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Donald Trump Solves the Healthcare Crisis!

By: Sarah Ansari

Friday, October 3, President Donald Trump was admitted to the Walter Reed Medical Center, infected with COVID-19. Toupee matted with exertion, the president fought valiantly for his life, the fluorescent lights of the hospital illuminating the sheen of sweat on his leathery, orange-toned brow. Gasping for breath, the president could only whisper a faint, “wrong” when instead of going for the bottles of bleach known to be the cure-all for COVID, the doctors instead went for more traditional drugs. 

Perhaps if the medical professionals had listened to Donald, known by himself to be a “very stable genius”, he would have been released within the day. However, the doctors (now under investigation as foreign spies) refused to listen to the president tell them how to do their job.

Still, Trump displayed an amazing resilience in the face of adversity. Unlike the Americans spending months in crowded hospitals recovering from Corona or the 200,000 people who have died in the United States, Trump managed to recover within days. Some insist that he was only able to do so because of his access to free, top-notch healthcare and a personal team of the nation’s top doctors. However, the president put those rumours to rest. Ever magnanimous, Trump released a statement revealing the secrets behind his recovery:

I will be leaving the great Walter Reed Medical Center today at 6:30 P.M. Feeling really good! Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago!

What his hands lack in size, Trump makes up for in his brains, solving a global issue with a single tweet. 

Tons of U.S. citizens lament the country’s healthcare crisis– talking about inflated costs for medical treatment, the way hospitals favour the rich (with poor people often going broke just to be treated), and the overall lack of accessibility of the system. But, with Mr. Trump’s sage words of wisdom, those issues are a thing of the past.

Don’t let it dominate your life.

Unlike the right to abortion, to Donald Trump, sickness is a choice, a question– and much like the question as to whether he should be re-elected, the answer is no

(Remember to vote!: https://vote.gov/)

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The Truth Behind Instagram Account @feminist

By: Cecilia Nguyen

In a movement that strives to uplift, empower, and encourage women to challenge and fight against systemic inequalities in place, it’s disgusting and disheartening to see two white men profit off of their “activism” under the pretenses of being feminists, while not actually doing meaningful activist work and taking up space from women who do. Not to say that men can’t be feminists, but here’s how not to do it.

The Instagram account @feminist has reached over 5 million followers and is run by two businessmen, Jacob Castaldi and Tanner Sweitzer, Founder and Director of Social Media, respectively, of Contagious Creative, a social-driven agency “responsible for creating and managing a network of over 10,000,000 followers of Instagram communities.” Some other large activist accounts run by Sweitzer and Castaldi include @chnge, @march and @itsfeminism, which can often be seen being promoted in posts across their accounts, expanding their influence within the political sphere on Instagram. They treat these accounts (and their activism) as a business, focused on gaining a mass following and using their publicity to discreetly market their sustainable clothing company CHNGE, where Castaldi is the Founder and Sweitzer is the Chief Marketing Officer.

CHNGE donates 50% of their net profits to charitable organizations and has donated over $200,000 for the Black Lives Matter movement and $250,000 to other organizations. I am not trying to minimize their contribution in any way; Castaldi and Sweitzer are doing more than most fashion brands. But the way they publicize CHNGE on all of their “social activism” accounts, including @feminist, without any discretion that they are run by the same group of people, makes me question the morals and ethics behind it all.

@Feminist is at the forefront of social media activism accounts, but it truly does the bare minimum. Its feed consists of curated content from activists, artists, politicians, celebrities, and everyone in between in the form of graphics, photos, videos, memes, and Twitter threads. The page uses works of marginalized folk for their Instagram content, reposts them verbatim and then makes a profit (both influential and monetary) from its huge following and engagement. It has also been said that CHNGE has used “paid media shares” to promote their account, attesting that even Instagram is profiting off these accounts. The original creators and activists don’t receive any compensation. The account is constantly branding themselves by putting their handle on their posts and stories, despite not owning most of them. With the amount of content they repost, it’s questionable if giving credit is enough. Behind the scenes, are they asking permission to repost content?

If you look closely, a majority of their posts are surface-level (skin-deep, if you will). They post empowering quotes and body-positive photos here and there and call it a day. Their “feminism” is shallow, trivial and hardly intersectional. Don’t get me wrong, I also find some body-positive images incredibly moving, but when it makes up half of the account’s grid, it gives the message that feminism is solely focused on how women should perceive their bodies. There are deeper issues that the account can also spread awareness about– child brides, femicide, and maternal mortality rates among women of color just to name a few. 

