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Internalized Sexism: My Experience Getting Botox for Migraines

By: Claire Armstrong

In the summer of 2019, I started having headaches every day. Sometimes I could function as usual, sometimes I had to stay in bed in the dark with an ice pack for days on end. My primary care physician referred me to a neurologist, who diagnosed me with migraines. She prescribed an anticonvulsant pill also used to treat migraines. It made my fingers tingle, made soda taste weird, and made my depression worse, but did nothing to improve my headaches. Next, we tried Ajovy, a medicine I injected myself with each month. Again, no change. I started resorting to Advil PM to knock myself out when the migraines wouldn’t end. My neurologist decided I needed an MRI. The scans showed white matter lesions on my brain, consistent with chronic migraines. My neurologist told me the next step was to try Botox. 

I was desperate for some relief, but upset at the prospect of getting Botox. And it wasn’t because I was scared of having 20 needles stuck into my head, face, and neck, although I wasn’t thrilled about that either. My real issue was the stigma I had attached to Botox. I had never wanted to be one of “those women” who alter their bodies for cosmetic purposes. I had planned to age “gracefully.” I understood the pressures on women to conceal signs of aging, but I still judged women who resort to Botox or plastic surgery to do so. 

I still think there is power in resisting the patriarchal expectation that women can never age. But I regret judging women that make the choice to get Botox. And the fact that I internally stigmatized getting Botox, even for medical reasons, shows that I was allowing misogynistic ideologies to color my own thinking, just in a different way. Had anything other than the botulinum toxin been injected into my body, I would have had no problem with it. I knew getting Botox for medical reasons was different than getting it for cosmetic reasons. I knew that. And still, I was ashamed of getting it. 

The patriarchy doesn’t just pit men against women. It also pits women against women, and women against themselves. My own attitude about Botox was not only judgmental of other women; it was potentially harmful to me. I needed Botox, but I resisted getting it. I judged myself like I judged other women. My desire to resist misogyny meant that in a twisted way, I fell prey to it. I was reluctant to undergo a medical procedure that I really needed because I thought it made me a weaker woman. Getting Botox has helped me tremendously. I still get migraines, but they aren’t constant like they used to be. It was the right decision for me, and it is for many others, too. I hope I will remember that next time internalized sexism rears its ugly head inside of me.

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Embracing Our Body Hair

By: Sindura Vuppu

I was only nine years old when I first used Veet hair removal cream to get rid of the shame and insecurity that came with my “unwanted” hair. Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif, the face of Veet in India back then, said I’d feel more beautiful if I did so. Thick dark hair on my dark skin didn’t help meet the beauty standards of a South Indian. Ever since, I’ve tried various ways to “clean up.” I covered up most of the time and waited desperately to visit the salon and get waxed every month just so I could wear clothes that I liked. I felt less pretty. I felt less feminine. I wondered how femininity or masculinity had anything to do with how hairy one was. 

Until a few decades ago, being hairy wasn’t so problematic. In fact, people saw beauty in facial and body hair. Indian Actress Kajol sported a unibrow in the 90s and was considered beautiful. Unibrows became trendy among Indian women. In the Middle East, as well as East and South Asia, unibrows were considered alluring in both sexes. Additionally, pubic hair is seen as a sign of sexual health and fertility In Korean culture, and many Korean women got pubic hair transplants. Similarly, many foreigners have reported that they are often surprised to see unshaved private parts in Asian bathhouses. The West, too, was comfortable with body hair until the 20th century. In the Middle Ages, Catholic women were expected to let their hair grow as a display of femininity. The only “requirement” was to keep it concealed in public. However, being hairy wasn’t that big of a deal for a long time. As we go further back in history, we can find the possible reasons why the obsession with hairlessness  began.

Charles Darwin’s book “Descent of Man” (1871) associated hairy bodies with “primitiveness” and “inferior races.” According to him, having less body hair was a sign of being more evolved and sexually attractive.  Not-so-surprisingly, these ideas targeted women more than men, establishing control over women’s bodies in the most misogynistic and heteronormative way and linking their femininity and sexual attractiveness to the lack of body hair. Scientists drew a clear distinction between masculinity and femininity based on body hair, calling this distinction “higher anthropological development” in race. At the dawn of the twentieth century, changes in fashion that exposed more skin encouraged less body hair. In 1915, Harper’s Bazaar, the first women’s magazine, launched the anti-armpit hair campaign, calling clean armpits a “necessity” for sleeveless clothes. The first Gillette women’s razor was also launched around the same time. Soon, middle-class white women desired smooth, “clean,” and white skin. Gradually, this influence spread across the world, combined with a development in various hair-removal techniques. Today, hair-removal has become so common among men and women, especially women, that most religiously opt for hair-removal as if they have no other option. As if it was a requirement to feel feminine, hygienic, and respected.

