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January/February 2014

University of Michigan

What The F Your Monthly Periodical Issue 6

Stretch Marks This publication is meant to start conversations—it’s an open channel for all voices. The more voices, the richer the conversation. Because of how we’re raised and who we are, it can be difficult to see past our own experiences. So if, when reading anything in this magazine, you find you have a disagreement, a critique, or another viewpoint, write to us and we’ll publish it. Stretch marks: Stretch past your own head. Talk to us at To the Editors, I read What the F Issue 5 earlier this week and though there was a lot I enjoyed and appreciated, I also had some concerns. There are several things throughout the issue that point to a broader problem of conflating women with vulvas and vaginas. The use of phrases like a “vagina-savvy hotspot,” “as always: vag on,” and calling What the F a “vagazine” are cissexist in the context of this publication. This disregard for trans* and intersex concerns is shown throughout the magazine in various ways, including by saying the services of a gynecologist “apply to all women.” Many women do have vulvas and vaginas and it is important to discuss vulvas and vaginas openly, especially because sexism often prevents people from getting appropriate information about these genitalia. However, there are women with penises and other genitalia besides vaginas/vulvas. There are also people of other genders with vaginas/vulvas. Using exclusive phrasing is alienating to many trans* women, as well as misgendering of people who do have vaginas/vulvas but do not identify as women. More inclusive language and a greater awareness of trans* and intersex concerns is absolutely necessary. A second concern I had was about the appreciation and villainization of femininity in the magazine. There are competing themes in this issue. Among other phrases, the constant use of the word feminine to describe the magazine seems to laud femininity above all else and place it as the goal to aspire to. Other articles seem to insist that feminine things are not interesting and imply that femininity is a weaker mode of expression than androgyny or masculinity. The magazine needs to recognize that these various modes of expression all contain strength, and should be accessible to all who desire them without any being viewed as lesser than. I hope you will take these issues into consideration for future issues. Best, Emily Dibble

President Jen Spears Editors in Chief Hailey Burns and Bri Kovan Creative Head Margaret Hitch Layout Editor HaeJee Yoon Business Manager Sumana Palle Public Relations Coordinator Jillian McConville Social Justice Editor Cosette Kathawa Webmaster & Social Media Coordinator Jerusaliem Gebreziabher Campus Coordinator Sydney Behrmann

What The F is a non-partisan, non-profit publication operated by students at the University of Michigan. What The F’s purpose is to

encourage discussion on significant issues of campus, national, and world interest. The magazine, the executive board, and our sponsors do not endorse the ideas presented by the writers. We do, however, support and encourage different ideas into our community and into campus discussion.

All writings depicted in this image are real, found in bathrooms on campus. Because sometimes we just need to talk to each other.

January/February 2014

What The F

Your Monthly Periodcal Issue 6

Letter from the Editors 01 Woman of the Month 03 Health 04 Opinions 07 08 10 11 12 14 15 16 18 19 Reviews 20 Ivana Happycooch 22 24 Poems 25 26

Jennifer Baumgardner Sh*t I’m Afraid to Ask My Doctor Connect with My Roots Your First Time The Two-Finger Taco Tango The Mixed Girl: A Mangled Identity Why IUDs are Magical Having It All Pink Card, Blue Card WTF, PMS? Dear Anti-Rape Wear She’s Not Like Other Girls... No, Really VajA2 Origin of the Word Now You See Her Asking for It Surviving Me //since// Surviving You Bad Girls

Sources and Sponsors 27

Funny, Fresh, Fearless, Feminist, & Fuck Layout HaeJee Yoon, Margaret Hitch, Taylor Landeryou, Alex Pears, Eva Roos Contributing Illustrators Margaret Hitch, HaeJee Yoon, Shane Achenbach, Eliza Cadoux, Nicole Dennis, Diana Gage, Meghal Janardan, Erica Liao, Grace Ludmer, Alex Pears, Eva Roos, Sarah Schwendeman, Sonia Tagari, Kit Trowbridge, Edith Zhang Contributing Writers Hailey Burns, Bri Kovan, Margaret Hitch, Cosette Kathawa, Eliza Cadoux, Hannah Engler, Samantha Florence, Hannah Gordon, Brianne Johnson, Harleen Kaur, Allie Rubin, Essie Shachar-Hill, India Solomon Keep the conversation going online! Visit our website at Like our Facebook page at Follow us on Twitter @WhatTheFMag and on Instagram @WhatTheFMagazine Find our Tumblr at

Letter from the Editors

Welcome to What The F, your irregular periodical!

Welcome, welcome, to Issue 6 of What the F Magazine! As we continue to grow as a magazine and as an organization, we’re constantly fueled by positive feedback from our readers. Thank you to everyone who reached out to us in response to our last issue. We mean that very sincerely: thank you for sticking with us, for picking up the magazine, and – for new readers – for joining us in this conversation. We would like to take this opportunity to highlight some exciting recent developments at What the F. We recently launched our brand new website, which you can find at Shout out to our Social Media Guru, Jerusaliem Gebreziabher, for all of her hard work on the site. It’s beautiful, and it is a fabulous space to continue the conversations that we have started in the printed publications. This website features all of our past issues. We know many of you have requested copies of older magazines, and this is an easy way for you to access them whenever you like. The site also includes What the F’s new blog, which is updated weekly with posts from our eBoard, staff members, and dedicated readers. In the past few months, we have received more submissions to What the F than ever before. This is definitely a good problem to have, but we simply don’t have enough room to publish all of the wonderful submissions in print. In part, the blog aims to feature as many of these pieces as possible. We would also like to address some changes that we’re making to our magazine. Several of our readers (and even members of our eBoard) have voiced concerns over our tradition of calling each issue a “vagazine” and of using the word “feminine” as one of our five F’s. These terms were exclusionary and, at times, offensive. We aim to be inclusive of all identities, and we now realize that these words

may have excluded some of our readers. Thank you so much to those of you who voiced these concerns with us – we heard you, and we are eliminating these descriptors from our publication. It’s important that What the F remains an open, safe space for everyone to share their experiences and opinions, and we apologize if we have made anyone feel shut out of the conversation in any way. As a new magazine, What the F is continually working to represent all perspectives, and your feedback helps us to grow. In fact, this issue features more “Anonymous” pieces than any of our previous issues – from one writer’s fight to survive a sexual assault, to another’s struggle to combat gender stereotypes in the workplace. We are so happy that our writers came to us with their testimonies. It truly takes courage to publish pieces about experiences that are so personal, and we applaud all of our writers for being so open and honest in their submissions. But enough talk from us. It’s time for you to enjoy our latest work! Thank you for being such dedicated, passionate readers. We are so happy to have so much What the F support. All our love,

Hailey Burns and Bri Kovan Editors in Chief

P.S. Want to get involved? E-mail We would love your brilliant minds to write and create with us.


“I’d like to raise both of my middle fingers to him and anyone who thinks profanity is somehow more harmful to our children than images of violence and misogyny””


Woman of the Month

Jennifer Baumgardner by Bri Kovan


hen I first met Jennifer Baumgardner, she was transitioning into the Executive Director position at the Feminist Press, and I was wrapping up my summer as a befuddled-yet-energetic intern. I had spent the prior two months wading into the publishing world for the first time, still confusing the terminology and feigning professionalism as part of my daily routine. Jennifer came to the Feminist Press decorated with name recognition and accolades. The youngestever editor at Ms. Magazine and repeatedly published writer, she embodied the strong and accomplished woman that I hoped (and still hope) to be. Our positions at the publishing house couldn’t have been more different, and so I naturally found myself intimidated by the aura of her name alone. I remember one of our first conversations. We were doing group introductions over lunch, and Jennifer had asked us interns to share how we became interested in feminism. Many of our stories were similar; we had had a dramatic personal experience, or had gotten pulled onto the bandwagon at some point in high school, or felt as if we’d had the label since birth. The hospital tags read, “Warning: Future feminists.” But one woman’s response was different. To resurrect her sentiment: She felt as if she wasn’t a “true” feminist. She enjoyed cooking and cleaning and ultimately saw herself becoming a stay-at-home mother. She didn’t see how this mentality could position her as a feminist in today’s society. Jennifer responded gently without skipping a beat. It is perhaps this conversation that I remember most vividly from all of our office interactions. She encouraged us to reevaluate how we viewed feminism. Traditionally domestic roles shouldn’t be devalued, as they’re integral to the stability of our society. In a moment of self-deprecating humor, Jennifer admitted she herself

wasn’t cut out for domesticity. So rather than disregard the work that many women have done and continue to do in the home, it is crucial to realize that those responsibilities shouldn’t be thrust upon all women. We should value women’s work in whatever arena it exists. The negative connotations of feminism are pervasive and widespread. Changing people’s incorrect assumptions will take both time and one-on-one interactions. The conversations have to start like the one I had with Jennifer: gentle, patient, and informative. But Jennifer Baumgardner isn’t a novice when it comes to feminism. Rather, her feminist activism has spanned over the course of her lifetime and has manifested itself in various mediums and themes. After graduating from Lawrence University in 1992, Jennifer moved to New York City to work as an unpaid intern at Ms. Magazine. She quickly moved up at the magazine, becoming the youngest-ever-editor at Ms. Since then, she has expanded her work to include books, articles, and documentaries. Thus far, she has focused primarily on bisexuality, rape, and abortion. Jennifer has written five books, including Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (2000), and Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics (2007). Her articles have been published in Glamour, ELLE, The Nation, Harper’s Bazaar, and Marie Claire. In 2005, she co-created a documentary titled Speak

