By Zach Elkwood
Zach Elkwood is a member of the Class of 2015. His cartoons appear in every Tuesday issue of The Wheel.
By Zach Elkwood
Zach Elkwood is a member of the Class of 2015. His cartoons appear in every Tuesday issue of The Wheel.
By Sam Ready
Photo darwin Bell | Flickr
I want to get up and wear dark colors under a trench coat with aviator sunglasses and bedhead. This was my look in high school, and I still like the way I feel in it. But instead I will wear a pink shirt and khakis, with a hoodie and a colorful vest, because I know better now.
People have found me intimidating for my whole life. Some of it is verbal; I know now, for example, that kids with no nonverbal learning probably shouldn’t attempt to mimic the old “He’s totally going to kill me/I’m gonna kill you” line. Apparently this hyperbolic and idiomatic use of the word “kill” is one television imitation reserved for the “normal” and neurotypical. I know that now; mea culpa. I know to use my inside voice and a vocabulary of more common words. But I had learned and compensated for these things before the end of high school, and, as long as I wore the coat, people still feared me. My main barometer for this, other than what I heard here and there, was the inversely proportionate relationship between tragedy and proximity: Every time a school shooting was reported on television, people walked just that much farther to the side of the hall when I’d walk by. The pattern never failed, to my last, graduating day.
This isn’t just simple impressions anymore. The truth is that while schizophrenics and borderline personalities often take the lion’s share of mental health stigma in everyday conversation, the aloof Asperger kids have also gotten an undeserved bad reputation, associated incorrectly with threats to public safety. Why? Because we are eccentric, don’t say much or dress differently. I guess we’re just more likely to break social norms and attract attention to ourselves. Simply put, we have entered an age of neurodiverse profiling.
That this connotation should fall on the benign Asperger kid is absurd. But Columbine couldn’t ruin neurotypicality (which the perpetrators were) for everyone, so it ruined trench coats instead. It’s an entirely too easy leap to scapegoat the nonsocial guy in the coat as the antisocial ticking time bomb, even though one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. I am continually refreshing my wardrobe with softer patterns, cooler colors and carefully planned accessories to foster a more approachable image. I’m not really convinced that it’s working, but I still try. I have to try, because that’s a new burden on the autistic spectrum and on the neurodiverse in general. I’m not saying that it is the same thing as other prejudices in our society, but it is real, and it is a burden. I think about it every time I plan an outfit or cosplay a character with any sort of firearm; because apparently even the obviously fictional phaser is too real a threat in my hands.
I love putting on my retro patchwork vest and my kooky accessories and even my pink shirt. But I know that, if it didn’t matter, I’d wear the trench coat and aviators instead. That I don’t do so makes me feel that I don’t really even have a choice in the matter. As an example of the accessories, I have a fun yellow wallet with robots on it. Why? Because I love bright colors and robots are awesome … Or was it part of a larger, calculated scheme to systematically reinforce to onlookers that I’m completely harmless? I actually don’t even remember anymore. I don’t remember the origin for a lot of the things I do.
I used to not care about appearances at all. You probably figured that out from the bit about the trench coats and sunglasses. But now one might say I have a sort of obsession lingering in the corner of my mind. It’s honestly getting ridiculous. And now that I have glasses always slipping down my nose, I’ve gone full George McFly, patron saint of pencil necks and poindexters. The simple answer would probably be to ditch the formalwear pieces for a nondescript T-shirt and jeans, but that’s not me. I like to dress up. There is a projection outward and inward. But my erring on the side of the silly is getting out of hand and perhaps still getting me nowhere. If the button I picked up at Active Minds is to be believed I am supposed to be a “#stigmafighter,” whatever that means.
Threat assessment for unstable personalities and future perpetrators of violence pretends to be an exact science, but it really isn’t even close. The end result is usually a broad reaching-out of support resources for all like the Emory Helpline (the right way) and the singling out of the guy in black wearing sunglasses indoors because he’s clearly of a different mindset (the wrong way). This is why the Aspie needs to wear the outrageous sweater, and fast. And lose the sunglasses, no matter how exponentially it hurts your social game. It’s surface judgment, and it cuts both ways.
Because it’s not just my ties and slacks I worry about, either, anymore; it’s other people’s, too. I find myself constantly in a state of Terminator-like vision, scanning and breaking down every outfit I see into baseline research for how not to look like a potential school shooter. That and judging people. I’ve been judging people a lot; who’s smart or not, who’s cultured or not, who’s mature or not, as if such things could even be quantified externally. But to be honest, I shouldn’t be surprised at that; my entire scheme depends on people judging other people by their clothing, and one can only attempt to reverse engineer that process for so long before succumbing to its elitist itemization oneself.
This obsession is unhealthy. I still wear one of my long coats sometimes as an overcoat in cold weather, but only if I’ve got something cheerful or colorful to balance it out. The pink shirt, perhaps. Or that colorful vest that makes me so happy when I put it on and so depressed when I “have to” wear it to class. But until our society gets to a more knowledgeable and understanding place about mental health, people like me just have to play the clown. I pray we won’t have to wait long.
