High brow content with a low brow attitude.

How Strong Female Relationships In Pop Culture Make Real Positive Differences For Young Women

I met my best friend when I was fourteen.

Of course, she wasn’t my first best friend.

She’s not even my only one now.

Since I was little, I’ve surrounded myself with girls that push me in every possible way.

However, it wasn’t until recently that I really started to appreciate those relationships.

The lack of strong female relationships in pop culture is sort of like your heartbeat.

You spend years not noticing it.

But when you do, you can’t stop noticing it.

Even as I started to write this piece, I was shocked by how many of my favorite female characters don’t have a single strong relationship with another girl – at least not one the audience gets to see.

The moment I started to notice my heartbeat, I was still really young.

When I was 8, my favorite TV show was Wizards of Waverly Place.

For any of you who’ve ever watched it, you know that the relationship between Harper and Alex is incredibly strong and incredibly complex.

That was a friendship that changed my life.

I could see me and my friends, finally represented on screen, and it felt amazing.

Not only that, but I wanted to work to improve the friendships I had with other girls.

Nowadays, I hardly ever consume any pop culture that doesn’t have a strong female relationship at its forefront.

The best part is, they’re all different.

My favorite show is New Girl, where the relationship between Jess and Cece is both one of the show’s most subtle, while also being its very bedrock.

My favorite artist is Taylor Swift, someone who became widely known for the strong female relationships she developed.

Teen Wolf is unabashedly one of my favorite shows on TV, and its highlight of female friendships changed the way I think about them.

Photo Credit: Flickr (CC By 2.0)

This is a show that finds a way to put female relationships at its forefront, despite being centered around males.

The friendships between Allison, Lydia, Malia, and Kira, in all their different combinations, display an incredibly wide variety of relationships.

Some of them have dated the same boy, some of them have tried to kill each other, and some of them have every petty reason to hate each other, but they don’t.

This show has decided that its female friendships are more important than any love triangle, even though those do exist.

The show doesn’t pretend those obstacles don’t exist, they just demonstrate that the relationships formed among girls are way stronger than anything they could face.

They have found a way to put complex, varied, and oftentimes confusing female relationships on display, something I see in very few corners of the pop culture world.

I’m not the only one who’s felt the effects of seeing strong female relationships on TV.

I asked a few of my own strong female friends to talk to me about when they’ve seen their life changed by viewing those types of friendships in pop culture, and here’s what they said:

“Ann and Leslie [of Parks and Recreation] taught me that women should strive to build each other up, and that nothing is stronger than a female friendship built on pure love, loyalty, and trust. Female friendships don’t have to be filled with drama, and the best ones consider a five hour phone call about anything and everything equally as important as huge celebrations and milestones.” – Maggie

“Cristina Yang and Meredith Gray from Gray’s Anatomy depict what not only is a wonderful friendship, but a support system for one another. The fictional characters from the show have inspired me to not only be in my friends’ lives during the good times but to be there for support during the hard times.” – Sreelekha

More and more female friendships being represented is crucial, but the way they’re portrayed is also really important.

And while we like to think all female relationships in pop culture are great examples of representation, some miss the mark.

Here’s the biggest issue with the way pop culture sometimes displays female relationships – they exist only in a two-dimensional world.

An example of this comes from an often-raved about female friendship that just premiered this winter – Betty and Veronica on The CW’s Riverdale.

Now, I watch and love Riverdale, and I think there’s a lot of potential for the relationships to develop in new and interesting ways, but the way Betty and Veronica’s relationship exists now is very two-dimensional.

Disregarding the discussion of queerbaiting, and any sexual tension fans have picked up on, Betty and Veronica have the quintessential Strong Female Relationship.

Sure, they’ve both had feelings for the same guy, but that doesn’t matter!

They’re Strong Female Friends, and all they do is lift each other up.

The reason this comes across as a little unrealistic is because it is.

Look, I love my best friend with my everything I have.

I really would die for her, but sometimes I want to be the one doing the killing.

We’ve fought – a lot – and we have fought about boys!

The reason I consider our friendship one of the strongest in my life isn’t the fact that we’ve had jealous, petty moments – it’s the fact that we were able to move on.

Female relationships are just like any other relationship in life – they’re complicated.

The right way to portray a strong female relationship isn’t by following the rule book about what you think that should be.

It’s about embracing the different ways girls interact, the different ways they form bonds, and the different types of relationships that rise from those bonds.

One show that’s done this perfectly is HBO’s Big Little Lies.

Much of the miniseries is based on petty fighting between these women, but the end result (no spoilers here) is all the more satisfying because of that.

The show portrays female relationships exactly as they are – complex, frustrating, petty, and most of all, different.

All five of the main characters have extraordinarily different personalities, and the show doesn’t pretend those don’t exist.

