There comes a point during adolescence - somewhere between freshman orientation, driving for the first time and listening to speeches during graduation - at which you question yourself.
You question your authority, your credibility, your accomplishments, and above all, your identity. You get lost in the nuances of what you’re supposed to be, who you’re supposed to talk to and what you should think.
All too often, society plays these ideas off as the familiar rambling of an angsty teenager.
I’m Chinmaya Andukuri. I’m a sixteen-year old Indian-American social entrepreneur.
I’ve grown up with boiled daal and buttered tortillas in paper trays, arguments over board games and the TV remote in the upstairs bedroom, and corner rooms full of dads talking about politics virtually every Saturday for my entire life. The idea that my parents’ childhoods proceeded in a relatively similar way (though it was over 9,000 miles away) is comforting, but it raises a simple question as well.
Why didn’t growing up in a new age of liberal education and cultural freedom affect me or the other kids at every Indian house party?
Social activism, in whatever form it may have come, wasn’t meant for a sixteen-year old kid in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh in the 80s. At my age, my dad furloughed six months of tenth grade to take care of my grandma’s tuberculosis and my grandpa’s high blood pressure problems. Cultural constraints created a bubble that restricted him to focus on school and family, but nothing else. The social convention he subscribed to is best defined with five words - leave politics to the politicians.
The question I ask isn’t why my dad and I have had the same domestic experiences early in life - rather, it’s more about the cultural sentiments that stem from those experiences. House parties have become as significant a part of my identity as they were for him, but so have the things I’ve seen, read, heard and thought. In the environment I’ve grown up in, I’ve never felt completely safe discussing certain things. I’m afraid to tell my aunts and cousins about my entrepreneurial aspirations, and to this day I haven’t heard a single conversation about white supremacy or anti-black violence.
It doesn’t take very much of this restriction for a teenager to stop taking oneself seriously. Am I even allowed to call myself a social entrepreneur? How much laughter should I expect to hear from that corner room of dads crowded around a coffee table when I tell them I want to explore the world of the humanities and work on social development projects for the World Bank?
Fortunately, my parents confronted me about everything before I had the opportunity to let these thoughts destroy my confidence. What had grown to be my primary concern - figuring out how to tell my parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents who I wanted to be and then how to be okay with it - deflated into a simple, “Do whatever makes you happy,” and a soft smile.
My parents will, undoubtedly, always support me in my decisions in regards to school, social life and the footprint I'm trying to leave on our world. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same luck.
But what I can say is that I will always support whoever I can in their endeavors to make their voice heard. If people can't take themselves seriously, they can’t expect anyone else to.
I’m Chinmaya Andukuri. I’m a sixteen-year old Indian-American social entrepreneur.
I want to be loud.
This post was originally published on Threading Twine. Founded in January 2017, Threading Twine is a youth-led social impact media company that focuses on allowing youth creators to have a voice in an increasingly globalized world. Threading Twine allows youth to create media about social issues and experiences and submit it to Threading Twine. Threading Twine is a communication system for the intellectual youth in today's world. Through Threading Twine, creators have the opportunity to network and connect with other change makers through online webinars and in person events. Threading Twine believes that every youth should have a voice, however, no change can happen in the world with one person alone.
Post written by guest writer Chinmaya Andakuri
On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries. 1 in 4 women have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. With statistics this high you'd think that you would be mentally prepared to come across someone who's been through this kind of thing before. That could not be more wrong because I remember that day I heard my aunt on the phone. I was a nosy 3rd grader who saw her favorite person’s name on the landline and picked it up only to hear “No I swear I don’t think I can do this anymore. If you don’t do something I’ll kill myself” I remember that it was 2:30 pm, and that day I went to a family friend's house but this time I saw my mom with her friend crying on the couch agonizing over the fact that her baby sister had lost her desire to live.