Out: I Had an Abortion. She also lectures around the country, having keynoted at over 300 universities and conferences talking about feminism and her work in the field. Jennifer focuses on a multi-dimensional approach to thirdwave feminism – one that lives in conversations as much as it lives in the printed word. She steps outside of pure academia to make her message more accessible, using film as one alternative medium. This approach reaches a wider audience, particularly a younger generation. When I see feminism surface in the popculture discourse, it is often a surface-level conversation. Is or isn’t Beyoncé a feminist? Did you see the newest offensive Hillary Clinton gif? In this landscape, the theoretical discussions about feminism are few and far between. Yet Jennifer has managed to enter into these conversations without limiting herself to speaking about how celebrities fare in the media. Instead, she tackles more meaty issues: rape, abortion, women in the workforce, bisexuality. As I continue to wrestle with feminism (as both a label and a movement), I find myself reinvigorated by Jennifer’s work in the field. She has managed to take a struggling movement and propel it forward into the contemporary discourse. As she wraps up her first year at the Feminist Press, I watch from afar with a mixture of pride and nostalgia. I’m nostalgic for the experience of working for her and for a publishing house that regularly challenges expectations and normalcy. And, each time that I call myself a feminist, I’m proud to share that label with Jennifer. I identify as a feminist not because she does, but because a long history of women like her have. Jennifer exists as one figurehead for the contemporary movement, and I’m excited to watch her next project unfold. 3


Sh*t I’m Afraid to Ask My Doctor: Discharge Edition by Allie Rubin


ulling down your pants can be quite the surprise: Did I just get my period? Did I pee a little bit? What’s that white stuff? That white stuff, my friends, is discharge. It’s produced during arousal, under stress, and as a normal part of the menstrual cycle. Usually it doesn’t cause any irritation or problems and is a sign that everything’s fine down under. Normal discharge is clear to milky white, often drying in a yellowish shade. It can be slippery or clumpy, usually having a mild scent. Discharge in your underwear shouldn’t be cause for alarm, unless you notice some changes in appearance or smell. If your discharge looks… Like cottage cheese: Vulvovaginal Candidiasis (a.k.a. yeast infections or, as I like to call it, “baking bread”) Yeast cells are always present in the body, but if the normal pH or hormone balance changes, yeast cells can proliferate, causing an overgrowth. Itching and/or burning often accompany cottage cheese-y discharge. Yeast infections are extremely common and aren’t usually caused by having sex (as rumor would lead you to believe). They can easily be treated with antifungal pills, vaginal suppositories, or with over-the-counter medications. Overuse of over-the-counter treatments can eventually lead to resistant yeast, so be sure that you actually have a yeast infection before busting out the Monistat. Thin, white or gray, and has an unpleasant, fishy odor: Bacterial Vaginosis Although some symptoms of bacterial vaginosis can be confused with those of a yeast infection, BV happens when imbalanced bacteria in the vagina causes an infection. The abnormal discharge may be especially abundant after sex. Other symptoms of BV include burning when peeing, a foul, fishy odor, and itching around the outside of the vagina. Treatment typically includes antibiotics or gels. Thin, green-yellow, frothy, and/or foamy: Trichomoniasis In the case of trichomoniasis, this type of discharge is also accompanied by symptoms like an itchy or swollen labia, itchy inner thighs, discomfort during sex, or a strong odor. Unlike yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis is actually an STI caused by a parasite that is shared during sexual activity. Trichomoniasis is diagnosed through lab tests, which need to be done by a healthcare provider. This STI can be cured with antibiotics.

Normal cervix

Infected cervix

If you notice any changes in your discharge or experience any unusual discomfort, get it checked out! The University Health Service has a separate office designated for Women’s Health. The Women’s Health Clinic offers free, routine health exams for University undergrads where you can find out what the hell is going on down there. They can help you get the treatment you need to make your vajayjay sparkle again. While these infections are pretty common, here are some tips to prevent them from happening in the first place:


(1) Avoid douches! You probably already knew that douche bags are nothing but trouble. Douching upsets the acidic balance of the vagina and can make you more prone to infections. (2) Refrain from using scented or other complicated sprays, soaps, or powders down there. Chemicals in these products can irritate your vagina. Instead, just wash gently with regular-old soap and water. (3) Be sure to dry properly. Bad bacteria thrive in moist environments, so towel off well and change out of wet bathing suits ASAP. (4) Avoid nylon underwear and pants that are super tight in the crotch. These retain heat and moisture, creating a breeding ground for bacteria and infection. If possible, wear cotton undies and, for goddess’ sake, make sure they’re clean.

What the F Magazine is dedicated to showcasing the many talents of womyn artists on our campus. If you have art, photos, or designs that you think reflect our magazine’s missions, please send them our way!



Connect with My Roots by Harleen Kaur


epresenting and understanding my identity was always a concept that was important to me; I just didn’t exactly realize it until later in life. Growing up as one of two Sikh Americans in my school, the other being my brother, I always had a strong sense of identity. My mother raised me with the idea that I had to live each day as if the people I interacted with would never meet another Sikh again. Sure, it may seem like a lot of pressure to place on a six-year-old girl, telling her that the representation of an entire faith rested on her shoulders. But for me, it was empowering. My mother would come in several times a year to give presentations on Sikhism to my classmates. People not only understood the basics of my Sikh identity, but they knew it more deeply than I could have possibly imagined. If a new student ever came to the school and made even the slightest remark about my faith, there were thirty-five kids standing up to defend me before I could even open my mouth. It was, truly, a wonderful feeling. In high school, I became even more committed to my faith, at least internally. In Sikhism, there is no mandatory ceremony to commit oneself to the faith like as there is for other religions. Instead, when a Sikh feels that they are ready to commit to all aspects of a Sikh lifestyle, they partake in amrit chakna and are essentially initiated into the faith – a ceremony I underwent during my sophomore year. As I continued to make my own commitments to my faith, I kept this strong part

of my identity hidden from others. When I came to the University of Michigan, I was shocked to realize that I was going to school with dozens of other Sikhs for the first time. Despite the large community, I stayed relatively quiet about my identity as a Sikh American, but I slowly became stronger with the help of the Sikh Student Association on campus. They are the ones who helped me transition in so many ways beyond faith, and I left campus freshman year feeling that I had a community that I could rely on. However, the summer after my freshman year, the unthinkable happened: a man who prescribed to neo-Nazi beliefs entered the gurdwara, or Sikh place of worship, that I had attended in Wisconsin. He started shooting and he killed six members of the community, as well as himself, in the process. This event shook me to the core. Although I have been working on building my faith for years, I still have not recovered from this event. Seeing my parents’ friends and other members of our community taken away from us so suddenly and prematurely seemed completely unfair, and I struggled to see how my faith played into this. It was, and still is, hard for me to find compassion for those who hurt my community so critically. Unfortunately, this was not the first time the Sikh community experienced violence, nor was it the last. Sikhs have continuously been targets of hate crimes in America, mostly because of our distinct physical identity. That, combined with the media’s portrayal of the “turban-and-beard” as terrorist attire, has made the Sikh community – especially its men – an easy scapegoat. Many times a year, Sikh men are beaten and harassed, Sikh boys are physically and verbally assaulted in schools, and gurdwaras are vandalized. The event in Oak Creek, Wisconsin was the first time that this intolerance received national attention. Although it was a new concept for most Americans, it was old news for the Sikh community. Even more frustrating than the history of Sikh hate crimes was the FBI’s refusal to acknowledge the problem. At the time of the Oak Creek shooting, the FBI did not track hate crimes against Sikhs in their system because they were only concerned with the bias of the crime. Their thought was that any hate crime committed against a Sikh must have been done with anti-Muslim or other xenophobic bias; they argued that too few Americans could recognize the Sikh identity enough to commit an “anti-Sikh” hate crime. This was not only insulting to the Sikh community, but also made it extremely difficult to measure the extent to which Sikh Americans were being targeted. Thankfully, due to the hard work of many organizations and individuals, the FBI has decided to start tracking crimes with an anti-Sikh bias beginning in 2015, but there is still a lot of work to do. As I continue to rediscover my faith, I hope to also build a stronger community with Sikhs and non-Sikhs, creating understanding and alliances to prevent incidents like this from happening again. 7

