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The Period Product No One Asked For

By: Elizabeth Woodhall

There’s always going to be a male to explain everything that a female already knows. 

Recently, a German team consisting of two men, Eugen Raimkulow and Andre Ritterswurden, came out with a period product that is meant to make the female experience much easier in the eyes of men. They presented this product on a German television show, where a businessman, Ralf Dummel, invested 30,000 euros. Now, it’s baffling that they were able to gain so much funding and successfully launch the product without stopping to think for one second about what someone who has a period would think about this. 

The invention Is called “Pinky Gloves”, a pair of gloves to remove a sanitary product, such as a tampon or pad, that can then be used to discreetly dispose of them and use these gloves as a disposal bag. This product retails for $14.31 for a pack of 48 gloves. Now, I don’t want to speak for every person who’s had a period, but I’ve never needed the assistance of gloves to remove either my pads or tampons. Not only this but spending a great amount of money on something that I do for free every month sounds very wasteful. Such as the pink tax, which stated by Listen Money To not just my wallet, but for the environment.  Not to mention the current environmental friendly period products, such as the period cup, that exist as well that does not fit into the agenda of “disposing of products.” They have created a solution to a problem that does not even exist, by creating more waste for a product that already produces waste on it’s own.  

You may wonder what’s so bad about this product, “If you don’t want it, don’t buy it!” Well, this invention is deeply rooted in the stigmatization of the menstrual cycle. It implies that having to dispose of something that occurs several times a month is “gross”, despite it being a biological process that half of the population experience on a regular basis. Not only this, but the fact that the gloves are used as a kind of discreet disposal bag so that other people do not know you’re on your period is harmful on its own. It feeds into the idea that periods are something that should be kept from the public eye. It not only lets young people with periods know that what they’re experiencing is “gross”, but it once again reminds society that periods are not meant to be spoken about. It also makes it seem as though there is a proper way to dispose of pads and tampons: discreetly. 

See, if anyone uses this product, then they’d be using an entire box consisting of 48 packs of plastic gloves. It’s extremely environmentally unfriendly and shows us how capitalism continues to thrive off these expectations and norms that exist, whether it be the dieting industry or the beauty industry. The industries once again thrive off of the same insecurities that they created.  Now, the period industry. As stated on twitter by handle @DrJenGunter, “Every day there is another useless product for the vagina. Every. Damn. Day.” As if paying for sanitary products that are a necessity wasn’t enough, now we are expected to dispose of these products discreetly so as to not upset men. 

In response to the criticism, the team claimed that they had personally lived with women since they were married. From their experiences as the malepartner of a female, they came across the period products and said that they smelled unpleasant so therefore they should be disposed of in another bag separate from the one already in the garbage bin. 

Menstruation is a biological process that’s experienced by half of the world’s population and yet “period” is still considered a dirty word. There are keywords used for it that minimize its importance, merely reduced to a kind of an inside joke between society and women. Growing up, I was told to keep it a secret because boys would behave differently around me. They did, too, making comments of how not to approach me because it was “that time of the month again.” That It was meant to be a secret between just women, and yet I couldn’t remember a time growing up when I could talk about my period with other women in my family without feeling shame for it. It became a topic that I had slowly become conditioned to not speak of with anyone else. It can be a very isolating thing when you realize that almost half of this world experiences this same biological function and yet you’ve never been able to fully talk about it without feeling as if you’ve spoken about something that’s “dirty.”

Having a menstrual cycle should not ever be considered a dirty thing, nor should a society shame someone for speaking about it openly. It is because of ideas that males like these hold that cast shame on people who menstruate to even feel comfortable in a time that brings so much discomfort. Periods should not be a topic that’s silently talked about amongst people who menstruate, but rather for people who do not menstruate to educate themselves on this completely normal biological process that half of the population experiences. No one should ever feel shamed for this natural process. Instead of coming up with products that could make this experience better for men, how about work towards making pads and tampons accessible so that having a period is not a luxury instead. 

