Category Archives: Columns

Column: more than a word and more than a number

By Christy Avery

A couple of years ago, yours truly sat on the crinkly paper atop her ex-doctor’s table, going through what she thought was a routine checkup until he took a detour… to my weight.

Ever been told to “lay off the Twinkies” by your doctor and went home crying? I did. But I shouldn’t have.

Almost every moment of that appointment from a year or so ago is ingrained in my mind. Stepping on the scale and feeling the sting of the self-imposed and societal shame I had grown up with led to developing a complicated and often unhealthy relationship with my body that is still a part of me today.
These struggles I and so many others share do not come from within— they are branded upon us over time. The stigma and stereotypes surrounding health, weight, and body image is one of the most harmful matters that society increasingly gives a voice to.

Two particularly threatening demons right now: concern trolling and unconscious bias.
Concern trolling is the circuitous judging of one’s life, choices, or body. This most often manifests as rude, unnecessary comments or “tips,” sugarcoated with a smile and an “I’m just worried.” It is like a family member asking if you really need that second plate at Thanksgiving with that unsettling glint in the eye. Unconscious bias is essentially the same thing, only without the realization or intent of judging.
Growing up, I experienced both so many times without realizing it. That is one of the worst parts— body-shaming is such a common part of our culture that it is almost abnormal to not be affected by it. These issues may seem prevalent right now in today’s social climate, but the damage begins and spreads with people of all ages and genders.

We were born in a body that was ours, a body that should not be scrutinized or discussed as we grow, but so often are until we feel as if our body isn’t ours anymore. We spend most of our lives desperate to reclaim ourselves, but why do we have to?
That is a question I have been asking myself for nearly ten years and have just recently come to terms with. Elementary school was the first time I experienced body-shaming, when the kid ahead of me in line turned around and asked, “are you pregnant?” Although probably a case of unconscious bias, that was when the seeds of self-hatred were planted, and it still pops into my mind every time I hear unfiltered comments about looks, said just because they can be.

People are led to this point of insecurity because of what others want. Shame is not intrinsic; no one feels they are wrong until others tell them they are. Concern trolling and other biased behaviors, needless to say, fix nothing. If you are so concerned about someone’s body that you shame them in order to “help,” you are doing the exact opposite. No one needs to be fixed, and weight discrimination is an attempt that only makes eating disorders and mental health problems worse.

Unfortunately, many people do not seek help because they are afraid or have had past unpleasant experiences with doctors. Although the typical suggestions by doctors such as healthy eating, exercise, and sleep may help, the way these are delivered by healthcare professionals is a problem. Trying to get help with a serious disorder is hard enough— no one needs to hear that every problem in the world can be magically fixed by losing weight. That is utterly false; anyone can have problems at any size. Dismissing one problem with another is detrimental to the bigger patients that doctors claim to care so much about. A mental health problem cannot be fixed by weight loss if the problem goes beyond skin-deep— as it usually does. Our brain spends enough time criticizing ourselves; do not tell those of us who struggle with mental illness and body issues that we are less worthy of treatment or that it is our fault. Respect should be given to everyone, regardless of size.

Within weight discrimination, the underlying issue is usually something called thin privilege. This is exactly what it sounds like: having the ability to be seen as typically “thin” and/or not fat, and receiving less hate and discrimination because of it. Besides the obvious larger chance of social acceptance, are things in life that people with thin privilege get to have or have easier than those without, such as being able to try on anything in most stores, or even having lower health insurance rates. Marilyn Wann, author and activist in the “fat acceptance” movement, was once denied insurance due to her size. She also made a point that should be, but unfortunately is not, axiomatic: “The only thing anyone can accurately diagnose when looking at a fat person is their own level of weight prejudice.”

In today’s world, people have a tendency to surmise other’s level of health without stopping to think about the fact that, newsflash, no one is perfect, and thin people can be just as unhealthy as bigger people. I’m not here to shame anyone for what they do because we’re all human, but those bags of chips and candy sitting in the cabinet? Bad for everyone. Having a smaller frame does not make one immune to consequences or health concerns. That’s one privilege no one has. So before opening your mouth to judge, think about the fact that you can’t tell what other people put into theirs based off their appearance. I eat pretty healthy most of the time. I exercise a few days a week. I make a conscious effort to take care of myself, yet I’m still not tiny (which is fine.) And I’m not the only one. Weight and size are complex, and there are factors that play into it other than diet and exercise, such as genetics and body composition.

