Celebrate Poetry, Celebrate Yourself!

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Written By: Erin Bach

April is National Poetry Month. I’m guessing you have one of three reactions to the idea of an entire month being dedicated to poetry. Reaction 1: you get giddy about all things awesome and poetic (guilty). Reaction 2: you groan and give a Liz Lemon sized eye-roll because you think poetry is lame (wrong, but we’ll get to that). Reaction 3: you mumble, “huh? Like the stuff we read in high school?”

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No, not the stuff you read in high school (unless I was your teacher, obvi). And well, yes, the “classic” poems you read in high school are important, but I don’t have time to get into a Lit lesson for you right now.

If you are somewhere in the realm of reactions 2 or 3, I understand your hesitation, but I also think it’s misguided. My guess is that you just haven’t been exposed to enough poetry for you to see how diverse, beautiful, and empowering it can be. National Poetry Month is a perfect time to fix that!

I could literally fill an entire article with a syllabus of all the poets you should read, but I’ll resist and opt for sharing one particular poem with you: Lucille Clifton’s “homage to my hips.”

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Clifton is basically an old-school, self-loving, body-celebrating, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar badass. In this video of her reading the poem, she gives a short intro where she says, “I write a lot about body parts...because I am thrilled with my body parts,” and later goes on to say, “I like to celebrate the wonderfulness that I am.”

Hell. Yes. Here is the poem:

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If you have a minute and forty seconds, I urge you to watch the video and absorb some of her sass. Then, if you’re feeling inspired, pick a body part of your own and write an homage to it. A poem celebrating your beautiful breasts, a letter of thanks to your strong thighs, a postcard all about your glorious behind!

Celebrate poetry. Celebrate yourself. Celebrate the wonderfulness that you are!

Also, if you’ve seen the light and want to read more poetry, here is a great place to start: Poetry Foundation’s collection celebrating women’s history. Also, you can find many poem-a-day services that will send gems right to your inbox.

Happy Reading!

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“Breaking a decade of habit: how I went makeup free.”

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Written By: Gabriela Pereira

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I got my first pimple at eleven years old.

It showed up overnight, a red spot on my forehead, huge against my childish frame. It hurt when I pressed it, it swollen after I picked on it, and it stayed on me for a week. The same thing happened week after that, and today, eleven years later, I still wake up to the feeling to something pulsing on my skin. I’m well versed on the sensation now, since it has become a part of my life.  

With the discovery of acne, came the discovery of self-consciousness. At twelve, I started to take notice on makeup, and wonder if it could help me cover up. A little bit of my mother’s powder, a splash of her too dark foundation, a curtain of long hair on my face. It helped me conceal, but it also instigated the sense of shame and wrongness in my own skin. As the tallest girl in my class, I learned to hunch my shoulders and disappear.  

With the years came the better foundations, the concealers, and the necessity. I would wake up one hour early everyday just, so I could do my makeup, because I wouldn't dare to leave the house without it.

And then one day, I just stopped. I woke up late, got dressed in a hurry, ran my way into college.

My face was bare, and surprisingly for me, the world didn’t explode. Life went on, and bit by bit, I let my guard down. I allowed myself to step onto the world barring my scars, one less step of makeup at the time. I still love lipsticks and eyeliners, but I wear it when I want to, not because I must.

I think I’m beautiful with or without makeup on.  


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People demand Netflix cancel “body-shaming” show Insatiable

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Written By: By Danielle James // @danielleeejames

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If you’re plugged in to BoPo Twitter, then you’ve probably seen the trailer for Netflix’s latest teenage exploit TV show, Insatiable. Chances are, you’ve already read several op-eds on the trailer and it’s mockery of fat characters. It stars Debby Ryan in a fat suit (Hello, people, we cancelled fat suits a long time ago!) as Patty, a fat teenager bullied for her weight and overall disgust she triggers as a fat human. Then, by a twist of fate, she is in an accident, has her jaw wired shut, becomes skinny, and starts enacting revenge on anyone who has ever wronged her.

