A Tribute to Underground Abortion Clinics

by Hanna Carney //

This piece was originally published in Issue 1: Secret Edition (Spring 2022). To see past print publications, click here.

Many people imagine a person getting an abortion as a teenage girl. She is young, reckless, selfish, and not ready to have a child (think Cassie Howard from Euphoria, or Maeve Wiley in Sex Education). However, people of various ages and genders terminate their pregnancies for many reasons. Some of these reasons include:

  • Not financially prepared
  • Bad timing/unplanned
  • Don’t want to be a single parent
  • Their partner is abusive
  • Their partner isn’t “the one”
  • Interferes with career plans
  • Want to focus on their marriage
  • Health concerns
  • Already have children and do not want more

There will always be someone in need of an abortion, no matter
their gender, race, or financial status.

Before the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, abortion was illegal almost
everywhere in the United States. People who wanted to terminate their pregnancies were hard-pressed to find safe means of doing so, but that didn’t necessarily deter them from seeking an abortion. As Nina Liss-Schultz writes in Mother Jones, “As long as women have had unwanted pregnancies, other women have helped them resolve the problem.”

Enter the underground abortion clinic.

What is an underground abortion clinic?

Since the mid 19th century, people, mainly women, have banded together to help others end their unwanted pregnancies. One of the more famous underground abortion networks dubbed “Jane” was founded about 50 years ago. The Jane Collective operated from 1969-1973 in Chicago, Illinois helping thousands of people terminate their pregnancies. They advertised their services in smaller newspapers—usually student or alternative papers. They kept their ads short and sweet:

‘Pregnant? Don’t Want to Be? Call Jane.’

Groups met discreetly, learning how to conduct pelvic exams, administer drugs, or any other medical practices necessary for an abortion. These groups provided underground healthcare to countless pregnant people, usually without the help of cis-men. Bingham in Vanity Fair helps paint a picture of the underground abortion clinic:

Martha Scott, a 30-year-old mother of four, was preparing for a procedure when she heard the doorbell ring. Moments later, five Chicago homicide detectives were barging into a living room full of startled, wide-eyed women. “It’s the cops!” someone shouted, as if on cue. Scott leapt into action. “You don’t have a search warrant,” she screamed. “You can’t come in!” One of them handcuffed her. After searching the apartment and finding it filled with women, the cops demanded: “Where is he? Where’s the doctor?” It turned out the police didn’t know exactly who Pildes and the other women were. Acting on a tip, they had expected to find a male doctor operating an illegal abortion clinic. Instead, they found women in surgical gloves.

Why are these women in surgical gloves necessary?

Underground abortion networks did not cease to exist in 1973 with the ruling of Roe v. Wade. They still pervade today around the globe. For example, Mexico has many underground networks that provide essential healthcare to people with unwanted pregnancies. And these networks cross borders. With the enactment of SB 8 in Texas, Mexican networks near the US border have been preparing for an influx of patients seeking treatment.

Since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18th, 2020 and the nomination of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett, pro-choice people have been anxious to see if Roe v. Wade will be called into question yet again. And it has.

Since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18th, 2020 and the nomination of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett, pro-choice people have been anxious to see if Roe v. Wade will be called into question yet again. And it has. Most notably in Texas and Mississippi, two consistently conservative states.

On May 19th, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that would prohibit abortions 6 weeks into pregnancy. This bill attempted to give private citizens the power of suing providers of banned abortions. SB 8 is unique from other abortion restrictions, because most abortion restrictions are normally enforced by states. Thus, the Texas government wanted to reduce protection for abortion providers, making it more difficult to defend themselves in court.

Then, on December 1st, 2021, the Supreme Court heard arguments on a Mississippi abortion law, one that challenged Roe v. Wade. This law makes abortion illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Roe v. Wade allows for an additional 2 months for any termination decisions to be made. The conservative-leaning Supreme Court agreed to review this law, reconsidering the 50 year precedent that Roe v. Wade has set. Will our country regress 50 years? We are likely to find out later this spring, when the Supreme Court is set to give their decision.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, what will that mean for the US?

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, people’s lives and well-being will be in danger. The safest way to have an abortion is with the help of a trained medical doctor. However, people are not always granted that option, but that does not stop them from seeking pregnancy termination. People may resort to self-managed abortions.

The history of unsafe abortion is marked by dangerous methods—including the use of sharp sticks inserted through the vagina and cervix into the uterus; ingestion of toxic substances such as bleach; herbal preparations inserted into the vagina; infliction of trauma, such as hitting the abdomen or falling. Many of these methods are not even effective in terminating the pregnancy, but can leave lasting damage. (Doctors Without Borders)

Criminalizing people seeking abortions or their healthcare provides protects no living person. In fact, restricting a person’s right to an abortion puts many lives at risk, including the fetus. The World Health Organization reports that “around 5 million women are admitted to hospital as a result of unsafe abortion every year,” and “almost every abortion death and disability could be prevented through sexuality education, use of effective contraception, provision of safe, legal induced abortion, and timely care for complications.” Restricting access to legal and safe abortions only adds to the number of people at risk to injury and death.

Overturning Roe v. Wade would disproportionately affect marginalized groups, such as BIPOC, the LGBTQ+, and low-income communities.

Additionally, overturning Roe v. Wade would disproportionately affect marginalized groups, such as BIPOC, the LGBTQ+, and low-income communities. Individuals within these groups may experience additional barriers to accessing reproductive health care. Black women have a higher maternity mortality rate than white women in the US; they are three to four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth, according to Amnesty USA.

Additionally, “poverty rates on average are higher among lesbian and bisexual women, young people, and African Americans within our community,” as outlined by the National LGBTQ Task Force. Low-income individuals may have a harder time paying for proper health care or taking time off work to get the care they need.

A Tribute to Underground Networks

Underground abortion networks have provided necessary healthcare to countless women and pregnant people around the world. These volunteers step up when a government falls short in its support of reproductive rights. If the US government chooses to revoke our rights, millions will mourn the overturn of Roe v. Wade. But the Supreme Court should know that as long as people have had unwanted pregnancies, there will always be others to help them solve the problem.

