CultureEducation

For centuries, poetry has been an oral tradition used to pass along ancient stories and lessons; poetry has been utilized to connect the present to the past through high-minded speech and rhythm. However, this elevated form of writing soon bored people, conceiving the idea that some new art form was needed to revitalize poetry. That reviver is now known as slam poetry.

In a lot of ways, slam poetry owes its creation to the Beat and Negritude poets whose devotion to the oral and performed facets of poetry led to the birth and rise of slam poetry in the 1990’s. Slams consisted of young artists competing for the attention and adoration of the audience by exploring political, racial, and even economical notions or injustices. Spoken word such as this has fostered a sense of creativity amongst writers while simultaneously keeping the public aware of current issues.

A slam poem that I find incredibly powerful is “Pretty” by Katie Makkai. Makkai explores the notion of pretty and the pressures our society puts on superficiality and appearance. She tells the audience a personal story of her struggles with her own looks as a teenager: she had braces, acne, and eventually got a nose job. By sharing her previous insecurities and her current regret for changing herself to fit societal standards, Makkai is reaching out to change the ideals we hold for young, “beautiful” people. Makkai exclaims how wrong all of this is seeing as she has not “seen her own face in ten years,” and explains how if she ever has a daughter who asks if she is pretty, she will respond by saying “she cannot be defined by five letters.” That she will be “pretty intelligent, and pretty amazing,” but pretty is not all that she will be.

Slam poetry, whether written or just listened to, can be an extraordinary tool for changing the world. By analyzing social issues, we cultivate attention for problems facing our world today. Also, by getting involved in art and in situations that promote intelligent thought, we are creating a brighter, more perceptive future for people. Check out Button Poetry, awesome website that has some amazing slam poems and slam competitions. Peruse them and learn things you might not have known before.

Image: Christian Senger

CultureHealth

“Beauty comes at a price.” There’s a sentence we have all heard, without doubt. Physical beauty, especially, comes at such a price. Waxing, bleaching, plucking, shaving, and threading…things all us ladies (and some men) have spent countless hours at the salon doing.  But as Americans, what’s our take on beauty? What’s physically attractive, and what’s not physically attractive? Who decides these rules? How do American standards of pulchritude compare to those of the Eastern world?

I am currently in India, and I had the chance to interview several people about what they believe is beautiful in a woman.  Here are a few perspectives from the East:

“When I marry the girl of my dreams, I want her to be as fair as the moon…lips as red as cherries, and very black hair. I think a girl like that would be very attractive.”

“Milky white skin. Like Kareena Kapoor and Tammanah Bhatia, the Bollywood actresses. Intellect would be a great addition to those looks, though.”

“As a girl, I’ve always been told to use fairness products. They’re supposed to elicit the true beauty out of me or something. I don’t know though, they don’t really work. But that’s what everyone wants: whiteness.”

I interviewed 12 people, but I had to stop because everyone said the same thing: fairness, whiteness, and lightness. Everybody seemed to be in love with the concept of being light-skinned. In fact, what I like to call the “Fairness Industry,” is booming not only in India, but in Asia as well. Take a look at these creams and their purpose:

beauty cream

Phrases like “healthy white” and “fair and lovely” capsize the mind at first glance. It almost seems as though being white and fair is associated with being “healthy” and “lovely.” Is this a social stigma? Do young Asian girls have to be fair-skinned to be beautiful? Skin bleaching products such as creams and gels certainly do exist in the USA, but they are nowhere near as popular there as they are in Asia as a whole. Where does the idea of equating attractiveness to fairness stem from?

Back in the day, those who toiled in the fields and struggled in blistering heat possessed a darker skin tone than those who remained indoors, living in luxury and royalty. Having darker pigmentation became easily associated with being poor or part of the working class. Skin color became associated with wealth, and those who were more affluent were also seen as more desirable.

Let’s zoom forward to present-day Bollywood. Recently, the Hindi film “Gori Tere Pyaar Mein” came out. The title literally translates to “In your love, fair-skinned girl.” Why not make a film called “Kali Tere Pyaar Mein,” or “In your love, dark-skinned girl?” Once again, movies in India emphasize the glowing fairness of girl as beautiful, leaving no room for the majority of the olive to tan to dark-complexioned people. With subliminal messages like this, those of us who are not fair are almost forced to believe that we are not as attractive to our white counterparts. I can provide a personal example of this, as one of my North Indian friends (who is quite fair in complexion) teased me for being a dark-toned South Indian (we inhabit areas closer to the equator, so what do you expect?) once. Since when is being more pigmented a sin? Why are fair people automatically deemed beautiful, while darker skinned girls struggle to earn that title?