The Two-Finger Taco Tango by Essie Shachar-Hill


et’s talk about strumming the banjo. Flicking the bean. Paddling the pink canoe. Whatever you want to call it, let’s not beat around the bush. I’m talking about female masturbation. Female masturbation is about as taboo as it gets. I frequently hear men talking about jacking off, but what about ladies jilling off? It’s hardly considered polite dinner conversation. So let’s take this opportunity to get some facts straight. While statistics vary, it’s clear that a majority of women masturbate. Some statistics show that 89 percent of women brush the beaver at some point in their lives. Fifty-three percent of women use vibrators while masturbating. The number of Americans masturbating right at this moment is more than the entire population of Alaska. Masturbation is a completely natural phenomenon. Forty-four percent of women start masturbating between the ages of ten and fourteen. (Interestingly, those who started during adolescence orgasm more during sex.) Also, humans are not the only species that masturbate. Male kangaroos sometimes give themselves blowjobs, and female porcupines are known to use sticks as dildos. What baffles me is the fact that tossing the pink salad is still taboo – even the closest of friends often avoid the subject. Maybe it’s because women have been socialized to suppress their sexuality or because patriarchy frowns upon women experiencing sexual pleasure without a man. Perhaps it’s because masturbation is thought of as an inherently male activity. As Ashley Fryer astutely points out in an editorial for the Huffington Post, the very term “female masturbation” is inherently sexist. It indicates that the default is a male pursuit and must be qualified when applied to women. Or maybe it’s because women just aren’t sure if it’s normal. Maybe women are worried that if they bring it up on the next girls’ night out, their girlfriends will reply, “You do what three times a week?” Well, ladies, the statistics speak for themselves. Most of us do it. And besides feeling incredible, parting the red sea has numerous other benefits. It improves sleep, reduces stress, eases menstrual cramps, increases the ability to orgasm, helps to alleviate depression, and improves sex with a partner. Did you catch that last part? Masturbation improves sex with another person. Touching yourself teaches you about your body, what you like, what turns you on, and what you might want to try with 10

someone else. Just as a teacher has to master the material herself before teaching it to a student, pleasuring yourself will help you communicate your wishes to another person. (Not that I’m comparing your partner to an inexperienced student… unless you’re into that kind of

thing.) Hitchhiking south is a truly empowering experience for women. It allows us to take control of our own sexuality and not depend upon another person for sexual pleasure. Becoming a master masturbator can make you more confident in your body and feel like a sexier person in general. If you have never tried auditioning the finger puppets, it can be intimidating. Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself (metaphorically speaking), since that will make it harder to orgasm. Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged! Practice makes perfect. If you have trouble climaxing, or just want some extra stimulation (either while masturbating or during sex), you might consider investing in a vibrator. In terms of technical tips, there are plenty of websites full of advice on squeezing the peach. (Check out or yourtango. com.) There’s even a female masturbation app in the works called Happy Playtime, which will be released this month! While satisfaction is the most common emotion associated with masturbation, many women also report feeling feel guilty or ashamed. Women in a relationship may feel guilty about experiencing pleasure without their special someone. But just because you have a partner doesn’t mean that you can’t also have a party for one! Plus, your partner will benefit in the long run since masturbation makes you more aware of your own body (read: better in bed). Let’s break the taboo on masturbation. Stop tiptoeing around the topic and start tiptoeing through the twolips. Talk about it. Make jokes about it. Feel wonderful about it. You do you.

The Mixed Girl: A Mangled Identity by India Solomon


hat are you? What you mixed wit? Oh, Indian? Well my Great Great Great Great Great Grandma was Cherokee, so I’m Indian too. Is that weave? My hair is as long as yours when it’s pressed. I thought you was stuck up when I first saw you... you cool now. You saw what they wrote about you in the bathroom? He wanna go wit you. She wanna fight you cuz she said you stuck up. You better wrap your hair up. You ain’t even black. I heard you was goin wit _____. All the boys always talkin bout you. You don’t think you a ho? I don’t think you would be pretty without your hair… What would happen if I poured water on your hair? Nothing? Can I try? Pours entire bottle of water on the girl’s head in the middle of the cafeteria. Oops. I was the mixed girl in an allblack school district, but it was a little different for me. I’m not just mixed with black and white. My dad is Black and my mom is Anglo-Indian, from India. This means that my hair is a little longer, a little silkier, more wavy than curly, not too frizzy. My skin is a caramel color in the summer, a milky caramel in the winter. I’m short. Boys like short. I inherited my mother’s coke-bottle shape and a booty from the Black side… a little too early, I think. My long hair and light skin somehow made me desirable and, consequently, “stuck-up.” I was deemed a whore at age ten. In reality, I was just a little girl who wanted to travel everywhere like my mom did, who wanted to drive cars like my daddy, and who wanted to be a zoologist. But people told me I was stuck up and I was a whore, and that stuck with me. Aside from being overly sexualized at a time when I had not even had my first kiss, I was culturally ostracized. No matter how many painful cornrows I put in my long, tangled hair, no matter how much hair grease I used, and no matter how much I wore Baby Phat and Roca-Wear or spoke like my peers, I was not considered “one of them.” When girls ages 6-10 are insulting me because my skin is lighter than theirs, my hair is longer than theirs, and my body is shaped

differently than theirs, and when young boys are looking at me differently than the other girls at school, I can’t help but wonder: what is the prevailing definition of beauty in the Black community and why do so many young girls feel excluded from this definition? Starting as young as six years old, many young Black girls are told that their hair is too tough, too nappy, too complicated, and needs to be fixed with all kinds of paraphernalia. Mothers tug endlessly at the frizzy coils to produce a silky, tame finish. Weave, often considered a necessity, is introduced very early (as early as age three for the girls in my family). The Black-hair stigma comes to light as soon as soft baby curls become tight coils. Young girls then begin to recognize a trend: the lighter the skin, the more manageable the hair; the more manageable the hair, the better. Yet, young Black girls are also taught to love themselves for who they are. We are continually reminded of our country’s Black heroes; Black History Month was celebrated more sumptuously than Christmas. As Blacks, our history made us invincible, and we were told to show it. But I was not considered Black. I did not deserve to be invincible. Any attempts for me to exert my invincibility were shut down by the belief that my appearance was my sole cultural identifier. The ever-present plague these experiences imposed upon my cultural security now cause me to speak, act, and think carefully, mentally filing my cultural experiences into “express,” “do not express,” and “express with caution” folders. I am uncomfortable even writing this article and expressing that my appearance is desirable for fear of someone yelling: “Who do you think you are?” I am uncomfortable assessing the Black community for fear of someone telling me that I don’t belong. I chopped by butt-length hair off to the nape of my neck because it was a source of attention – it was beautiful. I am afraid to be beautiful. With a bare face, bold glasses, and big sweaters to conceal the features society loves most – the features that haunted me throughout my adolescent years – I lead my life not as the mixed girl or the short, light-skin girl with long hair and a nice ass, but as a woman – a multiracial woman slowly picking up the pieces of her mangled identity. 11

Why IUDs are Magical by Cosette Kathawa Disclaimer: There’s a whole lot of TMI coming at you. Buckle up, and please keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times. Or something.