The way women are expected to have hairless bodies and smooth skins like children is a form of oppression. Making grown women feel pressured to remain young in the way they appear and behave makes it easier for the patriarchal society to establish control and dominance over almost every aspect of their lives. The term “pretty privilege” also applies to this viewpoint. While beautiful and attractive women who fit societal standards of femininity seem to receive more respect in their professional and personal lives, women who challenge these standards are often looked down upon. Recently, women letting their “unwanted” hair grow out has become associated with the desperation to be “different” and prove a point. While this might be true and is just a form of expression, rather than a personal choice, letting body hair grow has become a sign of “rebellion.” By mocking such choices, society increases the pressure on women to follow the norms and be more “modest and respectable.” Additionally, getting rid of body and facial hair has become so deeply associated with femininity that men doing so is often mocked. This stems from queerphobia and the desire to eliminate anything that isn’t heteronormative. This notion only strengthens toxic masculinity and the need to prove one’s masculinity or femininity. However, such ideas are now being challenged on a higher level. 

Frida Kahlo exhibited one of the earliest and the most significant forms of defiance by growing out her facial hair and embracing it. More recently, celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Julia Roberts, and Paris Jackson to name a few, are encouraging the idea of embracing one’s body hair by publicly displaying their unshaved armpits and legs. In addition to being the first razor brand to show body hair on television, Billie, an indie razor brand, has launched campaigns such as the Body Hair Project and Red, White, and You do You Campaign with ads and videos celebrating the choice to shave or not shave body hair. It is also the first brand to show pubic hair on its Red,White, and You do You Campaign.  Januhairy is another campaign started by students  Laura Jackson and Ruby Jones in 2019 that encourages people to grow out their body hair for the month of January and share images of themselves online. There are many more such campaigns that strive to normalize body hair and empower hairy people. As years pass, we can expect the world to be more tolerant of all body and skin types. 

It’s time to normalize body hair. It’s also important that hair removal should remain a choice and should not be forced upon. There is nothing wrong if, as a feminist or a supporter of this movement, you choose to remove your own body and facial hair. It’s not hypocritical, but rather a personal choice. Having more or less body hair does not make one more or less feminine. Our body hair does not define who we are. Excessive or unwanted hair can occur because of several factors such as genetics or hormonal imbalance. It is normal to have more of it and it is equally normal to have less of it. The slowly fading dark patches in my armpits that came with hair removal creams, the bumps of ingrown hair that came with shaving, and the dreadful hot wax that burns my skin every month, continue to bother me.  I’m still learning to get rid of my insecurity of having a hairy body, but it is sliding down the list of my priorities with each passing day. While it’s not easy to readjust a brainwashed mind, it’s never too late to try. Let us learn to embrace our body hair, slowly and gradually. Let us appreciate what we have and be kind to ourselves. 

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The Caricature of Feminine Irrationality

By: Sheyenne White

For my project, I wish to challenge the false dichotomy between theory and practice. Given that academic theory is designed to be inaccessible through its abstract, dense, and jargonistic composition, I will mitigate its elitist exclusivity by applying it to the raw authenticity inherent of situated testimonies. For the sake of parsimony,  I have limited my interviews to three heterosexual, cisgender female UC Davis students.

  • Have you ever felt that you have carried the emotional weight during a relationship?

“Women are constantly being seen as fragile but when I don’t show any emotion, I’m seen as emotionless and less of a woman. In all of my romantic relationships, I’m always expected to be the motherfucker’s therapist, mother, maid, and caregiver. Anytime that something happens,  I can expect them to lash out and I have to walk them through their feelings. It’s on me. He wants me to fix it but I can’t always fix it.”

. . .

“Ooo my daddy issues. My dad didn’t go to therapy and he projects his unresolved trauma on my mother, sisters, and I. He has created a toxic cycle of transgenerational trauma. I may not be able to choose my trauma but I can choose how I react and respond to it. I understand this so why can’t he?”

. . .

“Men will very much ghost a girl if she gets too sensitive or attached but they’ll unload their trauma on any girl that they fuck. They’re not our boyfriends but we find ourselves acting like their mother or therapist. I don’t like it. As women, we learn to deal with this shit. We learn to award men for doing the bare minimum.”  

. . .

