OMG!! A man finds a curvy woman beautiful! Give him a prize!

When you work in a university library during the summer, you end up spending a lot of time on Buzzfeed. I’m guilty of taking all the stupid quizzes (I took this one twice and still got Cora. Oh well). I know that Buzzfeed is a mix of some good journalism, trashy quizzes, and a list of things I should spend my money on. I’m usually entertained during my 8 hour shifts in a basement. However, one article posted today really pissed me off.

The title, “People Are Applauding This Man For Celebrating His Wife’s Curves on the Internet,” was enough for me to roll my eyes. I’m sorry, should we give this guy an award for loving someone who doesn’t fit the stereotypical size 0 that the media tells us to worship? All right, well let’s look more and see how it proceeds. The subtitle is “I’m not crying, you’re crying.” Trust me, I’m not crying. There are no tears. We’re introduced to Robbie and Sarah Tripp. Robbie’s instagram captures show us how much he gushes over his beautiful wife. Sarah is really pretty. She’s described as a “body-positive fashion blogger” and owner of Sassy Red Lipstick. We’re shown pictures of the couple, one of them on the beach with Sarah wearing an amazing bathing suit (seriously, I want it). Then we’re given this gem of a caption from a picture Robbie shared:

“I love this woman and her curvy body. As a teenager, I was often teased by my friends for my attraction to girls on the thicker side, ones who were shorter and curvier, girls that the average (basic) bro might refer to as chubby or even fat.

Ok fine, good job on not being a dickhead who bought in to the patriarchal ideal of beauty. You’re able to see a woman as a person and go beyond the initial look of a woman. Moving on, here’s more:

“Then, as I became a man and started to educate myself on issues such as feminism and how the media marginalizes women by portraying a very narrow and very specific standard of beauty (thin, tall, lean) I realized how many men have bought into that lie.”

OK fine, I’m happy you were able to educate yourself and realize what kind of bull shit world we live in and what your wife had to deal with all her life.  Here is the rest:

For me, there is nothing sexier than this woman right here: thick thighs, big booty, cute little side roll, etc. Her shape and size won’t be the one featured on the cover of Cosmopolitan but it’s the one featured in my life and in my heart. There’s nothing sexier to me than a woman who is both curvy and confident. This gorgeous girl I married fills out every inch of her jeans and is still the most beautiful one in the room. Guys, rethink what society has told you that you should desire. A real woman is not a porn star or a bikini mannequin or a movie character. She’s real. She has beautiful stretch marks on her hips and cute little dimples on her booty. Girls, don’t ever fool yourself by thinking you have to fit a certain mold to be loved and appreciated. There is a guy out there who is going to celebrate you for exactly who you are, someone who will love you like I love my Sarah. 

Well, porn stars are real women. Sure, not many women get paid for having sex and (possibly) faking orgasms (much respect, by the way). But they’re real. So are the gorgeous actresses who play those movie characters. Sure, they are part of the media that perpetuates the myth and ideal of a perfect women, but they are real. I bet they work their asses off and don’t eat what they want and they can afford the trainers to make sure they stay that way. I can’t call mannequins real, so I guess he wins that. Now, it’s great to see a man call other men out for not willing to give a chance to women who aren’t size 2. But I definitely don’t need a man to tell me to that I will be “loved and appreciated.” Look, does it feel good to be told you’re attractive and sexy by a guy who you care for or are sleeping with? Yes, of course. So Robbie should tell Sarah every DAMN day how gorgeous she is and how lucky he is that she married him. But should I applaud, or cry, because one guy can own up to realizing that a woman who is curvy is beautiful inside and out? No.

On the surface this is a sweet testament to a beautiful woman. But he doesn’t deserve our applause, tears, or cheering for saying he’s found curvy women attractive. It’s 20-fucking-17 and we need to be further on body positivity than we are. I know that change doesn’t happen overnight, but as a curvy woman, I’m also tired of being led to believe that I should be thankful for men like Robbie for finding me beautiful. This article is sending the message about how amazing it is that a good looking guy finds a curvy woman beautiful. Rejoice!! You, woman with a full-figure, can indeed be loved! And maybe he too will go on social media and tell everyone how perfect your dimpled butt is!