Sam Ready is a College sophomore from Atlanta, Georgia.
By Alyssa Weinstein and Nate Silverblatt
We are lucky.
Attending a university that spearheads inclusion, community and innovation is not always commonplace. Despite its shortcomings, Emory is close to being a diamond in the rough. With its precedent for high moral standards in the academic community, Emory parallels another entity in the world: Israel.
Both places instill the same values, although others may not. While these two communities are not normally associated together, they have more similarities than one might think. And while tragedies occur in both places, bloodshed and war are never fully justified. We should, however, realize that Israel truly earns the right to be regarded as just.
Two weeks ago, we, the Emory-Israel Public Affairs Committee (EIPAC), were proud to have nearly one hundred students approach our table at Wonderful Wednesday to share their reasons for loving Israel. We gave out Israeli chocolate bars, distributed Israel-themed apparel and discussed the accomplishments of the only Jewish state in the world. This event was not designed to be political or to create a dialogue on the Israel-Palestine conflicts, as many of our other events are designed to do. Rather, we wanted to highlight the successes of a country that is smaller than the size of New Jersey, surrounded by enemies and under constant threat — yet it is still able to boast accomplishments like having the highest ratio of university degrees per capita in the world.
Then why is EIPAC under scrutiny for asking students why they love Israel, and nothing more? Why can’t students, Jewish and non-Jewish, celebrate all the accomplishments Israel has achieved in the name of peace? Acknowledging the good a country does unto others in no way negates the fact that this country is far from perfect. So, when we read the editorial, “Emory Community Should Question Israel,” written by College senior Anusha Ravi and College junior Ben Crais, we were upset for several reasons.
First, their article, which attacks our event on the basis that “the event ignores many of the nuances present in the Israel-Palestine conflict and minimizes the struggles of Palestinians living in the occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza,” reflects an inherent bias and double standard often conflated against Israel. During the United States’ Fourth of July celebrations, we don’t see opinion pieces in The Emory Wheel that we are minimizing the struggles of Native Americans. If this were an “Ask Me Why I Love France” event, there would not be protests that the event was ignoring the plight of Jews throughout that country.
The Israel we love is a complex country; there is a difference between having national pride for a country and having blind approval of a country’s government and policies. Instead, the criticism of our event is derived from the constant questioning of Israel’s legitimacy. No other country in the world is asked to give back land won in defensive wars, just as only victims of terrorist attacks in Israel are reported in the context of Israeli provocation.
Second, the piece minimizes the accomplishments of Israel and attributes its success to the plight of Palestinians. It claims that “these perceived ‘successes,’ and most of Israel’s successes as a nation since 1948, are derivative from its oppression and systematic displacement of Palestinians and contingent upon treating Palestinians like second-class citizens … ” This is not only untrue, but also a blatant attempt to discredit the remarkable triumphs of a country; its existence is a feat of its own. When looking at Israel’s accomplishments, it is easy to see that this argument is an oversimplification of a complex conflict.
This tiny piece of land in the war-torn Middle East strives to help others on a daily basis. No less than a decade after its creation, the State of Israel was helping other countries thrive. For example, it taught the citizens of Ghana better irrigation techniques and water development methods; many other African countries soon reaped the benefits of these efforts as well. Israel is not afraid to assist others, regardless of the consequences.
These efforts include needed medical treatment for a relative of one of the Hamas’ top leaders — a leader in same organization that calls for Israel’s destruction in its charter. Israel’s medical assistance reaches not only the leaders of Hamas, but also the Palestinian people. Under the Palestinian Authority, health care is extremely expensive and difficult to receive. However, at one of the leading Israeli hospitals, 30 percent of the children treated are Palestinian.
Israel not only assists citizens in other countries, but simultaneously cares about its own civilians with the same passion; it is also the only country in the Middle East that allows all religious groups to practice freely. These achievements happened because of the hard working, innovative people in Israel, not because of security measures taken against Palestinians.
And third, the article is intrinsically hypocritical. It states that, “In order to comply with Emory’s commitment to ethical engagement, it is important to address all sides of an issue — especially one as politically charged and ethically pressing as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Despite the fact that the event was not geared towards engaging in the conflict or its politics, the authors themselves did not live up to this commitment in their omission of several key facts. In the discussion of the summer 2014 war in Gaza, they describe how “Israel bombed multiple UN-operated buildings, including a school that was filled with refugees.”
However, there is no mention of the UN’s three separate discoveries of Hamas weapons caches in its schools. There is no mention of the Hamas policy of shooting rockets from residential areas, schools and hospitals to maximize civilian casualties at the expense of Israel’s image.
And there is no mention of the disputed and possibly inflated number of casualties from the war, with the difficulties of differentiating between militants and civilians. The difference in casualties between the Israelis and the Palestinians this summer was not a result of Israeli aggression, but of Hamas’ disdain for human life and Israel’s priority for defense.
When we host events to promote dialogue and engage in the politics of the conflict, we ensure that all the facts are presented and all viewpoints can be addressed. And when we write articles, we also must ensure that both sides of the conflict are reflected.