Works Cited

“Abortion Access for LGBTQ People.” National LGBTQ Task Force, https://www.thetaskforce.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/TF_FactSheet_Abortion-Final.pdf.

Bingham, Clara. “Code Names and Secret Lives: How A Radical Underground Network Helped Women Get Abortions before They Were Legal.” Vanity Fair, 17 Apr. 2019, https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2019/04/jane-network-abortion-feature.

“Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA.” Amnesty International USA, 12 Mar. 2010, https://www.amnestyusa.org/files/pdfs/deadlydelivery.pdf.

Haberman, Clyde. “Code Name Jane: The Women behind a Covert Abortion Network.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Oct. 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/14/us/illegal-abortion-janes.html.

Liss-Schultz, Nina. “Inside the Top-Secret Abortion Underground.” Mother Jones, 1 Feb. 2018, https://www.motherjones.com/crime-justice/2018/02/inside-the-top-secret-abortionunderground/

“Preventing Unsafe Abortion.” World Health Organization, 2014, https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/112321/WHO_RHR_14.09_eng.pdf?sequence=9.

“Unsafe Abortion: A Forgotten Emergency.” Doctors Without Borders – USA, 7 Mar. 2019, https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/what-we-do/news-stories/story/unsafe-abortionforgotten-emergency.

Acne Isn’t Skin Deep

by Claire Mullen //

Acne and Advice

As a girl who has struggled with cystic jawline acne for years, I have collected a small pile of unwarranted advice on how to “fix” my face. Society’s expectations for how women should look, coupled with general misconceptions about acne, resulted in a rather painful personal experience for me. My acne journey made me question what it means for a woman to look “presentable” and how harmful “helpful” advice can be.

Not Always Your Period

Growing up, the general notion was that my acne must have something to do with estrogen and my period. Now, there is some basis behind this. During a woman’s menstrual cycle, testosterone levels initially increase, which in turn increases sebum (the oil on your skin) production. Sebum is a breeding ground for P. acnes bacteria, and the immune system responds by sending white blood cells that eventually die and become pus. Ultimately, a pimple is formed.

Testosterone, though, isn’t the cause of hormonal acne in all women. A different hormone, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), can also be responsible. For all people, IGF-1 spikes during adolescence and young adulthood to aid in bodily growth, maintenance, and development. Besides this, IGF-1 also leads to sebum production, and sebum leads to acne. This is part of the reason why many people suddenly develop acne in their teenage years: because of increased IGF-1. 

However, I was never told this. People only made some vague reference to “the hormones,” as if each of them had identical functions, and how to “fix” my hormones: not eat milk chocolate while on my period, drink more water, and so on. I only learned about testosterone and IGF-1’s impact on acne years into my acne journey through extensive online research. Additionally, cystic acne can be a symptom of hormonal conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), so it is best to discuss acne with a general practitioner and/or dermatologist if possible. 

Ignoring the Problem 

Society’s consensus is that acne is a purely cosmetic issue, but in reality, acne digs deep into one’s personal life and mental health. No one seemed to understand what I was experiencing as a result of my acne: it hurt to wash my face, I became obsessive over changing my pillowcase, and I was adamant about never reusing a face mask in fear that it was contaminated.

I was told to “just cover it up with makeup” but this was problematic for so many reasons. Firstly, it would only irritate and infect my broken skin. Furthermore, acne is not a purely cosmetic condition, therefore it is illogical to treat it solely through a cosmetic approach. It would be nonsensical to tell someone to put concealer over a paper cut, so why would we tell a woman to put it on her acne? Come to think of it, I’ve never heard anyone tell a man to put concealer over his acne. Then again, society deems it unacceptable for men to wear makeup in any capacity. Nevertheless, for women, acne is treated as an urgent problem that must be covered up to look “presentable.” 

What to Tell Someone with Acne

If someone you know is experiencing acne, the best thing to say to them would be nothing at all. If they ask you for skincare tips, go right ahead, but in all other situations, their skin is none of your business. Just as it is rude to give unsolicited advice and commentary on how one “should” dress, style their hair, or otherwise present themselves, we must learn to refrain from commenting on another person’s skin. 

A Letter to My Ex

by Madison McCormick

Trigger Warning: emotional abuse, suicide, domestic abuse

Dear ex, 

You were the worst decision I ever made. I ignored every red flag as soon as you mentioned childhood trauma. I told you that I had a habit of being a people fixer and letting people walk all over me. You took advantage of that. You knew exactly what to say and how to manipulate me. You said just enough vulnerable things to make me think that you were just a broken person trying to heal and become a better person. But you are the worst kind of person. 

You took everything you experienced and channeled it into damaging others. You bragged about how you broke people and counted off the girls you’ve ‘broken’ on your fingers. You smiled when you recounted the worst stories. One girl became so ill because of you that she was admitted into the hospital. Another went through horrible depression. I should’ve run then. I did think about it as every alarm went off inside my head, but then you started crying about how horrible things were for you growing up. I was hooked. 

You took advantage of my kindness. I did everything for you because you manipulated me into thinking that you needed me. After everything, you were still so horrible to me. I told you when I was at my limit, but you took that as your sign to push until I cracked. You yelled and terrorized me until I had panic attacks, and you loved to keep yelling while I shook in front of you. There was no soul to be found in your eyes. Night after night, it was the same thing. It was one horrible fight after another. I told you I was breaking and begged you to stop trying to hurt me. I told you that I didn’t know who I was anymore because I started to believe all of the horrible things you said about me. I told you that I was scared of you and that you made me want to die. I was high-functioning until I met you, but you dragged me into the depths of despair with you. You wanted to make me as miserable as you made yourself. 

