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Our protest, not your product

Author:
_95452740_pepsi

By Kaylen Forsyth

These are exhausting times for activists. In the past six months alone, with Trump’s repressive policies causing global outrage, there has been plenty of injustice to challenge. Vast numbers taking to the streets, and to other platforms like social media, reflect the broader courage of a society unwilling to just accept things as they are.

Such strength in the face of adversity is nothing new. For years an array of people from all different nations have been raising their voices when others have wished for their silence. And there has often been a price to pay for this bravery. During the Black Lives Matter protests, the news was inundated with reports of police brutality and unnecessary arrests. This all culminates into a simple fact I’m sure everyone can agree on – the resilience and endurance of activists should not be undermined in any way.

But this is exactly what Pepsi have done. Their new advertisement uses the setting of an American protest as a marketing ploy. And it’s not the first time a billion dollar corporation has exploited literal blood, sweat and tears for their own capitalistic gains. Coca Cola used the anger surrounding the Vietnam War to sell their produce back in 1971. It seems the top 10% take no issue in exploiting the struggles of those without silver-spoon privilege. This, of course, comes as no surprise.

Pepsi’s advertisement features Kendall Jenner striding out into the midst of a mainstream-friendly protest. After high-fiving and fist-bumping a diverse range of people (who don’t seem all too concerned with their cause), she hands a police officer a can of Pepsi. He smiles, satisfied, and everybody on the scene bursts into cheers. There is no ill will in sight. Everyone is ecstatic and social inequality is forgotten. Who cares what they were protesting about in the first place? Who cares that Trump will harm the U.S. even further in the next four years and other countries along with it? Who cares that the death toll is only rising in a chemical weapons attack in Syria? Who cares that we seem to be going backwards in terms of social progression? Who cares that politics is falling apart on a global scale? So long as the Pepsi is all right… the white man is happy … and the wealthy can keep rolling in the cash.

Of course this was not the message the advertisement attempted to portray. The intention, according to the company, was given in a defensive quote released by Pepsi: “This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an important message to convey.”

Whether the intent was decent or not, the fact still remains, Pepsi hijacked the resistance movement with no other motivation than commodifying it. Worse – they did it through the Trojan horse of an inconceivably privileged model, and the entire two and a half minutes is as apolitical as possible. There is no sign calling for equal rights or an end to discrimination. Phrases like “join the conversation” serve the purpose of being as vague as possible. Pepsi is desperate not to alienate.

Overall the advertisement just screams privilege and out-of-touch. A white person encouraging “bold” interactions with police officers, in a country where people of colour are murdered by them on a regular basis. That’s uncomfortable. Not only this, appropriating activism for the purpose of marketing is in itself despicable.

The most recent statement released highlights the pressures to pull the ad: “Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

The only hope is that corporations think twice in future when they consider exploiting such serious matters.

A new lens

Author:
Kabul. Afghanistan. 2012
A meeting of Mirman Baheer, the Ladies’ Literary Society, in Kabul.  The group has roughly one hundred members in Kabul, where they meet openly on most Saturdays. The city of Kabul is, in many ways, a bubble. Its security allows women to gather openly, a near impossibility across most of the country. Outside Kabul, there are as many as three hundred members in the outlying provinces of Khost, Paktia, Wardak, Mazar, Kunduz, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat, and Farah. Exact numbers of members are impossible to come by, since the society operates in secret by necessity.

By Kaylen Forsyth

For a poet language is land on the water, is water on the land. The poem becomes necessary to existence, a way of transforming the physical world into something that can’t die. Like with many other art forms, its greatest assets are its humanness and intimacy. “I composed my first poems in the dark“, says Philip Levine in My Lost Poets. This is a small window into the understanding that happens between a writer and the words they either chose or don’t.

“I dream of lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can”, laments Jack Gilbert, as though deprived of self-expression his entire life.

This brings him to a shared affinity with so many women across the globe, today and always, who may be able to fathom even more thoroughly than him exactly what it’s like to be stifled. To have so much pent-up rage and passion that there is no way to coordinate any coherence. This is why poetry plays such a vital role in the lives of many women in Afghanistan.