Getting back into academic writing

Since my decision to get back into my Ph.D. program and finish my dissertation, I’ve felt pretty good. Dare I say it? I also felt a bit confident (that’s a strong word to use in a world where constant doubt is the norm). I am confident in my decision to come back and get the degree. Only a two-week stint in the 9-5 world was enough to show me that I need to teach and, whether I like it or not, my mental illness demands a job where there can be some flexibility (like being able to cancel a class when you’re having a breakdown).

A lot of the confidence I felt when I came back last month has vanished already, as soon as I started writing. It’s almost been a year since I’ve done academic writing and it is NOT an easy thing to get back into. Even when I was writing, I knew that one has to write every day, even if it’s only a paragraph. But still, I’m barely writing a paragraph per day and while it’s still something, there’s still always the feeling of “this isn’t enough.” I know that this is normal. Friends who have finished their degrees tell me that. I’ve seen online articles about different styles and different goals for writing. I’ve tried to apply them and yet I still haven’t found the best formula for me. I feel that I should have figured it out already and maybe that’s the fear: that if I haven’t figured out how to write productively constantly then how can I be an academic?

Not having the best communication with my previous director, I felt that everything I wrote was shit. Obviously, he never said anything close to that, but impostor syndrome is real y’all. Every one needs something different from their advisor. My good friend prefers to rarely speak to her advisor; another friend says he feels like “sunshine and rainbows” after meeting with his advisor and always seeks her advice. I’m somewhere in-between. I want the independence to write, but need a particular type of criticism; my new director, who I worked with at a literary journal and had as a professor, always writes positive notes (“great!” “this is really good!”) along with the criticism of what needs to be improved. This mix really helps with the constant presence of imposter syndrome: you’re good, you’re not great, but you can do this! He did tell me once “You’re not the smartest Ph.D. we’ve had, but you’re good and you need to get your degree.” Maybe it’s weird, but that’s just what I needed to get back into it. Now, if only I can focus on writing the dissertation instead of writing about writing the dissertation.

 

 

 

Feeling Like a Failed Feminist

(originally published on Progress and Tea)

I’m a feminist (gasp, surprise!) and as such there are things I know:

I know my worth as a person is not based on the male gaze.
I know that gender is a construct and has nothing to do with the sexual organs a person was born with.
I know that there are more than two genders.
I know that a person’s sex life—as long as it is consensual—is no one else’s business.
I know that it is important for women—ALL WOMEN—to support each other, be it by coming over with wine and/or chocolate, standing up for each other in public, protesting against the racist, misogynistic president, etc.
I know that equality for all means for all, no matter the person’s race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, etc.
I know that sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault.
I know, and yet…

Yet after being sexually assaulted I kept quiet for ten years and blamed myself.
Yet after trauma therapy, I still blame myself.
Yet my self-esteem went up when a person I thought was very good looking was attracted to me and wanted to have sex with me.
Yet my self-esteem plummeted when that arrangement ended.
Yet while I am proud of my independence, I want to be married and I want a partner.
Yet I’m worried when I get a cat, I’ll be considered a “crazy cat lady.”

It’s hard being a feminist. We have to be critical of the world we live in and ourselves because I believe we can always be better. But that criticism can be exhausting when it’s constantly aimed at ourselves. We can always work to be better humans, better feminists, but I feel like I fail to meet those standards I’ve set myself… I feel like a failed feminist.

While I have these thoughts I’m torn between those emotions—loneliness, shame, self-doubt, self-hatred—and being angry for having them. I feel like a bad feminist because there’s no way I would let any of my friends say these things to themselves. There is the logical and critical side of my mind that says, “You’re a great person. You’re beautiful, even if it’s not the standard. You’re smart. There was nothing you could do without risking more harm.” The problem is the other side, the side that has been raised in the patriarchal society, is louder. It says, “He didn’t like you enough, so you’re not good enough. You’re fat and ugly, and no one is going to want you. Why did you go into the house? You kissed him, thus giving him permission. It was your fault. You let it happen.” When this happens, which has been pretty frequent lately, I feel like a bad feminist. I’ve failed to believe for myself what I believe, and am willing to fight for, for others.