In her work, Alison Jagger reflects on the socially constructed dichotomy between emotionality and rationality. In her article, Love and Knowledge: Emotion in Feminist Epistemology, she disparages the Western derogatory attitiude towards emotion, and instead stresses its critical role in the construction of knowledge.
The emotionality of women is both a familiar cultural stereotype and an axiom of Western tradition. The ongoing and persisting subjugation of women can be traced back to the traditional tie between masculinity and reason within philosophy, in which rationality, morality, and emotionality are positioned as gendered pursuits. Masculine bias continues to be a pervasive thread that runs through Western thought and is maintained through hierarchical dualisms: like man-woman, masculinity-femininity, and rationality-emotionality. Such binary oppositions reinforce the gendered division that values the masculine and devalues the feminine. 

Although both men and women are held to norms of appropriate emotional expression, women’s perceived emotionality comes under greater scrutiny relative to their male counterparts. As interviewee one alluded to, women are expected to succumb to emotions and therefore, emotionally inexpressive women are deemed gender-deviant. As if, emotional expressivity alone constitutes womanhood. While the link between emotional expressivity and the lack of women in leadership roles is readily acknowledged, the extent of its overarching influence in banal and trivial encounters cannot be understated. Along these lines, heteropatriarchal accounts of emotion remain problematic insofar as they fail to explain the paradox between their caricatures of irrational, hormonal women and their need for emotional nurturance.

While some degree of codependency in any given relationship is to be expected, women take on the lion’s share of the emotional labor. As funny as it may be to refer to emotional labor as comparable to the work of a therapist, mother or maid, interviewee one’s experiences sheds light on the dangers of women’s warm, maternal, and communal roles within society. Under an androcentric patriarchy, “men’s emotional development is relatively rudimentary,” which in turn, leads to “moral rigidity and insensitivity” (Jagger, 10). It’s important to note that this phenomena is not incidental but a direct byproduct of toxic masculinity. Considering that male emotional expressivity has become a ill-equipped marker of homosexuality, the question arises, is it really homosexuality that is the fear or is it the loss of heteronormative masculinity? The concept of toxic masculinity can be interpreted as an embodiment of Western ideals: violence, aggression, status, and sex. When a society overemphasizes gender, it must grapple with the consequences. Unfortunately, those consequences manifest themselves in the form of destructive and unaccommodating gender stereotypes.

As interviewee two noted, men’s limited emotional development extends beyond the scope of romantic entanglements and seeps into family dynamics. Nothing quite sums up the way women are burdened with the responsibility of emotional labor quite like the notion of  ‘daddy issues.’ Despite its visage of frivolity, the expression is weaponized as a cruel joke against women, designed to humiliate and mock their mistreatment they suffered on behalf of their father. Interestingly, the expression is utilized in the same fashion when women experience the same mistreatment in their romantic relationships. As if, the issue resides within the woman, and not the emotionally stunted men. Thus, the concept behind ‘daddy issues’ is pernicious in its perpetuation of a victim-blaming culture that once again asks women to shoulder the emotional trauma of the men in their life in addition to their own. 

After conducting my interviews, I could not help but recall interviewee three’s sophisticated articulation that women “learn to award men for doing the bare minimum.” When we applaud men for merely unloading their emotional trauma, we encourage their complacency. After all, the emotional labor is not often reciprocated for the woman. The flawed association of masculinity with reason and femininity with feeling, fails to consider the intrinsic and instrumental value of emotion as well as its potential epistemic value. Women’s experience in emotional nurturance allows us to cultivate the adept ability to identify and recognize emotions. Upon examining the social construction of emotions under an androcentric, heteropatriarchal ideology, “all of our human faculties — rationality, morality, and emotionality — reflect an aspect of human knowledge inseparable from the other aspects” (Jagger, 15). Only by reconciling emotionality with our rationality and morality, may we create a nonhierarchical and antifoundationalist mode of knowledge production, that is both sustainable and durable. For now, women must take advantage of their epistemic advantage by working to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

Works Cited:

Alison M. Jaggar (1989) Love and knowledge: Emotion in feminist epistemology, Inquiry, 32:2, 151-176

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Why We Dislike the Idea of Being Girly

By: Sindura Vuppu

I watch my thirteen year-old cousin grow into an incredible young woman. She is mature, opinionated, and kind-hearted, with morals so great that I learn something from her everyday. Not long after, my proud smile falters. “I’m not like the other girls,” she says, “No offense, but the girls I know are…too girly.” I’m immediately reminded of my thirteen year-old self. 

I called myself a feminist at a very young age, and held so many strong opinions about issues like gender discrimination and misogyny. What I failed to recognize was my own hypocrisy. Books and movies made me believe that being a “regular” girl was scornful. I had to be different, so I hid my Barbie dolls and started watching Power Rangers because I believed that it was cool and tomboyish. I wore makeup in secret as if makeup were a ridiculous thing to do. I said I disliked “typical” girls who wore pink and talked about boys all day. Instead, I idealized the “girl next door,” who, as One Direction once put it, doesn’t know she’s beautiful and needs help recognizing her beauty. She reads books instead of partying, pays no attention to boys, has high morale, and is intelligent unlike the other girls.  

