Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Video of the Week: "This is Not a Feminist Song" - Saturday Night Live

With feminism being injected into mainstream media more than ever before, it's fairly easy to take any “girl power" song from the Top 40 and call it a feminist anthem. As a young and very connected feminist, I'm even guilty of buying into this immediate adoption of popular, girl power-y songs without always listening to them critically.

That's why I chose “This is Not a Feminist Song" as my video for this week. This SNL skit, (which has actually existed for a year), comically calls out the lazy writing that goes into some girl power songs. The lyrics satirize the half-hearted “Get up and fight!" anthems in the mainstream. The women of Saturday Night Live (and Ariana Grande), sing in the chorus “This is not a feminist song. We tried real hard but it took too long." They say they've tried to write about everything feminism includes but it was just too much and they gave up.

I think that this satirical criticism of mainstream “feminist" music nails it. I'm not saying that every popular song about feminism is inherently half-assed or a poor attempt at activism. But, I think this skit highlights the way that mainstream feminism is watered down. It creates a dialogue about the commercialization of feminism and how a lot of songs that may not necessarily be feminist, are being considered as such.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

No, We Aren't Making Fun of You

A while back, my classmates were talking about how they feel judged when they hear someone speaking another language around them in public.

"I swear they're making fun of me." 

This comment was met with resounding agreement around the room. It took a lot of willpower on my part not to tear into everyone around me. It's been a while since this happened, but I definitely regret not speaking up. Truthfully, I was afraid to say something. Communicating how I felt to my classmates that speak mostly or only English at home was daunting. The way they expressed their discomfort with hearing languages other than their own frustrated me to no end.

For me, speaking and hearing Greek is a comfort. For other people, speaking a different language with their family is necessary for communication. Whatever the reason is, we aren't using our ability to communicate in a second language to pass judgement on those around us.

I have been learning Greek since I could speak, and writing Greek since age six. The Greek language has always been part of who I am. It is damaging to hear the assumption that people similar to me are only using other languages to be secretly judgmental.

I realize that I can't necessarily change peoples' minds on this subject, but I still implore you all to take into consideration how hurtful these assumptions can be. Language is a beautiful tool that has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years. It brings people together and allows us to share knowledge. Reducing somebody's actions down to simplistic thought such as “they're gossiping about me" devalues the power of language and communication.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Peek at my Podcasts

I made my first foray into the world of podcasts when I was in sixth grade. MuggleNet, a Harry Potter fan news source, started recording episodes of a podcast called Alohomora! From there, I've done some exploring and I now have a little podcast library on my phone. Through suggestions from Tumblr blogs, teachers, and my own research, I have discovered some pretty entertaining and informative shows. Here's a quick rundown of what's in my podcast collection. If you listen to any podcasts, leave a comment below with which one is your favorite!

1. Alohomora!: A Global Reread of Harry Potter - MuggleNet

Like I said, this was the first podcast I subscribed to several years ago and I still listen to it today! The global reread is over but there are still episodes published on a fairly regular basis. The podcast discusses plot holes, character growth, and how social issues tie into the Harry Potter series. Any nerds with serious nostalgia will appreciate how Alohomora! still makes it feel like we are right  in the middle of the pottermania.

2. Not Too Deep with Grace Helbig

I started watching Grace Helbig on YouTube my freshman year and I quickly found her podcast and fell in love with it! She interviews a score of Internet stars and celebrities and never fails to make me laugh. A warning: do not listen to this in public. I have cracked up way too many times on quiet bus rides or during classes while listening to Not Too Deep. Anyone who needs a laugh should give this podcast a listen.

3. Welcome to Night Vale

This fictional podcast is recorded as if you're listening to a radio station in a very weird little town. It is definitely a favorite of mine for this reason. When listening to Welcome to Night Vale I feel like I am transported somewhere else. I appreciate how different it is from any other podcast I've heard. for people looking for something on the weird side, I recommend Welcome to Night Vale. 

4. Invisibilia - NPR

So far I've only listened to one episode of Invisibilia, but just like most NPR-produced shows it is absolutely intriguing. This was suggested to me by a teacher after we listened to an episode in her class about how emotional norms differ between cultures. Invisibilia is the Latin word for invisible things and that is just what this show focuses on. Episodes explore assumptions, emotions, ideas, and beliefs. Invisibilia is certainly on the more intellectual side and encourages you to think outside of the box. To challenge your mind, check out NPR's Invisibilia. 

5. Popaganda - Bitchmedia

Much like its thought-provoking online articles, Bitchmedia's podcast, Popaganda, makes incredible feminist commentary on pop culture and news. They cover music, politics, sports, television, movies and everything in between. Popaganda invites a wide range of guests to participate in their weekly discussions. For any feminist, Popaganda is a must-have in your podcast library.