Feminism is a critical way of looking at the world. It demands thought and action. And it starts within ourselves. But we also have to remember that we are human—we have our faults. We have been raised in a society that has told us to think one way and it’s difficult and a lot of work to unlearn all that. My promise to myself is that every day I will work to unlearn what I’ve been taught. When I think “I’m not good enough,” I will remember all that I have accomplished. When my brain says, “It was your fault,” I will talk to myself the way I’ve spoken to the students who have come to tell me about their assault and remind myself that it was not my fault. It’s easier to fight for other people, to want to show them that they are amazing and are loved, than it is to love ourselves. But that’s part of feminism too. To love yourself the way you are, even if that means acknowledging you can do better.

This post features depression! Anxiety! And, bonus! a picture of the late Rocco!

The last month or so has been really difficult for me. I’m not one to share too much in a public forum, but basically I ended up having a mental/nervous breakdown. There was uncontrollable crying, panic attacks, inability to eat, and the urge to self-harm. It lasted about 5 days and it was the death of my brother’s–and my–dog, Rocco, that sparked it. He was 13, but had just had eye surgery and was able to see up to 50% so he was happier. His seizures, and consequent death, were sudden. He was a good pup.

IMG_2930

With the support of a daily Xanax pill and my friends, I was able to get through it without harming myself or causing any other damage. I did make some big changes in my life because of that, including leaving a job that I didn’t like and reenrolling back into the PhD program with a new director for my dissertation. My short time at the new job reminded me that I want to be in front of a classroom–that’s where I can actually help students and that’s where I feel the best. These changes, along with my breakdown, mentally and physically exhausted me. I’m lucky enough to have awesome parents, cause they bought me tickets to come home for two weeks to relax and refresh before going back to the academic world.

This experience made me think about my mental illnesses. I’ve been diagnosed with depression and general anxiety disorder. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not much. While I wrote this my first thought was “who isn’t diagnosed with one of those?” During my breakdown, I was still going to work and it was one of the hardest things I had to do. I kept thinking, “If only my illness was physical, then I would have a legitimate reason to go home and take care of myself.” Now that I’m out of the fog, I’m angry. I’m angry at myself for thinking like that and I’m angry that the society I live in does not see mental illness as “legitimate.” I have three really good friends who have physical illnesses that affect their daily lives: one has rheumatoid arthritis, another has Hashimoto’s, and the other has had brain cancer since 2013 (in remission since 2014). Don’t get me wrong, these women are badass, but I’m also thankful that I don’t have to deal with what they do. Then again, I also deal with my depression and anxiety every day. Some days, getting out of bed and moving to the couch is all I have energy for. Some days, I’m fine and happy, can see a positive future. The next day, I have no energy and can’t see anything good to look forward to. It affects my physical health; it affects if I can do my job; it affects how I interact with others. I (we) have been conditioned to see mental illness as something completely different from physical illness. It’s something that can be “cured” if you just think positively, work out more, do yoga, cut out gluten, just be happy! Except it can’t be cured. It can be managed through meds, therapy, and, for some people, exercise, if they have the energy for it. It can be managed the same way one manages an autoimmune disease. It won’t be cured, no matter how often I’m in down dog.

I do wonder how if someone like me, who suffers daily, has a hard time accepting that I have is an illness that is just as legitimate, just as scary, and just as exhausting as any physical illness, how can someone who doesn’t have it understand? Even my parents, who have both been on anti-depressants for a time and have suffered from the occasional panic attacks, can’t understand the difference between me being depressed, or in a bad mood, and having depression. I try not to lose my patience when explaining to them that I will be on my anti-depressants forever, that therapy is not the same as talking to my friends, and that sometimes I need a pill to function.