Israel is doing what every community should do: overcome negativity by moving forward and helping others. Let us acknowledge the good in a country that may not always make the right choice, but often rises to the highest possible moral standard. Events like “Ask Me Why” at Wonderful Wednesday are designed to reinforce the patriotism many students feel about Israel, without the polarization found at the usual political events. Israel may not be a diamond, but the valiant and selfless acts of this country are the purest of form.
Alyssa Weinstein is a College junior from Short Hills, New Jersey. Nate Silverblatt is a College freshman from Sugar Land, Texas.
By Erik Alexander
Assistant Editorial Editor
Here I am, a college student reviewing my semester at four a.m. Overall, the semester’s been a pretty bland one. I did decide to change my major from economics to history. An enormous amount of introspection and second-guessing went into making this decision. I think it is fair to say that this has been the defining moment of my semester, and possibly my whole undergraduate career, because it taught me that the most obvious answer is not necessarily the most practical one.
My initial decision to declare my major in economics seemed obvious enough at the time. I was, and still am, fascinated by how frequently Keynesian economics, which calls for public spending in times of recession and monetary contraction in times of inflation, is tossed aside in favor of supply-side economics with all its unsubstantiated trickle-down mumbo jumbo and deficit-hawkery. I figured that by learning the history of economic policymaking from the dawn of modern capitalism to the present I could better understand why this is the case. I was wrong to believe that being an economics major was the best way to acquire this knowledge.
To put it simply, I find economics courses above the introductory level very boring. Right now I am on track to fail the only economics course that I am enrolled in this semester, a result of sheer disinterest in the material. The likelihood of this happening brings with it a sense of impending doom, one that I cannot escape.
Reality is not a desktop computer that can be shut down at your leisure. Performing poorly in a course you are taking to satisfy a major requirement should concern you. Thus as I came to terms with the likelihood of my failing this course, I was forced to reconsider my commitment to studying economics. I still intend to learn about the history of economic policymaking, and a history major affords me this opportunity.
“I’ll at least keep economics as my minor,” I initially figured. I so desperately wanted to salvage what I thought was a necessary component in learning about the history of economic policymaking. But were I to do so, I would have been subjecting myself to the same problem I faced as an economics major, just on a smaller scale. So I searched for a minor that would complement my new major and my focus on economic policymaking. I settled on philosophy because sitting in philosophy courses tends to sharpen my mind. My philosophy of science course, for example, has activated two epiphanies in my brain, both of which have made me more confident in my new major.
The first epiphany was sparked after reading contemporary philosopher Helen Longino’s article “Values and Objectivity” in which she emphasizes the social nature of scientific inquiry. I had always been naïve in my view of science as above politics, exempt from the imposition of subjective ideas by those who have the most clout. Even worse, I considered economics to be something more than a dismal science, a misunderstood lamb that tried too hard to be accepted by the rest of the flock. It turns out I was wrong on both accounts. Science is politics, and economics is not even science.
The second epiphany came about after reading Karl Popper’s criticism of logical positivism. The logical positivists asserted that the determination of what counts as science, otherwise known as demarcation, ought to revolve around the verifiability of the theory in question. What they mean is that a theory should only be regarded as scientific if it has the capacity to be proven true or false.
Popper critiques the positivists’ notion that any theory can ever be verified with absolute certainty and offers a new demarcation criterion known as falsifiability. While we can never be certain of a theory’s truth, we can be certain that certain theories are false. We gain knowledge when we falsify a theory, not when we verify it, is Popper’s argument in a nutshell.
As soon as I managed to grasp Popper’s critique of verifiability as a demarcation criterion, I realized another value in changing my major to history. Science is not verifiable, but history more or less actually is. While scientific posits can never be proven true, historical events can be verified as having occurred through primary sources. Thus I now take enormous comfort in my major switch on the basis that I will be acquiring objective knowledge to a degree unattainable by even the most universally accepted scientific theories.
This all goes to say that sometimes the most daunting of realities can be overcome through deep introspection. I may still fail this economics class, but now that it is no longer my major, I can sleep more easily at night, hopefully. My new major will allow me to continue chasing my goal of learning the history of economic policymaking despite my being a poor economics student. My new minor will generate within me ideas that progress my understanding of both myself and the world in general.
Assistant Editorials Editor Erik Alexander is a College junior from Alpharetta, Georgia.
By Edmund Xu
There is no mistaking it: earlier this month, the Democratic Party and its candidates were electorally annihilated all over the country, up and down the ballot. The nation saw a red tsunami sweep through most of the country, from the Governor’s mansion in deep blue Massachusetts, through red Kansas and its unpopular incumbents, all the way to purple Alaska and its competitive Senate seat.