Sweitzer and Castaldi don’t care about feminism. They care about expanding their brand. Even something as small as their redundant, minimal, or non-existent captions are a clear indicator. With the handle @feminist, the account needs to use their platform to spread awareness about… you guessed it: feminism, and in its entirety. They need to educate about all feminist issues, support and uplift womxn of color, and actually add to the discourse about the movement to truly be called an activist account (if they even care to). 

Instead, the account is used as a marketing tool. The lack of moderation within their comments despite the abundance of hate and trolls the account often receives shows they welcome all and any types of traffic and engagement, as long as it gets people to their account. For those looking for a safe and empowering place, you will only be met with backlash and negativity within the first few comments. The more likes, comments, shares, and follows @feminist gets, the higher the chances a user will also end up following their other accounts unknowingly. And it will most likely be @chnge because of its frequent promotion and mentions; from there, the consumer will probably make a purchase from the company, and the cycle starts again.

I do believe that @feminist provides relatively educational and pallatable information and is a good start for those who don’t know where to start with their activism, but it shouldn’t stop there, and it definitely shouldn’t be your only source. Instead, try to follow actual activists or accounts that amplify marginalized voices. Some of my favorites are @rachel.cargle, @domrobxrts, @chimamanda_adichie, @blairimani, @jordanrisa, and @chellaman.

Whether you unfollow @feminist and any of their other affiliated accounts or not, that’s entirely your discretion, but at the very least, you deserve to know the truth. And it’s not just @feminism; there are thousands of accounts like @feminist on Instagram that post the same content with similar formats, and it would be impossible to target all of them. With social media activism at an all time high, it’s important for us to check our sources, do additional research in addition to what we see on Instagram or Twitter, and hold entities accountable for their performative activism. With @feminism, it’s the lack of transparency, performative activism, and capitalization of the feminst movement for me.

More additional information: https://medium.com/@SlayyPatriarchy/feminist-story-c1cec5ea1c30

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So, We Have VR, but Queer Representation is too Far-Fetched for Gaming?

By: Sarah Ansari

When young, children tend to gravitate towards characters that they see themselves in or that they admire, taking them on as role models who shape their attitudes and ways of thinking. The world grows more globalized in lieu of new technology, allowing media to be streamed across a multitude of platforms. Because of this, more people from different walks of life can access video game content from around the world in some form– as YouTube videos, simulators, or physical copies. Representation in video games is more important than ever; consumers wish to see characters in their favourite franchises they can relate to and find a role model in. 

There are about forty video game franchises where one or more games in the series has a queer character. The key word here is “a”. Within each game, there’s usually only one such character (seldom more). Oftentimes, the portrayal of queerness is not made explicit within the game either, but constitutes “deep lore”. Non-casual gamers would have to look through interviews and other supplemental material to find any information on the gender or sexual identity of their favourite characters. 

Take Toad from the Super Mario Bros franchise as an example. Although Toad is assumed to be male, Nintendo revealed in a 2014 interview that Toad was created without a specific gender in mind. While the presence of an agender character in a franchise familiar to even non-gamers seems progressive, the announcement of Toad/Toadette’s lack of gender only six years ago when the characters have been present in Mario since 1985 (and have stereotypically gendered traits) comes across as performative, especially since none of the games ever make mention of this information.

Although Nintendo is a Japanese company, a majority of its revenue comes from sales in the Americas. Around the same time period in which Toad’s agender identity was announced, the United States was going through political reform with the legalization of same-sex marriage (four states legalized it in 2014, and all fifty states had legalized it by 2015). While the timeline of these events could be coincidental, Nintendo had to be well aware of how Toad was perceived, yet they never made a public announcement of their identity until directly asked.  The information itself was revealed to Gamespot magazine, a popular gaming news company with a predominantly Western audience (the company does have a Japan branch, established in 2007, but it’s arguably less well-known than the American and UK branches). The original article was written by an American writer as well and published in English. As a result, Toad’s “gender reveal” feels more like a placating publicity stunt than a sincere attempt at representation.

Nintendo’s controversial portrayals of queer characters do not stop at Toad, however. The Fire Emblem series, known primarily through its multitude of characters in Smash (such as Marth and Ike), has recently begun representing LGBTQ+ relationships in-game, allowing players (in some games) to choose their gender and/or to be in a same-sex relationship.

The most recently released game in the franchise, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, is perhaps the most progressive installment yet, having a number of queer characters present in it. However, Fire Emblem games have a long history with their mistreatment of LGBTQ+ characters and the controversies that have arisen over the years are a reminder that not all representation is necessarily “good”, especially when it promotes harmful stereotypes or practices. The games themselves are strategy-based RPGs with battle mechanics that mimic a game of chess (using a turn-based system). The plots of the games revolve around politics and war, where players must fight against characters that, in another playthrough, might have been their allies and friends. Rather than being solely battle-focused, however, character interactions and relationship-building are prioritized, which is where the discussion of queer politics begins.

