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Nostalgic Aesthetic & Hyphenated Identity: An Interview with Jenna Masoud

You know those people you meet and you have an instant connection with? They vibe at the exact same frequency as you, there’s no weird bumps or miscommunication. It’s just effortless.  That is Jenna Masoud in a nutshell. She’s creative, intelligent and has instant command of a room as soon as she walks in it. Jenna is an unstoppable force and a New York native who recently graduated from Brooklyn College where she majored in film. She began posting videos to Vine (RIP) and where she gained a significant following and friend group, which is incidentally how we met. Her work has always had a sense of modern-day nostalgia, almost giving you a feeling of being homesick for a place you’ve never visited before. Whether it was her meticulous stop-motion videos that she’d create on Vine or her stunning melancholic film photographs, Jenna has a very clear vision in her work and- as we learned- an even more clear vision of herself.   

Ailish and I met up with her while we were in Brooklyn for Afropunk. Brandishing four different cameras ( a mix of film and digital ) Jenna took some gorgeous photos of us and did an excellent job making us feel incredibly comfortable despite the fact that we felt goofy and awkward, to begin with. After an hour or so into shooting, we began to finally feel good in our own skin which was completely Jenna’s doing.

Captivated by her, we interviewed her about everything – from her favorite cameras to shoot with to what it’s like being a woman of color in this industry, the concept of a “hyphenated identity” and even how Instagram is never something to look down upon.


Moist Queef: So how did you begin this interest with photography? You mentioned something about your dad being a person who started this love?

Jenna Masoud: Well, I grew up around my dad’s cameras. It allowed me to play around with the cameras first before I even understood the concept of photography. My dad had a Bolex, which intrigued me before I was even aware that I wanted to go to film school. I was just constantly surrounded by cameras. I almost feel as if  I got into photography backward in a sense. I started out fascinated with film cameras before I even found out their function. I was completely thrown into it, but by the time I was around 16/17 years old I was getting booked pretty regularly. Family events, engagements. It was kind of amazing being trusted with such big events.

MQ: We’re so impressed that you brought four cameras to our shoot! Do you tend to bring multiple cameras to every shoot, including your film cameras?

JM: Well the community that I primarily shoot with – the Arab community – tends to not always appreciate the art of photography. They see me more there to “document” as opposed to creating, which of course kills me a little. But I’ll bring my film camera and sneak in a couple of portraits I know that they will appreciate. If it’s a portrait shoot, it’s usually no less than 3 cameras. But events I always tend to digital.

MQ: What are your top favorite three cameras to bring to shoots?

JM: My go tos are definitely my Canon A1, Rolleiflex medium format, and my digital.

MQ: Speaking of film cameras,  I noticed that you have more of a melancholic nostalgic look to your photography. But because the shots themselves are so modern, it can almost be jarring which makes them interesting. Is that intentional?

JM: I felt that happened accidentally. I used to watch other photographers and would notice their coherency and found that I didn’t have one. It honestly wasn’t until recently when I finally revamped my entire website that I noticed I had an aesthetic the entire time, which was encouraging to have it happen so naturally. As if it was an actual expression of myself, not something curated. As for the nostalgic aspect of it, I think there’s a sense of forced nostalgia because of the film aspect of it. Film just gives you a certain warmth, a certain comfort, that is impossible to mimic. There was a point that I didn’t want to do photography anymore because I found that people who shoot only digitally tend to be editors over being photographers. I used to look at my digital photos and wonder what was wrong with them and why they look nothing like other professional photographers. I was giving myself such a hard time until it finally dawned on me – I’m just not an editor. Because of this mentality, people are chasing the gear as opposed to relying on their own creativity to create something beautiful. So yeah – I appreciate film more. I’m going to make sure each picture counts. My quality has changed significantly because I don’t have the option to value quantity. I found that walking around with my eye in the camera has allowed me to be constantly aware of a shot, until I see a frame that I like. I’ve done it for up to an hour until I find the perfect frame.

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( Jenna documenting what camera took what photo by starting each roll with a mirror photo)

Whereas with my digital I would have hit 1000 before I took the shot. I appreciate my composition, my lighting, my models significantly more. My editing comes from behind the lens as opposed to on a computer.  I am humbled by film slowing down my process.

MQ: Well how would you say being a POC has influenced your eye or your experience in the photography world?

JM: I definitely felt growing up that I couldn’t express myself as a woman of color. I honestly never considered myself a POC until recently. I would always say to my classmates in high school  “Middle Easterners are Caucasian” “We don’t speak Arabic at home, only English! My parents were born and raised here, I’m second generation!” I was so proud of my American heritage – which I still am – but I was proud because of the way it would dominate my Palestinian heritage. That was until about a year or two ago, I found old videos of myself when I was maybe 2 or 3 years old, and I was completely fluent in Arabic. I had been under the impression that English was my first language so it was shocking to see myself more fluent in Arabic than I am now. Plus there was also such vibrant culture in that old video which is a stark contrast to now where we are fully modern. This completely sent me into a depression. I wanted everything to slow down for a moment because I felt like I had lost all of these years that needed to be cherished, almost as if I had felt that I had missed out on opportunities.

So I made a complete 180. I focused intensely on getting back to my roots, learning how to cook Arabic dishes, learning new instruments. It’s just such an intense transition from being like “Oh I could totally pass for white if I didn’t have this scarf! My name is Jenna and my skin is paler, I was born with blonde hair and blue eyes!” I was so ready to embody being white, but I finally realized that I don’t want to throw away my culture. I felt like I had been brainwashed, and I noticed that translating in my work. It was seriously lacking anything that reflected my Palestinian heritage. I was shying away from cultural identity in my work, and now that is my goal.