Pop culture played an important role in defining idealistic standards and contrasting archetypal girls to me. In Taylor Swift’s song “You Belong With Me,” Swift sings, “She wears high heels, I wear sneakers, she’s cheer captain, and I’m on the bleachers,” which I believed meant that all girls fit into two binary categories; they were either sweet and innocent or mean and callous, depending on how “feminine” they are.  This depiction is a reinforcement of the famous Madonna-wh*re complex that was first identified by Sigmund Freud. In psychoanalytic literature, this concept explains that men view women as either “tainted” and “impure,” or as saintly “Madonnas” who are worthy of love and respect. To live up to this bizarre dichotomy, literature and cinema have often brought up contrasting characters to glorify the Madonnas. Now known as the “girl next door” trope, these “good girl” characters have been idealized for generations, tracing back to Lizzy from Jane Austen’s famous love story Pride and Prejudice (1813). Lizzy is presented as a contrasting alternative to her glamorous rival Miss Bingley who competes with her over their love interest, Darcy.  Lizzy is tomboyish, intelligent, and rugged in her ways, while Miss Bingley is more stereotypically feminine. Similar to Regina George’s character in Mean Girls (2004), Miss Bingley is portrayed as “the bitch” who is pretentious, manipulative, and sabotaging. Because she differs from Miss Bingley in that she does not publicly vie for Darcy’s attention, Lizzy’s character is glorified for being different from other young women of her time. Her individuality is focused upon in a more positive light, while Miss Bingley is degraded as the “typical” girl, as if it was inferior to be one; she is dismissed and ignored by Darcy for not being his “Madonna.” The girl next door trope in such stories mainly serves as the good alternative for the male protagonist to choose. Her individuality bears no significance if it does not align with what our patriarchal society expects from a respectable woman. Today, these Madonnas have a different role to play. Often paired with “bad boys” with a traumatic past, these “good girls” heal and transform them into better men. The character of Jamie from A Walk to Remember (2002), and Tessa from the popular fan-fiction inspired movie After (2019), serve as perfect examples of these angelic life-changers. These characters exist solely to contribute to the character development of the male protagonist. 

Perhaps one of the most popular female archetypes is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, first coined by film critic Nathan Robin to explain the character of Kirsten Dunst from Elizabethtown (2005). Unlike the soft-spoken and composed girl next door, the manic pixie dream girl is impulsive and spontaneous. As described by Robin, the manic pixie dream girl “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” The manic pixie dream girl approaches the depressed and gloomy man in order to “help” him recover and open up to life’s infinite possibilities. This highly stereotypical depiction of  a free-spirited and quirky girl has been celebrated in several movies, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) and 500 Days of Summer (2009). Once again, this “dream girl” is associated with a man and is assumed to serve as his life-changer. But this type of girl is being challenged more recently; the character of Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) calls out the ridiculous assumptions about her character: “I’m not a concept. Too many guys think I’m a concept or I complete them or I’m going to ‘make them alive’…but I’m just a f*cked up girl who’s looking for my own peace of mind. Don’t assign me yours.” The coining of fearless and self-reliant girls like Clementine as “manic” is sexist by itself, and to make it worse, we get too busy focusing on her role in the man’s life and often ignore what she means to herself.  The breakdown of female characters into rigid categories, and the glorification of some of these as “ideal” stems from generations of misogyny. Both young girls and grown women are made to believe that the stereotypes associated with their gender are somewhat contemptuous. By portraying some of these categories in a negative light, literature and cinema have normalized the attitude of these characters as derisive. While we laugh at Mean Girls’ Karen Smith for being ditzy and gullible, we don’t recognize the degradation of what is considered the “girly” girl trope. Society has defined the characteristics and roles of men and women and has asked women to fit the “feminine” standard. The portrayal of the same femininity as manipulative and toxic, or as shallow and dim-witted, influences young girls to dislike the idea of being girly or feminine. This double-standard often leads to girls being torn between following the stereotype and being different at the same time. As a result, they start an unhealthy competition to be respected. Eventually, each girl’s originality is compromised as she chases a different kind of “originality”. On the other hand, young boys lose their perception of girls as they are, and instead place them into discrete and dichotomous categories. A set of unrealistic expectations follow, often ending up in disappointment. Girls come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. Every person’s priorities and interests differ and sets them apart in their own unique way. I like to think of these personality types as a bunch of Venn diagrams; some traits overlap with a couple of others’ and create a unique product. Glorifying some of these and degrading the others only damages the already fragile perception of women in society.

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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.