Before Three Houses was conceived of, Fire Emblem: Fates offered same-sex romance options– and came under fire for homophobic content. The game was sold in two different versions, Conquest and Birthright, each with vastly different plots (as they take place from different sides of the warring nations). In one version, the player controls a male main character, and is allowed one gay option; in the other, they play as a female and have a single lesbian option. The ability to play one storyline over the other, therefore, directly conflicts with the player’s choice of sexuality. Players looking for representation must sacrifice their choice in game route or must pay for the other version of the game. In addition, each of the queer romantic options is typecasted as villainous. The male, Zero, is casted as sadistic, while the female, Syalla, stalks potential romantic interests. Rather than uplifting a minority who might be excited about seeing some in-game representation, Fates makes a caricature of queerness.

In the same game, an openly lesbian character (Soleil) is only romanceable by the male version of the protagonist. The reasoning behind this pairing begins with Soleil continually being “distracted” by women on the battlefield. In order to remedy this “issue”, the player must give her a powder that causes her to see men as women and women as men. When the powder wears off, Soleil returns to finding girls attractive, although she makes an “exception” for the male main character. Not only does the scene imply that Soleil was drugged, but the fact that her sexuality is treated as a problem in need of fixing in reminiscent of gay conversion therapy. Within a few minutes of gameplay, LGBTQ+ players are ostracized and given a negative form of representation that can easily damage self-perception. Nintendo responded to the backlash by removing the scene from Western copies of the game, although evidence of it still exists online and in non-localized versions as a monument towards the microaggressions experienced as a queer gamer. 

In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Nintendo is much more lenient about the amount of romantic dialogue they include between characters of the same sex. However, the conversations are often portrayed as “friendly” despite undertones that suggest otherwise. For example, two characters, Sylvain and Felix, have an A+ support, the highest level Sylvain has with any character (barring a paired ending). 

For context, support levels mark how close characters are to one another, ranging from C to S. Some characters only have up to B supports with one another, some have no supports at all. The “+” supports (C+, B+, A+) are not present in every pairing (some can have just C, B, A or C+, B, A, etc.). A+ is the highest support attainable barring a paired ending… which Sylvain and Felix have together as well. If they’re paired, the story details their life as they grow so close to one another that they pass away on the same day, as if “conceding that one could not live without the other”. The trope of two people caring for one another so deeply they die together frequents romantic movies such as The Notebook; arguably, if Sylvain and Felix were of opposite genders, the pairing would have been romantic, rather than friendly (they have another childhood friend, Ingrid, who automatically has a marriage option with them because she is female).

Other characters, such as the leader of the Blue Lions House, Dimitri, continually have (arguably) romantic interactions with both versions of the main character (Byleth), but are locked to romancing only the opposite sex. Dimitri lets Byleth know that their smile is “mesmerizing”– regardless of gender– and continually tells them how brilliant they are, how much they mean to him, and how they are one of the most important people in his life, yet he remains a romanceable option only to female Byleth. Many players feel as though the game even wants you to romance him with how heavily he is pushed onto the main character (who aside from one line is not treated differently by him, regardless of gender). Queerbaiting remains an issue due to the fact that homoerotic subtext is used to attract LGBT+ consumers, while the company refuses to alienate more “conservative” consumers. In doing this, queer players find themselves cast aside or told that their experience is secondary.

Let me be frank– Fire Emblem: Three Houses is my favourite game. I have nearly 700 hours in it, I’ve replayed it seven times, and I’m still not tired of it. It depicts the struggles of mental health, the horrors of war, the importance of relationships. I think it’s a masterpiece. But I would be an idiot to turn a blind eye to its faults– of which I’ve only scratched the bare minimum. There’s a proper way to represent queerness, and while Three Houses made an attempt, it fell flat in many ways.

Perhaps a better example of an LGBTQ+ character would be Bloodhound, from Apex Legends. The character is canonically non-binary, with their voice actor (Allegra Clark), one of their writers (Manny Hagopian), and a backstory video confirming this fact. I admittedly do not have as much expertise on Apex as I do Three Houses, but from what I’ve gathered, Bloodhound is a smash-hit amongst the queer fanbase because they’re written… like a person. They do not embody harmful stereotypes and their sexuality isn’t made into their personality. Instead, they’re treated with the same attention and respect as any other character in the franchise; Apex Legends isn’t merely trying to win “representation points”, but is making an attempt to be more inclusive towards its audience. 