The math is simple, guys: Physical appearance does not equal health, health does not equal superiority, and neither correlate with the worth someone holds.

Looking back, there was a lot more wrong with what that doctor and boy said than my younger mind was educated on or could process. Although a doctor being concerned about a patient’s health is perfectly normal, what is not normal is stating it in an scathing, unprofessional way. Not to mention the scare he gave me about diseases I probably had that later looked to be false– when we called back, there were no signs of any complications. Uncalled-for “warnings” and comments are extremely effective, right?

So if physical appearance must be talked about… I am fat. I know. Whatever way you want to twist it, I get that my body in not the conventionally attractive one. I’m not a size 0 and I don’t have Victoria’s-Secret-Model legs. But you know what? The very fact that there are standards for what a conventionally attractive body looks like is dehumanizing and ridiculous.

And I know, you might be objecting: “No one is fat, everyone is beautiful.”

But why can’t we be both? Humans are multidimensional; we are a kaleidoscope of things, most of which we should not deny. So I feel like I’m doing myself and all the other fat people out there a disservice by following the myth that there is only one type of beautiful body. To me, the word “fat” is just a word, one I want to reclaim. It is not a synonym with “ugly,” “worthless,” or “wrong.” It is an adjective that holds no meaning about who I really am, which spans far beyond what I look like.

Although I wrestle with my demons every day and they sometimes get the best of me, it is incredibly freeing to take a shot at self-love. Because struggle doesn’t mean failure, and we should shut down the doctors, kids, or voices inside us that say anything different. No one should apologize for simply taking up space in the world.

 

Column: Rivalry week separates contenders from pretenders

By JD McKay

This weekend we saw one and two lose for the first time since 2012. Alabama lost at Auburn in the Iron Bowl, and Miami lost to Pitt, who was a 12-point underdog. Clemson and Oklahoma proved why they are ranked in the top four with big wins over rivals.

We learned that Auburn is legit. Two weeks ago Auburn took on Georgia, who was ranked first at the time, at home and won by 23 points. Then on Saturday, Auburn played Alabama at home and won by 12 points. I expect Auburn to be ranked third Tuesday, and if they beat Georgia again in the SEC Championship they should head into the playoff ranked and be number one.

The ACC championship game will determine another playoff team. While Miami’s loss to Pitt looked bad, they thumped Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. Plus, beating Clemson adds one more solid win to an already good schedule. Clemson is already in the top four, so a win for Clemson guarantees a spot in the playoff.

Oklahoma has dominated every team except Iowa State, and this week’s game against TCU will be no exception. Oklahoma will be the two seed if Auburn loses or the three seed if Auburn wins.

The real drama comes up for the fourth seed. I believe the deciding factor will be a combination of the Big Ten, SEC, ACC, and Big 12 Conference championships. If Wisconsin wins the Big Ten they will be in as the fourth seed.

The image looks murkier if Wisconsin loses, though. Wisconsin already had a weak schedule, so losing to Ohio State makes them look like an average team that got through the regular season because of a weak schedule. That puts Wisconsin out. Wisconsin out makes room for Georgia, Alabama, Miami, or Ohio State. That spot probably would go to Alabama. However, if Georgia plays Auburn close or wins, they would be in. Miami could get in with a close game against Clemson, and Ohio State would be Big Ten champions. The Playoff Committee likes confrence champions. However, losing to Iowa by 31 points probably won’t be overlooked by the selectors. If Oklahoma somehow loses, then the Big 12’s spot will be open for another of those four teams.

Top 8 and how to get in:

  1. Clemson: Beat Miami in the ACC Championship
  2. Auburn: Beat Georgia in the SEC Championship
  3. Oklahoma: Beat TCU in the Big 12 Championship
  4. Wisconsin: Beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship
  5. Alabama: Wisconsin loses to Ohio State, and/or Oklahoma losses to TCU, and/or Auburn loses to Georgia
  6. Georgia: Beat Auburn in the SEC Championship and hope the Committee likes their resume over Alabama’s
  7. Miami: Beat Clemson in the ACC Championship and Oklahoma loses, Wisconsin loses, and Auburn beats Georgia
  8. Ohio State: Beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship and hope the Committee overlooks their loss to Iowa

Black cat epidemic illustrates society’s bias against dark felines

By Ky Haney

Art by Mia Boutelle

With the sound of squeaking shoes, most of the cats perk up, eyes falling on the new visitor. Some cats sit back down, some lick their fur, while others press up against the bars, wanting the human attention. The small, yipping meows of kittens compels potential owners to come closer. With one quick gaze over the cages, anybody could see something odd. Black cats greatly outnumber the others in the room.

