Go Do.

Go Do.

Here I am, splitting my conscious between planning for my gap year abroad with Thinking Beyond Borders and reading James Joyce’s “An Encounter” for AP English Literature, yet always subconsciously dreaming up adventures, when I come across this little magical sign I just had to share:

“But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.”

Ah, Joyce, I have never loved you more.

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International Women’s Day 2014

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Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), a day devoted to empowering women of the past, present and future. My post is relatively short and sweet because I am fortunate enough to be spending the weekend with some of the most inspiring women I know. It’s weekends like these, filled with passionate rounds of Pictionary, magnificently un-choreographed dance scenes in the car, and memories made around dinner tables, that make me realize how lucky I am.

IWD’s theme this year is Inspiring Change. As part of IWD, I encourage every one to recognize the women in your life–or in society in general–who inspire you. If you have social media, post a photo of an inspiring woman with “#sheinspires.” Spread the word and empower the women in your life. Above all else, remember that female inspiration and empowerment lasts longer than one day. Each and every day, there are hundreds upon thousands of women changing the world. Be thankful for them. I know I am.

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Traveling Botanist, Croc Fighter, and Himalayan Hiker

In search of a female role model? Look no further! Here are three of the most bold, daring and brave women in history. Oddly enough, they go relatively unnoticed as far as the history books are concerned–and were even deemed “unusual” in their societies. This TEDEd lesson gives an inspiring animated lesson on three Victorian women–Marianne North, Mary Kingsley, and Alexandra David-Néel. From globe trotting botanist to resilient crocodile fighter to covert Himalayan hiker, these women make me want to set sail on my own exploration at dawn.

Check out the entire TEDEd lesson on “the contributions of female explorers” here.

The Beauty of Lupita Nyong’o

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Lupita Nyong’o: Oscar winner and Yale grad

Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o has dominated social media and water cooler conversations alike since her stunningly poignant and eloquent acceptance speech last night.

When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. -Lupita Nyong’o

As the talk of the town, Lupita seemed to be in every Oscar centered conversation at school. It’s wonderful to hear so much buzz about a female actress, especially considering the ferocious gender bias in awards and the 5:1 ratio of men to women working on films.  Yet as happy as I was to join in on the girl crushes over this talented Yale grad, I couldn’t help but find that something was amiss in the conversations. When naming off her numerous inspiring qualities, about every other characteristic there was a consistent clamor over her appearance: “And she’s so pretty!”

There is no doubt Lupita Nyong’o is a beautiful woman. Lupita Nyong’o is pretty. But she’s so much more than that. It would be one thing if the comment was made once or twice, but every other quality? What does this say about our youth? What does this say about media’s influence on girls? What does this say about the female perspective? To me, it seems to be saying that girls–and women–place the most subjective and uncontrollable and insignificant character trait above a myriad of the most rare and honest and inspiring characteristics. Girls, it seems, believe outward appearance–beauty–to be the pièce de résistance of Oscar winner and Yale graduate Lupita Nyong’o. And I can’t just place the issue on every one else. I am a part of the problem, too. While I may not have piped up incessantly about Lupita’s “prettiness,” it is certainly one of the first adjectives I think of.

Before I continue, let me get a few things straight. I am aware that physical beauty is just that–physical, and so it is doubtlessly one of the first adjectives we respond with. I am in no way diminishing Lupita’s beauty, and I am especially not diminishing the idea of beauty. Rather, I am simply trying to point out the curious favoring of outward beauty over the rest of the rainbow of inspiration.

What intrigues/mystifies/angers me the most about this issue is the unavoidable attachment of the varying “degrees” of beauty onto a woman. Something I always try to do when a somewhat gender related issue arises is the good ole’ fashion gender swap. For instance, if these Oscar conversations had been centered around Matthew McConaughey, would various people repeatedly mention his handsomeness as a primary quality? Probably not. Sure, it may get tossed out a couple times but certainly not every other word. I googled the definition of beauty, and the second entrance on Dictionary.com is “a beautiful person, especially a woman.” Since the dawn of time, woman has been unwillingly coexisting with the haunting notion of beauty. What a horridly subjective concept to be dealt. It’s no wonder we’re so focused on actresses’ appearance. By definition, women are beautiful people. And they are! But with unrealistic and Photoshopped expectations of the “ideal beauty” consuming our every waking hour, how can we expect to be content with the beauty we’ve been naturally given?

Lupita delivered a powerful speech at Essence Magazine‘s Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon in which she reflects on her own journey through self-love. As an adolescent girl myself, her words rang the bell of my deepest insecurities. But it is in her speech about beauty that Lupita reminds us all that she is so much more than her beauty.

We are exposed at the earliest of ages to ardently respect, fervently admire, and desperately seek the elusive concept of beauty. It’s definition changes within the hour, and even the “ideal beauty” image has morphed over the decades. What has remained constant (at least in the past decade or so) is the reminder that beauty is self-defined. Beauty is more than just a thigh gap or curvy hips or long legs or skin color or dress size. Beauty is self-acceptance, self-ownership, self-love, self-confidence. Beauty is self–both in and out. 

Does it seem like I’m contradicting myself here? Tossing out the glorification of beauty and then defining it? Maybe the truth is that the concept of beauty is a balancing act. It certainly should not be the focal point of a woman’s description; yet, it is a seemingly permanent part of society which we must learn to embrace in the least critical way possible. We must not allow beauty to define us. We must define beauty. 

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Lupita Nyong’o accepting her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 12 Years a Slave. Defining beauty in her own right.

 

Zero Discrimination Day

As part of WHM, I would like to invite you all to celebrate Zero Discrimination Day with me. While the night may be winding down and March 2nd is just around the corner, that doesn’t mean we give up the battle against discrimination. Like most issues I’ll be posting about, this one isn’t particular to just women. The fact is, discrimination is more than just a women’s issue. It is a human issue. Sponsored by UNAIDS, the HIV/AIDS faction of the United Nations, Zero Discrimination Day is a chance to celebrate everyone’s right to live regardless of what they look like, where they came from, or whom they love. So as humans, let’s put aside our differences and have more than just one day free of discrimination. Let’s make it a lifetime.

It’s Here!

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Hip hip hooray! It’s officially March, and you know what that means? It’s also Women’s History Month! We’re pretty pumped here at You Me We Empower. I’ve been decked out in my Rosie the Riveter costume all day. . . I’m kidding. (But that would be pretty cool.) However, YMWE will definitely be celebrating WHM. I am challenging myself to write one blog post a day for the month of March each dealing with a different women’s issue. So stay tuned and catch up on all things feminism. The posts will be ranging from the very issue of the word “feminism” to the rising Photoshop debacle to human trafficking.

Have any topics you’d like to suggest? I’d love to hear them! Let me know in the comments.