agical, you ask? Why yes, dear reader. Magical. I first considered getting an IUD (intrauterine device) when one of my women’s studies professors mentioned it as the most effective long-term contraceptive method for someone my age. My (almost entirely irrational) fear of hormonal birth control coupled with my insistence on obsessively planning the long-term trajectory of my life made me continue to consider IUDs for months after that lecture. An IUD is a little T-shaped contraption that is inserted into the uterus and basically demolishes sperm lest they breach the defenses of your wonderfully unfertilized little eggs. The IUD needs to be inserted and removed by a clinician, and there is no upkeep required between these two events. Although some doctors still believe that people who have not had children should not use IUDs, this is a myth and a good way of finding out whether or not your doctor is bringing his or her birth control A-game to the examination room. There are three types of IUDs: the hormonal IUD (or the Mirena), the copper IUD (or the ParaGard), and the Skyla. The Skyla is a new, smaller type of hormonal IUD meant for younger and/or childless people. The Mirena and the Skyla IUDs release a small amount of hormone (levonorgestrel, similar to progesterone) to thicken cervical mucus and block sperm from reaching the uterus. The ParaGard IUD does not release any hormones. Instead, it releases a small amount of copper that reacts with sperm and prevents them from being able to reach the egg. I chose the ParaGard because of my aforementioned fear of hormonal birth control and because I had never really had a problem with irregular periods or anything else that the Mirena or the Skyla -- which did not exist when I got my IUD – can help with (such as bad cramps or heavy bleeding). Hormonal IUDs can sometimes lighten or even stop your periods completely, which was not something I was comfortable with, although many find it to be a really great thing. According to the manufacturers, the ParaGard lasts for ten years -- although studies show that it can be used for up to twelve. This means that the ParaGard lasts longer than the Mirena, which can stay in for up to five years, and the Skyla, which lasts up to three years. I kept researching, and I found out that IUDs are about 99 percent effective, mostly because you can’t use them incorrectly like you can condoms or birth control pills. They just kind of sit there until their time is up, blocking sperm and getting down with their bad selves. This was yet another selling point for me. There is just no way I could remember to take a tiny pill every single day at the same time (unless of course they started making chocolate-flavored pills, but in that case I would just overdose on progestin on the first day of every cycle). With an IUD, all you have to do is check that the strings that hang through your cervix are still in place every few weeks to make sure that it hasn’t shifted. It’s important to note that IUDs do not protect against STIs, so you should still use a condom if you and your partner have not been tested. The ParaGard IUD can also be used as emergency contraception if it’s inserted within five days of unprotected sex, and it reduces the risk of pregnancy by 99.9 percent. After months of waxing obsessive about IUDs and making nervous calls to the insurance company to make sure it was covered (although now they are covered in full if you are insured under the Affordable Care Act!), my appointment for the insertion finally came. I scheduled it on the very last day of my period because that is when your cervix is the most open but the least bloody, although you can insert an IUD on any day of the month. The insertion, I can assure you, was the least magical part of getting an IUD. My clinician (a certified nurse-midwife) first performed a pelvic exam to make sure that my cervix, vagina, and other internal organs were normal and not infected. Although the clinician who inserted the IUD did tell me that I have a “more than adequate” uterus, the insertion hurt. It felt like a weird scraping on my cervix, and my uterus cramped up for a moment as she slid in the little straw holding the foldedup IUD. As advised by my doctor, I had taken some ibuprofen prior to the insertion. The cramps afterwards weren’t too bad. I spotted a bit for the next few days and felt uncomfortable, but the cramps were by no means unbearable, and I went about my 12

life as usual. Although I did not faint after the insertion, some do feel dizzy and faint afterward. Just in case, I had a friend (our lovely What the F Editor in Chief Hailey Burns!) drive me back from my appointment. Some people, especially those who have never been pregnant, may expel the IUD after insertion, but this risk almost entirely disappears after the first few months of having the IUD. Two weeks after the insertion, I began spotting and cramping again. Having read about the risks of uterine perforation with an IUD (something that happens very rarely during insertion and can typically be easily fixed by a doctor), I immediately assumed that the IUD was floating around somewhere in my abdomen despite the fact that I could feel the strings and knew that the IUD was in place. I called my clinician, and she informed me that spotting and cramping are normal for up to six weeks after insertion. The Mirena and the Skyla also cause spotting between periods for the first few months. It was annoying, but I decided to tough it out, rationalizing that this was a ten-year investment and that pushing a baby through a too-small orifice hurts a lot more than the mild cramps I was experiencing. My IUD and I were in it for the long haul. My first period after the insertion was bad. I had read that my cramps would be more severe and that my period would be heavier, but this sucked. My cramps weren’t that much worse than normal, but instead of lasting one day, they lasted four. In terms of blood flow, I still consider it a miracle that that period didn’t make me a shriveled raisin of a woman. My second period was slightly better. The torrential blood flow of my first period returned the second month, but I survived once again, and the cramps were not as bad the second time around. It has now been over a year and a half, and after that second period post-insertion, everything went back to normal for the most part. My periods have surprisingly gotten somewhat lighter, and my cramps have lessened in severity in comparison to the ones I had before I got the IUD. This doesn’t typically happen with the ParaGard, but it was an added bonus. I am also still baby-free, in case you’re still wondering! Here are some things I learned from getting an IUD: you can actually lose a lot of blood without dying; my child-sized fingers are not ideal for finding IUD strings; and, most importantly, people need to tell each other about their experiences, good and bad, with different forms of birth control. Most of my friends (who are intelligent, cool feminists) had never even heard of IUDs before or had only heard of them in passing. It’s important to know that IUDs are a safe, effective method of contraception and that there are a lot of options out there that don’t include condoms or pills. Don’t take my word for it, though! My experience is obviously not universal, so if you are interested in getting an IUD, talk to your doctor (or your certified nurse-midwife!) to see if it’s right for you.

The More IUD info, the merrier! Planned Parenthood Planned Parenthood's website ( offers extensive information about IUDs, from how they work, to the benefits and disadvantages, to removal information. The Reproductive Health Access Project RHAP's website ( provides fact sheets about a variety of birth control methods, including both copper and progestin IUDs. The Office of Population Affairs As ominous as the OPA sounds, their website ( has detailed information under the Reproductive Health tab about general reproductive health, STIs, and contraceptives (including an IUD Fact Sheet).


Having It All by Eliza Cadoux


t can be overwhelming to look at the factors that lead to gender inequality in the United States – wage discrepancy, malicious portrayals of females in the media, an unresponsive Congress – and it is hard to know where to begin to address them. Women are taught to embrace their futures as mothers, as caregivers, as pillars of strength for future generations. But as nine-year-old girls, we are not told that we are being sold a life we cannot have – that life as a working mother in the United States of America is frighteningly difficult. We find out that only twelve of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women, or that, despite how far we have come, legislation supporting working mothers is woefully inadequate. American women are not promised maternity leave, leave for their partners, childcare, or daycare. As a result, our socioeconomic status affects our maternal experience, our human capital is depreciated, and women’s choices are limited. To say that the lack of public services for mothers causes women to chose between work and family is too simplistic; in reality, upper class women can afford to choose while those with less financial security feel the weight of the dual realities of work and motherhood. With the average price tag on daycare around $11,666 per year, the United States’ childcare system is anything but inclusive. For a woman who has the means to choose, there are often stigmas dissuading her from deciding to further her career rather than staying at home, as if the aspiration to succeed in the workplace is nullifying her duty to procreate. When wealthier women choose to both have children and continue their careers, women of lower socioeconomic classes often take their place in the home as nannies or childcare providers. Meanwhile, working mothers all over the United States must juggle multiple jobs and persevere through the difficulties of working and raising children. In 2012, single mothers raised and provided for 24 percent of American children with minimal assistance from the government. State-sanctioned maternity leave and childcare could even the playing field and remove some of the classist financial barriers of motherhood. Equal access to support for all women during their pregnancies and early childhood care would lessen the disparities between women in different economic situations. “Having it all” cannot continue to be tied to the wealth of the mother, and career building cannot continue to be a luxury of the few. Allowing American women of all backgrounds to raise the next generation and feel fulfilled in their work life could decrease class stratification. Mothers are the core of a nation, yet our system of public services does not mirror this 14

sentiment, and the lack of reverence for motherhood is affecting our economy. What are we saying about women when 52 percent of the population receives the short end of the stick while holding such a critical position? Germany gives its mothers fourteen weeks of fully paid maternity leave, and, with a GDP of $3.4 trillion, it is the most prosperous country in Europe. Chile and Cuba offer eighteen weeks, while Ecuador and Colombia offer twelve. In Australia, each partner is allowed up to twelve months of leave, eighteen weeks of which are paid. Australia has also achieved equal employment rates for women and men. By eliminating some of the financial burdens of motherhood, these countries are actively incorporating women into the workforce. By making child rearing and working so difficult for mothers, the United States is shooting itself in the foot. The lack of legislation supporting mothers has grave consequences on women and their partners in the workforce and at home. Take a look at the women who surround you. Take a look at your relatives, colleagues, and acquaintances. Think about what the lack of options for American mothers means on a personal and a societal level. If you are a woman, do you want to be a mother? Are you also considering having a career? In the fight for gender equality, there is a place to start. It’s not a panacea for women’s equality in the workplace, but public childcare and maternity leave would start the healing process for a history of strife for working mothers while ensuring more opportunities for the next generation of women. The first step is legislative action. When looking at the laundry list of problems in American society, let’s cross “disregard of working women” off the list. And when we tell girls that they can achieve greatness – that they will have it all – let’s eliminate the tugging in our chest that tells us this is simply not true.

