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by: Gretchen Neal/Editor-in-Chief

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On story-topping and invalidating feeling

April 2014

It never fails; you have had a bad day and you are venting about it, until someone – it does not matter who – interjects and tells you that there are worse things that could happen. Maybe someone will tell you to stop whining, or that you are blowing something out of proportion. Or, they might even say something like “You think that’s bad? You should hear about this thing that I totally think is worse that happened to me!” (I like to call that last bunch “story-toppers.”) Resist the urge to take a cheese grater to their face, dear reader, and listen to this advice instead: take a deep breath, know that your feelings about your bad day are valid and complain to someone who is less of a piece of shit.

I know we have all story-topped before. More than once, we have all told a crying friend “It could be worse.” Here is what is problematic with those approaches: they make the person who is suffering feel like they are not allowed to feel that way, and they do not actually help.

Let me share something personal: I went to lunch with my mother last week and told her that I am angry over my boyfriend’s deployment. Her words of advice to me were to “just stop being angry.” She reasoned that if there is nothing I can do about it, and if it was not his choice, then I should not be angry. Although this makes logical sense, it did not actually make me feel any better – just because you tell someone to stop being sad, does not mean that the person will just snap right out of their case of blues and thank you tremendously for curing them. Trying to shut down my emotions was trying to tell me I was wrong for feeling them, nevermind how powerless, concerned and hurt I might feel.

I have seen similar situations about everything from who had the worst parents to someone telling a friend “I know you’re having a panic attack, but it honestly can’t be that bad, and you’re probably over-reacting.” Even if a friend is screaming at a rock and then hysterically crying, you should probably ask them what is wrong before explaining how you have way worse relationships with rocks, or telling them that they are over-reacting by breaking down in front of this slab of sediment.

You should not invalidate people’s feelings. This seems like it would be common sense, but it somehow it still slips the minds of almost everyone.  Even if something seems ridiculous to be upset over, refrain from using bad advice like “Get over it,” and do not try to make it about yourself by comparing it to something that has happened to you. If you are not the person who is upset, realize that you could have no way of experiencing how they feel in their unique situation – and that, even if you somehow could, not everyone copes the same way you do. Consider that everyone is different in tolerance levels, stress management and personal problems.

The best thing to do for upset people is to offer to listen to them. Maybe you could offer to do small things for them, like take them out to eat or pick up their laundry. Feel free to give advice, but only when you are asked to. Comforting someone is not the issue; just make sure you do so correctly and without making anyone feel worse about themselves when they are already in an emotionally-compromised state. Most importantly, remember that we are all human, and even if someone is having a meltdown and will feel better in the morning, they are allowed to have that meltdown – because humans are weird imperfect beings who will occasionally lose their shit, and that is okay.


Dissecting the “friendzone”

March 2014

feat. Lucas Thomas

G: “I don’t understand girls! They whine about wanting to date a nice guy, but they only go for the jerks! I’m a nice guy! Every time I meet a girl, I’m friendzoned!”

If the above quote does not sound familiar, consider yourself incredibly lucky. We are not entirely sure where it started, but somehow this horrible trend crawled up from somewhere dark and desolate and started spewing its bile all over unsuspecting victims: girls who had been sought after, and had rejected advances.

L:  Being a nice guy should not be looked down upon.  Yet the nice guys are usually the ones that view it as being bad.  If you are a true nice guy then you should keep doing what you are doing.  If you get friendzoned, do not view it as a bad thing.  It may not be what you were looking for but it does not make you any less of a person.

G: Not only that, but do not belittle someone simply because they are not interested in you. Chasing after someone, getting rejected and then turning around and whining because you are not going to be able to expect a relationship out of that person makes you sound like – well – less than a nice guy. If you were truly a nice person, you would not be simply acting nice to receive a reward in the end. And if the “friendzone” is such a horrible place to be in your eyes, then maybe you don’t even deserve that interaction.

You tried hard to get the girl, and it did not work out. We are sorry for your loss of effort, but this is not Hollywood. If you cannot handle rejection, then the least you could do is keep it to yourself and try to move on. Not only is throwing around phrases like “friendzoned” annoying, but it also implies that the girl owed you something just because you treated her like a decent human being.

L:  Chivalry does not need to become a thing of the past.  If you are interested in someone continue being nice but make sure you do not delay “making your move.” The easiest way to miss your opportunity is to miss the right time.  People are not mind readers and most girls can not tell that a nice guy is interested in them, because they are nice to everyone.

