Finding My Voice – and My Tribe

Finding My Voice – and My Tribe

Food + Feminism. Photo by the brilliant Alex Chapman. I started travel blogging the way most people do: to keep in touch with friends and family, and to let my mom know I was safe. But I have always been a political person, someone with a strong sense of justice, tons of opinions, and an allergy to keeping my mind shut. I like when disparate things connect, whether it means seeing Gilbert & Sullivan references alongside homages to Busta Rhymes and Ja Rule in Hamilton, or seeing the lessons of Amnesty International and Comparative Politics play out in tourism. So it should come as no surprise that I have brought my academic and activist background to my blog, just like I bring it everywhere else. For the first few years, though, that made travel blogging a very lonely place. To most travelers and travel bloggers, I’m a downer who won’t just let them enjoy their cultural appropriation and unchecked globalism in peace. On the other hand, travel blogging has always felt like the most frivolous thing I do, and at times I have held back from the more serious, academic writing many of my friends engaged in, because I was afraid of submitting pieces that wouldn’t be good enough. Since I graduated Northeastern in 2012, I’ve watched the general public bend closer to awareness and justice. I rarely have to explain what street harassment is anymore, and I’m continually surprised to see sexual violence, racial justice, reproductive rights, and other important social issues discussed by non-activists at parties and in my news feed. It seems while I had my head down...
Violence, Agency, Photojournalism and Activism

Violence, Agency, Photojournalism and Activism

TW/CN: This post contains several famous graphic images. As someone who works in multiple media to mobilize people around causes, I’ve had a lot to think about this year. The entire Black Lives Matter movement has been a case study in average people mobilizing the masses in order to force traditional media coverage, as well as how to use a loosely-tied grassroots network to subvert and exploit media coverage in service to a cause. Most recently, though, the photo of two dead toddlers whose bodies washed up on the beach in Bodrum, Turkey, has got the wheels turning. As a photographer, one of the questions I often grapple with is those situations where I find myself wondering, do I take the picture? Of course, the photographer in me answers: take the picture, you can always decide what to do about it later. But the advocate in me wonders about the harm that can be done just in the act of photographing. There’s also the idea that once an image exists, it could be seen by someone else like an editor who would take the decision about what to do with it out of my hands. Images like the ones of the boy on the beach in Bodrum always seem to simultaneously be completely necessary and yet eat away at the photographers who take them. In this case, Nilufer Demir, the photographer who took the image said, “I wished there was no problem in their country, that they hadn’t left it and hadn’t tried to leave Turkey and that I hadn’t taken this photograph. But as I found them dead,...
Beers for BARCC

Beers for BARCC

Last year, my wonderful friend Liz joined my team for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) Walk for Change. As a fundraiser, she hosted a party with donated food and drink. The premise was that guests would donate to the BARCC Walk what they would have spent on a night out. The fundraiser was one of those great nights you hope they will all be, drinking pickle-backs and dancing to awesomely bad music. Liz raised a whole bunch of dough, but we realized the only thing holding her back from raising more money was the small size of her apartment. This year, Liz and I were determined to be even more competitive in the team standings. We also smartened up and joined forces with Hillary, who had captained her own team the year before. Lucky for us, Liz started working at Aeronaut Brewery in Somerville running their community events, and Hillary is a veteran of the food service industry. All three of ushad many friends who we knew wouldn’t donate to the BARCC Walk for a variety of reasons, but who would come to a fun event and throw cash in a jar. And so, #BeersforBARCC was born. Aeronaut donated the space free of charge, and Liz, Dillon, and several other Aeronaut bar staff agreed to work the event for no pay and no tips, which is so generous it’s bonkers. While folks would have to pay for the beer due to Massachusetts state law, we wanted them to feel like they were still getting a worthwhile experience in exchange for their donations. So Hillary and Liz got...
Street Harassment and Traveling Advice for Women

Street Harassment and Traveling Advice for Women

Everyone has a lot to say about women travelers, especially if they’re solo, especially if they go somewhere in the Global South.  And really, everyone has a lot to say about women.  Some of the advice is good, like researching backup plans ahead of time so you don’t get stuck staying somewhere that makes you uncomfortable.  It’s pretty obvious and rather good advice for everyone, but at least it’s not bad.  There’s also a lot fo bad advice out there, ranging from racist to victim-blaming, restrictive to non-sensical.  Some people just can’t seem to stop themselves from sharing this advice, even if I don’t ask.  Even if they’ve never been where I’m going.  All of the advice essentially boils down to one premise: as a woman, you are vulnerable and it is therefore your responsibility to alter your behavior in every way imaginable in order to prevent other people from harming you.  If you fail in this, you will be judged for your poor safety efforts and it will be used as an excuse to make blanket statements about what women travelers should or should not do.  Its for your own good, honey. Thankfully, there was very little street harassment directed my way on my trip to Kerala, India, contrary to the typical American view of the country.  Some of us were discussing possible reasons for this, with the most obvious being that we spent very little time on actual streets.  We were generally in our bus, and when we walked we tended to be on the grounds of a hotel or other attraction where the only people we see are staff. ...
College Rape: Preventing Sexual Assault on Campus

College Rape: Preventing Sexual Assault on Campus

College rape in particular and Sexual assault* in general, are is being discussed publicly now more than ever. With the president’s task force to combat on campus sexual assault as well as several lawsuits against universities under Title IX for mishandling sexual assault reports from students, the focus is more intense.  Sexual assault and gender-based violence as a whole is a public health crisis in the United States, and people are starting to notice.  It is amazing progress that people are starting to discuss sexual assault on facebook, among friends, and in major news outlets, and we need to keep that momentum going with concrete action.  While we need to work on prevention with people of all ages, including those in high school, the high rates and mobilization of activists on college campuses has brought that environment to the forefront.  For those colleges and universities looking to make a real difference, here is my advice on how to reduce sexual assault and its harmful effects on campus. Train your personnel Train RAs in bystander intervention and receiving disclosures.  This will enable them to step in when they see an unsafe situation, and better prepare them if a student discloses to them that they have been assaulted.  Disclosure training helps a person understand the possible needs of a campus rape survivor**, how best to speak with them, which resources are available, and how to quickly ensure the safety of the survivor and connect them to resources, like medical advocates, SANE nurses, counseling, legal assistance, and university-related assistance.  If your school is in the Boston Area, get in touch with the Boston...
Walk for Change

Walk for Change

UPDATE on 4/7/2014: This post was updated to reflect my 2014 donation page. I’m proud to share that quotes from this article have been featured on BARCC’s print ads, MBTA ads (share a picture if you see it on the red line!), and the back of the Walk t-shirts. This April, I will be participating in Boston Area Rape Crisis Center’s Walk for Change.  I first learned of the organization last year, during my final semester at Northeastern, when I got involved in some related activism.  BARCC is a local organization serving the Greater Boston Area with counseling, a 24-hour hotline, medical advocates, and lobbying power.  They do good work for little pay, and their services are invaluable for the people who need them.  I will be joined by an amazing group of women who are strong, bold, smart and high-achieving. I’m walking because I have heard so many stories that break my heart, stories of things that never should have happened.  But instead they happened again and again, often to the same people, and they will keep happening. I am walking because I shouldn’t be afraid to name the organization I was with when I learned about BARCC, nor should I be afraid to name what we were protesting.  But I am.  I am afraid to write about it, to mention it to fellow Northeastern students and alumni, or to associate myself with it online.  Because when a group of young men and women and some of their teachers stood up and said we would not have our university associated with a group that treats this wretched violence so casually,...

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