Recently, it has become clearer than ever just how essential it is for women to have a platform that cannot be deterred by men. Such deterrence is now symptomatic of a growing rather than declining patriarchy. This struggle for a stage is a problem that the women of Afghanistan have faced so much they’ve now formed their own kind of barracks, built out of language. Amidst a country that has seen vast amounts of violence and duplicity, a number of incredibly courageous women are voicing their political and emotional concern through the power of poetry. It takes the form of a “landay”.

The simple structure of the “landay poem” features couplets with nine syllables in the first line and thirteen in the second. This frame is used by many Afghan women who constantly search for new ways to articulate in a society wishing for their silence. Women write and share their poetry any way possible. Sometimes they share via phone calls with other women who are unable to leave their homes. Or other times, they meet up secretly to discuss their creations and merge them. Distribution always takes precedence over attribution.

Western representation of Afghan women would like to ignore this. Instead, it attempts a powerless portrayal. There is such an ethnocentric trend in Western media. It wants us to view other cultures as inherently alien in their differences. This leads to mass polarisation. Some begin to view those who live differently as outlandish. Evidently, this eliminates empathy and the ability to see with human perspective. It is the cause of an inaccurate depiction of Afghan women.

Journalists, specifically the tabloid sensationalists, would love us to view these women as voiceless victims, completely unable to have an opinion that hasn’t been indoctrinated by a patriarch. It’s inaccurate, and reading their “landays” emphasise this massively. Most suggest raw and often bursting passions of lust and love. There are hints of fury over the Taliban and the U.S., and foreign occupation.

My lover is fair as an American soldier can be. / To him I looked dark as a Talib, so he martyred me.
Landay lines like these cut deep and reveal strength, the strength that we all must see. Too prevalently, there is a manipulated view of Muslim women as direct results of oppression. Obviously, the consequence of this is their immediate dehumanisation. They are then seen through a lens that fails to attribute any agency or depth. Even their initiative is brushed aside.

Since the recent inauguration of Trump, women across the globe have risen up in a unified voice against his despicable policies. It’s fantastic! It’s inspiring to see that his government’s blatant misogyny and bigotry is not going unchallenged. People can address the politics of the women marching in the US and Europe, their agency, their intelligence. Yet, there still remains a struggle to identify these qualities in women from Islamic countries. Their acts of revolution and activism are either ignored, dismissed or played down. It’s easy to look at a middle-class American woman and call her a political revolutionary but people don’t want to call an Afghan woman anything of the sort.

In the West there is an erroneous thought that women from Islamic backgrounds are in need of salvation. This has been helpful to politicians in the past, allowing them to justify certain invasions. But to look at these “landays” is to understand that perhaps, these Afghanistan poets are the revolutionaries we should be taking examples from, rather than forcing our examples onto them.

Hey, hot things

Author:
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A poem by Ananda Gervais

Content Note: sexual assault, street harassment

I am 13 and I’m walking to my friends house and you honk your horn and role down the window as you pass me, pursing your lips to send me kisses, I don’t understand so I look down and avoid eye contact. I ask myself what I did, what did I do to get such attention, what did I do to deserve this disrespect, I am 13.

I am 14 and I’m walking through the school hallways, and you think it is appropriate to smack your hand against my ass, I do not know you, this is not welcome. So when I turn round I intend to yell at this intruder of my personal space of my body but before I can say anything you get on the defensive. ‘it was just a joke’ you say. No it was not just a joke it was assault. 

I am 15 and walking home with my friend, it is 9 oclock and the sky is black when you start to follow us. There are two of you and we are scared and reminding each other that we just aim for the nuts. You call after us, ‘hey hot things, wanna play.’ No I most certainly do not want to play so we carry on walking. You call again ‘hey, white girls, stop for a minute, I want to look at you’ I turn around and tell you to stop and my friend tells you to ‘fuck off.’ You step forward and I am genuinely scared for my life, but you retreat calling us whores and bitches as you get into your car.  When I later tell one of my friends, she asks me what I was wearing.