Being a nice guy gets easier with time.  When people age they look for different characteristics in a partner.  Nice guys finish last, but at least they finish.

G: Keep in mind that what Lucas is talking about is actual nice guys. If you are one of those guys who pretends to be nice because you might get something out of it, my only advice for you is to cut that shit out.

You cannot control who someone is interested in, so even if you have invested a lot in someone, there is not anything you can do to change their interest, and the best thing to do is accept that fact. What did you want them to do? Pretend to want to be romantically involved and then hurt you further? You need to stop acting like being nice is something that is going to award you romantic partners. These people are not door prizes; they are sentient human beings who cannot help it if they are not attracted to you.  That is not to say that you should not be nice – on the contrary, you should. You should be nice because you want to be nice, not because you have an ulterior motive.



February 2014

Every student can relate to a time when they were not feeling mentally well. Perhaps it was the night before the math final, spent with coffee that only increases heart rate, rather than increasing focus. Maybe it was the time a family member passed and there was no time between the funeral, tending to broken-hearted family members and picking yourself off of the ground to complete the paper due in a matter of days. It could be the week straight in which you just found absolutely no motivation to get out of bed.

Most professors are great about ensuring that their students are given ample recovery time after a severe physical sickness, and a vast majority of them will open the first day of classes with the phrase “If you have any problems at home, you can come talk to me about it.” But do our teachers have a good understanding of what it really means to be mentally well? More importantly, are they informed of the consequences of ignorance, if they should act on it?

Some teachers try to do what is best for their students – and I understand they have to follow guidelines, strict quotas for assignments and deadlines. Yet some teachers are painfully oblivious.

Last semester, a teacher nearly failed a friend of mine after he missed a week of class for his grandfather’s funeral.

This friend was taking care of his unstable mother and trying not to be fired from his job at the same time, but this teacher saw it fit to add to the pile of stress a failing grade. My friend had previously let her know that there was a tragedy in his family, and was still receiving an F. I just recently joined a class in which the introduction assignment required students to touch each other – something that not all students are comfortable with – myself included. Another friend of mine was subjected to such harassment by a teacher when she was assigned a reading revolving around a man who kills himself with a bullet to the head and references to the main character’s sister doing the same – all the while having full knowledge that my friends’ sister had recently committed suicide in the same manner.

I have seen teachers inadvertently make students cry by bringing up painful memories, and then half-ass an apology afterwards. It is common knowledge that you cannot possibly know the entirety of what a person has experienced; while it is acceptable to occasionally slip up and then sincerely apologize, it is obnoxious to refuse to admit that you might have done something wrong and continue to behave that way.

I have met numerous people who have said that they will teach their children that mental health is more important than grades – that they refuse to put someone else through the same shaky-handed, hysterical, miserable nights that they have had to go though. You would not force someone with a broken arm to do a pull-up using that arm, so why should students in the middle of say, anxiety attacks, be expected to perform at their best?

So what should teachers do? If you are a teacher concerned you may have been emotionally insensitive, try first to educate yourself. Look up words like “triggers” and “stressors,” and know not to use anything that could trigger a student in the classroom.

For teachers that are stuck by regulations that require so many assignments before the end of the semester, just try to be understanding. Offer your listening abilities to students that may need someone to talk to. You cannot solve all of their problems, but you can make things less miserable.

With a little help, we can be rid of the stigma that college can only destroy you. A little consideration goes a long way.


The concept of virginity

December 2013/January 2014

The holiday season is approaching just as strongly as it does every year. The department stores and grocery stores have lined their aisles with toys, sweaters and gift wrap, the malls have been playing Christmas carols for the past month and Peterson Park has erected their display of lights along with the Nativity scene, where a virgin mother will cradle an immaculately created infant.

The Nativity story is one that plenty of girls and boys in this country have grown up around, and it is one of the first mentions of magical virginal women in literature. This common trope of virginity equating purity can also be seen in other lore, such as unicorn stories wherein the mythical creature only picks the purest of girls for companionship.

In biblical times, women were treated as property, and could be killed or sold into slavery or prostitution if they were suspected to have slept with someone before marriage. Women were traded for prizes by their fathers, and the virgins were more valuable.