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Solitude, Stressors, and the Rise of Eating Disorders During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By: Abby Loomis

Sometimes after sitting at my desk for 7 hours listening to Zoom lectures, my mind drifts back to the early days of the pandemic, when life seemed a lot easier. We had dalgona coffee, Tiger King and a two week long spring break! What could be better? If you were like me, you probably thought that this would be the perfect time to start working out, especially with the new Chloe Ting Two Week Shred everyone was talking about (the first video has 336 million views!).

But as we all know, the pandemic lasted a bit longer than two weeks. Quickly, what was a fun break from school became a concerning and life altering event. Schools began to announce that they may not open in the fall, and would likely continue online classes. People were laid off from their jobs, forced to move back in with their parents or adjust to an entirely new format of learning. 

Life was upended, and any semblance of normalcy was quickly lost, taking a large toll on everyone, especially those with mental health issues. While this exacerbated all mental illnesses, I am going to be discussing how the pandemic not only affected those with restrictive eating disorders, but how it also caused an increase in disordered eating in those without a previous history of eating disorders.

First, it is important to understand what exactly eating disorders are and what can cause them. According to Psychiatry.org, “[e]ating disorders are behavioral conditions characterized by severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors and associated distressing thoughts and emotions”. One does not need to starve themselves in order to have an eating disorder, they may purposefully cause themself to throw up their food, consume large amounts of food without control during a binge, or obsessively restrict their diets. One’s genes can put them at a greater risk of an eating disorder, but according to Eating Disorders.org, it is oftentimes one’s environment that can lead to the development of eating disorders.

 Major stressors and traumas, like assault or home instability, can lead one to develop an eating disorder. And, from personal experience and medical evidence, disordered eating is often a way for one to feel in control of their life, as for many it is hard to control their external environment, but they can control what and how much they eat.

COVID-19 provided more than enough stressors that could lead to or exacerbate pre-existing eating disorders, such as isolation, job instability, deaths of loved ones and chaos surrounding supermarkets (i.e. food shortages and possibility of getting COVID-19). In fact, according to a recent survey of those who have eating disorders, 53% of those in the U.S. reported that they were ‘very concerned’ about their eating disorder being exacerbated “due to a lack of structure”. 

As well, the COVID-19 era is also notable for the shift towards online learning, and the use of Zoom in particular. We all know what it feels like to have your camera on and constantly worry about whether or not we are making the right facial expressions or if our face really looks like that. In fact, a study found that 86% of dermatologists reported that patients were “citing video-conferencing calls” as a reason to seek cosmetic care. But this increased body awareness associated with Zoom is yet another factor which can contribute to or worsen disordered eating. Many people with eating disorders avoid mirrors in order to avoid triggering themselves, but with Zoom they are constantly confronted by their reflection and by proxy, constantly confronted by harmful thoughts about their appearance, which could lead to a relapse into disordered eating. 

 However, there is another factor which has exacerbated disordered eating. With all of this free time, we have all spent an immense amount of time on social media, either making content or watching others. Experts know that social media, particularly Tik Tok, which has gained popularity during the pandemic, has a negative impact on body image and can be used to proliferate disordered eating habits in the form of ‘weight loss tips’ or intentionally triggering images which are referred to as “thinspo”. Even well meaning content, such as workout routines, can feed into disordered eating behaviors without any intent by the creator. For example, in the comment section of the previously mentioned Chloe Ting Two Week Shred, one does not need to scroll far to find comments reminiscent of 2016 pro-anorexia Tumblr, such as ‘body checks’. 

During the pandemic we have used social media and the Internet as a whole in order to keep ourselves occupied and in touch with others in order to preserve our mental stability, but for many it has a deteriorating effect. We have too much time alone with ourselves in which we can pick ourselves apart in the mirror, bit by bit. And then once we go back online, it is easy to find content which can decrease our self worth even further.

