Spring 2021 Issue | Untold Magazine

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF This semester started with a small group: our brainstorm meeting only had six faces. While this group was (and is) fantastic, I knew we needed a few more people to create a magazine. So I reached out to our editorial staff who posted on social media, sent emails and texts, asking if anyone had content that fit with Untold’s mission and wanted it published. I didn’t know what to expect, but hoped that there’d be a few answers. Wow, did we get a response. This semester, we have the longest issue of Untold Magazine to date. Those we reached out to responded with gusto. It was incredible to watch these different pieces come into our inbox. It was even better as we went through them and realized that we had a wide variety of content: different types of mediums, important and current issues, and unbound creativity. I’m ending on a bittersweet note. It’s my last semester here at Hamline, which means it’s my last issue with Untold. I’m so ecstatic to be ending with such a fantastic issue. Yet, Untold will be quite empty after this. All but one of our editorial staff will be graduating this May. Which is where you come in, dear reader. Untold is a wonderful opportunity to explore your creativity. We want and need you here at Untold. We need leaders, so that future readers like you can experience our magazine. We are delighted to share with you the Spring 2021 issue of Untold Magazine, and hope that you consider joining our team in the following issues. Sincerely,

Ally Gall

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CONTENTS 4 8 11 12 16 18 19 20 22 23 25 27 32 34

LIFESTYLE

Going Zero Waste in College by Ella Smith Iranian New Year by Kimia Kowsari Tips for College Success by Sophie Warrick Rethinking Breakfast by Ella Smith

ART OF THE ISSUE

Take Up Space by Sophie Warrick Duluth by Emily Brown Spring Blackout by Tjessa Arradondo 2020 College Edition by Austin Malberg Why Not Love Yourself? by Sophie Warrick Rueful Recollections by Tara Westerlund

MUSINGS

Ableism in the Media by Kimia Kowsari I’m Exhausted (of Inspiration Porn) by Emily Brown The Reality of Painting by Joanna Johnson The Tumblr Renaissance by Abby Snider

Front cover art created by Austin Malberg.

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GOING ZERO WASTE IN COLLEGE

by Ella Smith UNTOLD 44||UNTOLD


A College Student’s Guide to Living Zero Waste.

“Going 100% zero waste” is a flawed concept. When I refer to going zero waste, I’m referring to living a less wasteful lifestyle. It’s impossible to live a completely zero waste lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth working toward. Going zero waste sounds intimidating to many people at first, especially college students, but in reality it’s much easier and cost-effective than it sounds. Once you’re able to identify the necessary changes and make a plan to incorporate those changes into your everyday life, going zero waste can be shockingly easy.

As a full-time college student, at first I found the idea of investing in all of these swaps to be really discouraging. Instead, repurposing and reusing things I already had was a much more cost-effective way to live more sustainably.

During my third year at Hamline I realized I wanted to live more sustainably. I decided to change my habits, invest in sustainable swaps, and commit to reducing waste anywhere I could manage. As a college student, this wasn’t easy at first, but like anything new, after just a few months I was more comfortable and confident in my abilities. Soon I was feeling better than ever. I was hardly throwing out any trash and my new sustainable habits made me feel lighter and happier. After a year of living zero waste in college, I’ve saved a ton of money, time, and energy that would have otherwise been wasted (no pun intended).

Sustainable Swaps When I did my initial research on the best way to go zero waste, the best piece of advice out there was to write down all the things in your life that produce the most waste and find zero waste alternatives to those things. The first thing on my list was paper towels so that’s where I decided to start. I invested in something the internet calls “unpaper towels” (which are essentially just absorbant towels that can be thrown in the wash) and I haven’t thrown out a paper towel since.

This included using old t-shirts as rags and repurposing glass food containers. When I couldn’t make due with what I already had anymore, I slowly started buying the sustainable swaps on my list and, before I knew it, I had eliminated tons of waste from my life.

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List of sustainable swaps to start with:

• • • • • • • • • • • • • •

“Unpaper” towels (reusable paper towels) Reusable makeup pads Bamboo toothbrushes Toothpaste tablets Reusable silicone swab Shampoo + conditioner bars Refillable cleaning products Clothes dryer rack Metal clothes pins Reusable water bottle Reusable straw Reusable coffee cup Menstrual cups + reusable pads Reusable silicone bags (to replace single-use plastic bags)

Food Waste In a single year, over 100 billion pounds of food in the United States alone goes to waste and the numbers just keep rising. I’ve found that making small changes to how I store food in my kitchen makes a world of difference when it comes to reducing food waste. Whether you regularly end up having to throw away food or not, there are always ways we can improve in this area. Because I was living in the dorms for most of my college years, I decided to buy a small compost bin and I started composting. College students have reasonably cost-and space-effective options, including investing in a small bin or storing compost in a reusable silicone bag in the freezer. My advice is to always prioritize eating foods that are about to go bad, composting food you don’t eat, and growing your own herbs. These are all things that can be done in a living space as small as a dorm room. The question of where to bring compost can be a difficult one, but many college campuses have compost bins on or near campus. The Hamline Church has an outdoor compost bin near the front entrance for students who live UNTOLD 66 ||UNTOLD

on campus. If you have a friend or family member who lives nearby, you can also give your compost to them to use for gardening. DO Compost: • Fruits + vegetables • Rice + grains • Eggshells • Flowers • Cooked food (without dairy or meat) • Tea bags • Coffee grounds DO NOT Compost: • Meat & fish • Bones • Oils & butter • Cooked food (with oil, meat or dairy)