In fact, every episode up until the finale points in a certain direction that is the destruction of those bonds.

However, the final episode clearly puts on display the way relationships between women are stronger than anything else in this life, even if their personalities don’t exactly mesh.

Despite all of this, all strong female friendships are good, just like all strong female characters are good.

The reality is, when a girl sees two other girls being friends, whether on TV, in a movie, in a book, or in real life, she’s inspired to develop those same sorts of ties with her friends.

And the effects of that are really, really good – like, scientifically proven good.

A UCLA study from 2002 suggests that women respond to stress with a cascade of brain chemicals that cause us to make and maintain friendships with other women.

Hanging out with our friends can actually counteract the kind of stomach-quivering stress most of us experience on a daily basis.

Relationships among women aren’t only good for the women themselves, they’re a necessary foundation to our entire society.

When women build each other up, instead of tear each other down, everyone wins.

And as women work to unlearn the decades of media that taught them girls should always fight over boys, the representation of female friendships in pop culture will be more important than ever.

My list of strong female relationships in pop culture to check out, not already mentioned:
Rachel, Phoebe, and Monica: FRIENDS
Blair and Serena: Gossip Girl
Cher & friends: Clueless
Hailee Steinfeld’s music
The Clone Club: Orphan Black
Ginny and Luna: Harry Potter series
Sansa Stark and Margaery Tyrell: Game of Thrones
Selena Gomez’s “Me & My Girls”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Flickr (CC By 2.0)

An Optimistic Poem About South Africa’s Water Crisis

Is there a hint of optimism concealed in South Africa’s water shortage crisis?

When drought brings about hope

Thinking back to my childhood

water was never a concern.

The communal tap supplied us daily –

we filled our buckets to the brim.


And as I quenched my thirst with freshly caught rain water

ice cold and refreshing

I did not even realise

that this was indeed a blessing.


Now the children learn from young

to value each and every drop.

No longer is it limitless –

at any time the supply can stop.


Yet, in this time of crisis

South Africans are coming together.

“Please, let rain fall from the sky”,

they pray to the Creator.


Sharing tips, sharing ideas

to make it last, this scarce commodity.

To the outsider this may even come across

as an obsession, or a bit of an oddity.


“Use bath water to water the garden

Close the tap while brushing your teeth

Put a brick in your toilet’s cistern

And defrost frozen foods in the fridge


If it’s yellow, let it mellow

Rinse dishes in a basin

Wash your car on the lawn

Cover the pool to avoid evaporation”


So while the drought disaster may cause fear

it also brings about a new form of appreciation.

It shows unity during hardship

and leaves me with hope for our rainbow nation

More from our South Africa Team: 

Calling Young South African Writers, Journalists And Leaders: Tell Your Story And Make A Difference

Meet Eddie Ndopu: The First Disabled African To Attend Oxford University

More Original Poetry: 

Young Politician: A Poem

“What Do You Live For?” Series: An American Educated South African Answers That Question In A Poem

“Peace”: You Have To Read This Powerful Poem About Police Violence

Everyone Should Read This Incredibly Powerful Poem A Man Wrote To His Transgender Sister

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: dasroofless/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Does An Invitation To A Frat Formal Require You To Have Sex With The Guy?

I have this ring on my right middle finger.

It’s a peace sign that I originally wore on my left ring finger – you know, the finger associated with marriage.

2008 me was convinced that if Nick Jonas, the man I was destined to marry, was going to refrain from being intimate until marriage, so would I.

I held on to the notion that I would remain abstinent until marriage until I was 16.

I had my first real love, and suddenly my opinion of waiting until marriage seemed out of step with reality.

My feelings towards sex radically changed once I realized the importance of another level of intimacy in becoming closer to another individual, and while some choose not to have sex, I didn’t.

In my eyes, God (you betcha I believe in a higher power) created the body to enjoy his other creations, including sex.


I am a 20-year-old woman who has openly expressed on the internet that she is sexually active and takes pride in her ability to make the choice to be.

Is it just me or does it feel like I had a Carrie Bradshaw moment? You know what I mean, when she was typing away on her laptop in Sex and the City?

Carrie Bradshaw typing away. Photo Credit: AlexHerrera/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Psh, why do I even need to have a Carrie Bradshaw moment?

Well, level with me here because I’m not about to tell you about my sexual escapades.

I value the sanctity of physical intimacy, and I would never share details of an experience with a partner to another individual.

Instead, I think it is important for someone to be frank about sex in college because:





I am unable to trace back to where Western college culture changed so that the major aspect of social development was linked to sex.

Maybe it happened when women (rightly) claimed the entitlements back to their bodies; or maybe it happened when the media could openly sexualize relationships.