Things progressed so slowly at first. I didn’t notice what you were trying to do. Then, my depression peaked and you rejoiced. You chipped away at every bit of my spirit until there was nothing left. You made pointed comments about my body over and over again until my eating disorder hit me like a tidal wave. You wouldn’t let me eat without you. I couldn’t sleep when I needed to sleep. I cried and begged you to let me go to sleep but you just laughed at me. You told me I was selfish for going to class and doing homework. You started fights when I was trying to study for prelims or turn in assignments so that my grades suffered too. I couldn’t tell anyone what was really happening, though. I felt bad enough asking for a single extension so I just missed everything. You deprived me of basic needs, which I later found out is a torture technique used by militaries. You made it all seem like my fault, like I didn’t deserve to sleep. 

You told me that what happened to me was my fault. If I was drunk and something happened, it’d be my fault. You screamed at me and called me a “pompous, cheating b*tch” when something did happen. You berated me and demanded to see my face because you wanted to see the pain you were inflicting. You are sadistic. You told me that I was lucky that you loved me and that no one would ever love me again, but you were the lucky one. You didn’t deserve me. You didn’t deserve my love. You said that I would never have a family because you knew that was the one thing I wanted more than anything. You said that my dad was going to think it was my fault, too, and that he would never forgive me. You threatened to post everything and contact everyone I knew with your version of the story. You demanded that I go through every detail of the assault with you and convinced me that it was my fault. You put me in the hospital after you made me suicidal and left me all alone. You lied to my dad and said that you would take me to the hospital right away when I was in the middle of a breakdown, then told me that this wasn’t fair to you because you were sleeping. You woke up multiple times and yelled at me when I said I needed help until I started crying and left the room. You watched YouTube as I sat on the bed waiting for you to drive me. 

I should’ve let my parents call the cops. The hospital staff even told my parents that it seemed like something was wrong. You told me I was being selfish for trying to call you when I had access to the public phone and that it didn’t work with your schedule. You said it would just be a ‘surprise’ if you showed up to visiting hours after you said that you would come. You told my dad that you would be there for me, but you lied. You promised that you would pick me up from the hospital on time then showed up two hours late. Then you yelled at me as soon as we got back to your apartment and said that you hope I enjoyed my ‘little vacation’. Then you got drunk and threatened to drink yourself to death when I said I just needed to sleep because I was exhausted. I had to hide every bottle of alcohol and pill bottle in the house because you threatened to hurt yourself like it was a game. You threw a fit and laid on top of me while I was having a panic attack, then complained about me not being able to stay awake the entire night. You almost put me back in the hospital because I couldn’t handle everything. You knew what you were doing to me and you loved it. 

You are the worst person I have ever met in my entire life. You don’t have any integrity or sense of morality. You are merely a cold and heartless tormentor. I believe that everyone is capable of changing but you don’t want to change. You act like someone is forcing you to behave this way when it’s all you. You know how you’ve impacted people but you don’t care to change so you will probably always be this way. 

I let you convince me to stay every time I tried to leave. It got so bad that my friend offered to let me stay in their dorm room and buy me a toothbrush, shampoo, and everything, just to get me out of there. I should’ve accepted their help but I underestimated how strong a trauma bond could be and how good at manipulating me you were. 

But it didn’t take much more time for me to grow to hate and loathe you. I tried to slowly put space in between us so I could get away but you were incapable of respecting any of my boundaries. I asked for a break and you wouldn’t leave me alone. Then when I got angry enough to forgo my slow and steady plan for space and explicitly broke up with you, you replied, “We can talk about it on Thursday”, like it never happened. I could never escape you. I blocked you on every platform you harassed me on just for you to find another avenue. You told me that I couldn’t block you on everything because I needed to get my stuff back. I held my breath the entire summer waiting for the moment that I could get my stuff from your apartment and finally be free of you. 

I never want to see you again. I never want to speak to you again. But I can’t seem to escape you. You enrolled in the class that you knew I was taking, even though you told me that you’d already taken it. Have you been watching me this entire time? I shouldn’t have to leave class in tears because you traumatized me and then show up everywhere I am. If anyone should leave, it’s you. 

Every sign was there that you were a narcissist, but I didn’t know what to look for. I don’t think anything good came out of my time with you. I learned what to look out for to identify dangerous people, but I don’t know if that is necessarily a good thing. You knew the weight of the trauma I already carried and decided to double it. If you genuinely cared about me at any point, then the least you can do is pay me back for the NYC trip that I paid for and the extra years of therapy I need because of the hell you put me through. 

I have wanted to confront you about everything you did to me, but I know that it wouldn’t be safe to do that. I will not be gaslighted anymore. I will not be manipulated into thinking I am crazy and that I’m making things up in my head. I know what you did to me, and so do you. I hope that what you did to me haunts you for the rest of your life. If I have to be burdened with it, then so do you. You can’t plead ignorance this time. 

This is my version of closure. You refused to let me speak or be heard, but I will not be silenced now. I am done with you forever. I do not deserve to be alone. I did not deserve anything that has happened to me. I do deserve love and happiness, and I have found it. I will have my family, and I will be successful. You took me down to the lowest point in my life but I refused to let you win. You made me an empty shell of a person that no one in my life recognized, but I am not that person anymore. I was never weak. I have always been stronger than you, which is probably why you tried to tear me down so desperately. You made the mistake of confusing cruelty for strength and power. Everything you did and everything you are only shows how pathetic and weak you really are. Your despicable actions were never a reflection of me; they were a reflection of the ugly, dead heart that lies within you. I will live the life I have always desired and deserved. You cannot take credit for the person that I have become either.

I am the one who picked myself up and tried, again and again, every day until it wasn’t as painful anymore. I did the work to start healing. I continued fighting when everything in me wanted to give up. I found my voice and finally decided to use it. 

Goodbye forever. You will not be missed.