We still see remnants of this kind of thinking today. Virginity is such a stupid thing to put worth into, but we see society preaching that if you are a boy and a virgin, you are a loser, and if you are a girl and you are not a virgin, you are a “slut.” There are boys and girls who believe that they are somehow better or worse than other human beings depending on whether or not they have been penetrated/penetrated someone.

Take, for example, someone moms love to over-glorify: Taylor Swift. She has a tendency to thread virgin worship into her songs. In her song “Fifteen,” she uses the line “And Abigail gave it all away to a boy who changed his mind.” It is unfortunate that Abigail’s boyfriend left her, but the demeaning part of this lyric is that Taylor specified that Abigail’s virginity was everything she could give this guy – the utmost reward for wooing her. It was not her love, dedication or loyalty; it was her virginity. Swift also incorporates other subtle types of virgin worship into her videos, in which the “villain” (usually the girlfriend of the guy Swift is crushing on) is depicted wearing red while Swift shows up in a flow-y white dress, as a symbol for purity, and steals away the guy. You can find countless other pieces of Swifts songs slut-shaming and adapting a “mightier-than-thou” tone because of her virginal status. Worst of all, she is seen as a good role model for young girls, who are going to grow up thinking that after they have lost their virginity, they have lost their worth as a person.

Not only is virgin worship oppressive to women and men, but it also makes rape victims out to be diminished human beings. In biblical times, rapists, when caught, were forced to buy their victims from the victim’s fathers, almost like compensating for stealing goods. Furthermore, virgin worship is not inclusive to all people. Since the loss of virginity seems to be defined by vaginal penetration, people having sex with the same gender are left out of the equation.

Losing your virginity will not make you any more or less of a person. Keeping your virginity will not make you more or less of a person. We need to stop treating virginity as if it is some type of precious, non-refundable present that girls only get to share once – with their soulmate and only their soulmate for it to be acceptable – or as some god-awful disease that boys need to be rid of before the age of sixteen.

So, the next time you are about to say something to the effect of “Teenagers get more upset over losing their cell phones than losing their virginity these days,” remember that cell phones are not an outdated idea fabricated to oppress everyone.


Tolerance, tolerance all around!

November 2013

Imagine working in an office space where an over-zealous co-worker constantly urges you to attend their church services and lectures you on the importance of being “saved,” although they know that you do not associate with any religion. Then imagine returning home to a defiantly stubborn roommate who lectures you on the evils of organized religion, and informs you with joy that an article on claims that in fifty years, the religious will be looked at as a mental illness. You swing from one extreme to the other, every day, and it drives you insane because you know that neither one of them are right in their pushiness.
If there is one tragic fault that humans fail to see every day, it is that no one person is better than the other for their beliefs and opinions. Something nearly everyone fails to realize is that some of the most popular beliefs were created out of a complete misunderstanding or flat-out lack of regard for others. If you think people with religious affiliations are stupid for believing in what they do, you have obviously never considered their reasons for believing in it. You do not know if they witnessed something that made them believe in a particular religion. Worse yet, you probably have not considered that maybe they depend on that religion to give them some sense of hope or belonging, and who are you to tell them that they are wrong for that? If you are the over-zealous person in this situation, you need to also realize that the differently-opinioned friends of yours have their reasons for believing what they do as well. I would like for you to forget whatever mission you were sent on by your church group to “save” your friends, and respectfully not ask them ten more times to come to church with you after they have first declined. Think of how many holy wars we could have prevented had we all had this attitude.
This issue does not simply revolve around religious debates, however. Pop culture also has a way of telling the public what to believe in. Maybe you have heard of the program popular in grade schools, DARE? DARE is not necessarily a bad program, but it is a little extreme. Most people are fully aware of the adverse effects of heavy drugs, and it is widely known that these drugs should not be tampered with. It also, however, gives a bad name to recreational smokers (of tobacco) and makes them a negative social stigma. If you know someone who smokes, you should not look down on them for what they are doing to their body, because it is their body, and not yours. They are fully aware of the effects tobacco has on their body. This is 2013, not the 1920s, and chances are, your friend has been through the same DARE seminars and scare tactics that you have been through. If your friend wants to quit, you should, of course, support them. If your friend does not want to, your methods of convincing them were not going to work very well, anyway. This is, of course, if the smoking is not affecting you. If you are a severe asthmatic or sensitive to cigarette smoke, let your smoking friends know that you do not appreciate them smoking around you, and they will hopefully go elsewhere to enjoy their habit. If they do not leave before smoking, then they are the inconsiderate ones, and you henceforth have the right to take their cigarette out of their mouth and yell at them.
Another good example of something that is not socially acceptable, but needs to be surrounded by more tolerance, is body modification. This is, again, something that a vast majority of people do not agree with – and is also something that does not necessarily affect the person offended. I cannot count how many times I have seen someone insert their unwanted opinion into a conversation about body mods. “Belly button rings are gross, I do not see why anyone would get them,” whines the person who is passing by the girl who has finally mustered up the courage to get the piercing she has always wanted. “Tongue rings are so unattractive, and they can get infected!” says the person that does not understand the appeal. Guess what? It is not your body, and therefore not your choice to make. Do you think tattoos are stupid? Cool! Do not get one, then. Do you think that cutting your hair really short if you are a girl or leaving it really long if you are a boy is weird? Do not do those things, then. What you cannot control and therefore should not worry about is what other people choose to do with their bodies, especially when it is something so minor that it will not even affect their health. If it offends you to look at someone who enjoys body modifications, then look away. Do not bring it up to them as if it were any of your business to begin with.
There are too many stories of unnecessarily hate in the face of those who believe or behave differently. In our society, it is socially acceptable to fat-shame, to slut-shame, to shame about sexual orientation, to shame for mental illnesses or other impairments and to shame for having or not having a religion. We need to universally agree that shaming anyone for something like these examples is an unacceptable thing to do. We could avoid so much confrontation if we only practiced more tolerance towards the differences of others. We need to stop being so cruel toward each other. We could save friendships. We could stop wars. We possess the power to change this, and we should change it – because we deserve so much better than mindless hate.