But what can we do? In the face of constantly mounting stressors and triggers, how can we protect ourselves from developing or falling back into disordered eating habits? The Center for Discovery advises that we should attempt to provide structure for ourselves, setting aside specific times for eating, sleeping, and partaking in our hobbies, as well as limiting social media use. By setting aside time to take care of ourselves and incorporating that into our daily structure, it is easier to ensure that we actually do those things instead of forgetting about them or brushing them aside amidst the chaos of quarantine. As well, it is of utmost importance to connect with loved ones to alleviate feelings of isolation, even if it is only for a quick call. While we cannot eliminate all of the stressors of COVID and possible triggers for eating disorders, we must put in the effort to take care of ourselves even when it is difficult. When we notice ourselves slipping into harmful behaviors, we must step back and focus our energies on self-care. There is no shame in asking for help or calling a hotline. This is a time of immense chaos and stress, and we need to ensure our wellbeing and mental stability.

National Eating Disorders Hotline

(800)-931-2237

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

(800)-273-8255

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Nonconsensual Pornography in the Modern World

By: Abby Loomis

In the era of high-speed internet, 5G, and social media, things can and often do go viral, fast. In the best cases, sweet little dogs and fun baking videos gain 15 million views. In the worst (and most terrifyingly common) cases, intimate pictures meant for one’s partner circulate the internet without consent. 

According to a 2019 study, “[o]f the 3,044 adult participants (54% women), 1 in 12 reported at least one instance of nonconsensual pornography victimization in their lifetime, and 1 in 20 reported perpetration of nonconsensual pornography” (also known as NCP). While anyone can be a victim of nonconsensual porn, 90% of victims are women. However, it is not just these images that are put online, as 59% of the time a full name is attached to the photo and in 49% of these cases, social media information is attached. This opens the victim to harassment, stalking, and the possibility of losing their job on top of the severe emotional trauma of being publicly violated and humiliated, oftentimes by someone who was or is close to them. And, like everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on NCP as well, with increased cases in both the U.S. and the U.K

NCP is terrifying, and this crime takes an immense toll on its victims. There are countless cases of young women (in some cases, men) who have had their lives upended entirely by this horrible crime, with images (taken consensually and nonconsensually) of them being spread. Victims are often blamed for the atrocity done against them and have their trauma dismissed. To many, if the photo was taken consensually, then the victim ‘should have known better’ or taken precautions. Responsibility is taken away from the person who actively violated trust, privacy, and another’s right to choose if such images ought to be posted, and placed onto the person who took photos under the assumption that they would not be used against them. And in the cases that the images are taken nonconsensually, excuses for the perpetrators are equally abundant. After Audrie Potts, a 15-year-old girl, was sexually assaulted at a party while intoxicated, she woke up to find that photos of her assault were circulating around the school and the internet. Audrie was bullied to the point of suicide, and in the ensuing investigation, she was blamed because she had been drunk at the time or was speculated to have kissed two of the boys, and others insinuated that she probably liked it and that her suicide was due to other reasons than the harassment and humiliation she faced. This is sadly one of many stories, one of many lives which have been lost because of NCP. 

As well, the aforementioned 2019 study reported that 66% of women and 82% of men do not seek help, with most women doing so out of shame and most men claiming that it did not bother them. Within the context of social norms, this makes sense. Women are commonly taught that our sexuality is something to be ashamed of, that we should be chaste and pure. The idea of sharing nude images for many can seem taboo, something we shouldn’t even think about, but to then have those pictures leaked and to have people know that we are not as pure as the Virgin Mary? That shame and embarrassment is turned inward, resulting in self-blame, making it unlikely for the person to pursue the justice that they rightfully deserve. For many men, having sex and ‘getting laid’ is viewed as a source of pride. Being seen as sexually desirable is beneficial, so when a man is a victim of NCP, it is somehow construed as a compliment instead of the complete invasion of privacy that it is.