With No Warm Regards or Love, 

The Woman You Never Deserved

Emotional Abuse Information & Resources

Identifying Abuse: 

Trauma Healing:

Understanding Sex Work as Work

by Hanna Carney //

Sex work as a profession is widely misunderstood in the United States. Many stereotypes that surround the sex trade are harmful and inaccurate. For example, people tend to imagine women when they imagine a sex worker, but all gender and sexual identities are represented in sex work. Moreover, sex workers are often stereotyped as immoral, dirty, unintelligent, drug addicts who can’t get a “real” job. In other words, sex work is associated with immorality resulting in moral blame being placed on sex workers. Conversely, society also tends to simultaneously victimize these individuals, stripping them of their own bodily autonomy.  

Sex workers can have agency just as anyone can, and to reduce sex workers to be mere victims of some oppressive circumstance and nothing else denies them that agency.

It is true that people with marginalized identities (such as women, the LGBTQ+, and BIPOC) may have more difficulty finding jobs in the US, so they may feel that making a living from sex work is a more viable career option. However, people fail to recognize the differences between sex work and human trafficking. Sex workers can have agency just as anyone can, and to reduce sex workers to be mere victims of some oppressive circumstance and nothing else denies them that agency. Some individuals may “pursue sex work to explore or express their sexuality,” as Open Society Foundations astutely points out. Not everyone’s reasoning for working in the sex trade is the same.

We have a lot of educating to do on the nuances of sex work in America and around the world. A good starting point is examining current bills in the New York State Legislature that could decriminalize sex work. 

Stop the Violence in the Sex Trades Bill

This bill is sponsored by New York State Senator Julia Salazar. What is distinguishable about this bill is that it aspires to decriminalize not just sex workers but their clients and managers as well. These specifications—including clients and managers in decriminalization—are vital for the protection of sex workers. If clients, for example, could still be held criminal for hiring a sex worker, sex workers would have less clients and lower wages. This would inevitably lead to harsher working conditions. Specifically, as Open Society Foundations publishes in “Understanding Sex Work in an Open Society,”

Criminalization makes it difficult for sex workers to report rights violations, especially by the police, because they are vulnerable to incarceration, further abuse, and retribution. This perpetuates stigma, violence, and impunity, which further endanger sex workers’ health and safety.

Decriminalizing sex work and all consenting individuals involved is essential for protecting these individuals and promoting a safe, sex positive environment.

Sex Trade Survivors Justice and Equality Act

New York State Senator Liz Kreuger is promoting the Sex Trade Survivors Justice and Equality Act. In contrast to the Salazar bill, this one would only decriminalize sex workers, excluding managers and clients from this protection.

For the reasons mentioned above, this bill is inadequate, considering how it would not successfully protect sex workers as it supposedly intends to do. The New York State Legislature should also consider how this bill would disproportionately endanger sex workers of various identities, as BIPOC, the LGBTQ+, and undocumented individuals would be particularly vulnerable to the stigma and violence that would continue if this bill were passed. Supposed “activism” in favor of sex workers can sometimes actually life harder for sex workers. That is why it is so important to understand the nuances of the sex trade in America.

Sex Work During the Time of COVID

During lockdown, many sex workers had to stop any in-person work, because if they chose to continue working in person, the legal and health risks increased exponentially. Not only did they risk catching COVID-19 but it also became more difficult to get regular STI testing as hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID patients.

Since we saw the first cases of COVID-19 in the US, the unique vulnerabilities that sex workers experience in this country became apparent. Like most of the country, sex workers were put under financial stress as things became uncertain. During lockdown, many sex workers had to stop any in-person work, because if they chose to continue working in person, the legal and health risks increased exponentially. Not only did they risk catching COVID-19 but it also became more difficult to get regular STI testing as hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID patients. These reasons help explain why so many sex workers relied on online platforms to continue work. However, the criminalization and stigma surrounding the sex trade continued to make life especially difficult for sex workers during pandemic.

In August 2021, OnlyFans announced that they would be banning pornography on their website. This came as a blow to many sex workers who found some financial stability through their posts on OnlyFans. The website reversed this decision only a few weeks later, assuring that they would still allow porn on their websites, but online platforms can still be unstable for sex workers. Social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter constantly take down the posts of sex workers despite allowing similar content from other users. 

It is no question that sex workers deserve respect and safe working conditions. But some believe the question still remains of whether or not the sex trade can be an empowering profession within the patriarchy. Cecilia Gentili’s testament below outlines some of the more positive aspects of her experience as a sex worker.

An Empowering Service Industry

Cecilia Gentili, who wrote the guest essay “This Is What Will Make Sex Work in New York Safer” in the New York Times, shares her former experiences as a trans woman in the sex trade. Her eloquent and honest testimony sheds light on how the sex trade can be an empowering industry—not just for workers but clients as well:

“Sex work is a service industry. We often help people with social anxiety or a disability and those who are figuring out their sexuality or gender identity. Clients and co-workers (who are often prosecuted as traffickers) very often provide care to sex workers as well. It was a sex worker who helped me escape from a trafficking situation, not the police. It was a client who encouraged and helped me get into a drug treatment program, and it was a client who gave me my first immigration legal advice and helped me open my first bank account.”

Some enter the sex trade to empower themselves. Some do it to empower others. Some because they feel they need to. But no matter the reason, all sex workers deserve respect, understanding, and safe working conditions. 

Gentili and many others appreciate how the sex trade holds the opportunity to empower the individuals involved. On the other hand, some believe that sex work can only be oppressive in a patriarchal society, while others fall somwhere in the middle.


Regardless, sex work can be a viable and respectable way to make a living. Some enter the sex trade to empower themselves. Some do it to empower others. Some because they feel they need to. But no matter the reason, all sex workers deserve respect, understanding, and safe working conditions. 

Click here to read further about how you can be an ally to sex workers.

