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Elika Roohi

Why Feminism in Teen Shows Today Matters

This is not a story highlighting the difference between real life and TV. This is not even a story lamenting the shallow subject matters of teen shows.

That story is well-worn and also complex. Getting into why chick flicks, teen shows and soap operas get a bad rap would require a lengthy exploration of patriarchal influence on what’s considered worthy of our time.

And for that matter, I’ve always loved teen shows. Going back to the days of recording Degrassi and Gossip Girl on the DVR, I loved the storylines about navigating growing up and finding love. They were engrossing and dramatic, and I was always hooked.

But before we move on, it bears mentioning that growing up and finding love is pretty much all these shows covered. Barely passing the Bechdel test, the popular teen series of my adolescence glamorized sex while leaving out some of the tragic realities that come with being a sexually active 16-year-old—abortion, sexual assault, rape and sexually transmitted diseases. They glossed over current events and how they might affect the characters, and they definitely didn’t portray their characters as advocates for causes they might care about.

That’s all changing now.

Fierce feminist characters

Riverdale, the CW drama loosely based on the central cast of the Archie comics, began airing in 2017. Similar to Pretty Little Liars (2010-2017), which followed a group of four girls trying to unravel the mystery of their friend who went missing, Riverdale homes in on the violence inflicted on high-school students by their peers.

Yet unlike Pretty Little Liars—which, among so, so many other things, depicts a relationship between an underage student and her teacher—Riverdale shows main characters Veronica (Camila Mendes) and Betty (Lili Reinhart) begin a crusade against slut-shaming in the third episode when they discover that Riverdale High’s football team keeps a record book of alleged hookups.

“We’re objects for them to abuse,” Betty says. “And when they’re done with us, they shame us into silence.” She spits out her lines, calling the book “dehumanizing.” By writing this in dialogue, rather than as subtext, the show’s writers turned the vague, simmering rage of so many silent teen girls into a rallying cry.

This might just be anecdotal, but it feels revolutionary to have teen stars standing up for themselves in this way on TV.

And it’s not just confined to Riverdale (which, yes, is violent, dark and not free of problems). Shows like The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix), Jane the Virgin (CW), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW) and GLOW (Netflix) also are putting a feminist ethos decidedly to work in their storylines. And if you’re feeling nostalgic but can’t get through old episodes of your favorite shows without yelling “Comeon!” at the characters, the reboots of Gilmore Girls and Degrassi are both updated for 2019’s charged climate and increased consciousness.

Why this matters

Sexual assault didn’t just start when #metoo started trending. American culture tends to bury its ugly sides, until there’s too much of it under the surface and it spills out.

Back when Pretty Little Liars aired, there were young women getting taken advantage of by older males in their lives who held positions of power. And without depictions of the damages of those relationships, seeking recourse for those women was just one more step out of reach.

Today, hopefully, just one more woman finds courage to call out abuse, inspired by Betty and Veronica on Riverdale.

Yes, it seems trivial. It’s a show about serial killers and drug rings. But stories matter because we find ourselves in them. And when we find ourselves in stories of youth standing up for what they believe in (even if the story is Riverdale), we become youth who can also take a stand.

See also: Harvard Dean Under Fire for Representing Harvey Weinstein

Mad About Maca: Health Benefits of Maca Powder

If you, like us, have most experimented with maca by ordering the occasional maca latte from your local independent coffee shop, then this article is for you.

Maca—different from the highly prized green tea matcha traditionally from Japan and China—is the powdered version of the maca root from the South America Andes. The superfood tastes earthy and (some say) like caramel.

Health benefits

Nutritionists say the maca provides major health benefits. “[Maca] may benefit our hormonal health by regulating the endocrine system—the collection of glands that produce hormones to regulate metabolism, growth, sexual function, reproduction, sleep and mood,” said performance dietitian Jessica Spendlove in HuffPost Australia.

A study published in the journal Pharmaceuticals tested the effects of daily maca consumption by 175 participations. At the end of the 12-week study, researchers concluded that maca positively affected the participants’ mood, energy and health status.