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( from Jenna’s shoot – “ Muslim Girl”)

I have a hyphenated identity. I was trying to identify as an American but truthfully, I am just as Palestinian as American. I’m so excited to bring out all these voices especially since hijab fashion is at an all-time high right now. My community has so many advantages, I’m able to make it so much farther because of that.

MQ: Have you ever felt affected by being a woman in the photographer world?

JM: Oh absolutely. Starting off I was so uncomfortable telling models what to do. I think that’s because inherently as women we are afraid to take up space at all times. I would gently ask them to do things but in return, I would hate the photos that came out because I was too afraid to demand anything. You’re also just not taken seriously as a woman. In film school, I would be in a group with multiple guys from film school and I had to constantly prove I knew what I was doing, that I knew how to shoot, how to set up lighting etc. They would CONSTANTLY challenge me or try to counter me and I was always right. If I ever pointed something out, it would be “Oh here she goes again, being bitchy/demanding/picky”. And I found myself constantly apologizing for MY IDEAS, which was insane. It took so long to drop the “nagging female” trope I had internalized in my head because at the end of the day my ideas were just better.

MQ: What are some of the biggest challenges you feel that you have faced outside of the gender/racial bias?

JM: Definitely myself. I’ll get compliments, but I still go home and just hate everything I’ve created. I do have to deal with pretty crippling anxiety which plays a huge part in it. But then I post them on Instagram and it gets such an incredible reaction. While I hate that there’s a part of me that enjoys the validation of the internet it’s encouraging to keep going to know people are enjoying what I’m putting out there.

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( From Jenna’s series of self portraits demonstrating what living with anxiety feels like )

MQ: Yeah! Art is meant to be experienced by others honestly, or else you’re just in a vacuum of your own thoughts.

JM: Exactly. It’s a way to combat this naturally negative outlook I have on my work. If I don’t post something that I’m proud of, or I don’t think anything is good enough it completely sparks a depressive cycle of just insecurity and feeling horrible about myself. I have such high highs and such low lows. When I finished a film, I was working on in film school I found myself in a heavy depression. It wasn’t until I got to see it on the big screen and it got such an amazing reaction that I was able to snap out of it. It’s constantly about forcing myself to share and to allow myself to get a reaction. Even on Vine people would mock others for getting validation from strangers. It’s not something I need, but it’s amazing to get such support through strangers especially when dealing with such self-doubt and anxiety. It’s less validation and more reaffirmation.

MQ: Sorry to make a pun here, but yeah. It’s just not that “black and white”

JM: Definitely, before I started creating my own vision I would create solely for the sake of getting likes. Even on Vine I found myself doing that at times, but as soon as Vine died I realized I had taken full advantage of an opportunity to find out what my vision really looked like. And it transformed to me just posting whatever I want. I just realized how much more people were open to my voice as opposed to what was mainstream.

MQ: So on that note, what kind of role does social media tend to play for you?

JM: Oh absolutely a positive one. People constantly put it down, but it’s such a creative world that has unlimited uses. The amount of friends I’ve made, the amount of jobs I have, I have friends literally everywhere. Just the idea that I can travel the world and have friends everywhere is outstanding to me. Everyone is so welcoming right off the bat. All of my film school friends didn’t have Instagram or social media because they felt they were too good for it which blows my mind! It’s SUCH  a creative platform that’s perfect for creative types! Social media is the new networking, you gain nothing by looking down on it. It’s creating such a different atmosphere when you meet up with your internet/Vine friends because you’re talking about things you all know you already care about and care for.

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( Dear Ears; a band that originated on Vine, photographed by Jenna )

Whereas I’d talk to my film school friends about making a Vine and they’d roll their eyes and go “ there she goes again” and I’d be like “ Well why aren’t you?”

I was completely coined as “ the Viner” and people made fun of me for it but here I am with an actual career in photography because of how seriously I took social media. I will always advocate for it, there’s bad in everything and there’s good in everything. It all depends on how you take it.


Jenna took some incredible photos of us which we’ve curated into a series which you can find here

Check out all of Jenna’s truly amazing work here and follow her on Instagram here (you won’t regret it!)

The featured photo of Jenna was taken by Michelle Nash. Follow her on instagram and check out her incredibly dope photography here 

Why We Should Teach Girls How to Jill off

A bouncy ball, A washing machine, A plethora of bottles, A carrot, Pens, Markers, Celery, The handle of a Venus razor blade, A chair, A showerhead, A cellphone, A cucumber, A hoodie, A hairbrush, A banana, An electric toothbrush, A bunch of tampons.


This isn’t the wish list of a first-time homeowner with a healthy appetite and a heavy flow. These are the items I tried to masturbate with before I turned 18. All of them failed to bring me to orgasm except for one. Can you guess which one? I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t my fingers.

At this point, I think we’re all pretty aware that girls have it a little harder in the orgasm department than boys do, but no one ever talks about how this affects girls who don’t have access to safe solutions like vibrators and sex toys.

Basically, any girl under 18.

Ever since puberty I’ve had an outrageous sexual appetite. Problem was, I was a half-feral nerd too awkward and ugly to make any real advances toward sexual contact with another person. So, I did the only thing I could: I tried to get myself off by any means necessary.

And I mean any means.

When shoving fingers up my vag and probing my clit failed to produce anything even remotely akin to an orgasm, I started to look elsewhere. I went through the list, growing increasingly convinced that something must be wrong with me. It was supposed to be so easy. Girls on TV seemed to get gooey in the gash from a simple kiss and here I was bundling tampons together like firewood in order to get halfway to a decent dildo and still I felt nothing.

Then my dentist convinced my parents I needed an electric toothbrush and the true Kylie was born.