One would assume that the penalties for such a horrendous crime would be high and that it would be illegal for websites to host and distribute these photos. One would be depressingly wrong. While 46 states have laws concerning NCP, in 17 states it is regarded as a misdemeanor (punishable by up to a year in jail), only 11 states it is regarded as a felony (punishable for more than a year in jail), and in the remainder, it depends on the specifics of the case. There are no specific laws in Wyoming, Mississippi, South Carolina, or Massachusetts. In addition, no law in the U.S. currently requires the perpetrator to register as a sex offender, that is entirely at the judge’s discretion. 

 Websites dedicated entirely to nonconsensual porn (which are oftentimes the suggested search terms to “non consensual porn laws”) are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that websites cannot be punished for what others post. And since it is users who upload these images, the websites are protected from prosecution and can freely profit off of this crime, from advertisements (such as the now-defunct IsAnyoneUp?, which reportedly made $13,000 a month at one point) or from forcing victims to pay for the photos to be taken down. Even more shockingly, it was only in December of 2020 when Pornhub, one of the most popular pornographic websites, began to crack down on nonconsensual porn, which was often labeled as “stolen” or “leaked”. Pornhub quite literally attempted to film a ‘movie’ in space five years before they attempted to get NCP off of their platform.

However, there is currently a method where many victims can legally force these websites to take down their photos- copyright. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, if the victim took the photo themself, they can file for a copyright on the photos, which is a complex process that requires providing a copy of the images to the copyright office.  With this copyright, the victim can file a takedown notice against the website, which requires them to take the copyrighted images down or file a counter-claim stating that the website has a right to post the images. After this point, if the website keeps the photos up, the victim can sue for copyright infringement, which can result in up to $250,000 in fines and up to five years in prison per offense. While it is good that such a solution is plausible, I want to make this clear: the current laws surrounding NCP are so bad that victims have to use copyright laws to get the photos taken down, which is horrendous. This solution provides no actual punishment to the person who uploaded the photos and can require the victim to file notices against every website posting their images.

As well, even in states with laws concerning NCP, victims have a hard time obtaining justice. In a UK study, 94.7% of the police officers participating admitted that they had no training on how to deal with revenge porn. The combination of victim-blaming and lack of training can lead to deeply humiliating and traumatizing experiences with police, which can lead victims to drop their charges.  

While the situation is more than terrifying, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Recently the SHIELD Act, also known as the “Stopping Harmful Image Exploitation and Limiting Distribution Act of 2021” has been introduced in Congress as an amendment to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. If passed, this law would make the distribution of NCP a federal crime, punishable by up to 2 years in prison for each victim, and would punish websites that intentionally and predominantly distribute NCP.  This law would finally bring justice to victims who have had their privacy and autonomy violated by this heinous crime, and could finally punish the perpetrators of this crime and the websites which they utilize. While this law has been proposed many times, it has not yet become law, but it did recently pass through the House. And more courts are ruling on the constitutionality of anti-NCP laws and upholding the fact that distribution of NCP is not protected under the First Amendment, and therefore can be prosecuted. This means if the SHIELD Act is finally passed, it has legal precedent behind it that may help ensure that this law is not overturned by the courts.

In order to turn this glimmer of hope into a beacon of safety for victims of NCP, we must pass the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021, which includes the SHIELD Act. It has already passed the House, so now we call our Senators and ensure that they vote for this legislation. We must protect all victims of this horrible act, we cannot and will not let this horror go on any further.

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Setting the Record Straight: Cultural Appropriation

By: Christina Lee

The next time I sit down on a chair, I should think about “cultural appropriation.”

That’s the message writer Bari Weiss relays in her 2017 op-ed for The New York Times titled, “Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation.”

Weiss misses the point in some spots, failing to examine the impact of colonialism, i.e. the inherent power play that does exist within the broad concept of “cultural appropriation,” and claiming that cultural appropriation is what “makes America great” in an eerie echo of hackneyed Trump-isms. Nonetheless, the takeaway that “cultural appropriation” is everywhere, even in the chair I’m sitting on, may seem far-fetched, but it’s essentially an idea that has shaken my worldview ever since, making myself doubt my own stance toward this hot, new term “cultural appropriation” and what it really means for someone bicultural like me to grapple with the ways people are abusing this new phrase.

