Donald Trump’s Campaign of Controversy

If you’ve turned on the TV or gone online at all recently, you’ve probably noticed that election season has begun in the United States. Right and Left wing candidates with a few in between are all going after any screen time they can get, hoping for name recognition and an early chance to get their messages and platforms across. But this season, one GOP candidate in particular has managed to seize the spotlight.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has turned into the itch that just won’t go away for everyone in the 2016 presidential race. Since his campaign announcement, Donald Trump has generalized an entire group of people as drug dealers, criminals, and rapists, given out a U.S. Senator’s phone number out of spite, said one of America’s most notable war heroes was only a hero because he was captured, and suggested that Fox host and debate moderator Megyn Kelly must’ve been on her period because she was tough on him.

Most of America is either laughing at Trump, or, if they happen to be another Republican presidential candidate, insisting that he doesn’t really represent the views of the party. But it’s no longer reasonable to say that he shouldn’t be taken seriously.

While most politicians work hard to be on their best behavior, Trump (who has no experience in any government office) has made no such effort. Trump’s entire campaign has been a jumbled mess of controversial statements, childish responses to criticism, and countless appearances on various news programs to address them. But it’s important to note that the controversy that seems to surround Trump began before his campaign announcement. Among other things, Trump said he would date his daughter if she wasn’t his daughter, told a woman on his show ‘The Apprentice’ that it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees, and his ex-wife once made allegations of rape against him.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Trump’s campaign is the fact that he actually has support. Although it’s early on in the race, Trump continues to surge ahead in the polls. Polls taken by Huffington Post, NBC, and many others have put Trump far ahead of even his closest fellow Republican competitors. A man like Trump potentially getting a party nomination says a lot about the Republican Party. I’d like to believe that to most reasonable people, Trump wouldn’t even be considered an option. But the relentless media attention and his racist, misogynistic, childish tendencies seem to appeal to a growing number of conservatives.

As much as we would like to laugh off Donald Trump’s rantings, it’s also important to consider that at this point, he is a serious candidate who wants to be our president. It’s difficult to imagine him leading a country of three hundred and thirty million people, with the strongest military in the world, but that is a potential reality, and frankly should scare the sh*t out of people. Laugh all you want at Donald Trump, but keep in mind that he means what he says and there are people who wholeheartedly support him.

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Jon Stewart Says Goodbye to ‘The Daily Show’

On August 6, 2015, comedian Jon Stewart rapped up his sixteen and a half year long career with Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show’. As America wishes him well on his future endeavors, celebrities, politicians, and the average American alike are remembering how much he meant to the nation as the host of America’s favorite political satire show.

If anyone is able to make us laugh in situations that make us want to cry, it’s Jon Stewart. Aside from being a comedic genius, Stewart proved himself to be a man of integrity and warmth with a clear, profound sense of purpose and desire to make a difference in the ways he knew best. Over the years he became the voice of the people, using comedy to address real issues and express both his frustration and pleasure with how they’re addressed and handled by the media and politicians.

Jon Stewart was one of my favorite people on television, and I am full of nothing but love and respect for a man who was such a humble force for truth and good in the world. I know I’m not alone in thinking it will be weird to see someone else taking his place behind that desk, but I’m excited to see what Trevor Noah will do with the show. Stewart’s decision to leave for his mental health and to spend more time with his family is definitely respectable, and I wish him the best of luck with the animal sanctuary in New Jersey.

I know we haven’t seen the last of Jon Stewart, and I’m looking forward to seeing where he goes from here.

Taylor Swift is No Feminist Icon

There’s no question Taylor Swift is a global phenomenon. She took on the music industry at the young age of sixteen, releasing her first hit single ‘Tim McGraw’. Since then Taylor Swift has only gotten bigger, and there’s no sign that her huge success will be slowing down any time soon. Five albums, numerous awards (including a Grammy), two different genres of music, and eight years later, her hard work has clearly paid off.

In an interview with The Guardian, Swift said she realized recently that “I’ve been taking a feminist stance without saying so.” Leading up to that statement, she discussed how her friendship with Lena Dunham had a huge influence on helping her realize that she was a feminist. Swift got increasingly more vocal about issues like the sexism she faces as a young woman in the spotlight, and how much she hates the serial dater image that was put upon her. In response, the media and many young women were quick to put her on a pedestal as a modern feminist icon.

But does she deserve that title? Many have said that she doesn’t.