Now for the dubious claims

Maca is often credited with being a major libido-booster, but when you start to unravel that, there’s probably not a whole lot of truth to the claim.

Maca root’s ability to get you in the mood is more of a theory than something that has been confirmed through scientific research, said Dr. Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, FAND to Elite Daily.

So maybe don’t chug a maca latte before your next date.

How to incorporate it into your diet

Maca powder is incredibly versatile. Stir a serving into your morning coffee, add it to a smoothie, mix it into a stir fry or even put it in hot chocolate.

It can be frustrating to invest in a whole bag of a superfood without knowing if you’ll like the taste or if you’ll notice its health benefits. Some retailers sell individual packets of maca, which are smaller and less expensive. Not only will you be able to try out the ingredient for yourself without going home with a year’s worth of powder, but the single-serving pouches make this the perfect product to take on-the-go to work or the gym.

As with any dietary supplement, you might want to check in with your doctor before you commit to incorporating maca into your daily meals.

“If you take medications or have a medical condition, herbs are not something to just play with,” Dr. Ayoob said. “Some can have serious interactions with medication or in people with certain medical conditions.”

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Extracts from maca might act like estrogen.” As per the NIH, if you have any condition that could be made worse by extra estrogen exposure, you shouldn’t use maca without a doctor’s permission. People with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis or uterine fibroids should be extra cautious.

See also: Expert Tips on How to Breakup with Your Phone

Read These Poets for National Poetry Month

“It was an April morning: fresh and clear,” wrote William Wordsworth in 1815, perhaps not realizing that two centuries later, those words would mark not just the freshness of spring in April, but also National Poetry Month.

To us, celebrating the beginning of spring with its budding trees and blooming flowers with our favorite poets seems only too apt.

“The spirit of enjoyment and desire,/And hopes and wishes, from all living things/Went circling, like a multitude of sounds,” wrote Wordsworth once upon a time.

So, if like us, you’re looking for some literary inspiration this month, here are our favorite contemporary poets to read this National Poetry Month.

Sarah Kay

You might remember her from the incredible 2011 TED talk, or perhaps you came across her 2014 book, No Matter the Wreckage. Either way, Sarah Kay, founder of Project VOICE, has made a name for herself in the poetry world today. Kay tours the world, bringing poetry into classrooms, empowering kids to express themselves through words.

If you’re just getting into Kay’s work, start with Peacocks.

The line that gave us chills? “I’ve been searching for my favorite constellations everywhere, but I haven’t seen any yet. The spaces between stars are all different here, much wider.”

Anis Mojgani

Another master of the art of spoken word, Anis Mojgani is a half-Persian, half-black poet from Portland. Mojgani has authored five books, most recently In the Pockets of Small Gods. The two-time National Slam Poetry champion is perhaps best known for his poem Shake the Dust.

If you’re just getting into Mojgani’s work, we recommend For Those Who Can Still Ride An Airplane for the First Time.

The line that gave us chills? “I dream too much and I don’t write enough and I’m trying to find god everywhere.”

We also recommend following Mojgani on social media. His tweets and instas bring a little bit of joy an introspection into our feeds—something we all need more of these days.

Patricia Lockwood

Sometimes referred to as the poet laureate of Twitter, Patricia Lockwood rose to internet fame after her poem Rape Joke was published by the Awl in 2013. Since then, Penguin Books has published her second collection, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals.

If you’re just getting into Lockwood’s work, start with this excerpt from Rape Joke:

The rape joke is that you were 19 years old.
The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend.
The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee.
Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. “Ahhhh,” it thinks. “Yes. A goatee.”
No offense.
The rape joke is that he was seven years older. The rape joke is that you had known him for years, since you were too young to be interesting to him. You liked that use of the word interesting, as if you were a piece of knowledge that someone could be desperate to acquire, to assimilate, and to spit back out in different form through his goateed mouth.

Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur: the Instagram poet. Love her or hate her, it’s certain that you’ve stumbled across her work in the explore feed at some point.

