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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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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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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.

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The 22 Convention is Laughable, but it’s Repercussions Aren’t

By: Hayley Morris

“Make Women Great Again.” From the catchphrase on their website, it sounds like a joke. I thought it was at first too, until I kept reading and realized no, this is horrendously real. The 22 Convention is a three day event from May 1-3 being held in Orlando, Florida, later this year. Described as “the most pro-woman event on planet earth” and “100% funded by women” you’d expect this to be some kind of large feminist convention, right?

Right?

Well, no. Scroll further down the website’s lovely feminine pink hues and you’ll be blasted with bold text announcing The 22 Convention to be “the mansplaining event of the century.” That’s because all of the speakers at the event are men, giving speeches on how to “improve your life as a woman,” arguing feminism has caused women to be “pushed to act like men” which has “left millions of women feeling unhappy, confused, frustrated, and hopeless.” The website argues that “povery, crime, mental health issues, and overall decline in well being is rampant today in America and the West in this context, thanks to feminist anti-motherhood propaganda.” 

One of the websites main focuses is the supposed “war on motherhood” being raised by the feminist agenda, and how this supposedly distracts women from their biological purpose to reproduce. They add men are “all sizing you up for reproduction” so if you’re not young, skinny, and beautiful, you’re irrelevant in men’s eyes. But don’t worry, if this knowledge makes you panic and wonder how you can “raise your femininity by 500%” these speakers will “teach you the skills to get wifed up, knocked up, and have as many babies as your heart desires” and provide you with “the secrets of becoming the ultimate wife material.”

Now if you’re sitting there reading this thinking, gee, an event where men tell me what I should be doing with my life, this really sounds like the event for me! — don’t worry, it gets even better. Tickets are $1,999 (currently on sale for $999). 

It’s easy to laugh at this event and brush it off, saying to yourself, “who in their right minds would actually attend this?” And sure, it does seem incredibly absurd, however the very fact that events like these are still being hosted reveals there are people who do genuinely still believe in the importance of following traditional gender roles. Those with a patriarchal mindset can be particularly impressionable upon young girls and boys, distorting their perceptions of themselves and reinforcing the much outdated stereotype that women are inferior and submissive to men. 

In addition to perpetuating the continuing battle against sexism, events like The 22 Convention create an incredibly inaccurate understanding of the feminist movement. Their websites paints feminists to be the destruction of humanity, associating negative data with anti-motherhood feminist propaganda. So let’s get one thing straight: Feminists certainly aren’t against motherhood. Far from it. Feminists support women doing whatever they wish with their bodies and lives, whether that’s remaining single and never having children and pursuing “manly” professions, or getting married and having kids and becoming a homemaker. Events like The 22 Convention completely miss the point of feminism and often convince other people feminists are the reason for all the world’s current woes.

Feminism is empowering. It has granted women around the world the power to vote, to have access to the same economic pursuits as men, to be valued both in the workplace and in society, and has taught both girls and boys to be proud in their bodies and live as freely and happily as they please. The 22 Convention teaches the opposite of this. It forces both men and women to conform to strict gender roles that disregards individual expression and happiness. It needs to be called out for it’s outdated and harmful beliefs about what it means to be “great.” After all, shouldn’t “the most pro-woman event on planet earth” be pro-woman?

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When is the Right Time?

By: Christina Lee

Kobe Bryant—dead in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020. Later we would find out that the legendary basketball star’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna had also passed away in the crash alongside seven others.

Headlines cropped up relaying the news of the tragic death of the 41-year-old sports legend. Known for his 20-season professional career with the Los Angeles Lakers and as the recipient of numerous awards, Bryant’s sudden death resounded with basketball fans across the nation and all over the world.

However, the athlete’s death was not the only keyword blaring across the headlines. Reporters, victims of sexual assault, and critics of the late athlete were now posthumously bringing up Bryant’s rape allegation from July 2003.

That year, a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado hotel claimed that Bryant, who was 24 at the time, had raped her in a hotel room, bruises on her neck a testimony to Bryant’s strangling of the woman. She then filed a police report but later refused to testify. The case was dropped, but the damage was done. Bryant admitted to having sexual intercourse with the woman yet insisted that the ordeal was consensual.

Bryant then released a statement: “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.”

Bryant was arrested on July 4, 2003.

Now in an era of internet cancel culture and easily viral boycott sentiments, outspoken victims of sexual assault as well as reporters from major news publications were quick to point out this case from 17 years ago, criticizing the flawed history of this highly praised basketball legend. Their efforts did not go undetected.

Upon tweeting about Bryant’s rape accusation just hours after his death, Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez was put on administrative leave, the news publication deeming her tweets to display “poor judgment” surrounding the issue. Sonmez had to stay in a hotel overnight as a result of a leak of her home address and unrelenting rape and death threats.

This concept of constant threatening, attempting to maliciously silence the outspoken seems to be a recurring pattern for those invested or involved in this issue. Bryant’s accuser was also as dangerously threatened—a man offered to kill her for $3 million, another left death threats on the woman’s answering machine, a Long Beach man sending her up to 70.

The number of awards, the countless seasons one has played, the amount of times one has claimed that the sex was consensual do not overwrite the consequences that another individual must face for the rest of their life, all because one man could not control himself at a Colorado hotel. For Bryant, that day in July may have been a moment he wanted to erase from history after the exposure of his act to the public, but to the victim, that day most likely remains as one of the most traumatic experiences of her lifetime—how can someone of such high social standing understand what it is like to continue living under the label of a traumatizing sexual-assault case in a modern-day, witch-hunting society?

Perhaps we haven’t given enough thought to the repercussions of the victim speaking out—death threats, harassment, an invasion of privacy. And for Bryant? A $136-million contract and endorsements for some of the largest corporations in America. The difference is too clear to deny that this rape allegation can only remain as a trivial speck in an athlete’s career.

For fans, Bryant’s character as it is re-exposed and re-interpreted by the public can create conflicting sentiments—one man’s sexual misconduct from years ago could tarnish and complicate his whole career, creating tumult even after his death, even 17 years after its occurrence. But maybe that’s the price to pay for fame. Maybe that’s the price to pay for the social elites who abuse their power.

It’s impossible to doubt that fans, critics, reporters will continue to bring up his past; we will continue to have discussion surrounding the privileges of powerful figures in popular culture, and we will continue to reiterate that one’s status is not an excuse for poor behavior. We will continue to discuss these issues to establish that we cannot habituate the silencing of victims, nor can we encourage the erasure of the ugly truth to serve the already-powerful.

The victim was threatened for accusing the successful basketball star during his career; Sonmez was put on leave for bringing up the topic after his death. If now is not the right time to talk about rape, when is it?