I don’t know when the next breakdown will be. I haven’t had one for almost 4 years and the first one was 2 years before that. Neither were as bad as the one I just had, and this time I am on the highest dosage of Celexa I’ve been on AND have been going to therapy regularly. This wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did. Some days accepting that you have such an illness is just as difficult as dealing with that illness. I’m pretty damn lucky to have close friends who take mental illness seriously and are always ready to ask what I need instead of telling me to “buck up,” while others don’t have that support. I don’t know how mental illness will be taken more seriously. Sure, awareness is important, whether it’s sporting a green ribbon or urging people to read Hyperbole and a Half, but I’m guessing larger change can happen when most of us who have mental illnesses can acknowledge that we have a legitimate illness. Unfortunately, the nature of most of those illnesses mean we’re too exhausted to fight that fight, even with ourselves.

Click here for Allie Brosh’s comic on depression.

 

 

Why I’m leaving the PhD program

This is my last week at Marquette University. I’ve been thinking about quitting for a long time — at least over a year now — but it’s been a difficult road to that decision. How much of my unhappiness was from regular ol’ imposter syndrome and how much of it was from sincere unhappiness of my life decisions? I’ve spoken to a lot of friends, trusted professors, strangers online, and my therapist, and I realized that the thought of leaving makes me happier than I have felt in a long time. I feel free now. While I’m nervous about starting my new job as a student services specialist,  having to start paying down my loans, and worrying about the possibility of regret, I’m also excited for the first two. I read several personal blogs about why people left their Ph.D.s and I wanted to share my reasons in case it resonates with people in the same position.

For a long time I’ve been struggling with my dissertation. I imagined my dissertation to look a certain way. I know that how you imagine it in the beginning is never how it turns out; I was ready for that. What I was not ready for is being told that the argument I wanted to make wasn’t enough. I lost interest in my own dissertation. If I didn’t care anymore, why should anyone else? Also, how can you write 200 pages on something you aren’t interested in? A seminar paper is easy enough. I’ve had to bull shit those for years, but you can’t do that for a book. I am passionate about my topic and hope to pursue it in other means — blogging about it, for example — that won’t give me the same grief as my dissertation, but still satisfies my need to share my thoughts and ideas about some amazing books and women with the public. So that’s one reason.

In the last few years, I’ve also seen friends with PhDs unable to get jobs. A few have gotten tenure-track positions (some right after graduation and some after a few years of adjuncting), but in places I would never want to live — Alabama, Georgia, Iowa. Where I live is more important to me than the job, because I need to love where I live. I know that a lot of people can live anywhere, but I am not that person. I want to be close to my family, I want to live in a blue state, I need mountains and relatively quick access to an ocean. Friends who didn’t get TT jobs either ended up having to adjunct in several places to make ends meet (and this obviously means no benefits) or have part-time or temporary jobs (again with no benefits). I hate to sound like a capitalist, but I would like good health benefits, pay down my loans, and be able to travel occasionally. If that’s the life I want, then I need to change my situation in order to get it. The priorities I want have become clearer and I’m lucky enough to be responsible only to myself so that I can make the changes I need.

My third reason, which some (like my therapist) can argue should be more important, is that mental health has deteriorated since I’ve started. Since I’ve been here (August 2012), I’ve had to increase the dosage of my anti-depressants and the frequency of which I took my anti-anxiety medicine. For the first time in 10 years, I considered cutting as a way to alleviate my pain/frustration/anxiety/whatever I was feeling that day. That alone scared me and made me face why I was feeling the way I was. Being in therapy has luckily saved me from resorting to old and bad habits, but it also made me realize that I was unhappier than I was willing to admit to myself. I need to refocus my life and figure out what makes me happy — or at least content instead of miserable. Reading is one of those things that I loved and has been sacrificed (ironically) because of this path. I’ve missed free time when I’m not racked with guilt. While I still read for fun, it’s usually for half hour a day, some days. I miss reading things I actually want to read. While I hate the cynicism of this statement, I do think that loving literature and loving reading are not enough reasons to pursue a graduate degree. And I’ve realized I miss enjoying reading. It might seem trivial, but it’s time to focus on what makes me happy.

