Special Announcement!

Two posts in one day? What is this? Well, friends, I have exciting news.

Earlier today, I wrote about pursuing wonder. And one of the ways that I am going to do that in a regular manner is a new blog specifically focused on science, with intersections in culture, ethics, and more!

As much as I love this blog and considered simply re-branding it, I did start this in high school. My perspectives and writing style have changed A LOT since I started 7 years ago. There are definitely posts that I wish I could delete, but I think there’s something powerful about keeping those as a witness to where I was at the time. So I am creating something brand new.

If you have enjoyed my writing here, consider following We’re All Cultured (with bacteria) for fun, fresh science (primarily biomedical) content. The tone of that blog will be a little less conversational and a little more academic than this one, but definitely still accessible.

I don’t have much content on that page yet, but I do plan on posting to that blog every Sunday. And have no fear; I will still update this. I have some solo posts in the works, and I will also do some sister posts, where I talk about the personal here and the academic side there.

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The presence of wonder

This summer, I had the great fortune of going to France for my vacation. My sister was studying painting in Aix-en-Provence on a very fancy scholarship, and I joined her for the tail end of that before we went to Paris. It was a fantastic trip, and even with minimal planning, we were able to see a lot of the things we wanted. And one of the things we saw became a really profound experience for me, but first let me tell you about a mountain.

One of the days we were in Aix, we chose to go hiking Sainte Victoire over going to the blue coasts of the Mediterranen. It was a mountain that my sister and her classmates had painted many times over their 6 weeks of classes. The beginning of the hike was just a steep hill before we got into the rocky terrain, and let me tell you, I did not think I was going to make it. But then we started hiking for real, and it became easier. One of the things I noticed over the several hours was how my sister saw the world differently than I did. She saw the terrain like an artist, noticing angles and colors and compositions that would be good for a painting. I, on the other hand, saw the geography like a scientist. I wondered about the geologic processes that created the beautiful rocks we were walking on or what kinds of animal, plant, and microbial life could thrive in the rocky environment. And I thought, “How cool is it that we can both be drawn into the presence of wonder through such different avenues?” We can see the world so differently and still find it so similarly magnificent and glorious.

Now I’ll tell you about the art museum in Paris. Funnily enough, we went to two art museums, and neither of them were the Louvre. The museum I am speaking of now is Musee de l’Orangerie, which is most famous for housing a series of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, called des Nymphéas in French. The exhibition comprises of 8 huge paintings that span the walls of 2 oval-shaped, separate but connected rooms that evoke an infinity symbol. Now a thing you should know about visiting museums with my sister is that she really likes to take her time. I actually fell asleep when we went to Musee de l’Armee, which was about the war history of France (but to be fair, I was still jet-lagged and also getting sick). So after she and I had made a slow view of all the paintings through both rooms, she wanted to sit down and do some sketching. By this time I was no longer jet-lagged (though I was still sick) and had energy to take my time. So instead of getting frustrated at her for taking her time and saying that I only experience wonder through science, I decided to open myself up to the possibility that I could really enjoy and value this experience with art.

So I decided to walk the infinity loop, going in the opposite direction than I had walked the first time around. Before, I had taken time to notice and digest things about the paintings; one made me feel really small, and another evoked for me the experience of laying in the middle of the lake that Monet was painting. But this time around, I wanted to get more of a big picture of what was happening with the paintings as a whole. So I walked, and I came to the right edge of the painting that had made me feel small before. And I had to pause, because as I was staring at it, it felt unspeakably beautiful and deep to me. I was mostly looking at a mix of dark purples, but I started to tear up. I continued the loop, and then went looking for my sketching sister. It took me a while to find her, but then I eventually found her looking at the very same painting I had been staring at. And she could use artistic words to explain how certain lines or colors made her feel both lost and found. I concurred and tried to articulate my experience with it, but again, I almost cried.

Les Nuages, the only painting that has ever made me cry.

I still don’t know what it was about that painting and not the others that produced such a profound, almost spiritual experience in me. But I do know that I wouldn’t have felt it if I hadn’t come with an open posture. I am not an artist, don’t have any knowledge about how to look at art, but that didn’t stop me from engaging. E.B. White says “Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder,” and in Ben Platt’s song Older, he sings, “Don’t let your wonder turn into closure.” I think we all need a little more wonder in our lives. I think the older we get, the more we put ourselves in boxes, saying, “This is my thing, and this is not.” I’m a scientist, not an artist. We get so invested in one passion and ignore everything else. But what if we all tried to come back to wonder the way we experienced it as children? Where everything was new and exciting, and joy was so close, and we were curious and receptive to all the world has to offer. I think the world would be a more beautiful place that way.