Like my male counterparts, I started jacking it like crazy. Small difference though, I was often hurting myself. I was young, dumb, and using an electronic dental tool not meant for gentle clitoral caresses. I used the bristle end (no, I didn’t use the same head as the one I brushed my teeth with), and would often rub myself so raw the brush would be red with blood at the end of a session.

I knew this wasn’t good, and I knew there were better ways, but I was too young to buy even a simple vibrator. You have to be 18 or older to purchase sex toys of any kind, so I was left feeling like a freak for trying to ease the incessant screeching of my teenage hormones. It wasn’t until I was sixteen when a friend went to Spencer’s and bought me a pocket rocket and my poor, abused clit finally got some relief.

In a perfect world, parents would awkwardly breech the subject of safe and effective female masturbation to avoid both injury and feelings of “being broken.”  The potential problem lies in the legality of buying sex toys for a minor as it may fall under “Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.”

So, instead of taking your daughter down to The Pleasure Chest, I believe misdemeanor charges and awkward conversations can be avoided with a vague note about safety and still finishing homework on time atop a box left subtly in a sock drawer. It’ll save her clit and save you a lot of missing or ruined household items.


This was written by the lovely Kylie Chi. You can find her on instagram here

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Escapism and Mad Men

This was originally posted on The New Grls Club in August.


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There’s a pretty sexist and racist show that used to be on television. It had scenes filled with men cheating on their wives, women being treated like objects, black people, Jewish people and Chinese people getting treated like less than other people, but that wasn’t all it was.

Ten years ago this past July my favorite show of all time first aired. It wasn’t incredibly popular, it wasn’t on a channel people knew about and it was literally right before the so called “golden age of television”. It aired on July 19th, 2007 on a channel that previously was associated with a movie theater chain and popular movies from the 1950’s. The channel was AMC and the show was Mad Men.

I need to say this up front before I get into this show because I know people have problems with it. I consider myself an intersectional womanist. Meaning I vouch for the rights and humanism of all types of people because I am a middle class, mixed race, dual citizen, bisexual woman. I fall at literally all the crossroads. I understand struggles of minority humans in an incredibly complex way.

But I also consider myself a writer and a storyteller and often times those identities collide.

One prime example is with my love for the TV show Mad Men.

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It’s strange that I began watching my two favorite shows the same way (the OC being the other, but that’s for another blog). I watched an early episode of the first season randomly on TV, liked it and then didn’t continue watching it. Then I started purposefully watching Mad Men when I was incredibly sick and bed ridden. It provided the perfect amount of escapism. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a hard show to begin. There’s a ton of mostly unlikable characters, a lot of business jargon and frankly when you don’t know what’s going on the drama of the show goes over your head. Eventually, after a few episodes, I got into it and fell in love.

This isn’t a blog about the details of me watching it because that’s boring. I’m here to tell you that as a womanist writer, this show is something unique. This show understands theme in a way a lot of shows don’t. One of my favorite episodes explores the themes of old and young that seem so subtle on the first watch and so sucker-punch-to-the-face obvious on a second watch.

And that’s what I love about the show. I love that as a half black women living in 2017, it allows me to escape into a world neither my parents nor I know anything about. A world that feels so foreign yet so fantastical. You know how people dreamily talk about getting lost in a world of a fantasy novel? That’s me with Mad Men.

I know this show front and back. I know minute details you’ve probably over looked. I’ve read Mad Men Carousel while watching the show to better understand the episodes and I’ve read Philosophy and Mad Men to better understand the characters.

I’m not here to brag, I just want you to know that I know more than your average obsessive viewer of the show.

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So why do I love it so much?

Why does anyone love a show? It’s for the characters and their development. One of my friends once said the most poignant point about Mad Men and it’s that you love and hate every character while watching it. At first watch, it seems clear who to hate. Pete was obvious for me, then Betty then Jane. But with more viewings, I grew to love these characters and hate other characters I used to love: Don, Joan, Megan. It’s with hindsight that you can truly understand why they do what they do. These characters experience so fucking much through the 10 years we know them. It’s hard not to grow to love all of them. To escape through their lives.

The details in this show are flawless. Their ability to weave in real historical events into the fictional stories is incredible. And it’s not just assassination and elections, it’s the typewriters and the weather.

Because immense amounts of research have been done, it doesn’t feel clunky, it feels seamless. Like this is actually a show taking place in 1960 with an incredible writing staff and HD cameras.

Since this month is all about escapism, the idea of getting away from it all into a new and mostly foreign world, when I want to escape, there are four Mad Men episodes I go to.

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Season 1 Episode 7

Red in the Face

This is probably my favorite episode of the series. It’s one of the best examples of how a general theme is weaved into the plot of an episode in such a subtle but profound way. The theme is in everything from the relationship between Pete, his coworkers, and his wife, the Nixon ad campaign assignment and Roger’s relationship with Don.  Pay attention to the ideas of old and new or young and old.

Season 4 Episode 7

The Suitcase

This episode is a masterpiece of television in my mind. I know it’s on a lot of people’s lists of best mad men episodes and rightfully so. This episode goes so far without really leaving the office. There are monumental relationship growths and changes that happen in this episode. Also, the fact that it’s mostly contained to one location makes it feel extra dream like. If you’re at all a fan of Peggy and Don’s relationship, this is the episode.

Season 5 episode 5

Far Away Places

Roger is such an understated character. What really is his job and purpose at the company? I believe it’s to bring a sense of childlike honesty, and comic relief to those who he works with and also us. He’s one of the few characters who genuinely tells it like it is. He doesn’t sugarcoat a thing which is refreshing and helpful to have to stabilize the other characters. There are other important elements of this episode, but this is a stand out for Roger and how important honesty is for him. Additionally, this episode is a prime example of the people behind the show letting your figure out for yourself what’s happening. You’ll know when you watch it.