The GOP captured the Senate by gaining an impressive eight seats (possibly nine, pending a run-off in Louisiana) and is one member short of matching their post-World War II record high in the House of Representatives of 246 seats out of 435. On the state level, it didn’t matter if a state was normally red or blue. If a race was seriously contested, the Republican almost always won. That is how the Republican Party won control or continue to hold the Governor’s office in blue states such as Illinois, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Maryland, as well as state legislatures in states such as Nevada and Pennsylvania. Beginning with next year, the GOP dominance in the U.S. Congress and statehouses will have reached dizzying heights.
But politics never rests. It is now time to look forward to 2016. The question everyone is asking is: how can the Republican Party win during presidential turnout levels? Based on the results of the elections earlier this month, it may seem that Republicans have an overwhelming mandate to govern and are certain to clinch 2016. It’s not that simple.
One important result of this year’s results that has barely been discussed by the media is the overwhelming victory of progressive ballot initiatives across the country. “Personhood” amendments, which would have defined an unborn child as a “living person” in relevant wrongful death and criminal statutes (and effectively criminalize abortion), failed in two states that elected Republican senators this year — North Dakota and Colorado. Four other red states — Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — passed minimum wage increases. Additionally, Alaska and Oregon passed measures allowing for the recreational use of marijuana, Washington state voted to expand background checks on gun purchases and California voters chose to water down the state’s tough-on-crime laws. Across the country, voters chose to increase taxes to pay for expanding public transit infrastructure, from San Francisco to Arlington, from Detroit to even in Atlanta. These were all issues championed by unions, progressive activists, environmentalists and allied groups of the Democratic Party. On the other hand, Republicans were mute on issues like same-sex marriage and gun control.
Voters chose the Republican Party to govern the country out of the dysfunction we’ve experienced for the past few years. I believe that unless the GOP acts on this mandate appropriately, 2014 will be a short-term victory the same way 2010 was a short-term victory for them before Obama was spectacularly re-elected into office two years later. The GOP’s prospects two years from now will be very dim unless they can prove that they can govern smartly, reject dogmatism and dramatically hew to the political center.
First of all, the math shows that 2016 will be a difficult year for Republicans. This year, only 36.4 percent of eligible voters turned out to vote, the lowest in 70 years. With the excitement of a presidential election at the top of the ticket, turnout in 2016 will be far higher. Younger voters and racial minorities, a demographic that has always leaned Democratic, will turn out in greater numbers. Voting suppression efforts underway in Republican-led states, such as creating stringent voter ID requirements or closing urban voting precincts, have the practical effect of making the voting process confusing and difficult for enough to dissuade people from going to the polls. The impact of these laws lie squarely on the shoulders of racial minority groups and college students who do not have the proper ID or the means to get one, or the time to waste waiting in line to vote.
Whether or not this practice is legal, it is at best a short-term victory for the Republican Party. The Democrats will soon get their act together and make sure their base understands the Byzantine process in order to get a ballot in these states. In the meantime, the long-term effect is that voters will never forget which party tried to stop them from voting.
Additionally, the GOP faces in 2016 what Republican Chris Ladd calls the “blue wall.” This wall consists of states that have voted for a Democratic candidate in every election since 1992, plus Nevada, New Mexico and New Hampshire. These states collectively control 257 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, and no Republican can realistically hope to win them in 2016. Democrats have such a lock here that every single Democrat won their respective Senate races in “blue wall” states this Republican wave year. Any Democrat starts out with only 13 electoral votes left to victory.
The 2016 math for the U.S. Senate races is even worse for the Republicans, if that’s even possible. Senate races are up every six years, so 2016’s class of senators are the same who survived the Democratic wipeout in 2010. If a Democrat could win that year, then they are virtually invincible in a presidential election year. The only remotely competitive Democratic-held seat is in Colorado. On the other hand, Republican victories in blue states in 2010 are coming around to bite them: GOP-held seats in eight seats are potentially competitive. More could become competitive if Republican incumbents choose to retire in states like Arizona or Kentucky. On the surface, it looks like the incoming Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has only been given a two-year loan in his new office.
In the aftermath of the election this year, NBC and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) interviewed the electorate to capture an understanding of what America’s expectations and priorities for the new Congress are. The top five most important issues were student loans, infrastructure spending, raising the minimum wage, funding to fight Ebola and climate change and reducing carbon emissions.
What I see in the 2014 Republican wave election is a mandate from the voters for the Republicans to govern maturely and responsibly, for the issues they care about. Instead, I see Republicans interpreting the election results as a mandate to push through controversial and radical conservative policies that do not sit well with the majority of America. So what are the priorities of the new Republican congress? First of all, I am afraid that they will continue wasting congressional resources on sham hearings where they screech and whine about the made-up ‘scandals.’ Additionally, I fear that no executive appointment that President Obama makes will pass the Senate, leaving our government increasingly crippled. We do not have a Surgeon General, for example, to lead America’s efforts in fighting Ebola because the Republicans refuse to allow a vote on Obama’s nominee. Obstruction is the game here.
In terms of their productive efforts, I believe that one of the first bills to be passed will be a repeal of Obamacare. This is a pointless exercise because Obama will surely veto any blanket repeal. Problematically for the GOP, this proposal is third-to-last place in terms of support among all of the policies that NBC/WSJ interviewed McConnell about.
