Thursday, September 25, 2014

What HeForShe Left Out

      I recently willed myself to watch the video of Emma Watson’s speech at the UN HeForShe Campaign Launch. I was reluctant at first as I usually am about celebrities tying themselves to feminism, often marketing and branding it in a way that isn’t necessarily or always good for the movement. But pushed by a close friend, I finally caved and looked up the speech online.

      I was certainly moved by the speech; after all, feminism is a movement that has been close and extremely relevant to my life as an Indian American woman. After all, I have seen women in and outside of my family often valued less than their male counterparts, and I have seen women in academic and professional environments sometimes working twice as hard to prove themselves as equal and worthy of respect and recognition.

      But equally noteworthy, I have seen the toll that confining gender roles have taken on the men and boys close to me. I have seen my male friends unable to openly express themselves for fear of being seen as weak, unmanly, or worse. I have seen my brother change; as he grows older I have seen his behavior lean more towards what is expected of him as a man, forsaking or hiding so much of what makes him a wonderful, beautiful human being. I have seen men and boys of all ages, who are so harmed by the confines that are commonly thought to only suppress women. And this is the part of Watson’s speech that moved me the most, as it is something so rarely acknowledged.

      It often strikes me as ironic that the men who put down feminism — branding it into something that is not, using terms such as “feminazi”, pushing aside the issue altogether, etc. — are those who could most benefit from truly understanding the movement. Too often, these are the men who have been taught to shut down emotionally, to value traditional ideals of masculinity, and to deprive themselves of sensitivity and feeling — things that make us all human. These are the individuals who have so much to learn and to gain from understanding that feminism isn't at all about man-hating. It is far from it; it is man-loving, and woman-loving. Feminism truly is a universal cause.

      I find myself often avoiding certain words or behaviors that are traditionally and heteronormatively feminine or girly, especially in the professional or academic environment. I have been taught that I must do this to be taken seriously, to have my words, thoughts, and contributions valued or even considered. Likewise, I so often see male friends, family members, colleagues, and even strangers suppressing or restraining themselves, catching themselves before they fall and reveal what they truly feel. And for them, this hiding is also about not being taken seriously. It too is about weakness. And just like it does for women, this need to hide or change one's behavior almost always carries over into the private sphere. 

      I recently had a conversation with a friend in which he admitted to preferring a more natural environment to DC’s urban structure, something he began with, “I know I’m a pansy, but….” Too often, I see people covering up how they truly feel or adding a sense of self-deprecating humor in order to sort of justify or make up for behaving in a way that is seen as traditionally feminine, and thus: traditionally weak. And I myself am certainly guilty of this as well. This is why it was so relieving to see that Watson's speech acknowledged something that is so rarely spoken of.

      But what the speech left out, I feel, is the fact that while men are certainly a big part of the feminist movement, the role of women is not to be forgotten. As women, we put each other down so much and so often, that I can’t help but think that we are perhaps the main hinderance in our own progress, something blogger Emily Schuman hits upon in her aptly-named article titled "She For She". I took a class once in which two girls openly admitted that they believed female soldiers should not serve in the front line. I was astounded and could not take them seriously, and my initial response was to laugh. This was about two years ago and has still stuck with me, but I certainly no longer see the humor. How can we as women put ourselves down so much? How can we want to destroy the progress women throughout history have strived to create? 

      Throughout my life, starting with experiences as early as elementary school, I have been taught to be a "quiet" feminist. I have been repeatedly made aware that the feminist movement is associated with aggression, impoliteness, and unattractiveness. While this "education" is offensive coming from anyone, it was most surprising when women and girls around me separated themselves from the movement. However, eventually, this is what I did, too. I learned that if these were the connotations that were to be associated with me, then I was not going to label myself as a feminist. But I've thankfully grown since then and I learned to value my own opinion much more. While I came out of the closet as a feminist long before this, I took a Gender and Sexuality class last year that really bolstered my strength in my own convictions and convinced me that all students should be exposed to the true nature of the feminist movement at least once in their education, whether it be in college or even earlier. I am now shocked and sometimes even offended when I here girls my age separating themselves from feminism. Are they not affected by the wage gap and disrespect that I am? Do they not see the struggles that lay ahead for themselves or for countless (if not nearly all) other women? But I digress.

      While I still don’t fully understand the students' comments on women in the military, it has taught me this: in order for the feminist movement to succeed, we must certainly call upon the boys and men. That is for sure, and I believe Watson has done an amazing job in establishing why. But let us not forget that we as women also have a role to remind ourselves and each other to be less critical and more honest. Remember that a few anatomical differences do not mark you as inferior, and remember to stand up for yourselves and for each other, regardless of gender identification. Do it for yourself, but do not forget that you have a responsibility to the men, women, boys, and girls around you, as well. And please, please, please: don’t be afraid to call yourself a feminist.

