Recently, I’ve been thinking about how research can be used to break down elitist systems, rather than reinforce them. In academia, the use of academic jargon and the cost of accessing classes or published research is a barrier for folks to looking to learn more about a certain subject, or find data on their own communities. As researchers, we must work to ensure that science remains public, especially during times of political crisis. The right-wing’s appeal to the “white working class” is anti-academic, labeling the university as indoctrinating students with liberal ideas, which they label as an attack on the working class. Thus, it’s time to put theory into practice, work with our communities, and use our privilege/skills to present truths. We have the tools to disprove #AlternativeFacts and must make that work accessible.


International Women’s Day

Happy(?) International Women’s Day! I’m not sure of what verbiage is used since today the themes are not only to honor women globally but also to strike and boycott systems of oppression and instead attend activism event(s), wear red, and/or only patronize businesses owned by women or marginalized communities. Am I missing anything?

I, unfortunately, don’t have the privilege to be able to miss out on work today. Being a poor, overworked graduate student, time is like freedom. It doesn’t come easy, you have to fight for it, but I did make some time to enjoy myself this earlier this week and to exercise my activism muscle.

On Sunday, I attended a film screening of MAJOR! (http://www.missmajorfilm.com/) featuring an incredible, inspiring trans woman activist in San Francisco, Major Griffin-Gracy. She makes shit happen (oh yeah so WARNING: “Adult” language…but that’s the best way to describe her and it doesn’t even come close to doing her justice.). She’s been fighting for trans rights starting back in the 60’s, which is astounding thinking of all the seemingly insurmountable challenges these days, let alone in the 60s (a little context: Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, space race, nuclear threats, The Beatles)! She is a living legacy and still working to (rumor has it her work is going to take her from California to Arkansas) support and advocate for imprisoned trans people, especially trans women of color.

I was so struck by the raw stories of sexual and emotion trauma coupled with the abuses by those within the criminal justice system. It will literal knock the wind right out of you. That Major and her girls talk about these issues in their life stories and can take them in stride, joking about them like it’s normal is hard to describe, jarring is the word maybe?

The other striking piece was near the end when they showed the number of lives lost and the names of those filmed in the documentary since filming began. It was sad to see so many deaths and know that had that trauma been prevented, those lives could have been saved. Similarly, it’s easy to lose hope in the many broken systems of America these days, but the fact that Major and organizations like The Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project, which she led for a number of years, exist and continue to fight for equality, well, I hope it’s able to imprint some belief that there’s still good in the world, and that to nurture that good, we have to give it life force by showing up and defending the issues that matter.

So on this day, this International Women’s Day, I hope you’ll pledge to be present and to make shit happen, whatever that looks like, without hesitation towards equality and for the greater movement of benevolence for all humans.

Activism burn-out

Last Sunday, I went to a Post-Women’s March Huddle. It was great to see the turnout. One hundred fifty people! That’s a lot for a Sunday and for a small college town. I didn’t see a whole lot of color but that’s also to be expected in White (Iowa) suburbia. We spent the first twenty minutes sharing stories of our experiences at the Women’s March in D.C., Chicago, here in Iowa City–anywhere. It was great to hear stories of the unity and camaraderie felt that day even if many people were unaware of how un-inclusive or divisive the march was for some.

The next twenty minutes was spent listening to a speaker talk about how to use effective language in our voices as activists. It boiled down to the other side is better equipped and more experienced but we have our own advantages: There’s more of us and we can be louder.

It got me thinking though. We’re barely halfway in Trump’s first 100 days in office and look how much political tension there already is in the country. We have four years of this. Can we keep up the momentum? Will I see these people next year or even at the next event?

I worry that we will get complacent, that the other side will win because we’ll burn ourselves out. I imagine it a little like a boxing match. We’re going round and round the ring and they’re trying to wear us down. How will we hold up? How is the political climate going to be next year?

I admit I’m an imperfect activist. I’ll write post cards, send emails and march at demonstrations but to call and talk to representatives? I haven’t been able to find my voice for that. I’ve always hated being on the phone. Besides texts and checking emails, I hate talking on the phone. I can’t bring myself to call a representative and tell them what to oppose or support. I just can’t. Or realistically, maybe I won’t. Is this the start of burnout for me?

In an instant, life gets crazy busy and it’s easy to let one thing slide and then the next and then the next. I think activism means doing what you can with what you’re comfortable with and to stand up for what you believe in. There’s enough pressure from society and the Trump administration to be a certain way. I don’t want to have to fit into a mold of a ‘good political activist.’ Maybe I’ll change, in fact, I know I will. I’m sure I’ll grow in my activism and learn how to acknowledge my fear but still be courageous. This is only the beginning after all and we have quite the journey ahead.



As a Black woman on a primarily white campus I have faced microaggressions all too often. I personally experienced one on campus, which I did not speak up about because I did not know how. I attended a forum on my campus which gave me the language to call someone out on this corrosive behavior.

Microaggressions are small acts that challenge privilege or power. Some examples:

“Can I touch your hair?” Which says you and your hair are different, so much so that you are now a zoo animal.

“Oh, I didn’t know there were xyz here!” You’re different from the majority or you don’t belong here.

“Good for them for adding some diverse employees.” Which is what I heard last week when I told someone about a new job I have. This says you got that position because you’re black, you couldn’t possibly get it because you are the most qualified applicant.

I just laughed and moved the conversation, but for the rest of the week I was worried that I wasn’t good enough to be in this position! Which is ridiculous, people don’t hire you out of pity (we all wish). But it took a toll on me for one of my friends to say that.