Republicans will no doubt continue to try any method of thwarting Obama’s executive action on immigration. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has already threatened to turn back any Obama appointment for Attorney General over this issue, leaving the country without its top attorney and legal advisor. Opposition to this executive action will not be popular among Hispanics, whom the Republicans critically need in order to expand their tent.
Republicans have also continued to foolishly deny the science behind climate change. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is slated to chair the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee in the next Congress. Inhofe is one of the Senate’s most vocal virulent climate change deniers and a champion of the environmental disaster known as fracking.
Indeed, congressional Republicans’ plans for the next two years consist of more of the same: obstruction, negativity and continued intransigence. But in order to win the White House and maintain their grip on the U.S. Senate in 2016, Republicans must reshape their agenda to reflect a positive and productive outlook. They must be specific in their policy points and avoid the tempting short-term rewards that come from endlessly pursuing a policy based solely around opposition to the President.
This year’s electorate presented the Republican Party with a chance to lead. They must take this mandate and pursue a path forward by making tough decisions, tackling challenging questions and providing real solutions for real problems. Wealth inequality is skyrocketing and the middle class is being economically squeezed. Students are finding that the decision of whether or not to go to college is a question between lifelong debt or unemployment. Beyond our borders, we are facing a crisis of trust among our allies and rising anti-American sentiment among others. And the world must work together to solve the problem of climate change and rising seas if we are to share our beautiful planet with our grandchildren.
Instead, the Republicans have eschewed compromise in order to pursue Benghazi. Don’t they know that Obama can no longer be their scapegoat? They are in the leadership now, and voters will assess their performance come 2016.
The conservative base may like it when the Republicans antagonize Obama. But America would like it if they did what we voted for them to do: get things done.
Edmund Xu is a College senior from Los Altos, California.
Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders
Eating disorders affect up to 24 million Americans. To put that number into perspective, that’s more than the entire population of the state of New York. More concerning is the fact that only one in 10 seeks treatment, which means that the majority of those 24 million people are suffering in silence. But there’s something you can do to help.
In 2013, Representative Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) introduced the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders (FREED) Act of 2013. If passed, this legislation would provide funding for gaps in eating disorder research, improve training for school and health professionals to better identify and treat those with eating disorders and would increase health insurance access to treatment.
One of the research gaps to be addressed would be a better idea of the actual prevalence, incidence and mortality rate of eating disorders in the United States. To date, if you viewed five reports on eating disorders in America, you would have read five different sets of figures. As all public health professionals know, the first step in addressing a problem is to have proper baseline surveillance figures.
The second goal of the FREED Act is to improve education and prevention initiatives. One of the main priorities of this goal is to target school and health professionals who regularly interact with the age group that is most at risk for developing unhealthy eating behaviors that can lead to eating disorders. The FREED Act wants these professionals to be able to confidently identify students who are exhibiting warning signs of unhealthy behaviors, as early diagnosis and treatment significantly improves the chances of recovery.
Another aspect of the second goal is to include eating disorder awareness in the preexisting national obesity initiatives. Compulsive overeating, which can lead to obesity, is in the spectrum of disordered eating. Therefore, federal research that has already been funded into lowering the rates of obesity should also include research into eating disorders. Current federal initiatives to treat America’s obesity epidemic have a wide reach, and if eating disorder education can be included in those programs, more people can learn about these issues that affect so many. For instance, if First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” program were to also address eating disorders along with childhood obesity, millions of school-age children and their parents and teachers would be reached.
The third and final goal of the FREED Act is to help improve the health insurance coverage for eating disorder treatment. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, yet health insurance companies routinely deny coverage for long-term treatment. The FREED Act would require health insurance companies (and Medicaid) to treat eating disorder treatment as equal to that of physical illness. Adequate treatment is essential to eating disorder recovery, but because of the gap in insurance coverage, many people find that they cannot afford the treatment that they need to get healthy.
If you’re still not convinced why you should support the passage of the FREED Act, think about all the people you’ve ever known and cared for in your life. And if you think that you don’t know anyone who has ever attempted to control his or her weight through unhealthy means, you’re wrong.
Just because someone has never been diagnosed with a full-fledged eating disorder doesn’t mean that they haven’t felt pressure to lose weight, no matter the cost to their health. And just because someone isn’t clearly underweight doesn’t mean that they don’t have an eating disorder (conversely, just because someone is underweight doesn’t mean that they have an eating disorder). The majority of people with bulimia, people who eat large amounts of food and then purge it from their system through either laxatives or vomiting, have a normal, if not high, body mass index (BMI). The problem with eating disorders is that so many sufferers are able to hide in plain sight, because they’re either too afraid to be stigmatized by society, they don’t know how to seek help or they can’t afford the treatment they need.
If you’ve decided that you’d like to help pass the FREED Act, you can make a difference by writing a letter to your local representative. The website for the Eating Disorder Coalition, an advocacy organization for eating disorders, has templates that people can use. Alternatively, people can write their own letters if they’d like to express a more personal appeal. Today, 24 million might suffer from eating disorders, but together we can help lower that number.