As of today, my Aunt has been fighting an 8-year custody battle to ensure the safety of her son. She has taken care of his education, and well-being all on her own. Sometimes while I think about this whole situation I wonder why I never said anything. I soon realized that it was the fact that I didn’t know what was wrong. Let me precise, I didn't know what consent was. I wasn't aware of the concept that allows a man or woman to clearly address what they are and aren't comfortable with. I’d see him. He’d squeeze her wrist when she said something she wasn't supposed to. As if she was some horse and her wrists were the reigns. The physical, mental, and verbal abuse that my aunt went through is something that I can never imagine myself surviving. There are some things that I can handle. I’m a dancer. I know how to suck it up and deal with pain but domestic abuse is a pain beyond words. Moreover, it affects more than just the victim. Through her hardships, I began asking the important questions. Is consent sexy? No, lingerie is sexy. Consent is a basic human right. A woman should be able to say No at any given time and expect that the other person will respect it. Consent is far beyond a legal term. It is not a boxed check or something to just get out of the way. Consent IS the way.
I can without a doubt say that my aunt is the reason I joined Ladki Love. I may be too young to help her but with this organization, I can help women who have been through the same things. My aunt is one of the most positive influences in my life but I can’t help thinking how much easier her life would be if she knew that she was allowed to say NO. My aunt is a sister, a daughter, a mother, niece, and a best friend but above all my aunt is a fighter. She is the same fighter that lives in the heart of the millions of women that Ladki Love hopes to help one day. I can’t wait to see the change they bring when we do.
Post written by guest writer Neeharika Chenna
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been insecure about my looks, my face, my hair, my body. Perhaps it is because I’m a teenager, and these are natural things to feel, but perhaps not. Perhaps my whole life, I will never know what it is to be content with the way I look. I can name at least three guys who have told me I don’t look attractive this year alone, which does wonders to the self-esteem, as you may imagine. But you know what? Try as I might, I really can’t imagine ever meeting an ugly woman. So, what is beauty, then, if it differs from me, if it differs from you?
It’s funny, the way society works. They tell you looks don’t really matter, and then when you’re shamed for not being attractive, you become even more despondent, but negativity and self-pity aren’t attractive qualities to possess, of course. Being happy is. But how can I be happy if I’m not attractive? I can name so many things I want to change about myself that it isn’t even funny. And the unfortunate thing is I know there are countless girls out there just like me. I’ve talked to some of my friends about feeling ugly, and funnily enough they all told me I was pretty while claiming they were the ugly ones. So is this just a construct of our mind? Do we all feel uglier than we look? I’ll give you a hint: you’re not ugly. But what is ugly are the excessively unreasonable expectations of women to be the prettiest, reinforced by both men and women.
I’m not perfect, I don’t know what I want, I’m still so young, still so susceptible to feeling ugly, but you know what? Why should any of that matter? Why are we all being judged on something we can’t even control beyond a certain extent? Looks don’t last forever, but what’s on the inside does. Maybe you won’t realize that now, but one day you will think about how silly you were for caring what others thought of you.
The most beautiful people I have ever met, they are not exactly pretty by conventional standards: they are the ones who always put others first, the ones who never expect anything in return, who have endured pain but know that they are the sole captains of their ship. Beautiful is about having depth, a buoyant spirit, a caring nature. And the more I think about it, the more I realize how ugly the word ‘pretty’ is. The only purpose of the word is to separate women into two categories: ugly and pretty. But people are not black-and-white, they cannot fit into neat little boxes. The truth is there are so many types of beautiful, and no types of ugly.
You are not ugly, never think that. I may not know you, but I know that the thing you want to change about yourself the most is the thing someone else may love about you the most. I’ve been there, I’ve felt like no one will ever love me, like no guy would ever love me. But the thing is, why do I even care about what guys think? My friends are genuinely some of the sweetest people I know, and if I were to ever value a man’s opinion about me, I would want it to be someone just like my friends. You don’t need a guy to make you happy, or to tell you what you are and aren’t. But what you can do is accept yourself, love yourself, and know that everyone appreciates a beautiful spirit.
Post written by guest writer Ashwini Murali
On December 18, 1895, the 13th Amendment prohibiting slavery was officially adopted on by the United States of America. Even so, slavery is still rampant in our very country today. Sex trafficking is an issue that doesn’t always get to see the light of day.