There was a lot of thought and talk about me “wasting 5 years here,” except I don’t see like that. Since 2012, I’ve taken classes in which I’ve learned new things; I’ve discovered literature that is never or rarely discussed; I’ve gone to conferences to hear some fantastic speakers and presenters; I’ve worked as an editorial assistant for a literary journal which introduced me to a new side of academic publishing; I’ve taught to some amazing (not not-so-amazing) students; and, I’ve made lifelong friends. It’s been a great experience. Now it’s time to move on. I used to hate it when a professor here would discuss the Ph.D. as if it was a job, but it really is. And if you’re unhappy with your job, you leave. So my decision came down to this: I’m unhappy at my job, I’m getting paid next to nothing for it, and I’m getting into more debt. If no one is dependent on me having this job, then what is stopping me from quitting and finding a better job? At the end, this logical break down made my decision easy.

Meanwhile, as a forever emo kid who swears by the power of music, this song perfectly encapsulates my life right now.

Writings on another blog

One of my jobs at Marquette University is copywriter and editor for the Digital Scholarship Lab blog. On this blog, I write about using digital media in the classroom and highlighting some of our students’ work. I’ve also covered topics like copyright and accessibility. To see some of that work, you can go here.

I’m behind on two book reviews — N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Elizabeth Kerri Mahon’s Scandalous Women: The Lives and Loves of History’s Most Notorious Women, but job hunting is demanding too much of my time! I hope to write and publish those soon. Meanwhile, I’m reading M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans.

Rereading Harry Potter in the Age of Trump

I didn’t think I was a fantasy fan when I was in high school. I read all of Oscar Wilde’s plays, Crime and Punishment (I blame my father), Count of Monte Cristo, and other such classics. When a friend of mine suggested we go see this movie about a boy wizard I was hesitant, but we went with our small group of friends after school on Friday to see it. It might have taken 10 minutes, maybe 20, before I was hooked. Castles! Magic! Ghosts! What was there not to like? Needless to say, I left a fan and purchased the bundle of books 1-4 in paperback the next day. In about two weeks, I was done with the books. I still refrained from calling myself a fan of fantasy. Those covers are weird! Which is why I also refused to read this book my cousin’s husband kept pushing on me; it was a little known book at the time called Game of Thrones. I’m still ashamed that I didn’t read it till 2011, but that’s also around the time I admitted to myself that I like fantasy. But I digress…

hp

(Source: barnesandnoble.com)

I’ve read the last three HP books at least 5 times each, but it had been a long time since I’ve read the books in order. After the farce of the election I needed some comfort and while Jane Eyre is my usual Christmas time reread, I decided it’s time to revisit the books that got me into fantasy. It’s the perfect escape. At least, it used to be.

What changed this year as I reread the series this time is my understanding of Voldermort. It’s not hard to draw some parallels between the rhetoric of fear and othering used by our President-elect and those used by the Dark Lord and his followers. Keeping a registry “mudbloods” isn’t very different from a registry of Muslims. To be honest, it’s scary. Voldermort wanted power for the pure-bloods while being a half-blood himself; Trump speaks out against immigrants while he is the son of one. Voldermort used harsh and insulting language to differentiate between himself and those who disagreed with him; Trump regularly takes to Twitter to insult anyone who speaks out against him, be it a civil rights leader or one of the greatest actors of our time. Voldermort is clearly depicted as a fascist leader (based on Hitler) and Trump’s positions certainly come off as fascist. Once the connection was made (while rereading Philosopher’s Stone) it was hard to ignore. My plan to escape into fantasy failed. I’m continuing with the reread of the series for the sake of nostalgia, but it is now tainted as I see more similarities between Voldermort and my new president.