Kaur is the author of two books, Milk and Honey (2014) and The Sun and Her Flowers (2017). She’s gone on a world-wide tour to promote her work, and on top of that, manages a flourishing social media presence where she regularly releases her work.

Just wading into Rupi Kaur’s poetry? Start here:

Screenshot courtesy of Rupi Kaur’s Instagram

Warsan Shire

British Somali poet Warsan Shire is another noteworthy contemporary poet, known to many as a compelling voice on black womanhood and the African diaspora. Her work has been featured everywhere from high-brow literary magazines to Lemonade, Beyoncé’s visual album.

Just starting with Shire? Begin with this excerpt from home, the poem featured on Lemonade:

“you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave”

Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith is the current poet laureate of the United States, a role no longer reserved for old white men. She has published four collections of poetry, one of which won a Pulitzer. Smith also produces a daily podcast called The Slowdown, to make contemporary poetry more accessible and offer a different way to see the world.

Just getting into Smith’s work? After subscribing to The Slowdown, we recommend starting with her poem My God, It’s Full of Stars. Here’s an excerpt:

Perhaps the great error is believing we’re alone,
That the others have come and gone—a momentary blip—
When all along, space might be choc-full of traffic,
Bursting at the seams with energy we neither feel
Nor see, flush against us, living, dying, deciding,
Setting solid feet down on planets everywhere,
Bowing to the great stars that command, pitching stones
At whatever are their moons. They live wondering
If they are the only ones, knowing only the wish to know,
And the great black distance they—we—flicker in.

Rudy Francisco

Poet Rudy Francisco is another spoken word master. He’s written four books: Getting Stitches (2013), Scratch (2014), No Gravity (2015) and Helium (2017) and won numerous awards for his performances. His work has been featured widely, including on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

If you’re just starting with Francisco’s work, we love Complainers.

See also: Sylvia Plath’s “Newly Discovered” College Story

Our Favorite Films Directed by Women This Year

With increasing concern about representation in Hollywood—not to mention the serious allegations of sexual assault following the #metoo movement—it seems more important than ever before to support films directed by women.

To help you on your quest to make informed decisions about your media consumption, here are our favorite women-lead movies from the last year.

Free Solo (directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin)

Free Solo is a documentary about mountain and cliff climbing done without gear. It follows professional rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to conquer the first free solo climb of El Capitan’s 900-meter vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park. The cinematography is stunning and also a little vertigo-inducing, as Hannold courts death through his risky climbs.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (directed by Susan Johnson)

Last summer saw a bit of romcom resurgence, thanks in large part to Netflix’s “Summer of Love” releases. Arguably the cutest one of the lot was To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, based on the novel of the same name by Jenny Han. The story follows Lara Jean Covey as she finds herself in a mess once her secret love letters get mailed out to her former and current crushes. To get herself out of the mess, she concocts a plan that only leads to further complications (and, spoiler alert: love).

Set It Up (directed by Claire Scanlon)

Another Netflix romcom from last summer, Set It Up feels like the older sister of To All the Boys. The story follows two personal secretaries of high-strung execs who conspire to set their bosses up to ease a bit of the pressure of off their own lives. Of course, complications ensue. For her part, Scanlon’s directorial experience includes The Mindy Project, The Office, The Good Place, GLOW and Fresh Off the Boat, so it’s no wonder that Set It Up is charming and hilarious.

A Wrinkle in Time (directed by Ava DuVernay)

If your feminist susceptibilities needed any more reasons to watch a movie starring Oprah, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon, we can confirm that A Wrinkle in Time was also directed by a boss lady. The 2018 film adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 book, is a science fantasy adventure story about a young girl who sets off on a quest to find her missing father.

The Spy Who Dumped Me (directed by Susanna Fogel)

The only thing better than a BFF-spy-action-comedy is one directed by a woman. Starring hilarious-SNL-darling Kate McKinnon and That ‘70s Show’s Mila Kunis, The Spy Who Dumped Me is an undeniably fun movie about two friends who unwittingly become entangled in an international conspiracy when one of the women discovers her ex-boyfriend was actually a spy. Yes, please.