Sustainable Fashion Online clothes shopping can be fun, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of fast fashion brands. Fast fashion is everywhere, and with the hold it has on social media influencers, it can be hard to avoid. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to investigate brands more before I give them any of my money, and so far it’s been an eye-opening experience. I’ve learned that many brands that claim to be “ethical” or “green” are far from it. My commitment to living more sustainably included boycotting fast fashion brands. Whenever I wanted to refresh my wardrobe, I would look at sustainable brands and save up to invest in more quality, ethically made pieces. The most sustainable option is to not buy anything new, so I always try to use what I have before buying new pieces. When I feel like I’m in a rut and nothing in my closet looks appealing, I bring everything out and look at each piece one by one. This helps me get rid of some of my urges to buy things I don’t need. Thrifting is another option for people who don’t want to contribute to the fast fashion industry. Buying clothing second hand gives someone’s donated clothes a second life. Thrifting is also a great way to save money on clothes and accessories when money is tight. Sometimes investing in new pieces isn’t feasible and thrifting is a great alternative. With the stress of a tight budget and studying for difficult classes, the idea of living zero waste might seem like a long-shot, but living zero waste is completely possible for college students. Making the decision to live more sustainably saves money over time, relieves stress, and is good for the environment. Just like a college education, living sustainably is a valuable investment.

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Iranian New Year by Kimia Kowsari

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Celebrating rebirth, life, and surviving a new year.

Growing up in America with Iranian parents meant not only did I celebrate holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, but I also celebrated Iranian holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mariah Carey’s Christmas album as much as the next person, but Iranian holidays always make me feel magical. My favorite holiday is, by far, the Iranian New Year. Just by thinking of the holiday, I can smell the sweets and the dinner, see the decorations, and feel the giddiness that fills my house. Unlike an American New Year, we don’t celebrate at midnight; the time is different every year because we celebrate on the Spring Equinox. On this special day, there is an equal amount of daytime and nighttime. The New Year celebrations last for 13 days, starting on the first day of spring. Because it starts on the first day of spring, we not only celebrate the new year but also the rebirth of life and nature. Outside our windows, we see the grass slowly growing, the trees gradually getting more and more green, and animals coming out of hibernation. It’s life changing to see the rebirth of everything after a long and cold winter. We honor the lives that have passed in the last year, remembering their legacies. We await the lives that will be started in the new year, and celebrate for those of us who have survived another.

“The New Year celebrations last for 13 days, starting on the first day of spring.” In order to represent life in all its wonderful forms, we have a strict set of rules for decorations. At Christmas, people put up beautiful Christmas trees. In Iran, we have a sofreh haftseen, or the table of seven things that start with “s”. For example, we have apples, or seeb; wheat/barley sprouts, or sabzeh;

wheat pudding, or samanu; Persian olives, or senjed; garlic, or seer; and lastly, sumac, or somaq. These seven things all represent different parts of life. Seeb represents beauty, sabzeh represents rebirth and growth, samanu is the power of growth, senjed is the power of love, somaq is the symbol of sunrise, serkeh is patience, and seer is health and medicine.

Just like how everyone’s Christmas tree is different, everyone has a different haftseen. On top of these seven things, there are a variety of other elements of nature that someone’s haftseen may have. They could have coins, or sekkeh, which represent prosperity. They could also have a clock, or a saat, which represents time. Many times, people will buy goldfish to put on their haftseen. All together, these elements symbolize what we all want from life. The picture below is how my family does our sofreh haftseen; they are usually in an area of the house where everyone can see it. In addition to the sofreh haftseen, people usually have a book of wisdom. My family has a book of wisdom written by a poet named Hafez. We usually SPRING 2021 2021 | SPRING |9


make a wish quietly in our head and then my mom flips to a random page and reads the fortune or poem.

takes their turn jumping over the fire. The fire is supposed to burn everything that made the year terrible. We also wish for positive vibes in the new year. I love jumping over the fire; it’s always been a favorite tradition of mine.

Unlike the American New Year, the Iranian New Year is not just about when the clock strikes On the thirteenth day of the new year, we have midnight — it’s about celebrating all the different another gathering in the park to celebrate the end of types of life around us. When it finally becomes visiting relatives. We get together with all our family another year of life, we all go around and hug and and friends to enjoy nature and each other for one kiss and say, “Happy New Year”; it’s all about family. last time. For people living in Iran, they spend the next 12 days going around to everyone’s house to wish them During the Iranian New Year, children and adults a happy New Year. When I say everyone’s, I mean have all 13 days off, so the last day is for taking in every single family member, no matter how distant. the beauty of everything While I was in Iran for around before life gets the New Year a couple “Unlike the American New Year, busy again. of years ago, I went to it’s not just about when the clock my grandpa’s uncle’s strikes midnight— it’s about Because of COVID-19, house for the new year. celebrating all the different types we won’t have large That’s how far back in of life around us.” celebrations or big the family tree people gatherings. Instead, this visit. It’s a great thing year will be a celebration of how we survived. Many because no matter how busy life gets, we set aside people did not make it, and I think that the Iranian 12 days to see everyone. This again shows how the New Year is the perfect time to appreciate all the Iranian New Year is a celebration of life. people who are still around. COVID-19 has been devastating in Iran, so everyone needs some time to Because socializing is so important to this holiday, be happy and count their blessings. we have two major parties. The first party happens on the last Tuesday of the old year, charshanbeh Although this New Year won’t be the same, I don’t soori. We have a potluck outdoors in a backyard or mind. I am very lucky that I have my immediate park and we surround ourselves with nature. This family around me. I miss my family in Iran, but I party usually takes place later in the day when it gets know in the future I will be able to see them and dark. When everyone has eaten their food, people celebrate the New Year properly with all of my loved start fires of varying sizes in fire pits. As a way to ones. get rid of the pains and despair of the year, everyone

photos provided by Kimia Kowsari 10 ||UNTOLD UNTOLD 10


Tips for College Success Scan the QR code below to listen to Untold’s first audio submission, created by Sophie Warrick!

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RETHINKING BREAKFAST

by Ella Smith UNTOLD 1212| |UNTOLD


Have you ever wondered why people call breakfast the most important meal of the day?