Caroline Pilewski is a second-year at the Rollins School of Public Health from Marietta, Georgia.
Last Wednesday, the European Space Agency landed the Philae, an unmanned lander, onto a passing comet nucleus, the first achievement of its kind and a momentous event in the history of human space exploration. The project took approximately 11 years of preparation, and the lander’s journey through space took another 10 more years. It is an achievement made only possible by the joint efforts of the men and women who have devoted their lives to their respective fields, a truly remarkable feat that speaks volumes to humanity’s everlasting reach and its ability to shoot for the stars.
Maybe you weren’t aware of any of those details. I wasn’t either until I decided to research for this article. Rather, more likely than not, you’ve probably heard about this awe-inspiring occasion through the puzzling context of one particular t-shirt.
During the live-stream broadcast of the landing, Dr. Matt Taylor, the project scientist, wore what can only be described as a Hawaiian-style t-shirt covered with depictions of scantily-clad women wielding large guns in true comic style form. The internet was immediately set ablaze, with protests and criticisms directed at the rather cartoonish shirt. Many deemed his attire as sexist and misogynistic, and the public backlash was so intense that the next day Taylor gave a tearful apology.
Reasons for why the act of wearing that shirt was sexist range from its objectifying portrayal of women to arguments that it was an example of how uninvited women are in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). While I have my own personal opinions on this matter, I shall leave it to people far more qualified than I am to hash out the details in this very heated debate. Indeed, it appears that while initial reaction was strongly negative, in the days to come, numerous supporters have cropped up everywhere to voice their support, from op-ed pieces on Time and the Telegraph to a Facebook page dedicated to the now infamous shirt. There’s even an Indiegogo page gathering donations to send gifts to Taylor and his team in response to the negative backlash, and in its first three days, it managed to surpass its original goal of $3,000 by over 600 percent (and counting). Obviously, opinions vary wildly.
It is true that there is a disproportionate amount of women working in STEM fields. Also true is the fact that women are constantly on the backend of criticism and harassment in the workplace. And while these concerns should by no means be trivialized, I cannot help but wonder if such an outrage over a stupid shirt could also be generated over other far more serious crimes of gender discrimination.
Because at the end of the day, whether you like it or not, Taylor’s shirt is just a shirt (never mind the fact that the shirt was also a gift from one of his friends, a female designer). When was the last time you saw such immediate and public anger against the practice of child brides in Mali, or discrimination of education against girls in Afghanistan? How about the criminally underreported rape cases in India or the forced abortions of female fetuses in China?
Yet, a cursory glance at trending topics reveal that none of these are making headlines, or at least headlines as big and as controversial as the ones Taylor’s shirt seems to be generating. Why is that? Taylor’s shirt isn’t even the cause of gender-based discrimination in STEM fields. At its worst, it is a very small symptom of a far larger and systematic problem, one that Taylor probably unwittingly played a part in. And yet again, discussions on the actual reasons as to why women don’t go into STEM fields are rare. Instead, we as a public would much rather point fingers at a hapless man who made an innocent mistake than actually address these issues. This disappoints me.
I am not saying that we shouldn’t criticize what we believe is wrong. Far from it. If you truly believe that Taylor’s shirt is misogynistic, then by all means voice your opinion. That’s the beauty of living in America. But please, for the sake of women everywhere, don’t just stop at his shirt. Talk about finding solutions as to how we as a nation should encourage our future generations of women to get into science. Discuss the root causes as to why such discrimination occurs in the first place. Don’t just sit there in front of your laptop and lambast an innocent man who never should have been made into the face of injustice. And finally, if his shirt is really enough to cause such an outrage in your heart, then please also find in it an outrage for the other injustices out there.
One more thing: remember that we just sent a probe more than 300 million miles away into space and placed a lander onto the body of a speeding comet. Now go back, and read that last line again, and this time actually think about that. Such an achievement could not have been done without the brilliant men and women working tirelessly to further our knowledge of the universe. And while it is important to become passionately furious over the wrongs in the world, there’s also something to be said in taking a moment to celebrate what we’ve accomplished so far.
— Eugene Ahn is a College senior from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault
This summer I discovered almond milk.
I suppose I’d already found it, in the sense that I knew it existed, but a roommate that invariably brought the stuff back on her weekly grocery runs piqued my curiosity.
“Only 30 calories!” the labels claimed. I furrowed my brow.
When I buy food I calculate the total number of calories divided by the price, always trying to maximize the calories per dollar ratio. Growing up in Uzbekistan, I had neighbors with more kids than potatoes to feed them with. The fact that a company might have the audacity to advertise its product as basically water put me in a ponderous state of mind.
I realized something this summer. We – Americans, westerners, whatever you want to call us – do food backwards. We do food selfishly. We are all about the latest diet, staying slim, eating great-tasting food that’s not too fattening. The center of attention is our own bodies and how the food will affect us, and our gaze rarely widens enough to encompass the web of production we enter through consumption.