I am 16 and you push me up against the wall and tell me to kiss you, I refuse and you push me harder, trying to grope me. I struggle out of your grasp, you call me a prude I tell you to bite me. I tell you if I ever saw you try that again I would break your arm.  An hour later I see you do the same thing to my very drunk friend, she tells you to stop, you don’t. So I push you off her and you stumble to the floor, your friend tells me to relax. I should of broken your arm.

I am 17 and am walking in the darkness with my best friend as we had decided to be fun and spontaneous and surprise another friend of ours when you drive up to us, there are 4, maybe 5 of you in that car and as you yell at us I assure my friend that everything will be okay. I’m not sure what words of abuse you hurled at us but when we stayed silent and walked on you yelled at us to at least be polite and have a conversation with you. Are you actually telling us to be polite, because to me that’s the greatest irony of all.

I am 18 and my bus stops, I get off, noticing you, who had been staring at me for the last 8 stops are also getting off the bus. I clench my fists and speed walk through the dark streets, my house seeming further away than usual. You follow me at my first turn and then the second, I immediately accept my fate. Dialling my mother’s number and leaving her a message to tell her I love her. As I hang up you turn a corner away from me and I let out a breath of relief.

I like being a girl, its fun and slightly complicated and I would never wish to not be me, not for an instant. But in instances like these and many like it, I do not want to be a girl. For a flighting second I wish to be you, I wish to not have to walk alone in fear and to not have to worry about how my choices in clothing might be interpreted, but sadly, wishes rarely come true.

Get involved with The Coding Girls

Author:
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Guest post by Aishwarya Singh

Growing up, I loved to play in the dirt and in sand boxes, but was told that was super dirty. People still ask me; “Why are you so obsessed with The Flash? That’s so boyish. You’re never gonna get a boyfriend that way.” First of all, screw you for saying that DC is for boys. Second of all, Grant Gustin is super hot. 

I proved all the haters wrong when they made assumptions about me based on my gender. Due to some malfunction with my schedule, I got put into a computer science class in 10th grade (Comp Sci for us cool kids). That screw up was the best screw up of my life. 

And at first, it was totally awesome (not!). There were only two other girls out of my class of 25 (lucky me, right?) and I had no friends. The boys – oh god the boys – it was as if they had never seen girls before, like I was some sort of extraterrestrial species. It was like I was a skipping, prancing Little Red Riding Hood dropped into one of the fights in Arrow (tbh it was probably because they weren’t used to seeing girls in their STEM classes).

But you know what was even worse, it was like the teacher had this little part of him that expected me to be pretty bad. He didn’t do this knowingly or really outwardly, but it was the little things that got to me. It was that quick 1-second knowing smile he would give me every time I asked a question, his sympathy every time I got one of the questions wrong. It was absolutely terrible. I knew it was not his fault, that it had been geared into his brain. Society has told him that only young white boys or that stereotypical Asian dude with a funny accent that shows up on every tv show can code, but it still didn’t make it right. 

Being the super stand up, sarcastic girl I am, I wanted to tell him “HELLO! GIRLS DON’T HAVE TO BE TERRIBLE AT COMP SCI”. Obviously I didn’t do that, but once I actually tried in his class and ended up being kinda good at it (surprises me too tbh), it had the same effect.

Now I’m in AP (aka College level) Computer Science, and yeah there are still only 2 other girls in my class, but I’m still doing it. Yeah, I am the only girl on the executive board of Geek League (I know, it’s a nerdy name), but I’m still there. And that comp sci teacher, those boys who thought I would be terrible, here I am. 

Anyway, I want to tell you, girls (or anyone), it’s okay to be different. It’s okay to stand out. But it’s not okay when people treat you differently because you are different. Defy expectations and prove that random person who thought you would suck wrong. You are amazing and trust me, if a normal girl (who’s only true accomplishment in life is binge-watching Netflix for 23 hours straight) can do something, so can you.  

By the way, there are really few girls who are coding. According to college board (that huge, ginormous company that created the death test AKA the SATs), only 21% of those who take AP computer science are girls. That is like nothing. And only 15% of all engineers, including computer engineers, are girls. We need more girls in math and science, especially engineering. I know calculus and physics are hard (trust me, I’ve been there… AP Calc is killing me rn), but we need more girls out there. If you are a girl in science, please don’t give up because it is hard or because you are lonely. Try to get the help and support you need (if ya need it cuz you are a girl boss). Most of all, I am proud of you. Surpassing all the expectations society has on you is not easy and you really are making a difference. 

