very purposefully and do it very well and I think kind of a problem with the way that people engage with writers a lot on the internet is that there is kind of this pressure or this idea that it’s not only that you should be writing things that people want to hear, but that you should like be or look like a person that people wanna be, and then they think that through reading your writing, they can more easily become you. And that is 100% a thing with me, I don’t know it’s real

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ly weird. I have written exten sively about my criticisms of the commodification of me dia and the way that people consciously consume media to make themselves more eas ily consumable. Like, conspic uously consuming media in order to build a brand and the ways in which I am very critical of that, and the ways in which we should resist the aesthet icization of our intellectu al pursuits. And at the same time, I searched my name on Spotify to try and find my own profile and I found 15 playlists called, “Rayne Fisher-Quann era” description: cigarettes and like, pondering suicide. It’s weird to watch. Again, I’ll search my name on Twitter and people are like “Rayne Fisher-Quann is the ultimate hot sad girl” which is like, first of all, I’m not that hot, second of all I’ve spent my whole life trying to fight the idea that I am an incurably sad person, that idea is my enemy. It’s the thing that has tried to kill me, you know? It’s odd to see peo ple engaging with my work in a way that’s like, “I wish I could be as sad as her” or whatev er. It’s sort of a tangent, but there are a million different ways this presents itself like there’s weirdly a pressure to be skinny when you’re a writer when there could not be less direct of a correlation. There’s an over-romanticization of these things that ties into aesthetics. And it’s definitely a difficult thing to contend with. It’s just weird to see peo ple build these conceptions of who I am that are so different

from the person I am and try to be, particularly when you get into these really interest ing kinds of aesthetic ideas. I feel like people try to push me into this archetype that isn’t something that I’m ever going to be.

What do you feel the role of an intersectional feminist “icon” should be? Is this how you view your own role? Does it shape your ethics?

Like I said before, an intersec tional feminist icon is a title I think should be used very sparingly. When I think of an intersectional feminist icon I do think of someone like An gela Davis or Mariame Kaba, like people who through their work and through their contri butions to their communities have shifted the conscious ness. People who provide a physical example of how we should live our lives and how we should do our work and how we should care for oth er people and how we should care for ourselves. I can’t think of a better definition of an icon than that, and I think that there are truly very few people who fit into that defi nition. I would definitely not be so bold as to put myself on the same level as Angela Davis. I don’t consider myself to be an icon, I think that par ticularly at this point, I would be setting myself up for fail ure. I think it comes with a great deal of responsibility and pressure, and I hope for the rest of my life I can keep working and keep doing bet

ter work, and I hope to impact as many people as possible. But I think that aspiring to be an icon is kind of a fool’s errand. As somewhat of a narcissist it’s definitely some thing I’ve thought about, but I don’t think it’s the best use of anybody’s time. The thing that we should aspire to do is to be good to other people, to be good to ourselves, and to do things for our communities; to try and make people’s lives better, even on a small scale.

In your essay, “Who’s Afraid of Amber Heard,” you say “the act of saying you’re a feminist and the act of engaging in feminism are two entirely disparate inclinations, sharing little in common when they’re not actively at odds with each other.” In this vein, what advice would you give to our readers who want to grow in their feminist practice and engage in feminism? (any media we should be con suming, etc).

Great question! I think that the biggest problem here, the thing that I was trying to de scribe, was that it’s really re ally easy for people to think that they’re a feminist now. We have almost reached a cul tural point of like, oversatura tion, where like pretty much anything can be argued to be feminist at this point, in a very bastardized way. Mostly to provide normal people with like, moral validation for every action, in a way that I think

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ends up being very destruc tive to the feminist cause. And that’s definitely some thing that I went through, I feel like almost every girl goes through a phase where they’re like “I’m doing feminist praxis when I wear makeup because that’s my choice,” it feels very good it’s very validating. Be ing a woman is very hard, and I completely understand peo ple wanting to latch onto the phrase “feminist” to ease the shame and suffering of wom anhood, but the definition that I use to determine what is or is not a feminist belief or action or piece of feminist ideology is like, whether this thing can actively be said to further the liberation of all women, all classes, interna tionally, not just in the west. There are so many actions that we do every day that de pend on the continued subju gation of women in the Glob al South. I think that it’s really important to understand fem inism as a movement that is fundamentally structural, that is fundamentally interested in the destruction of systemic forces. It’s really important to remember that not everything that we do has to be femi nist. Your life gets a lot easier when you realize that it’s okay to be a normal, complicated, medium person, like most of the time, you don’t have to be ashamed about that. It’s okay to just watch “The Bach elor.” That’s the thing that has helped me the most. I think a lot of being an effective fem inist does start inside of our

selves, with unlearning shame and our desires for moral and interpersonal purity, only then can we start making deci sions and believing in things that are truly radical and tru ly seek to create liberation. I think everyone should read abolitionist theory, I think everybody should read “Plea sure Activism” by adrienne maree brown. I think every body should read decolonial theory. Among young white feminists, that is something frequently overlooked. Espe cially considering the name of feminism is so frequently used to encourage the subjugation of women in the Global South and non-western women. Moral imperialism is a really big deal, and decolonial the ory is essential to unpacking that. They should read about

allows us to build our rela tionships with ourselves and each other, and grow in our feminist practice. We are all, like Rayne, just normal people. And the keys to our liberation exist inherently within our col lective consciousness, not the constructed image of an icon.

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America as an Icon: The Golden Facade

The United States is un doubtedly an icon on the world stage, a sturdy, sparkly symbol of freedom, forever in the headlines. Over the decades, its superpower status has made the country positively popular and so im portant. As an international student, this golden image can be verified; despite the nation’s contested history and problematic sociopolitical landscape, America is noth ing but dreams and burgers abroad. American feminism isn’t a stranger to glorification either — second wave and post-war feminism are con sidered textbook knowledge and fundamental in the fight against patriarchal systems of power. From large-scale insti tutional and policy motions in the 20th century (i.e. every thing the suffragettes fought for) to today’s “lifestyle femi nism,” from Betty Friedan to AOC, so much about American feminism is undeniably icon ic. But icons are only images, built in the air and put on a pedestal, glorified so harshly that we are blinded to the in competencies and secret lim itations of a movement oth erwise so powerful. Where is

it lacking, and for how much longer?

This isn’t the first time the in tersectionality of American feminism is being called into question; as early as 1866, Black orator, activist, and ab olitionist Frances Ellen Wat kins Harper challenged white feminism in her speech at the National Women’s Rights Con vention: “I tell you that if there is any class of people who need to be lifted out of their airy nothings and selfishness, it is the white women of America.”

The work of the Combahee River Collective draws atten tion to the intersectional con sequences of oppression and highlights how inclusive fem inism would work to disman tle existing heteropatriarchal, economically exploitative, and racist systems of power. Black feminism shapes an ideology that goes beyond the individ ual success of a woman and encourages collective struc tural change. Kimberlé Cren shaw, leading scholar of criti cal race theory and civil rights advocate, notes that discrim ination persists even decades later because of the “stubborn endurance of the structures of white dominance.” She’s not

wrong. Nor is it the first time the sin cerity of American feminism’s inclusion of LGBTQ+ individu als has been called into ques tion. With a host and variety of homophobic and transpho bic legislation (e.g. bathroom bills, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the SAFE act, the “Save Wom en’s Sport” Act, and more) being introduced and passed into law, the queer communi ty is consistently under attack. How effectively has American feminism really incorporated queer theory into its teach ings and message? Women’s colleges, for instance, are fun damentally mainstream fem inist institutions, symbols of resistance to men’s rules for higher education. But in many ways, these institutions repli cate and propagate much of the same elitism and racism in their quest to empower the white women they serve. And until recently, many of these schools had no official policy regarding transgender appli cants or students, potentially discouraging trans students from applying or forcing ex isting students to hide their gender/sexual identities. Re puted colleges like Barnard

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University, Smith College and Bryn Mawr College do not ad mit non-binary students; Bryn Mawr and Wellesley only do if the student is assigned fe male at birth. Research by Ab bie Goldberg, a professor of psychology and the director of the women’s and gender studies program at Clark Uni versity, highlights how trans gender students are treated in higher-level academic institu tions: her study showed that a “confluence of academic, mental health and financial factors” often motivate stu dents to drop out of college. To add to this, an Associated Press article from 2017 re ports that alumnae at some of these institutions are op posed to admitting transgen der students, arguing that it “undermines the institutional mission to empower women.” This version of feminist lib eration is grossly limited and exclusionary – broadening and clarifying administrative policies to move past the po licing of gender and actively including queer students is absolutely necessary, especial ly today. And if women’s col leges are (to whatever extent) the torchbearers of American feminism, shouldn’t educating and supporting trans students and non-binary people be a part of their mission?

What American feminists need to be thinking about more is women in the work force — but not just women atop the glass ceiling, not just upper-class, educated, well-

off women in positions of considerable power. Although women constitute nearly half of the national workforce, they make up 60 percent of the minimum-wage workforce and 73 percent of tipped work ers (according to the Sargent Shriver National Center on

their unemployment — and the new economy being “re built” post-pandemic is being rebuilt on underpaid service work!

Mainstream feminism in the United States has moved well past the fight to recognise housework as work in lieu of

Poverty Law). Even if women are overrepresented in sectors of the economy that are rap idly growing, these are sectors that pay poverty wages. The public sector job cuts dispro portionately affect women (especially women of color) and are largely to blame for

“career women”; in “Global Woman”, Barbara Ehrenreich notes how second wave icon Betty Friedan “raged against a society that consigned its educated women to what she saw as essentially janitorial chores, beneath ‘the abilities of women of average or nor

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mal intelligence’ and, accord ing to unidentified studies she cited, ‘peculiarly suited to the capacities of feeble-minded girls.’” This is an ideology that needs to be left behind, and its repercussions today warrant both recognition and reform. When discussions of equal pay

as a potential solution to the gender wage gap as it would allow workers to discuss their salaries and thus discover dis crepancies, but the initiative to unionize and collectively demand better pay and con ditions has not received the same backing.

climate and circumstances call for unionization like never before – this is an opportuni ty to rethink the way we value service work and focus on cre ating real, sustainable protec tions for these workers.

for equal work come about, it elicits the comparison of pay rates between individual men and women, meaning we are only considering environ ments wherein salaries can be negotiated and are done so in dividually. The Paycheck Fair ness Act has been proposed

In “Trickle-Down Feminism”

Sarah Jaffe writes that until contingents predominantly comprised of women (nurses, teachers, domestic workers, etc.) organise their workplac es, their labor will remain un regulated, undervalued, and uncertain. Today’s economic

Another labor issue well with in American feminism’s realm of influence is the decriminali sation of sex work. Although it remains a controversial issue within feminist spaces, if the movement truly supports re productive choice, why should an exchange of money have any bearing on this? Studies reported by the WHO show that decriminalising sex work can lead to a 46 percent de cline in new HIV infections in sex workers and help elimi nate sexual violence against them. Additionally, this crim inalisation of sex work is dan gerous because it hinders workers’ ability to negotiate sexual consent. This version of Sex Worker Exclusionary Rad ical Feminism (SWERF) propa gates a reductive and skewed understanding of sex work that falsely suggests that a) all sex workers are women and all clients are men, and b) despite the experience and perspec tive of sex workers, their work is by definition a form of vio lence against women. SWERF also argues that decriminalisa tion would exacerbate human trafficking despite a strong body of research proving the opposite. If feminism in this country really revolves around the core values of agency and empowerment, then why are sex workers being silenced?