Season 6 Episode 12

In Care Of

This episode is a difficult one to fall into if you’ve never seen the show before, but in a way, it’s also not. The show does a precise and almost delicate job of never really telling you too much. Things are rarely admitted outright, so in a way, you could watch this and get all the backstory you’d ever need about the characters, in addition to some pretty pivotal information. If the relationship between Don and Sally has ever intrigued you, this is one of those subtle and telling delves into their relationship.

I Never Thought It’d Happen to Me(me)

Meme? Like, Mim? Or is it like Meh-Meh? Oh, I know! Me-me! Hmm, meme? Like theme? Okay sure, I’ll write an article about that.

The above was my reaction when I was asked to write about memes for a Columbia journal my sophomore year. You can look up the article if you’d like. I honestly don’t have the wherewithal and self-confidence to revisit it. I promise it’s not good. Actually, don’t look it up. I don’t want you losing faith in me.

Okay, now that you’re back from BETRAYING MY TRUST, I want to explain how my appreciation and understanding of memes has completely changed. They’re a huge part of my life, now. I only recently stopped scrolling through multiple Instagram humor accounts before bed because I have a complete lack of self-control and was starting to stay up really late because of it. I always laugh at the jokes and pass them on ad nauseam, but I never really think about the people – and hand puppets – captured in those pictures and screenshots. Were they chosen at random? Were the pictures posed for? I honestly didn’t care… until it happened to me.

So, peep this: I wake up one summer day ready to face a completely empty schedule. I know to most people this sounds like the dream. It’s summer and you have nothing at all to do! You should be rejoicing, Karen! Well – I wasn’t. I have a very obsessive personality that requires I be constantly busy or being made to feel useful. Three task-free weeks between school and work were hell for me. Let’s just say I wasn’t in a great place.

I logged into Twitter. I passed through a few memes – it all comes full circle – and landed on a tweet from @OfficialJaden – Jaden Smith:

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I GROANED. I thought about my annoyance with the proclivity of individuals – namely men – to call women “females.” I remembered in that instance how I recently schooled one of my cousins on the discrepancy. “You wouldn’t call guys ‘males.’ It reduces us to nothing more than a set of privates. I’m more than just a vagina, right, cuz?” He grimaced because I’d mentioned my vagina, but said he thought he understood. I remembered that small victory and took it upon myself to be a warrior for justice once more.

I hit reply on the tweet and typed:

Karen tweet

I immediately got push back. A guy asked me why I couldn’t just take the compliment. I considered ignoring the response, but I thought about some of my favorite internet savvy writers and creators. @Chescaleigh (Franchesca Ramsey) wouldn’t back down, neither would @HeavenRants (Heben Nigatu) @EveEwing or @AmandaSeales… one would assume.

I responded, using a helpful Buzzfeed article written by Heben and Tracy Clayton as my main reasoning. My internet assailant did not take kindly to my use of Buzzfeed as a source. Suffice it to say, he didn’t agree with my grievances.

 The hate started flooding in, and a few hours after my original tweet. It happened. I became a meme.

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I thought, “but I’m not… I can’t be… I’m not annoying, am I?” The whole point of a meme is to define something with an image that can’t or might not necessarily be so easily defined with just words. This unseen person – whose account has since been deleted mind you – had defined me.

The meme got TONS of likes and comments and sent a horde of people flooding over to my original tweet to say both mean and nice things – but mostly mean things. At the time of my publishing this article, my original tweet has 136,822 impressions and 52,290 engagements. Keep in mind that before this I only had 70 Twitter followers. I mostly used Twitter to say dumb things like:

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Clearly, I was speaking to the void and suddenly I had people going through my page and commenting on old stuff with:

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It’s like people were just trying to find some “gold” that would get them as many retweets and interactions as @VersaceSilk got before. It was sickening. I learned how to turn off notifications for that specific post, but that wasn’t enough. I turned off notifications for Twitter completely… but that wasn’t’ enough. I still couldn’t help logging in to see what people were saying about me. Things like:

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That last one struck fear in me and made me delete the Twitter app completely. Then it showed up on Facebook. @FuckJerry had reposted it. I thanked God my Twitter name was a silly spelling of my name and not close enough that random people could make the connection to my actual Facebook page. Then it showed up on Instagram. @BeigeCardigan, @FuckJerry’s “sister” account, posted it with a caption telling me to “sit down.” Some girl tagged me in a comment saying she’d “found me” on Instagram. “IT’S THE SAME HANDLE, GIRLFRIEND!! YOU AIN’T NO SUPERSLEUTH!” Is what I wanted to respond, but I was scared there’d be more pushback. I made my Instagram account private and curled up under my covers.

My friends seemed to find out one by one. Matt called me – “Karen, you’re famous!” He encouraged me to capitalize on this. To let this launch me into fame. He said I’d have to become a feminazi online to keep it up. “But I don’t wanna be a feminazi. I just want to express my opinion every once in a while and not be demonized for it.” My writer’s group friends from Columbia told me they’d all reported @FuckJerry for reposting it. This was way before reports of how reporting doesn’t actually work for black women, but it was no use anyway. It was everywhere. I couldn’t run from it.

The first two days were incredibly hard. I pretended to be okay and laugh it off, but I cried… a lot. By the third day, I had people defending me wholeheartedly when I just wanted it to all disappear.

The last place it showed up was Reddit. A friend with whom I went to camp in middle school called me. “Hey Karen did you know…” “Yes, Ryan. I know.” He helped me laugh about it. He told me he’d make fun of me for a while for it, but he knew that was just my brand of sarcasm. He knew it didn’t read like I’d have actually said it.

And that’s just it. I listened to a podcast recently that talked about how with text-based platforms, there emerges this certain level of intimacy that feels violated when questioned. Our words are unavoidably close to who we are and when they’re misconstrued, we’re at a huge loss to regain control of what we “meant” or “intended.”