Gilmore Girls Review

I am a millennial who grew up watching Gilmore Girls. Mom and I had to watch it in her bedroom because the fast-paced talking really annoyed my dad and brother. My mom and I really connected to Lorelai and Rory, because, like them, we were friends as well as mother and daughter — although we have a healthier relationship than them. We travelled together, we went to museums together, and we loved shopping together. Like Rory, I am an avid reader who prefers staying in to finish a book than go out to the bars. I felt comfortable talking to my mom about my relationships (without the sex details, because I have some boundaries).

Naturally, like many others, I was ecstatic and impatient for the Netflix mini-series. I watched all four hour and a half episodes over two days (I’m sure that seems slow to some people). Once I finished I needed some time to process my feelings before writing them. While I enjoyed the series, there were definitely many cringe-worthy moments. On the whole, I think the show ignored — or mocked — a lot of the struggles that the shows original watchers are currently facing.

The Bad

Rory’s struggles as a writer

It was refreshing to see a character who knew what she wanted to do with her life, but realize that it’s not that easy. As someone who is the character’s age, I am also struggling with the life decisions I’ve made so far and wondering if I took the right path. However, this important and relatable situation was later mocked by the “30somethings club” in Stars Hollow. The club consists of 30-somethings who had lost their jobs and had to move back home — a current reality for millennials. Instead of showing sympathy and empathy for this club, the characters were mocked; they were depicted as silly and needy. Forgive me for not seeing the humor of feeling that your hard work and education have not provided you with the job you were promised, that the idea of the American dream seems further away than ever. Rory, who everyone in the town thought should join the club, scoffed at the idea, repeatedly saying that she’s “not back,” even though she has no job, no prospects, no car (though we see her driving), and no underwear. Sorry, pal, but you’re part of the club now.

Fat Shaming in “Summer”

One of the most out-of-character scenes was in the third episode, “Summer.” Lorelai and Rory are at the public pool laying down on chaise lounges while two kids hold an umbrella over each of them. Since when they did become such princesses? But, fine, I can be amused for a second and move on. What really pissed me off was the comments about the presence of fat rolls, the grimacing and disgusted faces in response to the fat, and the horrified faces as a larger man in a speedo stops in front of Lorelai and Rory to talk to them. I’m not an idiot; I know such comments happen ALL the time. I’ve heard my friends make the same comments when we are at the pool in Palm Springs or Las Vegas, but does it need to be in the show? What did we gain from these interactions except showing an incredibly petty and superficial side of characters we thought were better than that? This was the scene where I was cringing as I watched. Unlike Rory’s story line, which got worse each episode, there was no arc. It was flat out awful.

Race and Class

When Rory was introduced to us, we recognized how lucky she was to have rich grandparents (“privileged” wasn’t a part of my teenage vocabulary). She went to a great prep school, got a car, went to Yale, etc. Lucky. Except now, she’s 32 and seemingly unaware of her own privilege. How is she flying to London (to cheat on her boyfriend who she emotionally abuses) when she doesn’t have a job? Maybe Logan pays for it, but that makes me feel really icky — like she’s being bought. How did she afford a place in Brooklyn? Unlike many of our generation, she’s privileged to have a place to go when she’s jobless. And instead of being grateful, she shuns the “30something club.”

When it originally aired, Gilmore Girls wasn’t exactly known for its diversity. Sure, Lane and her mom are Korean, and Michel was, to reference 30 Rock, a toofer — black and gay, but that was pretty much it. It’s fine; that was then and, luckily, diversity in media has come a long way (and still has a long way to go). But Lane was barely in the new series. We see a beautiful black woman be berated by Paris. Then we have Emily’s new maid, Berta. We never know what ethnicity she is, but she has a big, brown family who start moving in with Emily. Where to being? Well, at first, it was funny that Emily didn’t know what ethnicity Berta is because of course the rich, white old lady won’t know. But then? Why did it need to continue? We see Emily become dependent on Berta and even heat up soup when she’s sick (though Berta makes it clear that Emily can’t even do that), but that does not solve the problem of erasing an ethnicity issue.