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design by Bela Chauhan

Interestingly, many of these shortcomings can be traced back to how we understand one thing: power. The idea that equality can be achieved only through participation in the existing patriarchal struc tures of society limits our in terpretation of power; to echo the words of Audre Lorde, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” We still see power as the abil ity to exert control and dom inance over others instead of something that can be cre ative, constructive and col lective. In “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center,” bell hooks discusses the feminist dilemma of obtaining pow er without being corrupted by it, and how this expecta tion in and of itself is flawed: “Women, though assigned dif ferent roles to play in society based on sex, are not taught a different value system,” i.e. even if women acquire pow er, that does not mean they inherently conceptualise it differently. The issue here is that one gains power (espe cially in terms of wealth) of ten through supporting the oppression and exploitation of ‘underclass’ people, even if unintentionally, and that the power acquired is rarely used to empower these groups.

American feminists need to work to redefine power posi tively — in fact, the idea that women must obtain power to effectively resist the patriar chy is rooted in the false as sumption that women have

no power. In "Powers of the Weak," Elizabeth Janeway writes that one of the most critical forms of power held by the weak is “the refusal to accept the definition of one self that is put forward by the powerful.” Based on this idea, hooks emphasises the eco nomic power of women as consumers (via boycotts and other anti-capitalist exercises) and the importance of serv ing “the interests of collective feminist struggle.” Such redef inition is key to reforming so ciety so that social, political, and economic structures can work in favor of (rather than as an obstacle to) the equality of all people.

Feminist movements around the world are certainly not far behind, although our little golden bubble may convince us so. The legalisation of sex work in the Netherlands in 2000 has improved labor con ditions, reduced criminal en terprise and exploitation, and given sex workers greater au tonomy. India has established a statutory body, the National Council for Transgender Per sons (NCTP), that advises the government on all policy mat ters affecting transgender and intersex people. Abortion was decriminalised in South Korea by court order in 2021 (after being considered illegal since 1953). Cuba’s adoption of The Family Code more than forty years ago codifies egalitari an societal norms addressing marriage, property manage ment, childcare obligations

and more, in the quest to le gally motivate change. Amer ica might have been an icon going into the 21st century, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will remain one.

To think about American femi nism today is confusing — it is changing and growing, prob ably for the better, but a sig nificant chunk of the move ment is shrouded in a glittery, golden facade that is difficult to see through. American feminism is nearly absorbed by its status as an icon; the faces representing the move ment are, for the most part, popular politicians, executive directors, authors and actors — and the way the movement has morphed into a profitable subculture highlights its su perficial nature. White femi nism’s magazine-cover, yougo-girl, capitalism-adjacent advocacy will simply not work anymore. If structural issues, especially those concerning labor (lack of access to paid leave, wage gaps, unafford able childcare, underpaid care work, criminalised sex work, lack of unions) are not ad dressed with urgency, they are bound to be left behind. In the words of Laurie Penny, “While we all worry about the glass ceiling, there are millions of women standing in the base ment — and the basement is flooding.” Our approach needs to shift: from breaking the glass ceiling to asking why there is a ceiling to begin with. If America can do better, then it absolutely should.

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What You Want to See

It’s September again. On the way to class, I step on beadsized figs, fruit of an Aus tralian tree. A parakeet calls through the warm, subtropi cal air and I think of how Joan Didion said that Los Angeles is not California, and how she was wrong — that parts of Los Angeles are California, but that our campus is not one of those parts.

For Didion, the real Califor nia was the land of pioneers and full rivers and agricultural fortunes and Eden-like abun dance. To me, California is the smell of eucalyptus leaves and spruce siding and the sea breeze swept in from the San Francisco Bay and warmed by the golden hills. This is to say that there are the stories we tell ourselves about a place, and the uncomfortable truth of what really happened there.

For example: The pioneers were not pioneers at all, but settler-colonizers. A half-cen tury after Didion’s proclama tion, it is evident from the parched ground and miles of almond trees and salmon-less rivers and mustard-covered hills that the California of the Central Valley’s boom years

destroyed the California that came before it and doomed the one that followed.

The men who founded the University of California sys tem knew the value of the right story, knew that survival on the American frontier re quired the alchemical ability to turn stories into reality, and reality into history. So perhaps it is unsurprising that the first campus opened a mere nine teen years after a state legisla tor wrote that the prophesied public university would be, “the Great Light of the Pacific, diffusing its glorious radiance along the shores of Western America,” and that its creation would then be woven into the historical narrative as though this had been the land’s true purpose all along.

For a while, telling the right story was not so hard. The mostly-white young people who came to study in West wood had no reason to ques tion the premise, as they walked under the Roman esque arches of Royce, that they, the sons and daughters of orange farmers and the American Revolution, were the rightful inheritors of mil

lenia of European civilization.

But in our era there is no sin gular story UCLA can tell to attract 139,400 applicants to its campus. And so it rewrites, and embellishes, and recon stitutes itself in 139,400 ways to show you what you want to see, whether that be a laidback college town or cosmo politan center, an academic sanctuary or party school, a place where you can row like the boys at Yale or surf like the ones in San Diego. It is a school that celebrates the col onizers and colonized, bloody expansion and pacified philos ophy, agricultural engineering and environmental research.

There are too many stories now, stacked atop such a small campus. They conflict, repelling each other, and as the pressure builds the narra tive pulls apart at its seams.

Outside Bunche, spotted gums grow past the cloudless sky and a long-limbed hibiscus drops its petals on the pave ment. Fliers by the elevators advertise studies in D.C. and courses on foreign migration flows, urban environmental ism, political technocracy, and

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development theory. Next to the water fountains are aerial images from the 20th centu ry showing rolling hills dotted with orchards, the founda tions of Moore and Kerckhoff, the dark English lawns be tween Royce and Powell, and the rapid encroachment of Westwood’s development.

The campus is where these narratives are contested, where the stories peel them selves away from the land and glimpses of its past are exposed. The California that UCLA tries to make disappear is buried here, beneath sto ries of Milan and New Haven, Italian architecture and Indo nesian textiles, grasses from Ethiopia and squirrels from Europe.

Here are parts of the Califor nia story that UCLA does not tell: Humans first came to the Los Angeles Basin 11,000 years ago, and by A.D. 0 de scendants of the Chumash and Gabrieleño people inhab ited the region. In 1771, the first mission was established in present-day Montebello, and in 1810 the first dam was built on the Los Angeles River.

In 1843, a large tract of land, boundaried by the present-day boulevards of Sawtelle, Bever ly Glen, Pico, and Sunset, was privatized by the governor as the Rancho San Jose de Bue nos Ayres. By California’s ad mission to the union in 1850, the Indigenous population of California had declined to

150,000 from an estimated 300,000 pre-colonization. Besides the eventual creation of a public university, one of the new legislature’s highest priorities was passing a bar rage of anti-Indigenous leg islation that laid the ground work for the state’s genocidal project.

the Normal School in Down town LA, department store entrepreneur Arthur Letts Sr. purchased Rancho San Jose de Buenos Ayres (now called Wolfskill Ranch); he passed the land to his son-in-law Har old Janss in 1922. When, in 1925, the University Regents chose Westwood as the site of their new campus, Janss In

In the twenty years between California’s statehood and the creation of the first UC, the Indigenous population of Cal ifornia declined from 150,000 to 30,000, and the Indigenous population of the Los Angeles Basin from 3,693 to 219.

In 1919, the same year UCLA was established on the site of

vestment Corp sold them the land at a steep discount.

UCLA is a land grant institu tion in two senses, reaping double benefits from the co lonial violence that birthed neatly-boundaried tracts of enclosed and virgin land — land to be conquered and tamed. The land-grant system

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design by Cassandra Sanchez

initiated by Lincoln provided funding for the purchase of land, but the land was cheap because the Rancho system and racial capitalism were and still are based on the sanctity of white private property.

The year before I enrolled, UCLA auctioned off the last of its un-commemorated build ings and re-christened it as

The Rockefeller of southern California electricity. A philo sophical proponent of impe rial ‘civilizing missions.’ A real estate developer and commit ted conservationist. A Spanish colonizer and Catholic prose lytizer. The billionaire founder of DreamWorks. Ronald Rea gan.

an art from Peru housed in a building not dissimilar in style from the Genoese churches of Columbus’ youth. What he would not have recognized, but is indirectly responsible for, are the tropical pea trees, one from Brazil and one from Southeast Asia, whose yellow and pink blossoms blanket the courtyard steps every spring.

Recently UCLA has started planting more California na tive oaks. They commissioned the Judy Baca mural La Me moria de la Tierra: UCLA for their centennial celebration. But the mural does not show what it took to divert the riv er and privatize the land, and the oak trees grow far apart in neat-edged holes in the pave ment that blankets campus from the tennis courts to Ack erman.

Kaplan Hall. This reveals noth ing except that Renee and Da vid Kaplan had enough mon ey, and fondness for UCLA, to make it happen.

But other names on our build ings tell a new side of the UCLA story, showing what the institution has valued at dif ferent times. The list includes:

In Fowler, you can visit col lections of ‘African artifacts’ donated by an entrepreneur whose company is now part of a $60 million British phar maceutical conglomerate. The website notes his generosi ty in donating artifacts from Sudanese burial sites he ‘dis covered.’ Speaking of ‘discov ery,’ you can see pre-Columbi

This school reels in dysfunc tion. It has become all too easy to tell stories, and cor respondingly harder to fore see their consequences. In the digital age, UCLA barely needs a cohesive narrative; instead, a jumbled mess of icons and idolatry — #daddygene, the Bruin bear and John Wood en’s inspirational quotes, to name a few — distract from the institution’s inherent vio lence with merch, memes, and an aesthetic Instagram feed. We see what we want to see, and press forward in stubborn resistance to the truth. But this is not a new problem: the frontier, after all, is whatever the settler wants it to be.

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We are the Daughters of the Women with a Unibrow that Could Not be Plucked

My Mexican-American Horror Story (Sandra Cisneros Edition) hap pened about last-week ish.

As any person who is a fan of another, your fave’s name trending on Twitter can only mean one of two things: they did something great (Yippee!), or they did something that makes you want to reprimand them in the way that your mom might’ve when you were being a little shit: through gritted teeth—“Callate, ya.”

Las calladitas son más bonitas. And sometimes, I gotta hand it to the machistas, they have a point. Or maybe they don’t re ally, but when my ‘family of lit tle feet’ “The House on Mango Street” pioneer who wrote the only novel by a Latinx widely read amongst Gen-Z K-12 stu dents, my “nobody’s wife and nobody’s mother” quote giver that almost made it under my high school senior yearbook picture, my Chicana icon who I have revered in past college essays, says something in The New Yorker that sets people off for valid reasons, I… I’ll let Sandra speak for herself:

“It made me really sad, be cause I saw my own people acting worse than the Trump ers with one another and with other writers. I said, ‘No, this can’t be my community. This can’t be the people who are asking for human rights for immigrants and yet are cruel to another writer.’”