Whenever it happened, there was a dynamic shift in our understanding and appreciation of sex.

For the most part, the conversation surrounding sex is treated as much like the methods used to study for a test.

While I think it is truly wonderful that we can have open discussions about intimacy, there seems to be a series of unspoken rules about sex on college campuses in the United States, which I didn’t know about.

Have you ever heard the expression: “High school is all about how long can they date before they hook up? But college…college is all about how long can they hook up before they date?”

It is the most accurate depiction of college hook up culture.

Like I want to paint it on a canvas or get it printed on a flyer because it holds that much power over interpersonal relationships in college.

Don’t worry; Monogamy happens still.

I can tell you from personal experience, I am still struggling with my last heart-break.

But the purpose of this piece is not to talk about monogamy.

Rather, I want to bring to attention the issue that everyone is entitled to believe what they do and should be free from pressure to participate in something they find unsettling.

The results of these beliefs may not always host positive outcomes, but nonetheless the individuals will deal with the consequences as they are presented.

There is some beauty in being in a world where there is an understanding that you can sleep with whomever you want.

What is not remotely beautiful is the expectation that everyone participates in this hook up culture.

Allow me to offer a specific example.

If you, my dear reader, are not involved in Greek life, like the American high school homecoming and prom, fraternities and sororities host semi-formals and formals dances.

While sororities are expected to host their events within the city limits of their university, fraternities will go out-of-town for both events.

At least he has a cat. Photo Credit: T U R K A I R O/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Just as sorority women can invite individuals involved and not involved in Greek life, fraternity men may do the same.

The fact that they go out-of-town means they must spend a decent amount of money to secure the hotel room and the nice dinner venue.

Their dates usually will make them a cooler or flask or craft something else catered to the taste of the gentleman.

Basically, the fraternity and its guests are all in for a weekend of all kinds of fun in a city, taking a pseudo-vacation.

Sounds great, right?!

Well, formal season is almost over, but if I hear anything else about fraternity men looking for dates, I will let you know.

There is one catch, though, the frat boy will probably be expecting you to have sex with him or at the very least fool around until he is satisfied.

Yeah, I would be a little taken aback too.

This party is so lit right now bro. Photo Credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

By no means are all fraternity men expecting this, and I have been fortunate enough to be asked on formals by men that identified with their gender assigned at birth that I was either seeing or very good friends with.

There was no expectation from me to do anything I was not comfortable with.

However, I have had approximately seven girlfriends come and speak to me about how uncomfortable they felt around their date because he seemed to hold this expectation that she would participate in the hook up culture.

Let me be perfectly clear:

It does not matter your gender identity, sexuality or combination of the two spectra.

If you invite an individual on some event, whether it be out of college or while you are in school, you do not have a right to expect something in return for the invitation.

I find it appalling and a reflection of the manipulative nature of our modern culture that the definition has evolved from something that used to mean to request someone’s presence at to a word that offers an incentive or opens the door to the likelihood of an opportunity.


This beautifully masked article has been another approach to aid those who still do not understand the concept of consent the entire time!

While I may choose to be free with my body, I still reserve the right to say no and be uninhibited by the expectation that I will use the pleasure intimacy can create to essentially repay a fraternity member with his choice to bring a date on a pricey event.

Don’t be afraid to go stag!

Or just don’t go!

Or better yet, take someone you may actually like!

So, while there is a definite beauty in an individual’s ability to choose to sleep with as many people as they want, whether they are being safe about it or not (which for the sake of everyone else I hope they are being), not everyone has to participate in this culture shift, especially when they are invited out to an event, like a date or a weekend getaway.

If you are interested in reading more about the hookup culture of today, I highly suggest listening to the Hidden Brain podcast from NPR published on February 14.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Angie Chung

I Went To The Actual “Gossip Girl” School. Here’s What I Learned

Gossip Girl.

Not just a set of novels or a television series that shows an exaggerated interpretation of “Manhattan’s elite” at an all-girls’ independent school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Truth be told, the fictional Constance-Billard School for Girls is based on my real all-girls’ independent K-12 school on the Upper East Side (but its name is “a secret I’ll never tell” – unless you can figure out the clues I sprinkle throughout the piece).

While some of the women I called my classmates had been at the school since kindergarten and had mothers who attended the school as well, I entered in the 7th grade as a financial aid student through an academic program that targets high academically-achieving students of color in New York City public schools.

My dream school as a 12-year-old applying to these independent schools was co-ed and on a campus that housed huge fields for their sports team, exactly what you would see on Friday Night Lights.

However, the program required all students to apply to a single-sex school, something my father was truly ecstatic about and something I cried about (I was very boy crazy at 12).

Due to my birthday being in September and my mother signing me up for pre-kindergarten at the age of 3, most schools wanted me to repeat the 6th grade so that my age could align with my future classmates.