Thankfully, the buzz subsided. In fact, exactly a week later, I was able to log in to my social media accounts and not see anything concerning the meme. It was a huge relief.

Now, every once in a while, someone online will bring it up. A new, burgeoning humor account will repost the meme in hopes of getting the same kind of acclaim. There’s nothing creative or nuanced about their approach. It’s just a cruel, uninspired rehashing. People will tag me in it thinking they’re the first to do so or hoping I’ll go off. They aren’t, and I won’t.

Initially, part of me wished I’d been more straightforward. I thought, “if only I’d been clearer about what I meant, maybe people would have been more inclined to hear me out.” I had to stop that destructive thinking. No one should have to cater their dissent to the understanding of their oppressors. I know, I know. “Dissent” and “oppressors” feel like big words for something that seems so small, but it’s not small! Calling a woman a female reduces her to nothing more than an animal or an object strictly defined by her genitalia. On the one hand, it doesn’t make sense. “Female” is an adjective. On the other hand, this is dangerous for multiple reasons. For one thing, this nomenclature completely erases transwomen and lumps gender nonconforming individuals into a basket they didn’t ask for. This kind of thinking can also inevitably lead to physical and verbal violence and the continued oppression and belittling of an entire subsection of the human race.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still drop it low in da club to all the misogynistic bangers from the 90’s, 2000 and beyond (and before, I see you “Tootsie Roll”) but I don’t deny that the language used in these songs is reductive and incendiary. It’s a tough line to tread – being a woman who considers herself “woke” but who also wants to participate in many of the facets of daily life and pop culture. There’s a lot to juggle. Way more than I could address in one article. Nevertheless, I’ve decided I can personally choose small battles day by day.

 

I have about 100 more followers on Twitter now. I know. I’m killing it. And I know most are there waiting for me to say something else they consider dumb or “meme-able,” but that’s okay.  Not everyone is going to like you and not everyone is going to understand you. But if you’re smart, you’ll spend more time listening to the people who love you and do understand you.

Either way, the moral of the story is – if you’re gonna come for Jaden Smith, be prepared to face a little push back :).

– @Ckharyn

 

Feminist (Post) Summer Book Club

It’s the first day of September. School has started and summer break is over. It’s time to face the music and see I you actually kept all the promises you made to yourself about how you’d spend the summer. Did you go to the gym three times a week? Did you visit all the new restaurants you wanted to? Did you visit all your friends? Most importantly, did you read all the books you intended on reading?

Yeah, yeah, we all make goals to read a whole bunch in the summer. Sometimes we meet our goals, but sometimes we don’t and that’s okay. Don’t worry. I’m here to tell you this was my goal of the books I wanted to finish over the summer. As of this writing, I’ve read four of these books completely, I’m making my way through one and I’ve read the intro of another. I know, I’m not perfect and this summer was busy but I still whole heartedly recommend these books and I’ll tell you why.


 

Books I finished and have opinions about

K OxfordWhen You Find Out The World Is Against You-Kelly Oxford

I was a huge fan of her debut novel, “Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar”. I thought it was so candid and easy to read. This sophomore book did not disappoint. It’s still the same candid and honest Kelly. What I loved about this book was how much more she talked about the current state of her family. Modern tales of driving her kids and their friends around, bringing her daughters to Canada because her family friend died, or spending weeks in her house alone while her family goes on vacation. There are stories from her childhood too, but for some reason, I really loved reading about who she was now. My favorite story of the book comes at the end when she discusses her different experiences with sexual assault as she grew up. It was incredibly honest and brave and a surprisingly great way to end this book.


51T0nPdW14LWe Should All Be Feminists –Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This book is short and sweet. You may be familiar with it as an extended version of the middle bit of Beyoncé’s **Flawless. I think it’s a solid introduction to the concepts of feminism for anyone who’s unfamiliar, while also being a lovely and interesting story for those familiar with feminism, from the perspective of an African woman. It’s literally the perfect beach read.


41FYiL+A40L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Hunger-Roxane Gay

This book is difficult to read. And I know from listening to many interviews with Roxane Gay, it was enormously difficult to write. If you’ve ever read anything else by Gay, namely Bad Feminist, then you’ve had somewhat of an introduction to her life and who she is. This is much more of a memoir than that book is. She talks about her family, her college experience, her professional life, and obviously, as the title suggests, how it ties into her weight and her hunger. It’s a book about a woman living in a world that is not meant for those who are fat and how she became that way in the first place. Gay is a fantastic yet sometimes brutally honest writer and this book, although heavy and intense, is profound.


ScaachiOne Day We’ll All Be Dead and None Of This Will Matter –Scaachi Koul

I loved this book so much. Like, this might be one of my favorite books of all time. I’m not playing around.  The way Scaachi tells a story is like nothing I’ve read. At least nothing since Tina Fey’s Bossypants. The way she strings together sentences is enviable. I had to stop reading so many times because of how often I was laughing out loud. I love how painfully honest she is about first boyfriends, attending Indian weddings, how difficult it can be to maintains all her hair, and how nervous she can get while traveling. I cannot recommend this book enough. And then once you’ve read it, you’ll inevitably want to read more words she’s written, so visit her website. (I now have it bookmarked)


Books I’m currently reading and have somewhat of an opinion about

 

I don’t have an opinion on these books yet, besides So far So good! I’d recommend them easily off the sections of each of them I’ve read so far. Especially if any of the books above are your jam! But check back with me in a month or two. Maybe I’ll have finished them by then!

