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, 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

Somewhere Between Fucking Bitches and Respecting Women: Separating the Art from the Artist

by Cella Schnabel //

I was brought up in a house headed by a matriarch. I learned to be a feminist before I could tie my shoes. I have been surrounded by smart, kind, strong women my entire life. This served me to be confident in myself as a young woman; I am assertive in my conversations, I defend myself, I believe in myself. I am a feminist.

And yet, I walk to class every morning bumping along to Kanye West. I watched the Dave Chappelle special (which was uniquely offensive, even for him). Kanye West is not the only rapper who says “bitch” too regularly. A lot of rap culture belittles women. Dave Chappelle is not the first comedian to joke about rape or undermine transwomen. I used to cringe a little when songs would so explicitly objectify women, but I’ve begun to notice that I don’t flinch at all anymore. I’ve just accepted that this is what men sing about.

And so the debate ensues: Do I belong in a club that practices intersectional feminism if I leave listening to Kanye West? What about R. Kelly? Or Chris Brown? Or Tupac? Can we separate the art from the artist? It gets complicated. Maybe there’s a moral boundary that distinguishes listening to the artist that says “bitch” too much from listening to rapists. But what if your favorite artist gets accused of rape?

If we ruled out every rap song that objectified women, we would have substantially smaller playlists. But by continuing to listen to artists who have been exposed as sexual assault offenders or even just artists whose songs disempower women, we are perpetuating a culture that not only excuses these demeanors but almost encourages them.

By listening to that music, by watching that special, we’re directly supporting people who don’t believe in women. And the conclusion seems obvious: stop giving money to people who are abusing women, belittling women, raping women. 

But sometimes the music is good. And sometimes it’s really unique. If we found no separation between art and artist then the allegations against Michael Jackson would have made it nearly impossible to listen to “Who’s Lovin’ You.” So much of our musical canon is composed of problematic individuals. If we ruled out every rap song that objectified women, we would have substantially smaller playlists. But by continuing to listen to artists who have been exposed as sexual assault offenders or even just artists whose songs disempower women, we are perpetuating a culture that not only excuses these demeanors but almost encourages them. Not to mention that streaming the music of an abuser is directly profiting them. 

Kanye West is a misogynist. And a musical genius. I am a feminist, but his songs are pretty good. What do I do? 

Buying Clothes: It’s a Cinch

by Claire Mullen //

We’ve All Been There

Have you ever found yourself crying in the Kohl’s dressing room? Or trying on a heap of clothing and none of it works? These seem to be common struggles, but buying clothes as a woman is really easy. I really don’t see what people are complaining about. Let’s go over some aspects of the fashion industry and I’ll explain why what people are saying is nonsense:

We Don’t Need Pockets

For one thing, I am not at all bothered by the lack of functional pockets in women’s pants. Sometimes the pockets will be completely fake — just stitching to emulate a pocket — or the pockets will be so minuscule that they can’t hold anything except maybe one penny. As prestigious fashion designer Christian Dior once said, “Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration,” and he couldn’t have been more right. As women, we are far too fragile and dainty to carry our personal belongings ourselves– we need men to carry them for us.

Sizing Makes so much Sense

Sizing is so consistent and logical across all brands and stores. Sure, you may be a size small in one store, a 26 in another, and some stores have absolutely nothing that fits you properly. However, this, of course, is not a problem with the stores but with women instead. We are all made to be the same size; nothing beyond or in between. However, if you are on the hunt for an on-trend brand with a diverse range of sizes, Brandy Melville is your one-stop-shop. With sizes like “one size,” “oversized,” and absolutely nothing else, Brandy Melville accommodates all sizes and shapes of women and girls. 

Pleasing Men, Pleasing Men, and Pleasing Men

Last but certainly not least, are you worried about how other people will judge what you are wearing? Sure, that plain T-shirt and jeans may be comfy, but, most importantly, will it cater to the male gaze? Pleasing men in what we wear is very important; the male gaze must be satisfied. Women, of course, should never choose what they want to wear, whether that be a dress and heels, sweats with coffee stains on them, or a “Damn I look good” T-shirt because women’s opinions don’t matter.

Not So Easy After All?

In sum, with all these complicated rules, sizes, and expectations, finding clothes really is a cinch! The problem is, however, it’s only a cinch when you can completely change the meaning of “cinch” to something more like “arduous and simultaneously embarrassing.” Everyone needs clothes, so why does finding the right clothing have to be so difficult? If only the fashion industry could see that, then maybe clothes shopping would become less of a hardship and more of a delight.

A College Student’s Pandemic Survival Guide for Staying in School

by Alice Kenny //

I want to start this piece by saying that this is supposed to be fun. 

The truth is that I have no idea how to do this. I don’t really have any secrets to dealing with all of the big and terrible things that have come with a global pandemic. I’m not sure that anyone really does at this point.  I can’t offer support to students who are struggling to pay for their classes, who are worried about having a safe place to live, who are stuck in jobs that endanger them, who are worried about getting sick or about sick friends and family members. I wish I could. The best I can do is to say that college is stressful. I don’t think anyone imagined this level of fear for our mental, emotional, and bodily safety going into it. But here are a few things I’ve learned after more than a year of doing this. 