The show, its cast, and its writers have already been dragged to hell and back based on the trailer. I’m not here to add fuel to that fire. This piece goes out to all the “fat girls” walking the halls of every high school around the world.

You don’t have to wire your jaw shut and drop one hundred pounds to have worth. Although many people have probably told you that drastic measures will cure you forever, you are deserving of love and friendship in the exact body that you have right now. The fat shaming and body shaming that Insatiable promotes, while it might not be where they intended to place the humor, still exist in toxic levels that you do not have to consume.

Your body deserves to be represented on camera just as much as the thin, blonde actresses they hire to portray your curves with a pillow around their waist. You deserve to see fat people win on screen, love on screen, get promoted, travel, and change the world without their fatness serving as a key plot point.

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Netflix has let fat teenagers down. Netflix has let fat adults who could never afford the luxury of wiring their jaws shut to drop 100 pounds down. Authentic fat narratives and fat representation on screen are so important for the teenager who only eats 600 calories a day to try and fit in or for the 24 year old stuck in community college because she didn’t want to be seen at a big campus as “the fat friend.” Do better, Hollywood.


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Who You Callin' a Hoe?

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Written By: Michelle Davalos ~ @michelle.g.davalos

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When walking into my nail salon, I noticed a young beautiful Queen receiving a pedicure. She had a flawless bronze skin tone, lovely long blonde hair, talon glittery pink nails and already dressed for her Friday night. She gave me all the YESES! Yes, you’re beautiful. Yes, your outfit is on point. Yes, you radiate confidence and if I had a hat on, I would tip it to her. 

Shortly after my arrival an older white man, in his late sixties, walk through the open doors. He was wearing a light green cashmere sweater, a puka shell necklace and Sperry loafers. A nail tech had asked "May I help you?” He responded, “I’m here for her” and pointed to the Queen. The entire salon turned to look at her. It was clear there was a significance age difference and style disparities between the two.

She explained to him she’ll be a little while longer and to wait for her in the car. As he left, the room erupted in to Vietnamese chatter. It was obvious the all the nail techs were talking about her and made immediate assumptions. The way they looked at her made me uncomfortable! The Queen was quick to hurry up the process and bolted out of the salon. 

Why do we still slut shame? We don't know her story and we don’t know his story. He could have been her Uber driver or family member. Even if they were in a romantic relationship, why can’t we praise her for being comfortable and confident to challenge societal beliefs of a traditional relationship. Her sexuality and relationships are matters of her own choice!

This experience was a great reminder stop judging and champion each other. Slut shaming is outdated! Please stop the madness! 


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To Shave or Not To Shave

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Written By: Kimberly Davis

Pubic hair divides us. Some of us prefer to keep things downstairs looking like a wild meadow, some prefer a perfectly manicured lawn, while others chose to get rid of their lawn completely. Whether you chose to remove your pubic hair or not, it should be a choice that makes you feel comfortable and confident; not because you feel pressured to look a certain way down there. Yet and still, we’ve all been there at least once before: the emotional stages of shaving your pubes.

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Stage 1: Spending an extra 20 minutes in the shower shaving your pubes, only to get light headed from all the steam.

Fun fact, there’s actually some benefit to your bush. There’s a reason we grow hair there. It serves as a protective barrier to genital tissues, particularly the vaginal opening, and it protects against friction. That kind of friction (as well as other, less sexy types of friction).

Stage 2: You can’t see anything down there so you’re kind of just putting the razor wherever and hoping for the best.

In fact, hair removal injuries are becoming more common. Injuries such as abscesses, rashes, and ingrown hairs have increased over the years.

Stage 3: For such a small area, how has it already used up three razors. You could do it with just one razor possibly, but those hairs excess hairs stuck in the blades live there now. They’re never coming out.

Stage 4: Your vulva looks like a hairless cat, but your mons pubis looks “neat and tidy”. Fun fact, 19th century women shaved off their pubic hair and replaced it with a merkin (pubic wig) to protect against lice infestation.

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Stage 5: It’s the next day, how is it growing back already?! Why is growing in all patchy and course? Why does it itch so badly?!