“I was so sad. I had to go to the Oaxaca coast and just walk and think about it. It was so painful. It still pains me. I’m still angry, and I think that’s why I’ve hesitated talking about it, because we shouldn’t speak when we’re angry.”

This made me really sad. I’m

design by Katelynn Perez
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going to put down the foam finger for a while. Though, I’m not able to go to the Oaxaca coast and reflect. I actually think that’s quite odd to men tion, the whole walk on the Oaxacan coast. It doesn’t have the intended effect of con juring images of this mystical motherland where one goes to heal and reconnect with their cultural values. It feels like a cheap attempt to forge a connection to Indigeneity and evade criticism following such a non-nuanced statement about our community.

But that’s not very “Latinas Supporting Latinas” of me, right? At least, not in the tra ditional sense of “La Raza,” where we continually defend anything a Latinx does. And truly, I do get why we may have an impulse to evade ac countability: because we don’t want the world, a world that already does not accept us, to see our division and in-fight ing. Because when one of our own, a real Chicanx or Latinx claws their way to the top of a platform that white people simply float to, we’ll do any thing to ensure they can stay up there. After all, they’ve fought the fight. They’re there showing that we too exist for a purpose besides Cinco de Drinko and sombreros and tacos, and shouldn't we be grateful we’re even up there?

But defending Latinxs solely because of their identity, us ing it as a universal repellent to controversies and privilege,

is a slippery slope, especially when Latinxs themselves are incredibly diverse. “La Raza,” the (singular) race, is as much of a fairytale as Atlantis or Shrek, because we are not all half Indigenous and half Spaniard mestizos. White Lati nos claim Aztec blood and say we are all one unified race, but will mock their darker-skinned and Indigenous-featured friends and family because of white supremacist sentiments — another unwashable blood stain from Spanish colonial ism.

I’m disappointed in Sandra, yes, because her statement plays into this “La Raza” ide ology where we all experience racism and oppression in the same way. Latinidad, with its “La Raza”-fication, tries to dismiss the distinctions of our unique experiences and varying identities. You’re not Indigenous or Black or white or in between, an immigrant or American since the Alamo, conservative or leftist, rich or poor, you’re Latino.

So, maybe, let’s try not equat ing well-intentioned Latinxs who seek to hold other Latinxs accountable to a literal white supremacist group. Let’s lis ten to our brothers and sisters because they aren’t throwing our children in cages or build ing a wall. They challenge us to do and be better. They of fer important reminders that no one can speak for “La Raza” in its entirety, and that we too can have blindspots with our

privilege. So why do we act as though their critical observa tions will be our demise?

But why do we need our icons to be perfect? Why do we have to shield icons from criticisms, or on the complete opposite end, erase them from our his tories? After all, Sandra Cisne ros did pave a path for other Latinas to tell their stories in a way that challenged what was considered complex, interest ing, and layered literature.

I hesitate to say this because I recognize the sentiments sur rounding her nowadays, but even Frida Kahlo has influ enced my work.

Growing up in predominantly white schools, I was mocked for my culture and ashamed of my thick eyebrows. So when I found out Frida Kahlo existed, this unapologetically hairy-queer-communist-ba dass–feminist-Mexicana art ist, it felt like she had resurrect ed from the dead to perform a seance for my cultural pride. I thought that pride had per ished in the crossfire between the “El Chapo is your uncle!” and “You’ll only get into col lege because you’re Mexi can!” hits from my peers. Sub merged in the sea of white artists and people and culture that I felt no true connection to, learning about Frida in my classes guided me out. I didn’t even read “The House on Man go Street” until my 3rd year of college, so Frida was one of (if not, the only) Mexican women I learned about in school. Her

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art looked like home, spoke to the parts of myself hurt by gringolandia, and demon strated the strength and con fidence of a woman I didn’t know was possible by Mexica nas.

Yet, even I can put it plain ly: Frida Kahlo profited off of Indigenous clothing styles, clothes that are unfortunate ly more commonly associated with Kahlo herself rather than those who created them in Te huantepec. While Indigenous people face ridicule for dress ing in the unique styles they created and were forced to as similate to dominant Europe an culture, this half-German woman plays dress up and about a century later has her face plastered all over Olvera street like a saint. And there is no defending that. I don’t want to defend her. Rather, I want her, Sandra Cisneros, and every other Latina icon to be remembered in all facets.

I know I’m not perfect, and I strongly believe that my writ ing, even the parts that I wish I could change, are markers of my progress as a human. My hope is to facilitate import ant discussions that aren’t ad dressed enough, so we can all reflect on our actions and par ticipate in dialogue to strive for a world that recognizes and validates all people. And no, I’m not naive. I don’t think that will happen overnight. We’re not going to have one hour-long conversation and then unite hand in hand as

we sing “Kumbaya” (or “Tragos Amargos”) around a fire. But we need to approach all sub jects, whether that be people, events, movements, etc. as continually advancing.

If I realize my dream and be come half the artist Cisneros and Kahlo are, I hope that my audience does not take my word as the word of a god dess and defends me when I’m wrong. If a Latina decades into the future reads my work, I hope she finds flaws in my thinking and forges new ide ologies that build upon my work, not replicate it.

Nobody is going to get it right 100% of the time. Instead of throwing a fit and melodra matically dying on the most idiotic hills, I call upon “La Raza” to wipe off the self-pity ing tears and stand up. As people that pride themselves on being strong chingonxs, we should all be able to survive someone calling us out. Imag ine how far we could get if we began to own our mistakes just as much as we own our accomplishments — how we could actually grow into the united community we pretend to be.

So, I don’t believe in placing people on pedestals and cre ating a fictitious, perfect icon who remains timeless. And on the same coin, I don’t think we should have that expectation of people either. But that’s not to say that we throw our hands up and give everyone a

free pass to do whatever they want. I’m saying that we pick up the golden shovel of crit icism and unearth the best versions of our own individual selves and our collective com munities. It’s dirty work, but I refuse to wait until I find the perfect words. I’ll die before I ever am fully certain of a sin gle thing I say or write to a world where my words exist in a cloud forever. But the soon er I cycle through my mistakes and bad ideas, the sooner I can make way for new and im proved ones.

Plus, does the white guy in your discussion section wait until he has fully developed a thought before verbalizing it with full confidence?

So to the young 21-year old Latina studying Chicanx and feminist studies who may or may not be reading this in the future or in the present, do your worst.

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Pretty in Pain: Revisiting the Virgin Suicides

Content Warning: Eating disorders, self harm, and suicide.

In 1993, Jeffrey Eugenides published his first novel “The Virgin Suicides.”

In 1999, Sofia Coppola de buted her film adaptation of the novel to largely positive reviews.

Now, in 2022, we’re still talking about it.

Released more than 20 years ago, the mov ie has since outlived its adolescence, but has found an impressive cult following amongst teen girls throughout the 2000s and 2010s. Many swarm to the film as an ac curate portrayal of the claus trophobic nature of girlhood, identifying with the angst and repression that make up the core of the doomed Lisbon girls’ existence. Along with the film’s enduring acclaim, “The Virgin Suicides” has sparked criticism as well. Some find that the plot prioritizes white femininity ( it does) and oth ers who felt that it only serves to glamourize suicide and

mental illness (I’ll leave that for viewers to decide).

Still, its important to interro gate what makes “The Virgin Suicides” so timeless amongst this adolescent demographic.

Is it, in fact, timeless? Amongst the contemporary online en vironment of instant reshares and TikTok edits, nuances of film and its literary meaning can drop away from a body of work as easily as meat falls from the bone. When the lat est iteration of a text arrives onto our feed, we are left only with easily digestible aesthet ics, while the marrow of the text is discarded completely. This is the case with Eugenides and Coppola’s original investi gation and condemnation of the male gaze. Through high speed internet trends and a rapid rebirth in cultural capital on social media, the original meaning of “The Virgin Sui cides” has become estranged from its aesthetics, leaving teen girls with an iconography that centers female pain as tragically beautiful and wor

thy of imitation.

As we enter the cinematic universe of 1970s suburban Detroit, Coppola makes her exploration known from the start: she is presenting a story through a subjective lens, one that most likely differs from the viewers. The film occurs through the eyes of a group of unnamed male narrators, boys (now grown men), who lived in the same neighborhood of the five Lisbon sisters and witnessed their fatal decline. Despite the difficult task at hand, Coppola’s work captures pent-up teen boyhood in all of its unchecked cruelty and testosterone-fueled extremes. Shooting the blonde sisters through car windows, behind elm trees, and in the close-up view of a telescope, she makes it clear that the girls are al ways being watched. Even in moments where the girls are presumed to be alone, such as when Lux wakes up on the football field alone after hav ing sex for the first time, the camera is placed above as if

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there was a stranger looking on from the bleachers. Finally, the intermittent narration of the boys constantly reminds the viewer that this is not the story of the Lisbon girls. It never has been. Instead, this is the story of privileged, mid dle class white men and their fantasies which never reached fruition.

“The Virgin Suicides” novel fur ther parodies the limited view of the boys by showing their careful collection of the Lis bon girls’ stolen items, which ultimately gives them little in sight into what their infamous neighbors were really like. The invasive hoard itself contains 97 “exhibits,” which are “ar ranged in five separate suit cases, each bearing a photo graph of the deceased [girls] like a Coptic headstone” (241). From faded family photos of the girls, to Mary’s cosmetics, a stolen brassiere, and Lux’s gynecological exam, the boys have figuratively and literally objectified the girls through their treasured museum. Un surprisingly, their comical (and often uncomfortable) ways of getting closer to the Lisbon sisters leave them worse off than they began. As the nar rator truthfully remarks, “Our vigilance had been only the fingerprinting of phantoms” (182). Without ever taking the time to talk to the girls, Eu genides points us to the obvi ous conclusion that the group of teens boys had no chance of understanding them. The girls stayed as phantoms for

ever, illusory and one dimen sional.

While the male gaze is both visible and ridiculed through out the novel and film, the most recent wave of internet fame surrounding “The Vir gin Suicides” does not seem to acknowledge the irony of the girls’ idealized images. A simple Pinterest search of ‘Kirsten Dunst’ or ‘Sofia Cop pola’ produces hundreds of behind-the-scenes stills, pic

tures of lipstick-stained cig arettes, and Brandy Melville outfits. TikTok holds much of the same, sometimes produc ing fan edits of the film set to Lana del Rey songs. If these permutations still were not enough, there is also the 2021 ‘Virgin Suicides’ collection from Marc Jacobs’ Heaven, which features Lux Lisbon’s image printed on mesh tops and slip skirts, all priced in the hundreds.

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Beyond commodifying the Lisbon sisters’ pain (howev er fictional it may be), these viral mood boards seem to perfectly capture the misogy nistic martyrdom featured in the book without a pinch of its self awareness or literary nuance. Lacking the context that these webs of imagery emerged from, the film’s ex aggerated, male-centered de pictions of girlhood become ideals to strive for. In this way, the voyeuristic male gaze

that saturates each frame of the movie becomes our gaze through the discreet lens of the internet. Whiteness, thin ness, and unbearable misery are what girls have learned to both covet and relate to, rein forcing an exclusive Eurocen tric beauty standard that is already firmly entrenched in American society.