Pink Card, Blue Card by Samantha Florence


’m sorry,” the nurse said, “but we don’t have any boy blankets.” “Boy blankets?” I kept my voice neutral and polite. I was hoping for a medical explanation — that the hospital used different blankets designed for girls and boys because of specific anatomical needs. As a nursing student, I knew this was unlikely, but I didn’t want to assume that she was reinforcing a gender stereotype. “You know, boy colors.” “Boy colors?” “I mean blue and green. We only have pink stuff with princesses and hearts.” I followed her to the clean supply closet to grab a pacifier for the patient. When we could only find them in warm pastels, she apologized to the patient’s family: “Sorry, we’re out of the boy ones. I hope you don’t mind.” I didn’t offer an apology, but I didn’t continue the conversation. I wanted to ask her: What makes a “boy” color versus a “girl” color? Does the manner in which the human eye perceives light mean anything about the sex of a child? I’ve been fortunate to study within the University of Michigan Health System, which is very gender-inclusive, but I’ve shadowed and volunteered at hospitals that still sort sex by color. Some pediatric facilities use pink and blue cards on the doors to display the child’s surname. One birth center I visited has charting software that color-codes the patients using pink and blue newborn icons. Not only do these practices reinforce gender stereotypes, but they also leave no room for children of indeterminate sex or for those who possess both female and male biological characteristics. At an orientation for a different institution, a presenter explained the signage for isolation rooms. (When a patient has an isolation precaution sign posted on their door, it means that a certain kind of protective equipment must be worn in the room—a gown, gloves, or a breathing mask.) The presenter told us that the pediatric isolation signs came in “fun” colors. “We have pink isolation signs for girls,” she cheerfully informed us, “and blue ones for the boys. Just so there’s no confusion.” Actually, there’s plenty of confusion. As a volunteer and a student, it’s difficult to feel comfortable questioning professionals. This was an institution where I might have asked for mentorship, for references, and perhaps someday for a job. In an audience of thirty or so health care providers, I didn’t feel comfortable raising the issue. I had to weigh the consequences of protesting, and the risk of

condoning gender stereotyping seemed less imminent than the risk of being seen as unprofessional. A different example of gender roles enforced in the workplace came up in a recent conversation with a friend. He had interned in a governor’s office over the summer, and we were discussing the dress code in political settings. “Women wear heels in the capitol,” he said knowingly. “I’ve seen girls get sent home for not wearing heels to work.” “I wouldn’t,” I said. “I’d wear comfortable business flats. And if they tried to send me home, I’d refuse to leave.” Would I really dare? Many women choose to avoid expressing feminist sentiments in the workplace, fearing professional repercussions. The safe bet is to stay silent – to keep quiet until you reach a position where your voice is sure to be heard, to save your protests for a time when you’ve earned enough credibility. But my job is to advocate for my patients. Allowing them to be classified by stereotypes does them a disservice. It imposes assumptions about what they are expected to prefer and sets an early precedent for the roles they are expected to imitate. Remaining silent prevents me from doing my job. As a nurse, I won’t be expected to wear heels. But I will encounter institutionally accepted forms of sexism, such as color-coding. It’s unfortunate that I need to be concerned about compromising my career by raising concerns over a gender dispute. The effects of speaking up are insidious rather than overt. I’m afraid that bosses and managers will quietly decide that maybe I’m not the best candidate after all, that maybe they won’t give me opportunities they normally would have, that maybe I’m the type to make a mountain out of a molehill. Health care is all about being a team player. If I’m not perceived to be able to do that effectively, I won’t be mentored or promoted. It’s unacceptable for other industries to box people into color categories — entertainment, advertising, fashion — but it’s especially inappropriate for health care entities to do it. They should be committed to providing unbiased care to people of all anatomies and identities, but they have assimilated and perpetuated these stereotypes for the purpose of convenience. I may not be ready to lodge a formal complaint, but I’m prepared to start respectfully pushing back when nurses and families insist on gendered hues. “Boy colors?” I’ll say, and shrug. “The kid looks good in pink.” 15

WTF, PMS? by Brianne Johnson


n a 2012 broadcast of Bill O’Reilly’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” the Fox News anchor asked Marc Rudov, the misguided author of The Man’s No-Nonsense Guide to Women: How to Succeed in Romance on Planet Earth, to describe the potential disadvantages of a Hillary Clinton presidency. He responded, “You mean besides the PMS and the mood swings?” That’s right, Mr. Rudov: For five days each month, menstruators unfold their scaled wings and breathe fire down the backs of males who fail to spoon-feed us chunks of chocolate. For five days each month, we sprout warts along the bridges of our noses, casting spells and dirty looks like members of a bitch-witch coven. For five days each month, we strap ourselves in for a rollercoaster of emotions and clench our barf bags during inevitable convulsions and cramps. We are prisoners of our uteruses, destined to suffer the dreaded premenstrual syndrome. At least, that’s what the magazines, “chick flicks,” tampon advertisements, and hordes of bros tell us. But is PMS even real? According to recent research: maybe not. As author and State University of New York/ Geneseo Psychology Professor Margaret W. Matlin explains in her book, The Psychology of Women, without a set definition of PMS, researchers across the world have been unable to systematically measure or study women’s experiences with the supposed premenstrual phenomenon. After all, Matlin notes, a list of PMS symptoms can surpass 200. So how can one accurately diagnose PMS in a patient who reports consistent feelings of depression, irritability, and low energy during her menstrual cycle and the woman who lists acne, nausea, and dizziness? Can both women, neither of whom shares the same symptoms, be sufferers of PMS? Or is PMS the new “hysteria,” our twenty-first-century medical catch-all for every woman’s woe, ailment, and emotion? Between the condition’s vague and inconsistent symptoms, and with so many fingers pointed at PMS, how can we dispel myths and uncover the truth? Of course, to dismiss the emotional and physical symptoms of women’s menstrual cycles as merely something in our heads is to disregard many women’s genuinely distressful experiences. In her book, Matlin notes that 50 to 75 percent of high school- and collegeaged women report debilitating menstrual symptoms like nausea, fatigue, and cramps. While we often attribute them to the menstrual 16

cycle – a household name as common as Aunt Flo – the actual condition may be premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a series of recurrent, severe PMS symptoms, or dysmenorrhea, which refers to menstrual pain that prevents women from actively engaging in their lives during the days before their periods and throughout their menstrual cycle. But PMS itself may be a “culture-bound syndrome,” as argued in a 2013 study published by Professor Jane Ussher and Dr. Janette Perz of the Centre for Health Research School of Medicine. Ussher and Perz observed that in neither China nor India were there reports of PMS. Furthermore, after compiling the results of forty-one past studies that followed women’s moods throughout their menstrual cycle, the University of Toronto’s Dr. Gillian Einstein, found little concrete proof to offer believers of PMS, reporting “no clear evidence that premenstrual syndrome exists.” Instead, we’re encouraged to consider our culture as the culprit. Dr. Einstein suggests that “there are so many things going on in women’s lives that can have a distinct impact on their moods – stress, lack of social support, economic hardship, physical ailments . . . Looking at these factors is key to the concept of evidence-based medicine.” In fact, according to Matlin, only 5 to 10 percent of women reported “significant” symptoms of PMS. University of Otago’s Dr. Sarah Romans argues that the “PMS” that many women endure can be better described as a “long-established tendency to label women’s behavior as overly emotional and to attribute this to female reproductive function.” So maybe it’s not our anatomy and physiology that make us so gosh-darn pissy, as author Marc Rudov claimed of Hillary Clinton, but rather our cultural belief system, wherein the land of the free is apparently also the home of a bleeding, supposedly crazed, and systematically oppressed 50.8 percent of the population. But what if, for once, we divert the conversation from the inner workings of our reproductive systems? Why doesn’t Fox anchor Bill O’Reilly talk about the attribution of women’s emotions to sexist stereotypes and generalizations? Or the complete dismissal of women’s complex emotions and diverse realities? Or the crude assumption that our organs – and, more specifically, our menstrual cycles – dictate our ability to contribute to society in a meaningful and powerful way? PMSing or not, what’s “real” for many women, like Clinton, is the frustrating experience of being reduced to the function of her uterus. You tell us, Rudov – who wouldn’t be mad?