Breakfast has been labeled “the most important meal of the day” by much of the world, but whether that’s true is up for debate. Historically, breakfast has become a routine around the world because of convenience and circumstance, a habit that has gone largely unexamined. The history of breakfast is no longer a helpful guide for making good decisions about what to eat or when to eat it. Individuals need to make up their own minds about whether breakfast is an important meal for them. Mindful eating, the practice of eating only foods that provide essential nutrients and a healthy amount of satisfaction, may provide the ideal path to determine whether eating breakfast is the best choice. Breakfast Throughout History The English word “breakfast” denotes the meal that breaks the nighttime fast. The origins of breakfast are quite different around the world. In ancient Greece and Rome, they largely ate breakfasts that didn’t require preparations or cooking, opting for convenience so they could attend to morning chores or travel. During the Middle Ages, breakfast was mainly for laborers, infants, and the unwell, leading Europeans to see breakfast as a means to achieve better overall health by the end of the 16th century. After the early 18th century Enlightenment, breakfast became less about health and more about novelty. Europeans took foods they considered “exotic” from other cultures and brought them back to Europe. This included tea from Asia and coffee and chocolate from the Middle East. Consuming such novelties was viewed as extravagant in Europe, which resulted in upper classes turning breakfast into an elitist affair. Breakfast underwent another cultural shift during the 19th century. In the U.S., they cooked breakfasts of high fat, low nutrient foods which became popular. Raising concerns about nutrition and health, the “Clean Living Movement” emerged toward the

end of the century to combat what followers viewed as unhealthy lifestyles. In addition to recommending Americans avoid meat, coffee, and unfiltered water, proponents of the Clean Living Movement also launched health crusades against using alcohol, tobacco, and birth control. Although what breakfast consisted of throughout history was largely driven by societal and cultural change, other factors also significantly altered what people ate. Both geographical location and weather patterns affected the availability of certain foods, which in turn determined morning eating habits across much of the world. Socioeconomic factors further contributed to what foods were available, how much, and when. Where choices have been SPRING SPRING2021 2021| |13 13


limited, mindful eating was rarely part of the equation. Today, however, we have many more choices. An avocado can travel from South America to Canada in just a few days. It is a privilege to have access to so many different foods that in the past have not been available. Impacts of Food Advertising This privilege also comes with a bit of a curse: choice. Marketing and advertising industries respond to the seemingly endless number of choices by targeting specific audiences with specific foods and brands. Being bombarded with ads can be overwhelming, but adults are usually capable of handling them; however, ads for things like sugary cereals and toaster pastries are targeted toward children and designed to make them beg their parents to buy that product. Cereals branded with cartoon characters on the box and collectable toys inside make these products more appealing than the food itself. Young children often aren’t concerned about reading food labels, paying little to no attention to what they’re eating other than whether it tastes good. An important question to ask ourselves is: How much of our eating habits are determined by ads we saw when we were adolescents? As young children especially, we have so much trust in others to give us accurate information, that we don’t stop to question who provided the information and what they are trying to achieve by giving us that information. Even as adults, many of us do not pay close enough attention to ads to know how they’re affecting us or to critically examine the information they convey. To further hinder our ability to get accurate information about the foods we eat, these same corporate entities, through their lobbying efforts, can even have an influence on policy. A great example of this is the UNTOLD 14 || UNTOLD


dairy and meat industry lobbying to change federal dietary recommendations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Eating Right Pyramid,” better known as The Food Pyramid, is an image that many of us are familiar with. The food pyramid is something that is widely referenced in K-12 schools and is regarded as a very credible source even though lobbyists from different food industries have influence on what information does and doesn’t make it into the pyramid. No federal protections currently exist to stop them from pushing hard for the inclusion of information designed solely to benefit their industries, without any regard to how Americans are affected. The job of these corporations is not to protect the public; it’s to sell their products. There are many outside forces tugging on the strings of what information makes it into our textbooks and class material; it is easy to agree with everything and disengage your critical thinking function. Ultimately it is up to us what decisions we make for our own bodies and we are in control of how open we are to new information. It is important to think critically about every piece of information one encounters and to carefully check the source of that information. In today’s world, we are much more aware of what breakfast is and how eating habits vary from place to place. In the United States, breakfast is marketed as a necessity for good health. We are fed from a very early age the conventional wisdom that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and that skipping it is bad for our health. Eating a big, nutrient-packed breakfast is alternately encouraged and discouraged depending on who you’re getting your information from. There is even a group of behavioral, public health, and nutritional scientists called The International Breakfast Research Initiative

with the goal of providing a unified global analysis of food consumption databases to provide a clearer understanding of food and nutrient intakes during breakfast time, techniques for measuring how much “energy” is derived from nutrients, and different standards for measuring overall daily nutrient intake. The solution to “what to eat and when to eat it” should never be a one-size-fits-all, and that’s exactly why so much of the science related to breakfast is of such limited value to people. There are no definitive conclusions to be found in that science—only data points to consider when figuring out for yourself what helps you, and only you, to thrive. Mindful eating requires an awareness of the present moment when it comes to what you eat. Healthy observation of how food makes you feel can make for much more satisfying meals. Being present, in the absence of screens, to simply acknowledge feelings and thoughts about food instead of judging them is the best way to prevent mindless eating.

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Affinita, A., Catalani, L., Cecchetto, G. et al. Breakfast: a multidisciplinary approach. Ital J Pediatr 39, 44 (2013). https://doi. org/10.1186/1824-7288-39-44. Cook, Daniel Thomas, and Anna Sparrman. “Ambiguities and paradoxes in children’s talk about marketing breakfast cereals with toys.” Young Consumers (2009). Gibney, M.J. et al. Breakfast in Human Nutrition: The International Breakfast Research Initiative. Nutrients 2018, 10, 559. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/5/559#cite. Nestle, Marion. “Food lobbies, the food pyramid, and US nutrition policy.” International Journal of Health Services 23.3 (1993): 483-496. Spence, Charles. “Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of the Day?” International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, Elsevier, 31 Jan. 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/ pii/S1878450X17300045.