Letters from a friend

Dear Host,
I have just arrived in your crypt, and it’s really quite lovely. The others told me that writing a letter to you is stupid, but I just feel so lucky to be here, though it was a bit tricky to find the place. The ocean is very turbulent, but it’s safe and warm here. Also, wow, there’s so much food!
Thanks, dude! 
V.f.

Dear Bobby,
Is it okay that I gave you a nickname? I hope it’s okay, because just calling you “host” seems too formal. Anyways, you probably weren’t expecting another letter from me, but I just wanted to give you updates. I feel strangely close to you in a way that I can’t quite explain…
The others tell me that we’re waiting for more people before we do something, but I haven’t quite figured out what that something is. It’s already become a little more crowded here, so I don’t understand why we can’t do it now. I keep asking what “it” is, but they just say that I’ll know when the time is right. Whatever. I guess we’ll see. 

Catch ya later,
V.f.

Dear V.f.,
Thanks for your letters. No, you’re not annoying me. Out of all the guests, you’re the only one who’s reached out. So thanks. It’s really nice to hear from you.

And I love the nickname! I’m glad you got all the food I left for you. Honestly, I just prepared way too much, so I’m glad that you guys like it. I’m getting more food soon, so you can stay as long as you like.
Hope to hear from you soon,
Bobby

Hey friend,
Surprise, it’s me again! I hope I’m not being annoying. I just wanted to let you know that I found out what “it” is. Allow me to tell a story.
So it kept getting more and more crowded here. I kept bumping into people and their stuff, and it felt a little hectic. People were whispering to each other, “it’s going to happen! get ready!” I didn’t know what it meant to get ready, so I just hung out. Then, somehow, we were all holding lights! I didn’t even realize how dark it was until the brilliant light was surrounding us all. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen. And then everything shook and kept shaking, as if the whole place was moving (weird, right?), but we all got used to it pretty quickly. But I could only stare at the light. For hours and hours. Honestly, it lives up to the hype.
Peace,
V.f.

Yo,
Tell your buddies thanks for turning all the lights on. It makes me feel really safe. I feel like I can move without having to constantly be on my guard. I do wish I could see it from your point of view, though. It sounds spectacular.

Hope to hear from you soon,
Bobby

p.s. My mom told me that you guys are in danger soon, so just find somewhere to hide and hold on.
p.p.s. I got more food, so that’s good.

Hey friend,
I haven’t heard from you in a while, so I just wanted to check in.
Are you okay? Please reach out as soon as you can.
Tell me about the light some more. I really can’t thank y’all enough for the light. You have no idea how much it means to me.
Bobby
P.s. Are you safe?
Don’t just leave me hanging, V.f. Don’t do it.

Hi, you’re probably a little confused. This is what I imagine the correspondence between the bioluminescent bacteria Vibrio fischeri (hey there, V.f.) and Hawaiian bobtail squid (“Bobby”) would be like if they could write letters. They are in a symbiotic relationship, so each party benefits from their intimacy. The bobtail squid is colonized with populations of V. fischeri at birth. The bacteria live in the squid’s light organ (or crypt), which is a safe place for them to get nutrients and reproduce. The bacteria have special molecules, acyl homoserine lactones for those of you who like specifics, that they use to communicate and coordinate with one another in a process called quorum sensing. Once they reach a certain population number (the quorum), the bacteria activate bioluminescence pathways and produce light. This happens at the exact right time for the squid. The squid hides during the day and hunts for shrimp and fish at night. The problem for the squid is that while it is hunting for food, other animals, particularly monk seals, are hunting for it. Having a bioluminescent belly prevents the squid from casting a shadow below it, so it can swim around and hunt while practically invisible. At the end of the night, the squid hides in the sand and expels 90-95% of the bacteria from its body. The remaining population reproduces during the day to eventually reach quorum again and starts the whole cycle over. This is one of my very favorite stories of symbiosis and adaptation, and I hope you enjoyed learning about it in this format!