While any feminist would agree with the points that Swift has made about the struggles she faces, the fact that she only seems to discuss issues that affect her personally makes it difficult for many people to consider her a feminist icon. Swift has an undeniable tendency to publicly overlook the issues that affect women of color, women in the LGBT community, and the countless struggles that women face in different parts of the world. This tendency led Swift to be labelled a ‘white’ feminist.

‘White’ feminism is feminism that essentially only focuses on the struggles that straight white western women face, while silencing other women who speak out about their own struggles. Swift is not the only public figure to be called out on their problematic and exclusive stance on feminism. Comedian Amy Schumer, actress Lena Dunham (Swift’s own feminist influence), and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton among others have all been (accurately) labelled as white feminists.

So why are they all considered feminist icons?

Why does the media put these women on a pedestal for their feminism, while largely overlooking women like Nicki Minaj’s feminist views and focusing on her sexuality and provocativeness instead? This discussion was prompted recently when Minaj was tweeting after the hugely popular music videos for her songs ‘Anaconda’ and ‘Feelin Myself’ didn’t get a VMA nomination.

Minaj’s tweets essentially discussed how she was just as much of a pop culture phenomenon as the other women nominated, but got less recognition, and went on to talk about how being a black woman in the music industry affects her. In response to these tweets that had nothing against her, Swift (who had gotten a nomination) accused Nicki of pinning women against each other. Swift clearly took it as a personal attack and proved herself once again to be a white feminist while silencing Minaj.

Yet Swift continues to be praised. The media accused Minaj of “bashing” Taylor Swift, painting her as a villain when in reality all she did was talk about how it feels to get less recognition in the music industry because she is a black woman.

While I have no doubt that Taylor Swift is a genuinely good person, and has good intentions, she is far from a feminist icon. Instead of giving her that title more attention needs to be given to women of color, who have been saying the same things she does while also drawing attention to issues that affect them, but with much less recognition. It’s time to acknowledge that many other women are far more deserving of the ‘feminist icon’ title than Taylor Swift.

Self Love: Social Media’s Response to Body Positive Women

Social media’s influence on popular culture is undeniable. With so many people coming together from all over the world, it’s really no surprise that it has such a massive influence on everything from political campaigns to the way celebrities interact with their fans. One of the ways social media influences popular culture, is how it allows people to respond to it.

Unrealistic popular beauty standards have sparked social media’s body positive movement, which has led to mixed responses from other social media users; Particularly towards women who society doesn’t consider beautiful, or the women who express their positivity while wearing little clothing. Many have embraced the body positivity movement regardless of clothing choices and what the women look like, but others who haven’t don’t hesitate to make it clear how they feel. It’s almost comical how those against body positivity represent exactly why the movement began in the first place.

Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

Women who meet society’s standards and express their body positivity are called sluts, attention seekers and whores, among other colorful choice words that have been used to degrade and dehumanize women for many years. They are sexually harassed by men and shamed by other women. Women who don’t fit society’s beauty standards are sexually harassed and shamed as well, while also being viciously attacked purely because of how they look.

A popular criticism of the body positive movement is that it encourages people who are overweight to love their bodies, even though they’re “unhealthy”, but there is more to health than a person’s appearance. According to a study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, being overweight does not necessarily mean that you’re unhealthy, and you don’t have to look very far to back up their findings. Professional athletes come in all shapes and sizes. What do they all have in common? They are all expected to get plenty of exercise, eat right, and lead a healthy lifestyle..

One phrase that has come up repeatedly is: “don’t use body positivity as an excuse to be a hoe”. Popular viner and youtuber Jack Johnson (who has a large following of young, impressionable girls) tweeted “I feel like I’ve seen a lot of girls use this ‘body positive’ thing as an excuse to post slutty pictures and not get called out for it”.

First of all, we need no excuse.
Second of all, how do pictures online equate to sexual activity?
Third, who are you to judge?

My questions for everyone so against women expressing their confidence and promoting self-love are these: why does it offend you so much? Why do women feeling good about themselves despite what society wants them to think make you so angry? Who are you to determine what women are allowed to love themselves, when they’re allowed to, and how they express it? It has been made abundantly clear that no matter how we act, what we look like, and what we wear, there will always be someone who has a problem with it. So what is so wrong with women just letting go, and feeling confident anyways?