However, the all-girls’ school that I did not want to apply to was the only one that decided to take a chance on me and allowed me to continue onto the 7th grade.

The months leading up to my entrance through the blue doors of the famed school felt like a crash course: having to pick up books that I never imagined having access to, preparing for the academic differences between the public school I was so used to and the independent school that housed women whose worlds I would not understand at first (and at times still do not), and buying a uniform that was beyond any clothing budget I could imagine.

However, by the time I graduated from the school, I wore my plaid blue, white, and grey skirt that always would just make the length cut-off with my head held high (each all-girls’ school had their own unique skirt).

As the co-head of tour guides my senior year, I received many questions from admitted students regarding my experience, many of which oozed with confusion and concerns.

Well, now is as a good a time as ever to pass along the advice that came from these conversations.

Here’s what’s it really like to go to an all girls prep school:

1. Yes, you will interact with males.

You do not move to another planet.

I will admit that my heart did flutter whenever I saw someone of the opposite sex; however, I think that happens whenever you are going through your first set of crushes.
2. Going off of that, take advantage of the opportunities given to interact with your brother school(s).

It is nice to have friends from there when you are forced to do plays and community service together.

3. You will not feel uncomfortable if and when you decide to go to a co-ed college.

If anything, I felt more confident.

I had strengthened my voice during my 6 years at my school.

I knew how to speak up and to speak with confidence.

Just because some testosterone was added to the mix when I started college did not mean I forgot how to raise my hand and share my opinion.

4. You will get many questions asking if you are now an uber feminist.

Always say, “Hell yeah. We never shave our legs, burn bras, never wear make-up, and you don’t even want to know what happens at school.”

You won’t get the dumb question again. Only a face of mixed emotions.

5. Be grateful that you are in a place that knows the importance of women in this world.

Faculty and staff go above and beyond to ensure your success because they know how much you are needed.

6. Also be grateful that you can shout about needing a tampon or pad without the confused, horrified, or joking reaction of men.

Be free, and happily catch that tampon that is thrown across the room.

7. You will become attached to your uniform skirt.

You will never want to throw it out.

You will take it with you to college and most likely use it as part of a costume.

8. I graduated with a class of 38 other women, and with such a small group, you are bound to know A LOT about each other.

You all may be at very different stages of our personal lives.

Do not feel as though you are lagging or are way ahead.

Everyone goes at their own pace, and it just may intensified because you see the same small group every day.

9. Almost everyone at your school will become a familiar face.

Be happy about it, especially when the cute little kindergarten student waves every time she sees you.

10. There are many moments when you will feel a lot of love accompanied by hugs.

11. Remember the moment you enter the blue doors (or whatever color your school’s doors are) as well as the moment you leave them behind. The experience you gain at an all-girls’ school is a very unique one that can never be replicated.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: William Murphy/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0)

Five Ways You Can Use Your Spring Break for Good

There is one week in a college student’s spring semester that is far more cherished than all the others- spring break.

It is that sweet, sweet time when all of the dorms close down and students pack themselves into cars, driving across the country and searching for that perfect adventure or some much needed relaxation (especially after mid-terms).

There is nothing better than spending a week with your friends, but did you know that you can do that while making a positive impact on the community around you?

There are so many opportunities to do some good, while also enjoying your spring break with your friends, so you should definitely take advantage of them if you can.

Volunteering allows you to travel to some really cool places, meet new people, and it actually looks really great on a resume.

Here are a few ways to have fun and serve others during your week off:

1. Volunteer Abroad

This is a super fun way to see the world while also achieving positive change while you’re there.

In spring break programs that work abroad there is such a variety of available projects that you can definitely find something you’re interested in doing- and it might even complement your major!

On the trips, students can work on projects such as construction and renovation, teaching English and supporting children in school, and even assisting and shadowing physicians.

The International Volunteer Headquarters has some great volunteer opportunities abroad and you can find those here.

2. Go on a Mission Trip

Chances are, the religious organizations in your area are definitely planning some mission trips for students to take part in during spring break.

These are wonderful because they can be as close as volunteering in your local community, working three hours away, helping out in another state, or even going to an entirely different country.

You can enjoy time with your friends, make a difference in the community around you, and help to spread your religious beliefs.

Ask around in your area and I’m sure you can find a great mission trip to take part in!

3. Rebuild U.S. Homes and Communities Hit by Disaster

With the St. Bernard Project you can volunteer in cities across America, helping them to rebuild after being hit by a natural disaster.

The St. Bernard Project works to rebuild communities, prepare them for potential future disasters, and advocates for faster and improved recovery strategies.

This is a really unique chance to have a tangible impact on a family’s life! If you’re interested this spring break opportunity then you can look here for more information.