Working on a Mennonite farm over the summer exposed me to Anabaptist theology (think Amish). The premise is simple: you are responsible for your every action; moreover, you are responsible for the full effect of your every action. One reason the Amish live in separated communities involves keeping the full chain of cause and effect confined within their colonies. If they tap into the local power lines, they find themselves responsible for the coal burnt in power generators, the coal’s extraction and production, including the machines involved and their sources in turn, the workers and their plight, the environmental effects, and so on. Instead of facing this mess of effect and consequence, then, they are able to avoid it.
I maintain that the Anabaptist outlook on life is less abstractly theological than plain common sense.
When I buy meat at the local grocery store, my action is more complicated than one might first suspect. I am not merely responsible for supporting the store and the brand of meat. I have been implicated in a chain of production with unfathomably deep roots. I am suddenly responsible for an animal’s untimely and likely violent demise. I am likewise perpetuating the production of grain to continue feeding that animal’s kin, in turn exacerbating the destruction of South American rain forests leveled to keep up the demand.
The fact is, while there are those who still go to bed hungry in this country, we grow enough grain to feed the U.S. population over two times over – and feed it to our livestock. The amount of water and energy expended into bovine products is lavish to say the least. It’s simple biology: trophic levels. Imagine sitting down a meal of corn. You pile your plate high and gorge yourself. No matter how stuffed you are at the end of your meal, you’ll be hungry again in a few hours. Now think of a cow. He eats corn too. He’s a huge and hungry animal, and needs several times more than you do. He eats this much corn for years, until he’s finally fat enough for the slaughter. Now you sit down to a juicy steak dinner. But you’re not eating an eight or twelve ounce hunk of cow; you’re consuming the mountain of corn that it took to feed that cow over a lifetime – except for you its just one meal.
That’s an optimistic picture, if you can believe it. Many farms feed their cows expired candy. It induces diabetes, making the cows sick and obese – their meat tenderer.
And that’s just the animals. Thousands of immigrant workers pick fruits and vegetables for pennies. Many of the female laborers have been raped, threatened with losing their job if they did not comply. Dangerous pesticides and a lack of protection wreak havoc on their bodies. The hours are long and the pay is paltry. The story is not too different for the meat and other industries, all to ensure that the Jr. Whopper stays on the Dollar Menu.
The tragedy is not even so much the foods’ production, but the fact that Americans end up throwing out 40 percent of this questionably obtained sustenance, while millions starve worldwide – and indeed, in the United States itself, where one in six are said to struggle to get enough to eat. Just sit and watch the DUC disposal belt, where trays of uneaten hamburgers, whole sandwiches and uneaten fruit are chucked without a second thought.
It’s one thing if you raise a chicken with table scraps and eat it for Thanksgiving. It’s another thing if you take someone else’s cow, grown at unimaginable expense, and throw it in the garbage.
Simply put, we have lost the glory of the medieval worldview, the worldview still maintained in many non-Western cultures. Somewhere along the line, humanism and homo mensura (or “man as the measure”) eclipsed a more cosmic perspective on life, a vision of community that is more than the sum of its parts. Individualism triumphed at the expense of communities.
In our bodies, our cells undergo programmed death in the advent of mutations that could lead to cancer, an unflinching sacrifice for the good of its integrating organism. Our culture, however, has become myopic, losing sight of the ecological whole, forgetting that our purpose concerns not only ourselves, but ultimately our species and our world. We are small piece of the machine, a fleeting breathe of wind in a global weather pattern, far, far from the eye and epicenter of it all.
— Jonathan Warkentine is a College junior from Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Take a walk around Emory’s campus on a typical day, and you’ll find many signs of a community that values sustainability, and in particular, sustainable food. You might stroll through the Emory Farmers Market on a Tuesday, see placards indicating Georgia-grown vegetables in the Dobbs University Center (DUC) salad bar or stop to admire the ripening tomatoes in one of Emory’s Educational Gardens. All of these sights point to Emory’s commitment to sustainability, or meeting our current social, economic and environmental needs in a way that preserves the future generations’ ability to meet their own needs. One of the main ways that Emory addresses this challenge is through sustainable food. While sustainability in regards to our food choices is a critically important issue, it often overshadows another, equally vital issue: food security. Too often, food security receives little attention on campus, and when it is discussed, it is framed as separate from sustainability. However, sustainable food and food security are in fact inextricably linked, and if the Emory community wants to be a leader in sustainability, we must learn to view these social justice issues as two sides of the same coin and address them as such.
Of course, sustainable food as it is usually framed at Emory is undeniably important. The choices we make regarding what we eat, where it’s produced and how it’s prepared are intimately linked to sustainability. Countless resources, from water for grains and antibiotics for cattle to plastic for packaging and oil for transportation, go into our food. This means that the production, transportation and preparation of food have enormous environmental impacts. In many cases, large-scale agricultural operations contribute to water pollution, habitat loss, carbon emissions, erosion and a host of other environmental problems.