One problem with how LGBTQ+ people are represented in the media circles around companies attempting to make a singular character a “catch-all” for an entire demographic of people. I mentioned earlier that typecasting queer characters as villainous is harmful. However, I feel I must elaborate more on that. The representation becomes harmful when the villainous characteristics are portrayed as entwined with queerness. If the only LGBTQ+ representation that a game offers is a villain, the game is implicitly sending a message that “good” people are heterosexual and cisgender and “bad” people are the opposite. Queer characters can be villains, so long as there is representation of queerness amongst the heroes as well. When cisgender, hetero characters are written, their sexuality is given no thought– seen as the default. Instead, they are written as a person before all else. While queerness is an important part of identity and should not be entirely written off, it should be discussed in productive ways that open conversation and should not automatically become a character’s personality. While this article focused mainly on Nintendo games, save for the brief mention of Apex, they are not the only company at fault with their portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters. Rather, they’re the company I feel most qualified to criticise because of how involved I am with their games, moreso than any other company. While we can enjoy the media we consume, we have a duty to not turn a blind eye to its failings. Criticism of the things we enjoy sparks conversations about how they could improve and incentivizes producers to do better in the future. Gaming is, for most, a recreational activity, and people deserve to find comfort and camaraderie within the games they play. Perhaps it seems silly to some, but finding a character to relate to can shift people’s perspectives on their life and give them hope. And who are any of we to deprive someone that?

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Classically Promoting Anti Feminism

By: Natalie Lopez



If you’ve been on YouTube lately, you’ll know exactly who I’m talking about when I mention the unavoidable ads. As much as I don’t understand how exactly the YouTube ad algorithm works, I’m pretty sure my watch history didn’t trigger her invitation to my feed. If you hadn’t already guessed it, I’m talking about Classically Abby, the conservative lifestyle channel headed by Abigail Roth Shapiro. If her name sounds familiar, you might be thinking of her older brother, Ben Shapiro. Taking a page from the family book, Ben Shapiro is also very publicly conservative and a political commentator that has attracted lots of media attention for his outspoken attacks on democrats and social issues. So it seems that everyone of her videos preaches among the same lines. With titles like, “Why I Came Out As Conservative”, “Why YOU Should Dress Modestly” and “Why We Should NOT Just #BelieveAllWomen” it’s easy to see that Abby wants to spread an ideology. Only, why is this being shared with me? Even after disliking, reporting and blocking her videos and channel, I can’t seem to shake her from being advertised to me.

I looked more into Abby and how her ads were so powerful in resisting my blocking of her channel. It seemed that I definitely wasn’t the only person that had a problem with the persistent ads. The videos with the boldest titles, the most advertised of course, all feature comments mentioning the same situation and spite for the bother. Abby is just under 70,000 subscribers, which were very recently gained, so why did she previously invest so much money to carry her message? More important, what is her message?

At first look-over her channel, Abby is teaching the world how to be – in her words – classic. If you didn’t know that was a thing that could be taught or even that it was a proper way to describe a modern woman, neither did I. Abby preaches a time when women were more conservative in thought, dress, and almost everything else. Seemingly as conservative as they come, the ClassicallyAbby channel is outspokenly anti-abbortion, religious (and believes you should marry within your faith), against the Me Too movement (doesn’t think you should believe survivors), and includes the occasional skin care routine. What I took from this is that Abby is very anti-feminist, among other things.

In her perception, Classically Abby lists that women play the victim in cases of sexual assault, believes women should conform to mens’ livestyles when entering a marriage, believes the gender roles should be clear and divided, and tells women to cover up and monitor how they dress. If you were ever unsure about what an anti-feminist sounds like, it’s her. Frankly, I’d never heard of such an outspoken anti-feminist before her, and there’s a good reason for that: her perceptions are insane and misogynistic. Classically Abby struggles through the dislikes and hate comments to produce videos which are intended to transfer value from her onto her husband (and all men). She teaches women that we need to cover up in order to leave something to be desired, as if a woman’s body is indubitably to be viewed as a sexual object that needs to be hidden just enough to stay respected. In insisting there is one right way to dress, she slut shames the women who choose to wear crop tops or who don’t want to wear ginormous scarves with their summer dresses. She tells that she needed to change much of her single life to adapt to her husband and advises women not to expect men to change their old ways. Why should a wife conform to a new lifestyle that their husband won’t bother to change for? Abby clearly announces that she believes it’s a woman’s job to focus on the relationship and by all means, not make your husband uncomfortable.