4. Volunteer in a National Park

Are you outdoorsy?

If so, then you should consider volunteering in a State Park for the week!

The American Hiking Society hosts a program that allows you to work with 8-15 students building and maintaining hiking trails in some of our nation’s most beautiful state parks.

I also feel like s’mores will probably be involved so that’s definitely a plus! You can find more information on these trips here.

5. Add Good Deeds to Your Spring Break Bucket List

If you’re a college student and you go somewhere fun for spring break, chances are you have a bucket list.

I’m sure it’s filled with so many exciting and crazy activities that you’re already wondering how you plan to accomplish them all, so what could adding one more item really hurt?

Consider making a goal of doing ten good deeds while you’re on your break.

They can be simple and inexpensive and even easy, but a little kindness can go a long way!

I hope these suggestions have inspired you to use your time off to make a difference.

Regardless of what you decide to do for your spring break, don’t forget your sunscreen, take a lot of pictures, and enjoy this little week of freedom!

Now, in the words of Minor Myers Jr., “Go out into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.”

Cover Photo Credit: Adam Bautz/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Confessions Of A Tinder Ghosting Queen

Picture two lonely twenty- somethings, 2.4 miles away from each other, both struggling through the end of tumultuous relationships.

Two lonely people seeking very different things- one of us had good intentions, and one of us had none.

I was your typical tinder troll.

I was the QUEEN of ghosting boys on Tinder, and, unfortunately, Michael was the result of one of my most crafty “drink and ditch” plans.

My life as a Tinder ghost went through many phases but it ended in an incredibly unlikely way.

The Broken Hearted

I would venture to say that this is the most popular group of people responsible for Tinder ghosting.

These are the guys/ girls that will text/ snapchat you all the time.

They’ll make plans to meet up, but chicken out at the last second.

When I matched with Michael in the summer of 2015, I had just broken up with the guy that I had been dating off and on since high school.

My best friend convinced me to download Tinder “just for fun.”

I didn’t think I needed it, but I went along with it anyway.

The night I downloaded Tinder, I got a message from Michael.

He was going out and wanted to meet up.

I was freaked out about the whole idea of it, so I thought maybe I would just take a free drink for my best friend and I and ditch.

When we met up, he was a true gentlemen, he bought us drinks and we chugged them.

We left shortly after, and about an hour later, he saw me hanging out with another guy.

Although it may not sound like a valid excuse, I can assure you that the broken- hearted do not understand the damage that they may be causing.

These people are hurting and they probably cannot yet identify what a good guy/ girl looks like.

These people are looking for love, but still need to heal.

The Attention Seeker

This one is all of us to some extent.

Tinder is a great daily ego booster.

I don’t know of any other place where you can experience a variety of cheesy pickup lines crafted just for you (or used on 10 other people), get told how pretty you are, and rummage through hundreds of messages, choosing whom to reply.

Hangout two with Michael happened about six months later.

I had deleted and re- downloaded the app more than a handful of times since we had last seen one another.

This time, I had moved on from the heart break category, into the “home alone over Christmas break” attention seeking category.

I was out with a friend one night, and he was too.

So, I went over to where he was to meet him (and get free drink number two).

We talked for a bit, but then my friend needed me, so I left to be with her.

Later on in the night I saw him walking around with his friends, and I walked the other direction.

The attention seekers like things to be on their terms.

They only want you when they’re lonely or need the ego boost.

Attention seekers can get better over time, though, so don’t write them off right away.

Get to know these people, sometimes it might take a few tries to crack their seemingly egotistical shell.

The Gold Digger

Watch out for this one.

People like to blame this one on females, but I think this can be everyone.

This is the group of people that are unwilling to meet up UNLESS there is something good in it for them ie: dinner, drinks, entertainment.

They won’t just join you at the dog park or for a movie, they need some kind of incentive, and they get a high off of using other people.

When hangout number three with Michael happened, I was going into it with the intentions of more free drinks.

By this time, it had already been a year of enduring my ghosting, and he was pretty much sick of me.

However, one night, a freshly 21 Ariel partied a little too hard, and ran into some “medical” trouble.

I remembered that Michael worked in a hospital, so I texted him asking if I was going to die.

Turns out I was just fine, and the reassurance that he had my back was really moving to me.

So, ~finally~ date number one happened, and, (gold digger that I formerly was) ended up asking to pay for the drinks.

And, the rest is history.

You see, if Michael had not contacted me the second time we matched, even though I had already ditched him, I never would be with him today.

We have been dating for almost a year now and I cannot imagine a single second without him.

If he had not pursued me or had just begun ignoring me like I did him, we would not be as happy as we are today.

Sometimes the people who are unwilling to meet up are just gun- shy from their last relationship/ experience and need a little time.