What about America? What do American girls believe will make them look beautiful? The answer is essentially the opposite of Asia’s: America wants tan girls. The tanning industry prospers in America: fake tans, tanning beds, and other “tan-in-a-can” products are quite the profitable investment. When summer comes around, millions of girls rush to the beach to bronze themselves. I’ve seen girls from my high school spend their paychecks on tanning beds in the winter…yes, in the winter, when there’s barely any sun and being slightly pale is a commonplace occurrence. It’s ludicrous to see what our young girls do their skin…whether they want to bleach it or bronze it. I had several Caucasian friends tell me “Wow, I wish I was tan like you. Your tan lasts year-round.” It feels weird to be castigated by one community for being tan, and complimented by another for the same thing. Why can’t we all just be proud of our original skin color?

However, there is one characteristic of beauty that seemed to be popular in India and America: skinniness. Perhaps the struggle to be slim is a global epidemic, as well. Dieting pills, weight-loss programs, V-shapers…they’re everywhere. Magazines, movies, retweets made by several of my guy friends that I follow on Twitter all depict skinny actresses and models. As girls, we are constantly surrounded by sources that tell us that skinny is right and that people need to see our collarbones…or else we are just not beautiful.

And once we gain that skinny body through hours at gym and spent dieting, we need to show it off, don’t we? Let’s take a detour and play the skin game. The more skin you reveal, the sexier you are. That sentence should’ve made most of us feel somewhat uncomfortable. We live in a society where the female body is such a weird object: people want to see girls naked, but once they do, certain girls who exposed their bodies are slut-shamed. Girls are heavily imposed with a double standard in this sense. What do you want her to do? Take her clothes off? Will you still respect her after? These are the relevant questions that you should ask yourself if you’re interested in a particular girl. Find those answers and don’t dive into a cesspool of hypocrisy.

So girls, what makes you beautiful? Your complexion? Your weight? The amount of clothes you wear? Truly, there is no right answer. Society tries to oppress you with what it believes to be beautiful. Certain people assume that there is only one ideal look for beauty, whereas in reality, that’s just not that case. We need to celebrate our diversity. We can do so by not succumbing to a certain weight and pigmentation. If you want to wear a religious veil and cover your body, you should be allowed to do so. If you want to keep your original skin color, you should be allowed to do so. If you want to eat that juicy sandwich from McDonald’s, you should be allowed to do so. If you want to embrace your originality and the looks you were born with, you should be allowed to do so.

Your youth shouldn’t be spent on altering yourself physically to gain acceptance from society. It should be more about educating yourself and being happy. Society will always say one thing or the other, but it’s up to us to choose what we want to listen to.

Image: The Resurgence

InspirationSkills

I live a whirlwind of a life. With this constant chaos comes quite the mess to follow. I’m talking papers and books stacked to the ceiling, clothes thrown and shoved in unconventional places and the constant “Where’s Waldo” like escapade when looking for anything.  I couldn’t live like this so I did some searching and found some nifty little fixes that were able to help a Tasmanian devil like myself. When it comes to getting work done, I can use all the help I can get.

Here are my top 4 tips for getting that desk (and brain) of yours organized!

1. Get Pretty.

Invest in pretty stationary! You’ll find yourself being far more careful and considerate with it and it keeps you organized. Who doesn’t want to whip out a gorgeous little book whenever they want to jot down an appointment?

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Whitney English Day Planner

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Mon Cahier Planner

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DIY Planner

 2. Think Sticky.

Sticky notes have changed my life. Like a quick little reminder, you can stick these guys anywhere and be instantly reminded to do just about anything! For me it’s remembering to take my vitamins.

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WTF Sticky Notes

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Ribbon Sticky Notes Pad Set

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I’m Sticky Post It Notes

3. Get Hanging.

Put all those important papers and notes somewhere you can see them! And feel free to style them accordingly.

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Chicken Wire Organization

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Hanging Desk Organizer

4. Top It All Off.

There are way too many pens, pencils, rulers, and other random doo-dads and gadgets we keep on our desks these days. Why not display and organize them in style?

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iPhone Dock Plus Vase

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Mason Jar Organizer

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