We shouldn’t be listening to Abby on these ideas. Feminism is always necessary. Always. It’s 2020, the centennial anniversary to the woman’s right to vote, yet there still exists an extensive gender divide. Even more, something that Abby might not understand, there exists issues between feminism and equal rights for women of color. In every space, the fight for gender equality is different for BIPOC who identify as women. Abby’s physical and identifying privilege is also coupled with the fact that she has a net worth of a few hundred thousand dollars while her brother exceeds a 25 million dollar net worth. Money is not an issue for the Shapiro family and as they aren’t a part of the working class, she wouldn’t understand the struggles that many women in this country go through with financial struggles and wage gaps. Often times there exists less obstacles for high-income, heterosexual, cisgender, white women, which is why Abby speaks from a privileged perspective that invalidates the struggles of other women.

It’s important that we don’t go back to believing we should shame women for problems that are “provoked”. (Intersectional) Feminism has the clear intention of advancing the voices of all women, and it’s not something anyone of us should try to speak (or make a YouTube channel) against. So no, we shouldn’t be listening to Abby when it comes to how to be a “proper, classic” woman. I still don’t know why these recommendations persist beyond every option I have to avoid Abby, but they’re not harmless, because Abby’s message is in itself dangerous. You may choose to follow her makeup tutorials, but even then I wouldn’t choose to participate in raising her view revenue on the chance that it goes straight back into advertising more conservative points that spell out anti-feminist ideas.

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Vulnerability as a Vice

By: Sheyenne White

It was a humid night filled with ambivalence that paved the path for a profoundly sudden and striking realization. It was particularly late and I couldn’t sleep so I turned to Netflix to comfort me. Needless to say, I approached my quest for some quick entertainment in a distracted and inattentive manner. In my deep dive into Netflix’s extensive collection of movies and tv shows, I stumbled upon a a self declared fat lesbian Australian comedian named Hannah Gadsby. My curiosity was piqued but the little teaser clip is what hooked me. The thirty second clip revealed her epiphany that “self deprecation is not humility but humiliation.” Her epiphany quickly became mine as it forced me to reflect on my own self destructive habits. To paint a picture, I was sitting on my bed dumbfounded as I came to the understanding that my at times overwhelming insecurities are tied to my struggles with vulnerability.

Vulnerability has long been associated with femininity, weakness, and dependency. Considering that I proudly identify as an intersectional feminist, I think this reductive negative view of vulnerability is bullshit. However, I have come to realize that my disdain for the current dualist nature of vulnerability—one that positions vulnerability in opposition to invulnerability—has allowed me to create a dangerous dichotomy between vulnerability and strength.  It is by my very own contempt for arbitrary gender associations that I fell into the trap of a “together woman” and demonized vulnerability in the process. A “together woman” is defined as one who presents themselves with poise, dignity, and most importantly competence. It must be noted that these traits cannot always be conveyed organically and one’s unwillingness to accept that allows one to construct a facade. The comfort behind the facade pushes one to concoct a mask, with the purpose of concealing internal uncertainties and apprehensions from the outside world in fear that such inner turmoil will be dismissed as mediocrity. The irony lies in the fact that this style of thinking directly aligns with gendered loopholes and reinforces the same gender stereotype I was grappling with in the first place.

Nonetheless, I believe this contradiction of mine is more universal than what I imagined. The struggle to find a place for vulnerability within contemporary feminist thought can be traced back to the patriarchal aggressive binary frame that dictates gender norms; a framework that equates vulnerability with a susceptibility to harm and instead promotes invulnerability. However, invulnerability fosters an unhealthy desire for control and security so as to mitigate unpredictable and threatening events. On the contrary, vulnerability forces one to unveil their insecurities and risk emotional exposure. Simply put, the fear of vulnerability is a reflection of one’s fears surrounding themselves. Until we own our truth and embrace our individuality, we will be stuck in a perpetual cycle of subconscious self-loathing. I am a person who thrives on projecting the illusion that I have it all together, and being vulnerable means revealing that I actually… don’t. The walls I have built to protect myself from the instability of life has curbed my ability to devote myself to authenticity and accept my humanity.

After all, humanity is inherently rendered vulnerable and therefore vulnerability paints the true contours of recognition for the individual. With this in mind, the pursuit of invulnerability is illogical to say the least and we must learn to embody vulnerability. Ultimately, only a more comprehensive, nuanced and nonreductive concept of vulnerability can combat obsolete gender associations. It may seem strange that this epiphany of mine came from a Netflix comedy special but I’ll forever be thankful for Hannah Gadsby’s reminder that the incompatibility between vulnerability and strength is nothing but a myth.