Mary Queen of Scots (directed by Josie Rourke)

This royal historical drama that stars Ladybird star Saoirse Ronan as Mary, Queen of Scots, and Wolf of Wall Street actress Margot Robbie as her cousin, Elizabeth I. The film delves into their complicated relationship with each other—and the men who are trying to take their power.

Dumplin’ (directed by Anne Fletcher)

Based on the young adult novel by Julie Murphy, Dumplin’ is a coming-of-age comedy film about an overweight teenager (Danielle Macdonald) who’s the daughter of a former beauty queen (Jennifer Aniston). The movie is a feel-good empowerment story set to a Dolly Parton soundtrack. What else do you need?

See also: Selma Blair’s Incredible Moment at the Oscars

Words of Wisdom on International Women’s Day

Expert Tips on How to Breakup with Your Phone

I’m on my phone too much.

You’re probably on your phone too much.

Most people are on their phone so much that we’ve been lulled in complacency about what “too much” actually is. This is despite the research about how smartphones are ruining our eyesight, disrupting our sleep and affecting our relationships with the living, breathing human beings around us.

One day, we’re going to look back at this period of time in horror, said Digital Minimalism author Cal Newport. “You’re gonna look at allowing a 13-year-old to have a smartphone the same way that you would look at allowing your 13-year-old to smoke a cigarette,” he said to GQ.

From the physical (there’s a 15 percent chance that your iPhone carries the bacteria E. Coli—and if it doesn’t, it has a whole host of other germs on it) to the emotional (smartphone usage is linked to increased rates of depression, anxiety and self-harm), the way we interact with our phones is having a huge impact on who we are.

Science journalist and self-identified tech addict Catherine Price decided to research the subject based on her own phone addiction and wrote How To Break Up With Your Phone. Here are her most practical tips on fighting our most-modern affliction yet.

Ride it out

Borrow a trick from smokers who are trying to quit when you’re working on quitting yourself and ride out the cravings. If we acknowledge our discomfort and ride out the wave, Price said, the craving will fade on its own. Instead of fighting the urge or berating yourself for wanting to check a notification, pause, take a breath and notice your want. Don’t surrender to it or try to distract yourself, simply recognize it and “see what happens,” writes Price.

Accountability

All goals benefit from some accountability, and the chances are that most of your friends and family want to start being a bit more conscious about their tech time too. When you mention that you want to look at your phone less, invite them to join you when they respond, “me too!” It will make the process more fun and less isolating.

Face your reality

The first step to recovery is acknowledging you have a problem. Coming to terms with how much you actually use your phone and for what will help you focus on how to use it less. Price recommends downloading an app to help you measure your usage like Moment or OFFTIME. This will help you collect hard data on your own habits.

Once you know how much time you’re spending on your phone, the apps that suck away your time and how often you pick your phone up, you can make specific goals to cut back on these things. It’s hard to make progress when your goal is vague, Price says. Ask yourself questions like: Do I want to use my phone only when working? Only when I absolutely need to? Does zoning out and mindlessly scrolling relax you? But do you want to limit that time? Consider these things, otherwise you’re diving in with no direction, which usually leads to failure.

Boundaries

Price recommends turning off all notifications, including email and text notifications. If you are worried about missing a call from someone, put them on a special VIP list so they will be able to reach your immediately.

She also recommends creating no phone zones like the dinner table and the bedroom, and imposing time limits like no phones after 6 p.m. She encourages deleting social media apps from your phone and only checking them from a desktop. And if you can’t delete social media from your phone for work? Download an app blocker.

Phubbing

We’re all guilty of phubbing, the act of checking your phone when in the middle of a conversation, meal or otherwise with other people. It’s become so common that it’s almost not rude anymore. However, it doesn’t change the fact that checking our phone when we’re with others disengages us from our surroundings and removes us from being fully present. Price recommends putting your phone away entirely when you’re in social situations.

Just a break, not a breakup

After following Price’s guidelines for three weeks, she recommends tackling a full 24-hour period without your phone. This trial separation is meant to test your discipline that you’ve developed up until this point, but it also meant to “allow serendipity to reenter your life,” Price writes. The 24-hour period will hopefully reinforce the fact that there are so many other interesting things to do that are far better for you than looking at your phone.