All of this to say, “The Virgin Suicides” is still only a tiny piece of a giant, cultural puz zle to solve. In the greater web

of internet culture, similar film and media aesthetics have had immense, unintended social effects in online communities. For example, in the journal article “Ana and Mia: Ophelia on the Web,” author Remedi os Perni points out that image boards on Pinterest and Tum blr, overpopulated with fig ures such as the Lisbon sisters, Winona Ryder’s character in “Girl, Interrupted,” and Natalie Portman’s tortured artist fig ure in “Black Swan,” have func tioned as inspiration for girls on pro-eating disorder blogs and chat forums. “The con templation of icons of Western beauty,” Permi argues, invites girls to further engage with self-destructive/self-harming behavior by providing them with Hollywood-approved benchmarks for success.

While many might have first found solace in relating to these female characters on line, the ethos of these in ternet spaces serves only to spawn “an ideology of emo tional problems which helps reproduce the conditions that produce them.” If we are to overcome this cycle of martyr dom, we need to start taking the politics behind aesthetics seriously and ask ourselves critical questions: Why are so many of our icons depressed? How does society benefit from capturing and romanti cizing female pain? And when the next pop cultural sad girl comes along, will we be able to stop ourselves from sancti fying her?

design by Katelynn Perez
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Memeable Women

On the first day, UCLA made the Internet. On the second, humans — bare and unbecoming — made memes.

Humor has always been a part of the human experience. The oldest joke ever recorded was found amongst the Sumerians in 1900 BCE:

Something which has never oc curred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap. It seems, too, that women have always been a part of comedy, for better or worse. Centuries later, I started a meme page in middle school to prove to all the snot-nosed, AXE-wear ing thirteen-year-old boys that women are funny. It didn’t take too long for me to realize that the patriarchy isn’t a meritocra cy.

Memes are an evolved behav ior. Across numerous cultures and societies, we’ve communi cated gags that can turn obso lete or iconic in seconds. In the Darwinian sense, memes are a replicating unit — a concept, an idea in the form of a word, gesture, or riff. They are subject to an evolutionary process in which we observe, imitate, and replicate one another’s behav iors on the basis of popularity, reputation, or expectation.

And like every form of commu nication, memes are imbued with socio-cultural contexts, having the ability to communi cate a plethora of perspectives on gender, race, sexuality, pol itics, and religion in pixelated unity. Memes thus have the potential to subvert traditional beliefs or sustain them.

For women, the Internet and meme culture has been a rocky landscape to roam. Women in memes roughly began with “Derpette” who sometimes fea tured in rage comics — poorly drawn MS paint stick figures popular in the early 2010s. Der pette, blonde and white, was often used as an object of at traction for the male characters or as the intellectually inferior butt of a joke. Then, “overly at tached girlfriend” rose to popu larity, depicting a young white girl staring at her camera with a wide grin. The image was ac companied by the description of behaviors that characterized her as a needy, quirky, and bor derline abusive girlfriend.

There is a virtual obsession with unlikeable women that embod ies remnants of early American homes where women were di agnosed with hysteria when they cried too loud and then prescribed lithium to become Stepford-Esque mothers and wives. In modern-day fashion,

women are alienated from their own pain and rage. The 24-bit image turns an experience of loss and despair into a motif meant to symbolize a hilarious reaction — a reaction that is no longer their own, but theatrical. Women, to the Internet, you are a dramatic performance. Not a character to be understood, but a spectacle. The internet’s ob session with depicting unlike able women does not end with being a blonde stereotype or needy girlfriend. A robust cate gory of women expressing neg ative emotions has permeated much of Twitter and Instagram memes. The most obvious be gins with a picture of Kim Kar dashian crying.

On an episode of “Kim & Kourt ney Take New York,” Kim cries as she speaks of her then-marriage to Kris Humphries whom she lost feelings for. As with most memes, the context was erad icated from the viral image. It was used as a template where users could add their own text or to express a user’s reaction. Similarly, infamous Internet figure Trisha Paytas recorded several nervous breakdowns that were later posted to her YouTube Channel. One after a breakup with Sean van der Wilt, the other after a breakup with Jason Nash. Snapshots of them crying, and even choking her self quickly circulated the In

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ternet and became yet another reaction image used to demon strate dramatic reactions to seemingly inconsequential ex periences.

“The Real Housewives’” Taylor Armstrong is a part of anoth er infamous meme in which a snapshot of her yelling and pointing at a costar was paired with the image of a cat at a din ner table. These images went viral — the context thrown into the shadows. At a wine tasting, Armstrong and Camille Gram mer were locked into an esca lating, drunken feud. Grammer had revealed that Armstrong was in an abusive relationship a few episodes prior. Speaking on the meme now, Armstrong said, “During the screaming scene, I was truly terrified for my life and my safety. When I look back now, that life seems like someone else’s.”

This pairing of rage with a cat degrades feminine expres sion. Armstrong’s discomfort is posed as hysteria – a painting of mouth agape and eyebrows furrowed as the out-of-control woman. As a viewer, we want to identify with the cat’s mild glare. In a memetic context, his cool indifference suggests our preferred reaction to Arm strong when she represents your mom yelling at you, an unpopular opinion, or a ridicu lous statement. An image that once showed a vulnerable re action to abuse evolved into a static expression of an overripe temper.

Men’s negative emotions are rarely depicted in such a man ner. They are autonomous in

being their own comedian. While memes often happen upon women, men are the ar chitect of their memeification.

If it is out of their hands, it is within positive connotations that recognize the figure as a whole. Twitch streamers such as Markiplier, penguinz0, and Jerma regularly become memes in audios and clips that often go viral on TikTok and Twitter. Responses and adaptations of these bits tend to reify these men as relatable, funny, and charming. The meme distribu tors of these streamers are usu ally regular watchers — primar ily male and white users.

For the most part, the meme landscape has operated through whiteness and mascu linity. The beginnings of memes such as rage comics originated from 4chan, a platform that has since been a space for white male users. It wasn’t until peo ple of color began to take up more space in mainstream en tertainment and performance that their presence was even included in the cultural hub.

Nicki Minaj, Doja Cat, Cardi B, and Keke Palmer are examples of Black women exhausted from carrying the humor of Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok on their backs. Whether it’s the recorded Instagram lives of Nicki Minaj, soundbites of Cardi B and Keke Palmer, or Doja Cat’s general surrealist wit, it is no surprise that their content spreads like wildfire. Nonetheless, these vir tual moments titular to meme culture often require the acqui sition of language, humor, and behaviors outside of the cre ator’s community for the sake

of performance. Many have termed this process as “digital Blackface.” The term was first popularized by feminist schol ar Laur M. Jackson in her essay “Memes and Misogynoir,” which defined digital Blackface as the “practice of white and nonBlack people making anony mous claims to a Black identity through contemporary techno logical mediums such as social media.”

In a subconscious need to see Black women perform, their words, actions, and manner isms are transformed into car icatures. In minstrelsy fashion, many Twitter users imitated a phrase from Nicki Minaj’s In stagram live in which she ex claimed, “Um, chile? Anyway, so –.” Chile is “child” in African American Vernacular English or AAVE, but non-Black users went on to use it as a general excla mation. One anonymous Twit ter user even noted, “chile isn’t aave it’s a nikki minaj meme.” Despite Black women’s perva sive presence on the Internet, recognition comes from what performance they’ve been able to give, not what they’re owed. As social media users continue to strip AAVE from its heritage and importance, white women sell the memes of their faces as $500k NFTs.

Nonetheless, much of the transmission of Black women’s behavior happens on a mi cro-level. AAVE is often passed between the average social me dia users. In an attempt to align themselves with the popularity of the language, non-Black us ers will imitate — rather unsuc cessfully — popular AAVE terms

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and phrases. There are entire Twitter accounts dedicated to the misuse of AAVE by nonBlack users. The Twitter account @aavegonewrong documents various users and companies appropriating AAVE, where you can find such instances like: “Tryna be like this, just in our bag & genuinely grow ing together while being each others biggest flex. Some fuck ev eryone else type shit.”

legitimate communicators. While non-Black users have the privilege of just using AAVE as a social media tool, many Black people must learn how to codeswitch and assimilate into envi ronments where AAVE may be deemed inappropriate despite it being no less admissible than standard English.

“The wig is skinny sis you lit rally snapped the tea n tha’s on PERIODT.”

“Hope ya’ll are getting real horny for my record cuz I spent all morning listening to some final ass mixes and honey this record is a thicc queen. I can’t wait to give it to ya.”

Just as many various users saw “chile” as a Nicki Minaj meme, most users appropriating AAVE do not credit where the phras es originally came from. AAVE is a language that existed long before social media and has its own set of rules that guide communication. Many nonBlack users ignore this fact and write fairly unintelligible and cringe tweets. These us ers seem to drain the legitima cy out of AAVE, leaving many Black women to reap the con sequences of being seen as il

Unfortunately, the exploita tion of Black culture perme ates much of social media. On TikTok, many non-Black users copy curated dances from Black women to rise in popularity without so much as accrediting the original creator. It was sev eral months after the renegade became one of the most viral dance moves on TikTok that the dance’s creator, 14-yearold Jalaiah Harmon, was rec ognized. For the time being, non-Black users such as Char lie D’amelio and Addison Rae appropriated the dance and gained most of the attention and capital.

In protest of this creative ex ploitation, when Megan Thee Stallion’s song “Thot Shit” was released, many Black women decidedly refused to choreo graph a dance to the audio. As a result, there was no dance trend.

Memeable women are pushed and pulled between the throes of a culture that loves what they give but hates what they are. We were picked apart for being vain, vapid, and emotion al. Anonymous users joined in solidarity to laugh at these at tributes that have been wea ponized against women for centuries. Agency awarded to

women alongside their increas ing presence in entertainment and social media has not en sured they’d be seen as creators in their own right. Images de picting vulnerability through intimate experience simply came to reify ‘the hysterical woman’ — a longstanding ste reotype that has trivializes the femme emotional experience and remove women from their own humanity. Furthermore, while many Black women have become the drivers of various trends, their significant contri butions to meme culture are reduced to forms of capital for white users who fail to recog nize the original creators and the cultural context they’re ap propriating.

While our sociocultural systems seem to insist on maintaining the power dynamics within mi sogyny and misogynoir, I have always known women to laugh

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THE I C O N

PHOTOHSHOOT THE I C O N PHOTOSHOOT

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HOW DO YOU EMBRACE HOW DO YOU EMBRACE

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YOUR ICON? EMBRACE YOUR ICON?
EMBRACE
Photographers Cassandra Sanchez and Coral Utnehmer Photo Editing Amanda La and Cassandra Sanchez Collage Cassandra Sanchez Special thanks to Our Crew Eleanor Cabello, Amanda La, Mar Escusa, Sophia Obregon
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MODELS (left to right) VALIA CHIN / TIA BARFIELD / SABRINA ELLIS

Embracing my icon means having the willingness to be fully myself in all ways, it means going beyond gender and societal expectations and allowing my light to shine.