Dear Anti-Rape Wear by Hannah Gordon


f you haven’t been on the Internet lately, let me catch you up to speed. Indiegogo is a non-profit crowd funding company that allows people to raise money for any idea they may have. Recently, a new idea was sprung upon the users of the Internet in need of donations: anti-rape underwear. Catches your attention, doesn’t it? The idea behind the campaign is that women are vulnerable while out partying/walking home alone at night/living life in general, so let’s give them a pair of underwear that will protect them in the case of attempted rape. It’s not a bad idea in itself. According to the AR Wear campaign, their underwear is impenetrable by even the most determined rapists. The undergarment cannot be torn, cut, or pulled off. The creators of the garment themselves had the idea after hearing of a woman who was raped in a park in New York while people were nearby. Their thought was that if the perpetrator had been slowed down, then maybe people in the vicinity would have more time to stop the rape (all according to a NY Daily News article by Rheana Murray). The underwear is fastened in place by a lock that is only convenient for the wearer to unlock herself, and is nonetheless comfortable and flattering. And the webbing in the material itself prevents the garment from being shifted to the side. The creators, who haven’t given last names, are hoping to raise enough money to launch the production full-scale, and hope to some day expand to having plus sizes and even AR Wear for men. A lot of articles have covered the invention, all of them questioning not only the potential success of the project, but also the reliability. I’m no scientist, so I’m not sure how reliable the product is, but you have to tip your hats to the women who invented it. Like I said, it’s not a bad idea itself. But there’s a larger problem here than what underwear we have on. The real problem is rapists. And the real problem is the rape culture that can help create them. The sad thing is, rape culture is so prevalent in society that some of us don’t even bat an eye at it anymore. Even the comments sec18

tion of the NY Daily News displays the obvious permeation of rape culture in our society. One comment, in particular, from a woman, worried me. She questioned why women would put themselves into potentially dangerous situations, saying, “NONE of those scenarios should be happening, unless the woman is a total idiot!” Obviously this is an extreme case of victim blaming, but how angry can we be at this commenter when the product she’s questioning perpetuates this same idea? I’m sure the creators of AR Wear weren’t trying to victim blame. But when you make a line that is designed to protect women, or help them protect themselves, specifically against rape, it causes a problem. It’s the same with college orientation lessons that teach girls how to not get raped, instead of teaching young men* to not rape. AR Wear is also intended to protect girls from strangers at parties, or at night, or while traveling abroad. But non-strangers perpetrate 73 percent of rapes. Wearing this special underwear 24/7 shouldn’t be a requirement to ensure our safety. Anti-rape underwear isn’t going to fix the problem. It isn’t going to stop all rapes. It isn’t going to end victimblaming and shaming. It isn’t going to heal the wounds of rape victims. It’s just going to perpetuate the idea that women need to take more precautions if they don’t want to get raped. Soon it won’t be “How much was she drinking?” or “Well, what was she wearing?” Instead, it’ll be “Was she wearing her AR Wear?” The underwear will allegedly sell for $50-60 dollars. The problem isn’t our underwear. It’s rapists. We shouldn’t have to pay a fee to not get sexually assaulted. It’s our god damn right as human beings to have control over our bodies. And we need to teach to not rape, instead of throwing on a pair of underwear and hoping for the best. *I recognize that not all rapists are men. But in fact, men perpetrate 99 percent of rapes (via php), and my arguments are based on that fact.

She’s Not Like Other Girls… No, Really by Hannah Engler


’m impossible to forget, but I’m hard to remember,” says Claire Colburn, Kirsten Dunst’s character in the 2005 film Elizabethtown – the movie that sparked film critic Nathan Rabin to finally name a decades-old cinematic phenomenon. Rabin referred to Claire as a “manic pixie dream girl” – in his words, that “bubbly, shallow, cinematic creature that exists solely in the imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life.” Rabin’s comments typified the manic pixie dream girl, or MPDG, a revelation that comprised Elizabethtown’s sole contribution to the romance genre. Ultimately, the MPDG is a muse, a well of inspiration and support for a man’s intellectual or artistic endeavors. For example, in the movie Almost Famous, Kate Hudson’s Penny Lane has dedicated her life to the adoration of one man’s music career. A sort of anti-ingénue, the MPDG flickers in and out of the life of the male protagonist like a bird on a confused journey southward, spouting existential insights as her song. One of the defining attributes of the MPDG is her girlishness. The MPDG carries a light, ethereal quality that is helped by the fact that she seems to experience none of the mundanity of everyday life. It is difficult to imagine this woman paying taxes or rinsing a grimy coffeepot. The MPDG has no career or direction, if she is employed at all. Instead, like someone much younger, she lives her life in a period of transition. It is because of this transience that the MPDG holds infinite potential. She could be anything in the future: an artist, a traveler, a proprietor of her own vegan bakery. Where an

interesting and realistic character might be ambitious, the MPDG is amorphous – never boring, never busy, a vacation in the shape of a girl. What further isolates the MPDG from the rest of adult society is her total independence – she arrives onto the scene with no overbearing mother, no shrill-voiced friends, no outside relationships or commitments. Possibly her most important companion is a nameless cat, like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This particular brand of self-sufficiency is often downright unsettling. Abuse, trauma, tragedy – such details are thrown into the MPDG’s past in unfinished ways, used to haphazardly provide an explanation for her loneliness without taking up the depressing task of examining what effect these experiences have actually had on her. Furthermore, the MPDG is by nature a risk taker who experiments with drugs, alcohol, jumping off of cliffs – whatever moves her shy, uninteresting boyfriend to both protect her and, ironically, live his own life to the fullest. She is vulnerable (Cassie Ainsworth from the show Skins was defined by her eating disorder) if not in her own mind, in everyone else’s. This aspect of the MPDG is necessary and showcases one of Hollywood’s largest flaws when it comes to gender and film consumption: it is assumed that men cannot relate to female characters beyond the impulse to protect. Unlike the vapid sex objects of most commercial blockbusters, the MPDG crops up in media and is touted as being alternative. But media that features this type of character can be just as formulaic and certainly as problematic. The goal of her inception is not to create a complex woman or even a complex love interest. It’s okay that she has none of the responsibilities of the average woman – rather, it’s ideal. The most basic component of the manic pixie dream girl’s appeal is that she is nothing like other women. And this is a standard that is as damaging as size-zero damsels in distress. It is yet another subliminal message that life as a woman is a competition. Suddenly, it is not enough to be the prettiest, the sexiest, or the most nurturing: you must also stand out in the most unusual and inventive way. Unlike other women, the MPDG is beautiful and she listens to the Smiths. Unlike other women her age, the MPDG has no inner life that would distract from her crucial task of curing a man’s depression or disenchantment. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kate Winslet’s Clementine Kruczynski attempts to shed her MPDG identity: “Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s looking for my own peace of mind.” Where Clementine’s criticism fails – indeed, where the arguments praising MPDGs as multi-faceted are flawed – has to do with the use of these “fucked-up girls” solely as romantic resources. These movies allow women to be eccentric and complicated as long as they bring the novelist out of his writer’s block, or teach the cynic to have hope – and as long as, at the end of the movie, they disappear, leaving a changed man in their wake. 19

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Blind Women’s Visibility, Invisibility, and Encounters with The Gaze March 19, 2014 12–1 pm, 2239 Lane Hall