Belonging & the body and how kickball fits in

I was biking the other day, and I started wondering why I like biking but not a lot of other forms of exercise. As I thought about it more, I realized that it’s because when I’m biking on trails, I don’t feel judged. Well, I sometimes feel judged, but I can shake it off because I am on the move, and the people that could be judging me will move on and forget about me soon enough. Contrast that with a gym, where people spend half an hour on a single machine, allowing their judgments of other people to steep and grow. And yes, most people probably aren’t as judgmental as I’m imagining. But there’s definitely a feeling that if you don’t know what you’re doing or aren’t performing well enough, you don’t belong there. And if this is my experience as an able-bodied, fairly thin person, you know it’s a whole lot worse for disabled or fat people.

But this post isn’t about society’s narrow body standards. Let me tell you a story. The summer before I moved to the US permanently at the age of 9, I went to a camp. And we had the option of choosing extra fun activities to do along with the regularly scheduled events. Guess which ones I chose? Not crafts, or something else like that. I chose an adventure-y type thing (I think we went hiking?) and “super sports.” Did you hear that? I voluntarily chose to do sports when there was an option to do crafts. I sometimes wonder if that girl is really the same person as me. And I think the shift happened when we moved to the States.

I distinctly remember the first time I ever played kickball. We were at a church picnic, and people were getting ready to play this game that I didn’t know the rules to. “It’s okay,” they said, “you’ll get the hang of it.” When I went up to kick the ball, it flew in the air and was caught by someone. I tried running to the base (remember, I didn’t know the rules), and everyone was saying that I was out. I was upset because I didn’t know what I had done wrong, just that I looked like a fool. To this day, I still hate kickball. But I think the real disconnect happened in the gym classes at my first experience of public school. I don’t know if I was bad at sports or just not as competitive as some people, but school sports became a new source of insecurity for me. And how could they not? You get two team captains who choose people to be on their teams. Your sense of belonging with the group is linked to how early you’re chosen, and that is (almost always) directly tied to how well you play. This puts a lot of pressure on a girl who had just come from living in another country and desperately wanted to belong with her new peers. And because I wasn’t great at sports, I started to strongly dislike them and really lean into the things I was good at: academics. And while I’m really glad that I love school and learning, the sad part is that I left my body behind.

What I’m working on now is belonging with myself.

I’ve been thinking about embodiment a lot lately. *Cue this beautiful cover by my amazingly talented friend that will serve as my recommended listening for the rest of this post* This is mostly due to the media I’ve been consuming (thanks millenneagram podcast and Jamie Lee Finch). I think for a long time, I ascribed to the dualistic idea that the mind and spirit are better than the body. But that’s false! We are bodies with a mind and spirit, and all are connected to each other and valuable. When I take care of my body, I am taking care of my mind and spirit. I love how Jamie Lee Finch talks about her body as if it’s its own person. I’ve started doing this thing when I’m struggling to bike up one of my “Three Big Hills”, I encourage myself by saying, “Look at how great my body is doing. I am so proud of her.” I’m also trying to incorporate more practices of mindfulness into my day, to really feel what it means to inhabit this body instead of just thinking about what my body is doing. This is still a recent change for me, and I want to do more (start taking barre or dance classes regularly). I actually was planning to write and publish this after I had taken more concrete steps toward this. But I think there’s something beautiful about being seen in the process. Plus, now you all can hold me accountable. Maybe what I need is not to do exercise that makes me feel more comfortable (i.e. female-dominated spaces like barre and dance), but to actually face the insecurity of gyms. What if I started weightlifting? It could be interesting.

Before, I felt insecure in my body, because I was painfully aware of how I couldn’t make it perform well enough to belong in certain contexts. But what I am working on now is belonging with myself. I don’t need to be afraid of other people judging me, because what matters is that I am taking care of the body that I have. Everyone’s on a different journey, and judging each other without knowing our contexts is just pointless. I have more compassion for myself, and I feel like loving my body actively is a beautiful expression of self-love that I’ve been ignoring too long. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I had this self-realization while taking care of my body. So I’m going to continue loving her. For me, that’s making practices of exercise and mindfulness. For others, it might be eating healthy or even just being aware of what you’re eating. It could mean going to therapy or taking a medication. It might be drinking more water and sleeping more. It could be getting a massage (also something I want to do) or even a mani/pedi. It might mean spending more time in nature and less time watching TV (yikes, I’m really dragging myself now). We are embodied people, and that’s not something to resent. It’s something to treasure.

My body got me to the top of Table Mountain, and I’m so proud of her.

Why am I vegetarian?