“Blurred Lines” of consent

October 2013

You have, no doubt, heard the increasingly popular song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. After all, it had held the top slot of Billboard’s Hot 100 for 12 weeks in a row. If you have not yet heard this song, do not bother to look it up; the catchiness is not worth the horrible message it sends, and if you watch the music video at work, you will most definitely be fired.

You see, this particular summer hit objectifies women in its video and crosses into risky territory with its lyrics about the “blurred lines” of consent. Some may think that the lyrics are only addressing the difficulties of chasing after a girl who is “playing hard to get.” These people need a little lesson in what consent is.

Consent is a touchy subject. For sex to completely consensual, both participants should be sober and use clear, vocalized consent, such as “Yes, I would like to enjoy some intercourse with you tonight, if you are willing to as well.” Thicke’s lyrics do not fully support this idea, however. Some lines, such as the repeated “I know you want it,” “The way you grab me, must wanna get nasty,” and the line “Can’t let it get past me.” There is one more line that Thicke sings that is not clear in meaning: “Do you like it hurt, like it hurt? But you don’t like work,” and another rapped by T.I. that says “I’ll give you something big enough to tear that ass in two,” that seem to be glorifying sexual violence, which often accompanies rape. Do not forget T.I.’s line about how the girl-in-question’s ex- boyfriend would not be a proper gentleman and spank her or pull her hair.

Consent, however, does not appear to be the only concept that Thicke does not understand; he does not seem to know what respect is, either. The lyrics that are not implying rape go on to objectify women. Several of the lyrics are suitable only for animals, including repeatedly singing “You’re a good girl,” and talking about how another boy was trying to “domesticate” said girl. He also sings the line “You’re far from plastic,” which is a little bit hypocritical, considering all of the pressure put on girls by the media to be ideally attractive. T.I. talks of doggy-style sex, and then refers to women as “bitches.”

And then there is the music video. Let this be a warning to all: do not watch that video with children in the room, or while at work. The video features all three “artists” wearing classy apparel (excluding Pharrell Williams, who is in a shiny tracksuit, for some reason). The men are surrounded by three women, wearing nothing but shoes and skin-colored thongs – who are still practically naked, even in the rated version. There are various nonsensical happenings in the video – one girl pedaling a stationary bike, one girl hold a live lamb, another girl letting T.I. brush her hair and, in another shot, laying down with a tiny stop sign stuck to her butt – but there is offensive material, as well. At one point, Thicke chases after one girl who is dancing by. At another point, he tracks down another girl and, while she bends over, motions towards her with some long object (I think it might have been a javelin, but I am not quite sure, and I have no interest in giving the video any more views than it already has just to find out). Thicke blows smoke into the face of the woman who lights his cigarette. One woman mouths “Meow” while he sings about liberating women from other “domesticating” men, and another model humps a stuffed dog. And throughout the video – even in the scene where Thicke holds up a girl’s legs to make it seem as if they are enjoying some probably-not-completely-consensual sex – all of the men remain fully clothed, further playing into the video’s repeated theme of men are civilized human beings and women being animals. Also, the

disgusting way all of the men ogle the women makes me so uncomfortable and angry that I literally want to dropkick a kitten into traffic.