There’s No Place Like Home

By Ailish

There’s this perfect view of the bay that you can really only see on a clear summer afternoon. It’s when you’re driving on the 980 overpass just as you’ve merged from either the 24 or the 580. You’re sitting right above the West Oakland and Downtown Oakland border. The best part about this view is how temporary it is, especially if you’re the one driving. On a good day, you can see the San Francisco Skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Sausalito. I love this view. I live for this view. It’s everything I love about Oakland. The idea that you’re right here in the greatest city in the world, with an unmatched view of the second greatest city in the world.

 

As I’m writing this, I’m currently on a plane, with no discernible view, flying back to Los Angeles from Oakland. I never really imagined myself living in LA, but my school and career choice brought me here. I’m not mad about it, but having grown up in Oakland it’s really hard for me to like any other city. However, the longer I live in LA, the more it starts to feel like home and that’s what’s most scary.

 

Now, I visit Oakland with my boyfriend David who, before dating me, had only visited San Francisco as a boy. Inevitably I’ll take him around these places with rich memories for me.

 

“That’s the liquor store where I got my fake ID taken away. It’s still on their wall of shame.”

 

“That’s the parking spot where I broke my headlight because I was so distracted after seeing Fruitvale Station.”

 

“That’s the donut shop where we would hang out late at night deciding what to do because we were too young to go to bars.”

 

The city is FULL of these memories, but is that all they are now? Memories?

 

I’m not there long enough to make the kind of memories you make when you live in a place long term. I’ve only lived in LA for two years, but slowly LA is becoming more of my home than Oakland and I think I need to start embracing that instead of living in this middle space where no place feels like my actual home.

 

It really hit me when I was navigating myself and David back to my parent’s house on BART. Usually, I’ll take the Fremont train to get back to the Fruitvale Station from San Francisco, but we had had a few drinks and it wasn’t on its way so I decided we would take a different train and transfer. But that train went too far and when we got off I still didn’t know where to catch the Fremont Train. It turns out, the Fremont train is now called Warm Springs and I had no idea this change had been made. I had been in town a month ago. But that solidified it for me.

 

The Bay and Oakland will always be my home, be the place I grew up and have my heart. And why shouldn’t it? My family and best friends still live there, I have memories and history there that can’t be taken away. But I live in LA and will for the foreseeable future. LA certainly has it’s benefits like the beach, old Hollywood history, incredible theaters and beautiful people to look at. I also can’t deny the fact that I’ve slowly and slightly become somewhat of an LA person. I dress a little better, I always consider my plans with the flow of traffic, I’m way more health conscious, I’m much flakier on plans. That SNL bit about The Californians, I finally understand it now. After two years of living here, I’m also kind of okay with becoming more of an LA person. If anything, LA is just shaping me into a more interesting and well-rounded person that began with Oakland.

Chicken and Waffles Tour of America (Suggestions!)

By Ailish

Apparently, July 30th is National Chicken and Waffles Day. I’m not always a fan of these seemingly made up “national holidays” that Instagram and the morning news delights in, but sometimes there’s one that hits me right in my heart so hard that I can’t avoid celebrating it.

 

national chicken and waffleds day
Soul Groove in San Francisco

 

This might not be official, there are other places out there that say other dates are “Chicken and Waffles Day” but do they have a sign in their chicken and waffles establishment proclaiming it so?!

I can’t pin point the exact day I had my first chicken and waffles meal. It was probably in Oakland at Home of Chicken and Waffles, around 2012. I probably had something super normal and uninventive for a menu like their’s with so many options. My love of this meal coincided with my move back to California after living in Washington for two years. Since that first meal, I’ve developed a slight obsession with it.

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Documented rather thoroughly on my Instagram

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love breakfast. I’ll order it whenever I can make any excuse to have breakfast for dinner. Chicken and Waffles is just such a solid meal. It’s not quite breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s really the perfect brunch meal because it’s hardy enough to fill you up for a while. Plus it pairs best with sweet and savory sides. I hesitate to call it my ~favorite~ meal because I love having it every so often as a special treat, but then again because it has so many variations, it’s always special.

 

In the past five years, I’ve had this meal from at least two dozen different places. I have my favorite reliable places, as well as some stand out places.

 

Most Reliable:

Pann’s (Inglewood, CA)

panns

If you don’t mind waiting 20 mins to get seated, this place has the most affordable bottomless mimosa brunch I’ve ever come across. They don’t fucking play around when they say bottomless. You take one sip of your mimosa and they rush over to fill it with champagne. The food is always great. It’s chicken wings, not entirely fried chicken so it’s still great. The waffle is the perfect Belgien size with deep divots to pour your syrup into. Imagine a diner and you’re likely picturing Pann’s. The service is delightful and the food is delicious. Actually, I can only speak for the Chicken and Waffles meal, which I think is the only thing worth getting.

Runner up: Home of Chicken and Waffles (Oakland, CA)

home of c and w

You never forget your first. They also have a great weekend bottomless mimosa brunch special. Their fried chicken is so great! And they have so many different meal combos. My go-to’s are Paige’s Pallette: 2 fried chicken wings, an egg (fried) and a waffle. OR Keiths Tackle: 2 chicken wings, a waffles and mac and cheese.

 

Best quality

Pancakes and Waffles (Honolulu, Hawaii)

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Maybe it’s because it’s made with Aloha, maybe it’s because I was on vacation mode when I had these, but my god this is exactly what I think of when I picture Fried Chicken and Waffles. Everything about it was perfect and exact, I couldn’t believe it. I got the right portion of everything, there wasn’t anything super fancy about it. It was simple, delicious and hands down the best meal I’ve ever had.

Runner Up: Neptune’s (Alameda, CA)

neptunes

I went to this place on a whim and was delightfully surprised. The atmosphere was so darling. They really don’t play with their Neptune theme. We sat outside and enjoyed a really unique take on fried chicken and incredibly sweet waffles (there was a savory option as well). I went during their soft opening while they were still in the midsts of getting a liquor license. The one thing I would have enjoyed with this amazing meal was a mimosa.