A lot of people ask me this question, so I thought I would make a blog post about it!

I’ve always been attracted to the idea of vegetarianism. I adore animals, and it seemed a little hypocritical of me to eat them. But I didn’t want to make things difficult for my family, so I didn’t give it much thought. But then I went to college. And I realized that I could make my own food decisions that wouldn’t impact anyone else. So I decided to give vegetarianism a try. A day or two into it, I bought something with shrimp in it, so then I decided I would be a pescatarian. I felt like eating fish wasn’t as bad. I could kill and eat a fish for dinner, no problem. And then I basically just stuck with that. And I got most of my nuclear family to go pescatarian as well.

A few years into my vegetarianism, I was watching a video called “foodies kill their food,” where people were going to slaughter their own chickens. And I could not finish the video. I got so sad, looking at their cute chickens, and thinking about eating them. I couldn’t watch them die, and I said, “this is why I’m a vegetarian.” The cognitive dissonance was too much for me. And I don’t mean to be sensational or play to your emotions, but I think every person who eats meat should think about the fact that what they are eating was once alive and now is not. They should be able to look at a chicken or a pig or a cow and say, “Yeah, you’re cute, but I’m still okay with eating you.” If that causes your heart too much distress, maybe you should try eating less meat. Especially considering how big agriculture only cares about efficiency and severely reduces the quality of life of animals before they die.

And yes, I know plant agriculture isn’t perfect. Subsidized corn and soybeans are in everything we eat, which probably isn’t good for the soil. And vegetarianism isn’t cruelty-free either; some companies to take advantage of marginalized peoples for cheap labor. That is not just and needs to change. That’s one of the reasons why I’m not fully vegan (also because I don’t think I could bring myself to give up both eggs AND cheese).

On a less emotional note, another huge reason I have stuck with my vegetarianism is for the environment. Yes, climate change is largely a capitalism problem, but individual choices do make a difference. And there’s a lot of evidence out there that reducing our meat is one of the best choices we can make as individuals to help the planet. I don’t want to reiterate what other people have done a better job of saying, so I’ll be brief. Meat production is more wasteful of water and contributes a lot more to greenhouse gas emissions.

For a long time, I was bad about telling people my dietary restrictions if I was eating at their house and would end up eating meat out of politeness. There were also days when I had a cold, and if the dining halls had a delicious soup (Italian wedding soup is still my favorite), I would splurge and get some. I also would eat meat for cultural reasons. So when I went to Turkey and South Africa, I didn’t hold back. I did feel really sad after eating lamb in Turkey and probably could have done without ox intestines in South Africa. But I felt it was important to get the full cultural experience, and that included eating meat.

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Repeat photo, but this vegetarian curry bread bowl in South Africa was seriously amazing.

 Instead of seeing vegetarianism as a bunch of strict rules to follow, I feel a lot of freedom in my dietary restrictions. For one thing, it makes ordering at restaurants easier because it limits the options (and even with limited options, I still really struggle to make decisions). And cooking for myself is really fun. I enjoy finding new plant-based recipes and trying them. Yeah, there are times when someone’s burger smells really tempting, but on the whole, I don’t miss meat. Vegetables are so great, guys! And don’t get me started on beans and chickpeas. Also, people are starting to make really great meat alternative foods. Aldi’s vegan meatballs are exquisite. There’s a hotdog food truck at my work every once in a while, and they make an amazing apple & sage hotdog.

And look, I’m not writing this to convince you to become a vegan tomorrow (remember I’m not there yet either). Maybe try a meatless Monday (or whichever day of the week you’d prefer). Or cut out one meat source, like beef (worst for the environment, and also cows are really pretty). Look for more plant-based recipes, or try a vegetarian meal at a restaurant instead of the meat option every once in a while. Instead of thinking as plant-based meals as missing an essential element, think of them as whole in and of themselves. It doesn’t have to be a strict thing that makes you feel bad for failing if you forget and have meat. There’s grace for that. Happy vegetable eating!

Here are some of my favorite vegetarian recipes. And if you want to share some of your favorites, please do! I’m always on the lookout for great new ways to cook vegetables and legumes!