When Robin Thicke addressed the issue of how demeaning the video was, he told interviewers at CG that he understood the video was degrading to women, and that it was a fun video to shoot because he doesn’t normally get the opportunity to objectify women. Let me clarify something: he said he does not “get” to objectify women, as if it’s some type of privilege to treat another human being like a piece of dirt. Even the creators of the song’s parodies (some of which were men) were disturbed by the implications of the video, and the feminist part of the internet practically exploded into a fiery ball of rage when the feminist parody (which concealed everyone’s body more appropriately than the original “Blurred Lines” video) was taken off of YouTube for “explicit content.” The video has since been re-uploaded, but the anger that it was even taken down while the original video was allowed to remain has not subsided.

If it seems to you that this reaction is a bit overdramatic, consider this: how many rape victims have been told that they wanted it? How many have now been triggered by Robin Thicke’s video or lyrics? It is not a harmless song, and the mindless worshipping of it needs to stop before it inspires other artists to act just as inappropriately.


Dressed to Suppress

September 2013

As Lake Land prepares for the start of fall classes, I would like for every student to take a moment to reflect upon their high school careers. I would like for each student to then sigh in relief that they no longer have to abide by their high school dress codes.

Luckily for all of us, Lake Land does not currently have a dress code restricting their students, but it is something that millions of high-schoolers in the world dread. My freshmen year, I would take bets on what article of clothing would be banned next. When I first started attending, it was just tank tops and short-shorts that female students could not wear. By sophomore year, it was anything that showed shoulder, pants that had holes above the knee and shorts or skirts that were shorter than knee-length. This past year, the school board also banned yoga pants and tights.

Regardless of what high school you attended, however, one pattern persists; most school dress codes are directed more towards women than they are towards men. In my school, boys were not supposed to wear cutoffs or sagging pants, but that was always more of a suggestion than a rule.  Clothing restrictions are placed on women because the school board feels as if a girl wears revealing clothing, “the boys in her class will be distracted.” Rather than teaching boys how to practice self-control, the girls in the school are punished. This sends the message to high school girls that their education is less important than the focus of male students. It seems to stress that the most important factor of a girl’s high school career is that she dress appropriately. The prejudice in dress codes also sexualizes normal parts of a woman’s body, like her shoulders and legs, giving her the idea that maybe these body parts are not okay to show off, or that she should be uncomfortable with the way they look.

The strict dress codes also encourages slut-shaming and rape culture. Slut-shaming is the act of humiliating or degrading a woman for what she chooses to wear or how many sexual partners she has had. People should never be chastised for their fashion sense or sexual preferences. When a school creates strict guidelines for women to follow, they are inadvertently telling their students that any outfit in the “not school-acceptable” category can be labeled as “slutty,” because it will attract attention from boys. Putting so much effort into making sure that the boys will not be distracted also supports the idea that women are at least partially responsible for their male counterparts’ actions; including but not limited to sexual assault – thus, rape culture.

Women are not the only ones who should be offended by the dress codes and their implications, though; they are basically telling men that they possess too strong of primal instincts to have self-control.

Is this really something we want to support? We are college students, and if we are really the future, the power to stop the oppressing trend lies with us, to ensure that such unnecessarily restrictive rules are not placed on us. It has been suggested that perhaps more feminists need to be voted onto the school board, but I do not think that lack of feminism is the underlying problem. Electing more feminists might help, but we first need to educate those in power as to what slut-shaming and what a rape culture is, and explain how strict, one-sided dress codes help enforce these practices. If you see unjust dress codes in your local schools, do your best to inform the board members of the problems they create, or elect new members who already understand. If the broad members can see the problem clearly, they are more likely to solve it – and then everybody will have the freedom to wear what they want.