Sex trafficking is the illegal dealing of sex by force. Most people who enter the world of sex trafficking are being forced to do so. Majority of these victims are women, and many of them children, kidnapped or hoaxed into the forced labor. Victims often experience extremely harsh environments, with many accounts of abuse such as beating, cutting, and starving if demands aren’t met. And this doesn’t include the acts of sex themselves, in which many victims are raped, abused, and infected with various diseases, all to make money for someone who controls them as a puppet.
There are some things you can do to prevent the occurrence of sex trafficking. Educate yourself, as well as others, on the significance of the issue. Create support for survivors, and care for them in any way you can do so safely. If you are in the United States and suspect any type of sex trafficking whatsoever, make sure to notify your respectable group (such as 911, or the 24-hour National Human Trafficking Resource Center line at 1-888-373-7888) to attend to the suspicions. You can never be cautious enough, as it is always better to be safe than sorry when dealing with an issue of this weight and importance. The smallest action can turn someone else’s life around completely.
Post written by guest writer Tiffany To
It’s music festival season aka the season of cultural appropriation. For those who have never experienced the embarrassment of being teased for bringing your mom’s homemade aloo parathas to lunch at school, and then seeing the same white girls who made fun of you, wearing bindis for Coachella ten years later, it can be hard to understand cultural appropriation. First of all, let’s get this straight; cultural appropriation is not appreciating a culture’s food, music, dance, clothing, language, etc. Cultural appropriation is when a person steals a culture’s religious or cultural attire without any consideration of what the attire means and the rich history behind it. For example, I used to be teased for bringing “smelly” Indian food to school lunch (news flash, white kids, that’s what flavor smells like) and now I don’t have to scroll too far down on the Instagram explore page to find yet another makeup artist wearing a bindi to Coachella and tagging the picture with #festival #foreheadgem #gypsy. It’s one thing to appreciate something beautiful from another culture and maybe even participate in that in an appropriate situation- like when Angelina Jolie wore a hijab when she visited Pakistan. It’s an entirely different thing to take something from a culture, give yourself credit for it, and completely undermine all of the history and meaning behind it. You can’t just pick and choose what you like and dislike from a culture. You can’t just shame certain parts of a culture and appropriate other parts.
Being conditioned by euro-centric beauty standards to hate one’s own culture/religion disconnects one from their roots and strips them of their history. Then, when people go and use exactly what they had previously shamed others for doing (like the bindi, dark skin, dreads, natural hair, headdresses, etc) and taking the credit for it, it makes one feel robbed. And that’s because cultural appropriation is just that- theft. Theft of culture. Theft of credit. Theft of identity. So, this Coachella/ music festival season, reconsider wearing that Native American headdress, that bindi, those cornrows, and that blackface. Because while you may think that you’re just looking boho chic, you’re actually stealing and undermining cultures.
Post written by guest writer Amal Khateeb
Adoption is a life changing process that rescues children in need and creates families. Despite the process being so worthwhile, only few people choose to adopt children. These children do not necessarily have time on their side, by the time they reach the age of 2 their chances of being adopted decrease drastically as people tend to favor newborns. Before adopting my sister, I never realized the true nature of this issue. We’ve already identified the problem and the solution, yet the size of the problem ceases to decrease. Why is that?
The long process plays a large role in adoption’s lack of popularity. It took my family over three years to adopt my sister and there were multiple times when we almost gave up. Keeping the needed paperwork updated and trying to communicate with the various agencies can be tedious work. Not living in India made the task more difficult, as we had to fulfill the requirements of the adoption agencies in both the United States and India. Although adoption does take a substantial amount of time, the length of the procedure does not cause so much of a hindrance that people choose not to adopt. You go into the process knowing it will take time.
The even larger barrier is the social stigmas surrounding adoption. It is commonly believed that something is wrong with a family that has adopted, that they are somehow less of a family because of it. Making comments about someone’s choice to adopt rather than to have their ‘own’ child or refusing to recognize the adopted child as a valid member of the family only add the problem, as they alienate the child from their family. These types of methods are very common, showing how deeply rooted these stigmas are in our society and causing adoption to seem immoral.