Cycles and Symptoms: A Fact Sheet on PMS and PMDD

Let’s Talk About the Taboo

Did anyone else read American Girl’s The Care & Keeping of You? When I was twelve, I knew that becoming a teenager equaled entering puberty, which meant some big changes were about to happen to my body. I credit The Care & Keeping of You with teaching me about the basics about what I should expect, especially in regards to my period. However, there were aspects of my health related to my menstrual cycle that were altered in ways that I was not anticipating or aware could happen, and I soon realized that they were seldom talked about and considered taboo

Too often women are labelled as “moody” or “monsters” during “that time of month,” when in reality, PMS/PMDD are real medical conditions that impact menstruating women, and in the case of PMDD, can be extremely disabling and debilitating.

So, let’s learn a little more about PMS and its more severe form, PMDD. Too often women are labelled as “moody” or “monsters” during “that time of month,” when in reality, PMS/PMDD are real medical conditions that impact menstruating women, and in the case of PMDD, can be extremely disabling and debilitating. The exact cause of premenstrual syndrome is unknown, but researchers have suggested that cyclic changes in hormones, chemical changes in the brain, and depression are possible sources.

Premenstrual Syndrome and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

As many as 3 out of 4 menstruating women have encountered some type of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It consists of a long list of signs and symptoms, although menstruating women who have PMS usually experience a few of the issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are both emotional and behavioral signs and symptoms as well as physical signs and symptoms:

Emotional and BehavioralPhysical
Tension or anxiety
Depressed mood
Crying spells
Mood swings and irritability or anger
Appetite changes and food cravings
Trouble falling asleep (insomnia)
Social withdrawal
Poor concentration
Change in libido
Joint or muscle pain
Weight gain related to fluid retention
Abdominal bloating
Breast tenderness
Acne flare-ups
Constipation or diarrhea
Alcohol intolerance

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is an extension of premenstrual syndrome that is severe and chronic, and it affects between 5-8% of the menstruating women population. While both PMS and PMDD have emotional and physical symptoms, PMDD is a much more severe extension of PMS. Researchers think that PMDD could stem from an abnormal reaction to hormone changes that occur with each menstrual cycle, which can cause a serotonin deficiency and in turn affect mood and result in physical symptoms. 

Hopkins Medicine says that the following symptoms must be present to diagnose PMDD:

  • During most menstrual cycles over the course of a year, at least five of the following symptoms must be present in order for PMDD to be diagnosed: 
  • Depressed mood
  • Anger or irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Moodiness
  • Increased appetite
  • Insomnia or the need for more sleep
  • Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
  • Other physical symptoms, the most common being belly bloating, breast tenderness, and headache
  • Symptoms that disturb your ability to function in social, work, or other situations
  • Symptoms that are not related to, or exaggerated by, another medical condition

The symptoms of PMDD are “so severe that women have trouble functioning at home, at work, and in relationships during this time” and it “does need treatment that may include lifestyle changes and sometimes medicines.” To learn more about PMDD, Mind.org is a useful site for further understanding the disorder, and has guides for what to do if you or someone you know has PMDD.

More than “Just Being Moody”

There is much research to be done to demystify the scientific causal factors behind PMS and PMDD, but in all circumstances, PMS and PMDD should be taken seriously. Like the title of a Harvard Health article states, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, as well as premenstrual syndrome, are biology, not a behavior choice. Unfortunately, this is not universally recognized, and women are frequently shamed for this natural aspect of their health. 

It’s important to discourage period shaming talk and encourage a safe environment where menstruating women can feel comfortable discussing their health without judgement.

According to a 2017 survey conducted by THINX, 58% of women have felt embarrassment from being on their period, 42% have experienced period shaming, 71% of women have hidden a feminine product from view on their way to the bathroom, 1 in 5 women have felt period shame because of comments made by a male friend, and 51% of men believe it’s inappropriate for women to refer to their period in the workplace. 

Spreading awareness about menstruation and understanding the science behind it can help make talking about periods less of a taboo, and it’s important to discourage period shaming talk and encourage a safe environment where menstruating women can feel comfortable discussing their health without judgement. Ultimately, menstruating women with PMS and PMDD should know that they are not alone and that their emotions and symptoms are legitimate and valid.

NOTE: Some people with PMDD find that they have suicidal ideation, which can be especially distressing. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideation and are worried you may act on them, you can refer to the following services:

  • 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
  • 24/7 National Crisis Text Line: text “HELLO” to 741741
  • 24/7 National Lifeline Crisis Chat Service: Visit Here
  • If you are a member of Cornell University, Cornell Health Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available to all students at Cornell University. 
    • Cornell Health 24/7 Phone Consultation Line: 607-255-5155 and press 2
    • Set up an appointment with CAPS: 607-255-5155
    • Access the CAPS website: Visit Here

Centering Intersectional Gender Justice and Resources: Cornell Women’s Resource Center

by Isa Meyers //

Cornell attempts to offer adequate financial, mental health, and wellness resources for its nearly 15,000 undergraduates students. From Cornell Health’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to residence halls established to offer a place of community for students of color (such as Akwe:kon, Ujamaa, and the Latino Living Center), the university commends itself for the safe and welcoming atmosphere it provides for students of all backgrounds. 

While sexual harassment, abuse, and gender-based discrimination are not unique to our campus, the importance of highlighting the available support for students is at an all time high, especially amidst a global pandemic.

A 2019 Cornell survey reported that 50% of a random sample of 6,000 respondents said that “they have experienced one or more specific forms of harassing behaviors.” While sexual harassment, abuse, and gender-based discrimination are not unique to our campus, the importance of highlighting the available support for students is at an all time high, especially amidst a global pandemic. Although Cornell’s existing programs and resources are a great start for marginalized students, Cornell’s resources have become stretched too thin to the point that many students are unaware of what is available to them, including access to confidential reporters in the wake of sexual abuse or harassment.

Cornell’s Women’s Resource Center (WRC) remains a hidden gem with the potential to help many students provided they are aware of the resources it can offer them. Located on the second floor of Willard Straight Hall (WSH 209) in Ho Plaza, the WRC is a cozy and welcoming space for all. The mission of the WRC “​​is to foster a more vibrant campus community by supporting the full and active participation of women-identified students in both their personal and educational pursuits at Cornell. The WRC champions endeavors that support women’s education, empowerment, and advancement at Cornell and beyond.” The WRC especially caters to the needs of queer, BIPOC, low-income, first-generation, students and students with disabilities. 