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TAKE UP SPACE By: Sophie Warrick i’m fat all the time i’m in my body all the time . I’m tired of talking about my fatness in the past tense . my fat body is here and my fat body is now . my fat body will unapologetically take up space .

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DULUTH by Emily Brown

Safe That’s how I feel when I think of you two My two favorite people in the entire world One of the rare times I get to bask in that feeling It washes over me like a lake at my feet Reminds me of that weekend up north I think about it all the time The food we’re dying to try again The inaccessible house that you told us all about cause the tour guide you had all those years ago was way better than our current one The amazing food The wonderful hotel with that hot tub and sauna That was probably one of the best weekends of my life We plan on going back one day Hopefully, we will make that our favorite vacation spot one day I felt safe up there

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Spring Blackout Blackout Spring by Tjessa Arradondo SPRING SPRING2021 2021| |19 19


2020 College Edition by Austin Malberg With this collage series, 2020 College Edition, I wanted to showcase everyday moments that felt more like art than just seconds ticking by. My goal was to find the beauty in a school year where beautiful might not be the first word most of us would use to describe it. I wrote the poems 10:32pm, 1:14pm, and 10:05am at those exact times and described the scenic art I found there. I’m hoping that while each of these reflect my own daily experiences, they are something you will be able to connect to with your own moments from this hectic year we have all lived through together. And I hope that you find you have experienced hidden moments of beauty too.

10:32pm

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1:14pm

10:05am

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Why Not Love Yourself? by Sophie Warrick

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Rueful Recollections by Tara Westerlund

I went to college on Zoom. I thought my tuition also covered rooms, But what I got instead, Was an ache in my head, And graduation into economic doom.

This year we all had to slow down. And appreciation is what we found, For things like going outside, And traveling worldwide, So get the vaccine, you clown.

Two weeks became one hell of a year, At times it was more than I could bear, But alas, We can again see the grass, So it’s time to put this one in the rearview mirror.

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CONTENT WARNING The following pages (25-31) will be discussing ableism and the harm it has caused our disabled contributors. Please keep this in mind and take care of yourself as you read.

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Ableism in Media by Kimia Kowsari

As a disabled child, I remember thinking that I would not amount to anything. I used to think that I was too dumb, too slow, or too disabled. Not many of my elementary school teachers believed that I could succeed either. It sucked. Unfortunately, it’s not surprising. People look to the media for representation, and when there aren’t examples of disabled children growing up to do amazing things, the assumption is they can’t do it. Ableism in entertainment media is very persistent. Almost all the movies and T.V. shows that I have seen myself or heard of portray disabled people in terrible ways, such as being incompetent or as inspiration porn. When disabled people are portrayed as incompetant or too innocent, it’s usually due to the stereotype that disabled people, no matter their age, are “slow” and childlike. Popular movies like Forrest Gump and The Waterboy are prime examples. Although there are many disabled people who have different developmental stages, they are much smarter than nondisabled people—and character portrayals— give them credit for. Movies portraying disabled characters as all the same is not only untrue but also harmful to actual disabled people. They make disabled people the butt of jokes, but it’s not funny.

Inspiration porn Disability activist Stella Young coined the term “inspiration porn” in a 2014 TedTalk. Since then, inspiration porn has grown to include storylines that are sentimental, invoke pity, include an uplifting message, and/or objectify disabled characters.

Another major portrayal of disabled people is “inspiration porn,” or (supposedly) positive stories that are meant to make nondisabled people feel good. A recent example is Sia’s movie Music. The main character, Music, is autistic but “overcomes” her autism and dances. This is a textbook case of inspiration porn because people don’t just “overcome” their disabilities. We live with them forever and don’t need to “overcome” anything to make nondisabled people feel more comfortable. Another example is the movie Wonder, which is about 10-year-old Auggie who has a lot of facial defects and earns a medal for being inspirational. “How is our existence inspirational? Is it because you believe that disabled people should normally not exist? Are disabled people brave because you would hate yourself if you were disabled?”

He literally does nothing to earn this medal, he just exists. But he is considered “brave” and “inspirational” for existing. How is our existence inspirational? Is it because you believe that disabled people should normally not exist? Are disabled people brave because you would hate yourself if you were disabled? Even when the intent is wellmeaning, the portrayals are usually embarrassing, demoralizing, an exploitative of disabled people. Think about how many posters you have seen of a physically disabled person doing literally anything, with the text asking “What’s your excuse?” or something similar. The disabled person is being used to inspire others because if a disabled person can do it, you can do it too. Disabled people do not SPRING SPRING2021 2021| |25 25


exist to please or encourage others to feel better about themselves, especially able-bodied people. The ableist portrayals are made even worse by the fact that often the actors portraying these characters aren’t actually disabled: They are ablebodied people acting how they think disabled people act. In Music, Maddie Zeigler plays the main autistic character but she is not autistic. In the T.V. show Glee, Kevin McHale plays a paralegic character in a wheelchair when he is not paralegic himself. When able-bodied people play disabled people, more than half the time it is terrible. It

feels like we are being mocked. The media are mocking us, and it’s not good or right. Disabled people deserve disabled characters who are complex, who have qualities beyond their disabilities, who don’t need to “overcome” their disabilities to do great things, and who are portrayed by actors who are actually disabled. Disabled children deserve to see themselves represented positively and accurately in the media so they grow up knowing they are smart and creative and capable. We all deserve media that is made for us, not about us and without us. Entertainment media needs to do better.

Of course, there are movies and T.V. shows that have good representation of disabled people. In the show Avatar the Last Airbender, one of the main characters, Toph, is blind. Although she is blind, the show doesn’t make her seem innocent or stupid. She is stubborn, sometimes annoying, but always amazing. She is one of the best fighters in the show as well. She is a well-rounded character, who just happens to be blind. This is exactly the kind of representation disabled people need. We are human beings who happen to be disabled!