  1. Get outside every day if you can

This is a big one. I don’t always honor this one myself, but that’s sort of how I know it’s a good one–because I definitely notice it when I don’t get outside during the day, and especially if I don’t for a couple of days. Ideally, I like to go for a run, talk a long walk or bike ride, or spend an afternoon in the sun with friends. However, I don’t always have the time or energy, so I sometimes make do with just literally stepping outside. Whatever the weather, I try to take myself outside, even if that just means being a few feet from my front door. It helps me feel more grounded. 

  1. Be kind to yourself

Treating yourself well is a good rule of thumb in general. But especially during a global health crisis, it’s helpful to try to remember that you are living through a global health crisis. If you procrastinate, or sleep in, or eat two boxes of mac and cheese in a row (not from personal experience), don’t judge yourself too harshly. Things are harder than usual, and therefore, you should be kinder to yourself. This thing isn’t over, and the longer it goes on, the greater the toll it takes, at least for me. Don’t forget to take care of yourself in the best way you can right now. 

  1. Make a schedule of your deadlines

Logistical tips can be sort of annoying, but this is one that I find to be super helpful. Whether it’s hard just getting by in your classes, or you’re thriving, it’s never a bad idea to make sure you know when your crunch weeks are well in advance. Especially now, I’m really grateful I have this protocol to follow. I’ve been having a hard time not procrastinating and staying on top of everything, but sticking to the bare minimum of getting my assignments done on time works well for me. I remind myself that things won’t be this hard forever, and I try to just hang in there. 

  1. Take advantage of Zoom University

Zoom U sucks. Pretty much everyone agrees. But just because it’s not ideal doesn’t mean there aren’t things about it that are kind of nice. I try to make myself a nice breakfast most mornings–and sometimes I do it while I’m in class (please don’t tell my professors). I can go for impromptu runs in the middle of the day with my housemates because I don’t have class, and it’s easy to just change into workout gear when you’re already at home. I’m taking classes with earlier start times than I normally would because on a bad day, I can take them from my bed. Yeah, this whole COVID thing is pretty awful, and it’s exhausting and scary and just really draining. But there are some silver linings if you’re a student right now, so try to take advantage of those while you can. 

However, this semester in particular, I’m also learning to give myself a break. Saturday afternoons have become my time where I just get cozy, drink tea, and watch a movie.

  1. Listen to your body 

The idea of listening to yourself may not seem very controversial, but I actually think it sort of is. University students, especially Cornell students like myself, are taught to push ourselves, to always give 110% to our assignments, to not procrastinate, and to manage our time well. We’re told that if we do all of these things, we’ll be successful. Honestly, in general, I haven’t found that to be untrue. I do strive to do all of those things. However, this semester in particular, I’m also learning to give myself a break. Saturday afternoons have become my time where I just get cozy, drink tea, and watch a movie. There are days where I stay in my pajamas all day. I’m not saying you should procrastinate, or shouldn’t work on your time management, because I do think those practices can be very helpful for dealing with stress and improving your mental health, but don’t let them work against you by beating yourself up when you “waste” a few hours watching Netflix in bed. 

  1. Put on an outfit

This one is short. Get dressed. It doesn’t have to be every day, but for some reason, showering, getting ready like I’m leaving the house, and putting fresh clothes on makes a huge difference. I highly recommend giving this a try if you’re having a tough day, week, or year. 

  1. Curate your space

Another simple suggestion. As college students, dorm rooms are supposed to be these temporary spaces where we sleep. They’re usually not really built for hanging out in. Everyone always says don’t study where you sleep–but, obviously, that’s all changed now. I started out my academic year in a room the size of a closet. I don’t live in a dorm, but most students aren’t living in the most luxurious of accommodations in general. Still, it’s helpful to recognize that you spend a lot of time at home, or in your room. Find ways to make the space work for you–putting up a new poster, buying some ambient lighting, picking wildflowers, getting essential oils, a humidifier, or whatever makes your space more appealing to you. 

Everyone else in the world is going through this, even if our experiences are different.

  1. Talk to friends and family

You’re not alone out there. Everyone else in the world is going through this, even if our experiences are different. Keep in touch with people that bring you comfort so you can support each other. If you’re feeling lonely, reach out to old friends you haven’t talked to in a while, or people you want to get closer to. 

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others

We’re all in this together, but we’re not all going through the same thing. Don’t imagine your circumstances are identical to everyone else who seems to be thriving. They may be struggling in ways you can’t see, or maybe they’re doing great. But that doesn’t mean you need to be doing great, too. COVID impacts people in different ways depending on circumstances, background, resources. If you’re scrolling through social media, don’t feel bad that you haven’t learned a new language or found a new best friend in the past year. Just try to be okay with where you are without making a comparison. 