-- V

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cold War Kids

      The two of us recently got to see Cold War Kids live as part of George Washington University's annual Fall Fest, which was on August 30th. Read about our experiences:

Alana’s take on CWK: The interesting thing about seeing CWK with Virali was that we had two different takes on them going into the concert. Virali was really into them, whereas I liked only two songs by them (yes, “Hang Me Up To Dry” is one of them). It’s not that I didn’t like or know about CWK, I just never got into them when I first heard them. 7th grade me was too occupied by Paramore and Panic! At The Disco at the time, no doubt.
      When the band first came out, they totally weren’t what I expected. They were five mid-30s-looking guys. They looked like a group of friends going through a delayed quarter life crisis together. And it took a while for me to warm up to them, honestly. I didn’t know many of the songs, and neither did most of the crowd.
{the band performing "I've Seen Enough"}
      That didn’t mean that they didn’t give an exciting performance, though. The band jumped around and danced with each other on stage, bombarding the crowd with angry garage rock guitars. Playing music was a thing CWK were obviously brought together on this earth to do, and their showmanship proved this countless times over the course of their set. Frontman Nathan Willett especially – his voice is so uniquely abrasive, it’s addictive to listen to and it works for him.
      I flipped when the band played “Hang Me Up To Dry” and “Something Is Not Right With Me.” 7th grade me felt so fulfilled; both songs practically defined the angsty middle schooler phase of my life.
{a quick shot taken during the performance of "Mexican Dogs"}
      Not being a fan, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole thing, and was definitely happy when Virali and I nabbed the setlists at the end of the night. Overall, I’d give the experience a 6 out of 10 stars. 

Virali’s take on CWK: Unlike Alana, I am a pretty big fan of Cold War Kids. I only discovered them about three years ago, but they were definitely a big part of my junior year (of high school) soundtrack. I love Willett's voice, I love their lyrics, and I love how their music make you want to dance. My roommates and I actually had tickets to see the band in October, so when I found out that they were headlining Fall Fest – which GW students and their guests attend for free – I was pretty excited.
{"Royal Blue"}
      I'm not sure what I was expecting from the performance, but I was definitely satisfied. I'm betting that most of the audience didn't know the band. Cold War Kids have an awesome stage presence and the members interacted with each other and the audience very well. 
      The best part of the performance was when Alana and I snagged setlists after the performance. After all the concerts I've been to, I have tried (and repeatedly failed) to get my first setlist and I can finally say I have one. The setlist now hangs on the wall next to my desk, as a reminder of yet another awesome concert with one of my best friends.
{"Hospital Beds"}
      I love attending concerts for any band that I know well, and to see a band I like so much for free and just a block from my dorm was awesome. I'd give the experience an 8 out of 10 stars. Cold War Kids are still on tour, so check them out if you get the chance!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Upper Middle Class Problems: A Comedic Poem

As you know, a new school year is upon us. For me, that brings new challenges, including a required poetry workshop class. But of course, I would mess up the first day's assignment, which I thought entailed me sharing my favorite poem I've written so far with the class. So I ended up pulling out this ditty I wrote last year and tweaking it instead of sharing one of my actual favorite poems from another author, as the teacher intended. 

Funnily enough, this is definitely one of my favorite poems I've written; it was very much inspired by one of my favorite poets, Ogden Nash, and it's lightheartedly satirical. In my opinion, it even resembles something Hannah Horvath would probably write in her MFA classes on Girls. Not necessarily saying that's a good thing, but at any rate, I hope it makes you laugh on this fine Thursday morning:

Upper Middle Class Problems: A Comedic Poem 
by Alana Pedalino

Does Jenna Lyons fart?
I really wish I knew.
Then I wouldn’t feel so ashamed
About tooting in J. Crew

I didn’t mean to do it,
But I ate Chipotle for lunch.
Their guac always does me in…
I should’ve settled for a healthy brunch!

I can see the sales clerk staring at me,
Her eyes burning into my soul.
“Oh, like she’s never burped in Anthropologie,”
I think, wanting to stop, drop, and roll.

Though I’m not done shopping yet,
I start backing out of the store.
Gap’s running a sale across the way
I notice, scurrying through the door. 


P.S. This is a work of fiction. I don't even like Chipotle. Virali can vouch for this.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