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I’m Exhausted

(of inspiration porn) by Emily Brown A disabled person’s review of Sia’s new ableist movie.

Do you ever see something, shrug, and say “this out the character is played by Maddie Zeigler, who looks messy?” So, you peek down the rabbit hole you might know as a dancer from earlier seasons of and it’s even messier, and when you fall down and Dance Moms. She’s worked with Sia on multiple fully explore it the mess gets bigger and bigger with music videos and became Sia’s “muse”—Sia’s words, every nook and cranny? not mine. Keep that in mind. Messy doesn’t even begin to describe Sia’s new When it was announced Zeigler was going to movie Music. It’s a total clusterfuck. I’m not play an autistic character when she isn’t autistic autistic, and by no means do I want to talk over herself, there was deserved backlash. The autism autistic people, but I am disabled. I have Cerebral community very politely said, “Um… this isn’t Palsy and have done a fair okay. We talked about amount of research on this. We agreed that we “The autism community very disability representation should be able to tell our politely said, ‘Um… this isn’t okay. in the media (or lack own stories.” We talked about this. We agreed thereof ), so that’s the that we should be able to tell our perspective I’m coming Well, Sia didn’t like own stories.’” from. that. She sent several angry tweets, including Let’s just start at the beginning. Like all one where she told an autistic actor that quote, clusterfucks, this story starts on Twitter. Why “Maybe you’re just a bad actor.” In another tweet, wouldn’t it? Sia announces she is creating a movie Sia said she tried working with an autistic actress, about Music, a girl who has autism. (Yes, not but the actress was too stressed on set. So Sia only is Music the film’s title, it’s also the name thought it was “more compassionate” to cast Zeigler of the autistic main character.) Wonderful! I love instead. There are many problems with this. First this idea. All the famous autistic characters at of all, there are multiple records, dating back to the the moment are all white cishet men, so I was 2015 Venice Film Festival, of Sia saying that she excited—for about 0.0125 seconds. Then, I found was working with Zeigler from the start and that

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she even wrote the character for Zeigler. But, let’s say that this autistic actress was real. That’s actually worse because that would mean Sia brought on an autistic actor and didn’t provide accommodations, even when the production was a “love letter” to the autistic community. This exemplifies how Sia had no intentions of making Music for autistic people. She wanted to make something appealing for caregivers so she could look like a savior for the autistic community. Sia also tweeted that she worked with Autism Speaks on this movie. On November 20, 2020, Autism Speaks tweeted, “Autism Speaks was not involved in the casting or production of the film, Music. Representation matters, and we believe autistic actors should always be given opportunities to play autistic characters.” If you don’t know about Autism Speaks, I apologize for bursting your bubble. Autism Speaks is an ableist hate group that thinks autism is a disease that can and needs to be cured. Now Autism Speaks is going through a facelift to be more “kind and inclusive,” but I still don’t trust them. So, one of two things has happened: Either Autism Speaks actually did work with Sia but they didn’t want to be tied to this shitshow, or they weren’t involved in this shitshow and wanted to squash the backlash.

***

This is a good moment to say that I think Sia has a disturbing relationship with Maddie Zeigler. Sia has been on record saying that she can’t make art without Ziegler. Sia has talked about how she uses Zeigler as her muse, how she “rescued” Zeigler, and how Zeigler is the best thing since sliced freaking bread. Sia is even her godmother. When Zeigler expressed being uncomfortable with Music because she didn’t want to mock autistic people, Sia was dismissive of her concerns. Zeigler was 14 years old at the time.

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Sia’s treatment of Zeigler/Music is relevant for another reason: the film opens (with no warning as promised) with a scene showing Zeigler/Music in her bra and panties. It’s only a couple of seconds, but it’s super uncomfortable. If this were a different film about a disabled adult OVER THE AGE OF GODDAMN CONSENT, then it could have been a powerful moment showing the humanity of a disabled person who is just going about their day. Here, it’s creepy, and I have no idea why it was included. Remember, Zeigler was 14 at the time Music was filmed. Sia has said multiple times that she just wants to protect Zeigler, but this... um… no, no, no.

***

Even before Music came out, it was nominated for not one but two Golden Globe awards: one for best musical or comedy movie and one for best actress for Kate Hudson, who, not surprisingly, is neither autistic herself nor a caregiver for an autistic loved one nor holds any ties to the autism community. There has been a long history of abled actors and abled filmmakers telling disabled stories without disabled people and getting awards, money, and praise while disabled people’s voices are silenced. With Music, history once again repeated itself. “There has been a long history of abled actors and abled filmmakers telling disabled stories without disabled people and getting awards, money, and praise while disabled people’s voices are silenced.”

Also prior to its official release, a scene was leaked where Music’s sister tackles Music and pins her down to stop her from having a meltdown. This


is called prone restraint, and it has killed multiple autistic people, including children. Never do this. Don’t do this. Don’t do this. Don’t do this. Even more disgusting, this restraint can be triggering for autistic people and disabled people in general because many disabled people are victims of sexual abuse, rape, and physical abuse. So, again: Do. Not. Do. This! This leak and the backlash that followed caused Sia to finally tweet, “I’m sorry” and then delete her Twitter overnight. You might look at this as a good thing since the autistic community can finally get some sleep at night without Sia breathing down their necks, but there are three major concerns I have. One, this was a cowardly act of someone who can’t take criticism and refuses to listen to a community they claim to adore. Two, people will look at this and call “cancel culture,” just sweeping the ableism under the rug as they always do. Three, from the get-go, Sia’s stans have been harassing the autistic community and Sia has not attempted stopping them whatsoever. Sia logging off Twitter just opened the floodgates. Finally, Sia apologized for the restraint scenes and said she would remove the scenes as well as include a warning before the movie that the movie doesn’t condone these actions—actions that, again, kill disabled people by the way. Spoiler: Sia didn’t follow through on her promises.