6. The Productive Woman - Laura McClellan

I recently discovered this podcast and so far I am really enjoying it. Laura McClellan gives awesome advice on staying organized. She tries different organization methods and reviews them and shares how she stays on top of everything she does. I'll admit that if you aren't interested in organization or planning, you will probably find this kinda boring. But I recommend The Productive Woman to people looking to explore new methods of organization.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr President,
I realize your time left in office is dwindling and it hurts my heart to think about you leaving. You have touched the lives of millions of Americans, including me. I was nine when you were first elected in 2008, and even though I didn't understand much about politics, I cheered when you won. It was exciting for me as young girl interested in social studies and the Civil Rights Movement to see a black president for the first time.
When you were up for re-election in 2012 I was in the seventh grade and had a bit more of a grasp on politics. My own opinions began to develop and I admired you even more. I cannot bear the thought of you leaving office in just two months. You have certainly become one of my role models, as well as your incredible wife, Michelle.
To be truthful, I am terrified of what is to come when you turn the presidency over to Donald Trump. Sobs shook my body the night that fear-mongering monster became the president-elect.
President Obama, I will miss the strong, graceful, kind first family that was yours. The physical ache I feel imagining an America without you at the helm is indescribable. It is impossible to forget the way you supported and built up your spectacular daughters every chance you had. Your ability to keep your composure in the face of terror and tragedy was inspirational to me. When we were in fear, cowering, and turning on one another, you encouraged us to join together instead of creating distance and divide.
In your eight years, you have clearly shown the American people you care, and I could not be more grateful. Thank you for all of the hard work you have done and that you will continue to do.

Kalliope Bessler


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November Playlist: End of the Day Dance Party

Everyone needs time to unwind and let go after a long day so I made this playlist for doing just that! Crank up the volume and bust a move! Enjoy my mix of upbeat dance songs, happy November.

End of the Day Dance Party

1. Do Better by Say Anything
2. Post To Be (feat. Chris Brown & Jhene Aiko) by Omarion
3. Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners
4. Rich Girl by Daryl Hall & John Oates
5. One Dance by Drake, Wiz Kid, Kyla
6. Hot Stuff (I Want You Back) by Pussycat Dolls
7. Cheap Thrills by Sia, Sean Paul
8. CAN'T STOP THE FEELING! by Justin Timberlake
9. ...Baby One More Time by Britney Spears
10. Good Summer by Kate Nash
11. BO$$ by Fifth Harmony
12. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars
13. All In My Head (Flex) by Fifth Harmony, Fetty Wap
14. P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) by Michael Jackson
15. Closer by The Chainsmokers, Halsey

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Going Cruelty-Free

Recently I have seen a lot of lists on social media that show what companies make vegan or cruelty-free makeup and which ones do not. I was pretty disappointed to find that a lot of  the beauty companies I bought from test on animals. So, I decided to make a change. I started by tossing almost all of my non-cruelty-free products (finding a cruelty-free deodorant has been a challenge that I have yet to conquer), and purchasing some new stuff from companies that do not test on animals.
The best thing about going cruelty-free is that there are high end and drugstore brands that are vegan and or cruelty-free so if you make the choice to go cruelty-free like I did, you are bound to find products that fit your budget! 
My reason for going cruelty-free is simple, I do not believe that animals should suffer for the sake of my beauty products. Some people aren't really bothered by animal testing, and it is a personal choice on whether or not you go cruelty-free but if you're feeling skeptical, I say to just go for it. I felt great after getting rid of my animal tested beauty products and I think that others who make the same choice will feel the same. 
You can find some lists from my Pinterest on which companies do and do not test on animals and I will include my own list below as well! A great site that I always consult if I am not sure on whether or not someone tests on animals is

My Favorite Cruelty-Free Brands
My cruelty-free beauty collection

1. Urban Decay
2. ELF
3. NYX
4. Montagne Jeunesse
5. Makeup Revolution
6. Anastasia
7. Bath and Body Works
8. Freeman Beauty
9. The Balm
10. Zoya
11. Eos

Friday, September 30, 2016

20 Books Young Women Should Read

List posts are obnoxious and I am tired of them popping up on my Facebook feed. So that's why I decided to write one of my own! I apologize if you really like list posts, they're not that bad.
 Jokes aside, I wanted to share the twenty books that changed me as a young woman. It is important that young readers have female characters they can relate to as well as good nonfiction pieces about women because there are way way way too many books centered around male heroes and men who changed the world. Men are definitely important to history and literature but I want to highlight the frick frackin' fabulous stories I read about women and I hope that this list post (cringe), encourages you to read some of these stories or venture to find your own favorite stories about ladies! Now, let's get down to it.

1. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The story of Dorothy always fascinated me as kid. I fell in love with it from a young age and The Wizard of Oz played a role in my life in many ways. My favorite fact about this book is that it used to be on the banned books list for having a strong female character! Although it may be viewed as a book more for kids, I recommend it for anyone and everyone.

2. Women, Resistance, and Revolution by Sheila Rowbotham

My final project in my freshman honors U.S. History class was centered around feminism (surprising, I know) and I had to read a book so I chose this one given to me by my father. The book is packed full of information about struggling women from the seventeenth century through to the Vietnam War. Women, Resistance, and Revolution is entirely worth the read.

3. Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

If I'm remembering it correctly, I was eleven or twelve when I read this Judy Blume classic about a sixth grade girl navigating religion, puberty, romantic feelings, and struggling to voice her dissenting opinion around her friends. Young Judy trying to figure out the changes in herself physically and emotionally really struck a cord with me as I'm sure it did with plenty of other young girls. I certainly view this as a crucial read for middle school girls but I think that even older women will enjoy it as it will make you reflect on your middle school years...You know what, I actually don't think anyone really wants to remember themselves in sixth grade so never mind.

4. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I was first introduced to Amy Poehler from watching her hit show Parks and Recreation and I immediately knew from watching her hilariously talented acting that I wanted to learn more about her. When I found out she had a book I FREAKED. This book definitely inspired as a young woman pursuing theatre as well as made me laugh and tear up. Learning all about the woman behind SNL characters that make you pee your pants laughing was fascinating. Yes Please reminded me that even in the strongest, funniest women, there lies self-doubt, anxiety, and difficulty. Even if you know nothing about Amy Poehler, check out Yes Please. 

5. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me? is the second of Mindy Kaling's books and let me say, reading this in class was tough. I laughed out loud a ton and enjoyed it so much. Kaling provides priceless insight into life and from this book comes one of my all-time favorite quotes, "If someone really wants to see you, they always find a way. Always." I mean, that alone should make you want to read it.

6. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

In my freshman year, I landed my first lead role and that was as Anne in a play version of Anne of Green Gables. Nearly two years later I still consider that one of my proudest moments. Anne is what I refer to as one of my best friend characters because when I acted as Anne, I learned everything about her, and she knew me inside out. Reading the book I felt even more connected to her feelings and her life. Her reputation as firey and smart motivates me to be more of myself. Anne of Green Gables has a character for every reader to relate to.

7. Divergent by Veronica Roth

I was told about this by my sixth grade English/Language Arts teacher. She saw that I had recently finished reading Fablehaven by Bradon Mull. In a post-apocalyptic world, main character, Beatrice (Tris), feels like an outsider in her faction (groups used to characterize citizens.) Throughout the trilogy, Tris faces intense trials and tribulations with unwavering courage. I'd suggest this series to anyone who enjoys fast-paced, action-packed stories.
-Recommended by my younger sister, Zoya.

8. This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl 

If you're not a crier, this story is probably not for you. Or maybe it is because then you won't sob like a small child while reading it. The one word I would use to describe This Star Won't Go Out is incredible. It follows the story of a young girl named Esther Earl who was diagnosed with metastasized papillary thyroid cancer in November of 2006 and passed away four years later at just 16 years old. Esther's story inspired me because through her illness she remained optimistic and continued doing the activities she loved. I read this story just months after losing my grandmother to bladder cancer, which made it a hard read at times because I identified with the feelings her parents write about grappling with, watching their daughter struggle. This Star Won't Go Out is definitely an emotional read but nevertheless, you will not regret reading it. 

9. I Will Plant You A Lilac Tree by Laura Hillman

Honestly, I was not super interested in this book at first. Vocabulary wise, it's an easy read and I was able to tear through two or three chapters in one sitting. But the content is fairly graphic. This is a memoir written by an actual Holocaust survivor. Laura Hillman was transferred between several different concentration camps during the Holocaust and endures extremely dangerous living conditions but manages to live through it. By the end of the book I was moved by Hillman's journey and strong will. 

10. Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Once on the banned books list for passages where Anne Frank describes intimate feelings and desires, this actual diary of a young woman living in hiding during the Holocaust is emotional and easy to identify with for middle school and high school age girls. I read Anne Frank's diary as a sixth grader and was impressed by how well she dealt with life in secret. Although Anne and almost everyone else she lived with died after they were captured by Nazis, her father, Otto Frank published her journal. The hopeful spirit of Anne Frank lives on through her diary and reading it is an extraordinary experience.