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Stage 6: Vow to never shave your pubes again. Maybe you’ll try waxing next time instead?

If you should try waxing next time, make sure to make the appointment for after your period. Due to hormone changes days before and during your period, it is more likely to hurt.


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“Books are my shining armor”

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Written By: Gabriela Pereira ~ @gabineedscoffee

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. I would have to disagree, because books, besides lasting forever, offer something priceless: the power of imagination.

In a world of constrictions, duties, injustices and violence, a book offers the comfort of being able to be somewhere else for a couple of hours and the chance to experience pain and happiness that do not belong to us. As Fernando Pessoa wrote in «The book of Disquiet» - “Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.”

However, the most popular tales are a disguised warning, that teach people to conform to social norms and helps shape behaviors. The “righteous path” appears as the reward for those who choose it, and the consequences of breaking the rules are catastrophic. Fables and fairytales have a concealed undertone of policing female’s sexuality and educating them to take traditional roles in society. There is a reason to why the prince saves the day and the dame in distress is always helpless while waiting to be saved.

Nevertheless, in modern history we have been able to read uncountable books written about woman. They portrait mothers, daughters, lovers, sisters and sometimes these roles combined. Rarely the hero of their own story, woman in literature often appear as a crutch to male leads and their angst. A trend set no doubt thanks to most writers in the past being men, since the opportunity to have a published book wasn’t possible until recently for woman. In the words of Osterhaus “images of women in literature that are products of a creative process that has a limited perspective”.

The feeling of knowing there is someone else we can be, whose problems are different but relatable is a priority when reading and the importance of being accurately represented in literature has been ignored until the last decades. The realization that books are mirrors of society, and therefore should portrait it fairly came like a breath of fresh air for the literary movement. The possibilities became infinite and genres were created, after the notion that minorities such as women and people of color could create as exquisitely as white men.

New heroes were born; characters had souls and struggles that went beyond the obvious choices that existed so far and social movements gained a voice.

Jane Austen, Virginia wolf and Maya Angelou thrived as they were given the opportunity to publish their thoughts and inspired generations to make their voices heard. They set the path for young girls like me that dreamed of being the hero in their own story and having their work become recognized and awarded. These authors are the proof of why representation matters and why there are so many people fighting for it, so we can all open a book, and for a simple and quiet moment, believe we are there.


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Why Are Female Friends So Hard to Find?

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Written By: Danielle James ~ @danielleeejames

Why is it so difficult to cultivate and maintain genuine female friendships? There are men on every single corner of this earth trying to block us from flourishing and thriving in our hustle, so why do we continue to stand in the way of our sisters?

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We’ve become so used to women having only one seat at the table that we’ve forgotten how to watch other women succeed and be genuinely happy for each other. Instead of rejoicing in another woman’s success, we search for ways to outshine them. As another woman makes a crack in the glass ceiling, we should all be strengthened. Instead, we shame our fellow ladies for being confident and self-assured and then wonder why we aren’t being taken seriously in this world.

How do we break the cycle? How do we be genuinely excited for our sisters’ successes, even when we might be struggling to find the light at the end of the tunnel? We have to start by seeing our fellow badass babes as allies, not as competition. Stop undermining another woman’s confidence and ambition in an attempt to elevate your own status. We have to walk proudly beside each other, to support each other no matter what, to love on each other through good times and in bad.

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Historically, the odds have been stacked against us, ladies. But it’s the 21st century and time is up. We’ve taken a stand against the men who have treated us as objects for so long. It’s now time to take a stand against the girl-on-girl hate and support our sisters in their hustle, no matter what.


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Comments Raged after poet speaks mind

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If you haven’t read Janne Robinson yet, let me introduce you.

She’s a poet, who writes whatever is on her mind about many things - healing, sex, self-love.  One of her most recent posts received so much backlash and some Australian media attention that a blue verification checkmark is now nestled by her Instagram name.

In this post, Robinson asks women “to please stop injecting shit into [their] lips”, to “stop sewing [their] ass to [their] face”.  Full post here

When I read it, my reaction was

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But, as is the way of the Internet, not everyone agreed.