***

After the movie came out, Sia had another Twitter meltdown saying we should see the movie before we judge it. Well, Sia, be careful what you wish for. I watched the movie and… um… Sia? Are you serious? This is what the disability community makes fun of. I am a disability humor nerd, and I would have found this kind of funny in an ironic way, getting a giggle or two out of this, if it weren’t so categorically terrible at every turn. This movie is

the worst piece of inspiration porn I’ve ever seen. Basically, inspiration porn portrays disabled people as innocent, perfect saints whose sole purpose is to teach abled people the power of kindness and openmindedness. Music is the textbook definition. “Basically, inspiration porn portrays disabled people as innocent, perfect saints whose sole purpose is to teach abled people the power of kindness and openmindedness.”

The character Music is portrayed as some kind of angelic little creature who has no idea what’s going on. She wears her headphones and is lost in her own little world of Sia music videos, where the music sequences use bright lights, loud music, and fast camera angles. The first dance scene even includes strobe lights. These are things that an actually autistic person would find overstimulating and would lead to sensory overload. If this is a love letter to the autistic community, why wouldn’t you make a movie they could actually watch, Sia? Even when Music’s Grandma dies, Music isn’t shown to be grieving or even sad. Although she does seem somewhat concerned when her grandma is taken away in a body bag, for the most part, Music remains her smiley, happy self dancing around in Sia world. Autism doesn’t work like that. Autistic people don’t just live a fantasy life where everything is smiles and giggles. Music’s grandma is not only her caregiver, she is also her beloved grandma. Autistic people love their families just like neurotypical people do. And some common traits of autism are depression, anxiety, and proneness to stress. If this movie were accurate at all, there would be at least

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a day or two when Music couldn’t even get out of bed while mourning the loss of her grandmother. Instead, we’re given inspiration porn. This is harmful to actually disabled people. This is one of the parts of the movie that hurt me the most. I’m sick of the stereotype of the happy disabled person who’s never stressed and never sad.

***

As if the inspiration porn isn’t bad enough, Music also ventures into trauma porn. Trauma porn is essentially media’s fixation on people’s pain and suffering. Trauma porn focuses on marginalized people’s misfortunate “experiences” so that nonmarginalized people can feel sad about them and maybe care more. Except that rarely works, and what happens instead is further marginalizing, stigmatizing, and harming the marginalized people. Music goes through absolute hell throughout the movie. Her grandma and Felix, her only friend, both die. Music is left with her half-sister Zu, who is recovering from a substance use disorder but still deals. Zu isn’t prepared to take care of her autistic sibling. When Zu fails to pay attention during a walk, Music is stung by a bee and ends up in the hospital due to her severe allergy. Zu is so distraught that she can’t pay Music’s medical costs that she ends up breaking her sobriety. I am fully aware that Sia is sober after many years of her own substance use disorder. If this were a movie about a woman focusing on her recovery, I would love to see that. But it’s not. Zu is portrayed as incapable and selfish. Zu wants to move to paradise and teach yoga, but instead she has to take care of her sister when she really doesn’t want to. She doesn’t want to make Music breakfast. She doesn’t want to deal with her “meltdowns,” a sign that an autistic person is feeling extremely overwhelmed and anxious and is struggling to express that feeling. So Zu does the bare minimum to take care of Music and expects a pat on the back for it.

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“I’m sick of the stereotype of the happy disabled person that’s never stressed and never sad.” As a disabled person myself, one of my biggest worries is what will happen when my mom can no longer take care of me. Where will I go? Who will take care of me? I often feel like a burden to the ones closest to me. I love my mom so much and I know my mom loves me so much, but it cannot be easy to have a kid with Cerebral Palsy.

***

If everything I’ve said about the movie wasn’t already awful, the way Sia talks about the movie sure is. Sia did an interview with Variety and both she and the interviewer made absolute fools of themselves. Sia spent the entire interview humblebragging about how well she did with Music and how this is a love story to autistic people and their caregivers. If it is, Sia should be met with multiple restraining orders (restraints...hmm). During the interview, Sia calls Music “low functioning.” “As a disabled person myself, one of my biggest worries is what will happen when my mom can no longer take care of me. Where will I go? Who will take care of me?” A majority of the autism community disowns functioning levels because functioning levels originated in Nazi Germany. The “low functioning” people were put into gas chambers and the “high functioning” were forced to do labor and become soldiers. In the last five minutes of the interview, things go from cringe to just flat-out ableism. The interviewer describes Music, the character, as


such: “Here’s a person who can’t speak, you know. She might as well be like an inanimate object like a wig except there’s so much going on in there.” And Sia agrees. Um… go to hell. Both of you. I’ve had multiple people think that I was slow or that I can’t understand things due to my disability or my wheelchair or the way I talk. And it breaks my heart every fucking time.

cry. I want to scream. I want to… I just want to crawl into bed and watch a favorite show and fall asleep. I’m so tired of abled people telling me that I’m an inspiration while I spend day after day dreaming of better things just to get through. Let disabled people tell our own stories our way because we have a shit-ton to say. And it’s time for you to listen.

Inspiration porn is just a giant headache. It makes me feel like I’m not doing enough. When I watched Music, I felt nothing. But, as I reflect, I want to

If you’re interested in more authentic representations of austic people, then watch, read, and support autistic creators! Here are some you might follow: Anand Prahlada, author, The Secret Life of a Black Aspie Bradley Hennessey, game designer, An Aspie Life Coby Bird, actor, Locke & Key Corinne Duyvis, author, Otherbound and On the Edge of Gone Cyrée Jarelle Johnson, founder, Deaf Poets Society Domonique Brown, actor, Atypical Hannah Gadsby, comedian, Nanette and Douglas Helen Hoang, author, The Kiss Quotient series Jennifer Msumba, musician, Music Saved Me Kayla Cromer, actor, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay Ryan Smoluk, artist, painting and sculpture Satoshi Tajiri, game designer, Pokémon franchise Stephen Wiltshire, artist, architecture and cityscapes Steve Asbell, illustrator, Stimmy Kitty The AustistiX, band, The Meadow Sunshine Check out #ActuallyAutistic on social media for more creators and activists.