The cure for such social stigmas is simple-knowledge. We need to learn to embrace adoption and no longer see adopting a child in a negative light. Adoption is not a topic that is often acknowledged and has only been tackled in mainstream media a few times through movies such as Annie and Lion. By choosing to discuss adoption rather than hide it, we can increase the rate of adoption and simultaneously decrease the social stigmas against it. The differences of the child should be celebrated, not shamed.
Over the years, the definition of what it means to be a female has evolved. However, the culture that promotes and does not prevent sexual harassment has caused women around the world to live in fear of being used for their bodies. Sexual harassment is not something that should be taken lightly for it is an all too common issue in today’s society. All around the country, and even the world, women are being used for their bodies, their rights are violated and their morality demeaned by the masculine race. History has forever repeated itself as women have always been taught that they are the inferior gender and that they must do all it takes to serve a man. However the time has come for us to teach the young girls of today what it truly means to be a woman.
As a woman, it is our duty to stand up for what we deserve. Our voices cannot be stifled by the judgement and corruption of society. The fear that resides in every woman’s heart must be transformed into endless determination for freedom from abuse. A mother should not be afraid to send her daughter to college in fear of what atrocities she might endure while pursuing an education. A helpless wife must not cower in the shadow of her drunken and abusive husband. A young girl cannot be abused by a relative when she is most vulnerable. Every female is at risk, and every female deserves protection. The fear of being sexually harassed follows a woman like plague from the days of being an innocent child to college and even to the workforce. The Huffington Post states that as of last year, at least one in three women were at risk of being sexually harassed in the workplace. One the other hand, The Crimes Against Children Research Center has estimated that 20% of young girls will become a victim of sexual abuse. However the highest number of rape and sexual harassment incidents occur in colleges where women face a 62% chance of having an abusive encounter. Many of these victims are not even allowed to share their stories because big universities are more concerned with protecting their prestige than creating a safe learning environment for its student body.
Internationally, the hindrance of rape culture is even less prominent, prompting an exponential rise in the number of women being exploited. When 7,762 Brazilian women were surveyed, 99.6% admitted to being sexually harassed at some point in their lives. In India, 80% of women claim they have been harassed on the streets of Mumbai alone. In Bangladesh, 43% of women are afraid to be caught alone in a public setting. These unsettling statistics shed a light on how little value the world has for a woman’s safety. There has never been a more desperate plea for help, for justice.
Sexual harassment has many names; rape, prostitution, cat-calling, exploitation, etc. However the severity of each remains the same. To make a woman feel uncomfortable in her own skin, for her to feel violated and victimized, is something that our society should be working tirelessly to prevent. While there are many organizations working towards a safer tomorrow, there are still drastic changes to be made. Every female must support this cause. Every female must protect her body. Every female must stand up and speak out against a world consumed with the horrors of sexual harassment.
Post written by guest writer Apurva Sriprasana
I was in Walmart the other day. I was walking around with my parents when I saw this family scolding their daughter saying, “That’s a boys bike. It’s not for girls,” while pointing at a black mongoose bike. This makes me really wonder. How does our gender determine our likes and dislikes? How do our chromosomes relate to blue or pink? Commercialization has supported typical gender stereotypes in many ways. How many times have you seen a Barbie commercial with a boy playing with dolls? Or commercials with girls playing with remote control cars? Never. Our society has been feeding us and manipulating us into these stereotypes that girls are fragile, and delicate. That we should wait for our prince to come for us, instead of working on our own. And even if we do work, we barely are treated equal to male coworkers. According to AAUW, women are paid 20% less than men, for the exact same job. Just because we have an X chromosome instead of a Y, we have a wage difference of 20%? Just because we are women, we have to take less pay for the job we work equal to or even harder as compared to our male colleagues.
Not only this, but women are being objectified every day. Male soldiers exposed nude pictures of their female coworkers for the world to see. Not only did they shamed the women, but has caused many women to not consider joining the military. Statistics from 2014 find that, “4.9% of women in the US military reported having experienced sexual assault in the past year. Among Marines it was 7.9%. Nearly 15% of women overall and more than 19% of Marine women have experienced sexual assault since enlistment.” Men are treating women like toys that they can pick up and use to their own pleasure which is disgusting.