“ “

There was a time when I would try to make myself small, but I realized no matter what I did, I will always take up space.

Now I give people something to look at.

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The Role of an Icon

What is the goal of a social movement?

In the 21st centu ry, social media has allowed us to witness several social movements like #BlackLives Matter, #MeToo, and Occupy Wall Street first hand through videos and vast media cover age. When we think of social movements, we envision pro tests, walk outs, and now even hashtags, but do we really know what a social movement is or what it seeks to achieve?

When the word social move ment is brought to my mind, I envision the collective. A col lective hurt. A collective strug gle. People who are wounded banding together to seek a change that will soothe their suffering. The collective is the agent; the people are the cause.

However, just as bands have a lead singer, social move ments are always going to have a face. Whether it be a singular fictional face like Rosie the Riveter, a cultural feminist icon representing the women who worked in fac tories during World War II or the multitude of real people who became the faces of the #BlackLivesMatter movement after they were slain by police

officers.

Although these two examples function differently as icons in the contexts of their respec tive movements, icons like Rosie the Riveter are utilized to uplift movements and stand as symbols of empowerment while the faces of the #Black LivesMatter movements hold different sentiments by bring ing light to police brutality, and also remembrance of life within the Black community, they are both faces insepa rable from their movements. When recollecting a social movement we automatical ly associate a specific person with said movement. I say Civ il Rights, you say Martin Lu ther King Jr. I say the Suffrage movement, you say Susan B. Anthony. Just like there would be no Queen without Freddie Mercury, social movements also contain their icons who are inseparable from them.

Sometimes becoming an icon in a social movement is de pendent on public percep tion of your involvement in said movement. Writers like Kimberlé Crenshaw and Par ticia Hill Collins are solidified icons in the intersectional feminist movements because

of their influential writings on the topics and their com mitment to educating others on the topic of intersection ality. Other times, becoming an icon simply involves being an avid supporter of a social movement like Muhammad Ali and Jane Fonda who be came faces of the anti-Viet nam war movement due to actively speaking out against the war. Either way a person becomes an “icon” within their social movement, their iconic status is solidified once it is perceived by the public.

Everything icons speak will be a reflection of the movement. People who are not active ly participating in the move ment form perspectives about it based on the actions of icons. They gain an awareness of the goals and wants of the collective by looking towards what the icon is saying. These discussions and transaction of information from the icon to the public is usually through the media.

In the 21st century, the me dia overwhelmingly controls what information is accessible to you. We only know what is going on in the world if the media decides they want to

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inform us. Our knowledge of social movements is facili tated through a specific lens catering to specific demo graphics and “clickability” de pending on where we get our information from. We have extensive ways to encounter these perspectives and formu late our opinions about them. Many of the social movement icons of today are active on social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter where information is given to us directly from the source. For example, famous social movement icon, Angela Da vis, utilizes her social media platform to provide informa tion about activist activities to people of the new Informa tion Age. As she states “I’ve come to the conclusion that our work as activists is always to prepare the next genera tion. To create new terrains so that those who come after us will have a better opportunity to get up and engage in even more radical struggles,” and this is achieved through social media. Between newspaper publications and Twitter, we are living in the Information Age where it is easier than it has ever been to interact with icons of social movements.

With this easy access to infor mation through media, there also comes downsides to the following of a movement through an icon.

Icons of social movements garner a lot of attention from the media. News outlets and

social media love to place a face to a collective. It’s easier to keep track of and easier to place blame upon. For exam ple, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. An thony Fauci, one of the lead ers of the pandemic task force was blamed for the mishan dling of the pandemic multi ple times, despite being one of several members of the task force.

In order to better compre

hend, we envision that there is a leader. A person to answer when things fall apart. Social movement icons receive hyper attention because there needs to be someone who encom passes what the movement is about and who conducts their life as a reflection of the goals of the collective.

Media coverage of social movements shifts from what the goals of the collective are to what the scandals of

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design by Katherine Mara

the icon are. For example, in the feminist movement Al exandria Ocasio-Cortez has recently exemplified this phe nomenon. Alexandria Oca sio-Cortez, referred to by her initials AOC, is currently the U.S. representative for New York’s 14th congressional dis trict, a position she has held since 2019. AOC ran her cam paign on being the “New Face of the Democratic Party” due to her implementation of feminist ideologies. AOC was seen as an outspoken radical feminist who was on her way to make change in one of the highest places in government. Her outspoken advocacy made her a feminist icon overnight and the media latched on to the new face of feminism. So when she slipped, it was a slip for the collective.

AOC came under fire in 2021 for attending the Met Gala donning a dress that had the words “Tax the Rich” written on it. People pointed out the hypocrisy of the situation by highlighting how a ticket to the Met Gala cost around $30,000. People who sup ported Ocasio-Cortez were disappointed by the situation. They were particularly up set about her continued de fense of the situation and the capitalization of the slogan available in sweaters, t-shirts, mugs, and tote bags on her official shop website.

Not only were the feminists who supported her disap pointed at AOC’s actions and

the nonchalant attitude she showed to the backlash, but also media utilized this event to criticize feminism as a whole because of AOC’s sta tus as an icon and a reflection of the movement. AOC’s ac tions were deemed performa tive and anyone who has ever supported her or reflected her sentiments were deemed performative as well. Through one person, a whole collective gets called “fake feminists.” AOC’s role as an icon in the feminist movement allows any opinion and ideology she has to be interpreted as that of the collective feminist opinion and ideology. This al lows for an easy twisting of meaning and mockery of the movement by conservatives to encourage people who may not be well versed in feminist idea to oppose the movement as a whole.

The media completely shift ed on AOC and, in turn, the feminist movement. What was once a story of how a women was leading feminism through the House of Repre sentatives has turned into a campaign against “extreme feminists,” “radical feminists,” and “performative feminists.” Although we can recognize AOC’s actions as performa tive and counterintuitive to a movement that seeks to rep resent and advocate for mar ginalized individuals and goes against feminist ideology, we can also acknowledge the role that media played in further tarnishing the feminist move

ment. The media tells people to look at AOC as “The Fem inist” and puts feminism in a category where all can be judged by the actions of one.

AOC exemplifies the way that icons are held to the highest standard. Icons are not peo ple, they are icons. People are allowed to make mistakes, icons are not allowed to make mistakes. Once you become an icon and a leader, you must uphold a certain degree of righteousness that is reflective of the collective movement. If you look at the icons of the #BlackLivesMatter movement you can see this trend take place; Black people killed by police brutality are investi gated for their past behaviors as if they deserved to be un lawfully slaughtered by police. For example, in the murder of George Floyd, a 46 year old Black men killed by cops in 2020, there was countless media coverage surrounding his drug use as a way to jus tify his murder. Like Floyd, the icons of the #BlackLivesMatter movement must uphold the image of perfect law-abiding citizens to maintain their icon status and provide credibility to the movement.

There is an argument to be made that perhaps icons signed up for this role. When you took on the face of lead ership in something as im portant as a social movement, you signed up to be the face of the collective. You became the representative for the whole.

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It is your job to be that person who can answer the questions and represent the movement strongly and proudly to oth ers. If you misrepresent the movement, it becomes a mis representation of us. When you fall, we all fall.

There are several instances where icons such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Susan B. Anthony have not upheld the proper representation and goal of the movement. Mar tin Luther King Jr. represents the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s that advo cated for the fair treatment of Black Americans in the Unit ed states, but after his pass ing Dr. King’s arguments and speeches have been employed by conservatives to produce rhetoric that discards race in a political sphere. This recon textualization of King’s words totally disregards the goals of King and of the movement. Susan B. Anthony is known to many as the leader of the suffrage movement, one of the first major feminist move ments in the United States advocating for women’s right to vote regardless of marital status. Susan B. Anthony was also a notable racist of her time, calling into question her role as a feminist icon. Iconic representation in social movements has the poten tial to weaken the arguments and goals of the collective through the representation of movement ideology through a single person.

Most people do not sign up to be the icon, though. Most peo ple who become icons of so cial movements are just given that role because of their skills and their activism. Many icons shuffled into an iconic role be cause of media perception. Is it fair to people that they are thrusted into the iconic? Why can’t they live normal human lives, making mistakes, rather than be expected to conduct themselves professionally and properly the entirety of their involvement with the move ment? When did the icon be come more than the move ment? When did their actions matter more than the actions of the collective?

The collective can also be hurt by the association of a move ment with an icon. When did the collective give the reins to a single person? Who signed off on the icon being the spokes person of the collective? Why is one voice heightened while the others reduced? At the end of it all, it is the collective. The collective is the generator of the movement. The collective decides what goes and how it goes. So is there a need for an icon at all?

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To Speak or not Speak Ill of the Dead…

When somebody dies, there is often an un spoken rule that the living mustn’t speak ill of the departed — but how far must that respect go? Many things may be forgiven in death, but at some point we have to ac cept that the deceased are im perfect. When somebody dies, all their mistakes do not fade into oblivion, and the poten tial harm they caused can’t be overlooked either. More often than not, however, the peri od after a death is filled with an outpouring of love and well-wishes. This is because often, there is a glamorization — or the “Heathers Effect” — of the deceased and their actions. I use this term in ref erence to the 1988 film Heath ers, where Winona Ryder and Christian Slaters’ characters murder high school students, but frame them as suicides. Here, a queen-bee-tyrant can become a nuanced, tortured, but ultimately a kind and misunderstood soul; while the story of two violent jock friends transfigures into an LGBTQIA+ tale of martyred lovers who could never truly express the wholeness of their

selves. While these dramatic transformations seem comical to the viewer, it is not too dif ferent from what we already do.

War criminals, figures of op pression, and jingoistic poli ticians seem to pass away at every turn, and their deaths are celebrated with all the pomp and circumstance their respective countries can mus ter up. Though many attempt to bring up the problematic actions of those politicians or royalty, others scramble to ac cuse those wanting account ability of trying to “cancel” the deceased. Then, the pre servers-of-the-dead proceed to “woke-wash” the depart ed diplomat or war criminal. Claims of empowerment, sav iorism, or struggle are subse quently thrown in relation to the exanimate, in an attempt to repair the memory of the individual— as if the dead can still suffer the vicious blows of Twitter threads or being held accountable.

On July 8th, 2022, Japan’s former Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, was assassinated.

Throughout Abe’s career in politics, he was embroiled in controversy— many of which were associated with his em brace of nationalistic far-right groups and pro-Imperial Jap anese rhetoric. The Nippon Kaigi, a right-wing Japanese organization that celebrated Imperial Japan and justified and/or denied its war crimes and atrocities, also greatly supported Abe, who recip rocated this sentiment. To realize why this relationship between Abe and the Nippon Kaigi is so problematic, un derstanding Imperial Japan’s (1868-1945) ruthless plan to expand its tyrannical rule to the rest of Asia is necessary.

Imperial Japan’s atrocities in cluded — but were not at all limited to — the Massacre of Nanking, Bataan Death March, and Comfort Women. The Massacre of Nanking (also re ferred to as The Rape of Nan king) was a brutal mass mur der of Chinese civilians in the city Nanjing, China (formerly romanized as Nanking). This began December 13, 1937 and went on for about six weeks. The disturbing personal ac

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Content Warning: Rape, sexual violence, military violence

counts of civillians recall Jap anese soliders raping women and children, then murdere ring some of their victims. Ac cording to UNESCO, the death toll was about 200,000 and the number of reported rapes was 20,000. The brutality of this massacre cannot be stat ed enough.