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The Reality of Painting by Joanna Johnson

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” For a while, I just couldn’t agree with Gilbert K. Chesterton. To me, this saying sounds more like an excuse than an inspirational quote. I have high standards and high expectations to match. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to baking, playing the violin, taking a test, living, breathing, eating, sleeping… the possibilities are endless. The number of times I’ve said, “Yeah, I just need to perfect my recipe,” and “I made too many mistakes, I’ll just record the song again,” and “Well, I only got 9 out of 10,” is beyond me. So, as you might imagine, that’s why painting has always been both frustrating and fun. All throughout high school, one of my favorite hobbies was oil painting. I still love it, although it’s hard to keep oil paints in a dorm room (I’ve settled for watercolors, but more on that later). I’ve often found myself sketching out a rough draft of a painting I had the perfect idea for, an idea that I just couldn’t get out of my head. This will be the best piece of art I’ve ever created, I think. Then, I get out the canvas, prepare the paints, and start adding color to my masterpiece. About halfway through, I’ll start to notice all the little details that just aren’t right. The eyes don’t match each other, and the green in the background is a little too bright. That’s when it’s easy to get frustrated. If I keep pushing on, eventually my painting will start looking more like how I envisioned it in the first place. But it can take a while to get there, and it’s just too easy to give up and let it sit on the easel, never to be finished. Too many times I’ve walked by an unfinished painting, letting it stare me down even when I have no intention of completing it.

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This piece in particular (right) sat on the floor by my easel for more than a few weeks. I had just completed the “block-in” stage, the step just beyond sketching it in that helps you figure out what colors you need and where. Think of it like a cartoon version of what the painting will end up looking like, without any details or shading. The subject was looking wistfully off into the distance, leading me to think she was patiently waiting for some more color to come alive. Strangely enough, I felt guilty. I knew that I should complete the piece, but every brush stroke seemed to be headed


in the wrong direction. During that stage, it didn’t look anything like the masterpiece I had first imagined. To be honest, it still doesn’t! But I have now realized that that’s okay. It will never look exactly like what I first expected it to. Art isn’t about perfection, it’s about expression. I can end up with something to be proud of, even if it isn’t “just right”. And it doesn’t have to be perfect to express or convey emotion and invoke thought. A piece can make an audience think about a certain topic or portray an idea that reminds the audience of a personal experience. At the base level, art is real, and since when has reality been perfect? What eventually pushed me to finish that piece was a change of perspective. Instead of aiming for perfection, I was focused on having fun and creating something. I felt free to take the mistakes as they came and figure out the best solutions in the moment, instead of dreading mistakes and letting them build up. It was refreshing to know

that even when I did mess up, I knew what to do and how to fix it. Another lesson came when I started using a different medium: watercolor. With oil paint, you are able to fix mistakes fairly easily and re-do a section of the painting as many times as you want, since the paint doesn’t dry quickly. Watercolors, on the other hand, don’t let the artist get away with much since the paper can become oversaturated if you use too much water and paint. The woman in the hat gave me yet another reminder that as much as I like perfection and strive for it, it’s just not humanly possible. She taught me that sometimes letting go and allowing a loose style is more effective anyway. Even when I do mess up, it’s part of the process, and the process is too valuable to just give up. So, I paint because it’s fun, because it lets me use my imagination and creativity, and because it’s worth doing (even badly). News flash: we’re not perfect, and that is perfectly okay.

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The Tumblr Renaissance by Abby Snider

Toxic Tumblr Trends from the 2010s are taking over TikTok. Content Warning:

Mentions of eating disorders and self-harm.

As a teenager in the 2010s, I used Tumblr primarily as my first form of social media. It was the perfect platform for young people to design our own mini webpage or blog. There was a coding aspect that, if you knew some basics, you could completely change the format and layout of how your personal blog looked. Practically any form of media you could think of— videos, pictures, audio uploads, written text posts—you could create on Tumblr, and you also could repost anything from someone else’s blog along with our own content. It even had an internal messaging system for private messages, and an “ask box” feature that allowed you ask questions either publicly or anonymously. Tumblr gave users nearly unlimited control to customize virtually every aspect of their online presence. This led to a massive user base and small communities quickly developed spaces for themselves on Tumblr. Any interest you had, there was a community dedicated to it on Tumblr. Communities often added the suffix -blr to their topics of interest. Those interested in academics formed “studyblr” and fans of reading had “bookblr.” The creativity and youth presence made it seem like a fun and fulfilling website to be on, so many parents allowed their kids as young as 10, 11, 12 to create an account. (While the site technically didn’t allow anyone under 13 to create an account, it was based on an honor code where you simply clicked a box confirming you were of age and used no other measures to ensure it). 34 ||UNTOLD UNTOLD 34