White Privilege: It is Real, & Important to Acknowledge

White privilege has been a subject of much debate and controversy, especially since the start of the #blacklivesmatter movement in 2012, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin. Activist Deray McKesson, among others, frequently uses his social media influence to draw attention to racial injustice and issues that affect people of color. White privilege is one of those issues, and is a real problem that people of color have been trying to get white people to understand and acknowledge for a long time. Many white people dismiss their privilege, insisting that they had to work for and earn what they have. In doing so, they fail to fully understand exactly what white privilege means.

My Dad grew up in Upstate NY. His father was a Vietnam War vet and his mother stayed at home, raising their children in a comfortable small town. When discussing white privilege with my Dad, I asked him if he believes that his upbringing had an effect on his life and the way he sees the world. His response: “well, of course”.

My Dad was born literally weeks after the civil rights act had been passed, at a time when black women were only just getting the right to vote, and racial segregation in the south was barely over. He grew up in a tight-knit, beautiful little town in a house that his parents still live in today. He got a solid education,  went to college, and while he definitely did not have a lot of money and had to work for what he has, it was easier for him than it would’ve been for a black man or woman born at the same time.

That, essentially, is white privilege.

As his daughter, I am still benefiting from the inherent white privilege that allowed for my Dad to have a solid start, while making it harder for black people to have the same opportunities. It is so important to acknowledge that the racist system put in place by white people generations ago, is still affecting the lives of people today.

To see further proof of white privilege, all someone has to do is educate themselves on an issue such as police brutality. Being white, I cannot begin to understand what it is like to face stereotyping and gross injustice at the hands of police because of the color of my skin. But that does not keep me from acknowledging that it happens to people of color. I know I will not face discrimination and internalized, systematic racism because of the color of my skin. I know that I will not be less likely to get a job interview simply because my name “sounds black”, and that I will not have to be afraid if a policeman pulls me over.

That is white privilege, and it is important to acknowledge we have it.

The Romanticizing & Stigmatization of Mental Illness

Mental Illness and the way it is perceived continues to be a serious issue, for both the media and society as a whole. The way various mental health problems are portrayed in movies and books, written about in newspapers, and talked about in the classroom creates a very complex way that an ordinary individual views these illnesses.

A problematic trend within pop culture that many people have noticed, is the romanticizing of mental health issues, and depression in particular. A beautiful, troubled teen girl who is rescued by a kind, handsome boy who gives her love and attention has arguably become a mainstream view of depression, which is harmful for many reasons.

For one thing, the notion that depression can be magically cured by a little TLC from someone you’re attracted to is absolutely ridiculous. I cannot stress enough that depression is so much more than just feeling a little lonely or sad, and often ruins interpersonal relationships instead of bringing people together (http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/divorcing-depression). When dealing with depression, the patriarchal, hyper masculine view that women are the only ones who face depression, and that the men need to save them also stigmatizes men who are facing depression. The stigmatization leads to men being less likely seek help, and only adds to this alarming statistic: About 50% of all adults experiencing symptoms of depression will not talk to a doctor or seek help for depression (http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics).

On news outlets, mental illness is far from romanticized. Instead, it is taken to the other extreme. Mental health is not addressed in the news until something extreme and tragic happens, such as the Sandy Hook massacre, or the recent Lafayette theater shooting that resulted in death and destruction. In the eyes of the viewers, this implants and internalizes the idea that mental illnesses equate to insanity and violence, which leads to further stigmatization, fear, and silence about mental health issues.

It could also be argued that the media uses mental health issues as a tool to humanize the white men who go on vicious killing sprees, and to push ideological agendas about issues like gun control. This is a gross problem that adds to both the issue of white privilege, AND the way mental health is viewed, portrayed, and discussed.

Growing up I was fortunate enough to go to a school where students were taught the facts about mental illness. My health teacher taught us about the stigma that comes along with it, and made sure to emphasize that depression is not just feeling down. We were given information about resources to turn to if we had further questions, and she genuinely cared about making sure we understood her. But a week of focus on mental illness in health class unfortunately does little to combat what we see in the movies, read in the news, or hear from our peers.

All too often, mental health is viewed as something that people can just get over, or as something that makes them inherently dangerous. People use “depressed” to describe how they feel when they fail a test they thought they aced, and “bipolar” to describe an occasional mood swing. Mental illnesses should not be used as adjectives so candidly in conversations with your peers. Mental illnesses should not just be talked about in the media just when they want to humanize another white man who goes on a killing spree. Mental illness is not the sad beautiful girl you see helped by the kind boy when they fall in love in the movie. The romanticizing and stigmatization of mental illness needs to stop.