The WRC contains resources and handouts with information on dating, sexual wellbeing and health, healthy relationships, sexual abuse and violence, and various local agencies in Tompkins county. In addition, staff members Greta and Shura both serve as confidential reporters for individuals who are looking for help, advice, or are unsure of next steps in the wake of sexual assault, violence, or harrassment. Confidential reporting is different from anonymous reporting in that “​​conversations with these confidential resources are kept private and, except in rare circumstances, will not be shared without your explicit permission. Even those university officials who cannot guarantee confidentiality, such as the Title IX office, will maintain a person’s privacy to the greatest extent possible.”

The mission of the WRC “​​is to foster a more vibrant campus community by supporting the full and active participation of women-identified students in both their personal and educational pursuits at Cornell.

The Center contains over a thousand intersectional feminist books such as Toni Morrison’s novels to theory by Angela Davis and personal essays by Roxane Gay. In addition to offering a safe physical space, the Center offers tangible resource such as menstrual products and safer sex supplies (condoms, lube, etc…). If you are in a midday lull, stop by to take a nap on the Center’s couches or snag a handful of candy and a cup of tea.  

The Center also offers different programs and events ranging from vision board making to spoken word workshops. A few programs that took place this fall included Sex in the Dark (an anonymous virtual event where professional sexperts answered any questions about sex and sexual wellbeing) and Build Wealth in College (a workshop during which BIPOC and first-generation college students learned the various ways that they can build their net worth through entrepreneurship, collective economics while living in their dorms). Check out @wrc.cornell on Instagram for updates and more information weekly about which programs are occurring. 

If you’re interested in getting involved with the WRC through our program Friends of the WRC. Any questions can be sent to: wrc@cornell.edu

Plate By Numbers

Warning: This article contains talk of scales, weight loss, and dieting and may be triggering for those currently struggling with body dysmorphia and other related body image disorders.

Make a Wish

Throughout the majority of my twenty-one years, I’ve had a constant wish in the back of my head:

I want a flat stomach.

I’ve always been on the smaller side, and I’ve never been overweight. Yet to me, there has always been room to lose. Putting it plainly, I have incessantly wanted to drop weight, to shed those couple of extra pounds. Why? That’s a good question. If you asked me a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to give you a good answer with good reasons. I just knew I long dreamed of having a toned core and an overall lean body. But I’ve since realized that there is more to my explanation.

Diversity? Didn’t Know Her

I grew up in the South, in a predominantly white community, and I’m a woman of color, so I looked different than most of the people in my community. While I didn’t realize it at the time, this had a big impact on me. I grew up in a place where the standard of beauty didn’t include the physical features that made up my face. My flat nose, round face, and smaller eyes were traits that set me apart. 

Suffice to say, my hometown lacked diversity. This, combined with my limited exposure to Asian American representation in the entertainment industry, largely led to a lack of confidence.

For me, it was difficult to love how I looked when I was surrounded by people whose physical traits looked nothing like mine. Suffice to say, my hometown lacked diversity. This, combined with my limited exposure to Asian American representation in the entertainment industry, largely led to a lack of confidence. So, I latched onto a physical aspect that I could control: my weight.

Taking Control… Or Trying To

Throughout high school, I was quite unsuccessful. I played on my high school’s varsity tennis team, and I was in good shape. But abs don’t allow for frequent stress eating or an unclean diet, and Chick-fil-A was my best friend. My weight stayed pretty constant and didn’t fluctuate much, but in the back of my head, I was never satisfied. I would pinch my midsection, stare in the mirror, and think if only I could weigh a little bit less.

At the beginning of college, those nagging thoughts still persisted, popping up every once in a while to remind me that I wasn’t thin enough. But they couldn’t stop me from eating ice cream at the dining halls or indulging in comfort food, and all of the walking from class to class and uphill both ways made my weight stay about the same. 

When the pandemic started, my relationship with food started to take a further turn for the worse. I didn’t contract a severe eating disorder, but for a short period of time, my calorie intake dropped well below the recommended amount for my demographic. I would weigh myself every day and get a rush of excitement when I saw the numbers drop. However, I quickly realized that my restrictive diet was unsustainable, so I tried to find a balance. Once I allowed myself to eat more calories, the number on the scale started to rise, and this made me unreasonably upset. I took a break from weighing myself, and I tried to focus on my health, rather than reaching a certain weight.

Flash forward a couple of months, and I was again wrapped in the mindset that prioritized numbers over health. This time, I had calorie counting, or CICO (calories in, calories out). Now, I don’t think that calorie counting is a bad thing. If it is used with moderation and balance for improving overall health, I think it’s great. And using CICO was the first time I actually started approaching my weight goals while consuming an acceptable amount of calories that followed health guidelines. The problem, however, was constant thinking about losing weight. 

When I woke up, I would think about my weight. I’d take a look in the mirror and see if I saw any difference from the day before. If I was hungry, I usually made myself wait until the next meal, and I would savor every bite of food since I knew I would restrain from eating until the next meal. If I ended up binging, I felt guilty beyond measure. 

Finding a Descriptive Phrase

At this point, I was confused. I knew I didn’t have an eating disorder, but something about my mindset didn’t feel right. I took online quizzes to see how prone I was to developing an eating disorder, not out of sheer curiosity, but because I was genuinely scared of the direction my relationship with food was going. I was grateful to be aware of my unhealthy obsession with wanting to lose weight, but I was also at a loss for what to do about it and perplexed about what to label my not normal (but not as medically dangerous as an eating disorder) condition. 