I have always found confrontation difficult. I love stirring the pot and challenging things, but I am always open to being challenged as well. The thing about microaggressions is that the person might be ignorant to the ways in which they have harmed you because it is so small. But such small things have huge impacts on people, especially over time.

This isn’t the first time that someone has said something like this to me and I’m sure it wont be the last. When someone transgresses against you, the best thing for you and for them is to say something. Wait until you can collect yourself and your thoughts and then bring up the micro aggression, whether its a professor, friend or colleague it will make things much better going forward to have a discussion about it.

Professor Tasha Souza, of Boise State University gave a lecture at Simpson where she talked about microggressions and outlined this example “I noticed that you asked Amira where she was from and not Thomas, both of whom you just met. I think that you might be making an assumption about Amira’s nationality based on how he looks and I feel uncomfortable with this assumption. I would like you to rethink your assumptions so that Amira feels just as comfortable here as we do.”

This example works great to help us understand a clear and respectful way to address the transgression. Observe a behavior you don’t like, think about what happened, express your feelings about the situation and then discuss your desired outcome. Practice this before it comes to a scenario when you need to have it perfected.

We cant control others perceptions of us and the microaggressions that we face, but we can control how we deal with them and unfortunately, how we educate the people around us as well.

Being Brown at the Women’s March

Based on the Facebook event for the Iowa women’s march, and my general experience with white feminism, I was nervous about the march. In the past, feminist spaces that were organized by white women have left me feeling drained. How sad is it that as a woman and a feminist, I’ve come to be distrustful of “women” centered events? But I was hopeful. With news about the women’s march on Washington becoming more “radical” and “intersectional,” I had hope.

The event was white. White. White. White. Very white. I expected it, stayed alert, and tried to listen to the speakers. I couldn’t pay attention. During our time there, at least ten white women asked for pictures of my friends and I, mostly young people of color. Couldn’t help but wonder how many “likes” they would get, and whether that would make them feel good about themselves. Or whether we would become proof that the women’s march was diverse.

I felt so angry. Where were these white women when Donald Trump referred to Mexicans as rapists? Threatened to build a wall? Called Muslims terrorists? What took these people so long? Most carried signs about “love” and “equality” but none about justice or action. Everyone there claimed to love us but no one was telling me how they would practice their love.

I wondered if we would even have to be here if these white women had practiced their love before the election. If they, as white women, had denounced Trump BEFORE he got elected. If that had happened, my friends would not be scared of losing DACA, having their families torn apart, being forced on a Muslim registry, losing their healthcare, etc. We are scared while they are “hopeful and inspired.” We chanted, but no one would chant along with us so we left. All there is to do is resist and hope that these marchers commit to loving us. I stay bitter but hopeful.

Step One: Women’s March

The Women’s March was ridiculously historic in every sense. It was one of the first landmark events of intersectional feminism, it was the largest march following an inauguration in history and it was worldwide! It was incredible to see so many amazing women raising their voices together. And while the march has both haters and some legitimate criticisms; it’s important to remember that this is just the beginning.

As we move forward from the march there are some things we should think about. First, in the midsts of all our pussy hats and clever signs it became clear that for many- I might even say most- this was our first march. Which is great; the more voices the better. But, where have you been? If we all could have said no more a little sooner we might be in a different place. Whatever issue made you march; don’t let your energy stop here.

Which leads me to my next point. If this is your first march, first experience with activism or first time calling yourself a feminist; settle down for a moment. Some women have been fighting these fights for decades and it might be helpful for everyone if we listen. Not to say that people who are just joining us should shut up and march in the back, but at least listen to the elders, the experts, those of us who’ve been here a while. Be humble! Because even marching is a right that we owe to so many who came before.

Lastly, let’s try not to discount anyone’s experience. Yes I mean anyone; women of color, trans women, low class, high class, white women, LGTBQIA and the list goes on. We don’t get to define what it means to be a women for anyone, but ourselves. We do have the opportunity to work together for a cause we clearly all believe in. So we move forward together. We work together. We create change together.

Since even the march, things have gotten pretty grim. So this is just the beginning! We need your voices, your talent, your support because there are so many more marches to come, both fortunately and unfortunately. And I can’t wait to see y’all there!

The (Straight? Cisgender? Privileged? White?) Women’s March

So I guess I was lucky. Or maybe oblivious or idealistic…but my experience at the sister march in my town was inspiring. It came together last minute by someone who originally planned it—I imagine—to show camaraderie with not only women but all people of different races, religious beliefs, immigrant/refugee statuses, and sexual and gender identities. More people came to show support than I could have dreamed.

I imagine that like the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., this was in the spirit of unity against a presidential administration that continually seeks to undermine equality and is a threat to American liberty and ideals. Women, men, and gender identities of all ages came to march in solidarity. That people cared so much and that we were rallying behind equality nearly brought me to tears.

Little did I know that this wasn’t everyone’s experience. It wasn’t until later that I  found out that the march wasn’t as inclusive as it appeared and merely magnified us vs. “them.” Women of color had to fight to be included and the LGBTQ community too was initially left out. It saddens me that intersectionality was an afterthought and it goes to show how much work we have ahead of us.

I’m trying to be optimistic and to use this as a reminder that change doesn’t come easily. There’s a long road ahead of us to fight to keep Planned Parenthood and VAWA funded, the ACA intact, abortions legalized and too many others to list. I hope the divisiveness felt at the march will be a turning point to unify us further. We’re going to need it, to support each other and to support the efforts to protect our rights and the truth. ~Thuy