Other

At the beginning of the first episode we meet Paul, Rory’s boyfriend of two years. She forgot she invited him for dinner. Lorelai and Luke don’t remember him. This is the joke for two (or three?) episodes. Rory forgets him, ignores him, and doesn’t break up with him. The guy seems really nice, so what is Rory doing? Who is this girl who strings along a guy for two years? Who forgets to break up with a guy? Maybe “emotional abuse” is a strong term here, but that is what this relationship (if you can call it that) reeked of.

Lastly, what was up with that musical? I really have no idea what the point of it was. Those 15 minutes really could have been used better! Like, maybe Emily finally understanding Berta, showing Lane rip Rory apart for being so whiney, etc.

The Good

Lorelai’s Grief

After her father’s death, we don’t see a great deal of Lorelai dealing with her death. Her focus (which is forced by Rory’s concerns) is on her mother’s grief. However, in “Fall,” we are given a look at Lorelei’s grief and her journey there. After reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Lorelei decides she needs to follow that path and go hike the Pacific Crest Trail. It helped Cheryl, so it should help her, right? Well that is what several other women thought as well. Recently divorced, lost, and confused women flock to the trail and bond over their reasons for coming there in the hopes of finding inner-peace. There is a strict divide between the movie and book aficionados. On the day the women are going to start, Lorelai can’t find her permit and is forced to leave. Not finding an open coffee shop, she talked a small walk and is stunned by the incredible views of the mountains. There, she calls her mother to recount the story that best represents her father (there’s a great backstory to this… you should watch it). As she tells her story, Lorelai cries for, what we assume, is the first time since her father’s funeral. Lorelai didn’t need to hike the PC Trail (an activity she would never have willingly agreed to before) to find her inner-peace. She didn’t need to do what several others were doing; she found her own path … literally.

That’s it. That’s the only moment I was emotionally connected to anything in the show. Needless to say, I am pretty disappointed with the show, but did manage to enjoy it if I stopped thinking too hard. There should have been more depth and growth, but there wasn’t. I understand Amy Sherman Palladino wanting to please the original fans, I do. But those fans have grown up — the characters had not.

For some more in-depth looks at criticism of the show, Jen Chaney from The Vulture wrote this and for a break down Gilmore Girls and white feminism, Aaron Kappel and Jessica Friday from The Establishment wrote this.

On Feeling like the Token Other

When I told my friend Vicki, who at the time was in her first year of Master’s at MU, that I got accepted into the PhD program she was incredibly happy that I’d be joining her. We got our B.As together from CSUN and were (are) good friends. Once the shouting and planning ended she said to me, “Just so you know though, you’re going to stand out here. I’m the exotic one because I’ve lived abroad.” Vicki had done two years of the Peace Corps in the Philippines. I heeded her warning, but it didn’t bother me too much. After all, in my MA program at Duquense, I was one of the four “brown” girls, really the only diversity in the graduate program. But after being back in Los Angeles and adjuncting for two years, something had changed. I got used to a diverse culture again. I didn’t stand out for my dark complexion and people knew from my last name that I was Armenian (Thanks, Kardashians. I think…).

In August 2012 I got the first email from my DGS addressing all newcomers. One could have easily played the game of “One of these is not like the others” with the list of incoming students. Bridget, Emily, Brian, Sarah, Heather, Andrew, Sareene…

I was a little weary, but still thought “It’ll be ok.” Except, it wasn’t. Nothing racist has ever been said against me (at least from what I know), but there have been moments in which I felt uncomfortable and when I feel uncomfortable I have this awful habit of bringing attention to that through what can be deemed as inappropriate humor.

In my Romantic and Gothic literature course, the late Dr. Diane Hoeveler was discussing Orientalism and showing painting of whitewashed and hypersexualized “Middle Eastern” women. Then she asked, “How are these images different from how the West views the East now?” Queue awkward silence and downward glances. [Necessary sidenote: I am Armenian, but I come from the Armenian diaspora so my dad is from Syria (though all throughout high school I claimed him as Lebanese, a story for another day) and my mom is from Egypt. And because of genetics, I guess, I’m also of a darker complexion than many Armenians.] After a few seconds, I straightened up in my chair and said, “Well, as the only brown person in this room, I feel comfortable saying that those images of the ‘East’ were never realistic, but neither are the only-burqa-wearing images of women we see now.” Two people giggled; Vicki, cause she knows what I felt like, and Andrew, who found it hilarious that I would make others uncomfortable. Dr. Hoeveler picked up on that thread and went along discussing the racism behind Orientalism. See? Not a big deal. I can move on.