Most of Tumblr was all about connecting with others to celebrate the same passions and interests. But like any other site, there was a darker side: Some communities were supporting problematic trends. One of the most infamous sides of Tumblr was the “pro-ana” side. This was a somewhat large group promoting eating disorders by posting weight loss pictures, tagging pictures of incredibly thin individuals as “thinspo,” sharing generally degrading views of food, and providing detailed descriptions about binges and purges and similar things. Unlike a lot of outright abusive sides of the internet, one of the worst aspects of this community was how accepted it was. There was no real targeting of any individuals, but proana Tumblr seemed to prey on the insecurities of primarily young women by validating their feelings of shame and disgust with themselves. Pro-ana Tumblr fueled the competitive nature present in many eating disorders, so the people promoting these ideas were often suffering from those same disorders. This made people feel welcomed and celebrated within the community. Users joined this side of Tumblr willingly, finding an accepted place to post their dramatic weight loss goals and pictures. Pro-ana Tumblr idolized this behavior in a way, only feeding the delusion even further. There was another community developing at this time. Almost like a subgroup to pro-ana Tumblr,


people joined this community to glorify self-harm was relieved that the website as a whole was losing as a way of expressing oneself. While it never quite a bit of its membership. Tumblr is still active had a specific label, this community would often today, but it is not operating on nearly the scale connect with fans of popular emo or punk music it once was. After coming under harsh scrutiny like Panic! At the Disco, My Chemical Romance, for the harmful content it allowed, Tumblr has Black Veil Brides, and other similar musicians. recently enforced stronger guidelines and policies None of the artists themselves endorsed this selftrying to keep the website more family-friendly. harm messaging, but it was hard to find content on their music that wouldn’t eventually lead you Today, TikTok seems to be slowly taking Tumblr’s down the rabbit hole. Similar to the pro-ana place, with waves of young people joining the community, people who post pictures of fresh video-sharing app. Although video is its only self-harm wounds, share graphic descriptions of content, TikTok gives people creative agency actions they did to themselves, and talk about through its features such as clip recording and how hopeless life was. This community promoted different filters, effects, and sounds that can be self-harm as a practice that brought relief from overlayed on the 1-minute videos users create. pain and suffering. Lots of times you would find Users also can go live on TikTok and stream suicide notes posted on a blog. You would also directly to their followers. Additionally, the app find public messages has an incredibly where people would be powerful, specific “While the community actively talking their was algorithm that groups masked as being compassionate online friends down people based on the and caring, the ongoing enabling from the edge. While videos they like, share, of these behaviors created an the community was and comment on and environment that fueled them.” masked as being then recommends compassionate and similar content (and caring, the ongoing creators) in a feed enabling of these harmful behaviors created an called the “For You Page.” Like Tumblr, TikTok environment that fueled them. has helped create lots of different communities for people to connect with. It’s common for people These and other harmful communities continued to use the suffix -tok when talking about specific on for years because of how young the Tumblr TikTok communities, for example, plant-tok, user base was. I created my first Tumblr blog astrology-tok, and witch-tok. when I was 12 years old and actively used it every day. My account is still active today, almost eight Perhaps unsurprisingly, eating disorders and years later. I wouldn’t consider myself to have glorification of self-harm are becoming prevalent ever been an active member within a particularly on TikTok, but unlike on Tumblr, the content harmful community, but no matter what side is slightly more masked. Videos of very thin of Tumblr you were on, those types of posts individuals are common under the guise of always found their way onto your blog. Even the sharing outfits of the day, but poses lifting up somewhat limited exposure Tumblr gave me to their shirts to show very thin waists or specific behaviors that were not only deemed acceptable shots of small thighs, wrists, and the like set these but often encouraged by my peers has made a long videos apart. “What I eat in a day” videos are also lasting impact on me. As I grew up and was able common, showing incredibly small amounts of to better understand what exactly had happened, I food that are defended in the comments as just a SPRING SPRING 2021 2021||35 35


difference in what people eat. Even videos openly talking about eating disorders are not always treated respectfully and offer little talk of support or getting treatment. Instead, they are passed around these TikTok communities almost as if people need to comment in order to prove they are bingeing, purging, or restricting food too. It’s largely the same common themes from the 2010s Tumblr era: “thinspo,” false solidarity, and body/ beauty competitiveness masked as just showing off a person’s life. “There is a large presence on the app targeting and combating this type of toxic messaging cycle that the internet seems to fall into.”

TikTok also has a lot of self-harm content shared on the platform. Some videos have individuals showing their fresh wounds or scars, while others feature people openly discussing the act of cutting. Similar to eating disorder content, there is comradery in the comments as people relate to the experiences shared instead of talking about how to stop them or get help. A unique way in which the promotion of self-harm has evolved on TikTok is by moving past outright immediate harm and into passive harm. By that, I mean doing things that don’t automatically harm you but have a high chance of doing so. For example, videos of people speeding down a highway while recording themselves being careless are seen as TikTokers “just having fun.” In videos about chronic drug or alcohol use, creators often acknowledge the harm occurring to their bodies

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but shrug it off as simply a “humorous” aesthetic they’ve developed going through life. It is very similar to Tumblr posts and comments talking about how meaningless life has become and the temporary relief harming their bodies either directly or indirectly can bring. Neither the pro-ana or self-harm Tik Tok community is out to maliciously harm people. But both act as a vacuum of sorts, sucking in people—especially young people—who are struggling with insecurities and feelings of failure. Instead of a disavowal of harmful behaviors, TikTok preys on the natural insecurities many young people have. Most don’t yet know how to talk about their insecurities constructively, and in turning to TikTok, they find promotion of their unhealthy behaviors instead of support for healing and recovery. As a TikTok user, it makes me incredibly sad to see these things coming back to affect another generation. One of the biggest reasons this phenomenon is becoming so common again is the lack of regulation. TikTok has instituted some guidelines and is notorious for taking down videos for weird or unexplained reasons, but some of the most outright harmful content is rarely removed. I think users need to put pressure on the app to acknowledge the harm it is promoting and to commit to doing something about it. I am not alone in that. There is a large presence on the app targeting and combating this type of toxic messaging cycle that the internet seems to fall into. There is an epidemic of sharing pro-ana and self-harm content that doesn’t have to continue. We can start with something as simple as TikTok.


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JOIN OUR EDITORIAL TEAM Untold Magazine has some incredible leadership opportunities for the 2021-2022 school year: Editor in Chief (EIC): Our Editor in Chief oversees all aspects of the magazine. In addition to

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