In her article, Weiss writes that cultural appropriation “is overwhelmingly being used as an objection to syncretism—the mixing of different thoughts, religions, cultures and ethnicities that often ends up creating entirely new ones”. To discuss the term as it’s commonly abused especially by young, outspoken social media users today, I would have to say that Weiss has a point: American singer Jessye Norman specializes in the Italian opera and performs pieces written by German composer Richard Wagner; one of the most popular Greek yogurt companies is run by a Kurd born in Turkey who now lives in America; and as for me, Koreans rarely used chairs until they were most likely introduced to them via foreign nomadic tribes who had already made use of stools. This exchange and adoption of various cultures into our own lives is inevitable.

With the prevalence of social media and online communication today, we’ve created an environment in which we learn to empathize with, gain awareness of, and implement new ideas faster than ever, and it’s only appropriate that we have learned to do so considering the abundance of resources at our disposal. However, the consequence emerges where these “advocates” begin to misuse their newfound power, wielding their social media accounts as a weapon to present their indignantly self-righteous cries for restoring justice in niche spaces, only to validate their self-created sense of virtue.

These are the people who blur the lines between assimilation, cross-cultural exchange, Weiss’s so-called “syncretism,” and true cultural appropriation that suggests actually harmful notions of racism, colonialism, and discrimination in the given context (e.g. naming an American sports team “Redskins,” a white individual donning Afrocentric hairstyles without facing the same consequences in the workplace). In that same sense, before examining the dangers of misusing the term “cultural appropriation,” it’s crucial to establish that nuances to this discussion indeed exist. Specifically, this issue extends to the implications of white privilege and the hypocrisy of a dominant culture misrepresenting and exploiting the cultures of ethnic groups that have been systematically discriminated against throughout history. Essentially, context matters. In the United States, where issues surrounding race have continuously marred the country, it’s important to note that “cultural appropriation” can quickly escalate into a denial of an entire ethnic group’s past struggles, the establishment of imperialist sentiments, and blatant racism.

But in examining the pros and cons of being aware of “cultural appropriation” as it’s thrown around these days, it seems that the negatives outweigh the positives.

Following the “logic” of some of these advocates of cultural appropriation’s dangers, I should have been considered guilty of appropriating culture—I’ve been copying and using the cultural items valuable to these nomadic tribes without knowing about their origins because I literally Googled the history of a chair just to write this article.

In this same manner,  the commonly misunderstood version of cultural appropriation results in a slippery-slope argument that could leave me posing endless examples: white people shouldn’t listen to R&B, jazz, or even rock music—if they don’t know the comprehensive history behind these music genres, starting from where and when they originated, their characteristics, and key figures, they should probably just stick to Bach or Mozart.

I exaggerate, but that’s essentially the dangerously flawed message that these advocates portray. These same advocates choose not to speak out so vocally about the exploitation of slaves who worked in unimaginable conditions in salt ponds during the 1800s whenever they pick up a container of salt to season their food, and these same people indulge in music genres that, surprise, have been appropriating the sounds that originates within cultures of people of color.

Perhaps we’re just picking and choosing our own battles for our own convenience and self-conceited sense of righteousness and entitlement without acknowledging the hypocrisy of our flawed logic.

A lurking sense of discomfort emerges whenever someone points out an instance of “cultural appropriation” and calls for the restoration of that particular cultural practice or item to its original place in a context that doesn’t hint at racist and imperialist sentiment. Realistically, the idea of “exoticism” and “otherness” is perpetuated instead, where we enforce the concept that whatever seems foreign and unfamiliar should remain foreign and unfamiliar. In adopting this mentality, we stray further from learning about other cultures and growing closer to them in a healthy way that encourages the unification of people rather than division. Let’s be honest: deeming other cultures “exotic” is frankly outdated. But with these mindless performances of gatekeeping, the discouraging sentiment surrounding the integration and possibility of approaching various cultures evokes the imagery of the past, of segregation, of exoticism, and of discrimination.