They need a little forgiveness and understanding.

Trust your gut, though, and if it feels like you are being used, you probably are.

Of course, it could end up being love at first (or second) ghost too.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Jordi Carrasco/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Steve Harvey And The “Emasculation of Asian Men”

We all know the stereotype.

We’re all familiar with the trope.

Asian men just aren’t “desirable.”

Our frames are too delicate.

Our mannerism aren’t “masculine.”

And of course, our penises are just too small.

All of these sentiments are well echoed in the entertainment industry.

Asian men are rarely cast in a leading role because who would want to watch a movie about an Asian guy?

More often than not, we’re relegated to a mere sidekick usually for a desirable, white protagonist.

But, it’s not just the entertainment industry that plays into this stereotype.

Steve Harvey, too, has reified this idea that Asian men just aren’t worth it with some racist “jokes” that he made this past January.

In sum, he stated, in reference to a 2002 book called How to Date a White Woman: A Practical Guide for Asian Men (which is a whole different can of worms in and of itself), that “there’s just no way someone could be attracted to Asian men” all while laughing uncontrollably.

Now, while Steve Harvey’s clearly racist remarks deserve to be rifled through with a fine-toothed comb (and has been), I want to focus not on his remarks, but the reaction of his remarks among Asian-American men who were rightfully offended by his words.

The most notable voice that comes to mind is an article written by Eddie Huang titled “Hey, Steve Harvey, Who Says I Might Not Steal Your Girl?.”

In the article, Huang goes in on Harvey and laments the real, hurtful idea that “women don’t want Asian men.”

Huang is a well-known restaurateur and chief who wrote a book about growing up as an Asian America. The book was later adapted into ABC’s hit tv show Fresh Off The Boat. 

Huang makes note of how marginalized people are not afforded the privilege of being whole, complex human beings and comments like the one that Harvey’s made remind Asian men of that.

Moreover, he touches on the “structural emasculation of Asian men in all forms of media… produced an actual abhorrence to Asian men… That’s why this Steve Harvey episode is so upsetting.”

Asian women (and all women for that matter) should not be viewed as things that can be “stolen” by men. Photo Credit: Shawn Perez/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

While I agree with Huang that we as a society need to drop the erroneous notion that Asian men are not worthy partners in any sense, I take issue with the way that Huang, and many other people who think like him, has decided to approach this problem.

First and foremost, the “Mr. Steal Your Girl” reference.

Why are we treating women as objects to be stolen in the first place?

Shouldn’t they have the privilege to be complex human beings?

Why are we approaching this topic from this specific angle?

Also, as an Asian-American man who is impacted by conversations about “Asian (e)masculinity,” I have grown quite tired of this whole mantra behind “masculinizing” Asian men.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I agree that the experiences of Asian men who feel emasculated by society and media ought to be validated.

However, why is masculinity the center of this conversation?

I feel that Asian men exist in all facets outside of feeling “emasculated” and their voices ought to be uplifted as well.

I identify as a feminine, queer Asian-American man, and I do not feel liberated by this rhetoric around “masculinization.”

How does an Asian-American man like me fight into this conversation?

If fighting against Asian emasculation means letting Asian men talk about “stealing” someone’s girl and other low-key misogynistic things while feeling like a “man” about it, then that is not something that I can get behind.

Huang himself has been criticized as someone who exhibits misogynistic language and attitudes and if battling Asian emasculation means advocating for his right to feel “manly” when he jokes with his friends about women, then I cannot stand with him.

Fair and accurate media representation of the Asian-American experience in all forms written by Asian-American folk is something that I can get behind.

But, this centering of masculinity as the end all, be all for representation and desirability of Asian men has got to stop.

This reminds me of the way that people tried to fight against Steve Harvey’s words on Twitter by retweeting photos of masculine presenting Asian men to prove that they thought Asian men were “desirable” and “attractive.”

But, the problem here isn’t that I want people to think that I’m hot.

The problem is that we as a society need to decolonize what we deem as attractive and why.

Furthermore, people like Eddie Huang (though well-intentioned, I’m sure) need to step back and think about who benefits from their advocacy for the Asian-American community, who is left out, and who is negatively affected by what we’re fighting for.

These are the conversations and dialogues that I feel need to be had, and emasculation can exit, stage left.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: See-ming Lee/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The Teacher Who Changed My Life: Haitian Cai

I have met many teachers since I was a little child.

There are some who just taught me about subjects.

But there is one who taught me much more.

He was my electronic organ teacher during my extracurricular time on weekends when I was from 9 to 12 years old back in my home country of China.

His name is Haitian Cai.

When I first met him, he was already in his 50s.

I was very amazed to know that he would be my electronic organ teacher.