Close Third: Brown Sugar Kitchen (Oakland, CA)

brown sugar k

This place is quickly becoming an Oakland staple. It’s got a phenomenal soul food style menu and of course a very delicious Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Cornmeal Waffles meal. To top it off (literally) they serve it with brown sugar butter and apple cider syrup which makes you say “of fucking course, these tastes go together!” The only downside (for me not for them) is how popular they are and how early I have to come to get this amazing unique meal.

Not worth the hype

Roscoes Chicken and Waffles

roscoe

I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t love Roscoes. I’ve been there a handful of times and have tried many different items on their menu. But at best everything is very blah. The way I describe their food to people is fast food chicken and waffles. It’s not awful, but it’s also nothing special. The food comes quickly, like it’s hot and ready, which can be nice because their places can get really full. I know I know, Barack Obama loves Roscoes, and maybe I would too if I had a meal named after me. It’s not the worst, but when there are so many better options around, it’s not my first choice.

Universal Studios Cletus’s Chicken Shack

cletus

This is an obvious one. Of course, people don’t come to Universal Studios to get a Chicken and Waffles sandwich from Cletus’ Chicken Shack. They come for the butterbeer. But in case you were in the neighborhood, saw it on the menu and wondered if it was good or not, let me tell you it’s not. It’s literal fast food. The waffle is soggy from the slaw, the chicken is more baked than fried and it’s honestly too hard to eat. I’ve unfortunately had it twice and it didn’t get better the second time.

 

 

Go forth, my friends! Celebrate this glorious day right! Let me know what you’re eating!

Surviving a Live-in Break Up

By Elizabeth Stickley

One month ago my live in girlfriend broke up with me… over the phone… at 8 am… on my way to work…

 

As my world crumbled down around me, a million questions ran through my head. How could she do this to me? How did I not see this coming? What could I have done better?

 

I sat through an entire work day with these questions churning, just a zombie staring through the computer. It wasn’t until I was sitting in LA traffic on my way home that I realized…. We fucking live together.

 

Breakups are hard enough, but when you live together, it’s a whole different story. How are you supposed to recover when you have to see the person who broke your heart every single day? The answer is simple… you don’t.

 

In an ideal world, you’ll be able to afford your own place, or your friends will have endless spare rooms for rent. But for most of us, that is not the case. So, we suck it up and coexist because well… we have to.

 

Get yourself out

The best thing you can do is get out of the shared space. My ex and I worked opposite schedules, which was very helpful, but coming home to an empty apartment isn’t that great of a feeling either. So, I started saying yes to midweek invites from my friends. Maybe I needed a little extra coffee the next day, but hey, it was worth it. Being out with the people who love you can help take your mind of what is going on at home. Plus, reconnecting with friends is one of the positives of a breakup.

 

You’re not strangers, so don’t act like it

The first week of the breakup, I had no idea how to act. I felt like I was living with a stranger. I felt like I was walking on eggshells. I didn’t know how to even talk to her, but one day she stopped me in the hall and said, “You know we aren’t stranger right?” And while I didn’t want to be her buddy, I realized that we could still coexist comfortably and have normal conversations.

 

If you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up.

The longer you’re living together, the more likely you two are going to fall into the old routine. Making dinner, watching your favorite shows, cuddling, and eventually sex… I definitely don’t recommend this, but shit happens, and you can’t go back in time to change it. No one is perfect and a live-in breakup is a new territory for almost everyone who experiences it.

 

For me, it was towards the end of the month, just before she was going to move. We thought we had it all figured out, I mean hell we made it this far! So, we decided to go out to dinner together. BIG MISTAKE. We were laughing and touching as if nothing had changed between us. Needless to say, we go home, one thing leads to another and the next thing I know I’m waking up in the morning, regret like a pit in my stomach. I felt all the feelings come flooding back to me and I was back at square one. But I knew I couldn’t go back in time, so I just kept moving forward.

 

Keep it simple

Eventually, the day will come where it’s just you and your ex stuck at home together. Of course, this wasn’t ideal, but my ex and I made the best of it. In order to avoid making the mistakes I mentioned above, we kept everything light. We chose classic reruns of comedies over our new TV shows, we kept conversation cordial and light, we smoked a joint to calm our nerves. Whether you’re the breakup-er or the breakup-ee, you need to recognize that both of you need that time at home to relax, so don’t ruin it for one another out of spite.

 

Say what you need to say… to a point

With each day you get closer and closer to that final goodbye. It’s important to let the other person know how you are feeling. If you’re having a bad day it’s okay to let them know. If you’re missing them it’s okay to let them know. It’s unhealthy to lean on one another during your individual recoveries, but it’s important to communicate during this time. It’s definitely NOT worth bringing up old problems and picking fights. You’re making your last memories with this person, so why ruin it for yourself.

 

Have an end date

Knowing when one of you or both of you are going to move out really makes the process a lot easier. It’s easier to navigate when there is a light at the end of the tunnel. My ex knew she was going to move in a month, but had nowhere to go in the meantime, so we stayed in our apartment together. I had some tough days during that time, but it was comforting to know that this was a temporary arrangement.  

 

I’m in no way condoning living with an ex, but sometimes we don’t have a choice. However, if the relationship is abusive or unhealthy in any way disregard ALL of my advice and get the fuck out of there.

 

Live-in breakups are their own breed. I scoured the internet for any advice on navigating this new situation I found myself in, but everything I found was either super negative or just bad common sense. I worked through it on my own, and I survived. And you will too.

 

 

Grace Interviews CORA Episode 1: This is Life For Many People

Grace and Cora

Originally posted on The New Grls Club we wanted to spread the love for this incredible work.