Now, there is more awareness. Movies like Mary Kom, Dangal, and Mardani all are stepping stones towards women empowerment by showing what women have to deal with. Laws are being made to stop dowry, which can also help women to not feel like price tags. But more must be done. To make women to be equal. Not the equal that gives women less pay. But the equal that lets women to be able to be treated and paid equally, the type of equal that decreases the rate of sexual assault. The type of equality that shows commercials with girls and black bikes.
Post written by guest writer Garima Sharma
In October of 2015, hundreds of people showed up in front of a mosque in Arizona, armed and yelling racial slurs at the mosque. With their guns in their pockets, they held up signs cursing Islam. Inside the mosque was families with young children scared to come out in fear that their lives would be taken. This is a clear example of Islamophobia. Islamophobia is the prejudice and hatred to the Islamic faith. Even though some people refuse to believe that Islamophobia exists in America, it is a pressing matter that needs to be discussed.
Muslims in this modern-day America are faced with bigotry on a daily basis. Especially with our current President in office, it is hard for us Muslims to live a normal day to day life. Our president’s rhetoric against Muslims has been engraved in Americans brains. That Muslims are a dangerous threat against peaceful civilization. That Muslims cause terror in the United States. Well the ironic thing is that according to FBI data, 94% percent on terrorist attacks in America are done by non-Muslims, but the media and the rest of America focuses on that small 6 percent done by ‘Islamic’ Extremists. Now why is it that people don’t talk about the 94 percent of Americans who do commit terror attacks? It is because of Islamophobia. Islamophobia has made people focus so much on hating Muslims and making us the number one enemy.
Islamophobia has gone to the extent of executive orders. The current President created an executive order which banned people from coming into the United States from Muslim majority countries. Not only is this executive order a clear violation of the constitution, it won’t help keep America safe from foreign terrorists. Majority of foreign terrorist come from Saudi Arabia, where there is no ban. Americas rhetoric and Islamophobia is now making it harder for people to come into the United States and escape their war-torn countries. Islamophobia is letting young children die from war because America won’t let them in.
Now that we know a little more about Islamophobia and what it has caused, what can we do about it? Let’s start small. Support or donate to local mosques. Show them they aren’t alone; the littlest amount of support goes along way. Inform your mayor, congressman or congresswoman about Islamophobia and what you want them to do about it. Islamophobia is a big problem now, but if people talk more to each other and educate ourselves, we can get rid of a terrible problem.
Post written by guest writer Anisa Chaudhry
Feminism is unfortunately one of the most commonly misinterpreted and misconstrued words out there. Before I continue with this post, let's take a quick look at the definition:
the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
When I read this definition, I personally can't think of a single reason not to support the very basis of the word. Equality is something that every person deserves, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, or any other label that we place on each other, despite the fact that none of these labels can be changed or chosen. This strive for equality stems from issues like the lack of female suffrage in the 19th century to the lack of legal education for women in many countries today. Feminism has evolved and is still evolving into new and improved forms as time goes on. Currently, women are championing intersectional feminism, an all-inclusive "update" of the movement, that reflects the views and struggles of all types of people. However, no matter how many updates we go through, some people are still stuck on iOS 2.4.1, or as they like to call it, "supporting traditional values" or "doing things the good, old-fashioned way." Don't get me wrong, it is okay to believe in both of those prior statements, but the problem arises when they are applied to something as straight-forward as wanting equal rights.
Recently, I've been coming across headlines such as "I Am Not a Feminist, And That is Okay" or "Kellyanne Conway: Feminism associated with being ‘anti-male’ and ‘pro-abortion’." Not only do both of the women in these articles deface feminism, but they do so through falsehoods. Feminism isn't about being man-hating, anti-family, or anything else that isn't simply wanting equality. Sorry to break it to you, but without all of the work feminists have done for us so far, we wouldn't have a lot of the rights we take for granted today, This caricature of the "angry feminist" needs to go. Because in reality we're not just angry, we're infuriated. It's time to stop making assumptions off of stereotypes and preventing society from moving forward, simply because of misconceptions. The sooner we appreciate feminism for what it is, the sooner we can make progress. After all, the future is female.
Happy International Women's Day!
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