This lentil soup is SO flavorful and exquisite: https://www.theendlessmeal.com/creamy-coconut-lentil-curry/

Mushrooms and cheese and soup. Need I say more? https://www.budgetbytes.com/vegetarian-french-dip-sandwiches/

Eggplant pizzas if you’re trying to cut gluten or just want to cook more eggplant: https://kalynskitchen.com/recipe-for-julia-childs-eggplant-pizzas/

Quick meal that’s a little more exciting than a regular fried egg: https://www.kitchentreaty.com/lemony-egg-in-a-spinach-chickpea-nest/

More cheesy mushrooms (my favorite vegetable): https://cakescottage.com/2016/07/23/creamy-garlic-mushrooms/

I made this when I bought an acorn squash, but honestly now I make the stuffing fairly regularly. Seriously, there are brussel sprouts in my fridge for the sole purpose of making this:

https://foodheavenmadeeasy.com/chickpea-stuffed-acorn-squash/

Updated Book Recommendations Post

Ages ago, I wrote about my favorite books. Now, exactly 4 years later, I am updating that list. Graduating with a minor in English means that I am qualified to give unsolicited book recommendations, right? Who knows, but here we go!

Beloved by Toni MorrisonSlide1

While I have a hard time saying what my favorite book is, Beloved has no competition as the most important book I have read. Everyone American or person who lives on American soil should read this book, because it deals with one of the central traumas of our history: slavery. But so often we forget about that history, even though we are most definitely still living with the legacy of it. And I could go on about that (maybe it’ll become its own blog post?), but I promised to talk about books here. This book is so rich with everything; I could read it 100 times and get something new from it every time. There’s new symbolism every paragraph, and the characters and story are compelling (and it’s based on a true story!!). The main question of the book is: what would you do to ensure that your children won’t suffer as slaves? Don’t get me wrong, it’s devastating to read. I had the good fortune to read it in a class setting, and I would actually recommend you to read it in a group setting. That helps you to get more out of it and also helps it feel less heartbreaking. So if you get anything from this post, check out Beloved from your library; it’ll be worth it.

Slide2The Round House by Louise Erdrich

This is similar to Beloved in that it deals with a trauma in American history: the oppression of Native Americans. Except it’s not historical fiction, but rather a contemporary work looking at the legacy that left behind. Specifically, it’s about the mess that is tribal jurisdiction in this day and age and asks the question: what is justice, especially when the justice system is not built in your favor? Like Beloved, this book has its devastating moments (it seems I have a type), but it’s more manageable. Erdrich is a genius at using small details to highlight feelings of loss, so it’s a very organic compassion-inducing read, if that makes sense. But it’s told from the perspective of thirteen-year old Joe, which definitely gives it very welcome moments of comedy and light-heartedness. Content warning: this book does wrestle with topics of rape, murder, and death (no graphic descriptions though), so just be careful.

Re Jane by Patricia ParkSlide3

In the past, I always used to say that Jane Eyre was my favorite book. And then I started looking at the colonial and imperial aspects of it, and now I’m not so sure. But I still adore Bronte’s writing style, so I would recommend reading it along with Re Jane as a companion text. Re Jane is a rewriting of Jane Eyre, from the perspective of a Korean American woman taking care of the adopted Chinese daughter of white parents. This book is refreshing and fun, and it fixes all of Jane Eyre‘s issues. Not only does it tackle issues of race in America, but it’s also very feminist, especially with the portrayal of the Rochester/Bertha replacements. It was especially fun for me to see the ways that Park took my favorite themes of liminality and belonging from Jane Eyre and reconstructed them for a biracial protagonist. The issues that Jane faces are unique to her racial identity yet still feels universal, and it’s a great read.

Slide4The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

You may recognize the title of this book, because it was made into a film last year. I actually still haven’t seen the film yet, but it’s on my to-do list. This is a memoir (love memoirs so much; it might be my favorite genre of book). Walls’ life has been so wild that it’s almost hard to believe that it’s not fiction. The book chronicles Walls’ poverty-marked childhood, moving across the country, ending with her in New York and her relationship with her homeless parents. The most moving aspect of reading it is the nuanced way that Walls honors the past that made her into the woman she is while also recognizing how painful it was to live through. It’s a riveting read and beautifully told, so go read the book and then watch the movie!

And while I focus on novels, here are some suggestions for other genres:

Nonfiction: The Language of God by Francis Collins. If you’re at all interested in learning more about how to reconcile faith and science (specifically on the topic of evolution), I highly recommend this book. Francis Collins is a fantastic writer, and his perspective is very compelling and comprehensive.