Her art did what art is supposed to do - evoke emotion. But that emotion seemed to turn to anger as comments rolled in.

Some said her post was more body shaming than body positivity. Robinson was asked to “check her privilege”, while another advised “Hold your tongue and move along”. One commenter called her rancid.   

There are multiple reasons why each person chooses to have these procedures done, whether medical or cosmetic, as commenters pointed out. It is not anyone’s business what someone else does with their body or money.

One of my friends recently underwent a breast reduction and to see the tangible relief in her body when that excess weight was literally taken off her shoulders, I couldn’t imagine her going back to life before.  

But I agree with Robinson that work needs to be done on the inside as well as the outside.

It encourages me that those who commented seem to have a similar mindset about body modification- Do whatever works for you.

This is essential as no one has an identical body or circumstance. We have to remember our viewpoints are just as different and that is beautiful. We have to keep these conversations away from finger pointing and villainizing. It only hurts the women around us and those who will come next.


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Health and Fitness for Every Size

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Written By: Danielle James

Diet culture has become so toxically ingrained in our everyday lives that we believe visiting the gym five times a week and eating only green leaves will fix all the brokenness inside of us. We believe that our self-worth rests upon our BMI and calories in, calories out.

Health does not have a singular size or shape. You can have rolls and stretch marks and cellulite and still be healthy. You can be thin and still have a score of health problems. The outside world doesn’t know what’s happening inside your body and they aren’t entitled to know. It’s your body, your health, and your happiness.

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From www.sizediversityandhealth.org

Going to the gym, especially if you’re not straight sized, can be uncomfortable, to say the least. The body positive and self-love movements have helped reduce the stigma around fatness, but it can still be hard to get on an elliptical when you feel the judging eyes of gym rats around you. Most of your life, you’re taught that your body doesn’t deserve to be seen in public.

For most fat or plus-sized people, gym freedom seems completely unattainable. Years of fad diets and new waves of fitness classes keep continue to convince us that we will never be whole until we become another “success story.”

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Gym freedom is powerful. It means going to the gym not to fix yourself, but to strengthen yourself. To enhance what you already have. To do what makes you happy and feel good about it. For most fat and plus-sized people, they may never find the freedom that comes from working out because they enjoy it.

Exercise is personal. Health is personal. Nobody gets to have an opinion on your health or wellness but you. Feeling free to do what feels right for your body is a liberating and crucial moment for every single person, regardless of their body type. Health comes in all shapes and sizes and gym and food freedom is all a part of that journey. So go forth and find your freedom. On your terms.


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Defeating the Sorority Stereotype

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Written By: Danielle James ~ @danielleeejames

Sorority women are traditionally portrayed in the media as vapid, bitchy, catty, and lacking integrity. They also weigh in at 110 pounds with shiny blonde hair, perfect breasts, and a designer wardrobe. Unfortunately, these depictions of sorority women always miss the mark when it comes to what sorority life is really like.

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Sororities were created to give women community and purpose on male-dominated campuses. To this day, they remain pillars of strength, purpose, and diversity for women. They are safe spaces for women to explore leadership opportunity, find academic and extracurricular support, and pursue their passions, all while experiencing a social outlet that can often fall through the cracks during a college career.

Joining a sorority means gaining the friendship and support of women across the nation, but more than that, it means finding your future bridesmaids, always having a shoulder to cry on, and having a wide circle of people who will be willing to grab coffee or go on a late-night Taco Bell run with you.

Attacking sorority women based on a heinous stereotype is simply bad feminism. We can’t pretend to champion women’s rights and equality for all while we continue to tear down the women who choose Greek life. For many women, sororities make them feel empowered. The sisterhood gives them purpose.

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The beauty of Greek life is that each house offers something different for the variety of people that go through recruitment. Even if Greek life wasn’t the right choice for you, it’s a simple matter of respect. Sorority women are not a stereotype. Please don't treat them like they all fit in one small box, instead embrace the Strength in Sisterhood. 


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