Phone enlightenment

As you slowly shift your habits away from the endless feed that is modern life, Price writes that you can now use that time to trying something new. Go for a hike, visit a museum, learn a new recipe, take a class or read a book that you haven’t had time to get to. All of these activities are healthy, substantive and productive uses of time that will ultimately make you a happier, healthier person.

See also: Five Books About Climate Change You Need to Read Now

College-Admissions Scandal Exposes Famous Parents

In case you missed it, news broke on Tuesday that dozens of wealthy people had been charged in a widespread college entrance exam cheating scandal. Rich parents were enlisting the help of a shady college preparatory program to get their children into elite private colleges through fraudulent means.

CNN called the situation a “national conspiracy.”

Fifty people, including Full House actress Lori Loughlin and Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman, are facing federal fraud charges following an FBI investigation called “Operation Varsity Blues.”

Everything about the scandal raises many questions. How does one commit college application fraud? There’s a way to cheat on the SATs? Why did no one catch that students were being recruited for sports they had no history of participating in? How much does this sort of scam even cost? And aren’t there less illegal ways for rich people to buy their way into competitive schools? We address all your questions.

How did this work?

According to indictments unsealed in federal court in Boston on Tuesday, William “Rick” Singer, a Southern California business executive, ran a for-profit college counseling business called Edge College & Career Network and a charity called the Key Worldwide Foundation. Singer allegedly used both businesses to help wealthy parents get their children into colleges and universities across the country.

The scheme scammed the admissions process in two ways. First, in return for payments ranging from $10,000-$75,000 per test, Singer paid other people to either take standardized tests such as the ATC and SAT in place of the children or correct their answers after the fact.

Second, parents paid Singer collectively more than $25 million to get their children into top universities by bribing college coaches and administrators into designating their children as recruited athletes when they were not. In general, athletes tend to be held to lower academic standards in college admissions.

But really… how did that get past anyone?

One of the more stunning details of this already outrageous case is the brazen way Singer faked application details. According to details released in the court document, he would find stock images of athletes and then use Photoshop to insert applicants’ faces onto the bodies of legitimate athletes. Once students started at the university, they would claim to have injuries, so they did not have to participate on the sports team for which they had been recruited.

In one case, a basketball profile was created for an applicant who was 5’5”, falsely listing that he was 6’1”. It’s unclear how the young man was expected to justify the discrepancy between his stated height and actual height when he arrived on campus, but he was admitted to the University of Southern California regardless.

The most common tactic used by Singer when faking sports history was to send bribes to coaches so that applications would be marked as an athletic recruit. The former Yale University women’s soccer coach allegedly accepted $400,000 from Singer to designate a student as a soccer recruit. He resigned soon after, saying that he wanted to “explore new opportunities.”

Aren’t there less illegal ways for rich parents to get their kids into school?

In a story with many head-scratching elements, perhaps the most perplexing is why an elaborate criminal scheme had to be used in the first place. Plenty of people on Twitter wondered why anyone would spend $500,000 on getting their child admitted into a college through fraudulent means when there are so many legal ways for rich people to buy their way into elite schools.

We’re wondering about this too.

Who’s taking responsibility for this?

So far, the athletic coaches named in the federal indictment have either been placed on administrative leave or fired by their respective universities.

Those arrested on Tuesday—a total of 40 people, including famous actresses and CEOs—will face numerous federal charges at future sentencing hearings.

Singer has plead guilty to all charges he is facing and plans on fully cooperating with the FBI.

As for the children whose admissions were allegedly facilitated through crime, the U.S. attorney leading the case says that they are “still considering” whether or not they’ll press charges.

See also: Harvard Dean Under Fire for Representing Harvey Weinstein

Adnan Syed from “Serial” Won’t Be Getting a Retrial

Adnan Syed, who has spent nearly 20 years in prison for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, has been denied a new trial, the Maryland Court of Appeals announced Friday.