The issue of Comfort Women concerns Imperial Japan’s sex ual enslavement of 50,000200,000 women — many of whom were minors — across East and Southeast Asia. Often

these victims, some as young as 14, were promised factory jobs where they could send money back to their families. This was a particularly appeal ing prospect due to the fact that Imperial Japan’s coloni zation had made finding work and making money incredi bly difficult for the people in their native countries. There were no factory jobs waiting for these girls— instead they were forced into oftentimes unpaid prostitution. After Ja pan’s defeat in WWII, many of the women and girls were

killed and the evidence of their exploitation was system atically destroyed.

Another example of Imperi al Japan’s war crimes was the Bataan Death March— a forc ible transfer of 76,000 pris oners of war, most of which were Filipino, across 66 miles from the tip of the Bataan peninsula to a different pris oner holding camp in San Fernando. The prisoners were beaten, shot, bayoneted, and beheaded on the journey, and many of those that survived the transfer ended up dying in the camps from starvation and disease. The death toll for this event was about 2,500 Filipinos and 500 Americans during the march, and 26,000 Filipinos and 1,500 Americans in the camps. Of course, many of these details weren’t made widely available after Japan’s defeat— part of a right-wing denialist perspective that Abe upheld.

Despite Abe’s open support for far-right nationalism, fig ures around the world public ly mourned his death. Popular white feminist Hillary Clinton tweeted: “Prime Minister Abe was a champion of democra cy and a firm believer that no economy, society, or country can achieve its full potential if women are left behind. I am shocked and devastated by his assassination—a loss for Japan and our world.” In a sick way, Clinton is right— Abe supports leaving no woman behind in the betterment of

design by Ashley Luong
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Japan, justifying the horrific exploitation of women in Ja pan’s former colonies. Many have even commented on articles or posts about Abe’s death that Abe was “one of the good ones.” In the wake of his death, an imperialist-dog has risen to be lauded as an aide in the cause of (white) femi nism and a “good” politician. Next, we’ll have a look at the death of another political figure: Queen Elizabeth II of England. While the circum stances of her and her family’s life are glamorized and man ufactured for entertainment on the TV show “The Crown,” the Queen and her family are anything but glamorous and enviable. When Britain’s histo ry is brought up, the country’s imperialist and colonialist ac tions and legacy are rarely discussed. Currently, Britain holds many countries as colo nies —though since 2002 they are now referred to as “British Overseas Territories”— count less of which have suffered from British involvement and advocated for their indepen dence with varying levels of success.

Over the Queen’s almost 71 year-reign, Britain committed many atrocities that are swept under the rug when her maj esty’s life and achievements are brought up. When a group of Kenyan militants called the “Mau Mau rebels” began an anti-colonist uprising against British oppression in 1952, British military forces moved into Kenya and imprisoned

160,000 Kenyans, while killing, torturing, and injuring around 90,000 others. The Mau Mau were defeated, but Kenya eventually gained indepen dence in 1963. Closer to home, the British also used violence to suppress Irish protesters on January 30, 1972, an event that would become known as Bloody Sunday. During this event, the British Military opened fire on 26 protesters in a march in Derry, Northern Ireland, killing 14 people. Prior to Bloody Sunday, Ireland had endured religious discrimi nation and imprisonment of Irish nationalists, which only cemented the event as a con tinued oppression of British colonies and committed acts of violence via British force. To make matters worse, the Queen awarded the Most Ex cellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) to Derek Wilford, who was in command in Der ry, Northern Ireland on Bloody Sunday. This action was widely received as the Queen reward ing Wilford for his part in the violence.

These two events are only a few examples of the atrocities that occurred during the Queen’s reign. There are many who say that the Queen had no say in some of these events, and that to condemn them would put her in an awkward position. Others on social media argue that she’s just one little, old, frail woman— which seems conveniently sexist when she faces criticism for upholding oppressive structures. Though

she will never be able to an swer these questions, why didn’t she condemn the British military’s actions in Kenya and Derry? Would the discomfort she felt from addressing those situations match up to that of those who died or suffered under British rule? And if she didn’t support the massacre in Derry, why did she award Der ek Wilford? This accountabili ty is the bare minimum. While many of the civilians from Britain’s former colo nies do not mourn the death of the late Queen, some from the older generations do not share that sentiment. Ken ya’s outgoing president Uhu ru Kenyatta even referred to the late Queen “…as being [t] he most iconic figure of the 20th and 21st centuries.” Ken yatta’s father was imprisoned during the Queen’s reign, but even that has not changed his perspective on her. On Twitter, many younger people shared the way their parents or grandparents (who came from one of Britain’s former col onies) mourned so fervently for the late Queen, oftentimes making fun of their families for being “mentally colonized.” Many of these second-genera tion —oftentimes Generation Z— children memeify their parents’ or family members’ grief, pointing the finger and laughing as if we have lived under the same conditions as they have.

However, the way the Queen was presented to Britain’s for mer colonies is important in

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understanding this perspec tive. Because of her ascen sion to the throne at just 25 years-old, she was viewed as a young-lady and a mother— an icon of protection, purity, poise, and persistence. While it is so easy for a young gener ation with access to the inter net and other resources to cast judgment on their older fam ily members or feel apathetic to the Queen’s death, as being “mentally colonized,” it is not just a joke here. It’s reflective of what they were meant to believe in and what they could believe in— it’s not like they could just google someone to iconicize for themselves. It is so easy for Millenials, Gen Zers, etc. to simply google the whole history of a person or find their next new icon lurk ing in the depths of Twitter, Tumblr, TikTok, Instagram, etc., which is something our parents simply did not have access to. The propaganda and image of the Queen was thrust upon so many of the young people of the British Colonies, who didn’t have an opportunity to choose an other symbol of leadership and motherhood. Regardless of her impacts, a part of their lives or even these individuals’ childhood is ending. Though the Queen does not deserve this mass mourning, a piece of these peoples’ memory does. However, mourning can only go so far. After the Queen’s death, many were quick to slap the “Feminist Icon” label on her. Cosmopolitan released an article a day after her pass

ing titled “Queen Elizabeth’s most stand-out feminist mo ments” with a sub-heading reading: “Her majesty was the pinnacle of a trailblazer during her 70 years on the throne.” The events cited included the changing of succession laws, driving the King of Saudi Ara bia around, and not giving up her last name. The bar for a white feminist icon seeks depths so low that it is sim ply unprecedented. Another event cited was in 2018 when, “Queen Elizabeth II became the first ever monarch to at tend a London Fashion Week show, sitting side-by-side with Anna Wintour (iconic!) at Rich ard Quinn’s show.” Of course it is absolutely so iconic that a representative of colonization and racism can sit alongside another figure that exempli fies racism within the fashion industry. The British trailblaz er’s reign also oversaw Oper ation Legacy, in which records of British atrocities, including genocide, in their former col onies were destroyed (burned or thrown into the sea) to launder the reputation of the Crown.

In all of discourse, a glaring point is lost: there are no good politicians. Influential polit ical figures trying to make change from “within the sys tem,” reveals that rebuilding upon the same rotted base does not work. But why do we keep feeding into the pol itician-turned-savior trope? In a way, we feel like we need to be led by somebody in order to have faith that somebody

is doing something right. Hilary Clinton can describe Shinzo Abe’s actions as being feminist in order to feel bet ter about the fact that she’s engaged in diplomacy with him, despite his accessible history of right-wing national ism. Similarly, the internet can mourn the loss of the Queen and pretend she was a “rideor-die” for women’s rights to justify that people with a lot of power have it because they deserve it. Whether it is fight ing for feminism, freedom, or any other social justice cause, we often have a perception that if we can’t understand it or fix it ourselves, that we can look to somebody else to take care of it.

But in a postmodern consum erist society, we enmesh our own morality into those of these Icons; so if we develop an interest in the British Roy al Family, somehow our own alignment is tangled in that. If the Queen is bad, then I am bad because I have in some way consumed and absorbed an aspect of her. Though, that can’t be further from the truth, despite the reactions of some. We create these ‘secu lar saviors’ after we absolve ourselves of the individual re sponsibility to make change. It can be crushing to think about the progress (or lack thereof) that will be made in our lifetimes. Pushing off the responsibilities of today only makes the problems of tomor row worse.

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Why Are So Many of Our Queer Icons Straight?

In a Vogue article, Madonna is credited with bringing queer culture into the American mainstream media through her 1990’s music video Vogue. Despite being straight, Madon na is seen as a “gay icon” and a “pioneering ally,” having built much of her career on queer culture. However, the actu al queer people who created these aesthetics that Madon na profited from are pushed to the background and never giv en the credit they deserve. Her music video Vogue was heavily influenced by queer ballroom culture and even included Wil li Ninja, a Black choreographer in the ballroom scene who is known as the “Grandfather of Vogue.” Ballroom culture is an underground LGBTQ subcul ture created by queer and trans people of color around the 60s and that rose to popularity in the 70s. Community was vital in the ballroom scene. Crystal LaBeija created the ball “House of LaBeija,” so that people of color could compete in their own drag pageants instead of going to those dominated by white cis people. At these pageants (which the commu nity termed as balls), different Houses would compete in a

variety of categories. Houses were meant to serve as fami lies, and experienced members in the scene led the houses as “mothers” or “fathers,” guiding and supporting new members who were not accepted by their biological families. Madon na’s inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in her music vid eo was revolutionary, as most mainstream artists shied away from queer people during the AIDS crisis occurring in the U.S. around the 80s. Still, Madon na’s video ignores the entire history and community as pect of ballroom culture, only introducing its aesthetics into the mainstream. Ninja died of an AIDS-related illness without ever getting a fraction of the recognition or fame that Ma donna received for her Vogue video. Unfortunately, the case of Madonna is not an excep tion. Queer people, especially in communities of color, al most never get to be the icons for their own aesthetics and cultures. Instead, their cre ations are stolen from them and given to white cishet peo ple, who are seen as more valu able in the public eye. Queer aesthetics cannot be given a simple definition, but

a few common threads tie the idea together. Queer style has always challenged cisheter onormative standards, wheth er it be men trying traditionally “feminine” things such as dress es or makeup, or women who refuse the roles set upon them. It is not possible to define the roles set upon women like it is for men; while men generally must avoid the “feminine” in our patriarchal society, race impacts how people challenge gender standards, especial ly for women. White women might feel more empowered by dressing more “masculine,” since it rejects the subservient femininity they are expected to represent. However, one part of the misogynoir that Black women face is the attempt to remove their femininity; Black women are stereotyped as “ag gressive” and their features are seen as “more masculine” as they don’t fall into the Euro centric beauty standard. Black women’s distance to whiteness is what excludes them from the concept of femininity as defined by men– docile, inno cent, quiet, and pure. A 2007 study found that “Black wom en were more interested in traditionally feminine behav

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iors such as wearing attrac tive clothing than their white counterparts, and also were more likely to describe them selves as feminists,” showing that playing into conventional feminine standards can be a challenge to the norms in it self.