Would I be offended if I saw any person who wasn’t Korean wearing hanbok? Probably not. But then again, I’m in no position to speak on the behalf of an entire culture and its people when I myself am a combination of countless cultures integrating and influencing one another.

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The “Dynamite” Experiment: A Music Industry Case Study

By: Atmanah Parab

I would not be exaggerating if I said that music is the first and greatest love of my life, from looping  “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran on my mom’s iPhone 3 to illegally downloading thousands of songs off Youtube (middle schooler me’s biggest flex), to learning guitar and joining choir and going to concerts. It is through music, I’ve experienced the purest and most undiluted joys of my life. The latest and greatest chapter of my love for music has been my discovery and subsequent love for the Korean septet BTS. I was introduced to them in my sophomore year of high school by my younger sister, but in typical teenage fashion, I held off truly letting myself fall in deep with their music for months and months. I was in intense denial of the fact that I liked something my younger sister also liked. In the many years since then, I count my decision to truly give BTS a chance as one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. Not just on a personal level (believe me, that in itself could be an article as long as a book) but on the level of someone that is obsessed with the movement of culture, the institutions that shape culture, and most of all, music. 

Flash forward about 4 years and the fresh-faced boys I first heard of in 2016 are one of the biggest acts in the world. Now, most of you reading this have probably heard BTS’s smash single “Dynamite” at least once (Samsung Ad anyone?). Bright, catchy, and fun, “Dynamite” is a burst of hope against the dreary background of a global pandemic. This track, as emphasized in interviews with the band, was intended to be a fun single to lighten the moods of listeners across the world. However, somewhat unexpectedly, it ended up becoming the band’s largest global hit yet. Despite this achievement for BTS and music lovers like me everywhere, the success of “Dynamite” shed light on the unsettling and complex relationship between industry awarded measures of success (such as radio hits and awards) and the very real, very pervasive effect of discrimination and tokenization in the industry. 

Radio 

 Radio play is one of the most overlooked modes of othering that exist in the music industry. It sidelines artists who are not as “easily marketable” to the American population at large, that is to say: rich, white, and English-speaking. “Dynamite” blew expectations out of the water in terms of reception by the industry when it was quickly accepted into radio rotation. Fans noted that this attention from radio stations was likely the result of heavier involvement in promotion from BTS’ American record label, Columbia. Before the release of the song, a promotional truck was driven around Los Angeles where multiple radio DJs hinted at being allowed an advance listen to the single. In addition to this, a detailed schedule was released on their official media pages for fans and the industry alike to keep track of all the new content that would be released to promote and accompany the single. In the past, fans had to beg radio stations to play BTS’ music and send in flowers and cupcakes (despite BTS having the numbers proving their popularity), so this new acceptance felt extremely fragile. The issue here is ultimately, radio isn’t about music; it’s a sonic billboard. The goal for radio stations is always going to be amassing as large an audience as possible, but even by that metric, radio is stubbornly anti-global and incredibly divided by genre. 

“Pay-to-play” radio policies were banned in the mid-70s but this tradition still plays a massive role in which music is promoted to the average American listener at a large scale, Bob Donnelly, a long-term entertainment lawyer, lays it out bluntly in Rolling Stone

“When I first started, it was hookers and blow [to help get songs on the air],” Donnelly says. “Then that disappeared and it became sports tickets, trips, sneakers, and the like. It changed over time so that it became much more sophisticated. At the end of the day, the labels still wanted hit records and the radio stations wanted cash.”

Though the practice of pay-to-play has gone underground and manifested itself through far subtler interactions between promoters and radio stations, the music industry’s old habits die hard: two of the most important things to get a song on the radio are still money and marketability. 