Listen to the interview on SoundCloud

Grace DuBois is back for our first podcast ever! In this episode, she introduces us to CORA, San Mateo County’s Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse. This is the first episode in a three-part series and features CORA’s Director of Development, Lynn Engel. Lynn talks about her role in the organization, why organizations like CORA are so important, and how you can get involved in helping people overcome abuse.

CORA’s toll-free, 24/7 emergency hotline is (800)300-1080

127 Minutes

By Karen Joseph

Have you seen that movie 127 Hours? Yeah, me neither BUT I saw the trailer, so I got the gist. White man walks among the rocks. The rocks rebel against him and all he’s done to harm Mother Earth. White man cuts off arm as penance to Mother Earth.

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Like I said. I got the ~*gist*~.

 

Don’t worry, I’m not here to give you three sentence versions of blockbuster movies. I’m here to talk about my own 127 Hours… and by 127 hours, I mean what felt like 127 hours but was probably closer to 127 minutes.

 

Fade in on me standing in line at Sugarfish with a guy from Tinder I’d only just met in person. Sugarfish is what you could call a “bougie light” sushi restaurant. Its website explains it serves traditional sushi of the highest quality and its prices reflect that promise. Nevertheless, you won’t have to pay an arm and a leg for it. They’ll be fine with one leg and a finger(tip). Okay lame jokes stop now.

 

Anywho! I’m looking him over. He’s… okay. This was only my second time going out with a guy I’d met on an app. The first guy was H. O. T. hot on paper. He was literally tall, dark and handsome. He played basketball in high school and could certainly pass for a young Denzel. My mom would have been so proud (she loves Denzel). Yet… get ready for this… he pronounced the “L” in salmon. I MEAN, REALLY? We had nothing to talk about, and I basically ran out of that restaurant after. I’d gone for brawn over brains, and I suffered for it.

 

Suffice it to say, I realized I needed to go a different route if I really intended to find love and/or free food. Gorp (names have been changed to protect me from an awkward “did you write about me on the internet” text) was nice. Gorp was smart. Gorp knew everything about movies and music. Our texting before the date had been nonstop. The interesting kind of nonstop, not the “wyd?” “nothing. u?” kind of nonstop.

 

So what’s the catch? Physically, Gorp was on the heavier side. He honestly wasn’t someone who would – as Missy would say – make you do a double take. But like I said before, I was trying to do something different. Take a walk on the wild side.

 

This was my first time at Sugarfish, so he encouraged me to get one of the bigger meals for variety. Sushi always fills me up quickly, so I struggled to scarf down the Trust Me Lite (three pieces of sushi, one piece of sashimi, a hand roll and edamame). Meanwhile, Gorp threw down on the Trust Me (twice the sushi, twice the handrolls), and made sure I knew that on a good day, he could destroy the Nozawa Trust Me (add three more pieces of sushi and a “daily special” to the Trust Me). The boy could eat.

 

When the meal was almost done, he looked over at me with puppy dog eyes and asked what I wanted to do now. He could drop me home… or I could go to his place and listen to that Logic album we were talking about. Gorp promised he had really nice speakers.

 

I don’t know if it was the raw fish or the smell of salt water wafting over from the Marina, but I said, “I could listen to some Logic, right now.”

 

I texted at least four friends on the way there to send them my location (shootout to Khalid). I was super new to LA at the time, so I had no idea where I was. On the way up, the elevator got stuck for a couple minutes. I don’t listen when God sends me clear messages, so I still followed him into his apartment.

 

We sat on the couch, and the album began. I stared straight in front of me like there was some visual component that went with it. Eventually, Gorp asked if he could kiss me. Consent is sexy but like… chemistry is even sexier. To make it plain – I wasn’t feeling it.

 

So I said, “yeah… after this next song” and prayed we had a Bohemian Rhapsody-esque ballad on our hands.

 

We did not.

 

The song faded out – as songs tend to do – and he went for it. I mean, he REALLY went for it. The only way I could describe it is that I was concerned he’d lost something in my mouth and the fate of the human race itself depended on his ability to find it with his tongue. You ever shove your hand into your bag to frantically look for your keys? Yeah. It was like that.

 

The kissing was bad, so of course when he asked if I wanted to move over to the bed to “watch some Netflix” I said no, because I’m a sane adult who’s skilled at articulating what she wants and doesn’t want…

 

Nope. You have me confused for someone else. I said yes. We relocated. His wifi was conveniently acting up, so we had no choice but to go at it again – horizontal this time.

 

He lay on top of me. Now, remember when I said Gorp was on the heavier side? I’m not exaggerating when I say I could barely breathe. I took short breaths and assessed the situation. I’d found myself between a rock and a hard place (his dick). I was like James Franco’s character in 127 Hours, and it was time for me to decide which body part had to go if I intended to survive. Seeing as he was on top of me, I considered a life without a torso. My face and head are cute enough, so I had no doubt this severed version of me could survive on her own.

127_Hours_2010_9

I snapped out of this headless fantasy when Gorp started grabbing at my breasts. I almost felt bad for him. I was wearing a strapless bra, so he was getting more industrial strength padded fabric than boob. He kept lifting my shirt. I kept sliding it down. He kept guiding my hand toward his crotch. I kept sliding it up.

 

After what felt like 127 minutes (there’s it is) I mustered up all the strength I had left, lifted my metaphorical knife and cut the hookup short. I sat up and asked him to take me home. I was an adult about it and texted him the next day to say I didn’t think things were going to work out.

 

JK.

 

I responded less and less frequently to his texts until he got the message. (Lolz)

 

I never said I was a role model. I just said I had a funny story to tell. Wait… did I not say that either? Dang, my bad. I’ll start off more clearly next time.


Follow Karen on Instagram or Twitter for more hilarious ramblings.

karen