Syed’s conviction gained international attention after it became the subject of the wildly popular podcast Serial, which investigated whether he could be innocent. Serial didn’t come to any conclusions, but it did open the doors to further actions that could be taken with regard to Syed’s case.

In March last year, Syed and his legal team had a small victory when the Maryland Court of Special Appeals rules that his “Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel was violated” by a failure to investigate a potential alibi witness, Asia McClain, who said she saw Syed in the library at the time Lee was murdered.

However, Maryland’s highest court denied Syed a new trial in a 4-3 decision last week, reasoning that while there had been a failure to investigate an alibi witness, that deficiency did not prejudice the case overall. The court also said that Syed waived his ineffective counsel claim.

Syed’s attorney, Justin Brown, said the legal team was “devastated” by Friday’s ruling but would “not give up on Adnan Syed.”

All the news about Syed’s case comes right at HBO has released a new documentary series about the case called The Case Against Adnan Syed. While most of the first episode is reportedly quite similar to the Serial investigation, the documentary promises to share new information.

Hold on, what’s this case again?

In January 1999, Hae Min Lee, age 18, went missing in Baltimore County, Maryland. Her body was found four weeks later in Leakin Park, bearing signs of manual strangulation. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of first-degree murder in February 2000 and given a life sentence plus 30 years.

Lee’s murder initially only generated local interest, until it became the subject of the first season of Serial 15 years later. The podcast, which was downloaded 175 million times, brought international attention to the crime and called Syed’s conviction into question.

While Serial’s investigation didn’t prove anything definitively, it exposed certain inconsistencies in the case, such as the court failing to call a witness who could have potentially corroborated Syed’s alibi and the general failings of Syed’s lawyer overall. After spending a year investigating the complicated case, reporter Sarah Koenig said, “the case is a mess.”

Following the release of the podcast and its tremendous popularity, the Innocence Project redoubled its efforts to bring justice to Syed.

See also: What’s Going on with R. Kelly? A Guide

 

Words of Wisdom on International Women’s Day

In honor of International Women’s Day—a day to celebrate all the amazing women across the globe, and the endless work of striving toward gender equality—College News has rounded up our favorite words of wisdom from our favorite women to inspire you.

Michelle Obama, former First Lady

“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court justice

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made… It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”

Maragaret Thatcher, former U.K. Prime Minister

If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.

Malala Yousafzai, Activist and Nobel Prize Laureate

“I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”

Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady

“Well behaved women seldom make history.”

Sylvia Plath, writer and poet

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Tina Fey, actress

“Know what? Bitches get stuff done.”

Frida Kahlo, artist

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there, and read this, and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”

Toni Morrison, author, professor, and Nobel Prize winner

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

Elastigirl (of The Incredibles)

“Leave the saving of the world to the men? I don’t think so.”

See also: Your Seven Day Break on the Pill is Bogus—Here’s Why

What’s Going on with R. Kelly? A Guide

R&B artist R. Kelly was arrested in Chicago recently. The arrest followed the release of Surviving R. Kelly, a series on Lifetime, which brought to light allegations of sexual abuse of underage women by the singer. Accusations against the star have been ongoing for decades—here’s everything you need to know about what’s happened and why it took so long to get here.

The early years

Marriage to Aaliyah

When Kelly released his debut album, Born into the 90’s, in 1992, keen listeners noticed lyrics that said, “Little cute Aaliyah’s got it.” This was assumed to be a reference to Aaliyah Haughton, who at the time was 13 years old.

Aaliyah was a protégé of Kelly’s, and he reportedly married her in 1994, when she was 15 and he was 27. Vibe magazine published a copy of what they reported was the couple’s marriage license in August 1994, which listed Haughton’s age as 18. Kelly, for his part, always publicly insisted that the wedding never happened.

The marriage was annulled the following year when Aaliyah’s family became aware of it. Six years later in 2001, Aaliyah died in a plane crash at age 22.

First reports of abuse

In 2000, the Chicago Sun-Times published a report of Kelly having sexual relationships with girls as young as 15. This was the first story about the singer from reporter Jim Derogatis, who has spent his career from that point forward investigating Kelly and attempting to bring him to justice.