His hands were gigantic for me and on the keyboard, too.

How could he remember all those staves?

The first song I learned from him was the Song of Joy.

He taught me to practice with the right hand first then remember the chords on the left hand.

It was very exciting for me to use both hands to play a song, even it was the simplest one among all songs I would play.

Time and time again, I fell in love with playing songs since I learned more and more.

I enjoyed having classes with Mr. Cai, too.

Each time I knew it was time for the class I would beg my mom to take me to the class at least 20 minutes earlier.

During weekdays, I spent at least 1 hour every day to practice.

My parents even joked that I would be a genius to put the same amount of efforts into my regular classes at school.

Mr. Cai was very different from other teachers.

Most music teachers in China are gentle and young women.

But Mr. Cai was sedate, sincere and patient.

He had steps to teach us little children and told us about interesting stories about the people that he met in other musical schools.

There was a concert held by the institution and I got a chance to see my mates to perform on stage.

The first time I saw the beautiful song played by a girl and it just stimulated me to practice more and learn that song.

One day I would be able to shine on the stage.

I was 10 and I loved learning and playing so much that I didn’t stop during breaks.

I enjoyed interacting with Mr. Cai and listened to his feedback about my playing.

When he played I couldn’t stop looking at his hands.

He told us it was very important to know the principles first then to play.

There is one story that I remember the most.

He said us girls who played well would marry elegant boys because we would be matched.

At that time, all girls laughed and were shy but we all knew it was truth.

Mr. Cai once talked with my mom and got to know that I was so enchanted to playing the organ.

He expressed his compliments to me in front of all my mates.

I was shy and knew that I couldn’t be complacent.

I just needed to keep going and purse my shining dream.

As time went by, my skills grew better.

Mr. Cai invited me to join his “talented class “ in which are his most outstanding students.

I was so happy to be able to learn from other mates.

I kept learning more and grew faster than before.

Mr. Cai encouraged me.

For example, if I could finish a 4-page song in a week, he would say I can start to learn the next one.

However, it was not always good to grow too fast.

If he found some defects in my playing he would let me practice for a specific phase for one hour then play for him.

He also said playing songs is like eating the fruits that we bought before.

If we play old songs, we enjoyed the sweetness of fruits.

If we just forgot and let go of old songs, those fruits decayed over time.

Mr. Cai was not a strict teacher.

He would call us to go back to the room to practice when the break time was over.

But he never forced us to go.

He knew that everyone has his or her own pace to learn things.

There were other students who were taken by their parents to learn but not for their own interest.

Mr. Cai knew this deeply.

He encouraged every student in different ways.

To me, he had higher standards and was never mean to express his recognition towards me.

I liked the way the Mr. Cai taught me.

Not like other young teachers who just talked gently with children and lose temper easily, Mr. Cai was more sincere and calm.

I felt very comfortable to talk with him and learn from him.

He would find some beautiful songs to enable me to learn more than what I needed to pass the music level test.

Mr. Cai was versatile and he taught traditional Chinese painting, Erhu and flute, too.

By the time when I was preparing for the level 10 test (which is the highest level), he was ready to teach painting.

I decided to end my learning if I passed the test because I knew I would had enough knowledge and reached my goal.

So I didn’t accept the invitation to join his painting class a year before I took the test.

It turned out that after several months, another young teacher took over Mr. Cai’s classes.

It was said that Mr. Cai asked for a long leave.

I was only half of a year before the test.

I was sad but I didn’t know when he would be back.

I felt lost after he was not there.

I had a new teacher but she was young and didn’t give much feedback as Mr. Cai did.

I missed him but I had to keep going to pass the test.

Finally, I passed the test, which made me the only student who first passed level 10 among all his students.

I felt proud of myself.

It was a little sentimental that my mentor Mr. Cai was not there.

Even before I left, he never came back.

I don’t know what happen to him.

Maybe he was sick or he had something important to deal with.

I imagined that I wrote a letter to him to express my gratitude and appreciation towards him.

I thought about the words I wanted to say to him.

However, I never got the chance.

This experience opens my window towards the beauty of music.

My voice is deep and I was not considered as a good singer at school.

But learning the organ developed my talent in music and I started singing and playing.

Since I was 9, music has been my best friend.

It changed the way I look at the world.

It enriches me with the opportunities to find more beauty in life.

Those four years of learning music and playing was the most precious time in my life.

I didn’t get much happiness from study at school.

I paid all my attention and efforts into one thing I enjoyed and loved.

I got such a great teacher to guide me and motivate me.

Mr. Cai kept encouraging me to learn, practice and grow.

Now whenever I meet challenges, my memory will bring me back to the girl who was so hard-working and persistent.

It is always lucky to do what I like to and grow.