Poetry: My two favorite poets at the moment are Pablo Neruda and Layli Long Soldier. There is a purity to the simplicity of Neruda’s odes that’s just delightful and wholesome to read, and he also writes a lot of beautiful love poetry. Long Soldier is a Lakota poet whose works are unconventional and push the limits of what poetry is. Her response to the Congressional Resolution of Apology to Native Americans, a book of poetry titled Whereas, is incredible, and I highly recommend it.

Just so we’re clear on “locker room talk”

I wrote this post in 2016, when “locker room talk” was recent news. It’s been sitting in my drafts page for more than a year, because it’s a touchy subject. But, because of the encouragement of a good friend, I have decided to share it with you all. Even though “locker room talk” isn’t recent news, we in the US have finally started really talking about sexual harassment and assault, which is a good step forward. With that preface, here is my overdue post.

When I was 13, a boy in my PE class thought it would be hilarious to do whatever he could to make me feel uncomfortable. That included sitting right behind me while we were stretching and putting his arm around me as we walked around the track. He put his name inside a heart in my yearbook with the title “your boyfriend.” He terrorized me for months, even into the next school year when we were again in the same PE class. When I went to the homecoming dance in high school, I praised a friend for “saving my life” when he distracted this boy long enough for me to run away from him. The best thing about moving to a new school my junior year was that it meant I wouldn’t have to see this boy again. I’m fine now; I’m not traumatized or anything, and I only remember this situation every once in a while, as if it were a dream and didn’t actually happen. I didn’t even feel like it was serious enough for me to say #metoo (that’s the wrong response to that movement, I know). It wasn’t until recently (aka more than a year ago) that I started thinking about this more, seeing the broken situation for what it was: a reflection of rape culture.

When I was 13 and this was happening, there was a part of me that knew I should report what was happening. I’m pretty sure I was able to label it as harassment, something that should be reported, but I didn’t. And I always decided that the reason I didn’t report was because I wasn’t brave enough. I wasn’t strong enough to take a stand for myself, even though I didn’t even need to confront him to do so. I always blamed myself for the fact that it kept happening. But that’s not okay. Because I was 13. And my teachers should have been advocates for me. I remember a few admonishments; it’s not like they did nothing. But what I really needed in that time was for someone with power to tell me that what was happening was absolutely not acceptable, that they were on my side, that they would give me power where I felt I had none.

I was 13, and my biggest concern was about being strong enough to tell someone that a boy was harassing me. I was 13. And I had believed the narrative that it’s the woman’s responsibility to make sure she is not harassed, and not the man’s responsibility not to harass her. I don’t even know where I learned that story, but I memorized it and sang it back to myself, making it a part of my story too. When a woman is sexually assaulted, society asks, “What was she wearing? Did she have anything to drink? Why wasn’t she more responsible?” We don’t ask, “Why did no one teach that man the importance of consent and human decency?” And that is ugly.

Now you may be sitting back and saying, “But Brianna, he just put his arm around you and sat really close behind you. You said yourself you’re fine, so what is the big deal?” Yes, my story is tame, but it’s still significant. And the big deal is this: when we deem an action acceptable (whether that’s officially condoning said action or just tacitly allowing it to happen), we open the door for more actions similar to that.

Image result for rape culture pyramidHave you seen this picture? This picture is why I am talking about this here today. This picture is what we forget when we get outraged when people rape but are content to say that “boys only care about sex, and you can’t change that.” The idea here is that rape culture builds. Rape culture isn’t about sex; it’s about power. It’s about people with power (not always men–that’s an important point!) who think that that power means they can do whatever they want with another person’s body. And when no one criticizes the small things, that just feeds the power. If you are going to be outraged when rape happens, then you need to be outraged when any person with power and privilege takes advantage of another person, whether it’s in a sexual way or not, even if it’s “just words.” Words give power to actions, and even if they didn’t, they would still be unacceptable.

As a society, we need to do a better job of criticizing not just the top of the pyramid, but the more “harmless” actions and words that give people with power a foundation to victimize people in the future. Let’s get rid of victim blaming and actually believe the people who come forward about sexual assault. Let’s call people out for rape jokes and cat calling. Let’s not celebrate men who ask for consent like actually decent human beings. Let’s advocate who, for some reason or another, cannot advocate for themselves. And that’s just a start. As I said at the beginning of the post, the moment we’re in now is a powerful one, and I really hope it brings about real change. Some of that change is going to come from institutions and laws, but some of it will start with simple actions done by individuals. May we be empowered and empower those around us to do so.