It was after research that I realized that, while I didn’t have an eating disorder, I did have disordered eating. According to Cleveland Clinic, “disordered eating covers a broad range of conditions, including anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. But there’s a much larger percentage of people (5 to 20%) who struggle with symptoms that do not meet the full criteria of a problematic eating pattern.” One of the emotional signs of disordered eating is “being preoccupied with body image, body size/shape, a specific part of the body and/or the number on the scale.” That sounded very familiar to me.

So… What About Now?

Unfortunately, this article does not have the magic answer of how I removed this toxic mindset from my life. Because the truth is, I know I’m still trying to manage it.

Unfortunately, this article does not have the magic answer of how I removed this toxic mindset from my life. Because the truth is, I know I’m still trying to manage it. I’ve definitely improved with being nicer to myself (talking to yourself like you’re talking to a friend works wonders), but I’m a work in progress. Like most other areas of my life, my mindset about weight is something I’m constantly wanting to balance out. I’m fortunate that my problems with body dysmorphia are not nearly as severe as they could be. But it’s sad that, at one point, I let the number on the scale dictate my mood and be the main thought throughout the rest of my day. 

While my focus on my weight stems from wanting something I can control—something I can get concrete results from by self-discipline—it ultimately distracts me from things I actually want to focus on. If you’re reading this and can relate, I just want you to know that you’re not alone. This is a problem that’s much more common than I thought, and much less talked about than is needed. So, let’s start the conversation.


For urgent services, you may reach the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)273-8255, the 24/7 National Crisis Text Line by texting “HELLO” to 741741, or the 24/7 National Lifeline Crisis Chat service here

For support, resources, and treatment options for yourself or a loved one, you may contact the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline. You may call (800)931-2237, text (800)931-2237 from the hours of 3-6pm Monday through Thursday, or you can access the chat features here. For crisis situations, text “NEDA” to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line.
If you are a member of Cornell University, Cornell Health Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available to all students at Cornell University. If you feel you are in need of psychological services, you may call to set up an appointment with CAPS at (607)255-5155 or visit their website here. For urgent services, you may reach the Cornell Health 24/7 phone consultation line at (607)255-5155 and press 2.


by Hanna Carney //

It can be hard to keep up with everything going on in the world–especially now, and especially as a full time student. Here is a list of compiled resources for readers to self-educate and support feminist issues and BIPOC communities.

Ways to Donate

  1. 68 Ways to Donate in Support of Asian Communities
  2. Stop AAPI Hate
  3. The Daunte Wright Sr. Memorial Fund
  4. Indianapolis FedEx Facility Family Support Fund
  5. JusticeForMakhiaBryant
  6. Support the APPI Community Fund
  7. Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund 
  8. Minnesota Freedom Fund
  9. National Bail Fund Network
  10. Central Ohio Freedom Fund
  11. Detroit Justice Center
  12. How to help India during its COVID surge–12 places you can donate

Petitions to sign

  1. Black Lives Matter petitions on Change.org
  2. Change Minnesota Sexual Assault Laws 
  3. End Hate Crimes Against Asian Amerians
  4. A Call For an End To Violence Against Black People and Law Enforcement Officers

Breonna Taylor Petitions

  1. Breonna Taylor- moveon.org
  2. Breonna Taylor- colorofchange.org
  3. Breonna Taylor- justiceforbreonna.org
  4. Breonna Taylor- change.org
  5. Breonna Taylor- thepetitionsite.com

Ways to Self-Educate: Reading Material


21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph

As written in the book summary, “Joseph examines how Indigenous Peoples can return to self-government, self-determination, and self-reliance–and why doing so would result in a better country for every Canadian. He dissects the complex issues around the Indian Act, and demonstrates why learning about its cruel and irrevocable legacy is vital for the country to move toward true reconciliation.”

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

In her book, Kendall examines intersectional feminism and the ways mainstream feminists have failed to account for issues such as food insecurity, access to quality education and medical care, etc.

Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad

Based on the original workbook with the same title, Me and White Supremacy helps readers understand their white privilege and engagement in white supremacy.

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Hong

As is written in Amazon’s summary, “Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong fearlessly and provocatively blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America. Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this collection is vulnerable, humorous, and provocative—and its relentless and riveting pursuit of vital questions around family and friendship, art and politics, identity and individuality, will change the way you think about our world.” 

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Founder of the Antiracism Research and Policy Center. Explains why it is necessary to be actively against racism–neutrality only exacerbates problems in our racist society. 

One Person, No Vote by Carol Anderson 

Touches on gerrymandering, voter suppression, and racial discrimination during elections .


  1. How to Help India Amid the Covid Crisis
  2. 68 Ways to Donate in Support of Asian communities
  3. The Politics Behind India’s Covid Crisis
  4. From India, Brazil and Beyond: Pandemic Refugees at the Border
  5. A Minnesota man can’t be charged with felony rape because the woman chose to drink beforehand, court rules


The Stoop

A podcast that focuses on blackness, race, and American identity.

The Daily

Made by the New York Times. A good way to keep up with world events if you’re too busy to sit down and read or watch the news 

Code Switch NPR

Journalists of color have conversations about race and how it impacts different parts of society

Black Girl in Om

Guided meditation for Black women to practice self-reflection and self-care.

Mental Health Resources 

Black Girl in Om

See above description.

Asians Do Therapy

Yin Li is a licensed therapist that began Asians Do Therapy in the hopes of acknowledging Asian people’s experience in therapy and encouraging more Asians and Asian Americans to seek therapy if they need it.

One Sky Center

One Sky Center is a resource center for American Indian and Alaska Native education, research, and health. This organization hopes to qualify health care across Indian Country. 

BEAM Collective 

As stated on their website, “BEAM is a national training, movement building and grant making organization dedicated to the healing, wellness and liberation of Black and marginalized communities.” 

Buddy Project

Founded by Gabby Frost, this non-profit works to prevent suicide by pairing people with a buddy to help them through loneliness and isolation.

The Evil Witch Inside Us

by Helen Zhang //

Look around your room. How many mirrors do you see? 

Now, if you did not include your phone, laptop, or other technology with screens, adjust your answer. 

Did your number change?