Trans people also defy cis heteronormativity simply by existing; their queerness, in the eyes of many, make their styles queer by default even if they are adhering to gender norms. Society expects trans gender folks to “pass” for a cis person, making it clear that the only way they can assim ilate into a cishet world is by suppressing their queerness so as to make it impercepti ble. While cis people are al lowed to subvert gender roles and be seen as alternative and cool, trans people are held to strict rules as to how they can perform their gender and still be valid. A cis man putting on a dress is quirky, but a trans man putting on a dress makes people delegitimize their identity. Cishet people are saf est when performing queer aesthetics; queer people have to consider the threats of vi olence that come with ex pressing themselves. This vi olence is systemic: there is a long history of laws that spe cifically target trans people for simply existing. Black and Brown trans women especially are heavily policed, and more likely to be murdered than white cishet and white queer people. When queer people of

color decide to openly express their gender and/or sexuality, they are aware of the huge risk that entails. White cishet peo ple don’t even have to think about violence towards them and expect name-calling to be the worst case scenario.

Straight, white, cis people are usually the ones that come out on top, getting visibility and credit for any queer-coded gesture. Harry Styles was con gratulated for being the first man in a dress on the cover of Vogue and marked as revolu tionary, for daring to open a new conversation about mas culinity. Harry Styles has never

publicly declared his sexuality as either gay or straight, but it does not change the fact that his assumed straightness for the whole start of his ca reer allowed him get as far as he did. Styles’ start in the boyband One Direction was very much catered to a female audience; at the age of 16, he was the right candidate for all young girls to pine after. Choosing to remain unlabeled is justified on a personal lev el– no one owes anyone infor mation about their sexual ori entation, but it still separates them from the queer com munity and a queer identity. Harry Styles did not have to

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design by Cassandra Sanchez

go through any of the strug gles a queer artist has to go through in the start of their career, but he can dabble in queer fashion now that he is well established in the indus try. He is often considered groundbreaking by many, ig noring countless openly queer people that came before him and that have already made powerful statements in the public eye. Billy Porter’s tux edo dress at the 2019 Oscars did not make headlines like Harry Styles’ Vogue cover did. It could be argued that the difference is because a Vogue cover is more likely to garner publicity, but why did Vogue give that opportunity to Harry Styles and not a queer artist of color instead? As Billy Por ter themself put it: “I’m not dragging Harry Styles, but he is the one you’re going to try and use to represent this new conversation? He doesn’t care, he’s just doing it because it’s the thing to do. This is politics for me. This is my life. I had to fight my entire life to get to the place where I could wear a dress to the Oscars and not

be gunned now. All he has to do is be white and straight.” Why are people who distance themselves from queerness the ones given the platforms they need to become icons? Why do queer people influ ence pop culture so drastical ly with their iconic styles but can’t be icons themselves?

As author, performer and pub lic speaker Alok Vaid-Menon put it in an interview for New York Fashion Week: “Gender non-conforming people have always been the heart of cre ation and innovation. It’s just that our aesthetics make it into the runways but never our bodies. We’re always the mood boards and never the models.” This appropriation of queerness intends to erase queer people from their own culture. Queer people are re duced to “moodboards,” into passive objects that can be “mined for inspiration,” as Vaid-Menon puts it, and dis carded. Straight artists copy queer people (most of whom are also people of color) to further their own careers and

become icons, since they are an acceptable vehicle for queerness in the eyes of the media. When cishet people become queer icons, they rep resent queerness in a sanitized way, separate from queer sex uality. The queer styles that heteronormative people wear in the media are completely separate from their own per sonhood. These influential straight celebrities are able to remove queer history from the garments they put on; they simply turn it into an other aesthetic and not an ex pression of identity. An openly queer person does not have the same benefit, since they cannot distance themselves from the community, poli tics, culture and the threats and policing that come with portraying a queer aesthetic. The public does not have to accept queer identities when straight people are the mod els: they can simply enjoy the aesthetic without having to work through their homopho bia and transphobia, and without having to think about the community and culture it originated from. That is dou bly the case when it comes to queer people of color, the pio neers of queer aesthetics, who are rarely given the credit they are due.

Lil Nas X is a prime example of how actual queer people are received by the media. Lil Nas X leaned into his sexuality in his first album MONTERO, sparking outrage with the mu sic video for his song Montero

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(Call Me By Your Name). In the video, the artist works with re ligious imagery and sexual un dertones, culminating in him giving the Devil a lap dance and killing him. Alongside the music video, Lil Nas X posted a note to his fourteen year old self, acknowledging the strug gle of being queer and admit ting he was scared, since he knew people would be angry. Though a good quantity of his fans praised him for Montero (Call Me By Your Name), many other people took to Twitter as Lil Nas X predicted, calling him “a bad influence for children.” Even though most of the peo ple who harass Lil Nas X don’t see a problem with straight men who sing about their sex uality, to them queerness (es pecially in combination with Blackness) is inherently seen as sinful. The framing of Lil Nas X as “demonic” or “per verted” perpetuates common homophobic and racist ste reotypes. While stereotypes of Black men as ‘hypermasculine’ and ‘dangerous’ might seem at odds with the stereotypes of gay people as ‘weak’ and ‘effeminate,’ they actually feed into each other. Black men are portrayed as aggressive espe cially when it comes to sex uality: the harmful myth of the ‘Black rapist’ reflects the fear that Black men will “sex ually corrupt pure and inno cent white women.” However, even though gay men are por trayed as frailer than straight men, they are attributed hypersexual behavior, which often equates queerness with

sex. Queer sexuality is seen as ‘deviant,’ and cishet people ac cuse queer people of corrupt ing children or pushing their sexuality onto straight people in order to “convert” them. Lil Nas X ends up facing both of these harmful stereotypes, re constructing his expression of sexuality and love as ‘aggres sive,’ ‘sexually deviant,’ and most of all, capable of ‘cor rupting’ the “innocent” white cishet people in our society. This backlash towards any dis play of Black queer love shows that his haters think Black love and joy is inherently immor al, setting it in opposition to “pure” white love. These racist and homophobic viewpoints that bring in a binary of right/ wrong, good/evil, pure/sinful makes queer people of color believe their very existence is wicked. As Lil Nas X wrote in the note to his past self: “I know we promised to never come out publicly, I know we promised to never be ‘that’ type of gay person, I know we promised to die with the se cret, but this will open doors for many other queer people

to simply exist.” Lil Nas X felt like he was not allowed to take up space in this world– he hid his queerness for many years and vowed to never come out because he was taught his existence was wrong or bad. Once he did come out and stopped suppressing his iden tity, he was still faced with major backlash. Unlike Harry Styles, whose identity did not go into the dress stunt and who got support from major media companies, Lil Nas X’s expression of his identity is used as justification for dis respecting or harassing him. The queer aesthetics that the artist uses in his Montero (Call me By Your Name) video are representative of his religious trauma and his struggle with his sexuality, and therefore not clean and appropriate as conventional society expects it to be. In order to enjoy his presentation of queerness,

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gesture from Harry Styles be cause it is doesn’t make the viewer grapple with queer ness and Blackness as Lil Nas X does.

A lot of homophobia is sys tematically entangled with the patriarchy as well. Cis heteronormative standards include a deep rooted hatred for women and feminine ex pression. In general, women who have more a masculine gender expression are less frowned upon than men who dabble in femininity. Women can be written off as “tom boys” who might outgrow that phase, while feminine men al ways get “accused” of queer ness. While women also get backlash for challenging the standards, they still can wear masculinity as a style, howev er, men who enjoy femininity are immediately assumed to be driven by an identity that makes them deviate from those norms. When men em phasize their femininity, they are letting go of some of their inherent privileges, seeming ly “devaluing” themselves in the eyes of the patriarchy. The construction of the feminine/ masculine binary has existed for hundreds of years– white society deems femininity as weak and shallow, while masculinity is seen as strong, willful, virtuous and rational. Even Mary Wollestonecraft’s classic feminist text from 1792, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, perpetuates the idea that femininity is a problem, and that women should em power themselves by becom

ing more masculine. Femi ninity was used to separate the “Western” world and the “Eastern” world, ascribing the positive traits, like rationality and virtue, to the “West” and feminine traits, such as being driven by the body instead of mind, to the “East,” feeding into an colonial and Oriental fantasy. Femininity has been used to devalue anything that isn’t compatible with white supremacist patriarchal ide als. In the process, femininity itself became completely dis paraged in our society, and violently policed to make sure all the societal conventions are being followed. Women can’t be ‘too masculine,’ but they also can’t be ‘too femi nine.’ Men must not be fem inine at all. When a queer Black man expresses feminin ity more openly, such as in the case of Lil Nas X, he is met with more disapproval than when a white cishet man does the same. While Harry Styles is able to present his femininity mostly without being accused of ulterior motives, Lil Nas X’s femininity is perceived as an agenda being pushed onto the public.

However, Lil Nas X’s vulnera bility and openness about his queerness did help him build a supportive fanbase with people who may have strug gled with similar issues. Some part of his success is due to how he managed to market his queerness towards the right audience; his queerness became a selling point, as well

as an identity. As media com panies start to include more representation in order to re main relevant and to bring in a larger audience, queer people might change the way they express their sexuality and gender in order to match the companies’ requirements. Queer people who hope to make their sexuality work for them in the industry might end up presenting queerness as the only facet of their iden tity, or they might conceal it completely depending on what kind of gay person the industry needs to fill the role. Even when queer people do everything ‘right,’ only a few are granted platforms. Cish et white people remain the most common representation of queerness in the media, since their identities are easi er to accept than queer ones. The removal of identity from queerness in the mainstream is dangerous because it can turn into another trend that goes in and out of fashion. In the same way that some African American Vernacular English (AAVE) terms are now seen as “cringe” because they were only known as “Internet slang” (despite being a part of Black cultures and an actu al dialect), if these aspects of queerness in mainstream me dia are not seen as connected to the community that created them, they will soon wash out of the trend cycles. As soon as queer aesthetics are no lon ger profitable, they will simply be tossed in the trash. Since these aesthetics have been re

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moved from the culture, his tory, and people that created them, there are no deep ties nor pertinent reasons to stop them from being discard ed. The commodification of queerness by mainstream me dia does not only risk queer ness being thrown away, but it also represents queerness very narrowly, in order to control it. People in the industry are able make that specific image of queerness marketable, even when it is not an accurate rep resentation of the community, to continue upholding white supremacist and patriarchal societal systems. Their image of a queer person has to be as palatable to their audiences as possible, in order to make that image as profitable as possible. However, queer peo ple are not limited to this dig italized world of media– they exist in the real world too. The slight acceptance of queer people in mainstream media does not apply to the majori ty of the community and does not translate to acceptance in real life. The only reason queerness is performed at all (by cishet and queer people) in the media is for the profit it generates. The industry does not care about dismantling harmful systems and stereo types or helping queer people, they simply care about how much money they can make off of their images.