Except… I needed a haircut. I had been living in Milwaukee for three months and I couldn’t wait anymore. But being a non-White-but-really-I’m-Caucasian-but-I’m-also-ethnic woman means I can’t just walk in to a random salon. I needed a recommendation from someone who also had thick, curly hair. This shouldn’t have been a problem. And it was. I found one. That’s right, one woman in a graduate program of roughly 35 students who had curly hair. Many people might not think that this instance is even worth mentioning, but there are people who do not have straight hair who can understand my struggle here. Thankfully, I met the hairstylist who I’ve religiously gone to for four years now. This could have been something I discovered eventually on Yelp, so again, maybe not a big deal.

AND THEN, Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri came into my life. Well, sorta. it must have been a day or two after the pageant when I walked in to say hi to our department secretary, an amazing woman who always has tissues ready for the graduate students and a sympathy crier to not make you feel alone. She’s awesome, seriously. But, she was the one who, inadvertently, exposed just how little people knew about the only dark-skinned person in the graduate body. I walked in and she smiled at me and said, “Congratulations!”
Me: For what?
Her: The Miss USA winner! She’s the first Indian-American woman to win!
**awkward pause**
Me: Um, I’m not Indian-American. I’m Armenian.
Her: Really? Oh, my son’s best friend is Armenian.
If I could have done it, this is where I would have face palmed myself. If someone actually knows an Armenian, wouldn’t the -ian from my name have been at least a clue of my ethnicity? I was a little peeved, but determined to find the humor in the situation. I get it: I have a long name, long (at least then) and dark curly hair, and an overall dark complexion. I shrugged it off as an easy mistake to make in a place where there are probably 100 Armenians. Ok, move on. Go to class. My PhD literary theory class. I was telling Andrew the story of what had just happened, because I knew he would laugh and shake his head, acknowledging that the situation was sadly comical. Well, I’m loud, so as I was saying this story everyone started to listen in, even the professor, the professor who is an African-American literature scholar but as white as they come. She laughed at the story and said “Of course you’re not Indian! You’re Iranian!” “I am?” I asked. “You’re not?” “No, but you’re at least closer in terms of location. I’m Armenian.” “Oh! I didn’t know that.” Clearly. But I love this professor. She’s one of the two professors at MU who I loved learning from. She was also our DGS and was always blunt yet comforting when I needed help. And I expected better from her. Shouldn’t someone who studies racial discord in America be more sensitive about making assumptions on someone’s race or ethnicity? And now, the humor was gone. I wasn’t angry. I’m still not angry. I’m sad.

I’m sad that since August 2012, the only other person-of-color in the graduate program is an Indian Jesuit. It’s been 4 years and we can still play the same “One of these is not like the other” game with the list of student names. Sure, no one has been overtly racist and, besides that moment in theory class, I’ve never actually felt uncomfortable. But it’s not really comfortable either; I’m somewhere in between. I know it is not a conscious decision among the faculty to accept only white students. I know several faculty members, including the one who assumed I was Iranian, mourn the lack of diversity in the graduate student body. But, we are at a small, Catholic school in the most segregated city in the U.S. It’s not exactly the most welcoming fact when POCs look for prospective universities. I applied here because Vicki told me about it and I thought that since it sounded really similar to Duquesne I had a decent chance of getting accepted.

But I’m the token other. Sure, no one else says it and they laugh when I jokingly point it out (jokingly because what else am I supposed to do? yell?). But I’ve seen most of the names of the students coming here in Fall. Looks like I’ll keep being the token other until I graduate.