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Origin of the Word by Hailey Burns


t first, the term “lipstick lesbian” can seem entirely selfexplanatory; put simply, a lipstick lesbian is a lesbian who wears lipstick. Santana from Glee and Portia de Rossi (Ellen’s wife), for example, are commonly called lipstick lesbians. Although the label seems fairly straightforward, it is associated with a myriad of stereotypes. Where did this phrase come from, and why does it come with so much baggage? To start, let’s look at the first part of the term: “lesbian.” The word lesbian is derived from the name of a Greek island called Lesbos. Before the late 1800s, the word lesbian was used to describe anything that came from this island. Just like Greeks were people from Greece, Lesbians were people from Lesbos. (By the way, Lesbian wine is a thing.) More recently, the word lesbian has taken on a different meaning. According to a number of ancient writings, a female poet named Sappho lived on Lesbos in the sixth century B.C.E. Sappho wrote poetry to men and women alike, but she is most famous for her poetry to the young women of Lesbos, in which she describes women as beautiful and declares her undying love for them. Over time, the island of Lesbos became associated with Sappho’s poetic depictions of her desires for women. In the late nineteenth century, doctors and psychologists began using the term “lesbian” to describe a woman who was in a sexual relationship with another woman. As the medical field advanced and more people began studying human desires and behaviors, the term lesbian became more widely used. In the early 1900s, sexologists referred to heterosexual relationships as “normal,” while lesbians were categorized as mentally ill females who veered from the “perfect sexual type.” Up until this point, there was no real concept of a lesbian relation- ship. As


our understanding of human sexuality deepened and second wave feminism took hold, the definition of the word lesbian expanded as well. Even though, by definition, a lesbian relationship is a relationship between two women, people began attempting to fit lesbians into their understanding of traditional gender roles. Many tried to identify if a lesbian was the “man” or the “woman” in her relationships – which, unfortunately, people still try to do today. (Mae Martin, one of my favorite comedians, joked that asking a lesbian who the “man” is in her relationship is as ridiculous as asking a vegetarian which part of their salad represents the pork chop.) People also began to use labels like “butch,” “dyke,” “femme,” and “lipstick lesbian” in an attempt to categorize lesbians as either feminine or masculine. “Lipstick lesbian” became a common term in San Francisco in the early 1980s. In 1982, a journalist named Priscilla Rhoades wrote a story called “Lesbians for Lipstick” in The Sentinel, an LGBT newspaper. In 1990, a group of women formed the Lesbian Ladies Society, which was a social group of “lipstick lesbians” that required women to wear skirts and dresses to their events. In 2010, an artist named Natalie McCray actually designed a lipstick lesbian pride flag, which – like the gay pride flag – has seven stripes of color. Instead of rainbow colors, the flag features shades of red and purple and a pair of lips in the upper left corner, which are meant to symbolize femininity. Ellen DeGeneres further popularized the term in a 1997 episode of Ellen, in which she explains the term “lipstick lesbian” to her parents and jokes that she is more of a “chapstick lesbian.” A lipstick lesbian is seen as the so-called “woman” in a lesbian relationship. If you Google “lipstick lesbians,” you’ll come across descriptions like “a woman who loves other women, but who also loves her

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Scandal in Su the Hidden burbia: Lesbian W ives, or Threat to th ily in Post war Amer e Nuclear Famica March 26 , 2014 12-1 pm, 2239 Lan e Hall

clothes and makeup and shoes,” “the hardest lesbian to detect,” or “a straight-looking lesbian.” (?!?!?!) A stereotypical lipstick lesbian is pretty, fashionable, and girly. The lipstick lesbian label was popularized to describe women who didn’t fit the “lesbian” stereotype; in other words, lipstick lesbians are seen as the opposite of what you would “expect” a lesbian to look like. To make matters even worse, many seem to believe that these so-called lipstick lesbians aren’t actually “real” lesbians – they’re merely pretending to be lesbians or they are going through some kind of passing phase. In the UK, the phrase is used to describe straight women who publicly engage in sexual behavior with other women for attention or shock value. The kiss between Madonna and Britney Spears at the 2003 MTV Video Awards, for example, is seen as the kind of stunt that lipstick lesbians commonly pull. In the United States, many people who are described as lipstick lesbians say that the label undermines their sexuality, and they often feel added pressure to “prove” that they are actually lesbians. In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve been using air quotes and rolling my eyes the entire time I’ve tried to explain what the lipstick lesbian label is supposed to mean. In reality, lesbians – just like any other group of humans – come in all shapes and sizes, and these labels are both arcane and unnecessary. People began stereotyping lesbians as manly, short-haired, sports-loving, flannel-wearing women, and when they realized that there were lesbians that didn’t fit this

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description (duh!), they started using terms like “lipstick lesbian” and “femme” to fill in the gaps of their shortsighted, inaccurate, and limited lesbian stereotype. Blogger Jincey Lumpkin explained her frustration with the term “lipstick lesbian,” arguing that the term only exists because “straight people (men in particular) can’t seem to grasp the concept that a lesbian can be girlie-looking.” Unfortunately, shedding these labels can be difficult. While some lesbians accuse people who use these terms of furthering lesbian stereotyping, others embrace the term “lipstick lesbian” and wear the label like a badge of honor. Even I have been guilty of trying to fit my fellow lesbians – and myself – into these kinds of categories. At the end of the day, labels like “lipstick lesbian” are counterproductive; they pigeonhole lesbians into a few specific, one-dimensional stereotypes that are as backwards and offensive as they are inaccurate. Descriptors like “lipstick lesbian” are attempts to fit women into a set of outdated, heterosexual gender roles, and we should erase them from our vocabulary. 21

Ivana Happycooch

Now You See Her by Anonymous


his is the story of my best friend Mel. I have a vivid memory of sitting with her on the dock at her lake house last summer, calves splashing in the water, hers tiny next to mine. “Wouldn’t you be happier, Sam,” she said, “if you were a couple sizes smaller?” But let’s fast-forward. Yesterday, I went up to an acquaintance named Asha who I hadn’t seen in a few months. I smiled and said, “Hey, how’s it going?” She gave me an up-down look and blinked. “You lost a ton of weight.” Not, “Hello.” Not, “Good to see you.” Asha believed she was giving me such a high compliment that I would not be offended if she substituted it for a greeting. I could have reacted in a few different ways: Option 1: “Thanks.” I’d smile uncomfortably and fidget. Her words were meant to be flattering, but they frustrated me. How dare she comment on my appearance, dispensing her approval or disapproval of what I look like? Option 2: “Yep. That happened.” Treat it like a simple statement of fact. Don’t give it more significance than it deserves. Option 3: “What?! Seriously?” I’d look around theatrically, pat my hips in a wideeyed panic. “Not again. I just keep leaving my weight around and forgetting where I put it. Third time this week…” There was a time when I would have considered it a compliment. I’ve been overweight for most of my life, until recently. Once I started doing cardio and consuming only whole foods, my flesh receded like the tide, revealing collar bones, knuckles, elbows. I ran my first half-marathon. Friends, acquaintances, and employers started to notice. “Good for you,” they say. “You look great,” they say. “Wow,” they say, “what’s your secret?” Shame, I want to tell them. That’s the secret. Shhh. And I started thinking about it. All this weight we’re carrying around. In our minds. On our brains. I’ve got cerebral cellulite dripping out my ears. Remember Cinderella: the girl must fit the shoe. Many of the things I do are attempts to make myself smaller. Mel and I have known each other since we were kids. We grew up in the same hometown, went to the same public schools, continued on to college together. She was always trim and athletic, but in the past few months, she has lost a drastic amount of weight, including muscle. Mel, who is 5’4’’, can’t stand to lose anything more. I sat across from her at one uncomfortable family brunch when her mom interrupted the conversation to ask, “Are you eating 22

enough?” Her parents are hesitant to address the issue, critical of her eating habits without offering support, reluctant to believe that their daughter has a problem. Mel’s confidence is bolstered by their compliments about her figure and crushed by their remarks about the speed of her eating or the size of her portions of cantaloupe. Strange, how we swing between euphoria and dysmorphia. Mel tells me all the time about the things she’s not eating. “I did this cookie decorating activity today,” she said. “I mean, I didn’t have any. That’s gross.” There was a time when it was difficult for me to eat in front of Mel. I would gauge her reaction to my choices, my portions. I’ve had many meals with one of my closest guy friends, Tom, and his brother, watching them eat tater tots and chili cheese fries while I crunch on my salad.

Ivana Happycooch is an anonymous outlet for anyone to tell their story. If you have an experience you would like to share, without having to let everyone on campus know your identity, please send an email to