Mine certainly did. Personally, I have five mirrors in my bedroom alone. That fact shocks me. After all, like many 18 year-olds in this day and age, I have a love-hate relationship with mirrors. As a child, my mirror fascinated me. I spent quite a bit of time in front of it, making faces and laughing as the person in front of me smiled and giggled with me. But as I grew older, those faces froze in the reflection. I stopped making them, but my appearance still seemed off. I didn’t like it anymore, but I couldn’t step away.

Mirror Mirror on the wall, 

Tell me what are all my flaws. 

I recall reading fairy tales as a child. I read them at home, and we talked about them in school too. Everyone remembers the magical mirror that the evil queen had and how it told her that Snow White was prettier than her. In elementary school, we were taught that each fairy tale comes with a lesson. The lesson in Snow White was that beauty is not what you look like, but who you are inside. But that’s not all that I took away. The portrayal of the evil queen suggested that caring about your appearance was abnormal, a bad thing. 

It’s not. 

We all have that magic-looking glass. That’s what mirrors are. And while it may not be speaking to us aloud, that inner voice critiquing ourselves when we look at the mirror is the same thing. 

Technology had become a mirror itself, and though I resented it, I still couldn’t step away. I couldn’t step away, and I didn’t know why. I was becoming the evil queen from Snow White. 

So what happens when there’s a voice inside you telling you that you are not enough? We begin to see ourselves as the evil queen, someone obsessed with our appearance. As we get older, our relationship with mirrors becomes more complicated—especially as a girl. And yet, the more insecure we get, the more mirrors pop up in our life. The bathroom mirror that I used to quickly check my appearance was transformed into a full-length mirror that rejected every clothing choice I showed in front of it. That mirror then transformed into my phone, a portable device that allowed me to not only critique myself but have my image shared and critiqued by other people. Technology had become a mirror itself, and though I resented it, I still couldn’t step away. I couldn’t step away, and I didn’t know why. I was becoming the evil queen from Snow White. 

But why is that a bad thing? 

The stepmother needed to hear exactly what she wanted and from the source that she wanted. After being told that she was the most beautiful person, “[the queen] was contented, for she knew that the looking-glass spoke the truth.” How is that so different from the way we use social media? Like the evil queen, we seek approval from others to be content with ourselves. And when we hear critiques, we try to change something to get a different outcome. Filters and photoshop transform our reality to mold into the approved societal standard. But that rarely takes the voice away.

Some of my friends have taken breaks from social media, deleting apps from their phones to get away from the toxic environment. They tell me how refreshing it is. But I could never do that. And neither could the evil queen. She wanted to be the most beautiful person in the world, but all she heard from her mirror was that she was not enough. So she tried to change that result the only way she could think of–by getting rid of Snow White. The huntsman. The lace. The comb. The apple. The queen was obsessed with becoming beautiful, and every failed attempt to kill Snow White brought more anger and disappointment upon herself. I have felt that anger and disappointment countless times when I look in the mirror. 

She had an addiction—one that many of us can relate to. In addition to having insecurities about our image, we have to deal with the rest of society telling us that we shouldn’t have them. But those insecurities grow inside us like the “envy and pride like ill weeds” that made its home in the queen’s heart. Weeds grow uncontrollably, and you may think that you have gotten rid of all of them, but all it takes is one single sprout to have a full infestation.

I’m not trying to say that the queen was right in attempting to kill Snow White. She had an obsession; one that consumed her. But what we all need to know is that it is okay to care about your appearance.

I’m not trying to tell you how to deal with your insecurities. I’m not trying to say that the queen was right in attempting to kill Snow White. She had an obsession; one that consumed her. But what we all need to know is that it is okay to care about your appearance. Unlike the evil queen’s portrayal in Snow White, it is not villainous to want to be beautiful. It is what humanized her. There isn’t an easy solution to dealing with insecurities, and appearance is one of the most common ones out there. 

But we all have a little evil queen inside of us, and that’s okay. 

Aditi’s Makeup Story

by Aditi Hukerikar //

When I was in middle school, I thought that I was ugly. Not an uncommon experience for young girls to have (which is an issue in its own right) but one that defined how I felt about myself as I grew up. There definitely wasn’t one cause for it, but rather a blend of experiences I had gone through: wearing glasses from a young age (when are we going to get rid of that movie trope where the woman instantly becomes “attractive” when she takes her glasses off?), body insecurity, and most of all, the sheer amount of snide comments people would make about my (very thick) hair. 

I write this because it is a precursor to this story that can’t be ignored. Before I got into makeup, I was insecure. I would be lying if I told you that that had nothing to do with my initial interest in makeup, but I hope you don’t discount the rest of my story because of it. 

One summer, out of boredom, I wound up on the beauty guru side of YouTube. As soon as I watched a few videos, I was hooked. It was fascinating to watch these YouTubers create such a vast variety of makeup looks, utilizing their different colors, brushes, and products. I didn’t even own any makeup myself, but I yearned to try what I learned on myself. 

When I did finally get my own makeup at the end of the summer, my excitement lay in figuring out my own different makeup looks to try. I hadn’t completely forgotten my insecurity, but it did take a backseat to the prospect of experimenting that I was anticipating. 

Rather than becoming a means for me to change my appearance, makeup became something I could learn and work on. And working on my craft made me care less about what I looked like, because all I did care about was that I had finally figured out a new blending technique or made an unlikely color combination of eyeshadows work. 

Since I went to a uniform school at the time, wearing makeup didn’t become a daily habit for me. Instead, it helped makeup fit into my life as a way to express myself in ways that I didn’t get to regularly.

I write this because I know how divisive the conversation about makeup can be at times. And I understand that teaching young people that they need makeup to look beautiful is harmful. But I wanted to share a story about how makeup did truly become a form of self-expression for me when my self-esteem was low. Makeup culture won’t change overnight, but I hope that more new makeup users can grow up loving makeup for its ability to be a creative outlet rather than an extension of insecurity.