However, fundamentally unsustainable food systems are not the only option. The sustainable food movement, which has gained significant traction at Emory, addresses the challenge of ensuring the availability of sufficient nutritious food while avoiding the negative environmental impacts of its production. As defined by Congress in the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990, also known as the Farm Bill, sustainable food satisfies human nutritional needs, preserves environmental quality, uses resources efficiently, supports farm viability and improves quality of life for the broader society. Recently, Emory made a commitment to sustainable food, aiming to serve 75 percent locally or sustainably produced food on campus by next year.
However, Emory’s laudable commitment to sustainable food ignores food security. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food security as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Food security is by no means a reality in the U.S.; the USDA reports that over 23 million Americans live in food deserts, which are areas lacking reliable access to fresh, healthful, low-cost food. Poverty, outdated transportation networks and the absence of supermarkets and groceries in low-income neighborhoods all contribute to food insecurity. In Atlanta, many neighborhoods are classified by the USDA as food deserts; by one estimate, approximately 30 percent of Fulton County residents live in a food desert.
These two issues, sustainable food and food security, are inextricably linked. If people have access to food that both satisfies their caloric needs but is yet over-processed, nutrient-poor and environmentally destructive, is it truly enough for “an active, healthy life?” If a food system, though organic and local, leaves some community members hungry, is it really sustainable?
A holistic view of food insecurity and sustainable food suggests that in both cases, the answer is no. The USDA’s definition of food security and the Farm Bill description of sustainable food clearly indicate that a steady supply of food does not necessarily equate to food security or sustainability. If the only food available does not satisfy human nutritional needs, it does not enable people to enjoy “active, healthy” lives and therefore is neither secure nor sustainable. In the same way, even if food is nutritious, organic and locally grown, if it is unavailable to many community members, it fails to improve the quality of life for the broader society and as such is by definition neither sustainable nor part of a secure food system. Additionally, a more in-depth examination of both concepts leads to the conclusion that agricultural systems which pollute water and air and contribute to climate change and destroy habitats, impede communities’ abilities to thrive, and thus compromise the active, healthy lifestyles that are essential to the definition of food security. Similarly, monocultures, which produce massive quantities of inexpensive food but are vulnerable to crop failures as a result of plant homogeneity, cannot be deemed secure nor sustainable, as they are liable to collapse at any point, leaving millions of people hungry.
Clearly, food access and sustainability cannot be tackled separately. Often, food insecurity is assumed to be simply a lack of food, which could be remedied through production of greater quantities of less expensive food. Similarly, when unsustainable food systems are viewed as an isolated problem, it would appear that the answer lies merely in scaling down agricultural operations, eating local and adopting organic methods. However, these solutions ignore the essential link between food security and sustainability. We must recognize that truly sustainable food security is achieved only when all people have reliable access to sufficient nutritious food which is produced in such a way that preserves environmental quality and is resilient to change. In other words, if we as a society want to achieve sustainable food security, our goal must be to provide the greatest quantity of nutritious food to the greatest number of people in the most environmentally responsible way possible.
At Emory, the conversation about sustainable food often lacks this connection to food access. Fortunately, there are many organizations in Atlanta working towards sustainable food security from whom we can learn. A step toward the union of food security and sustainability can take numerous forms. It can look like an old parking lot transformed into an urban garden, an after-school program that teaches children the importance of healthy eating or a restaurant that purchases its produce from local, independent farms. For instance, organizations such as Truly Living Well and the Atlanta Community Food Bank recognize the essential link between sustainability and food security and use urban agriculture not only to provide community members with fresh fruits and vegetables, but also to educate and empower them. Similarly, partnerships between local farms and restaurants, like that of Gaia Gardens and Farm Burger, both reduce the environmental impact of food production and transportation and ensure that urban agriculture remains viable in Atlanta, thereby helping more citizens access fresh, healthful food. When such organizations take a holistic view of sustainable food as fundamentally linked to food security, they can help create thriving communities and ecosystems.
At Emory, there are a variety of opportunities to engage these two social justice issues together. Emory’s Urban Health Initiative, for instance, works to “empower the community through sustainability initiatives,” including urban agriculture. Volunteer Emory offers weekly service trips with several community gardens and recently hosted a Social Justice Dialogue titled “Dine & Dialogue: Food in the City,” addressing the intersections of urban food access and sustainability. Campus Kitchens works to repurpose leftovers from Emory Dining for use in Atlanta food pantries. There’s also the Food Advisory Committee Emory (FACE), which fosters dialogue for students on ways Emory Dining can improve its quality and better meet the needs of students.
Clearly, there is important work on the intersection of food security and sustainability being done at Emory. Placing more emphasis on the union of these two topics in Emory’s conversation on sustainable food, however, can enable us as a community to think critically about what it takes to address both of these problems and what Emory uniquely has to offer. If the Emory community wants to remain a leader in campus sustainability, this is what we must do. Only when we adopt a holistic view of food security and sustainable food as fundamentally interrelated issues of social and environmental justice can we create truly sustainable, equitable solutions.
— Laila Atalla is a College junior from Placentia, California. Jacob Teich is a Goizueta Business School sophomore from New Albany, Ohio.