According to the story, Chicago police had twice investigated allegations that Kelly was having sex with an underage girl but dropped the investigations because she would not cooperate.

This was indicative of a pattern to come. In 2001 and 2002, Kelly faced a litany of charges that seemed to have no consequences. Tracy Sampson, an aspiring rapper and former intern at Epic Records, filed a lawsuit against Kelly, claiming that he initiated a sexual relationship with her when she was 17. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

He was then sued by Patrice Jones, who alleged she was 16 when she began a sexual relationship with Kelly. She also accused Kelly of pressuring her into terminating a pregnancy. He was also sued by Tina Woods, who alleged he secretly taped their sexual encounter, and that the tape was sold. Both cases were settled out of court.

In June 2002, Kelly was indicted on 21 charges related to child pornography. He was arrested in Florida and later released on bail. After years of delays, the artist finally went to court in 2008 to face the charges of child pornography, by which point had been reduced from 21 to 14 counts. He was found not guilty on all counts.

That BuzzFeed article

In the intervening decade, Kelly’s alleged indiscretions mainly stayed out of the news. However, an explosive article published by BuzzFeed in July 2017 drew all allegations against Kelly to light once again. The story accuses the singer of holding a group of adult women against their will in a sex cult.

The BuzzFeed story seemed to burst the dam that was holding back accusations against Kelly. Afterwards, one woman broke a nondisclosure agreement to say that she began a sexual relationship with Kelly when she was 16. Rolling Stones published an interview with a woman who supported all the claims made in the BuzzFeed piece.

The fallout from Surviving R. Kelly

Despite all the accusations against the singer, nothing has yet been proven with regard to allegations of sexual abuse of underage girls. Kelly has publicly denied everything and, when he has been brought to court, has settled all cases.

In January 2019, the documentary Surviving R. Kelly premiered to big ratings, which renewed calls for the singer to be investigated. In February, it came to light that prosecutors investigating Kelly are looking into a newly surfaced video that appears to show the music star having sex with a young woman.

A grand jury in Cook County, Illinois, indicted Kelly on 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse—a Class 2 felony—involving four alleged victims. The indictment accuses Kelly of sexual acts with three children older than 13 but younger than 17. There was no age range listed for one of the alleged victims.

Following these charges, he was arrested on 22 February and released several days later on bail. Kelly maintains his innocence, pleading not guilty to all charges and calling the charges lies.

That wild interview

Kelly went on CBS News for an interview with Gayle King earlier this week. The artist was questioned by King about the allegations of sexual assault for more than an hour; however, a single second, captured in a dramatic photograph caught the attention of many.

The moment from the interview sparked many reactions, from those who commended King for her composure during the moment to those who said it speaks to the universal experience of black women in America to those who suggested that it was nothing new for people to feel intimidated by emotional displays by black people.

The same day that the interview aired, Kelly was arrested (again) for failing to pay $161,000 in back child support. Failure to pay child support in any amount over $20,000 is a felony under Illinois law.

What took so long?

With accusations of sexual misconduct against R. Kelly dating backing to the early 1990s, many are wondering what’s taken so long?

The artist has been the subject of investigations and allegations for nearly three decades; however, he’s managed to evade consequences by settling cases out of court, winning over a jury and women deciding not to press charges. In addition to this, things seem to have just fallen through the cracks—for instance, the six-year gap in between the charges of child pornography and it being brought to court.

“For so long, people have wanted something to happen, anything to happen,” Kenyette Tisha Barnes, the co-founder of #MuteRKelly, a campaign to encourage streaming services and radio stations to stop playing Kelly’s music, said to The New Yorker. “But, for some reason, it hasn’t. #MuteRKelly is attempting to trust the process, understanding that within that process are systems and cogs that move at a turtle’s pace. Yet it’s time for the collective D.A.s and federal prosecutors to make an indictment.”

See also: Harvard Dean Under Fire for Representing Harvey Weinstein

Harvard Dean Under Fire for Representing Harvey Weinstein

A Dean at Harvard has come under fire for agreeing to represent Harvey Weinstein in the producer’s highly publicized sexual assault case.