Over the years, black cats have been known to be one of the lowest to get adopted. According to Peta2.com, “Black Cats Overlooked in Shelters,” 71 percent of cats in U.S shelters are euthanized and the majority are black.  The more serious focus should be on what happens to black cats after adoption.

Now comes the most wonderful time of the year. Animal shelters are not supposed to allow black cats or kittens to be adopted from the shelter during Halloween. These black cats will often be taken to surrogate owners until this holiday passes. Why? The reasoning could either be “innocent” or downright devilish.

Older kids adore going to Halloween parties and with parties come costumes. According to Emily Saul at the New York Post, teenagers have been known to go to animal shelters and adopt a black cat to match with their sparkling wicked witch outfit. After Halloween passes, these teenagers try to bring the cats back to the shelter like a tattered library book. This could mean that a lot of people who adopt black cats are only adopting them for a limited amount of time.

Not only does this hurt the shelter’s business, but it destroys a cat’s trust. Once a cat is adopted, the cat believes that they are finally free from the other cats. A cat also gets extreme anxiety from so many people at once in a loud, bright place. Bringing them back will make a cat less likely to trust another owner, but this could be fixed by educating someone on how it could damage the cat.

Animal shelters need to keep black cats away from rituals that would lead to harm. Cults will adopt black cats to slaughter around the season. This is supposed to show some kind of way of “getting rid of bad luck,” but the murder of any kind of animal for absolutely no reason is ethically corrupt.

Some people say that the black cat epidemic is over. This epidemic is only over whenever the adopted cats are not being treated like objects.

Column: Need to keep DACA going is crucial for immigrants, our nation

Art by Tori Roberts

By Christy Avery

Every year, thousands of children are brought to the United States with undocumented parents. Unable to support themselves or control their circumstances, they run the risk of being deported back to their country because of their parents. Former President Barack Obama implemented a solution: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). A policy that gives children who come to the U.S. under the age of 16 with illegal parents a chance to get relief from deportation, this valuable system is crucial to so many in this nation. But with President Donald Trump now in office, it could spell the end of the program.     

Instead of building walls, Trump needs to keep this policy in place and give help to those who need it most.

One advantage of DACA is that children do not age out of the program. This means that he or she could potentially reap the benefits for the rest of his or her life as long as they do not commit a crime or pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Mila Koumpilova, reporter from the Star Tribune in Minnesota, stated that “A national survey of DACA recipients last year found that almost 60 percent obtained a new job, about half opened their first bank account, and 57 percent got a new driver’s license.”

Another benefit DACA brings is the protection from unlawful presence penalties. Normally, immigrants begin accumulating unlawful presence– presence without being admitted or parole– once they turn 18.

However, with DACA in place, the risk is lower– there is no accumulation of unlawful presence, and people with it are considered in authorized stay. This is true for the deferred action period as well, so the renewal process does not do any harm.

Of course, no policy is perfect. DACA has a couple of glaring problems– one being that even though people under it are considered lawfully present in the U.S., they have no nonimmigrant or immigrant status. This runs the risk of one being wrongfully denied employment or other benefits.

However, if this were to change, DACA would be even better for the recipients. DACA currently safeguards nearly 790,000 people, according to the Pew Research Center.

A possible solution for this is to carve a bigger path to permanent residence for those who wish to remain in the U.S. For example, ensuring that those who are eligible receive or try to receive green cards or visas in their lifetime.

By throwing away DACA, the Trump Administration is throwing away thousands of hard-working, much-needed individuals who could help the country and themselves if they were to receive it. Innocent people should not be punished or barred from reaping the benefits that come with such an affluent and advanced country.

In 2010, it was measured that approximately 40 million people living in the United States were foreign-born. Is it even possible to imagine a country without them? That number will only keep increasing no matter the sanctions against it. Our country should be a place where those who deserve to be here are here, where everyone is given an equal chance.

As Jane Novak at CNBC said, “If executed properly…Washington leadership could come to a deal that shows proper compassion, boosts security, and makes economic sense.”