I hope Mr. Cai is still well and I will always make wishes for him in my heart.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Kris McGuire/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Ladies, This D Ain’t Free

The world is filled with hypocrites, racism, Donald Trump tweets, and double standards.

There are a bunch of double standards in different areas of life but, guess what I’ll be focusing on?

*Ding, Ding, Ding*

The dating world!

More specifically, the first date.

Yup, a perfect follow up to my Valentine’s Day special.

“Oh my god, how can he talk about double standards in the dating world if he isn’t in a relationship? Oh no. He’s generalizing.”

First of all, hush.

Not the case, whatsoever.

I decided that I would interview a few people and see where they stand on the topic.

I made a conscious effort to search for and include singles, couples, gay, straight, brown, white, purple, Donald Trump supporters.

I think I’m going to stop dropping his name now, every time I type it I hear “Dun, Dun, DUN”.

It’s weird.

So, after the Valentine’s Day article was published, my good friend Lamar a.k.a. Big Money Mar planted the seed in my head to write an article addressing the “Double Standard”.

I ran with it.

Actually, it gives me a great excuse to talk to all the pretty girls around campus and other universities in the area.

So, why not?

The question was “In regards to the first date, should men be expected to pick up the bill?”

Society, custom, tradition, status quo, what ever you wish to call it has deemed it a requirement for the man to pay for the first date.

It is what it is.

No way to get around it.

The man has always been expected to be chivalrous due to some old fashioned courting technique established when Shakespeare was shaking it for a shilling.

When I asked Habon, a senior at the University of Baltimore, if the man should pay for the first date?

She succinctly replied, “The man should always pay.”

What ever the first date looks like to you, the man must pay according to the rules of society unless it is communicated otherwise; which a few young ladies agreed with.

You know he just paid for dinner, right? Photo Credit: Iselin/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Sydney, a Towson University sophomore agreed.

“Yes, I believe that clear and understanding conversations can eliminate the double standard. I don’t think there’s a big problem with going half on the first date.”

“All depends on who asked who out” says Siobhan, a graduate student at The University of Baltimore. “I personally would pay for the first date if I asked the man out. If he asked me out, then I would expect him to pay.”

While Taylor, a senior at The University of Baltimore, strongly believes the man has to pay to have her heart. “If the man is truly interested in pursuing, he should pay on the first date. If not, I categorize him as a friend. Paying for the first meal is an act of providing for a potential lover. If he doesn’t pay, that’s not a good sign in my opinion.”

If some women believe that paying for the first date equates to showing interest, how do men discern whether a woman is interested in a relationship or interested in getting a free meal?

Think about that one.

In a society where women compete with men in all aspects of life whether it be the workplace, weight room, court room, and even the battlefield it seems hypocritical for a woman to bow out when the bill hits the table, don’t you think?

Some will avoid the conversation and brush it off with the usual rebuttal “It’s just how it is.”

But, if I’m not mistaken, not too long ago women weren’t allowed to hold the same position as a man in society and that was brushed off with “It’s just how it is.”

So how is it O.K. to want to break down walls but be selective of which bricks remain?

If you’re reading this and think to yourself “He’s making this a big issue because he’s broke”, that’s definitely not the case either and congratulations, you played yourself.

Honestly, this is a conversation that needs to be had.

Some women are holding onto this outdated custom which essentially places them in an inferior position but are steady marching around the world hoisting “Respect my Existence or Expect my Resistance” signs above their head.

I say inferior position very loosely because I am not implying that women can’t pay for the bill but, in my eyes women are surrendering their power just for an expected meal.

It’s mind-boggling to me.

I asked Jennifer R. for her position on the matter, a woman with more experience than the college girls I had interviewed.

She said: “Our society has always put pressure on a man to pay, especially with the first date. It’s expected. When I go on dates I always make sure I have money to cover the bill. I have paid for dates in the past, I want to pay for dates but the first one is the ice breaker. Let a man be a man from time to time but also give him the respect he deserves and pay.”

“It isn’t necessarily the man’s fault for the existence of the double standard” said Lamar a.k.a. Big Money Mar.

Which is true.

It isn’t our fault (or at least the Millennials)!

So where do we go from here?

How do we progress as a society if women hold onto outdated customs?

Ladies, some of y’all earn more than the male counterpart but are still expecting dinner on the first date.

Don’t allow old traditions to erase the historical and monumental progress that has been made over the years.

It’s 2017!

Out with the old, in with the new.

Pick up the bill ladies, turn the tables, and keep making history.

And always remember that this D ain’t free.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Eve Ma/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

This Has To Be The Greatest SGA Campaign Ad Ever

This ad for a President/ Vice President ticket at the University of Minnesota is something else.

Trish and Erik we love you now.

We don’t know anything about you.

But we love you.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

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