Law Professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. is the director of Harvard’s criminal law clinic. His law career is impressive—Sullivan has helped to overturn scores of wrongful convictions and free thousands from wrongful incarceration, a professional record which has made him a highly sought-after defense attorney.

However, his other professional hat—that of faculty dean at Harvard’s Winthrop House—has recently come into conflict with his law career. Students on campus are calling for his resignation after learning that he will represent Harvey Weinstein as a part of the producer’s defense team.

Around 50 students demanded that Sullivan be removed as Dean at a demonstration last week outside the president’s office on Harvard Yard. Some wore tape covering their mouths. They held signs that read, “Your Silence is Violence,” “Remove Sullivan” and “Harvard’s Legacy Ignoring Survivors.” A Change.org petition has already gathered around 300 signatures, and anti-Sullivan graffiti has also appeared on campus buildings.

In defense of the defense team

The situation has garnered national media attention, with major newspapers weighing in on the issue. In an opinion piece published by The Atlantic, journalist Conor Friedersdorf noted that “…if enough attorneys ‘feel the need to think twice… there will be no distinction between a trial by public opinion and a trial in a court of law.’”

The right to representation is a tradition older than the nation itself. The Boston Globe asked what would have happened in 1770 if Harvard students had demanded that the administration remove the privileges of John Adams, the founding father and Harvard graduate who defended the British soldiers who took part in the Boston Massacre.

Famously, Adams took the case to illustrate the principle of innocent until proven guilty and to illustrate the integrity of the nascent nation’s legal system. “It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished,” Adams said.

“But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, ‘Whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,’ and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizens that would be the end of security whatsoever.”

Political correctness culture

Some argue that students demanding Sullivan’s resignation is another indicator of the new climate that has been sweeping across college campuses in America—one that has professors prefacing their lectures with “trigger warnings” and stopped popular comedians like Chris Rock from performing.

This new climate presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche with its main goal that of protecting students from psychological harm. Often called by the media a “resurgence of PC culture,” it is somewhat more restrictive than the movement from the 1980s and ‘90s, which sought to specifically rein in hate speech and challenge the literary, philosophical and historical canon to include more diverse perspectives.

Harvard has had faculty lawyers represent notorious defendants before—perhaps most notably, attorney and Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz for O.J. Simpson’s legal defense in 1995. (Notably, Dershowitz this week joined Weinstein’s defense as well.) Those critical of the new campus climate are asking, shouldn’t a defense lawyer be allowed to defend? What’s different between 1995 and today?

After #MeToo, everything matters more

Perhaps it is not so much Sullivan’s choice to join the defense team of a generally unpopular subject, as that he is joining the defense team of a person now singularly identified as the face of sexual malevolence.

This episode “displays the intensity of the anger at sexual malfeasance and the institutional indifference that has allowed such misconduct,” wrote The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Anger is warranted” as “sexual harassment and assault are all too prevalent and prohibitions against them remain all too ineffective.”

Students are seeing Sullivan joining Weinstein’s defense team not as a professional decision undertaken with the workings of the legal system in mind, but as a symbolic choice in an age where sexual assault on campus is an epidemic. And the Ivy League has endured its fair share of accusations. The documentary The Hunting Ground criticized Harvard—among other universities—for failing to protect students from sexual assault on campus. And an analysis by the Washington Post in 2016 found that Harvard was in the top 10 schools in the country with the highest total of rape reports on campus.

“Sullivan has failed to address the incongruity of his two roles—defending Weinstein in his role as defense attorney, while simultaneously working to promote a safe and comfortable environment for victims of sexual misconduct and assault in his capacity as faculty dean,” wrote the Crimson Editorial Board in an opinion piece. “We condemn his choice to represent Weinstein and urge him to address the tension between the two roles more directly than he previously has.”

In response to students’ concerns, Harvard administrators have launched a “climate review” to gauge the opinions of Winthrop House residents on the matter. No other action has been taken for the time being.

See also: Sylvia Plath’s “Newly Discovered” College Story