So girls, go out there and code (or engineer, or do math or science)! And most of all, try to get other girls to do that same.

*Note to all: I am not saying that boys shouldn’t do STEM, boys can and should do STEM as well. It is just that there are very few girls who do it and are really good. We need more so I am trying to get more girls into it and that is why I wrote this article. 

Aishwarya Singh is a 16 year old feminist from New Jersey. She is an active coder who is the founder of her non-profit The Coding Girls who run coding events and classes in the central NJ area. She is also the only female executive board member of Geek League, a tech group at her local library. Also a Her Campus High School Ambassador and Clover Letter Intern, she loves to write articles relating to feminism and the effects of autism of families. She also loves to watch Netflix especially Friends and Vampire Diaries. You can get involved with The Coding Girls by emailing Aishwarya at aishwarya0823@gmail.com

10 Funny Feminists you should check out on Twitter

Author:
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By Amy Callaghan

Twitter has the potential to be an incredibly grim place, particularly for women. Often, women receive insults, hate and even threats from those – usually men – who take issue with what they say publicly, even if they didn’t particularly intend to make any kind of statement. Fortunately, amidst all the negativity, there are plenty of women on Twitter who combine feminism with humour, even at the risk of potentially receiving hate. When the world is all doom and gloom, brighten your timeline with these hilarious women offering a humorous take on everything from gender inequality to the latest political horror show.

Lex Croucher @lexcanroar
Lex Croucher is a British vlogger who is vocal about social issues through all her social media channels. Combine this with her incredibly dry sarcastic humour, and her Twitter is a reliable source of simultaneously relatable and relevant content.

Ruby Tandoh @rubytandoh Ruby Tandoh was a finalist on the Great British Bake Off in 2013. She is a witty and outspoken young queer chef whose unapologetic passion for food – no matter how ‘unhealthy’ – makes a refreshing change from the pretentiousness of many food writers. She’s also unapologetic about her love of One Direction, the Kardashians, and junk food – her Twitter is a potent blend of these ingredients making for an incredibly satisfying addition to your timeline.

Danielle Henderson @knottyyarn

Danielle Henderson is a busy woman – when she’s not writing for The New York Times and The Guardian or creating the hilarity that is Feminist Ryan Gosling, she’s keeping it real on Twitter with her tweets centring on race, class and gender.

Gabby Noone @twelvoclocke Gabby Noone is a staff writer for Rookie magazine. Her (seriously underrated) Twitter will bring you the witty observations of an unapologetic millennial, as well as genius insights about how to manage smartphones after getting acrylics (rhinestone styluses, if you were wondering). 

Rosie Fletcher @rosieatlarge

Rosie Fletcher is a young writer living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Her Twitter offers an entertaining mix of knitting, feminism, children’s literature, and her political views, in addition to offering her enlightening perspective on experiencing living with a disability.

Kashana Cauley @kashanacauley Kashana Cauley is a writer whose tweets – even those centring on serious issues and situations – and are often loaded with withering sarcasm.

WomanAgainstFeminism @NoToFeminism

Even if you aren’t already following this satirical account, chances are you’ve seen it retweeted a few times. Their tweets make fun of the frequent reasons cited by women who claim to be against feminism in the most ridiculous and hilarious way possible, shining a light on how insane it is for any woman to consider herself against feminism.

Mara Wilson @MaraWritesStuff The star of ‘Matilda’ from all those years ago is now a super cool, super feminist, super funny queer writer. If you’re not already following her, you definitely should be.

Naomi Ekperigin @Blacktress

Comedian and writer Naomi Ekperigin is as funny on Twitter as she is writing for the commercial and critical success Broad City. Her tweets are hilarious and relatable, but she doesn’t shy away from the big issues either.

Alison Leiby @AlisonLeiby Alison Leiby is a comedian and writer in New York whose tweets, particularly those of a feminist persuasion, are dripping with sarcasm, perfectly exposing and making light of some of the ridiculous stereotypes placed on women.

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