Even now in a post-“Dynamite” world, fans once again find that BTS is being given the cold shoulder by radio when their newest, more introspective, title track “Life Goes On” received next to no radio spins. Though “Life Goes On” is produced in-house, sung primarily in Korean, and thus feels more authentic to BTS, labels, and radios refuse to promote diversity in music because of the song’s language inaccessibility and the band’s race and nationality. 

The Grammys

 I have a love-hate relationship with institutions like the Grammys and the power they hold in bestowing “true recognition” upon an artist. Often, award shows serve to uphold barriers for musicians of color by those with the ability to shoulder the cost of hefty PR packages. All this despite reiterated platitudes on “valuing diversity” in art!

The recent Grammy nomination for “Dynamite” exemplifies this love-hate feeling. To see BTS, a group that has broken records, sold-out stadiums, and changed millions of lives, receiving acknowledgment from an industry institution is something worth celebrating in the sense that deserving artists are being rewarded for their efforts. For any music fan, a Grammys feels like a stamp of approval, a concrete recognition of something novel and amazing, especially for artists that break the norm. However, underlying the joy from these wins there is still frustration. 

“Dynamite” earned a well-deserved music-based nomination (BTS had been nominated before for album design), considering its commercial success. However, by the band’s own admission, “Dynamite” has a simpler message (relative to their other work) and was born out of the desire to bring cheer and hope to their fans worldwide. BTS are known for their hands-on approach to music; the members hold many production and writing credits throughout their discography but they did not write “Dynamite”. The song was selected from a lineup written by Western producers David Stewart and Jessica Agombar before being sent to the label, where both the label managers and BTS decided that they would produce “Dynamite” as is, with its original English lyrics. Though working with Western producers is a familiar process in the making of K-pop, when BTS were nominated by the Recording Academy, this felt revealing of the fact that the Academy only recognizes pieces that are “westernized,” at least at face value. Take, for instance, BTS’ album released earlier in 2020, Map of the Soul 7 (MOTS7).  MOTS7 had the highest global sales for any album this year and hit #1 in all global music markets — something not achieved by any other mainstream artist at the moment — and was highly rated by critics and listeners alike. Despite this, the album did not receive a single nomination, which projects a clear message from the industry about the types of artistic endeavors from “outsiders” (to the American music industry) that are rewarded. Compare BTS’ massive success to Justin Bieber and his multiple nominations for his single “Yummy” and his album Changes, for instance. Bieber’s album sold far less than the MOTS7 a, and was given lukewarm ratings from critics compared to MOTS7. 

BTS are not the only artists deprived of recognition for their outstanding success; other notable snubs from this year include The Weeknd’s album After Hours and wildly popular single “Blinding Lights” and Rina Sawayama’s exceptional debut album SAWAYAMA that made many critics’ top albums of 2020 lists. While many artists of color and global artists are recognized by music fans, there is still a long way to go towards institutionally recognizing them in the incredibly diverse world of modern music.

As a 13-year-old, I was convinced that by the sheer power of will, I too could join a band. I imagined myself as a member of a band like Paramore. I could scrap together an album in a garage somewhere, send it to a label, and watch the music-making magic happen. I used to see the music industry in a romantic light, but over time I’ve become increasingly aware of the fact that music and the entertainment industry are not immune to the effects of the complicated intersections between culture, ownership, discrimination, and oppression. One of the biggest reasons I’ve come to root for BTS so hard is because I see myself in them. I see my friends who love to dance, my dad who loves to sing, my friends who walk the line between Americanization and cultural tradition. In BTS, I see artists who have succeeded despite an industry that’s been designed to be unwelcoming toward them. 

The galvanizing force of the internet and the backing of passionate fans allow for generation-defining acts like BTS to be forces of change. At the time this article was written, BTS’ most recent single Life Goes On stood as the Number 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 (despite near-zero radio play). If a global artist and their fanbase can redefine what it means to be a globally popular modern artist, one has to wonder when, or even if, radio and award shows will rise to meet them.