  1. Mask up!

Lastly, put on a mask. We all just want this to be over, and being careful now means that we can start thinking about a time when we don’t all have to be wearing masks all the time; they may be annoying, but the annoyance is a small price to pay to protect the health and safety of our communities.

Are You Intimidated by the Men in Your STEM Classes?

by Mahika Goel //

Don’t worry, me too. 

Guys carrying their shell-shaped backpacks all over campus, filled with just about 20 pounds of hardware freak me out. 

The sound of their fingers clicking and clacking to reveal a slew of code that they only half explain makes me flinch. 

Hearing about how they’ve been working on their dad’s car since they were eight makes me nauseous. 

We all know these people—the people who have been coding since they could walk, who have been aspiring scientists and engineers since they were four years old, who grew up memorizing facts about Mars and playing with model rockets. It’s intimidating—especially as a woman in STEM, where most of us haven’t explored our fields of interest to the same extent. While I was still considering careers in literature and dance, or aspiring to be a doctor, I never had the opportunity to learn how to model machinery in Fusion 360, or code algorithms in C++. As women, we inherently consider careers in fields like engineering and computer science a lot less, just because they aren’t as accessible, or expected as careers in medicine or teaching might be. 

How are we supposed to learn when we feel so behind?

It becomes all the more intimidating when we are expected to be able to calmly absorb the knowledge in only a matter of months while everyone else seems to already have it. How are we supposed to learn when we feel so behind? When our learning is disrupted by mansplainers? When people refuse to let us understand knowledge for ourselves, or when they shove their assertions of knowledge down our throats?

Personally, just the overused, extremely cliched saying—“You can do anything you put your mind to”—rings so very true for me. Just thinking about it, what precisely stops you from anything you might want to do? Time constraints notwithstanding, if you decide you want to learn Python, or how to code machine learning algorithms, what truly stops you? Even outside of STEM, what is stopping you from learning to play the piano, picking up dance classes, or trying out weightlifting as a hobby? Though many hobbies require a financial commitment as well as a time, most hobbies have become accessible by virtue of free online courses and videos available online!

Everything is worth trying; it doesn’t make you any less of an accomplished student to not know something. In fact, our recognition of our shortcomings is evidence of our motivation and our passion—we are able to see what we do not have, where we can progress and grow. While it feels like many of us are beginning at different starting points, we are also finishing at different ending points. If our goals are different from everyone else’s, why should how we achieve them be the same?

For many women, insecurities and a tendency to slip into imposter-syndrome thoughts means that we feel trapped in our seeming ignorance of certain skills that are integral to our careers—we must not let these thoughts hinder our want and need to grow and progress, in exactly the way we would like.

Why Women Shouldn’t Be Allowed in Higher Education

As a woman and a current Cornell undergraduate, I feel that I am an extremely qualified source when it comes to explaining why women shouldn’t be allowed into higher education. Now, perhaps that sentence shocks you. Perhaps there are even those of you who would argue that, given the privilege I have been afforded, my experience disqualifies me from arguing for the exclusion of women from higher education. But I firmly believe that such an experience has in fact been an asset—much like the ability to cut your own hair or cook a Thanksgiving turkey. Radical notions of “feminism” have led to our current state: we not only accept the idea of women furthering their education, but we actively promote it as well. Such notions have had devastating effects on both universities and society as a whole, and we must do everything in our power to stop their spread.

First off, we must examine the impact that women have had on the universities they have attended. In 1870, Cornell University was the first of the Ivy League schools to admit women. It was not until 1969 that Harvard, Princeton, and Yale became coed and not until 1981 that Columbia did the same. Yet, today, U.S. News and World Report ranks Cornell as the 18th in the country, whereas the seven other Ivy League schools—all of which allowed women onto their campuses nearly a century later—rank significantly higher than Cornell. Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, and Yale respectively hold the top four positions. These statistics clearly demonstrate the direct cause and effect between the presence of women on campus and the degradation of the university as a whole. Perhaps it was the extra century of spaghetti straps and knees distracting men that really did Cornell in.

Next, we must determine whether higher education fulfills the goals for women that it intends to. People have argued that women ought to be just as independent as men. However, women aren’t learning independence at universities. Rather, we are being waited on hand and foot. Our food is cooked and prepared by chefs, and the bathrooms and hallways in our dormitories are cleaned for us. Such decadence is absurd. After all, cooking and cleaning are time-honored traditions that have been relegated to women for centuries, because men don’t want to do them. And frankly, why should they? Men are busy. Men are hardworking. After all, men are men. They have theories named after them, buildings constructed in their honor, and some of them are quite proficient at growing beards and talking over others. Their talents truly know no bounds! But women’s talents do know bounds. Case in point: most of them are not very proficient at growing beards.

These two points make clear the fact that women should not be allowed into higher education. Although, then again, I am a women, and therefore I am not entirely sure that I can be trusted to have an opinion on the matter. Perhaps it would be better to ask a man.