“Come on,” he said, “what’s the big deal?” You don’t understand, I wanted to tell him. The world has so much more room in it for you. I don’t comment on Mel’s weight. When I give her compliments, I’m careful to praise her achievements – triumph over a difficult exam, or kindness to a peer. Not the way her profile has sharpened and the bones of her wrists stand out, becoming more visible on her way to being invisible. My best friend is hollowing herself out in front of me. The Amazing Shrinking Woman! Like the magician’s assistant in a disappearing act: Now you see her, now you don’t. “It’s surprising how little you actually have to eat,” she said, “to stay alive.” Because we women have less power in the world than men, we’re searching for something to control. We focus on our bodies because

it seems like the most basic thing that should be ours to command. Mel has several risk factors for anorexia: young, female, high-achieving, upper-middle class. Her friends admire her thinness and ask her for weight loss tips, further enabling her habits. As a future nurse, I know that controlling weight reduces the risk for many diseases. A balanced diet rich in whole foods has been proven to contribute to longevity. There are ways that women can think about this in a productive, healthful manner rather than policing each other or passing on a legacy of shame and guilt. I recommend eating mindfully and being physically active, but not to fit into a dress or to impress a date. Focus on what your body does instead of how it’s perceived. This is the story of how, even as I give this advice, I’m planning ways to eat less today than I did yesterday. So what to tell Mel? “I think you’re beautiful,” I said one day. “And I hope you understand that I use the word differently than other people do. Whatever you look like, you’re always going to be my beautiful best friend. You are smart, and kind, and loyal.” I pulled her in for a hug. And when I pulled away, Mel was crying. “I’m going to make a deal with you,” I said as she wiped her eyes. “You’re not in a scary place yet. But if I ever sit in front of you and say, ‘This is scaring me,’ you will trust me enough to do something about it, even if you can’t see the problem in the mirror.” And she agreed. I know that one conversation can’t counter a lifetime of negative thoughts, for Mel as well as for myself. Last spring, a guy I was interested in decided to start seeing another girl despite having told me that he didn’t want to date anyone when I asked him out. My initial reaction was to be angry at myself – I wasn’t attractive enough, and I lost him. It made me feel that if I ever let myself go again, I would lose the people I care about. Mel thinks she’s supporting me by encouraging me to lose weight. I remember her in profile, sitting on the dock, looking out at the water. “I just—I’m trying to help you, Sam.” This is the story of how angry I am that I feel inadequate in my own body. I’m tired of believing that I don’t deserve the things I want. I’m struggling to articulate this to Mel: Don’t wage this war on yourself. Don’t hold yourself hostage like that. If you play this game, the only way to win is to disappear. Now you see her. Someday, you won’t. 23

Asking For It by Anonymous


fter it happened, it took an entire day to realize that you had taken something from me that wasn’t yours to take. I had a crush on my rapist. I liked you from the moment I met you, with your grungy hair hidden under a hat and the way you’d stumble into class on Friday with a voice graveled by alcohol. You were smart, handsome, cultured, and into Orwell. Those were the things that mattered to me. I went on a date with my rapist. I’m buying, you said, reaching over the counter to hand your card to the barista behind the bar. My hand released from my wallet that I was clutching in my pocket – I didn’t know if it was a date, I was nervous, I was excited. We spoke quietly in the corner and shared poetry and prose over steaming hot tea. You touched my foot with yours under the table, and I knew it might be an accident but I didn’t care, letting it linger there. I kissed my rapist goodnight. The next time I saw you, you showed up on the dance floor of a house party, grabbed me by my ass, and pulled my body onto you too hard, too harshly. I escaped your arms but not for long, stumbling champagne drunk up a set of stairs to the sound of a bass shaking windows, swinging elaborate glass chandeliers. “You were drunk?” they’d say. “What did you expect?” When you found me, you pushed me against a wall. Come home with me, you slurred, words falling sickly into my ear, and I breathed in your alcohol-stained breath as you bit my lip a little too hard. I agreed to go home with my rapist that night. As we trudged through the snow, I explained to you why I didn’t want to have sex. I like you, I said, too much to waste the first time on a drunken, sloppy night like this one. I want to remember it. You laughed. We’ll make pancakes in the morning, you said. It was memorable, wasn’t it? I took off my dress and wore my underwear to bed. “You were asking for it.” The second you slid yourself inside of me was the precise moment I crawled out of my own skin, left my body to you, and sat shrunken in the corner watching as you


fucked me. I opened my mouth to say no a thousand times like a fish drowning on air but I couldn’t. I didn’t want this, I thought. I didn’t want this I didn’t want this. I played along. You feel so big, the corpse of my body told you. I played along because if I said stop, if you got angry, if I told you no, if I said to stop, if I yelled stop, if I begged you just to stop... I didn’t say stop. “You were asking for it.” Once you finished, you collapsed on the bed beside me, one sweat-stained arm draped over my back in feigned affection. I waited for you to fall asleep, listening as your breath slowed into a snore. I should have left but I stayed. I fell asleep curled into a ball in the corner of the bed, hoping that if I was small enough, still enough, I might disappear. I didn’t. I woke up to your hands gripping the sides of my hips, pulling me closer to you so I could feel you hard against my back, an assailant holding me at gunpoint. I froze. I closed my eyes while you fucked me again. This time I didn’t try to speak. “You were asking for it.” He made me pancakes in the morning. I didn’t let anyone touch me for months. I still don’t know if he used a condom. The next night as I drifted off to sleep, I felt his hands on me, felt the gun at my back. I opened my mouth to scream but nothing came out. “You were asking for it.” I went to seek some sort of guidance. “This happens all the time,” they said as though a statistic would hold me during the nights as I fall asleep, wake up, fall asleep, wake up, over and over again, each time feeling those hands dragging me back down into the bed. “It happens all the time,” as though that could explain to my boyfriend why sometimes I am paralyzed during sex and need my body to be my own again. “You’re not alone,” like knowing that I’m not riding down this river on a sinking raft by myself, that I’m accompanied by my roommate, my neighbor, my friends, my cousins, my siblings, women upon women on a sinking ship that gets heavier with each and every “me too,” should comfort me. There is no comfort in inequality – only silenced voices. We were not asking for it.


Surviving Me //since// Surviving You [Anonymously written, anonymously experienced.] * Trigger warning for dating violence *

My mouth can’t remember how to smile right, but it can tell it’s doing it wrong. People look at me and instinctively try to take me between their arms, chest-tochest, face to face, holding tight, mashing flesh and forms together, let’s hug. They crave for me to emotionally purge at them. I instinctively tense as invaders mine me. I still can’t read the shivers that wrack my body. And when I sleep, I see your name permanently markered over my veins. Suspicious truths wind around the creases of my mind like the curves in my brown hair, like the curves of my mighty chest, like the curves of my bruised lip, like the curves in this weary story, and all I can think is: “But I’m queer.” Routines, methodic, like hoisting my body out of bed, fixing my melted face to be perky, walking anywhere, breathing everywhere, are work. I can’t tell if I’m having a heart attack at any given moment. And I realize I’ve been holding my own hand for a while now. Life isn’t fair, isn’t fair, isn’t fair, isn’t fair, isn’t...fair. For if it was fair, then everyone and no one would understand me when I speak about you. It’s done, the answer is easy now, you don’t have to be upset anymore. But if that were true, my “but”s would be “But of course”s, and my “How did this happen?”s would be “How did this not happen sooner?”s. I still breathe you in when I wake up in the morning, and I struggle to breatheyou out when I finally remember. All I know is I save a seat at the table, my best stories, my realest smiles, for you. I pretend you’ll be coming back tomorrow… And I lock the door twice when I go to sleep. [Recovering.]


Bad Girls by Margaret Hitch

I The only girl who likes weed in Marinette county knows how exciting it can be to be out and about with boys after1:00. The car is parked in the driveway, and in the backseat, she is twittering the emoticons of stars. She takes the boys out to the country over twenty miles of gravel roads, to her father’s second house— an empty log cabin; a field for an unbought horse. Lit, by her high beams in a forest made of darkness, the boys fill the air with whooping. For a moment, their hair is covered. They pull off their cotton shirts and laugh maniacally at each other. She waits at the car’s door, watching across a giant man-made pond surrounded by monstrous light fixtures— the type that gleam across the field on Friday nights. It is so humid that it looks like it is snowin The best part of the night is when she and the boys jump in. There is no one around for miles.

II I am hypnotized as they pass; these sly creatures of the wild. Two ninth-grade girls wearing berets and smoking cigarettes, decide to be bad today. They traipse through backyards and basic cable TV. They tell their teachers that they already know everything, and maybe they do. They demand anarchy and the world opens up at their fingertips; fair nymphs at the swamp’s edge, I vow to give all my small faith to them, in prayer.


Sources Cover,

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Illustration by Margaret Hitch

Photo by Grace Ludmer

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Illustrations by Grace Ludmer

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Ann Arbor. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <>. LLC, New York. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. < glennllopis/2011/07/11/4-ways-to-regain-control-ofyour-identity-in-the-workplace/>. Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <http://literatibookstore.files.wordpress. com/2013/12/literatisign.jpg>. Lauren Jae Gutterman. Web. 27 Feb. 2014. <http://>. Pisarro, Camille. Women and Child at the Well. Photo by Essie Sharchar-hill Layout by HaeJee Yoon

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Illustration by Eliza Cadoux

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Illustrations and layout by HaeJee Yoon

Illustration by Edith Zhang

Illustration by Sarah Schwendeman Layout by HaeJee Yoon

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Illustration and layout by Margaret Hitch

Sponsors Newberry/Barbour Multicultural Council Residence Halls Assoication Abeng Multicultural Council University of Michigan Hillel

Illustration by Grace Ludmer

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Issue 6