11. A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren is a political warrior and I wish she was my best friend. I was super duper excited when I bought this book and although I haven't finished it yet, I love it a lot. Senator Warren's story is truly compelling. She had dreams she wanted to achieve and it took a lot of courage to reach them but she did. She writes about her failed marriage, her children, and the stress she wrestled with, among other things. The most empowering thing about Senator Warren's book is that she talks so much about her life as a whole, not just the good parts. I look up to Elizabeth Warren and learning about how she worked to accomplish her goals and make change in America is inspiring to me and I think that other women will feel the same.

12. Judy Moody Was In A Mood by Megan McDonald

I'll admit that when I read this series they were probably a little too young for me being almost a seventh grader when they were written more for fifth graders but I enjoyed the crap out of the Judy Moody series. Like many of the other women that the books on this list are about, Judy Moody's character is bouncy, creative, and smart as whip. This is definitely a series for younger girls but even when you're older Judy Moody Was In A Mood and the rest of the Judy Moody books are a fun read.

13, Eleven by Lauren Myracle

I found this book in fourth grade and it reminds me of Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret in a lot of ways. This is the second book in a series called The Winnie Years, it is focused on a young girl named Winnie trying to navigate growing up! If you enjoy Judy Blume, you will love Lauren Myracle too!

14. Luv Ya Bunches by Lauren Myracle

This book is a more unique one centered around a group of young girls who are best friends. A lot of the story is written as though the girls are talking to each other in an IM chat online. The reason Luv Ya Bunches is unique is because the friend group is diverse and I enjoyed it because it felt more realistic than a group of girls who were all white and blonde. Luv Ya Bunches is definitely written more for younger girls but it is adorable and worth the read for women of any age.

15. Deenie by Judy Blume

Another great Judy Blume book is Deenie. Throughout the story, thirteen year old Deenie is faced with two challenges, wearing a back brace for scoliosis and her mother pushing her to become a model after her time in the back brace ends. I think this book is good for young women to read because so many of them will be able to identify with the difficulty of a parent planning their future for them. Of course, between the back brace and mother pushing her into a career she doesn't care for, Deenie still has to learn about crushes. love, sexuality, and friendship. I recommend Judy Blume's Deenie for any young woman who might be struggling with feeling outcast or battling with parents over life choices.

16. The Wedding Planner's Daughter by Coleen Paratore

The first time I read this book, I didn't really read it, I listened to it on CD because my mom found it in the library and said it would be fun to listen to. And I am so glad she did that because I loved it so much and ended up reading the entire series twice. The Wedding Planner's Daughter is a great series to me because I felt so connected with the main character, Willa. She is a book lover and honestly, reading this series made me even more interested in reading than I already was (and that's saying something because I am a huge bookworm.) For young girls looking for a book character who loves to read as much as they do, The Wedding Planner's Daughter is a great choice.

17. Frida by Jonah Winter

My father introduced me to Frida Kahlo when I was just seven years old. He would read me this picture book all the time because her life was inspiring and interesting. I knew that I needed to include this book in my list so I reread it again to give myself a refresher and I enjoyed it just as much as I did in elementary school. The book is fairly short and reading about Frida always motivates me to keep working hard when I feel like giving up. Jonah Winter's Frida is a great tool to teach kids about a woman who had a lasting impact on the art world.

18. Grace's Guide by Grace Helbig

I think I finished this in two days. And I loved every single word and found value in every piece of advice. Grace's Guide gave me advice on moving past the most painful breakup I have ever dealt with, taught me how to handle college, and made me realize that you do not have to do every single job, club, class, and activity that you can cram in. If you are super nervous about growing up, or as the Internet calls it, "adulting", I definitely recommend Grace Helbig's first book.

19. The Crucible by Arthur Miller

This play was part of the curriculum for my sophomore honors English course and I have to admit, I was biased because I am a drama nerd so I loved reading a play in class. But, this play is worth the read even if it's not for school. Based around the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials, Arthur Miller's play strikes a serious chord with every reader, drawing attention to how lying and finger pointing causes people to turn on each other in an instant. Also, as a feminist, I am really interested in picking apart the underlying sexism of the Witch Trials and looking at how gender roles played a part in the way these young women reacted to the events in Salem. History repeats itself, The Crucible is applicable to modern events as well.

20. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

This masterpiece of romantic literature shot up to my top five favorite books as soon as I finished it. The ridicule that Hester Prynne suffers is unimaginable. But, the feminist value in this book is greater than you might think at first. There is a lot of similarity to be found between the way single mothers were treated in the 1600s and the way they are treated now. I think this book is a crucial read for young women because it shows them how similar American culture was 400 years ago to American culture today.

Obviously this list does not even begin to cover all of the fascinating female literature out there but I hope that it gave all of my fellow young feminists some new reads to check out!