Recognizing someone as an icon also means recogniz ing their personhood. If the mainstream media addressed

queer people as icons, they would have to acknowledge everything else that comes with that identity. The seem ing application of queer aes thetics into the mainstream through cishet people ends up feeding into a performance of “wokeness” that makes people think queer people are fully accepted in our society. How ever, these representations that lack history, community, and context depoliticize the queer community and ignores the struggles that come with being queer. Even as the pub lic starts to see more queer people representing these aesthetics in the media, they are, for the most part, white and wealthy. The media in dustry picks queer people that are palatable enough to their audience to check off the di versity requirement for their projects. Working class queer people of color who were and continue to be vital to the creation of queer culture are still fighting to be heard, as media companies continue to grant platforms to mostly cishet white people. The pub lic should see queerness on queer bodies, so that they can realize that identity is insepa rable from the work created by LGBTQ folks. Our history, com munity, and politics are inex tricably tied to our aesthetics, and just as iconic.

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Filling in the Blanks of History: The Lost Legacies of Hollywood’s Actors of Color

The Golden Age of Holly wood, spanning from the 1910s to 1960s, is mostly remembered today for Charlie Chaplin, white actors playing other races, and racist carica tures. Though it is important to remember Hollywood’s hor rible acts of racism, we cannot let the pioneers who opened the door for future actors of color to be erased from Holly wood history either.

Lilian St. Cyr (“Red Wing”) 1884-1974

Lilian St. Cyr was a Win nebago actress and the first Indigenous actress to star in a Hollywood feature film. Al though her career in Holly wood only lasted 15 years, she managed to act in more than 70 films. She was significant not only because she was an actress, but because she was also a cultural consultant, costume designer, and writer on film sets. Even after leav ing Hollywood, she continued to be an advocate for the In digenous community. For ex ample, she helped start the

American Indian Community House, which became a lead ing resource center in the tristate area at the time. She was also involved with the Indian Unity Fraternal Organization, which sought to assert the importance of Native Amer ican heritage and establish a National Indian Day.

Kintarō Hayakawa (“Sessue Hayakawa”) 1886-1973 Hayakawa was the first Asian actor to be a leading man in both the United States and Europe. Amidst a time of rampant racial discrimination, especially anti-Japanese senti ment, Hayakawa still became one of the first sex symbols in Hollywood after regularly playing domineering villains and forbidden lovers. His ca reer spanned 52 years, and he was nominated for an Acade my Award when he was nearly 70.

His villainious roles often perpetuated racist ste reotypes which angered the Japanese and Asian-Ameri

can communities. An infa mous example occurred in 1915 when Hayakawa starred as Hishuru Tori — a villain that brands the main char acter and coerces her to give him sexual favor in exchange for money. The character caused LA-based Japanese newspaper, Rafu Shimpo, to call for a boycott against the film. Subsequently, Hayakawa apologized for his role in the film and expressed his desire to play a hero. Because this was not possible in Hollywood at the time, he eventually es tablished Haworth Pictures in 1918. Its goal was to produce films that would provide him self and other Japanese actors an opportunity to play more favorable roles that would grant them critical and com mercial success.

Estelle Merle O’Brien Thompson (“Merle Oberon”)

1911-1979 Merle Oberon was an Anglo-Indian actress whose career spanned over 50 years. Today, she remains the first

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and only Indian actress in history to have been nomi nated for an Academy Award.

During her time in Hollywood, she was incredibly successful, starring in “The Private Life of Henry VIII,” “The Dark Angel,” and “Wuthering Heights.” De spite Oberon’s fame, she went to great lengths to hide her true heritage from audiences. Only those in her inner circle knew about her true heritage and would protect her secret. Hollywood at the time was

not accepting of non-white or mixed parentage so she changed her name and fab ricated her origin story. She told the public she was from Tasmania, which had a large British presence, instead of In dia and would frequently wear heavy makeup to cover her darker complexion. Her hus band at the time, Lucien Bal lard, even invented the catch light, often referred to as Obies after Oberon, to make her appear lighter on camera.

1905-1961

Having been introduced back into mainstream media thanks to Ryan Murphy’s Net flix series “Hollywood” and an upcoming biopic starring Gemma Chan, many people have been discussing the ad versities Wong has faced in the industry, painting her as a tragic figure who was often passed from roles that would go to her white peers. But Wong is more than that, she is a fashion icon of her time and the first Chinese American woman to act in film and tele vision and gain international success. When Hollywood stu dios wouldn’t cast her in any desirable Chinese roles, she moved to Europe where she produced and performed her own cabaret shows; developed and starred as the titular char acter (named after herself) in “The Gallery of Madame LiuTsong” which became the first U.S. television series to feature an Asian-American lead; and would speak out in interviews about the prejudice and rac ism she endured. Wong was quoted to have pointed out how she was often typecast as the villain: “How should we [Chinese] be, with a civiliza tion that’s so many times old er than that of the West. We have our own virtues. We have our rigid code of behavior, of honor. Why do they never show these on the screen?” Moreover, to break from ra cial stereotypes at the time, she spoke with an American

Anna May Wong (“Wong Liutsong”)
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Design by Coral Utnehmer

accent in films with sound and would take on roles as the American working wom an, like the exceptional Dr. Mary Ling in “King of China town.” She also directed and produced a documentary-like film, “My China Film” about her first and only trip to China to show the country’s beauty and history, and to depict how she rose above Hollywood’s rejection.

1924-2002 Katy Jurado started her acting career in Mexico and starred in 16 films during the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema. Alongside her career as an actress, she also worked as a movie col umnist, bullfight critic, and radio reporter. During one of her assignments, she was cast in a Hollywood film which launched her career in the States. Although her studio wanted to label her as Span ish, Jurado was firm on em bracing her Mexican heritage. She would introduce Ameri can cinema to an identifiably Mexican woman without any of the stereotypical traits por trayed in films. As an actress, she took on a variety of roles which helped expand roles that Mexican actresses could play in Hollywood, breaking free from the sexualized roles that they were often bound to. Jurado was the first Latin American actress to be nomi nated for an Oscar for her sup porting role in “Broken Lance,”

and the first to win a Golden Globe for “High Noon.”

José Ramón Gil Samaniego (“Ramon Novarro”) 1899-1968 Novarro was a Mex ican-American actor who topped the box office through out the 1920s and into the ear ly 1930s. He is often consid ered the first Latin American actor to succeed in Hollywood through MGM’s promotion of him as a “Latin lover,” turn ing him into a sex symbol in the eyes of the public. Unlike his contemporary, Hayakawa, Novarro often received dig nified leading roles, starring opposite prolific actresses like Joan Crawford and Greta Gar bo. He was also regarded as one of the best romantic ac tors of the silent era and made roughly $100,000 per film and $10,000 a week. After his bru tal murder, it was revealed that Novarro was gay — a fact that he, the press, and others in the film industry kept secret — and he inadvertently became a symbol of Gay Hollywood.

Oscar Micheaux 1884-1951

Micheaux was an Afri can-American author, film di rector, and independent pro ducer. He was the first major Black feature filmmaker and was also the first Black film maker to produce a sound fea ture film. Outside of the white mainstream Hollywood films produced during the Silent

Era, there was an alternative industry which produced “race films” — films produced for black audiences, by Black ac tors, crewmembers, and pro duction companies. Micheaux was active in this scene and produced more than 44 films. His films, often intended for middle and low-class audi ences, sought to refute the negative portrayals of African Americans in films by portray ing Black characters in the same ways their white coun terparts would be portrayed on screen. Featuring complex characters, the films he wrote and produced often centered around contemporary Black life, racial injustice, and the challenges African Americans faced when trying to achieve success in the larger society.

Hazel Scott

1920-1981

Born in Trinidad, Hazel Scott was a musician, actress, and civil rights activist. She used her influence to speak out against racial discrimination and segregation. Scott was one of the first Black perform ers who refused to play in front of segregated audiences — a clause that she included in her contracts — demand ed equal pay to that of her white peers, and was adamant about receiving proper credits in Hollywood films. Moreover, she was one of the first Black actresses to gain respectable roles in Hollywood features as she would turn down any role that wanted her to play a maid. Instead, she would of ten play the role of a sophis

María Cristina
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ticated woman with musical talents. She was the first Black American woman to have her own television show, “The Ha zel Scott Show,” which was also one of the first U.S. net work series to be hosted by any person of African descent. However, her career in the United States was cut short due to her choosing to testify before the House Un-Ameri can Activities Committee after being accused of being a com munist by the government.

1876-1946

Deer first started as an actor before becoming the first Na tive American director. He spe cialized in producing Westerns and oversaw the California branch of the world’s largest production company at the time. When he first came to fame, he claimed to be Win nebago like his wife Lillian, which led to his heritage be ing disputed because of con tradictory records. This led to questions of whether he was actually Indigenous or if he was African American charad ing as Indigenous. Centuries later, historians have traced his ancestry to a secluded com munity in Delaware referred to as “Deleware’s Forgotten Folks” consisting of whites, African Americans, and In digenous people. The largest tribe of the region, the Nanti coke, which Deer belonged to, was erased by records due to government records only hav ing “Black” or “White” options

for classification. Because of his darker complexion, Deer’s records labeled him as Black.

Despite the controversies about his origins, his films were important. As a director, he had creative controls and as a result, pushed away from negative tropes at the time: the Indigenous characters in his Westerns were not villains or unsophisticated people, but instead heroes who had justice on their side. Even with the change in narrative, his films were celebrated and enjoyed by the audiences of the time.

This list is by no means exhaus tive, and hopefully it serves as a starting point for people to discover more of Hollywood’s past. Many of the actors of color in this list were at the height of their popularity in the industry during their era, but have seemingly become neglected in the present. See ing as how these actors broke out of the restrictions that Hollywood had set for them and created better roles for themselves and their respec tive communities, we can also observe how much or little the industry has changed as a re sult. After all, if these legacies and their successes are now considered as obscure trivia facts and forgotten history, what would the future look like for the current generation of prominent actors and film makers of color?

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Staff List

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Mar Escusa Managing Editor

Sophia Obregon

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Interns: Reya Hadaya, Daniela Lopez, Valia Chin

Community Outreach

Community Outreach Co-Heads: Cali Perez Chavez, Bobbie Sturge Community Outreach Staff: Dev Dharani

Interns: Olivia Sieve

Design

Design Co-Heads: Coral Utnehmer, Cassandra Sanchez

Design Staff: Bela Chauhan, Katelynn Perez

Interns: Tia Barfield, Erin Choi, Katherine Mara , Eleanor Kinsella, Ashley Luong

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Social Media

Social Co-Heads: Reika Goto, Cassandra Sanchez

Social Media Staff: Mandy Tang, Aashna Sibal

Interns: Faith Forrest

Finance

Finance Co-Heads: Abby Giardina, Zoë Collins

Interns: Esther Cabello

Social Planning

Social Planning Head: Anna Mook

Social Planning Staff: Kristin Haegelin, Jessica Do, Bella Garcia, Cali Perez, Jamila Cummings

Interns: Kaylynn Pierce, Esther Cabello

Radio

Radio Head: Kelsey Ngante

Radio Staff: Amber Stevens, Marie Olmedo, Tiffany Peverilla

Interns: Muryam Hasan, Leah Hartwell

Video

Video Head: Cassidy Kohlenberger

Video Producers: Anna Ziser, Gia Blakey

Interns: Kailyn Barrera

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