     I recently spent some time in Antwerp and Brussels, two great cities in Belgium. My stay in these cities was significantly less touristy than my visits to Paris, London, and Amsterdam and while that is due in part to sheer exhaustion, credit is really due to the fact that I stayed with family rather than booking a hotel room. My aunt, uncle and cousin showed us around Belgium and allowed us a more relaxed visit filled with sufficient down time.
{train station on our way from Paris to Brussels}
      We spent our first day in Antwerp just sitting around the house and taking a break from the constant sight-seeing. The next morning, we set out to explore Brussels, where we went to the Atomium. While the tourist attraction offered some great views of the city, it was definitely something we could have skipped. The exhibits inside the Atomium are fairly redundant and quite frankly, boring. But on the bright side, we grabbed some great food at a nearby pub and then set out to the mall for some leisurely window shopping.
{the Atomium}
      We went off to Amsterdam the following day (you can read all about that here), but the day after was spent exploring Antwerp. My brother and I had been craving bubble tea and we found a little café on Yelp. We're both huge fans of the drink and have tried nearly every place near our home in New Jersey, so we were fairly shocked to discover that this chain, which is both relatively small and new to Belgium, was as great as it was. Hands down, this is the best bubble tea that I have ever had. My brother grabbed a watermelon tea with popping cherry boba and I got chai milk tea with coffee jelly. If you're anything like my mother, you'll probably find the combinations we chose to be unappealing in theory. But take our word for it; these drinks were delicious. In fact, we both downed our drinks and walked back immediately for seconds.
{8tea5, the coolest bubble tea franchise, available in the Netherlands and Belgium}
{my bubble tea}
 {décor in 8tea5}
      After walking around a bit more, we stopped by the Brabo fountain and grabbed some snacks. 
 {view of Antwerp}
 {Belgian waffle}
      Admittedly, I was not as excited to visit Belgium as I was to see London, Paris and Amsterdam, but the country is truly beautiful. There is plenty to see and do and the food is great, and the overall vibes and atmospheres of the cities we visited were so different and interesting. I definitely plan on visiting again.
      Did I miss anything on my trip? Let me know in the comments below! And as always, thanks to our readers and supporters. We appreciate you more than you know!

Monday, September 1, 2014


     We're back after a short hiatus, and that too with more travel posts! One of the most exciting parts of my Europe trip this summer was my time spent in Paris, France. I unfortunately only spent roughly three days in this gorgeous city, but I see this period as an introduction to hopefully many more future trips to France.
{View of the Eiffel Tower from our third day in Paris}
      My family and I lived in a little apartment in Montrogue, which had a number of cafés and other eateries. We started our mornings with a walk to the metro, and explored from there. We spent our first day walking through several arrondissements after a quick cappuccino and macaron, enjoying the Haussmannian architecture and other Parisian sights. We stopped for a while in Montmartre, which I absolutely loved. I got to walk around and take tons of pictures while my family took a quick rest. Here are a few:
{Streets of Montmartre}
{Steps near the Sacré-Cœur}
{Doorways in France are so distinctly charming}
{Two shots of the coolest entryway I've ever seen}
{More French doorways}
{Adorable café in Montmartre}
Afterwards, my family and I went to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Here's the view from where we were, as well as a shot of the Basilica itself:
{The area right near the Basilica}
{Stunning view of Paris}
     We ended our night with a trip to the Eiffel Tower. My mother and brother had both seen the Tower from our plane the night before, but I had yet to catch a glimpse. We got off at the Trocadéro stop, and after walking a few feet, I saw it. As cliché as it sounds, it is so incredibly exciting to see the iconic Eiffel Tower in person for the first time. We grabbed some amazing crepes at a little kiosk at the Trocadéro, then walked over to the Tower. We went inside, and rode the elevator all the way to the top. I'm fairly terrified of heights, but the irrational anxiety was worth the opportunity of some amazing views of the city. Even more magical, we were inside the Tower just as the lights turned on and we were able to see the light show from both the inside and outside.
 {Left: A view of the Eiffel Tower from Trocadéro. 
Right: A view of Trocadéro from the Eiffel Tower}
{Looking up from inside the Tower}
     We spent our next day taking a river cruise on the Seine and taking a bus tour through the city. This was easily my favorite day. I was able to take tons of pictures throughout the entire city and I really felt like we were able to cover so much. The highlight of our trip to Paris  and again, you'll have to excuse me for being cliché  was my snack at the Ladurée on the Champs Élysées: a small coffee on the side of rose petal ice cream with four macarons  rose petal, pistachio, chocolate, and salted caramel. I am a huge fan of macarons and at the moment, I was just so happy and appreciative of the ability to sit in Paris and enjoy a quiet moment people-watching and eating my favorite food.
 {View of the "Love Lock" Bride, or Pont de l'Archeveche, from the Seine}
{Parisian architecture}
{Parisian architecture}
 {Riverside booksellers}
 {Sitting in traffic on the Champs Élysées}
 {Arc de Triomphe} 
{Ladurée macarons from the Champs Élysées location}
      We covered a lot on our last day, but I still couldn't fit in all that I had initially wanted to. As a tip, never go to Paris for just three days. On our final day, we fit in a trip to the Palace of Versailles as well as the Louvre and concluded the night with more crepes by the Eiffel Tower. While Paris wasn't my favorite of the five cities we visited, I definitely want to visit again, and this time I will be sure to explore more of France.
 {Mona Lisa}
{Top: Two shots from inside Versailles.
Bottom: Love Lock Bridge.}
      Have any of you been to France? What did you do? Please feel free to share your tips with this traveler!
      As a side note, you can get more pictures from my trips around Europe, Central America, and parts of the US on my Instagram, @virali or on @onemoresatuday.